These days, having your own cozy little home on the world wide web is no longer reserved for the über geeky or forward-thinking business owner, but is quite the wise move for many of us. You can use that website as a springboard for a burgeoning freelance career in your chosen field, to advertise homemade wares, to provide directions for your wedding, or simply to publish your ideas and expertise in blog form. That’s the beauty of having your own web space, after all. It’s wonderfully open-ended and a great way to get your name out there in whatever way you wish to be seen.
Anyone hoping to make a name for themself should have a well-maintained internet presence.
Thanks to its endless value, however, there are now hundreds of different web hosting companies out there, each of them keen to grab your attention and provide a quicker way of setting you up than the last web hosting site. So, where on earth do you even begin? Though the world of web hosting can be a little complex, we’re here to help you sort through all the different options and moving parts you may encounter on your search for the perfect web host for your needs.
Why do I need a web host?
The internet is not only the information superhighway where we speed from pitstop to pitstop throughout our days; it’s also essentially the fuel that keeps our world moving at an optimal pace. That said, it should come as no surprise that anyone hoping to make a name for themself should have a well-maintained internet presence. Sure, social media accounts can work just fine for the common person, but if you have a small business (or a business of any size, really) or a message to share with the masses, web hosting is an absolute must to properly market yourself in a way that customers can trust. It will help you maximize your discoverability with each and every Google search, and make it simple for folks to find you with an easily shareable website address. Even if you’re not completing transactions through your website, you want to have full control of the image and message of your business (or blog, or showcase of talents, etcetera), and teaming up with a web hosting provider allows you to do just that.
So now that we’ve established your need for a hosting provider, we have to dig into how you can find the web host that fits your needs and wants.
What does a web host do?
In its purest form, a hosting company stores all of your website’s necessary files on its servers so they can be presented in a functional and aesthetically pleasing package for your customers or readers to enjoy on their browsers.
Once you’ve determined if a web host is the right option for you, keep in mind that any self-respecting web hosting service should provide these four essentials: file storage, security, reliable hardware on their end, and at least a 99% uptime guarantee — that is, the minimum percentage of time the server can reliably keep your website working and available. Everything beyond that, however, is just icing on the cake.
The number of monthly data transfers and storage can vary from web host to web host, as can additional freebies such as email addresses, domains, and site backups to keep things running smoothly. Some hosting providers also offer website building tools for a one-stop shop of website-creating goodness. An integrated builder isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is likely to give you a smoother experience than using a separate website builder.
But, just because a web host can offer all the bells and whistles you’re looking for, they may not be available in their lowest-tier pricing plan. So be sure to read the fine print and remain vigilant in the pursuit of hidden fees. Unfortunately, the website hosting landscape can often be a veritable minefield for snatching extra dollars out of your pocket.
However, do keep in mind how much growth your website may have and how much you may need to scale things in the future. You’ll want a host that can handle your long-term needs because switching website hosting providers isn’t necessarily the seamless transition you’d hope it would be. This is also crucial to consider before you lock into a multi-year plan. If you’re not sure how a particular web host will work for you, or you’re just looking to dip your toes in the water, it’s best to try out a short-term plan even if the monthly price is a bigger hit to your pocket.
Also keep in mind that there are a ton of different web hosting plans out there, from shared hosting and virtual private servers, to dedicated hosting and even WordPress hosting. Each one offers different services and features, so let’s dig into a bit more info about each so you can find the best fit for you.
What is shared web hosting?
Shared web hosting is an inexpensive option for launching your site as it will be hosted alongside other people’s business websites or blogs on a single server. Just like living with roommates, you’ll save money by sharing resources, but it can also slow down the performance of your site. Even if you’re not bringing in a ton of traffic to your space, one of your server mates could bring the whole place down with a traffic spike. Nowadays, people are used to web pages loading instantly, so you wouldn’t want to put visitors off with a sluggish site that drags as they click through links.
All things considered, a shared web hosting plan is fine if you’re running a personal blog, but probably a bad idea if you have a growing business to develop online. After all, first impressions count, and you don’t want yours to come at a snail’s pace. If you’re not sure where your website may be headed and you just want to start small with a shared host in the short term, seek out a web host that offers more than just a shared hosting plan, and will allow you to upgrade to something more robust, like VPS hosting plan or dedicated hosting plan. It’s not so easy to switch web hosts seamlessly, so be sure to pick one that can grow with you.
How much should web hosting cost?
As you consider the right web host for you, keep a careful eye on pricing. Many sites offer attractive introductory offers for the first few months, but that price can ramp up significantly in later years. You can move your website over to a different web hosting company, but this can be awkward to do if you’re not overly experienced with website development. Sometimes it’s just easier to stick with what you know, so try to seek out a web host that offers a balanced price over time without any sneaky loopholes or caveats.
It’s a lot to take in, but you’re better off considering what you need now (and how you may need to scale your web presence in the future) so that you can find the perfect web hosting site for your particular situation with minimal stress and headaches in the long run. So, now that you’ve considered what you need, let’s dive into the best web hosting sites from which you can choose. (Note that we’ve answered a lot more of your web hosting service questions at the bottom of this roundup, so be sure to scroll down to learn about VPS hosting, WordPress hosting, reseller hosting, cloud hosting, storage, and more.)
