Optimizing Your Hosting Costs

Optimizing Your Hosting Costs

These days, everyone is feeling the pinch of higher prices — including businesses realizing the true cost of cloud hosting. They say ignorance is bliss, but in the case of business owners who don’t even know they’re being taken advantage of, ignorance is just expensive. In this article, I want to share some knowledge that will hopefully equal the power to save you some money. All this may surprise you, but I’ve seen my fair share of hosting bills and invoices over the years, and the big cloud providers and content delivery networks don’t want you to know what I’m about to tell you.

The ‘Right Size’ Solution

Utilize pay-as-you-go CDN services to reduce load requirements on your server and VPS instances to enjoy better scalability.

This may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve got a small but stable website, consider avoiding cloud hosting. While it can be straightforward to get started on cloud hosting for a brand-new venture, it is often easier and more affordable to go with a virtual private server (VPS) instead. They are flat-rate, so your costs are fixed and won’t balloon as you grow. For more on the subject, see my op-ed on the benefits of VPS.

Avoid Contracts

Whether you choose cloud or dedicated hosting, I urge you to check your contract for scammy terms like autorenewals because these clauses will autorenew your entire agreement if you don’t cancel several months in advance. One of our clients had this happen with their content delivery network (CDN) contract. The provider’s customer service was terrible, the rates had grown too expensive and they wanted to leave, but the agreement had already autorenewed. Lawyers got involved. However, since the provider was a multibillion-dollar company, it was cheaper for the client to capitulate than launch an expensive lawsuit. They learned a costly lesson, one we hope nobody else has to learn the hard way.

If you think about it, is there ever a good reason to sign a contract in the first place? Either you spend time and money drafting a contract that you never even refer to, or someone breaks the contract and often the only recourse is getting lawyers involved. Contracts are great for outlining expectations, but if it ever comes to disputing the terms of a contract, be ready for an unpleasant fight that will also mean the end of the business relationship.

Scale to Avoid Commits and Overages

“Commits” and “reservations” are alternative terms for “minimums.” Part of finding the “right size” solution is not paying more than you should for what you need. Service offerings with fixed hard-drive sizes and bandwidth packages are archaic and obsolete. The sweet spot for all those types of offers is when you are running at maximum capacity, but the problem is that you have to upgrade or pay excessive overage costs as soon as you go over. Even if you get a fantastic deal, if your focus is on revenue growth, you’ll outgrow anything that is a fixed size. Nowadays, everything is on-demand, and if you are paying fixed prices, you are most likely paying for more resources than you need.

Do things smarter by using content management systems that can access object storage instead of local storage for media content. Utilize pay-as-you-go CDN services to reduce load requirements on your server and VPS instances to enjoy better scalability. If you are on a truly scalable solution, there are never overages. While you’re at it, leverage next-generation nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) storage for reduced latencies and increased performance.

Dirty Secrets of CDN Providers

“Content delivery network” is a fancy way of describing the complicated solutions — I will refrain from saying “series of tubes” — that deliver content around the planet more efficiently. At its core, a CDN is simply about taking your content and putting it physically closer to your users. What is essential, though, is that no matter what path your content takes to get to your users, the research shows that it all needs to happen faster than 250 milliseconds, a quarter of a second. The quicker your content moves, the more money you make, so CDN does not cost money; it makes money.

But watch out for the exploitation of your origin servers. The origin server is the primary central location where your content is held. The efficacy of your content distribution relies heavily upon the settings that you need. A few years ago, we moved a leading VR website from another CDN company that was billing them as much as $100,000 per month. We found that the restrictive configuration from their provider was forcing their content to be downloaded repetitively from their origin server. This was not only exploiting their wallet but also hurting performance. Continually downloading the same material acted like a DDOS attack against their origin server, which caused higher operational costs. Adding insult to injury, the configuration distributed the entire video even if only one minute was watched, causing additional bandwidth burn.

Review and Consolidate

You don’t know what you don’t know, so evaluating your architecture goes a long way toward making more-informed decisions. Reviewing your technology map will help you identify things you are paying for that you may not even need or that you completely forgot about. Look for redundancies and inefficiencies and ways to optimize resources. While discussing inefficiencies, consider lowering your management, administration, accounting and other costs by consolidating multiple hosting providers into one bill with one provider. The more business you do with one entity, the more likely you are to benefit from discounts.

Leverage Outside Resources

If you’re examining your technical staff overhead and looking for a way to slash your budget, one of the best things you can do is take some time to discuss your business goals and struggles with your web host. You may find a way that they can help more. They may have more solutions than you expect, based on direct knowledge of where you are and where you’re going. This kind of advice can be invaluable, especially for businesses with minimal hosting support or no support at all.

Utilizing other companies’ employee resources is a great way to avoid expanding your existing team or downsizing your technical staff. Your next hire should be switching your hosting company instead of increasing your staff count. 


Don’t forget to negotiate with your technology providers — all of them, not just hosting companies. If you need help understanding your current bill, ask questions and dig deeper. If your bill needs clarification, don’t assume it’s correct; people make mistakes and people take advantage. Know what services and features you are being billed for. You may not even use some of them, so why pay for them?

Compare alternative solutions with existing providers and consider changes to current solutions and products. Any provider you spend significant money with may have wiggle room for discounts; all you have to do is ask. Everything in life is negotiable, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t even bother to try. Never stop trying in life, no matter what!

Brad Mitchell is the founder of MojoHost, which has served the industry for nearly two decades and has been a multi-award winner as XBIZ Web Host of the Year. He regularly shares insights as a panelist at trade shows. Contact brad@mojohost.com to learn more about the suite of services his company offers.


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