Web hosting plays a vital role in the success of a website. No matter how beautiful or functional your site is, a slow or buggy server can ruin the user experience. It can also cost site owners in the form of lost business.
And while we’d all love to have access to enterprise-grade hosting, that’s unlikely to fit within most budgets. Sites for small businesses, blogs and non-profits often have to settle for something smaller.
Inferior (ie, cheap) web hosting will not have the same computing power as those expensive accounts. And some providers make heavy promises (unlimited storage and bandwidth, to name a few) that play off of flawed performance and limited support.
However, this does not mean that you are stuck in the mud. There are providers out there that offer stable hosting at a low cost. From that base, there are things you can do to squeeze every bit of performance out of your setup.
Today, we’ll share some tips to get the most out of your free hosting.
Get the Best Hosting for Your Money
With so many hosting providers to choose from, it can be difficult to distinguish between them. And just because multiple companies offer similar pricing, doesn’t mean their level of service is the same.
This is especially when it comes to cheap hosting. Quality is not easy to recognize. And the competence or performance of big, recognizable names doesn’t necessarily translate.
Furthermore, the information a provider provides on its website does not tell the whole story. You can find out the monthly cost and how much storage space is included. But it’s the finer details – things that don’t often get published – that make the difference.
So, it’s worth looking at independent reviews and asking other web designers about their experiences. It is also recommended to speak directly to the host. Taken together, these items create a clearer picture than sales pitches.
While we can’t tell you which host or plan to choose, we can say that there are solid low-cost options on the market. In the end, it’s about finding a host that offers an acceptable level of resources and support. Oh, and it has to come within your budget too.
Look for Ways to Reduce Server Load
Shared web hosting is generally on the lowest rung of the pricing ladder. The server may have plenty of resources, but you are sharing them with other users. Therefore, your site will have limited access to key performance enhancers such as CPU and memory cycles.
One way to stretch the available resources is to reduce the load on the server. And a few things can help:
Make Your Site As Lean As Possible
A thriving website will not perform at its best – even on top-flight hosting. Put it in a shared environment and your key metrics will look even worse.
That’s why it’s important to build the thinnest website possible. That means only the scripts and styles needed to get the look and functionality you need are included. For example, you can choose a barebones WordPress theme rather than one that offers extra features that you will never use.
Database calls are another resource hog. Therefore, using static HTML or CMS technology without one may help the initial performance.
In short: if a feature is not necessary – leave it out.
Download Media, Scripts, and Stylesheets
One cost-effective way to reduce their impact is through the use of a content delivery network (CDN). This offloads your site’s files to the cloud. Strategically located servers deliver these assets as close as possible to the user’s geographic location.
Although most CDN providers charge a fee, you often get a lot of performance for the money. In the long run, it may be cheaper (and possibly more efficient) than upgrading your hosting account.
Evaluate SaaS Providers for Key Performance
Serving files affects performance. But parsing code and writing to a database can eliminate a low-powered server. The more complex the code, the greater the burden on the host.
This makes it more difficult to run key functionality on your server. Any kind of data-intensive site, like e-commerce or membership, can become slow in this situation. Even relatively simple tasks such as user search can cause slowdowns.
This is where software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers can be beneficial. By employing a hosted shopping cart, for example, a third party does the heavy lifting. Again, this frees up your server to handle other jobs.
And yes, there are fees involved. But consider that upgrading to slightly more expensive hosting may not provide enough horsepower to run these features efficiently. The level of service required to do so may cost more than paying SaaS.
If you’re using a content management system (CMS), smart use of caching can do wonders for performance. It takes your site’s dynamic content and turns it into static HTML files. This results in fewer calls to the server – including those expensive database requests.
Some hosts offer server-level caching – which is worth using if it’s available. However, there are other options available, such as WordPress cache plugins. Even a little effort can make a difference here.
Cheap Hosting Doesn’t Have to Set You Off
Not everyone can afford top-tier hosting plans. Furthermore, hitting up to the next level does not always mean better performance. You may be paying for extra hard drive space. Great if you need it, but it won’t make your site run faster.
Regardless, you can have a lot of high performing websites that live on cheap hosting. The first step is to find a host that provides a baseline of stability.
From there, it’s all about building a lean website that prioritizes performance. This is good practice for all websites – even those on dedicated servers. Fortunately, modern languages and tools can help you along the way.
But the optimization doesn’t stop there. Using methods to reduce the load on your server, such as CDNs, caching, and SaaS providers, will help keep things running smoothly.
In the end, cheap hosting does not necessarily mean poor performance. Although it may not be the ideal environment, the right approach can produce excellent results.