Photography website hosting, to share or not to share?
We know there is huge debate about how much a photographer should pay for hosting and why there are super cheap hosting solutions verses more expensive ones. But why and what’s the difference? What do you need? We know hosting is not the most exciting subject in the world but it might actually be one of the most important to a photographer who relies on solid on-going enquiries through their website. And as hosting is an on-going cost it’s good to look at all the options so that you know what you are paying for and why. Therefore, in this article we are going to look at the PROs and CONs of all the options.
Starting with the cheapest first;
The cheapest hosting that is out there can cost you as little as £0.99 a month, this will be what is called Shared hosting. The package will often be described as ‘unlimited’ and will allow you to have as much space as you like and sometimes as many email accounts as you like (not that you need them!)
• It’s cheap!
• A shared hosting option will be hosted on a server which will occasionally run hundreds of other websites in what is called a RAID configuration. The downfall to this solution is if a website manages to corrupt a server file it runs the risk of taking down the server and your website in the process.
• At any one point on a shared server there are 100’s of websites fighting for bandwidth, load and RAM especially at the peak times of the day. Your website might appear to load up quickly from your computer, but at your clients or potential sale at peak time the website may take up to 2 minutes to load and by that point the potential client will have lost interest and gone elsewhere.
• Photographers websites, let’s face it, they will always be space and memory heavy due to the sheer number of photos that get uploaded. It’s not uncommon to see a photographers’ website with over 20,000 images, that get accessed on a daily basis.
Let’s look at the stats briefly:
On average a correctly optimised photo for full screen is 550K (1000K = 1MB – 1000Mb = 1GB).
So multiply 550KB x 20,000 = 11000550KB = 10.5GB then think about the bandwidth usage as well which could run somewhere in the region of 100GB per month.
So photographers need A LOT of space to store their photos so their website can run well.
• The issue with shared servers is that yes you can upload ‘unlimited’ photos to the server but then what speed is that server going to need to run at for the size of the website? It needs to be fast! Shared servers will run at very varied speeds depending on all the other websites which are sharing it! Therefore, your website has a huge potential to run really slowly, to load really slowly and often not load on certain internets and phone networks.
• ‘Unlimited’ often does not mean unlimited and there will be a cap for how much you can store on the server.
• Where is this server? Shared hosting will often use a server which is abroad in the USA or Asia simply because it is cheaper to run them here. This means all your website files are stored in these countries and this therefore could affect your SEO as Google prefers websites hosted locally and not abroad.
• Backups are not performed on a per account basis and the support supplied when websites issues happen are often met with arguments on who is to blame rather than fixing the problem.
• What happens when something goes wrong or you have an issue or problem. Shared, cheap hosting options are often with international companies who use ticket system based help and support. Meaning you may need to make an expensive, long and complex phone call to get your issue sorted or wait for the ticket to be dealt with. Meaning your website could be potential down or broken for days!
WordPress was used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites as of January 2015 because of the friendly GUI and resources available for help. The out of the box model is great for companies looking to create a simple and effective websites and with premium themes it’s making it easier to get a website setup in minutes. Photography WordPress websites are surprisingly more complex with the requirements for galleries, booking and contact forms, interactive pages and sliders. Shared hosting can limit the performance of Photography WordPress websites as the memory (RAM) is not dedicated to a small selection of WordPress websites but instead 100’s. In order for your website to perform well on shared hosting for WordPress it will need to be optimised for site speed and require less resources which is not always the case for websites of this nature. Overall Photographer WordPress websites require a server that can cope with a large requirement on space and memory.
Managed hosting on a dedicated server
• No headaches! Managed hosting is managed by the hosting company so you can let them take care of everything! Good managed hosting will come with WordPress updates and plugin updates and will often fix any bugs that are caused by on-going WordPress updates, ensuring your website stays performing.
• Dedicated servers host a relative small number of websites compared to shared hosting, reducing the risk of other websites affecting your emails, sites reputation or files. The advantages include a faster server, better reputation with search engines and overall less risk.
• Research your hosting before you choose a final one. Find a dedicated server company who are based locally either to you or your country. Google has been proven to grant better rankings to websites that originate from servers their country is in.
• Photographers websites are popular! When you share your latest wedding, you will get all the guests from the wedding going to your website, all the uninvited guests, friends of friends of the guests! and all your peers who want to check out your latest work. Therefore, the website will need to perform that much better as it suddenly received a high volume of traffic, dedicated servers are built to cope with this and will not overload or have interrupted service.
• If something does go wrong customer service for where the hosting is based is often sorted out personally and quickly.
• Backups are performed periodically with dedicated servers on a per account or server basis. Allowing easier restoration of files should an update cause your site to malfunction or break entirely.
• Expensive, as you are paying for management and the extra abilities of your own dedicated server it can be more expensive than shared.
So what’s your best option?
If you are only just starting up and on a budget then shared hosting will suit you to start with, but be prepared to upgrade your hosting as your website and traffic grows.
If you are an established photographer it’s likely your website will be heavy with image files and you will have decent well-built website that will need a good server to run it well, so dedicated hosting will be the best option.