Is it better to run your own server or to rent some space at a hosting provider?

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Is it better to run your own server or to rent some space at a hosting provider?

Some days ago I was at a WordPress meetup in Nairobi. The topic was „Web Hosting for WordPress“. And because I run my own servers and host my sites on my machine, I was asked to attend and to discuss my point of view and answer questions in regards of hosting / self hosting. The atmosphere was very nice, and so was the discussion. All sorts of people were there. Some were just bloggers / writers / content people, others were developers, designers, SEO People and of course, professional hosting companies. This meetup gave me the opportunity to see where are the question marks and what are they about and gave me the inspiration to write post about it.

So in regards of the question in the header, I’d say, it all depends very much with what you want / what your intentions are.

The first thing you might want to know, is how much will be the damages. And this as well, depends with your intentions. Confused, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll break it down for you.

Lets say you want to host just a WordPress blog and that’s it. Well, then you should grab yourself a provider who offers you some web space at less than 5$ / Month who’s package contains at least the following features. You can literally pick any of the largest providers. It can be GoDaddy, Namecheap, BlueHost, DreamHost, or any other. There is a ton out there just waiting for you to host your site with them. But you should take a look whether they are offering the following features:

SSD Webspace

  • SSD HardDisks offer a much higher Read & Write speed than regular Spinnging HDD’s.
  • A regular HDD drive, reads data at a speed of about 227 MB/s, an SSD does that at 510 MB/s. Writing data to a HDD happens at about 160 MB/s and on a SSD at 490 MB/s.
  • To make a simple example. In regards of a WordPress blog, the speed of the hard disk is noticeable when data is being read from or written into the database, or when a image is being uploaded or downloaded. This happens at least every time someone visits your web site. The moment a visitor is opening your page, the images from the particular page or post will be downloaded by the browser. And to get this done, this files have to be read by the hard disk.
  • Like I said, this is just a simple example. To get more details about the differences, have a look at this Wikipedia articles. While HDD’s are still fine, and maybe a compromise you would accept, let me tell you, that SSD is becoming the technology standard and you should consider it.

Free SSL certificate for your domain

  • About two or three years ago getting a SSL certificate for a website was a financial matter. Some providers did offer SSL certificates from 20$ per site. The sky was the only limit. This is luckily history. Let’s Encrypt allows web masters to implement a tool, that will generate a certificate for your web site automatically and for free and will deliver your website with a green padlock and https. Therefore, a hosting provider should not ask you an extra for a SSL certificate.
  • You may, or may not, ask yourself whether you need a SSL certificate or not. My answer to this question is definitely YES. You need it. You need it at least for one single reason: SEO. On August 6th, 2014 Google annouced to use HTTPS as a ranking signal (read the announcement here). This means, that Google does prefer websites with HTTPS enabled, over web sites that don’t have a SSL certificate. Take this into account.
  • Furthermore, HTTPS gives your visitors some privacy.
    • Nr. 1 feature is, that any data the visitor is submitting on your website will be encrypted before it will be delivered to the server.
    • Nr. 2 features is, that the visitors Internet provider will only see that the visitor was on your domain. With plain http, the provider can see the exact same site the user is browsing.
    • For instance, your site has no SSL certificate, and your visitor opened: http://your-site.tld/pageX/articleY <= the provider can see the full URL. When you have a SSL certificate, and the visitor opens: https://your-site.tld/pageX/articleY, his provider will only see a connection to https://your-site.tld. That's it. So give your visitors a little bit more of privacy with a SSL certificate.

Caching & compression modules enabled server side

  • Caching and compression should be enabled on the server and allow you to cache things without installing an additional Plugin for that. The web server can do that, so why should WordPress take care of it?
  • We all know, the more plugins you install, the less performant becomes WordPress. To avoid that, the hosting provider should have caching and compression enabled by default, or at least allow you to enable it.

Mod Pagespeed hosting

  • In my daily work, I have to do lots of optimizations to make web sites perform good. I use GTmetrix to scan the sites I am working on and optimize them. When you run a GTmetrix test for your site, you will find things showing up like: Optimize Images, Minify CSS, Minify HTML, Specify image dimensions, … etc, etc. While there are many WordPress plugins available, that can do all this for you, I’d say again, why should WordPress take care of it, when it can be done by the server. Mod Pagespeed does all that. It’s sometimes not really perfect, but it will definitely push your performance scores up without the need to install plugins.

GBit/s Bandwidth

  • Bandwidth becomes a big deal, when you get a ton of visitors. Right now, most of the providers should offer you 1GBit/s in bandwidth without asking extra money. Compare bandwidth with a road.
  • Guess why there is always a traffic jam on Moi Avenue at high times. Because the road is not enough to deal with all the cars and matatus at the same time. Would you take the infrastructure from Thika Highway and put it at Moi Avenue, then the road would have a much larger capacity to deal with all the traffic. So when your site is loading quite slow, and you have lot’s of visitors, take a look at the bandwidth too. Right now you will most likely find offers for: 10 MBit/s, 100 MBit/s, 1000MBit/s (which is the same as 1GBit/s) and I have also seen some offering 10GBit/s. 100MBit/s will probably be enough for the beginning, but 1GBit/s should be the standart, especially in a shared environment.

