If you’re starting a business in 2019, your first step is probably making a website. Maybe even before you register as a company. Before you dive in though, you’ll want to consider your options for web hosting.
Of course, you could go down the route of using one of the big name website builders. You know, the kind that seems to pop up in every single YouTube ad these days.
While there are benefits to this approach, there are also many drawbacks. For one thing, it might end up looking like every other site built with the same platform. You’ll also sacrifice a lot of flexibility and customisation.
Today we’ll look at the alternative.
What is a Web Hosting Service?
Basically, a web hosting service is just a subscription for server space for the files which make up your site. This is where the images and pages on your website will live.
Beyond this, different services offer different speeds, levels of security, and reliability. Many also come with additional bells and whistles, including options for integrating with other related services.
While there are certainly all-rounders, which service is right for you depends on your individual business. For example, if you run a game streaming site, you’ll want the best speed and capacity available.
If you run a gardening blog, then probably not so much.
What are your Web Hosting Options?
There are also different types of web hosting out there, and most services offer some variation on each of these. Heres a quick cheat sheet for the four most common types.
- Shared Hosting means that you share service space with a number of other websites.
- Dedicated Hosting gives you your own dedicated server, which is obviously better security-wise, but it comes at a premium.
- VPS Hosting stands for virtual private hosting. Here you share a server, but it’s partitioned, so it behaves more like dedicated hosting.
- Cloud Hosting uses a virtual server in the cloud, which improves speed and makes it easier to increase space.
We’ll be looking at a number of web hosting options today, and I’ll be highlighting which are right for different contexts throughout. For now though, here’s an overview of what’s on offer.
|Name||Starting from||Best thing about it||Biggest problem|
|Hostinger||$0.80 per month.||Currently very cheap.||No free SSL certificates.|
|WP Engine||$35 per month.||Great for large enterprises||Expensive.|
|HostGator||$2.75 per month.||Comes with free Google Ads credit.||More expensive to renew subscription.|
|iPage||$1.99 per month.||Excellent for small or local businesses.||The number of pages is limited to 6.|
|Cloudways||$10 per month.||Good cloud platform for experienced users.||Quite expensive.|
|Siteground||$3.95 per month.||Very high up-time.||Additional set-up fee.|
|Dreamhost||$2.59 per month.||Great value for money.||Extra monthly fee to add email.|
|GreenGeeks||$2.95 per month.||Excellent web hosting service with no carbon footprint.||Fairly average performance.|
|HostPapa||$3.95 per month.||Good value for multi-site subscriptions.||Extra costs for eCommerce features.|
|Bluehost||$3.59 per month.||Extensive range of integration options.||No built-in eCommerce.|
You’ll notice that most of these fall within a pretty narrow price band, with a couple of outliers. Of course, these are only the basic prices, as we’ll see a little later.
Before we dig in, I should say that a few technical terms might crop up throughout this article. That’s just the reality of comparing web hosting. Never fear, all the jargon will also be explained in earth-speak.
With that in mind, let’s get going.
Hostinger is by far the cheapest if these web hosting services. At least, if you sign up during one of their many sales. This makes it an excellent option for smaller businesses and hobbyists alike.
In keeping with this, Hostinger is optimised for WordPress hosting, which makes it easier to get up and running. There’s also a free proprietary website builder, which is fairly similar to the WordPress interface.
The cheapest shared hosting plan comes with 10gb of storage space and 100gb of bandwidth. This should be more than adequate for most basic websites, but you may need to upgrade for more intensive sites.
Hostinger uses its own in house dashboard known as hPanel. This is somewhat basic, but incredibly easy to use. Again, this is a boon if you’re just getting started with managing websites.
You can also use hostinger as a platform to develop your technical skills in a real life environment without breaking the bank.
With any kind of web hosting, you’ll need to come to grips with coding in PHP, making databases in SQL and making administrative changes with FTP.
Hostinger’s performance is particularly impressive given its low price. The average page loads in under 200ms, and the servers boast a 99.9% uptime. It may be beginner friendly, but Hostinger is still a very usable option.
WP Engine is by far the priciest option on comparison here. This isn’t a criticism though. Indeed, it’s simply evidence that it occupies a very different slice of the web hosting market.
Indeed, WP Engine is more of an enterprise grade solution. One caveat is that this isn’t exactly web hosting in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s a high-performance hosting platform for WordPress sites.
The cheapest plan gets you 10gb of storage and 50gb of bandwidth. However, this is capped at 25,000 visitors per month. You’ll need to upgrade to overcome this.
There are a bunch of added selling points too. As standard, you can expect free SSL certificates for your site. This is basically a signpost for web browsers that your site is trustworthy.
I also particularly like that everything is backed up automatically every day. You also get free access to a Content Delivery Network, or CDN. This is a distributed network of serves.
