What is the True Cost of Shared Hosting?

CMS systems  for small and medium scale sites using  WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and others mostly use shared hosting. That is where your website shares a CPU & Supporting Software,  memory, diskspace and Internet bandwidth with 2-4 other websites on the same machine in which all  of these  assets are “time-shared”. This has been and currently is the cheapest price of admission to the Web. Here  is a typical  shared hosting pricing table:
As an alternative users can buy their own dedicated  machine and outfit it with their own CPU, memory, diskspace and Internet bandwidth for dedicated VPS- Virtual Private Services. Typically  VPS costs are $30-100/month but also depend on how much hardware is truly dedicated plus the level managing services. provided by the VPS . Finally, users can buy Cloud services with guaranteed up time, CPUs, support software, diskspace, and Internet BandWidth  – typically the  charges are in the $80/month to $240/month range.

So shared hosting typically costs $3.5/month to $12/month – about 1/10th the cost of  VPS and around 1/20th the cost of Cloud Services. But shared hosting has some clever  hidden costs. First, the free domain name is one domain only and lasts for one year. Typically the annual domain name  charge goes up to $15-20  tor after the first year. Second, the monthly shared hosting charges will increase by 60-150% per month after the initial 1-3 year contract. However, this is only the start of hidden costs .

The Other Hidden Costs of Shared Hosting

Lurking behind the Web Development scenes is the other major cost – hourly Web Development expertise. This can be quite variable ranging from $30/hour to $150/hour. These developer costs are the second driver behind Web system charges. Shared Hosting is attractive because a)it ostensibly has the lowest operating costs, b)it enables use of free Open Source software for large chunks of a system and c)it enables DIY automated systems like Website Builders or no-to-low cost Dashboards and Reporting systems In sum, shared hosting is often the cheapest point of entry for Web site development, offers low cost tools and staff to control high developer fees, and  delivers lower Web system operating costs. lets examine each of these assumptions.

Low Web Operating Costs?

As we have seen, shared hosting starts off with a much lower starting fee than VPS or Cloud Computing. But there is  the proviso that depending on the hosting provider the annual shared hosting fee could go up by 50% to 150% in the 2nd or 3rd year of the contract. Next there are a whole series of hosting operating costs that may be incurred:

  1. Backup services may need supplement for some subsystems at small operating cost;
  2. Auto-updates of web system themes, plugins and components is vital for security and incurs small operating costs;
  3. Broader firewall, SSL, and messaging encryption can incur small to large costs depending on timeliness of  updates;
  4. Performance tuning is complex with caching, media compression, CDN  and other services requiring low to medium setup and tuning costs;
  5. Expansion and integration of services with Web systems can incur mid to high costs.

The two biggest factors impacting these Web operating costs are a)greater Web Security vulnerability from small to enterprise websites and b)rapid change in WebTechnology opening opportunity but also with  some  costs of programming and change. As a Web developer I can speak to the increasing Web security hazards. I have experienced in the past 4 years on my client and personal websites 10 hack attacks. All have required from  3 to 18 hours of devoted programming to correct them. These breeches  have occurred despite having firewalls, constant web  program updates, non-trivial passwords and protections  against illicit access to wp-admin and wp-login.php files.

However rapid program changes and zero.day  virus susceptibilities have enabled hack attacks to breakthrough despite best efforts. to prevent them by the user and some hosting services In addition, careless falling behind in web security procedures has also been a factor in breeches. The result is that small to medium size businesses are looking for alternatives to low initial cost shared hosting.

The Appeal of Cloud SaaS Vendors

For the past five years there have a been a number of CMS vendors including Magento, Shopify, SquareSpace, Wix, Wild Apricot, etc that have been offering a Cloud-based fast development alternative to Shared Hosting from Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. The formula is remarkably similar:

  1. Drag and Drop Visual Builder to layout and design mobile responsive app pages;
  2. Use predesigned but customizable page, section  and widget templates to speedup app design;
  3. Deliver both the development and  runtime in the Cloud for one source development;
  4. Cloud runtime allows the vendor to performance tune user apps optimally;
  5. Cloud security manages all system  updates and provides a tight firewall against hack attacks;
  6. Cloud backup, staging and  user role assignments allows best access options to staff, developers, and customers.

Now each of these Cloud SaaS vendors offers specialized features such as broad styling options, or special models/services for Membership, Events, and  Shopping , Typically such systems see costs starting at $30 to $100/month with extension  services adding to the monthly cost.This is roughly comparable to a VPS system but with more behind the Cloud protection and Software development resources.

Low Code Cloud Development

A second generation of Cloud development tools has emerged in the market – the low-code development platforms.  The direction is downward and away from Enterprise Development tools like IBM Websphere, Oracle Developer Tools , SAP ERP. These enterprise tools have proved to be less responsive to the demand of Agile Development, Rapid Turnaround, and responding to major changes in development like Big Data, AI approaches, and UI Layout and Styling innovations needed to secure Web eyeballs.

So over the past 4 years a new tier of low-code development systems  have appeared in the Enterprise Development market. Think Outsystems, Caspio for database savvy apps, Appheet for mobile and any device apps, Kissflow for diverse Workflow apps, Wavemaker for wide array of Enterprise integrations, etc. All of these l0w-code development platforms offer Cloud Sytem like capabilities:

  1. Rapid development with mobile/any device responsive layouts;
  2. Drag and drop layout with reusable templates;
  3. Strong integration with Enterpise programs such as Oracle, Microsoft Azure, Idatabase, messaging,
  4. Also integration with a wide array of third party messaging, social media, routing and transaction processing systems;
  5. Some provide Cloud delivery for backup, web security and performance SLAs-Service Level Agreements.

Typically the cost of low-code-platforms start at $200/month and easily top $1000/month with extra fees for extensions and SLA guarantees. As a casual observer, the phenomenal growth WordPress and Cloud based systems and their ability to deliver mobile responsive layout and design tools undoubtedly has influenced the low-code platforms’ technology choices.

Summary

Shared Hosting has been the entry point for many Web users from hobbyists to small thru medium size organizations from the earliest web days.But the Web has changed profoundly. Web hacking is a multi-trillion dollar annual business.Web technology itself is changing rapidly both in hardware and software implementations. For example,  3 years ago I could rely on updating my WordPress themes and plugins once every 1-2 months. Today I see  at least 1/3rd of my plugins and themes requiring updates every week. Mobile web users in 3 years have gone from 10% to over 55% of  all web users. This along with a proliferation of  new display devices has made mobile/breakpoint responsive page designs essential.

Finally media has gone from less than 800KB/page to nearly  2MB/page in the last 3-4 years. But at the same time Google and every SEO vendor is telling us page response time has to be 2 seconds or less. Hence media sizing and performance tuning have become major tasks for Website users. So it should not be a surprise that  the amount of time spent on shared hosting accounts by users spend is increasing for performance tuning, backup, web security and website plugin and theme updates. This added work time starts to shift the choice among shared hosting,   VPS, Cloud-based Apps and low-code platforms.