What’s the difference between shared hosting and VPS hosting?
An abbreviation of virtual private server, VPS web hosting also sees multiple sites sharing one server. However, far fewer sites are hosted per server than is the case with a shared web hosting provider. You’re not completely out of the woods here if one of your server mates brings in a ton of traffic, but it’s way less likely for it to make an impact on your site’s performance. This added reliability will, of course, cost you a bit more than shared hosting, but that higher price tag just may be worth it for the peace of mind.
What’s the difference between dedicated hosting and managed hosting?
If you know your website will need to chew through a massive amount of server resources, you’ll want to opt for a dedicated server. That means it’s all yours — no server mates here. But that freedom and access to all that space for yourself will certainly come at a premium cost. It’s also highly likely that you’ll need to deal with all of the technical stuff on the backend, too, so this option is geared more toward larger businesses that have a team of people to handle this upkeep.
On the other hand, if you need the power of a dedicated server, but you don’t have your own folks to manage it, you’ll want to opt for managed hosting instead. In this case, your web host will fill the role of your IT department for an added fee.
What is WordPress hosting?
WordPress is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) for blogging and building sites. It’s a super popular choice and you can host your website directly on WordPress.com, albeit with a lot less flexibility and customization than if you were to utilize a web host’s WordPress plan. WordPress hosting is optimized for easy transfer of the WordPress CMS to the host’s server, allowing users a lot of freedom to design a space fit for their needs. Often, the host will also handle all of the plug-ins and updates on the backend so you don’t need to worry about the nitty-gritty.
What is cloud hosting?
Simply put, cloud hosting utilizes a network of cloud servers to deploy your website, rather than host them on a single server. This allows for greater flexibility and reliability when it comes to traffic spikes, and also makes it easier to scale your site’s resources as needed.
What is reseller hosting?
If you’re looking into web hosts not to advertise a business, but to create a business, then you’ll want a provider that offers a reseller hosting plan. This type of web hosting allows you to use the server space you purchase to host others for a profit. You can sort of think of it like renting an apartment from your landlord and subletting it to a third party. Except, you know, it’s a digital home on the internet instead of an overpriced studio in your nearest city.
Should a web host also provide a website builder?
Do you know your way around website design, or are you planning on hiring someone to develop a website for you? In the latter case, you don’t need to worry about web hosting packages that include a website builder. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out and doing it all yourself, a web hosting site that offers its own website builder or quick WordPress installations (along with the aforementioned extensive customer support) is vitally important.
How much storage do I need?
As mentioned, one of the main things you want to consider when choosing a web host is the amount of bandwidth and storage they can offer. If you’re launching a business site and expecting it to grow quickly, you want a package that offers a substantial amount of bandwidth to handle traffic spikes. As for storage, you probably won’t run into many issues with most plans, unless you’ll be uploading a ton of high-resolution images to advertise products or show off your work. Some web hosts offer unlimited storage in their base plans, but don’t get enticed by a service that offers more than you could ever possibly need at a premium (or at a future cost). It might be a false economy.
Which other web hosting features are necessary?
If you’re looking to sell products on your business’ website, you’ll definitely want your web host to offer a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate to encrypt data and safeguard your customers’ data. Some hosts provide this for free with your plan, while others will charge a premium. You’ll also want to look for a plan that offers email hosting so customers and clients can keep in touch. Most (but not all) web hosts include this with their plans, and ideally, you’ll want to go for those that offer unlimited email account creation to ensure you’re covered as your business grows.
Whether you’re running a business on your website or not, you’ll definitely want your web host to offer 24/7 customer support by phone or web chat. You want them to be available to help you whenever you’re working and, as any business owner knows, that could be any time of the day or week.
- Hatchling plan: $2.75/month
- Baby plan: $3.50/month
- Business plan: $5.25/month
Whether you’re looking for shared web hosting, reseller hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, or managed WordPress hosting, HostGator has the reliable service you need with unlimited storage, unmetered bandwidth, and unlimited email addresses. Their set of robust web hosting and website building tools can scale with your needs from newbie to pro, and they even provide e-commerce tools and a free SSL certificate so your viewers can trust that your site is safe to shop. Plus, they support multiple programming languages, including PHP, Ruby On Rails, Perl, and Python, and they make it super easy to integrate with apps, including one-click WordPress installs (a major bonus if that’s where you intend to craft your site’s content) and cPanel access if you know your way around coding. The only downside is that their lowest prices are based on a three-year signup and you’ll have to pay extra for access to more than one site backup.
