Everyone says you need a website, and you know that’s true, but no-one’s telling you one crucial detail: what’s that going to cost? That’s a good question, and this article is all about finding the answer.
We can’t give you a precise figure, because we don’t know exactly what your website might need. But let’s be realistic: it’s likely that even you don’t know what sort of hosting you need just yet. Which is no surprise, especially when there are so many options and so much to think about.
What we can do is talk about the types of hosting, who they work for, who they don’t, the prices you can expect to pay and what you’ll get (or may not get) for your cash.
We’ll explore some features and services you may not realize you need, but could be key to your web success.
You’re on a budget? We’ll also explain situations where it’s easy to spend too much, and point you to solutions and providers that could save you big money.
Shared hosting ($2 to $25 a month)
Shared hosting plans place multiple websites on the same physical web server. With server costs spread across all these accounts, shared products are the most affordable around, and hosting providers typically work hard to ensure they’re easy to set up and use.
The downside of shared hosting is that the web server’s CPU, storage and network connection are shared between many accounts, which means there aren’t many resources to go around.
If the other sites on your web server are all busy at the same time, your site’s load times are sure to suffer.
Shared hosting can still work very well for small personal or business sites. If you’re building a blog, a professional resume/ CV site, perhaps a few pages about your offline business and its services, then a decent shared hosting plan should give you acceptable speeds and be able to handle thousands of visitors every month.
Shared hosting really isn’t suitable for sites with resource-hungry features such as video streaming, high levels of traffic (> 100,000 visitors a month), business-critical sites where reliability is essential, or advanced projects where you need full control of the server, what’s installed and how it works. We’ll discuss better options further down the page.
What it costs:
Shared hosting typically ranges from $2 to $25 a month, depending on features and contract length. The cheaper plans are generally enough for simple sites, but spending more might get you better performance, more resources (storage, extra email addresses) or the ability to host multiple websites with the same account. Our Best Shared Hosting guide (opens in new tab) has more advice.
VPS hosting ($2 to $150 a month)
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is a scheme where a single physical server is divided into multiple virtual servers, each one allocated to a separate account. VPS technology improves on shared hosting by giving every virtual server its own share of system resources (CPU time, storage, RAM) for faster and more consistent performance. And VPS plans are also far more configurable, giving you total control over almost every detail of how the server works.
The main issue with VPS hosting is that those extra resources cost money, and plans may be significantly more expensive than basic shared plans. The extra power of shared hosting brings a little more complexity, too, although it’s still very manageable. Whether you sign up for a shared or VPS plan, your core site-building tasks are much the same, and a good hosting provider will have quality support to walk you through any tricky bits.
VPS hosting is best for users who need a little more performance than shared hosting can deliver, but can’t afford the expense of high-end dedicated hosting. A small web store may only have a few visitors, for instance, but keep them waiting for product pages to load and they’ll quickly head off to your competition. VPS hosting could deliver the extra speed you need, and it’s also easy to add even more resources later as your store grows.
What it costs:
VPS hosting comes in a huge range of flavors, and is priced from $2 a month to $150 or more, depending on features and the provider.
The cheapest plans typically have very few resources, maybe just 512MB RAM and 1 vCPU (a measure of processor power, sometimes called vCores or just Cores.) They’re fine if you just want something you can play with, maybe to learn the server basics, but they won’t help your website performance (they’re less powerful than some shared hosting packages.)
If your site isn’t too demanding, but you’d like something a little faster than your last shared hosting plan, look for a VPS plan with at least 2-4 vCPUs and 2GB or more RAM. That should deliver a worthwhile speed boost that’s more than enough for most sites, but still very reasonably priced at $10-$40 a month.
Spending more money might get you extra resources, more bandwidth, additional features, improved support and more. This can lift prices to $150+ a month, so it’s important to compare providers, make sure you’re getting a good deal. Our Best VPS Hosting guide (opens in new tab) will point you in the right direction.
Cloud hosting ($5 to $200 a month)
While most hosting packages get you space on a single web server, cloud hosting gives your site a private allocation of resources which can be spread across multiple servers. Not only is that great for disaster proofing (if one server fails, the others take over), but distributing traffic across several servers helps your site cope with sudden spikes in demand without slowing down.
The end result is a technology that is similar to VPS hosting in performance (because both give you your own server resources), but easier to use, as the host handles all the clever load balancing work all on its own.
The price of cloud hosting may be a small issue, as it’s usually more expensive than VPS (though not always by very much.) Experts with very specific needs might also prefer the VPS route, as it’s easier to fine-tune to their precise needs (installing a new operating system, for instance.)
Generally, though, cloud hosting is a smart choice for personal and business sites who need better performance than shared hosting offers, but without the technical complexities of VPS plans, or the high price of dedicated hosting.
What it costs:
Cloud hosting starts from around $5 a month, rising to $200 or more, depending on the features and contract length you choose, and any introductory discount.
When you’re comparing plans or deciding if they’re right for you, start by looking at the resources they provide: RAM, vCPUs (sometimes described as vCores or cores, a measure of processor power), maybe storage and bandwidth.
