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December 15, 2015

How to Avoid the High Cost of Hosting Nightmares

Did you give enough thought to where your business is hosted? Choosing poorly can result in painful outages and costs that go far beyond just downtime and what most people ever consider.

In How Much Does Downtime Really Cost Your Business, Rose Computer Technology, Inc. points out that a hosting outage can result in:

  • Business disruption
  • Customer loss
  • Damage to brand reputation
  • Loss of productivity
  • Increased labor costs (for overtime)
  • Lost revenue
  • Advertising dollars spent while the site was down

Your business might even be looking at potential lawsuits if your outage negatively impacts the productivity, delivery time, or finances of your customers. Given the severe impact outages can cause, it is important to understand your risks and how to mitigate them.

How to Choose Between Hosting Types

Even people who have had sites for decades now are still confused about types of hosting. Do you understand the different types of hosting? What about whether to use a shared server, a virtual private server (VPS), or dedicated service?

This website hosting FAQ provides comprehensive information on each of these. The more important it is for your site to maintain nearly 100 percent uptime as possible, the more hosting will cost you.

Read through that FAQ to understand all the terminology involved and what types of server choices your business has. Then consult with someone knowledgeable about security and hosting to make sure you choose wisely.

Redundancy and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Inexpensive hosting most often does not have redundancy built in. If the physical server your site is hosted on has a hard drive failure, for example, your site will go down — and often at the most inopportune time.

Major sites, and especially eCommerce sites, keep copies of their entire site on multiple servers. If one goes down, the load is either manually or automatically switched to either a backup server or a server in another location that is actively hosting that site.

Today, any site can be hosted on multiple servers through the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Inexpensive CDN tiers may only store your most frequently accessed pages on multiple servers. This at least keeps the most important pages of your site online in case of server or network errors impacting your primary server.

If you need to ensure your site stays online, it is essential to pay for hosting on multiple servers. This, too, is typically done today through a CDN, but expect to pay more for full redundant hosting on multiple servers.

CDNs and Security

While most people think of CDNs as a way to speed up page loading by using a server closest to the end-user, they are also a first line of defense against the increasing number of DDoS and other attacks and security breaches.

If you decide to use a CDN to minimize both server and attack outages, be sure to compare their security features. Some CDNs have a strong focus on security, but others are primarily focused on performance and page load speed.

Hosting Companies

There are an amazing number of hosting companies — far more than the typical person realizes. And they vary greatly by quality. Where HostGator and BlueHost were once strong contenders, thanks to HostGator’s serious security breach, among other things, today they are among the most targeted by hackers.

Which hosting company to choose depends largely on what type of site you have and how much an outage would cost. Small blogs and businesses that are not eCommerce most likely would not want to be paying for redundant servers. If their sites go down, it is an inconvenience (and any advertising you are running should immediately be paused), but it would not be ruinous.

If you run an eCommerce store — especially one dependent upon the holiday shopping season or paying thousands of dollars for AdWords and shopping clicks — seriously consider upgrading to ensure your site is much less likely to go down.

No one can absolutely ensure your site will never go down. Anything made by man can fail. Power outages, major storms, hurricanes, tornadoes — all of these are possible causes. Other outages can be caused by Internet backbone issues which could take any site down regardless of hosting arrangements.


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Gail Gardner provides small business marketing strategy at GrowMap.com. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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