When building a website, there are a plethora of choices on where to host your website. Hosting platforms like SquareSpace, WordPress.com and others are begging to host your site. You need to ask yourself: will a hosting platform serve your company’s needs best, or will you need to opt for a more custom solution?
With any hosted platform, you inevitably run into the issue of customization. Out of the box solutions work for many (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but if you need something tailor-made to work with your business, a custom solution is what you should seek. More often than not, custom-built websites require a higher level of hosting and security. Why? You shouldn’t park a custom (and expensive) car in a bad neighborhood. Let me explain.
Let’s Talk Customization
I’m going to use the dreaded car analogy, but I honestly feel it fits perfectly with websites.
At BigWing, we primarily use WordPress. It’s stable. It’s used by millions. And it runs insanely large and popular sites that are household names. You’d just never be able to tell they run WordPress by looking at them.
WordPress is your base and standard car. It has a common look. And it has some common features.
But what if you want leather seats? How about a sunroof? Perhaps a more responsive engine, a hybrid to save on gas, and perhaps a custom paint job? How about a new sound system? GPS built-in? There are so many different combinations of customizations you can do to a vehicle (website) that there are legitimate and profitable businesses who strictly perform these customizations.
But customization is expensive. Very expensive. An expert is needed to make these modifications and they have to ensure your vehicle is still street-legal.
Drawing back from the car analogy to a development agency, such as BigWing — we’re experts in customization. It takes hours, weeks, sometimes months to customize a website. And we love doing it. It’s why we’re here. It’s challenging work, and when we’re done, and the client is satisfied with the end product, we’re just absolutely thrilled.
It’s like those episodes of Bar Rescue where we totally strip out and renovate a failing bar (not trying to imply at all your website is failing, just an analogy). The staff is brought in front of the bar, with their backs facing the entrance. On the count of three, two, one… commercial…. Okay! And then they turn around and are almost always floored. That is what we want our clients to experience. We want to see the joy on their faces when we launch their new or improved site.
You have your site… Now what?
Back to the car analogy: We’ve spent weeks, months getting the vehicle to exact specifications. We hand you the keys. It’s your car. You drive it around with the windows down and the music blaring. You’re happy.
But what happens when you stop driving? You have to park it somewhere, correct? And as with any parking situation, you have to gauge risk where to park your car. You don’t want your new beast to get ripped off, right? You park it in the back of Walmart so nobody dings it. It’s your baby!
What I’ve found is, most clients, when it comes to websites, don’t care where they park their vehicle. A client has spent, five, six, perhaps fifteen or twenty thousand dollars getting their car souped up. And when it comes time to park it, it seems they are content to park the car in the shadiest neighborhood imaginable, just because it’s cheap.
Good hosts are not cheap!
When you park your vehicle in a shady neighborhood, you’re surrounded by what we consider “bad neighbors.” Any host will tell you, there is literally a concept called the “Bad Neighbor Effect” in the website world.
While I don’t follow the recommendations in the following Koomhost article, it has a great summary of what the Bad Neighbor Effect is all about:
Your site or sites are sharing resources with everyone. If someone uses up all the memory, space or CPU processing; then you will suffer the “Bad Neighbor Effect”. Your site will either be slow or not available due to server issues. Worse, if one of your neighboring sites (another customer) gets infected with malware, your site is now at risk.
We want our clients to have the best parking available. Ideally, it would be in a covered and temperature controlled parking area with around-the-clock security, key card entry, and video monitoring… all set up to keep you and your expensive vehicle safe.
So why are some web hosts so cheap?
Hosting platforms are so cheap because they’ve taken a dedicated box (think a computer tower) and are trying to add as many people as possible to it. This is what we call “shared hosting.” Everybody is in the same playground, but if one person misbehaves, it destroys the dynamic.
Shared hosts often over-promise. “Unlimited bandwidth. Unlimited emails. Daily backups.”
Here’s a tip: Never, with very minor exceptions, trust that your host is going to do a backup.
Yes, VaultPress is pricey, and good hosts are pricey, but losing your data or having your site brought down because of a hack is unfathomably expensive. I honestly would love it if every single one of our clients was on a SiteGround Cloud VPS or on an advanced WP Engine plan. With WP Engine and SiteGround you’re not just paying for hosting, but you’re also paying experts to keep your site protected.
Lots of people want to get into your site, and WordPress is honestly one of the most secure open source projects around. Big corporations use it. Government agencies use it. It has a roughly 24% market share on the entire Internet. Millions and millions of sites use it. And when you get hacked, it’s easy to blame WordPress. Or a WordPress plugin. A good host such as SiteGround and WP Engine will protect you from these hacks that happen on cheaper and less-proactive hosts.
But again, they are not cheap hosts. You are paying for peace of mind.
Do you want automated backups, WordPress updates taken care of, and expert support should the worst happen? WP Engine has your back.
Do you want a reliable backup system that does real-time backups, restores, and also monitors your site up-time and security? VaultPress has your back.
When you drive your car off the lot, you still need to take care of it. Websites are no different. Yes, you paid a lot of money for your website, but if you don’t take care of it, it’ll whither like the tree in Minas Tirith. And sadly, in that case, there is no chance of a king returning. We have to plant a new tree.
Hosting is an afterthought in many places, but it should be one of the primary discussions with your development agency.
When you get your final deliverable as a client, please realize that sites need up-keep. They need maintenance. They need small tweaks.
Work with your development agency, whether it’s us, or a different entity. Follow their recommendations for hosting and security.
If it comes down to your wallet (and honestly most things do), work with what you have and settle for the best long-term solution to keep your valuable web property working and dent-free for years to come.