As a general rule of thumb, plans offering 2 to 4 vCPUs and 4-8GB RAM should offer a worthwhile speed improvement over shared hosting for small to mid-range sites.
If you’re unsure what might work for you, Hostinger, Hostgator and others offer monthly plans where you can experiment, and our Best Cloud Hosting guide (opens in new tab) covers other hosts who deserve a look.
Dedicated hosting ($40 to $500 a month)
Splashing out on a dedicated hosting plan gets you the ultimate in website luxury: a physical server entirely for your own use. With no other websites sapping the server’s resources, you get all the CPU time, RAM, hard drive and network connectivity for yourself, ensuring the maximum possible performance at all times. And as this power is all yours, you’re free to configure it however you like. Install this, tweak that, replace the operating system, use a different server: it’s entirely up to you.
All this power comes at a cost. It’s mostly financial - paying for a server all by yourself can be seriously expensive - but keeping it running smoothly is far more complicated than anything you’ll see with shared hosting.
Dedicated servers are generally the best choice for heavy-duty sites with resource-sapping features (video streaming), large online stores, business-critical projects, or anything with a lot of traffic where you need to be sure the site is working at top speed, all of the time.
What it costs:
Some providers offer dedicated servers from $50-$100 a month. That’s cheap, but beware: these are generally underpowered, sometimes reconditioned, and with little support (chances are you’ll have to maintain them all on your own.)
The $100 to $300 a month price point should get you better hardware with the power to handle a demanding high-traffic site, or multiple several smaller sites.
Spending more usually gets you extra CPU power, additional RAM, more and perhaps faster storage, extended backup support and a higher bandwidth allowance. But it’s usually only necessary for huge databases, virtualization or other high-end enterprise-level tasks.
Whatever you’re buying, check the level of support. Unless you’re happy to maintain the server yourself, you’re looking to buy managed hosting. Essentially that means the provider runs the server for you, keeps it updated, fixes problems they crop up, potentially saving you a huge amount of time and hassle. Not everyone offers managed hosting, so be sure to check the small print, find out exactly what you’re getting before you buy.
Read our guide to the Best Dedicated Hosting Providers (opens in new tab) for more information.
WordPress hosting ($2 to $100 a month)
WordPress is a hugely popular website creation and management platform that’s easy enough for newbies to use, yet also powerful enough to run the largest international sites. You can install and use WordPress for free on most hosting packages, but WordPress hosting plans add specially tailored extras to help you get more from the service.
Exactly what you get with WordPress hosting varies between vendors, but features often include servers optimized for WordPress performance, automatic platform and plugin updates, relevant extras (custom themes, bundled plugins), and specialist WordPress support. (Some hosts offer both WordPress and Managed WordPress hosting, but there’s no official definition for what these terms mean. Browse the provider’s feature list to find out for sure.)
These plans may not appeal to experienced WordPress users, who already know how to optimize the platform for their own sites, and won’t want to pay their host more money to achieve (at best) the same results. If that sounds like you, no problem: just buy the best shared, VPS or dedicated hosting package for you, then set up and manage WordPress yourself, just as you would normally.
If you’re new to WordPress, though, or will be hosting a business-critical site where it’s vital any problems are solved as fast as possible, or the plan offers features you can’t easily replicate yourself (server performance optimizations), WordPress hosting plans can make a lot of sense.
Take support, for example. The best WordPress support doesn’t just handle critical hosting problems (my site won’t load), it also helps you with general design and plugin issues (I’ve added a slider to my home page, and it mostly works, but there’s a problem when this happens.) Even if you only benefit from that a couple of times a year, it could more than justify any extra cost.
What it costs:
WordPress hosting might range from $2-$5 a month for a very basic shared hosting plan with very few extras, to $100 or more for a powerful VPS plan with top-quality specialist support.
What might work for you? Think first about the type of hosting you need. Are basic shared plans best, or do you need VPS speed and configurability? (Read our Shared and VPS thoughts above if you’re unsure.)
Next, browse the WordPress-specific extras in each plan, and look for those you really need, and will give you ongoing value over time. Free themes sound good, for instance, but there are thousands of free WordPress themes out there already; they’re probably not worth paying a monthly premium for the lifetime of the plan. But specialist support, performance-optimized servers, smarter backups, automated malware and so on will benefit you every day, and are exactly the kind of extras to look for.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the time or energy to do a lot of research, browse our Best WordPress Hosting guide (opens in new tab) for instant pointers to some top quality providers.
SSL certificates (Free to $200 a year)
Installing an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate allows a server to switch from vulnerable HTTP to securely encrypted HTTPS, keeping your visitor’s data safe from snoopers. It also earns your site a reassuring padlock in your visitor’s browsers, and could even improve download times via its support for speedy HTTP/2 connections, making SSL an absolute must-have for almost every website.
Fortunately, most hosting providers give free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates with some, if not all of their accounts. There’s nothing to buy, or to configure (in most cases): you’re protected automatically, for the life of the website, for zero cost. But if your plan doesn’t include SSL, or what’s on offer doesn’t suit your needs, there are several other options.
