Web hosting plays a vital role in a website’s success. Regardless of how beautiful or functional your site is, a slow or buggy server can destroy the user experience. It can also cost site owners in the form of lost business.
And while we’d all love to have access to enterprise-grade hosting, that’s unlikely to fit within most budgets. Sites for small businesses, blogs, and non-profits often have to settle for something less.
Lower-tier (i.e., cheap) web hosting simply won’t carry the same computing power as those expensive accounts. And some providers make bold promises (unlimited storage and bandwidth, to name a couple) that deflect from flawed performance and limited support.
However, this doesn’t mean you’re stuck in the mud. There are providers out there that offer stable, low-cost hosting. From that foundation, there are things you can do to squeeze every bit of performance from your setup.
Today, we’ll share some tips for getting the most out of your cheap host.
Look For Ways to Reduce Server Load
Shared web hosting is generally on the lowest rung on the pricing ladder. The server may have plenty of resources, but you’re sharing them with other users. Thus, your site will have limited access to key performance enhancers such as CPU cycles and memory.
One way to stretch the available resources is by reducing the load on the server. And several things can help:
Make Your Site as Lean as Possible
A bloated website won’t perform at its best – even on top-flight hosting. Put it in a shared environment and your key metrics will look even worse.
That’s why it’s important to build the leanest website possible. That means including only the scripts and styles required to get the look and functionality you need. For example, you may opt for a barebones WordPress theme as opposed to one that offers extra features you’ll never use.
Database calls are another resource hog. Therefore, utilizing static HTML or headless CMS technology can be a boon to front-end performance.
In short: if a feature isn’t necessary – leave it out.
Offload Media, Scripts, and Stylesheets
One cost-effective way to minimize their impact is by using a content delivery network (CDN). This offloads your site’s files into the cloud. Strategically placed servers deliver these assets as close as possible to a user’s geographic location.
While most CDN providers charge a fee, you often get a lot of performance for the money. In the long run, it may end up being cheaper (and potentially more effective) than upgrading your hosting account.
Consider SaaS Providers for Key Functionality
Serving up files impacts performance. But parsing code and writing to a database can grind a low-powered server to a halt. The more complex the code, the more burden on the host.
That makes running key functionality on your server more difficult. Any sort of data-intensive site, like eCommerce or membership, can become sluggish in this situation. Even relatively simple tasks like a user search may cause a slowdown.
This is where software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers can be beneficial. By employing a hosted shopping cart, for example, the heavy lifting is done by a third party. Once again, this frees up your server to handle other jobs.
And yes, there are fees involved. But consider that upgrading to slightly more expensive hosting still may not provide enough horsepower to run these features efficiently. The level of service needed to do so could cost more than paying for a SaaS.
If you’re using a content management system (CMS), smart use of caching can do wonders for performance. It takes your site’s dynamic content and turns it into static HTML files. That results in fewer calls to the server – including those expensive database requests.
Some hosts offer server-level caching – which is definitely worth using if available. However, there are other options available, such as WordPress cache plugins. Even a little bit of effort can make a difference here.
Cheap Hosting Doesn’t Have to Slow You Down
Not everyone can afford top-tier hosting plans. Besides, bumping up to the next level doesn’t always mean better performance. You may just be paying for extra hard drive space. Great if you need it, but it won’t make your site run faster.
Regardless, it’s quite possible to have a high-performing website that resides on cheap hosting. The first step is to find a host that provides a baseline of stability.
From there, it’s about building a lean website that prioritizes performance. This is good practice for every website – even those on dedicated servers. Thankfully, modern languages and tools can help you along the way.
But the optimization doesn’t stop there. Employing methods to reduce the load on your server, such as CDNs, caching, and SaaS providers, will help to keep things running smoothly.
In the end, cheap hosting doesn’t have to mean poor performance. While it may not be the ideal environment, the right approach can produce excellent results.