Your company’s reputation rests on the performance, availability, and functionality of your website. If you choose the wrong web hosting service, customer experience will suffer, and you’ll watch your potential buyers head to your competitors in droves.
But finding the right web hosting service is far from easy. Every business is unique and has its own set of requirements. Should you opt for shared hosting, a virtual private server (VPS), or dedicated web hosting? Can you use a free web host? Will using a website builder speed up the development of your website or ultimately act as a hindrance? Which features will be the most important to your company as it continues to grow?
The answers to these questions depend on your business. To help you find the perfect web host for your needs, we put together this buyer’s guide, along with a list of the top 10 best web hosting services that we tested.
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How to choose the best web hosting service
The best website hosting is fast and secure and has great after-sales support. Hosting providers generally charge based on the amount of bandwidth and storage you use. The easiest way to make a mistake here is to underestimate how much traffic your site will get when visitor interest spikes. Consider how much traffic you expect to have at peak times, and choose a web hosting plan that’ll cover it. It should also be easy to upgrade or downgrade your plan at will.
Another important concern is how scalable the website hosting is. First, your website hosting needs to be able to handle short-term changes in requirements, such as when your website experiences a massive rush of traffic over a busy period. Second, the website hosting needs to be able to scale up as your business grows. For every website hosting service that you’re considering, investigate how easy it will be to get more disk space, CPU power, and bandwidth in the future.
Be honest with yourself about how much assistance you’ll need. Cheaper website hosts cut costs by offering unmanaged services, but this means you or your team must administer the server yourself. Managed services make sure your system is properly configured, your security is tight, and the performance of your site is great. Many businesses find that the higher cost of managed services is outweighed by the time they save by not doing administration and maintenance themselves.
Top 10 web hosting services in 2020
HostGator has been offering web hosting for 17 years from its head office in Houston, Texas. It offers shared web hosting, WordPress hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated servers, and its own website builder.
Its shared web hosting plans start at $2.75/month for unlimited bandwidth and storage. Even at the lowest price, you get support for MySQL, cPanel, WordPress, and e-commerce. WordPress hosting, advertised as 2.5 times faster than standard shared hosting, starts at $5.95/month. The cheapest VPS hosting is $19.95/month (a two-core CPU with two GB RAM, 120 GB disk space, and 1.5 TB of bandwidth), and the cheapest dedicated server starts at $89.98/month for a four-core system.
HostGator’s first line of support is its comprehensive web knowledgebase, with hundreds of articles on every aspect of web hosting. Many of these go into impressive detail. If you still have problems, you can get support 24/7/365 through live chat and telephone. In our testing, the support team was fast, courteous, and knowledgeable.
In performance testing, we found HostGator to be consistent. Response times were average but fast enough that your customers will never complain. When we accessed our website from multiple locations around the world, the performance was always good.
HostGator’s primary draw is its inexpensive shared hosting plans that are packed with features. High-end and dedicated server plans lack configurability, but the top support team and generous 45-day money-back guarantee make the service easy to recommend for any business.
Bluehost is one of the world’s largest web hosts, with over two million domains. Servers are in Utah, and the company employs over 750 people there. Bluehost offers shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated servers, and both managed and unmanaged WordPress hosting.
Shared hosting with Bluehost starts at $3.95/month (for a 24-month plan) with 50 GB of SSD storage and unmetered bandwidth. The most expensive shared hosting plan is $15.95/month and includes unlimited storage and a dedicated IP. Sites are hosted on high-performance servers. VPS hosting starts at $18.99/month for a two-core, 30 GB SSD, two GB RAM setup with one TB of bandwidth. Dedicated hosting starts at $79.99/month for a four-core server with four GB of RAM, 500 GB of storage, and five TB of bandwidth.
The plans are all well specced, so while the headline rates don’t look great, you get value for your money. WordPress plans include a staging environment, so you can test out changes before putting them live, and e-commerce plans include ad credits for Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising.
Bluehost had consistent speed results in our testing, with excellent speeds at all times without spikes and dips. We also experienced 100% uptime, and the live chat support agents were quick to respond to our many queries.
