German knife master Nesmuk produces a carbon steel chef’s knife with a wooden handle made from 5,000-year-old strong bog oak. Price tag: just a bit under $10,000. Would you buy a Jahrhundertmesser (that’s its name) and then toss it into a kitchen drawer?

When a tool is important to you, it’s wise to invest in providing adequate storage and protection for it. Your website is arguably one of the most valuable tools you have to grow your business. Do you look at hosting and protecting it from the standpoint of what’s the cheapest?

You’ll probably never buy a $10,000 German chef’s carving knife, but the analogy is the same. Whether its a Jahrhundertmesser or a website hosting company – you get what you pay for. Here’s what we look for in a website host, and why we prefer to offer our own hosting for clients.

There is No Such Thing as Free

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Andrew Lewis is credited with coining the adage, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Such is the case with free web hosting services. We’ve already hit you with a kitchen knife analogy, so let’s keep them rolling.

Free website hosts are somewhat like the alien who chased after Sigorney Weaver. You end up being harvested. There’s just no slime or acid involved.

In exchange for free hosting, you’re going to have to let them insert advertising on your website. It’ll be a required banner at the top of your pages, or sometimes a popup window each time one of your website pages loads. Some free hosting services even require you to squeeze your website inside an advertising frame. These methods turn off visitors. They also are turnoffs for search engines.

An optimized website should use as little space as possible, so it’s responsive and quick to load. You still shouldn’t run out of space to store things. That’s a concern if you go with free hosting. Most limit storage space.

If you take the time to research the offerings by free hosting services, you’ll discover they also limit the size and file types you can use on your website. Many also require you to use a proprietary site builder. You end up with what’s commonly known as a “cookie cutter” look, as well as a site you may not even own the rights to!

The biggest critical element of free website hosting is your bandwidth allotment and access speeds. If you exceed the bandwidth allotment, your free host may disable the website. The more likely result is that they will send you a bill. Plus, if your free host isn’t both fast and reliable, you’ll disappoint visitors. They won’t come back. You’ll also get an SEO black eye from Google. They’ve been ranking website up-time and page load speed as a part of SEO ranking since 2010.

Investing in Reliability and Performance

A free hosting service might be perfect for someone who just wants a personal “About Me” page. That’s not sufficient for your business website. You need a robust web presence, and nearly everything about a hosting service that costs you nothing will work against you.

Invest in your most valuable tool. Look at it from an ROI perspective. Determine the level of revenue your website contributes, and then create a website hosting budget based on that. The objective here isn’t to actually spend the amount you determine – but you should be aware of the cost. It’ll help you get past the misconception that those popular shared hosting companies out there boasting packages for less than $100 a year are good deals.

They’re not free, so you’re moving in the right direction. But, going with a value-priced website host doesn’t necessarily get you out of the forest.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could say, “Money is no object” when looking at a website host? Here’s the thing. The researchers among us would still insist on vetting control, customization, features, reliability, and reputation – instead of just looking for the host with the most expensive price tag.

Many of the top competitive paid website hosting companies get an overall good grade in the areas we mentioned above. You’d be on your way towards the quality of a Jahrhundertmesser. But here’s some additional food for thought: A chef’s knife alone does not create a feast.

There are the pots and pans, the stove, and of course, the ingredients themselves. Excellence happens only when all these things are at your disposal.

That’s why we recommend that our clients have their websites hosted with us. They’re no longer at the mercy of surprise bills because of exceeded bandwidth. Technical support isn’t just lip service. Website marketing is an integrated process, rather than an afterthought. Last but not least, we offer what we call an exclusive gated community – your website is always safe and secure, and it’s backed up every single night, included with the price of your hosting.