Save Thousands of Dollars by Paying More for Hosting

by: Derek Jones on: 2/25/2015

We’re going to show how you and your clients can save thousands of dollars a year by paying more for hosting. No typo.

While helping our customers, we log in to many sites. Sometimes, the control panel is slow. To see why it’s taking so long, my first stop used to be Extensions. Now it’s a quick trip to whoishostingthis.com.

Normally, the ExpressionEngine control panel is fast. Zippy even. There aren’t many pages in the control panel that should have an execution time of more than a second. Most pages take a fraction of a second, no fancy caching needed. It’s common to see this in the footer: Script executed in 0.0706 seconds. Sure, add-ons that are bad citizens can slow down the control panel, but typically not to the degree a bad host can.

How about ten seconds per page? No joke, on a recent site we logged in to on GoDaddy, one of the faster pages in the Admin area took ten seconds. The Template Manager took fifteen seconds, the publish page twenty-plus. I felt terrible for the developer and client who were using this site daily. Not only were they having a terrible experience with our software, they were losing money and didn’t even know it.

GoDaddy is cheap on the balance sheet at $59.88 a year. A bargain. But what is the cost of working on the site throughout the day with those page loads? Let’s take this site’s “fastest” pages with ten seconds of waiting. If you visit one hundred control panel pages a day, only on weekdays, you’ll spend seventy-three hours a year waiting on your software to load. If you’re paying minimum wage to Brian who lives in Wyoming or Georgia, that’s $376 you’ve paid him to wait1. Chances are it’s not Brian, it’s a skilled web professional, and it’s closer to $1,800 a year you’re paying for page loads.

An interesting way in our industry to calculate the cost of time is to imagine it at agency rates. With that in mind those lost hours of productivity are costing somebody $10,950 a year.

If instead you choose a quality host that specializes in dynamic PHP/MySQL powered sites like Nexcess, then your control panel will move at the speed intended. Zippy. On the balance sheet, even Nexcess’s cheapest shared hosting plan ($8.95 per month) looks like it’s twice the price of the uber-cheap hosts. But let’s have a look at the potential savings. We’ll factor just the annual cost of hosting and page loads here, and assume that all of the actual work you are paying for takes the same amount of time once the page is loaded. And let’s even say that Nexcess (or another good host) averages 1.5 seconds per page instead of fractions of a second:

Comparison of Annual Hosting Adjusted for Page Load Speed
Brian Web Professional Agency
Cheap Host $435 $1,879 $10,977
Nexcess $164 $380 $1,745
Savings $271 $1,499 $9,232

Yes this is an extreme example, but you start to see just how much this slightly higher hosting bill can reduce a web site’s operating costs. And the more work you do, the more you save with a good host, as the cost of the cheap host spirals out of control.

Does that mean that every host who charges more is good? No. Check their marketing. Are PHP/MySQL or dynamic web applications even mentioned? How many people do they put on a single server? Will they even tell you, or is it deeply buried? Do they talk about the capabilities of the environment, or is their marketing focused on how much hard drive space you are allotted, or how easy it is to become a reseller? Do they have specific experience with ExpressionEngine or other CMSes?

One popular premium host is so bad, their staff will tell you they’ve not heard of ExpressionEngine, even though they wrote a KB article on their own site about it, giving our customers the wrong advice. I was going to link to it, but I’d hate to give that page the search authority because it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Granted, not every bad host is going to have ten second load times in the control panel. But even a difference of only one or two seconds becomes significant over time, and we haven’t even talked about the front end. The impact on the visitors can make the web site a hero or a dud. So spend a few extra bucks a month on hosting. We love Nexcess—we host there ourselves—and recommend them first. Whoever you choose, at least make a short list of critical questions when evaluating your host. If you don’t like any of the answers, walk away, with cash in your pocket. Then ask for a raise. Go ahead, Brian, you deserve it.

  1. Boo, Georgia & Wyoming. $5.15, really? ↩︎

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