mdd hosting review with squirrel pointing

Best website host: our MDD hosting review

If your website runs on a website-as-a-service platform such as Shopify, Squarespace, Wix or other similar platform, you can skip this post! Because you can’t choose your web host. But if you have a WordPress website (except if it’s hosted on WordPress.com), custom coded website or other content management system that allows you to choose your host, this is for you! Find out what a web host is, what is important to know and read our mdd hosting review (our favourite host!).

Your choice of web host can make a huge difference in how fast your website runs. It also impacts how guaranteed its uptime is, and how easily (and fast) issues are resolved. These benefits guarantee a happier website visitor (because people like fast websites). And in turn a better chance of converting the visitor into a client. In other words, your up-front choice of web host can make all the difference in your bottom-line.

What is a web host?

First of all: what is a web host? A web host is a third party that provides you space on a web server or hosting server (a physical computer that’s located somewhere in the world). On this server you can install your website, and make it available to the internet. But commonly, the term web host is used interchangeably for the party who provides you server space, as well as the hosting server itself. The hosting server consists of two parts: hardware, and software.

The hardware

The hardware is a combination of hard drive space (where you can place your website’s files) and resources for processing and network traffic. Or simply put, all of the hardware aspects required to make your website from code into the presentable result visitors see in their browser.

The Software

The software on the other hand is an application that allows you to set up and tweak the server (within limits). This happens so that your website can run smoothly. Common hosting applications (or ‘hosting control panel’) are cPanel, Plesk, and are proprietary to the host (such as GoDaddy, and HostGator).

Although your web host provides you with this software, you won’t always have access to it if your website was set up by a third party. Some third parties don’t provide you with the credentials. We’ve worked on many websites over the years and it keeps surprising us how often people don’t have access to their hosting panel.

mdd hosting cPanel
cPanel example from MDD Hosting

Web host access issues

Often people have access to their content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, but not to the server where the files are located. This is not an issue, until the website goes down, which means you can no longer log into the CMS. At this point access to the server management panel is the only recourse. And luck would have it that the one person with access credentials can no longer be reached.

So regardless of how many third parties you’re working with, always make sure you have the credentials to your hosting panel available. And test them every few months to make sure they’re still up to date.

If you don’t have them available, contact your web host and they’ll help you recover them. Don’t know who your web host is? Check your invoices or credit card bills for the name of the company that bills you for your website.

The truth about hosting providers

Now that we’ve discussed what makes up a web hosting package, we need to discuss hosting providers. Because this too has a big impact on how fast your website runs. Above we’ve discussed how hosting packages consist of hardware and software. Web hosts try to make these package as attractive as possible and slap on a lower price. They also use buzz words like ‘unlimited websites’, ‘unlimited traffic’, and ‘free SSL certificate’. All that could be yours at prices that are surprisingly cheap. You’ll also consistently find the same names offering these services: GoDaddy, HostGator, DreamHost, etc. So how do they make their money, when they’re giving away the farm? The answer is: volume, and hardware.

Remember the last time you bought a new computer, and you noticed how fast and snappy it was? It stayed like that for a while. But over time the computer became slower. Never enough to make you throw it out, but enough to make it noticeable. And then even more time passed and a simple reboot would take twice as long as it once did. For those of you of an age to remember computers with spinning hard drives, you’ll remember it even more vividly. This happens because the more you fill up a hard drive with files and applications, the longer the computer needs to search to collect all the necessary pieces. Combine that with the inevitable wear and tear of hardware, and you’ve got a clear picture of why that once snappy computer can reach a point of intolerable.

The same happens with these hosting providers who are known for a practice I call server stuffing. Say that you’re a web host, and you have a server with a capacity of 1000 GB hard drive. You sell hosting packages of 10 GB per user. Technically you could say that server can hold 100 users, because 10 GB x 100 users = 1000 GB. You’d make full use of your resource. Sure it wouldn’t run as smoothly as when you’d cap the server at 80 users. (At 80 it has plenty of hard drive available, and doesn’t need to search for files as frequently).

Now let’s take this a step further. Technically, you’ve maxed out the server at 100 users, because each user has an allowance of 10 GB. But not every user is going to use the full amount of their allowance. This leaves you in theory with the option of selling that unused space too. Until the server is actually filled up of course. In that case you’ll quickly spin up a second server and migrate some users from the old server to the new one. In that scenario, you could host as many users on that server as there’s actual space required. So if each user would be using 2 GB of their 10 GB allowance, you could now host 500 users and truly maximize your profits.

And of course, the same processor and working memory that once only had to process 80 to 100 websites whenever a visitor for each came along, now has to crunch 500 website requests in real time. You can run software that monitors this resource use in real time. And dynamically migrate users when they need more space. Never mind how long the users would have to wait for their website to load! That is not a part of your hosting contract. And the occasional server overload (too much incoming traffic that causes the server to crash) is a ‘necessary’ evil. Too bad for the users. After all, all you promised was the allocation of space and resources, not the constant availability. This is a first tactic of how the big names make profit through volume.

The second tactic these hosts use is hardware. The big names give you vague hardware specifications such as ’10 GB’ of hard drive. And a ‘1 GB’ of RAM (working memory). But they don’t tell you whether that’s a spinning hard drive they bought 10 years ago, or the most cutting-edge SSD hard drive. The former hard drive needs several seconds to gather the same file. The SSD will do the same job in a fraction of that time. But technically they both give you a 10 GB allowance. And this tactic applies to all hardware that a hosting providers makes available. Technically they don’t lie, but they do use your ignorance.

Who cares, you might ask? A website is a website is a website. No? Maybe in 2000, but definitely not in the 2020’s, where a website visitor’s patience is a fraction of what it once was, and search engines take website loading speed in account when calculating your site’s authority in the search rankings. The speed and snappiness of your website impresses a tactile and emotional experiences on your site’s visitors. A fast-loading site that responds snappily gives your user a satisfying experience, and is an inevitable part of their first impression of you and your business. In our opinion it’s as essential as the visual design of your website. So when it comes to your website, it’s not only about how it looks, but also how it feels.

MDD hosting review

Which brings us to the final part of this article: your choice of web host matters. In case it wasn’t clear, we’re anything but fans of the big names that lure you with ‘cheap’ or ‘affordable’ hosting packages. For a business we veer away from these services (it’s no surprise that if you look into their higher-tier packages, the pricing is not so affordable anymore).

Instead, we’re big fans of small-business type host called MDDHosting. They’re big enough to be reliable with cutting-edge hardware (with a 1000%, yes one thousand, uptime guarantee) and 24/7 customer service that truly responds within minutes day or night. But at the same time they’re not of a calibre where they prioritize profit over serving their customer’s needs (as a matter of fact they’ve turned out buy-outs by the big names several times).

Every time we migrated clients to MDDHosting we’ve noticed a significant increase in their website speed for several of our clients, which is not only great for their users, but also for SEO! And best of all, their pricing is very affordable (starting at just $7.5/month).

Questions to ask yourself

So regardless of who your host is, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you satisfied with your website’s speed? (You can test it here)
  • Are you satisfied with your website’s uptime?
  • Are you satisfied with your web host’s customer service?
  • If you (or a website pro) wanted to take a look at your server settings, could they?

If the answer to any of these questions is no: it’s time for a switch!

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