Unlimited or un-metered Traffic

  • You should look out for traffic limitations. Some providers may offer you a very cheap price per month, but they might as well limit you by traffic and ask you for extra money in case you hit the limit.

E-Mail / Ticket / Live Chat support

  • These are the common types of support you can expect for a small price tag. Usually the E-Mail Support is as well a Ticket System that runs in the background. In terms of spending more money on support, you should ask yourself, how often will you probably need it in a year and if it is worth it to spend more money on something you might need once in a while.
  • In regards of WordPress, I would say, don’t spend money for extra support.
  • In case something is broken on the server, then your hosting provider has to fix it anyway because you are most likely not the only one who is affected by it.
  • In case something is broken in WordPress, then Google the exact error message and you will mostly find a fix for the problem. Ask the community. WordPress is one of the most discussed and documented tool in the world and very much likely you are not the only one who faced this exact error.
  • You want to start from scratch, but you have no Idea what to do? Ask the community. You will very likely find someone who will assist you with that. Setting up WordPress is a matter of 10 minutes or less. In case you are totally lost, ask your hosting provider for assistance. They usually have a tutorial on their site that will help you further.
  • In my opinion, don’t pay for something every month, that you might need once or twice a year.

Backups

  • Your provider should have a system implemented that allows you to make a backup of your web site(s) and the database(s). In case you have screwed up something, you can use the backup to restore your site(s).

When you don’t find a provider that offers you all the above features, well, then you should maybe consider to become your own provider and host your site on your own web server. Of course it is fine as well to agree to a compromise in case some of the feautures are missing, but the price tag is hot. It‘s up to you. I took the time to look into some providers and compare the prices and what you get in return. Please don‘t blame me for mentioning only the features and prices in regards of web hosting and WordPress hosting.

Godaddy.com (Economy Hosting Plan)Godaddy.com (Managed WordPress Websites Package)bluehost.com (basic plan)bluehost.com (WordPress Hosting)namecheap.com (Value plan)namecheap.com (WordPress Hosting)Own Server (Digital Ocean $5 Web Server)
www.godaddy.com
Price for 1st year$59,88
Renewal$95,88
Domain Incl.1
Web sites1
SSL Cert. / Year$69,99
Backups$1,99 / M
Storage100 GB
SSD / HDD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
Traffic
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$59,88
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$95,88
Price / Month 1st. Year$4,99
Price / Month 2nd. Year$7,99
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$10,82
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$13,82
www.godaddy.com
Price for 1st year$83,88
Renewal$95,88
Domain Incl.1
Web sites1
SSL Cert. / Year$69,99
BackupsDaily
Storage10 GB
SSD / HDDSSD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
Traffic25000 Visitors / M
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$83,88
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$95,88
Price / Month 1st. Year$6,99
Price / Month 2nd. Year$7,99
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$12,82
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$13,82
bluehost.com
Price for 1st year$71,40
Renewal$95,88
Domain Incl.1
Web sites1
SSL Cert. / Year$39,96
Backups$2,99 / M
Storage50 GB
SSD / HDD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
Trafficunmetered
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$71,40
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$95,88
Price / Month 1st. Year$5,95
Price / Month 2nd. Year$7,99
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$9,28
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$11,32
bluehost.com
Price for 1st year$359,88
Renewal$479,88
Domain Incl.1
Web sites1
SSL Cert. / Year0
Backups
Storage30 GB
SSD / HDD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
Traffic1 Million Visitors / M
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$359,88
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$479,88
Price / Month 1st. Year$29,99
Price / Month 2nd. Year$39,99
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$29,99
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$39,99
namecheap.com
Price for 1st year$9,88
Renewal$38,88
Domain Incl.0
Web sites3
SSL Cert. / Year$9,00
BackupsTwice / Week
Storage20 GB
SSD / HDDSSD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
Traffic
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$3,29
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$12,96
Price / Month 1st. Year$0,82
Price / Month 2nd. Year$3,24
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$1,57
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$3,99
namecheap.com
Price for 1st year$8,88
Renewal$48,88
Domain Incl.0
Web sites1
SSL Cert. / Year0
Backups
Storage5 GB
SSD / HDDSSD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
Traffic
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$8,88
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$48,88
Price / Month 1st. Year$0,74
Price / Month 2nd. Year$4,07
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$0,74
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$4,07
digitalocean.com
Price for 1st year$60,00
Renewal$60,00
Domain Incl.0
Web sites4
SSL Cert. / Year0
BackupsDaily
Storage20 GB
SSD / HDDSSD
Caching & compression
Mod Pagespeed
GBit/s
TrafficUnmetered
Price / Web Site 1st 12M$15,00
Price / Web Site 2nd 12M$15,00
Price / Month 1st. Year$5,00
Price / Month 2nd. Year$5,00
Price / Month 1st. Year Incl. SSL$5,00
Price / Month 2nd. Year Incl. SSL$5,00

