Who Should Pay 2: The Hosting

Two weeks ago, I argued that our users should never foot the bill for developer convenience and yesterday I stumbled on a post from EllisLab (the makers of ExpressionEngine) that echoes that sentiment, but from a different angle. The title might make you scratch your head: Save Thousands of Dollars by Paying More for Hosting.

While it sounds counterintuitive, EllisLab’s statement makes sense. It’s all about shifting your perspective from agonizing over every hard cost on the balance sheet to thinking “big picture” about how you are spending your money overall.

Their post makes the case that a low-cost hosting may be cheaper on the surface, but its slow performance will end up costing you more in terms of productivity loss and/or actual billable hours. The comparison they use is modest, but with a big impact: GoDaddy at $59.88/year vs. Nexcess at $8.95/month (still inexpensive, but roughly 2x the cost).

Normally, the ExpressionEngine control panel is fast. Zippy even. There aren’t many pages in the control panel that should have an execution time of more than a second. Most pages take a fraction of a second, no fancy caching needed. It’s common to see this in the footer: “Script executed in 0.0706 seconds.” Sure, add-ons that are bad citizens can slow down the control panel, but typically not to the degree a bad host can.

How about ten seconds per page? No joke, on a recent site we logged in to on GoDaddy, one of the faster pages in the Admin area took ten seconds. The Template Manager took fifteen seconds, the publish page twenty-plus. I felt terrible for the developer and client who were using this site daily. Not only were they having a terrible experience with our software, they were losing money and didn’t even know it.

The post then proceeds to work through some estimations of normal workload in the CMS to determine how much money is quietly being drained from a project’s kitty because of a poor hosting decision. I won’t lie, it’s substantial.

Now the EllisLab post is focused more on agency and project costs, but the implications of a slow host extend to our end users too.

Sure, a slow host will delay the delivery of our content and increase the likelihood they will go to a competitor. That’s a given. But a slow host can also drain a mobile device’s battery (because the radio must be kept on longer), which reduces the usefulness of their device.

Slow servers are also incredibly frustrating for users and are inconsiderate of their time. This is one of the points I was harping on in my post: we should not value our time above our customers’ time. When we put our customers’ needs above our own, we make better products and (ultimately) better decisions for our businesses.

Long story short: Shop around for a good price on a speedy server. Your developers, content creators, and (most importantly) your customers will thank you for it.