How do I choose the right hosting plan?

You want to make sure your hosting needs are adequately addressed without overpaying for a plan that gives you unnecessary capacity and features. Understandable. “How do I choose the right hosting plan?” is probably the most common question we see from prospective customers here at Pagely. While we try to lay things out as clearly as possible via our feature comparison matrix, there will inherently be some fuzziness and complexity due to the number of moving parts involved in estimating one’s minimal adequate plan. This post will attempt to give you some basic heuristics we use to zero-in on the plan that will serve you best.

Before we dive into that decision process however, let’s recap something important from a post we did last week about mitigating risk and calculating the true cost of website downtime. With a wide range of options available for additional measures you can take to improve performance and/or scalability of your site, it’s helpful first to quantify the risk of downtime and site slowness to your business. This is different for every business but the basic equation looks the same:

risk = negative potential impact x likelihood of occurrence

In the same way you only ever want to insure an asset up to the value of that asset, you only want to “insure” your site commensurate with the level of risk that it being down (or slow, or hacked, or unmaintainable) represents to your business. Adding extra 9’s of availability begins to show diminishing returns past a certain point. As an example: your child’s soccer team website can likely be hosted on a commodity $2/mo Hostgator shared hosting plan however you would be remiss to host your mission-critical WooCommerce site that is the backbone of your business there.

Many providers can get you 3 9’s of availability without issue but it typically gets logarithmically more expensive as you get into 5-6 9’s of availability. Right now Pagely has 5 9’s of historical uptime on a trailing 6mo average as sampled across a random smattering of customer sites. Ultimately if you look at the beefiness of your hosting plan as an insurance policy against downtime & slowness then you want to choose the minimum adequate plan that gets you most ROI for dollar spent mitigating risk. That all starts with quantifying total risk first – if you haven’t yet read last week’s post linked above, that would be worth your time.

OK so now how do I choose the right hosting plan?

Once we’ve roughly quantified the risk we can make a more informed decision on the most appropriate expenditure to address that risk. Below is a flowchart of a cascading series of questions you can use to triangulate the right plan based on different variables:
Pagely Plan Chooser Flowchart

There are of course exceptions to the flowchart above and caps can be addressed via a la carte expansion packs, but this is roughly the logic we use in chatting with folks to steer them to the most appropriate plan. Every site has a different resource footprint, % of cachability, usage patterns, performance requirements but this gives a starting point to begin the conversation. Unlike other competitors in this space we bill based on resource usage and not arbitrary stats like pageviews. We believe the latter practice penalizes you for success and would instead prefer to align pricing with costs and charge more for the value we provide in terms of keeping your data protected and you site stable, secure & fast.

When in doubt aim low, load test and ratchet up

Other providers may steer you towards a high-end plan out of the gate. We prefer you start on the low end of the spectrum and load test to make sure it holds up under load. When you move to Pagely our engineers handle the migration of up to two of your sites at no extra charge. We stand up your site on a test domain and give you the ability to run load tests against it before cutting over your DNS. This allows you to simulate conditions of peak load prior to cutting over and have the confidence that your site performs adequately under load on the least expensive plan that accommodates your needs.

For load testing there are numerous tools out there you can use ranging from Open Source utilities to commercial SaaS. That will likely be an entire post on its own but if we had to choose a SaaS vendor we recommend Load Impact. They give you the ability to load test not just static sites but to emulate user logins on dynamic sites like membership sites and eCommerce sites to get a true simulation of conditions at peak anticipated load.

With Pagely you’re never locked into a long-term contract at a given level. If you learn that you’re under or over-served at your current plan you can self-serve upgrade or downgrade via your Dashboard.

In a future post we’ll show you how to go about load testing your sites prior to cutover to give you the confidence that your site can handle load. In the meantime, what are the key questions you’re wrestling with in determining the most appropriate plan? I’ll address them in the comments or if you need some private help to determine your optimal plan tell me about your situation and I’ll work with you one-on-one to figure it out.