It might not be the most configurable web hosting service out there, but Bluehost impresses with its speed, easy-to-use control panel, and feature-packed plans. With no significant downsides, Bluehost is a web hosting provider that can suit almost any business.
Hostinger is based in Lithuania but has offices around the world. It’s grown to have over 29 million customers due to its fast speeds, value pricing, and wide range of web hosting services.
Its shared hosting starts at just $0.99/month, but this only includes a paltry 10 GB of bandwidth and support for a single website. Upgrading to the $2.89/month Premium shared hosting plan opens up unlimited bandwidth and sites, and a Business shared hosting plan at $3.99/month adds features like daily backups and more allocated server resources. Be advised, though: after your initial term, prices nearly double.
Hostinger also has other plans, like VPS hosting (from $3.95/month), cloud hosting (from $7.45/month), and Windows hosting (from $26/month).
We recommend Hostinger for its excellent performance, large support knowledgebase, and easy-to-use Auto Installer for one-click installation of web apps. The cheaper plans have significant limitations, but if you pay for a Business hosting plan, you get more for your money.
InMotion Hosting offers everything from shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting to dedicated servers and custom-built servers. Shared hosting starts at $5.99/month, WordPress hosting at $6.99/month, VPS servers at $29.99/month, and dedicated servers at $139/month. These prices are a little on the high side, but the specifications and features you get with each plan are also significantly better than most web hosting services.
InMotion Hosting has all the usual one-click installers and administration panels, and in our testing, it was easy to get a WordPress website up and running quickly. Performance and speed were good, and we were particularly impressed by the 24/7/365 support from agents who were knowledgeable and courteous and genuinely worked hard to solve any issue we had.
We recommend InMotion Hosting if you don’t mind paying a little more for a web hosting company that gives you great hardware, software, and after-sales support.
GoDaddy is one of the largest web hosting providers in the world, with over 20 million customers and 7,000 employees worldwide. Its most basic web hosting plan starts at $5.99/month when billed annually and includes support for one website, 100 GB storage, unlimited bandwidth, and a free domain. The $7.99 Deluxe plan adds unlimited storage, the $12.99 Ultimate plan doubles the processing power, and the $19.99 Maximum plan adds an SSL certificate for the full term of your hosting plan.
Besides these standard hosting plans, GoDaddy also offers Windows hosting, WordPress hosting, marketing services, and email servers. It’s a hosting provider that you can count on to scale with your business.
We recommend GoDaddy’s higher-tier plans only, as the basic plans are a bit underpowered and overpriced for their cost. But if you need a web host that can adapt to your changing business needs down the line, few beat GoDaddy.
Wix is a web host that leans heavily on offering users a way to create excellent websites quickly, easily, and without needing to touch a line of code. While hundreds of website builders promise this dream, we feel that Wix comes the closest to realizing it.
You can try out Wix for free, but the free plan is limited to 500 MB of storage and 500 MB of traffic per month. The cheapest paid plan is $4.50/month and allows you to use your own domain name, but it’s limited to one GB of bandwidth and displays Wix ads. The Combo plan ($13/month) has 3 GB of storage, 2 GB of bandwidth, a free domain for one year, and removes Wix ads. Most small businesses will need the $17/month Unlimited plan that has 10 GB of storage and unlimited bandwidth, or the VIP plan ($39/month) that includes 20 GB of storage and VIP support. E-commerce plans range from $23-$49/month.
Undoubtedly, the strength of Wix is in its website editor. You can use an Artificial Design Intelligent (ADI) system to build a website simply by telling it the type of site that you need. When you want to make more exact changes, you can switch to the full Wix editor, which is packed with features but is relatively easy to use due to its intuitive design.
If you want to build your website yourself by using a drag-and-drop interface, we can’t think of a better platform to do it with than Wix.
With over 40 million customers, Weebly has shown itself to be one of the top website builders available today. With its responsive templates, integrated site search, and drag-and-drop editing, Weebly is a top blogging platform and has support for managing comments and scheduling future content. The App Center has over 200 widgets, so you can quickly take your site from a bare-bones template to a fully-fledged e-commerce site.