Best For Shared Hosting
- Business: $1/month
- Essential: $4/month
- Expert: $8/month
Though it’s an ideal choice for shared web hosting, IONOS also offers VPS and dedicated servers, making it a solid scalable option if you expect to have expanding needs in the future. It’s well-priced, offers plenty of features, and is pretty straightforward when it comes to usability and transparency. At the business level, you get unlimited storage, unlimited databases, professional email, a domain name (free for one year), free SSL certification, and 24/7 customer support. You’ll also gain access to the 1&1 Website Builder if you want to go the all-in-one route, or you can get automated installation options for popular software (like WordPress and Joomla) and even opt into their managed WordPress hosting option.
Best For Dedicated Hosting
- Business Basic: $8.99/month
- Business Advanced: $10.49/month
- Business Ultimate: $12.74/month
If your business is highly dependent on an internet presence, you need a remarkably flexible dedicated hosting solution such as Hostwinds. They offer the choice of operating system, hard drive type and size, and RAM, as well as how many IP addresses you require and how much outbound bandwidth should be taken into consideration. They also cater to unique needs that other web hosts might not, including competitive pricing for just the use of a server. Best of all, each server is fully managed so you don’t have to worry about basic maintenance tasks, and customer support is nearly flawless with very quick responses via online chat or phone call.
Best For WordPress Hosting
- Startup: $2.99/month
- Drive: $4.99/month
- Turbo Boost: $9.99/month
- Turbo Max: $14.99/month
A2 Hosting offers several options for shared, dedicated, reseller and VPS hosting, but their WordPress hosting is where they really stand out. Pre-installed WordPress means your site is set up or migrated quickly and easily, and you never have to worry about backend stuff like security and updates. They also integrate plenty of free, attractive WordPress themes and a wide selection of plugins to add impressive functionality to your site. Even at the base level, you’ll be treated to 100 GB of storage, unlimited email accounts, unlimited transfer, free SSL certificate, 24/7/365 support, and more.
Best For Vps Hosting
- VPS Basic: $10/month
- VPS Business: $20/month
- VPS Professional: $40/month
- VPS Enterprise: $80/month
DreamHost’s managed VPS packages offer small businesses better performance and more control over their website and server at a fair and competitive price. At the base level, you’ll get 1 GB RAM, 30 GB storage, free SSL certificates, and unlimited bandwidth and email. If you outgrow that RAM and storage, however, you can easily upgrade in a matter of seconds. Plus, security features are DreamHost’s strong point, boasting extensive means in which to keep your data and business safe from any potential threats.
Best Website Builder
- Personal: $12/month
- Business: $18/month
- Basic Commerce: $26/month
- Advanced Commerce: $40/month
Squarespace is one of the best-known names out there for straightforward website building and web hosting all-in-one. It’s perfect for those who have little time and experience to create their own site thanks to their attractive design templates that work just as well on smartphones as they do on a desktop browser. However, you’re limited in terms of scope and customization options that you can add to your webspace. The convenience of an easy builder with professional results also makes it a little more expensive than a standard shared web host, but you won’t have to worry about security issues or keeping an eye on any potential malware issues, nor do you need to fret about updating your latest installation.
Best Customer Service
- Dedicated Server: $169/month
- VPS Hosting: $35/month
- Cloud Hosting: $149/month
- Managed WordPress: $19/month
Geared firmly with business users in mind, Liquid Web’s managed hosting may not be the most welcoming site for the faint of heart, but its powerful interface belies some fantastic high-end services (for a price, of course). They offer dedicated servers with up to 64 GB of RAM, and VPS servers that start at 2 GB of RAM, 40 GB of storage, and 10 TB of monthly data transfer. They also have managed WordPress hosting plans and cloud hosting, plus extensive security features such as firewalls, VPNs, malware scanning and removal, and nightly backups. Best of all, their tech support is phenomenal with speedy and thorough explanations via phone, chat, or online ticket.
Best Security Features
- StartUp: $6.99/month
- GrowBig: $9.99/month
- GoGeek: $14.99/month
Powered by Google Cloud to provide a super-fast and ultra-connected network, SiteGround offers reliable web hosting, managed WordPress hosting, cloud hosting and more, all with smooth website transfer and easy website building tools. Thanks to their integration with CloudFlare — a content delivery network that provides enhanced performance and security — they also keep your data safe while simultaneously boosting your site’s performance. Other security features include the SG Site Scanner that lets you know if your site is under attack, anti-spam tools like SpamAssassin and SpamExperts, IP address blacklists, Leech Protect to stop passwords being publicly posted, and SiteCheck to scan for malware.
Best For Resellers
- Reseller Hosting: $15.39/month
- Shared Hosting: $2.49/month
- WordPress Hosting: $4.99/month
- VPS Hosting: $17.99/month
- Dedicated Hosting: $57.50/month
InMotion is a solid all-around choice when it comes to the wide variety of packages it offers, but its wealth of reseller packages, in particular, are worth checking out if you’re looking to start your own web hosting biz. There are six different options so there’s plenty of flexibility depending on your ambitions, and the ability to switch ’em up is certainly a massive help when you’re working your way up within the field. The beginner option starts with 80 GB of storage, 800 GB of bandwidth, a free dedicated IP, and unlimited cPanels. They also offer free billing software and free domain reselling too, so you have a solid base to launch your business.