About 98% of the shared hosting services out there suck!
The bigger and more well-known the company, the more likely it is to suck. It’s slow, it’s insecure, it’s missing features you need, the tech support doesn’t understand your problem (or even your English), or the server keeps going down.
Why is shared webhosting always like this?! (Answers to these galactic mysteries lay inside…)
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #1 – Slow Speeds
SHARED hosting = SHARED resources
Imagine being in a crowded apartment building. Noisy neighbors, limited space, lack of privacy, potential security issues, have to share everything. Always having to wait your turn for the laundry machines, someone hogging the hot water, mailboxes sometimes unsecured, can’t park your car however you want. Want to change something in your own apartment? You need permission from the landlord first. Lowest quality carpeting, paint, windows, and other amenities (if it’s even include it at all).
That’s exactly how shared hosting is—thousands of low-paying customers crammed into one server. Realistically speaking, what do you expect to get for $5/month? Either a really weak server, or a powerful one but shared across many customers. And it’s not just the server, but also the server maintenance and then customer support to be there whenever you need help. So maybe only $2 of your monthly fee actually goes to the server. And then how many sites do you have? Most of these shared hosting servers let you have as many sites as you want, which for many shared hosting accounts can be 10-20 sites. So you might be paying only $0.20 cents per month, per site. Now let’s contrast this to the big corporate companies that pay for thousands of dollars to host just their one site. Big difference in quality, as expected.
This is probably the biggest problem in shared hosting for both the webhosting company as well as webhosting clients. You always have that one awful neighbor ruining it for everyone else. There’s some guy sending spam and getting the server IP blacklisted (causing your emails to hit the spam box as well). Or there’s a guy using his $5/month account to run a huge business…hogging all server resources. Or there’s someone using totally outdated software, making himself and everyone else on the server more vulnerable to hackers. Guess what happens when these neighbors run amuck….the webhosts mitigate this by putting cages on everyone’s account, throttling back their performance.
OUTDATED hardware & software
For the pennies you pay, you really think that server is gonna have the latest and greatest CPU/memory/hard-drive, software, latest php, latest Apache modules, and convenient 1-click solutions for all your needs? Of course, not! Most shared hosting servers are like 2 iPhone models behind the top guys.
Sure, if you’re lucky and just found a company starting out, they’ll be more updated than the others. The truth is, they prefer only to update when they absolutely have to. Most of them will run old software for a few reasons: one is to save money on maintenance, another is to maximize compatibility for different software or different versions. Shared hosting is a high-volume business, remember?
Quite often the databases are not on the same machine. They’re in another server. Sure, the external database might still be in the same datacenter or nearby but it’s still an extra proxy and an extra connection time.
“But not all of them are slow!”
This is absolutely true. Not all of them are slow. Same goes for renting an apartment—not all apartment tenants are awful, not all apartments are crappy. But the saying remains, “You get what you pay for.” and it’s always held true in the long run for me.
Sure, your account might be the first one on a large unfilled server. Or you’re on a server with mostly “quiet tenants”. Or maybe you getting great service from a company just starting out. Sooner or later, the law of economics and sustainability kicks in. Either the performance or maintenance or support suffers somewhere…or the best thing that can happen—prices go up (quality stays the same).
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #2 – Frequent Downtimes
Shared hosting goes down often, unlike VPS/Dedicated servers
It happens ALL the time. It’s something very unique to only shared hosting accounts, and almost never for VPS or dedicated servers. Shared hosting can go down anywhere from a few minutes a month to hours every week. Even the best ones may be fine for a year and then have rampant downtime for 2 or 3 months straight. It’s the industry’s dirty little secret. So why the downtime?
Anytime you have tons of different software fighting for CPU, memory, and storage resources, there’s bound to be a crash. Some software might hog all the memory. Some site might lock up the CPU. A php thread might be left open or the database can crash. Maybe a backup function got stuck. Or somebody’s error log ate up all the disk space. It’s not like the software is so primitive and can’t account for all these scenarios, it’s just that you have way too many things going on at once. It’s like asking a parent to watch 30 kids instead of just one kid.
So what happens when something goes wrong and the server locks up? Sure, you can spend some time trying to fix the issue (and risk hundreds of tech support complaints), or you can just restart the server before anyone notices the problem, and act like it never happened. Bandaid solutions are the norm in the shared hosting industry. Just keep the server running and most clients will be ok with that.
Slow maintenance restarts
The other reason for restarts—maintenance. All servers need to be maintained. At the very minimum, this means security patches to close up known software vulnerabilities. But there’s tons of maintenance that goes beyond that, updating or adding new software models. Tweaking software configurations. Or maybe replacing failing hardware like old disk drives and power supplies. Now’s here’s a good question…do you think shared webhosting companies update the servers as often as possible? Or do they let the updates stack up until the server is 3 months behind in updates? The longer you wait to fix and update things, the longer it takes to do it. Let’s not forget, these are probably not the newest and fastest servers, right?
Suppose I was a high-end webhosting client, most webhosts would provide a clone server or some kind of back-up to prevent any downtimes. But for a $5/month shared hosting account, NOPE! They just shut it down, take their sweet time and it comes up whenever it comes up. And they’re not gonna answer your ticket until it does because they know better than to waste your time. It’s going to be 15 support requests from you saying, “Where’s my server? Where’s my server?!” And then 6 hours later, a small reply of “Server was down for maintenance. Your site is working now. Have we fixed your problem? Please give us 5 stars.”
