The idea of paying less money for hosting has a universal appeal. The less you have to pay to keep your web site up and running, the better. But the less you pay, the greater the chance that you might encounter one of the pitfalls of cheap web hosting.
Charges For Exceeding Your Allotted Bandwidth
This is probably the main area where customers get into trouble. You can find a good host that does a great job with server reliability and customer support, but its bandwidth limits might be too low for your needs. This can easily result in you paying more for your account then you had expected. For example, one host in particular charges $5.00 a month for 5 GB of bandwidth per month, but they will charge $10 per GB over that limit. Going even a few MB over 5 GB will drive your cost for that month’s hosting from $5.00 to $15.00. That’s hardly a bargain anymore.
Most hosting control panels have a bandwidth meter which shows how much data transfer your account has used for the month, and how much it has left. You can even set email alarms to warn you if you are close to exceeding your limit. The best protection, however, comes from doing a little reading before you sign up for a hosting account. Find out what a host charges per GB of bandwidth over your limit and avoid the ones that cost too much.
Hosts With Over 1,000 Accounts Per Server
The easiest way for a web hosting provider to drive their prices down, and therefore drive their profit margins higher, is to place for too many shared accounts on a single physical web server. Most providers can see from their hosting statistics that the average website in use today is only 1 to 2 MB in size and will only use around 500 MB of traffic per month.
As one might guess, “overselling” the disk space and bandwidth available for each physical server has become common practice for many low cost hosting providers. They know that, statistically, most users simply won’t use that much of their resources, and so they can safely market 100’s of MB of disk space and 10’s of GB of bandwidth per account to sound more attractive to their customers.
The major problem this causes is web servers that are slow or unavailable.
It is actually possible for a technically skilled hosting provider to place around 1000 accounts or more on one server without reducing server performance. They would need powerful server hardware and lots of readily-available bandwidth for each of their web servers. Most importantly, they’ll need to do a good job in policing spammers and abusive customers that use an excessive amount of system resources. Unfortunately, too many hosting providers are just in the business to make money, so they crowd their servers without taking these necessary precautions, and they end up offering sub-par server performance.
Sacrificing Certain Basic Service Features
Another way for a host to charge less for an account is to have no toll-free phone support. Many of them will offer only email support or use an online ticketing system. If phone support is available, then it probably isn’t toll free or it is only available during standard business hours.
Others will do a poor job upgrading standard software, like PHP or Perl, to newer versions, while others will use cheaper, less user-friendly control panels like Plesk, or have no control panel at all. Hosts have to pay fees to license certain types of software, and so some of them forego certain features in order to reduce overhead and charge less for an account. Many hosts that $5.00 or lower will lack such features.