Web hosting can range in cost from free to pennies a month to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. If you’re contemplating setting up a website, you may wonder exactly what you get for your money. The services that web hosting companies offer vary, but all of them share a basic set of costs that enable them to get your site up and running on the net. We’re going to have a look at those costs and think about how free web hosting and very cheap web hosting companies pay for them.
For a company to offer web hosting, they need servers. Servers are usually high-power computers that are capable of processing lots of data and delivering it to web clients. Your average home computer can do much the same thing at a less efficient level, but hosting companies need specialist hardware that has lots of RAM, disk space, and processing power.
Those servers need to be kept somewhere with a very fast connection to the Internet. They also need a lot of infrastructure to both keep them powered and keep them cool. The power supply and the Internet connection must be very reliable with multiple sources of redundancy so that sites don’t go down in the event of a power cut or a problem with some part of the Internet.
Housing servers in data centers that provide all of these facilities is expensive, and it’s a cost that all hosting companies need to meet. Some companies rent space on the servers of bigger hosting companies, some buy space in data centers owned by specialist companies to keep their own servers(co-location), some own their own data centers, and some use “cloud” infrastructure providers like Amazon’s Web Services, but in all cases, the basic infrastructure needs to be paid for.
Hosting companies can’t — unless they are very tiny — just plug their server into a cable modem. They need a reliable supply of very low latency and very high speed redundant bandwidth. In most cases, hosting companies pay bigger hosting companies for bandwidth or they buy it from an ISP (Internet Service Provider) that has a point of presence in the data center where their servers are kept.
Maintaining servers, the software, and the associated infrastructure is a job for highly trained experts known as system administrators. They’re the people behind the scenes that make sure your website is always available to its visitors.
If you’ve seen a lot of hosting company advertising, you’ll have noticed that they don’t often talk about how great their servers are or how much bandwidth they offer; they instead talk about their support and customer service. Because web hosting is a complicated process and because web hosting clients often have very specific needs, hosting companies need to provide a point of contact with experts to help their clients. People don’t often think about this, but support is one of the biggest costs associated with web hosting.
Free Web Hosting?
Some companies offer free hosting, most often as bait for future upgrades. As you’ve seen, hosting costs money. Any company offering services for free or unlimited amounts of a resource like bandwidth is going to be paying for it somehow: some advertise on your site’s pages, some sell your data, some will offer degraded service and try to up-sell you with premium features.
Often free hosting plans have very strict limitations on the amount of bandwidth clients can use — the same is true of very cheap hosts: you’ll have seen sites get pulled from the net when they get a sudden spike in visitors because they went over their bandwidth allocation.
All honest hosting companies have bandwidth limitations on their hosting accounts because it’s an expensive and finite resource; honest hosts are upfront about it, while less honest hosting companies will promise unlimited bandwidth but hide a “fair use” clause in the fine print.
Free hosting also almost never comes with anything approaching adequate levels of support or any guarantee of uptime.
Pay For Reliability And Support
As with many things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to web hosting. The more premium quality hosting companies charge more, but they also provide better support, better hardware, and a more reliable service. That’s not always true of course, some hosting companies charge a lot and do a poor job, but as a rule of thumb, if a company is charging peanuts, you’re not going to get the sort of service, speed, uptime and support that the hard work you put into your site deserves.