The benefit of this is that load speeds aren’t compromised for users in far off locations. Of course, this is crucial for businesses which span the whole globe, but less important for the likes of independent coffee shops.
Overall, WP Engine is a very impressive solution if you have complex needs. If not, you’ll need to weigh up whether or not it’s worth the extra expense for yourself.
HostGator is the web hosting service of choice for around 9 million brands. Their USP is affordability and ease of use, so on paper this should be another good option for the non-tech types out there.
Some of the selling points include unlimited storage and unmetered bandwidth, making it possible to grow your website without incurring additional costs.
Even the cheapest option comes replete with unlimited free email addresses, SSL certification and unlimited pages. On paper then, HostGator is excellent value for money. The price includes the cost of a domain too.
In fact, the middle price tier offers unlimited domains for only $3.95 per month. As such, you could very affordably get up and running as a new agency with HostGator.
On top of this, you’ll find a couple of fairly unique added bonuses. HostGator offer free website and domain transfers in the first 45 days, as well as 52 prewritten scripts which you can install in moments.
They even throw in $100 of credit for each of Google Ads and Bing Ads. This is a welcome bonus for increasing traffic to your new website. At least Google Ads credit is – I’m not sure who’s using Bing exactly.
However, some features come at an added premium. In particular, you can expect to pay a few extra bucks to use their proprietary website builder or host a WordPress site.
Certain top level domains also come at an added premium, and there are additional costs for renewing your domain. This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s certainly something to take into account.
In light of this, HostGator might just be your best option if you’re looking to transfer an existing website to a cheaper host without sacrificing performance.
iPage is one of the cheapest web hosting services on the market. Again though, price isn’t always an indicator of quality. Often it just means that the service is targeting a specific market segment.
The target here seems to be small businesses who want an easy to manage website which simply works. Thing local restaurants or brick and mortar shop and you’ll be on the right track.
As far as creating a site, you can start from one of over a hundred templates, and do some basic customisation within iPage’s own website builder.
These are all mobile optimised and include a couple of choices of different content management systems. However, the catch is that you’re limited to 6 pages.
If that’s enough for you, you’ll be rewarded with free eCommerce functionality, including shopping carts and PayPal integration as standard. This has the potential to save you quite a lot of money.
In terms of performance, little is lost at this low price point. You can expect unlimited bandwidth and storage as standard, as well as free email addresses and SSL certificates.
The price even includes a free domain for a year, although you’ll have to fork out $14.99 a year to renew thereafter. It should be noted too that after your initial subscription runs out the overall price ups to $7.99 per month.
All the same, iPage is pretty hard to look past if you can make do with 6 pages. In reality this should be true for 99% of websites.
At first glance, Cloudways seems to be towards the premium end of the web hosting market. It’s an all-cloud service though, and so it represents relatively good value compared to the competition’s cloud options.
As we said earlier, cloud hosting has a number of benefits. On the whole, it’s faster, more stable and offers greater flexibility than its physical server cousin.
However, to reap these benefits, Cloudways requires somewhat more technical nous. Really, to make the most of it, you’d want to be a fairly savvy web developer.
In keeping with this, there’s no proprietary builder. Instead, you’ll find advanced functionality for custom builds. Highlights include Redis and HTTP/2, improving the respective speeds of data bases and load times.
Cloudways also offer their own content distribution network, starting at $1 per 25gb. They boast that this provides best in class load times across the globe.
It’s also nice to have the option to increase capacity at any time with just a few clicks. Cloudways doesn’t actually operate a long-term contract model, so when you need to scale your hosting you only pay what you actually use.
If you’re an advanced developer who wants to dip your feet into cloud hosting at a reasonable cost, Cloudways is likely your best option. If you’re more of a newbie though, you should probably look elsewhere.
Web hosting is a crowded market, so it can be pretty hard to carve out a niche. Reliability and customer support are the name of the game for SiteGround.
The question is does it stack up in real life. On reliability, SiteGround is almost as good as it gets. Server uptimes are a truly impressive 99.99%. That’s under an hour of downtime throughout the year.
SiteGround also boast a 98% customer satisfaction rate. A big part of this comes down to their 24/7 customer service via live chat. They also resolve most technical tickets within 10 minutes.
As far as getting started you have two options. Every SiteGround subscription gets you free access to a site builder from Weebly. If you prefer, you can also transfer WordPress sites for free.
Technically though, SiteGround isn’t quite top of the table. The basic plan comes with 10gb of storage and 10,000 visitors. Load times are a decent 750ms on average.
Still, you get a decent haul of freebies with your subscription. This includes SSL certification, daily backups, email and access to the market leader CDN, CloudFlare.
If you want to combine ease of use with reliability and peace of mind, but you’re technical needs aren’t too intensive, SiteGround is definitely an option to keep in mind.
