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Hidden Cost of Website Hosting

As with many things in life, there are often hidden costs associated with website hosting. Often we don’t realise until it’s too late. In some cases, web hosts have even gotten more creative about fees to ensure they don’t lose out.

Don’t be mistaken that these extras will only apply to expensive hosting plans. In fact, some extra you might not be aware of actually affect even the most basic of shared hosting packages. If you really hate paying hidden fees, read on to see what you need to know.

1. Significant Increase in Renewal Fees

Siteground charges $14.99 per month for single website shared hosting after first term.

This is probably the biggest hidden cost that almost every single web host is guilty of wanting to charge. When you’re shopping for a web hosting plan, price is undoubtedly one of the factors you will consider carefully.

After all, there is a big difference between paying $2.99/mo compared to $14.99/mo over an extended period of time. Most web hosts will offer very attractive discounts when new users sign-on. Fees then revert to ‘regular prices’ once the plan is due for renewal.

To illustrate the impact of this, let’s consider the case of SiteGround. They offer a very attractive starting price of only $2.99/mo for shared hosting – which sums up to $35.88 a year. However when your term expires you’ll have to pay for $14.99/mo or $179.88 a year. That works out to a whopping 500% price surge.

Can You Avoid This?

Yes, it is possible. However, your choice of web hosts will be much more limited. Some web hosting companies offer ‘Price Lock Guarantees’ (for example, see ScalaHosting's VPS deal). This means that present prices supposedly will never be changed.

Read: Buyers beware – Web hosting signup vs renewal cost

2. Hosting Fee Adjustments

For example, the note for Justhost setup fee is hiding in the pricing renewal page.

The price of everything goes up and that’s just the way of life. From time to time, some hosting companies will revise prices as well. While it may not affect existing contracts at the time, you will still end up paying more when it comes to renewal. 

In some situations Price Lock Guarantees keep you safe, but hosts have been known to break their word. One famous example of this was the case of FastComet. In 2019, they revised prices significantly despite a Price Lock Guarantee. 

Can You Avoid This?

Technically yes – with a Price Lock Guarantee. However, as you see from the case of FastComet, it sometimes fails.

3. Non-Refundable Setup Fees

Some web hosting service providers aren’t very transparent with their pricing. On top of their hosting package prices, they may tack on ‘Setup Fees’. Some may even go so far as to say they do have setup fees but are willing to waive them – just for you.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't be a problem. But if you sign up with a terrible host and get buyer’s remorse, getting a refund may be an issue. Most hosts who do this will not refund setup fees. 

That means if you try and leverage on a money-back guarantee, you will get the amount you paid, less the setup fee. In some cases, the setup fees are high enough that most people won’t find it worthwhile to cancel their plans.

Can You Avoid This?

Yes. Not all hosts impose these charges. Read the fine print in their terms and conditions to ensure that no setup fees will be incurred.

4. High SSL Charges

GoDaddy doesn't support free SSL in their hosting account.

SSL certification is practically a requirement today in order for any websites to qualify for search ranking. Thankfully, there are a number of free SSL providers. Some web hosts – for example GreenGeeks, have incorporated them, making it easier for users to take advantage of free SSL.

Problems arise however, when web hosts face a conflict of interest.

For example those who sell SSL certificates like GoDaddy. Since they want you to buy SSL certificates from them, they’ll make free SSL either unavailable or as difficult as possible for you to set up.

Can You Avoid This?

Yes. Thankfully not many web hosting providers do what GoDaddy does. In almost all cases, you will be able to install free SSL fairly easily. Just make sure you look out for ‘free SSL’ on plans you’re interested in.

Read: Best web hosting with free SSL support

5. Less Secure Hosting Environments

All Scalahosting plans come with SShield, which provides 24×7 real-time website security and blocks off most cyberattacks.

Security isn’t normally a key focus for many, especially those who only need a shared hosting plan. However, some hosts place greater priority on the well-being of customer websites than others.

If your website is hosted on a poorly secured server and gets hacked, you’re looking at a significant headache – and cost. If you’re unable to recover damaged or hacked websites, you may need to pay the host or a security consultant to do it for you.

Can You Avoid This?

Yes. To better protect their customers, some hosts install very good security products on their servers. One example of this is ScalaHosting, which includes SShield, a robust cybersecurity option, with almost all their plans.

6. Poor Quality of Web Servers

Web hosting performance
To better understand the performance of a hosting provider – refer to our web hosting reviews.

Technology advances at such a rapid pace. The PC or phone you buy today will likely be obsolete within a few years. Web hosts have the same problem with servers they use as well, which means they’ll try to stretch out the life span as long as possible.

For those who sacrifice quality in this manner, it is the customer who suffers. Low-quality or aging equipment may suffer significantly in performance. That affects your website in more ways than you might think.

Slow performance of your website will affect your potential sales, search engine visibility, and possibly even lead to brand damage in the eyes of your customers.

Can You Avoid This?

Yes. HostScore tracks the performance of web hosts over extended periods of time. This leads to a more reliable assessment of the quality of web hosting servers a host offers.

7. Site Migration Fees

a2hosting free migration service
A2 Hosting offers free site migration to new customers.

If you get stuck with a terrible hosting service and need to move, you need to consider migration fees as well. If you’re skilled enough to do this on your own, time is still money and the man hours you invest in are still considered a loss.

If not and you’re moving to a host that doesn’t offer free migration, expect to pay varying amounts depending on the complexity of your site.

Can You Avoid This?

Yes. When moving to another host, make sure that they offer free site migration. Not all hosts will advertise this openly, so make sure you speak to customer service and check with them. Some may agree to help.

8. Need for Content Delivery Networks

Some web hosts offer a strategic spread of server locations.

If you need to target visitors from specific geographic locations, it’s best to find a hosting server as close by to the location as possible. This helps to reduce web page load times for them by quite a significant amount.

The problem is that not all web hosts have a good spread of server locations, especially for shared hosting plans. In these scenarios, the only way of improving the speed of delivery for your website will be to restore to a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

CDNs are global networks of servers that can help you cache static elements of your site. When visitors request pages of your site, CDNs can deliver those parts of your site more quickly, improving performance.

While some CDNs like Cloudflare offer free plans, there are limitations. If you end up needing comprehensive CDN features to overcome poor site performance, you may end up paying a lot.

Can You Avoid This?

The only real way of avoiding this is by looking for a host with a good choice of server locations. TMD Hosting, for example, has servers strategically placed in major geographic zones including North America, Europe, and Asia.

Conclusion: Extras as Avoidable

As you can see from the examples I’ve given above, there are many ways you can end up paying more than you expect for running a website. Of course, I’ve made sure to share some ways you can avoid these fees as well.

The crux of the matter, in fact, boils down to doing the right amount of research before choosing web hosting. By analyzing your needs and pairing them with the right web host, you can expect to enjoy fairly predictable fees.

Of course, nothing in life is perfect, so do temper expectations in some cases. There are things in life that you simply can’t always avoid. The only thing you can do is mitigate the occasions.

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Article by Timothy Shim

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