You can start with Weebly for free, but you’re limited to 500 MB of storage and your site will have Weebly branding. Upgrade to the $6/month plan to connect your own domain, or choose the Pro plan ($12/month) for a free domain, unlimited storage, and support for site search. As the Pro plan is the first plan that removes Weebly ads, it’s the lowest level plan that you should choose. Finally, you have the option of a Business plan ($26/month) that includes full e-commerce support.
Weebly has good website-building software, but we prefer Wix’s interface, particularly for sites that focus on blogging. Still, Weebly is a cheaper option for smaller sites, and the e-commerce support is versatile and has low transaction fees.
With over 15 years of experience in the web hosting business, tsoHost has risen to be one of the top web hosting services in the UK. It offers a wide range of plans, from cloud hosting to dedicated servers.
The cloud-hosted Economy plan (£3.99/month, plus VAT if you pay annually) includes a free domain name, 100 GB of storage, and unlimited bandwidth. It supports one hosted website and 100 premium mailboxes. Jump to the Deluxe plan (£5.99/month, plus VAT if you pay annually) for unlimited storage and support for five hosted websites. The Ultimate plan (£8.99/month, plus VAT if you pay annually) increases the RAM from 512 MB to 1 GB and includes SSL support. The Maximum plan (£14.99/month, plus VAT if you pay annually) doubles the RAM again to 2 GB and supports up to 200 hosted websites.
tsoHost also offers fully managed VPS from £36.66/month (plus VAT if you pay annually), and fully managed dedicated servers from £228.24/month (plus VAT if you pay annually). You can choose either Windows or Linux servers, with barely any difference in pricing between them.
It has support for cPanel, our preferred website administration panel, and Softaculous, an excellent one-click auto-installer for hundreds of popular web apps, including WordPress, Joomla, and MediaWiki.
We found tsoHost to be faster than most providers, with good after-sales support. Pricing is good for what you get, and it’s easy to migrate between plans. We rate tsoHost as the top web hosting service in the UK in 2020.
SiteGround sells shared hosting plans that initially seem pricey until you look into the specs provided. The 10 GB Startup account ($6.99/month, rising to $14.99/month on renewal) includes unlimited bandwidth, email accounts, databases, sub-domains, and parked domains. It also has support for Cloudflare CDN, automated daily backups, and spam filtering.
The GrowBig account ($9.99/month initially, rising to $24.99/month) doubles the disk space, supports a WordPress staging environment, and includes a SuperCacher scheme for improved performance. The GoGeek plan ($14.99/month, rising to $39.99/month) has priority support and one-click Git Repo installation.
Unlike many other web hosting services, you don’t get a free domain name. The popular cPanel administration software isn’t offered either, instead being replaced by SiteGround’s own Site Tools software.
SiteGround has a range of more specialized servers that are worth looking into. Cloud hosting starts at $80/month and dedicated servers at $269/month, so don’t come here looking here for bargains. But if you need the performance of a dedicated server or cloud hosting, you might as well get a system that will not disappoint you down the road. SiteGround’s high-end products are worth their price tag, with even the cheapest cloud hosting plan starting with three CPU cores, 40 GB of storage, 5 TB of bandwidth, and 4 GB of RAM.
In our tests, SiteGround performed well, and the 24/7 support was reasonably quick at answering our queries. All-in-all, SiteGround is a solid competitor to our top web hosting service picks.
Hostwinds offers a 99.9999% uptime guarantee, an impressive claim. Its range of services includes shared hosting, VPS hosting, cloud hosting, dedicated servers, and reseller accounts.
Shared hosting starts at $3.29/month for one domain, but the price rises to $8.99 upon renewal. Business hosting is deemed to be five times faster and starts at $5.64/month. For Linux, unmanaged VPSs start at $4.49/month and managed VPSs at $5.17/month. But finding full details on included features and pricing is tricky, making us wish that Hostwinds could be more transparent about the actual cost of all plans. This is compounded by a complicated refund policy with short refund periods.
But Hostwinds’s performance and uptime guarantees are good, and its pricing is particularly competitive at the higher end. So, if you’re looking for VPS hosting or dedicated servers that will perform well, consider Hostwinds.
