The demand for web hosting services has been growing rapidly in the past decade. The number of websites on the Internet passed one billion in 2014 and jumped to 1.7 billion by January 2020. There are thousands of hosting providers on the market today. The competition is fierce and some providers turn to unconventional methods to get new clients. One of them is to spread myths that favor the type of hosting service they offer, or disfavor services they do not offer.
We decided to debunk eight popular myths about hosting. This way, you can make an informed decision which service is more suitable for your needs. You can save yourself a lot of money as you will not have to hire a system administrator to help you with a given task or pay different companies for different services – you can simply find a hosting provider that offers everything you need as part of their packages.
1. Web hosting is about websites, not emails
A lot of hosting providers that offer cloud services or unmanaged virtual and dedicated servers will try to convince you that it is not their job to set up or maintain an email service for your domain name. Usually they will advise you to set up some mail server software on your machine yourself, or to use a third-party email provider. There are different arguments they will give you to support that claim – they provide the server, so what happens on it is up to you; they can offer you lower prices if they offer only one service; they can offer a better overall service if they focus on the website uptime rather than on additional server software, etc. You will also come across a lot of assumptions to support that claim, such as what happens with your emails if your web host goes down.
In reality, setting up and maintaining a mail server is not complicated if you are experienced with managing other web services. You can even set up a mail server at home, and there are many online guides for doing this , such as https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/02/how-to-run-your-own-e-mail-server-with-your-own-domain-part-1/. Companies that claim the opposite often simply want to offer a service with as little effort as possible, which often results in an inconvenience for their customers. If your hosting provider sets up a mail server, they will know what they are doing and will make sure the server is secured and configured properly. This is usually a routine job that does not really increase the price of the plan. If you try to set up a mail server yourself, you will probably not be able to do everything properly, or you will have to pay somebody to help you.
If you decide to use the services of a dedicated email provider, you are free to do so. Such services are used by a lot of people who have website-only packages. You will hear from both email- and website-only providers that you should not have both services with the same company. If you already have a web hosting plan, though, do you have to pay twice just to have emails with your domain name? In addition, if your emails are separate from your website, this does not make it less likely for the mail server to go down. In light of this, there is no reason why you should keep your emails separate from your websites.
2. If you want to have backups, you should take care of them
Should something happen to your website, it is important to have a backup that you can restore. This way, if you delete something by mistake or somebody hacks your site, you will be able to restore everything the way it was. Of course, it is also important to keep the site software up-to-date at all times and to use long and complex passwords.
The problem is that some providers do not have a backup system at all, especially the ones that offer unmanaged server plans. They say that if you need a backup, you should generate it yourself. Although this is not a very convenient option, it will work as long as you have a static website that is not updated. You can simply create one backup and keep it on your end. If you have a dynamic website, though, you will have to set up a backup system with backup rotation and a remote location, or you will have to create a backup manually every day. If you have a small website, the solution is to consider a shared hosting plan since backups are usually included in such packages. The catch with most shared hosting providers is that your content should not exceed a certain number of files or a certain size in order to be backed up – different companies have different policies about that, but make sure to read the fine print. This is very common with the unlimited hosting plans that many providers offer.
Another questionable scheme some providers use is that they don’t charge additionally for the creation of backups, but require a fee for restore operations. This is a shady practice that isn’t very common, but you can see it in the terms of some providers.
Unless you don’t mind doing everything yourself or accepting various limitations, you should find a host that will back up your data regardless of the plan you use. There are some companies that generate full backups automatically, saving you a lot of time and effort. ICDSoft is one of them. We generate a couple of backups per day and keep them for 7 days on the shared plans, and for 15 days on the managed VPS plans. We also offer an optional Extended Backups upgrade, which you can add if you want to have backups going a whole year back. We guarantee that we will keep regular backups even for our high-end VPS plans that come with a huge disk space quota. Two things set us apart from many other companies - we will not stop generating backups if you reach a certain number of files, and you can browse the content of all backups and restore only specific files, not a snapshot of the entire account.
