Consider this scenario: Your client is getting 100,000 visitors on a website hosted with you, and suddenly it crashes. What will you do? Call the hosting company and curse them hard? Plead them to take the website to a new server or bring it live again ASAP? Or, ask them to move you to a VPS server instead?
Whatever you do is a waste; your client has lost 100,000 viewers – not a small deal – and you have lost their trust and a whole lot of money in the process.
Now think: What if this happens to a lot of your clients who were hosted on that awful shared hosting server? Think of all the money your clients lost, and then of all the trust you lost.
Practically speaking, shared hosting is a nightmare for digital agencies. Period.
What Is Shared Hosting and Why It’s a Bad Choice?
Shared Hosting is one of the many types of hosting in which your website shares one physical server and all its resources with multiple other websites.
Let’s suppose you own a cupboard and all your stuff is in it. When it gets full, you will not have space to add more stuff. You now have to buy a new cupboard to put all the additional stuff.
That’s how shared hosting works. It is a single server that hosts multiple websites. A shared hosting solution is ‘low cost’ but very unreliable because of low availability (uptime). Moreover, if one website gets a lot of traffic, other websites on the server suffer due to the excessive and highly unfair allocation of server resources. All this manifests as loss in traffic and potential orders for your customers.
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Why Digital Agencies Should Steer Clear of Shared Hosting?
Digital agencies fall into three categories: design, development, and marketing. During the course of the project, clients often ask the agencies to host the website or the application. This often adds to the project’s scope and increase the headaches for the agencies. More than this, the hosting part actually diverts their efforts and resources from their main competency. In this backdrop, shared hosting introduces a whole lot of new issues that cause unwarranted hurdles for digital agencies. In many cases, when agencies opt for shared hosting, they have to dedicate resources and time to provide hosting related support and act as a point-of-contact for the hosting provider.
The problem is pretty simple: few digital agencies have the technical expertise to deal with all the issues and challenges that comes with hosting client websites on shared hosting servers.
How Shared Hosting Affects Digital Agencies
To get the truth from the horse’s mouth, I decided to go to the industry’s experts and get their ideas about how shared hosting damages the vision and business processes of digital agencies. The decision yielded the following important challenges:
Blocked Site Access
Sometimes the number of the websites hosted on a shared server can go in hundreds. Now, if one of these websites hosts banned or malicious content, ISPs can (and usually do) block access to the entire server by blacklisting the server IP blocks. This effectively blocks access to all the websites on the server.
Lack of Security
Shared hosting servers have weak security because of delays in patching and updates. These gaps and loopholes allows hackers to easily gain access to the entire server. Once in, they can easily delete websites and databases.
Shared servers experience a significantly higher instances of server side errors, longer load times and lack of resources. Now if one website becomes popular and starts to get more traffic, the server (and all the hosted websites) crashes, leading to more downtime.
Higher Risk of Data Loss
Backups are difficult to automate in a shared hosting environment because at times, during upgrading a client’s website or adding a patch, the server admins can accidentally overwrite a website’s backup settings. Now, if the incidents goes unnoticed, and there is a data loss event, there is not backup to restore the website.
How Shared Hosting Hampers Digital Agencies’ Growth?
In many instances, shared hosting seriously hampers the productivity of digital agencies. In fact, the damage goes beyond this – shared hosting could become a serious obstacle to the growth of the agencies.
It is important to understand why digital agencies opt for shared hosting. Aside from lack of technical expertise, many agencies see shared hosting as an attractive hosting option for client websites. However, the benefit in the short term often turn into a long-term loss for the agencies.
Digital agencies work in a pretty tough environment and ensuring long-term relationships with the customers is only possible when the agencies provide them impeccable support, reasonable rates, and ensure that their projects run smoothly. This is only possible when the hosting solution is properly managed.
To help make the decision easy for the agencies, I have explained various types of hosting solutions in greater detail.
To understand the shortcomings of shared hosting, I talked to a few digital agencies who have used shared hosting for their clients’ websites:
Ben Stanford of redcedarwebsites.com says:
Jordan Brannon of Coalition Technologies says:
Zack West of novomotus.com
Kevin Tash of Tack Media
If you are a digital agency and you are using shared hosting for managing your clients website, then you should step out of your mother’s basement and really take a long hard look at your ability to manage a client’s website properly.
We’ve had to wrangle in many different nightmare scenarios that other agencies left previous clients in. What ends up happening, is some agencies try to cut corners by signing up clients with their affiliates so they earn a commission on the sale, but neglect to mention that the hosting provider doesn’t have around the clock support, a phone number, or even proper redundancies when it comes to backup services.