Most free certificates are the DV (Domain Validation) type, for instance, which means they only prove you own the domain. Businesses can pay extra for OV (Organization Validation) or the higher EV (Extended Validation) certificates, though, which include manual validation checks to confirm your identity. This goes further to show you’re trustworthy, but it’s not essential: OV and EV encryption isn’t any better, and plenty of companies don’t have it (Proton VPN’s website uses the same Let’s Encrypt technology that you’ll get with a free SSL.)
Other options include wildcard SSL certificates to cover multiple subdomains (store.myshop.com, order.myshop.com, tracking.myshop.com), or a multi-domain website to protect separate domain names (myshop.com, mydeliveries.com, mymarketing.com.)
What it costs:
SSL prices range from $10 a year for a basic DV certificate, to $200 a more for EV SSL covering multiple domains.
Beware: costs vary hugely between providers. Namecheap certificates start from $10 a year; IONOS asks $20; GoDaddy has various plans, but the cheapest we found was $70 a year, and even that required that you paid five years up front.
Buying SSL from your web host, if necessary, is the simplest option, because your provider normally manages installation and renewal for you. But if that involves spending more than a few dollars, we’d recommend looking at other vendors.
For example, Namecheap offers a multi-domain SSL certificate which covers three sites for a total $20 a year, and the most trusted EV certificates from $50 to $100. Check our Best SSL Certificate Services guide (opens in new tab) for more ideas.
And don’t forget…
Domain names ($10 to $100 a year)
A domain name is the name of your website, the mybrand.com (or whatever) address users type in their browser whenever they’d like to pay you a visit. Hosting plans often promise a ‘free domain’, but beware, it’s usually free for the first year only. After that you’ll pay an annual renewal charge.
Prices range from $10 to $30 a year for common and country TLDS (top level domains like .com, .net. .co.uk), to $50 or more for newer TLDs (.expert, .finance, .university.) We’ve seen web hosts charge $10 to $30 a year more for domain renewals than the cheapest competition, so it pays to check your provider’s renewal fees before you sign up. Or just browse our Best Domain Registrar (opens in new tab) list for some top quality suggestions.
Backups (free to $120 a year)
Creating and managing a website can take a lot of time and effort, so it’s vital that you have regular backups to protect yourself if disaster strikes. But hosting plans might offer no backups at all, just a single daily backup (a problem if you don’t notice the issue immediately), seven or even 30 days of backups, giving you far more chance of recovering from any file or data loss.
Web hosts often give you more backup features as you upgrade, so if you’re unhappy, you could just buy a better plan. But there are alternatives.
UpdraftPlus (opens in new tab) has an excellent free WordPress plugin which can automatically backup a site to your own Dropbox or Google Drive, for instance.
CodeGuard (opens in new tab) is a popular backup service which covers everything from simple personal sites ($60 a year) to global brands (up to 100 sites for $239 a month.)
Plugins and services
Although this article is mostly about the costs involved in putting a website online and keeping it running, there are some related costs that you might want to consider.
If you’ve built your site with a commercial template (a WordPress theme, say), a stylish slider or some other component, there may be an optional charge for support or future updates. A WordPress theme might come with 6 months support, for instance, but ask $10 or $20 or more to extend that to a year (and more to go beyond that.)
Keeping your site malware-free is vital (infecting your visitors is a sure-fire way to trash your reputation), so you might want to sign up with a malware blocking, detection and removal service such as SiteLock (opens in new tab), Sucuri Security (opens in new tab) or Wordfence (opens in new tab). Basic services are often available for free, but for in-depth checks and malware removal you can spend $200 a year and more.
Once your site is up and running, businesses in particular might need services like OptinMonster (opens in new tab) to generate leads, an analytics tool such as MonsterInsights (opens in new tab) to find out what’s working on your site, and what isn’t, and SEO services such as Yoast (opens in new tab) to fine-tune your content for the best possible rankings. You can start with services like this for free, with decent paid plans from around $100-$120 a year.
As we’ve seen, hosting and maintaining a website can cost almost nothing, or a very large amount, depending on the sort of user you are, your site needs and what exactly you’re trying to do.
If your site is small and simple, nothing business-critical, or you’re entirely new to hosting and just aren’t sure what you need, it’s best to start with shared hosting. You can get a very capable site for a year, with a domain included, for a first year price of under $40, from the likes of Hostinger and other providers. Try it out, even for a month or two, and you’ll learn more than enough about your real website needs to justify a $40 investment.
VPS, cloud and dedicated hosting are probably better choices if you’re building a site which has lots of features, heavy traffic (many tens of thousands of visitors a month), or you just can’t afford to fail, ever (a busy web store, say.) But costs might leap to $100-$500 a year for a decent VPS alone. Keep in mind that if your site is this important, you’re more likely to need supporting services like backup, malware scanning or an enhanced SSL certificate, too, perhaps adding $100 or $200 more to the total.
If you’re on a tight budget, though, don’t be worried by these figures. We’re quoting general prices but there are plenty of free and low-cost alternatives for almost anything you need to do. We can’t say what might work for you and what won’t, but if you’re unsure, jump in, give it a try, and you’ll soon discover what works best for you.