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #3 – Low-Skill Tech Support
Most shared hosting support can’t fix serious problems.
This is a tough dilemma for shared hosting companies and customers. When it comes to most tech support, the REAL TECHIES are the “Level 3 – Tech Support” guys. Level 1 are just a bunch of low-level “customer support” staff. They answer the chats, emails, and phone calls. They ask you for your name and account info and then read from a script. Anything they don’t know, they look it up on Google first. Some of them probably know even less than you do about web technology but here they are…serving as “friendly fast tech support”.
They’ll go back and forth with you on a few exchanges, writing down your information but the truth is they can’t fix half your problems. They have to ask someone else and then follow up with you a day later. For the money you pay, it’s not possible to have truly skilled systems-engineers to answer your relatively basic questions right away. They’re probably undermanned and have tons of server issues to tend to.
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #4 – Limited Features
This is not actually a problem. You get what you paid for. But it’s important to know what you’re not getting.
- Outdated PHP – some hosts offer the latest php 7, some don’t. It should be the standard now but it isn’t.
- Uncommon modules – there may be some uncommon Apache modules that are needed by your plugins. If you’re lucky, your webhost has it or is at least willing to install it. If you’re not lucky, they say “NO!” and you’ll have to move to another webhost.
- No Memcache/Redis object caching – these php extensions can make a huge difference in performance (especially for ecommerce). Unfortunately, they eat up valuable memory and so hosts don’t allow it.
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #5 – Security issues
Security issues with data vulnerability
Data vulnerability is perhaps the biggest security issue for most people; imagine someone accessing your server, seeing all your files and database information. Shared hosting servers aren’t always updated with the latest patches. Old php software, old mysql, older cPanels that haven’t been updated in a year. There’s also the issue of not properly isolating each account. So your account could be hacked into if your neighbor’s account was compromised. How annoying!
Why do some webhosts have this problem? Simply by not backing up the server or lazy setup and maintenance habits that leave holes for hackers to squeeze through. With that said, no server is 100% hackproof. Any hacker given enough time and resources WILL get through. The idea is that you trust your webhost to at least make an effort and slow them down to the point where it isn’t worth it for them to target your server.
Security issues with performance
This is the lesser known issue with security problems. It isn’t so much about hackers accessing your data but about them affecting your server performance. Quite often, that’s ALL hackers want to do…bring down your server. It’s like that kid pulling the school fire-alarm…while he isn’t causing any real problems, he’s still wasting resources. In the server world, hackers can easily bring down your server with DDOS attacks or brute forcing or somehow in someway, overloading it with so many requests that the server gets so backed up, it can’t serve any more webpages.
I think DDOS is best handled with software and manual implementations. It doesn’t that much time, money, and effort but it does take some effort. While some webhosts care about this, others don’t.
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #6 – Upsell Business Model
And this here lies the other secret truth about the shared hosting industry. It’s all about the upsell! They’re not gonna give you the best webhosting for your money. They’ll give you great service, but just good enough servers. At some point, you’ll ask them for faster speeds and THAT’S where they make their real money. As with many other businesses, it’s all in the upsell!
The upsell is usually either the $30 “Premium Hosting Plan” (basically still shared hosting but on a less crowded server), or it’s the $50-80 “Managed VPS Plan” where they claim to give you this incredible server that you have all to yourself. And guess what, the same company that sold you those plans is not going to maximize them either. They’ll hope you outgrow it soon and they’ll upsell you again to a bigger plan!
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #7 – Fineprint
This is the major issue many large corporations. They cover their asses, legally, so to speak. Tons of fine print in the contracts where they don’t have to honor any of their marketing promises.
- 99% UP-TIME GUARANTEE? – there’s probably somewhere in the contract that says they’re not responsible for “unforeseen circumstances”.
- FAST WEBHOSTING – but they can just blame your site for the slowness instead of their servers.
SHARED HOSTING PROBLEM #8 – Upfront payments
Webhosting companies are usually high-volume profit-driven machines. Which means a lot of their work goes to driving profit. You would think that means having the best webhosting service and what not but it’s far from that. Their biggest efforts go to marketing and promotions, huge affiliate networks and commissions.
You sign-up for the year and guess what happens after the first month? The server slows down as they pack more customers onto it, and service just gets worse. You’ve already paid the money and locked yourself into a contract so what incentive do they have left to keep you happy? Whatever negative review you might make will be drowned out by the tons of affiliates and corporate partnerships they have out there. Give up all your money too early and the ball is in their court to stretch that dollar as far as they can.
Why Webhosting Sucks
It’s not just shared hosting, VPS can suck too! Any webhosting company can suck! They suck when they care more about profit than quality. They suck when they get acquired by bigger (and less personable) companies. They suck when the industry pivots in a direction they can’t adapt to. All industries, not only webhosting, are prone to have shady business practices.
If you want true quality hosting, either:
- Pay premium pricing for a proven company.
- Be prepared to change webhosts often when their quality drops.
- Learn how to run your own webserver.
Need some honest webhosting recommendations? Check out my Best WordPress Hosting Reviews