3. Your domain and hosting should not be with the same company
You will come across opinions that your domain name should not be registered and hosted by the same company. The two main reasons for this are that no single company will have control over all your services in case that something happens, and you will be able to choose the best registrar and the best hosting provider. There is no such thing as a company keeping your domain or website “hostage”, though, unless you have abused the service intentionally in some way. Such statements usually come from companies that offer either domains or hosting, but not both.
You can surely register and host your domains with any company you would like. You can even change your host every month if you want, although it will be quite inconvenient to do that. If you want to keep the two services separate just for the sake of it, though, you may miss the opportunity to use a great hosting service from your registrar company, if they offer one. We at ICDSoft, for example, offer domains at a fair price, so if you register a domain name with us, you can take advantage of our web hosting offers as well. It doesn’t make sense to trust a company with your domain names, but not to trust them with your hosting service, or vice versa.
If you don’t trust the company to begin with, you shouldn’t be doing business with it in the first place (be it domain registration or web hosting).
It will be more convenient if you manage and renew all your services in one place. The domain management is more or less the same with all companies, so if you are happy with your host and they offer good prices, or you are happy with your registrar and they offer good hosting services, there is no reason why you should intentionally avoid having your domains registered and hosted with the same company.
4. You should get a hosting plan with unlimited disk space
A lot of companies these days claim that they offer unlimited disk space with their hosting plans. This is especially true for shared hosting plans. The unlimited space is usually justified by saying that disk drives are cheap nowadays and that the “unlimited” features are the new standard. Surprisingly or not, you will probably not find a virtual or a dedicated server with unlimited disk space on the market.
In one way or another, all system resources are limited, including disk space. If you read the fine print in the Terms of Service, you will usually find restrictions that indirectly limit the space you can use. A common practice for many providers is to forbid the storage of large files or files that are not part of a website. In contrast, companies that provide limited space with their plans, usually do not have any limitations in terms of the type of content you can host or its size, as long as it is legal. This is why, if you want to use the full disk space quota you pay for, and you do not want to hit any hidden limitations, you should find a host that is honest with you about the disk space they provide.
5. Companies that offer phone support are more trustworthy
Many hosting providers point out their phone support as a great feature and as a sign that they offer a good service. They claim that if you can get in touch with a live person over the phone, the company is more trustworthy than providers that lack phone support. Is this the case, though?
While it may seem that calling a live person can help you to resolve a problem faster, it actually takes longer to provide the account information to the operator, especially if there is a chance for your name or domain to be misspelled. That is, after you reach a person on the phone, as sometimes the wait times can take quite a few minutes and even hours.
In addition, calling the company does not mean that you will actually get support over the phone. A lot of providers can help you only with general questions, but not with something more technical. You will lose time to try to get in touch with somebody just to find out that you will have to open a support ticket anyway.
Last but not least, if you and the operator are from different countries, there may be difficulties in the communication as well. If your website or emails are not working, you will lose precious time.
ICDSoft is an example of a web hosting provider that does not offer phone support and still is praised for the level of support service (as can be seen by the Trustpilot reviews we have).
Providing only written support (via chats, emails, and tickets) has allowed us to keep a highly trained support team with an average staff seniority of 10+ years. You will not get such an experienced technician as first level phone line support, and that’s for a reason.
One interesting and somewhat fake measurement is the ticket response times some hosting providers have started to advertise. We, for example, advertise a ticket response time of 15 minutes. For this period, we try to answer the question of the customer in full, without the need of further replies. However, you can see hosting providers advertise response times of 30 seconds! How could that be? We asked ourselves the same, but it turns out, the answer is blatantly obvious – they measure the time it takes for the support technician (or in many cases an automated system) to answer with a “Hello, we received your question” canned reply.
6. It is better/easier to use a cloud-based site builder than your own platform
If you want to start your web presence, but you have no experience building websites, you can use a cloud-based site builder like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. Most of them have a free-tier plan, a lot of templates, and very attractive design tools. You can build a professional website in no time and without installing or setting up anything, as per their ads. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
In reality, you may have to pay quite a lot of money to get a decent set of services. Using a free plan usually means that you will not be able to add your own domain name, so you will have to use a service URL from the site builder. This not only looks very unprofessional, but is also bad for search engine rankings.