On the subject of reliability, Dreamhost claim to go one better with their 100% up-time guarantee. It’s unlikely that this means the servers could never got down. What it does mean is you’ll be compensated if they do.
In terms of performance, Dreamhost are more than generous. Even the cheapest plan includes unlimited storage and bandwidth. That means that as your business grows, you don’t need to worry about overuse fees.
As far as freebies, you can expect a domain and SSL certificate. There is however an additional fee to get access to a custom email address, unless you upgrade to a pricier plan.
Dreamhost is mainly geared towards WordPress sites, which limits your options somewhat. By the same token though, this means that if you do use WordPress everything works like a dream from the get go.
Your subscription also includes a static IP and built-in server caching, which you can’t expect from many of the other web hosting platforms in this price bracket.
It should also be noted that if you want to go down the route of VPS or cloud hosting, Dreamhost let’s you do this without breaking the bank. In fact, their cloud offering starts from only $4.95, amazingly.
Even better, their cloud servers are language-agnostic, meaning that you can run most apps in the cloud, regardless of what programming language they were built in.
GreenGeeks have taken a novel approach to finding a web hosting niche. It’s easy to forget about the internet’s environmental impact. All those servers need cooling though, and that means a big carbon footprint.
It’s not like you can get around this problem by storing files in trees or anything like that. At least not yet. In the mean time, GreenGeeks buy three times as many wind energy credits as the electricity they use.
However, they don’t seem to pass this outlay onto the customer. In fact, they offer unlimited storage space and bandwidth at only $2.95 per month, as well as a free domain for a year.
Load speeds are around 500ms on average on servers with a 99.95% uptime. While this isn’t quite world beating, it’s still perfectly respectable at this price.
The admin side of things is based around cPanel and Softalucious, which gets you access to over 250 pre-written scripts to perform all manner of tasks without any coding necessary.
Every plan also comes as standard with impressive eCommerce capabilities, including payment portals and shopping baskets. This is nice addition as you won’t have to spend extra cash on a third party eCommerce solution.
Overall, GreenGeeks is wholly impressive, and is certainly no gimmick. It’s hard to know where the money for carbon offsetting actually comes from, and it’s only a fraction behind any of its competitors on performance.
HostPapa have been in the web hosting game for almost two decades now. In that time, they’ve firmly established themselves as an easy way for small businesses to gain a web presence without any technical skills.
This begins with their incredibly simple drag & drop website builder. You can also host a WordPress site, or if you like HostPapa offer their own building service for $99 per month.
Starting at $3.95 per month, their entry level plan is notable for offering two domains. Most of the competition only offer on. You’ll also get a decent 100gb of storage with unlimited bandwidth.
As a sign-up offer though, HostPapa offer their midrange business plan at the same price, which makes this an excellent option if you’re starting your first website.
This will get you unlimited storage, emails and domains, along with double the CPU. HostPapa also use cPanel, but with their own front end dashboard to improve usability for novices.
Somewhat annoyingly though, you have to upgrade to the $12.95 per month plan to access most of the security features or take advantage of an unlimited number of pages.
This is disappointing, because unlimited storage is sort of a false flag when you can only have so many pages on your site. You can also expect a reasonably large premium to use your site as an eCommerce portal.
Finally we have what’s probably the best known name in web hosting – Bluehost. But does notoriety always mean a better product?
First of all, for $3.59 Bluehost offers 50gb of storage with unlimited bandwidth, as well as a free domain. However, this is limited to 25 pages. In theory though, this should be more than enough for most people.
Load speeds work out at under 500ms, and you can expect the servers to be online more than 99.99% of the time. So on performance, Bluehost definitely seems up to par.
However, Bluehost really comes into its own when it comes time to upgrade. In particular, you’ll need to pay at least $5.95 to get access to CloudFlare. This is worthwhile though for the security dividends.
I also really like that Bluehost offer their own in-house app marketplace. This gives you the option to take advantage of hundreds of integrations, which has the potential to greatly improve your web business.
If you want to go down the route of dedicated hosting, Bluehost is probably your best option as far as value for money. The plans start from $79.99 per month. It’s rare that the competition dips below $100.
For that, you’ll get 500gb of storage, running 4gb of RAM and a quad core 2.3GHz CPU. If you’re interested in dedicated hosting, this is your best option, but if you’re content with shared Bluehost is still a decent choice.
The Best Web Hosting Services
While choosing the right web hosting service is sort of a balancing act, it’s worthwhile picking a few favourites. For novices, I’d be inclined towards either iPage or SiteGround for the best balance of value and simplicity.
For general usage though, Hostinger is my top pick, especially in light of their current introductory offer. It should give you everything you need to start a successful online business for pennies.
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