When it comes to website hosting in NZ there is a lot of variation in what you can end up paying. If you’re a business and you’ve got a website or planning on getting one then do yourself a favour and know exactly what you’re getting for your hosting dollar.
So what can you expect to pay for website hosting? It seems anywhere between $48 a year and $480 or more. While $480 can sound like a lot, it’s fairly typical and you’ll find NZ web businesses like Plato Design or New Media Design will charge those sorts of prices for their entry-level packages. But you could do worse. You could be paying $1200 a year for one of Telecom’s top-end UNIX hosting packages.
There are two lessons you can get out of this. Shop around, and know what you need so you’re not paying for a package that is overkill.
Of course, not all hosting is equal. Let’s talk about 3 common myths about cheap website hosting and why, particularly for small businesses, you shouldn’t pay any attention to them.
Myth #1 – Shared hosting will mean more downtime for your website
Big businesses that run intensive web applications, expect a lot of traffic (bandwidth) or want to run custom applications on the server will often pay for dedicated hosting, where they don’t share the server with anyone else. But for most small businesses (and even larger ones) their website will run just fine on shared hosting, where the bandwidth (and costs) are shared.
Some have said that this means when another site your sharing with has a spike in their traffic it will cause your site to go down, or your bandwidth allowance is throttled. Like any industry there may be cowboys out there overselling hosting space but most reputable hosting suppliers will control the loading on their shared servers preventing any downtime for customers. The host I use claims to have an up-time of over 99%. I’ve been with them for almost 12 months now and I’ve had no problems at all. For me that’s proof enough they deliver the goods and I’m happy to recommend them to my clients.
In fact, my site hasn’t been around that long but it’s already sitting on a Google PageRank of 3 (you can check the PR of your own site by installing the Google Toolbar – don’t waste your time with the free tools out there; they’re often wrong). PageRank, or PR, is a measure of the importance of your website in the eyes of Google. You can be sure that if they didn’t like where my website was hosted (i.e. it resided in one of the interweb’s dark alleys) then my PR wouldn’t be where it is today. A PR of 3 might not sound like much (it’s a score out of 10) but when you compare it with larger companies like More FM (also a PR3) then it stacks up pretty well. Actually, in more good news, one of my recently acquired clients, enjoyed a PR boost from zero to 2. Another victory for cheap website hosting.
Myth #2 – Servers based overseas will harm your local search engine rankings
There used to be a lot of talk about making sure you used web hosting that was based in New Zealand if you wanted to rank well for local NZ search engine results. It sounded plausible but actually there’s not a lot of substance to this one.
In fact, Google confirm that the TLD (.co.nz) is more important than where the server is physically located.
There are plenty of other things you can do if you really want to improve your local search engine rankings, such as:
- List with local NZ directories such as NZS.com.
- Add your business to the Google Business Directory.
- Add content to your site that is written with a local audience in mind.
- Get links from other local sites.
Myth #3 – Web hosting based in NZ is faster
There’s almost a little bit of truth to this one, which makes it that much easier to fall for it. While it may be marginally faster for NZ people viewing your site, it’s easily outweighed by poor site design. If you want a fast site (and this is gaining importance with Google as a determining factor in site ranking) then make sure you hire a website designer who understands the importance of building sites optimized for speed.
I’ve done comparisons with some of the sites I’ve switched from local hosting to overseas and there was negligible, if any, difference. In fact, using the site performance metric in Google I noticed a significant increase in speed when the site design was overhauled. Forget where it’s hosted – pay more attention to how it’s built!
So hopefully this has helped clear the air a little on some common misconceptions to do with cheap website hosting. If you’re a business owner all I can say is do as much as you can to educate yourself, ask a lot of question, don’t be afraid to look dumb – it’s your money and you have a right to know exactly what you’re getting for it. Now that you know this, you’re in a good position to very easily save your business hundreds of dollars a year in website hosting alone. And for a nation recovering from a recession that’s a good thing in my books.