Using a free plan sometimes means that there will be ads on your site. Free plans often lack basic features such as a search option or traffic statistics, so you will be constantly reminded to upgrade to a higher level, paid plan.
Should you decide to change your provider, or with some providers - only to change the template you use, you will have to rebuild your site from scratch. Cloud site builders do not provide any access to the files, so you will not be able to copy your website elsewhere. You will not be able to do any search engine optimization either as no access to the files means that you will not be able to add code or optimize the existing code base. Last but not least, you will have to use a third-party email provider even if you use a paid plan, since online site builders don’t offer email services.
Considering the above, you will be better off if you use a self-hosted solution. You can use a content management system like WordPress, for example, which comes with thousands of free themes and plugins. Even if you have no experience, you can easily build a beautiful website in a matter of hours. If you use a standard web hosting plan instead of a cloud site builder, you will have full access to your files. You can add any functionality to your site that you would like without paying extra for additional features. You will also be able to create email addresses with your domain name at no additional cost. For an e-commerce site, you can use a number of free platforms like OpenCart, PrestaShop, Zen Cart, etc., or a WordPress-based one like WooCommerce. In comparison, a Shopify plan can go up to $300 per month, and you will still have various limitations.
7. Cloud hosting plans are less expensive
Cloud hosting plans are usually dynamically scalable, which means you can use only the resources that you really need. In other words, you will only pay for what you actually use. The advantage of using such a plan over a standard web hosting plan is that you will not end up paying for resources or services you do not need. This sounds very appealing, so a lot of people are moving even their personal websites to cloud providers, not just business websites. So, where is the catch?
The problem with the pay-as-you-go approach is that you cannot plan your expenses. Standard hosting plans are prepaid, so you always know how much you have to pay for the service and if needed, you can upgrade the plan. If you use a cloud plan, you pay for a past period based on what resources your website has used. If automatic bots generate a lot of traffic to the site, for example, or your site simply becomes popular, you will have to pay for the additional resources it used. You can end up in such a situation even if you simply expected the site to use less system resources as a whole. In the end, such uncertainty can result into quite an expensive service, which can cost you much more than a standard hosting plan.Imperva, one of the leading cyber security companies, reported that bad bots generated almost a quarter of all website traffic in 2019. You can find out more at https://www.imperva.com/blog/bad-bot-report-2020-bad-bots-strike-back/
8. Using cloud hosting means no downtime
A common misconception is that standard hosting servers can go down more frequently and for a longer period of time compared to cloud hosting services. The idea is that cloud servers work together, so if one or even a few servers go down simultaneously, the other ones will take over and the service will not suffer any downtime at all. This is one of the reasons for many people to turn to cloud solutions when they look for a hosting plan for their new project.
The problem with cloud services is that when they go down, they often do it massively. In the general case, a particular service or an entire grid of servers in a particular region are not available.
Here are just some recent major incidents at cloud providers which show that no internet provider is fully insured against downtime:
Considering the price and the uptime guarantee of such services, you will be surprised how often some of them can experience downtimes. Since cloud servers are usually used for important projects or for large resource-demanding websites, any downtime can have a huge impact.
There is no doubt that cloud hosting gave a huge boost to the industry. Especially for apps and companies for which hosting costs aren’t an issue.
Traditional hosting providers can offer a very good service as well, especially smaller ones that pay attention to the needs of each and every customer. A well-configured server and a well-optimized website can often give you better overall uptime compared to a cloud service that may go down rarely, but for long periods of time.
We looked at the myths above not because we wanted to slander some company, but because we believe that every person should make an informed decision about the service they will buy. By debunking these myths, we wanted to show you that using a feature-rich plan or a managed server is not something bad, expensive or unnecessary. This is the impression you will get if you believe these myths blindly. Some companies claim that you should not use or do not need some service simply because they do not offer it. This is quite misleading, intentionally or not. Of course, you are free to choose the hosting plan that suits your needs best, with or without a particular feature and on any hosting platform you would like. We hope that our article will help you choose the best service for your web presence.