A common myth that I hear online on client pitches is that PHP hosting (WordPress hosting) is MUCH cheaper than ASP.NET hosting (Umbraco). Over the past 6 years, I've run my own sites on PHP and in .NET so I thought that I'd share my own financial charges for hosting both systems... spoiler alert (after a certain size, there's not too much in it!!!)
First, before we get to the good stuff, let's do a very quick comparison of WordPress and Umbraco. I've compared these two CMS systems in more detail here. To summarise that conversation:
WordPress was originally designed as a blogging platform. WordPress is for people who want to write and maintain a blog (although over the years it has grown in feature scope a lot!). If you do not want to create a blog then WordPress might not be for you. If you want to build a website with a hierarchy of pages, a blogging platform might not be the most optimal choice. If you find yourself in this situation then a CMS like Umbraco that has is focused on page hierarchy might be a better choice for you.
WordPress is run on PHP and a lot of companies prefer to use Microsoft technologies. A recent poll on Stackoverflow (the worlds largest software development portal) found that .NET (the Microsoft platform) is one of the most widely used languages in the world.
Most people use WordPress because it has so many free plug-ins and themes. These plugins are notoriously insecure. If you want to be security-focused then WordPress might not be the best solution.
WordPress and Umbraco are both free.
For a lot of clients, the decision over which CMS to use boils down to cost. How much will it cost to build and host? Personally, the reason why I decided to use Umbraco for this website came down to those two factors. I'm going to take you back to 2012 when this site was first built. My aim for this site was a simple CV/portfolio website. I wasn't selling anything or planning to create a lot of content. I assumed that the only time anyone would visit the site was when I was trying to win a new project or client. At the time, my aim was to do this as quickly and cheaply as possible. I picked WordPress to host as I coudl create the site within a few hours. I used DuoServers as my hosting company as they were cheap. I paid $42 bucks for a year's worth of hosting, roughly £30 at the time for the domain and hosting on a shared plan. The below is copied from the email invoice I had at the time:
- Amount to be paid each time: $42.48 USD- Billing cycle: Every 12 Months
This hosting did the trick for my site. The downside was my website would randomly go down for several hours at a time every month. It was on shared hosting. If the hosting company took the server down etc. I'd get no notice, my website would go down and just come back whenever. When no one was really visiting the site I didn't care too much, however, this became a bigger issue when this site became more popular.
As this site became more popular (I think from memory maybe 1000 people a week), having the site go down all the time (and it behaving really slowly) was becoming annoying. Also, around this time my site got hacked. I was using a free WordPress plug-in that had a vulnerability and someone logged in and deleted a few posts. I would also get random text appearing all over my website. No matter how hard I tried I could not fix this issue.
At the time I thought upgrading my hosting would solve the problem, so I went for an upgrade in my hosting to get a semi-dedicated hosting plan. This upgrade came with quite a big cost increase (for me at least) and my hosting jumped from $40 buck a year, to $40 bucks a month! See the invoice below!
1 Month(s) @ 41.43GBP = 41.43 GBP for Semi_dedicated renewal Standard
Amount 41.43 GBP
VAT 20.00% 8.29 GBP
Total 49.72 GBP
After this upgrade I still had issues. The hosting company would change my server's IP without telling me. I was (and still am) using Cloudflare as the site CDN. This meant my website would still break at times and remain broken until I noticed. I then had to log into Cloudflare and updated it with the new DNS details to fix the site. I lived with this for maybe 6 months and then for my new year's resolution I vowed to upgrade my site into Umbraco and get rid of the pains. I teach Umbraco to the world, I should be using it, right?
Moving To Umbraco
I had a few different options when it came to hosting my newly built Umbraco website. I found a shared hosting option for $80-90 bucks a year. This would have a similar experience to my first WordPress hosting, so I ruled this out.
Next up is the Umbraco Cloud hosting which starts from $29 a month. At the time Umbraco Cloud advised people who had over 20,000 visitors a month to use the professional plan (which jumped to $400 bucks a month!!!!), so I ruled this out. However, if I had picked it, not only would I have been given an automatic Ci/Cd pipeline to auto-upload my website to the cloud, I'd get access to a portal to move content around. That monthly fee of $29 bucks gave me a lot of useful features for my money.
In the end, I ended up using Azure. I picked Azure for a few reasons. First, I was using it with clients all the time and I wanted a way to learn/keep up-to-date with it. Second, it's scalable. Once it's in Azure, it's in Azure. Third, I get completely dedicated to hosting. In the last two years I don't think my website's ever gone down to Azure's issues... (it has through my code a few times though :)
Ok, so you might be wondering how much my Azure bill is. Well, as it's effectively a pay-as-you-go service, the prices have definitely varied a lot!!! When I started out my average bill was around £70-80.
I currently use the B1 hosting plan and the B1 SQL plan. I found this set-up is the minimum I can get away with and have my website run performantly. My pages load within a few seconds in general before caching. I did encounter some performance issues. I tried a few experiments with faster/more powerful plans to try and make my site load quicker. This fixed it in the end!
To fix that particular issue, I installed Application Insights, the Azure version of New Relic which gives you a number of cool stats about your website. Application Insights cost about $5 a month. I also upgraded my scale set to a S1 in hosting (£55.00) a month and a load quicker database server ($60) a month. After paying for these enhancements (which can be paid for on a daily basis) combined with some data-out charges, my hosting bill jumped from $70-80 to £140.33 in one month and £172.63 in another month.
My main tip when using Azure is you need to figure out what you can live with. When I upgraded my site, my pages loaded on average in 0.5 seconds according to the application insight report, which makes me happy. In general, if I go with the basic options of $80 a month, then the page load was over 5 seconds
Umbraco Hosting Vs Wordpress Hosting - Is It A Big Deal?
As I'm hoping you can see, if you have a tiny website that you really don't care if it goes down for a few hours every month, then a dirt-cheap WordPress hosting plan is maybe $20-$30 bucks a year cheaper. If cost and time is the biggest factor, get yourself a free WordPress theme (or spend $50 to get a paid-for one), pick a cheap hosting provider and your website can be up and running for under $50 bucks a year.
If you get a site that grows (I think mine's currently around 5,000 uniques per week) then at a certain size, the price is pretty similar. WordPress cost me $50 a month and Azure costs me about $70-80. If you're running a business, over a year $120 shouldn't be a big deal.
If you want to go with Umbraco Cloud, $30 bucks a month is a good option. Your hosting may be cheaper than PHP in this scenario. My main issue with Umbraco cloud is the price hike, $29 a month to $400 is a very steep jump. Granted, you get things like 99% uptime (which does cost a lot) and better support etc.. so you will need to decide what's important to you. If you're happy to go it alone, in terms of hosting and you're happy to manage Azure you will pay more, however, you have a scalable website that will be stable as well.
If you're reading this (and most of my clients are in this boat) and the difference between $100 bucks a month is nothing to you, then as you can see the differences between PHP and .NET won't break your bank. It's more important to choose the right platform to power your business, rather than worrying about a few quid here and there. Happy Coding 🤘