Web hosting tips
- Decide between managed and unmanaged hosting. Web hosting services are often split into managed and unmanaged options. With a managed service, the web host will take charge of most of the day-to-day duties of running the server. This includes ensuring that it is up to date with security patches, backups are taken periodically, and performance issues are diagnosed and fixed. With unmanaged hosting, you’re essentially on your own.
- Consider specialized hosting. With specialized hosting, such as WordPress managed hosting, the website hosting provider will take an even more hands-on approach. For example, the web hosting service will help with WordPress themes, plugins, security, and user management, so your business can focus on providing great content to your visitors.
- Cheap services can end up costing you more. Cheaper services are often a false economy. You get what you pay for in website hosting, and if you choose a free provider, you should expect poorer service. You’ll also have to spend more time administering your website if you choose an unmanaged service over a managed service.
- Try a website builder. Website builders like Wix, Constant Contact, Weebly, and WordPress save you from having to code an entire website from scratch.
- Don’t be tempted by introductory offers. Many web hosting providers offer a much-reduced price in the first period before significantly raising the rate. It’s a pain to move to another hosting provider once you’ve set up a site, so the web hosting provider is banking on you staying with them even if the price is no longer competitive. Always check how much you’ll be paying for a service down the line.
- Choose a portable CMS. Avoid getting locked into one provider by choosing a content management system (CMS) that’s easy to migrate to other servers. If a web hosting provider uses their own proprietary website-building software, you’ll likely find it difficult to move your site to another provider in the future should you wish to. Instead, choose a well-known portable CMS, like WordPress, so your resulting website will work on just about any server.
- No service is truly unlimited. Many plans from web hosting providers are listed with unmetered bandwidth or unlimited hard disk space. But check the fine print: if your usage is deemed to be “abnormally high,” they may ask you to make adjustments or remove large files.
Web hosting: paid or free?
Every business owner wants to minimize costs wherever they can, and this includes web hosting costs. It’s tempting to consider one of the hundreds of free web hosting providers when you’re first starting a new site, but we advise against it unless you’re building a personal site or learning how to code.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all, and free website hosting providers need to recoup their costs somehow. Some inject advertising into your web pages, making for poor customer experiences. Others impose heavy limitations on what you can do with the service, hoping to force you to upgrade to a paid plan. These paid plans tend to cost more than if you’d just gone to a fully paid web hosting service provider in the first place.
With a free hosting plan, you’ll be sharing resources, such as hard drives and bandwidth, with hundreds or even thousands of other customers. This negatively affects performance, making your website slow. Your customer experience will suffer, and Google’s search engine algorithm will list your website far down the list in search engine rankings.
Also, with so many websites on the same infrastructure, you risk sharing an IP address with sketchy websites. This can flag your site as being in a bad virtual neighborhood, further adversely affecting your search engine rankings.
Therefore, we advise you to skip free website hosting services. If you’re on a tight budget, there are many cheap web hosting companies that offer stable, dependable service.
Shared vs. VPS vs. dedicated web hosting
To narrow down your web hosting provider choices, think about whether you want shared website hosting, a VPS, or dedicated web hosting. Let’s take a look at each one.
With shared website hosting, you share server resources such as hard drives, CPUs, and bandwidth with other people. This is a cheap option but it has clear downsides. For starters, other sites can affect the performance of your website. If another website hosted on the same server as your site sees a big surge in traffic, the speed of your website could drop. Similarly, if other users are running applications that aggressively tax the CPU, the performance of your website can suffer.
Another downside of shared hosting is reduced security. Any flaws on someone else’s site might lead to hackers gaining access to your website too.
VPS hosting is similar to shared website hosting, but your website gets its own slice of the server resources. While you’re technically sharing hardware and network infrastructure with other users, each account is locked in its own virtual private area. This represents a big improvement in security over shared website hosting.
More importantly, with VPS hosting, you’re allocated your own set amount of bandwidth, CPU time, memory, and hard disk space. Even if other websites hosted on the same infrastructure experience spikes in traffic, your website’s performance remains consistent.
With dedicated hosting, you get an entire server to yourself. It’s the most secure, versatile, and high-performance option, but it’s usually the most expensive. Dedicated hosting gives you free rein to install a particular software that best suits your business, but it also requires someone to maintain and administer the server.