In my opinion, Namecheap, with it‘s Value plan is the winner here. Even they don‘t offer a Domain incl. In their plans, their pricing is way beyond the competitors. I didn‘t expect that. The last time I looked into hosting prices, is about three years ago. Since then I actually compare prices and technical specifications of dedicated (Bare Metal) servers and VPS machines. Anyway. Namecheap offers .com domains at $8,88 at the moment, and they also offer domains at $0,88. So, feel free to register what suits you best.

I also have a personal experience with GoDaddy and with Namecheap. Let me begin with GoDaddy.

GoDaddy, the bad guy.

Some years ago, a client of mine had all his domains and web sites hosted on GoDaddy servers. Untill one terrible thing happened, which has cost him many many euros‘ in revenue. GoDaddy, their web site, DNS servers and all their clients sites were down for a whole day. ( Read the article: https://techcrunch.com/2012/09/10/godaddy-outage-takes-down-millions-of-sites/ ). Well, that was the point where the client said that I should look for dedicated servers, setup a web hosting server for him and transfer all his web sites (about 15 sites) to the new server.

A second incident I had with GoDaddy, is about their Domain Privacy feature. Another client of mine asked me to transfer his domains to another domain provider. By accident, he had enabled GoDaddy‘s Domain Privacy feature while he signed up years ago and there is / was no way to disable it. They did not allow you to transfer the domain without disabling the privacy feature.

GoDaddy does charge you a heavy price tag for this every year, and once enabled, you cannot disable the AutoRenew for the Privacy feature. So I looked into my clients PayPal statements, and could find about 8 Domain Privacy Renewals, which he didn‘t agree with in the first place. It came to the extreme, that I filed eight complaints at PayPal for the renewals of the Domain Privacy feature and stated that even the client did not agree to the renewals and that there is no way to disable the renewal of this feature. PayPal looked into it, and did indeed refund all the payments for the Domain Privacy Features. This lead, surprisingly, to the fact, that GoDaddy turned off the Domain Privacy for this eight domains, and I was able to transfer them without any further problems. Unfortunaley, I had to fight via Live-Chat Support, Phone Calls, and E-Mails with GoDaddy to release the other domains. This thing was keeping me busy for almost a whole month.

Namecheap, the good guy

I did not have the opportunity to really test their Web Hosting packages, but ever since, I register my domains with Namecheap. The best way to determine how good your provider is, is how good he helps you to resolve a problem when it comes to a problem. And Namecheap is just great at it.

When ever I have a problem with a domain, I click their live chat button on the home page and two minutes later I am connected to a 1st level agent. In case he is not able to help me further, he connects me with a 2nd level agent, who looks into the matter and make sure my problem is resolved within 10 minutes. I am not praising Namecheap to convince you – I am praising them because I have my best experience in terms of affordable domain names, domain management and domain support with Namecheap. And that is why I can highly recommend them.

As we germans like to say – be as it may. When it comes to hosting a web site, you really have to do some research to find a provider who is fair with you and values you as a customer no matter how much money you transfer from your pocket to their pocket every month.

To get to the conclusion of this post; Be careful. Some providers offer a very huge pricetag for a service that you can get for less with another provider. Please make sure you choose the provider very wisely before you start. The problem is, that most of them, and definitely the ones mentioned in this post, are asking you to pay for a whole year upfront. Which means, that you have to stick with them for a whole year. But trust me, once you have signed up with them and started your blog, it takes you double or tripple the energy to transfer things to another provider in case you are not happy anymore.

In case you prefer being independent, I can only suggest to run your own web server and host your web sites there – the the only restrictions you have to consider, is the capacity of the server. It doesn‘t squeeze you into yearly plan, It allows you to run what ever you want on your server, it allows you to be free and dynamic, just as you need it.

Being your own host gives you freedom, but also demands responsability. You are in charge for the server. You have to update the server and you have to fix things on the server in case something is broken. Usually a server doesn’t break just like that, out of the blue. Most of the times when I screwed up somehting, was, well, because I was playing with something. Personally I would always prefer to be my own host. But, I think that comes with my profession and my enthusiasm to try out things and to play with things.

Feel free to check out my Tutorial: How to setup a plain Ubuntu 16.04 ISPConfig web server on DigitalOcean and install WordPress on it. Or you can hire me to do it.

You can hire me to install a server for you

Order a ISPConfig Setup Service and I will do the setup for you.

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