We had a client that entrusted their website to another agency, and the client had severed ties with the agency abruptly while the website hosting was in the name of the old hosting company employee’s name. So it took weeks to get a hold of the out of country hosting company, send proper documentation to take over the website, and still not having access to the domain name because there was so much personal entangling involved.
Their server was on a shared hosting plan, they were charging the client $100 a month while they paid $4 a month. When we finally got in and tried to login to WordPress dashboard to conduct a backup, the backup tool ran out of space on the server, so we had to upgrade just to conduct a backup. Until we got a hold of the hosting provider a few days later, the website had entirely crashed because it ran out of memory trying to conduct a backup.It took us two months to recover the website, its content, and still didn’t have control over the domain name because this so called agency held grudges against clients that decided to leave.
Things Digital Agencies Should Look for in a Web Hosting Service
Running a digital agency involves managing several critical business processes including client handling, marketing, and management of workforce and infrastructure. I have prepared a list of essential features and requirements that agencies should look for when selecting a hosting partner.
Server Resource and Management
Client projects often need ample storage space and server resources for better performance. Similarly, the hosting solution also proper management for sustained performance. For digital agencies, the best suited hosting models include Cloud, VPS, and Dedicated.
Agencies need hosting solutions that can take the pain of server setup and website hosting away from their hands. These solutions are able to serve multiple clients and save a lot of time that agencies could dedicate to serving their clients.
Given the requirements of many projects, digital agencies should opt for hosting solutions that offer scalability as a basic feature. Both Cloud and VPS hosting solutions have this feature and are thus an ideal match for the requirements of digital agencies that have ecommerce stores and high-traffic websites as clients. Most of these projects need to be scaled on a regular basis based on the amount of traffic they receive. Some cloud hosts also offer auto-scaling facility, while VPS servers are scaled manually prior to the event.
Search engines, especially Google, now prefer websites that load faster. Digital marketing agencies that are working on increasing the rankings of their clients need hosting solutions with high page load speed.
No one wants to experience a cyber security incident, least of all, digital agencies that manage the websites of their clients.
Security is a top priority for most digital agencies, and that’s why they prefer dedicated servers. However, dedicated servers can become costly because of the wasted resources. A better alternative is cloud hosting solutions.
Most shared hosting services promise 99.9 percent uptime, but they always fall short on delivering it. Digital agencies require solutions with high uptime simply because of the impact of downtime on the business. Just this requirement excludes shared hosting as a viable solution for digital agencies.
Managed Cloud Hosting – A Better Alternative to Shared Hosting
Managed Cloud Hosting is an attractive alternative to shared hosting as it comes with all the features that fit the requirements of digital agencies. In particular, agencies are looking for managed cloud hosting solution providers that could take away the pain of managing customer websites from their hands. These solutions allow digital agencies to opt for cloud infrastructure providers of their choice (this is great for agencies that are on a tight budget).
Shared Hosting vs Managed Cloud Hosting
The following table highlights the major points of differentiation between shared hosting and managed cloud hosting:
|Shared Hosting||Managed Cloud Hosting|
|Unmanaged hosting||Fully managed hosting|
|Lack of Reliability||High reliability and uptime|
|Hidden costs||Low cost and No hidden cost|
|Weak Security||High security with CDN|
|Suitable for beginners||Suitable for beginners and enterprises alike|
|Not scalable||Highly scalable
Cloud Hosting Adds Value to Digital Agencies
Digital agencies prefer cloud hosting solutions because of two important reasons. The first is the cost factor that is always an important issue for digital agencies. Since the services are available in a wide spectrum, digital agencies could choose the solution that fits the budget. The second reason is the ease of administering the websites. Since the cloud hosting providers takes care of almost all aspects of website management, the digital agencies could rest easy knowing that the hosting provider is on the case.
Agencies opt for cloud hosting solutions because they do not have to worry about server setup, management, and software installation. Similarly the hosting provider takes care of security of the server through regular patching and similar security measures.
Agencies get exclusive 24/7 support, automatic and timely updates depending upon the hosting provider and the package they choose. In short, agencies can take advantage of end-to-end support from setting up server to solving daily server and application related activities.
Pay As You Go
Agencies also prefer cloud hosting because of the pay-as-you-go model. In this model, the solution provider charges on hourly basis only for the resources that are consumed. As a result, the overall operational costs are low and the agency could adjust the operations of a client’s website as per the allocated budget.
With all the dilemmas attached to shared hosting, it is truly a nightmare not just for digital agencies but for all users. The best alternative is to go for cloud hosting because it is highly reliable, has maximum uptime, and offers easy server management.
Have you had any bad experiences with shared hosting? Share them with us in the comments below.
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Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!