Whatever size of website you have, this article will help you find the best web hosting service providers, and the best hosting deals for you.
The first step is to identify what your needs are - with one eye on the future growth of your website - then choose an appropriate plan at the right price. Web hosting companies usually offer three main paid-for tiers of hosting packages.
- Shared web hosting is the simplest type of hosting on the market and it is also the cheapest, costing as little as $1/£1 per month. That option is great for novices. The downside is the lack of flexibility especially when it comes to handling heavy traffic.
- VPS hosting are for those who want a bit more oomph and performance for their website. It is more expensive than shared hosting but far more capable and flexible especially when a website has outgrown its original bedding.
- Dedicated servers will suit those looking to build complex websites that can handles hundreds of concurrent users in a no-compromise, mission-critical environment. Great for those looking to launch the next Amazon.
- WordPress is the most popular content management system and its simplicity and ease of use is why it has gained such momentum across web designers and small businesses. Best of all, WordPress is free and an impressive ecosystem of plugins.
- Web builders are ideal for those looking for a no-stress, no-fuss way to get an online presence. A website builder allows you to visually manipulate the look and the content of your website without having to dabble with the complexity of the underlying code.
Many packages include a wealth of features that you may or may not place value upon, including a control panel, the ability to create online stores easily, simple website builder tools and varying levels of support (either on the phone or live chat).
All of which makes this article your one-stop-shop for all the services you might need when it comes to running your website, and moreover, making sure it’s a success.
The best website hosting services
Best overall shared web hosting
Wordpress hosting: Yes | Business hosting: Yes | Web design services: Yes | 24x7-US-based support: Yes
This popular web host is a respected and professional operation which has been in business for over 15 years, with an impressive array of plans on offer including shared hosting which starts from just $2.95 per month. What’s also good to see is that InMotion bundles some pretty neat extras into its plans – services that other providers often charge extra for – including the likes of malware and DDoS protection, ‘spam-safe’ email and a system of basic backups.
InMotion provides both cPanel and Softaculous-powered hosting, and another strong suit is some top-notch technical support should you get stuck with anything. In our testing, we found that this firm’s overall performance levels were well above average, which is good news for those who want to see fast-loading websites.
In short, there’s a great deal to like here and some tempting pricing, with the icing on the cake being a 90-day money-back guarantee should you fail to be satisfied with the service.
Runner-up overall shared web hosting
Baremetal servers: Yes | Free SSL certificate: Yes | Secure hacker protection: Yes | Email marketing: Yes
1&1 is a big web hosting player, vying with GoDaddy for world domination, and is the biggest player in Europe. Located in Germany, it offers a bewildering array of services with prices starting from as little as 99 cents per month - although that rises to $8 after the first year.
On top of that, this host provides some smart freebies (a free domain and unlimited storage for example, with SSL certificates included across all plans), free web design software (NetObjects Fusion 2013), 24/7 phone and email support, a graphics archive, a 30-day money-back guarantee, transparent replication (the company calls it geo-redundancy) and a whopping 300Gbps network connectivity.
- Check out the web hosting packages from 1&1
- Those looking for 1&1 hosting outside of the UK should check here
The best ‘cheap’ option on the market
Unmetered bandwidth: Yes | Unmetered disk space: Yes | Search credit: $150 | Money-back guarantee: 45 days
If you’re hunting for budget web hosting, then look no further than HostGator’s Hatchling plan. The beauty of this provider is that even this basic plan is unrestricted in many respects. There are no limits on bandwidth or disk space, subdomains, MySQL databases, FTP and email accounts.
You also get cPanel-based management of your website, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Other laudable benefits include 24/7 customer support, and $200 (£150) worth of Google and Bing Ads credits.
There are some limitations, though, including the fact that this is one provider which doesn’t give you a free domain name for a year, and you can only operate one website on the Hatchling plan (although the latter isn’t an uncommon restriction with the cheapest hosting plans).
Further benefits include a 45-day money-back guarantee, not to mention free transfers for new accounts within the first month after you’ve signed up. There’s lots to like here considering the minimal impact on your wallet, with pricing as low as $2.64 (£1.95) per month on a three-year contract.
A good all-round service which is well-known, respected and trusted
SEO Services: Yes | Free domain: Yes | Database backup and restore: Yes | Unmetered bandwidth : Yes
The US-based web hosting company is one of the largest in the game and probably the best known one as well. It is also the biggest domain name registrar in the world with tens of millions of domain names in its portfolio. GoDaddy’s cheapest web hosting package is decently kitted out at £4 ($5.50) per month excluding VAT (when you sign up for an annual subscription).
This provider offers free backup and restore, an uptime guarantee (99.9%), unlimited storage (although there’s only 100GB for the Economy package), as well as unlimited bandwidth and a free domain with the annual plan.
A pretty nifty feature provided by GoDaddy on all its packages is the ability to increase hosting capacity on demand (e.g. when you experience a sudden surge in traffic) from within your hosting account.
WordPress' #1 preferred partner
Unmetered bandwidth: Yes | WooCommerce hosting: Yes | Free domain: Yes | 24x7-US-based support: Yes
Bluehost is a hosting company based in Utah which is owned by web giant Endurance International Group (EIG). It offers basic shared hosting from $2.99 (£2.20) monthly (on a three-year contract), with WordPress plans starting at $20 (£15) per month (although that’s also a discounted introductory rate).
For the money, you get automated setup for WordPress, not to mention other popular apps via a Mojo Marketplace-powered system. There’s also a cPanel-based area to allow expert users to tweak things.
Furthermore, Bluehost provides a Weebly-based website builder. This is a basic browser-based affair that lets you create a website of up to six pages, and there are no extras like site templates included. But still, it’s better than nothing, and more functionality is in the pipeline – plus you get this builder with the basic account.
There’s also good customer support on offer, and the end result is a mix of user-friendly aspects alongside a good amount of power and potential tweaking for more advanced users.
WordPress hosting with exceptional support
CDN included: Yes | Free SSL: Yes | Dev, Stage, Prod Environments: Yes
WP Engine is a very different operation to the other hosts on this page, as it concentrates on providing managed WordPress hosting – and only that. There are no other products offered, and the idea is to concentrate fully on WordPress to deliver the best possible service in that respect.
The base Startup plan costs $35 (£25) per month, although if you pay upfront for an annual subscription, you get two months for free. This gives you the power to run a single website with 25,000 visits per month and a limit of 50GB bandwidth. An SSL certificate and CDN functionality are included in that price, as is a free migration.
Other strengths are a 60-day money-back guarantee, in case you’re not satisfied, and a 99.95% service availability guarantee is also reassuring. You get automatic daily backups as standard (often a chargeable extra elsewhere), and other nifty elements like built-in performance testing for your site (with suggestions for improvements).
On top of that, we found WP Engine offered excellent customer support, and this is a truly tempting provider for those who need some real WordPress power.
The best website builder
Online store: Optional | Free domain: Yes | Search credits: $75 | Professional site review: Optional
Wix is a website building service that offers an attractive range of plans and boasts some truly impressive depth when it comes to tailoring your site to best match your needs. The service has a user-friendly editor that bristles with content and functionality, and allows you to fine-tune your site in a huge amount of different ways.
And there’s depth across the board, so for example, when it comes to templates, you don’t just get a scattering of predefined sites, but more than 500 of them. You’ll often find that you’re spoilt for choice with Wix.
Other powerful features include an integrated image editor with tons of Instagram-style filters, and a raft of ecommerce templates to boot (note that Wix doesn’t levy transactions fees on your sales, either, unlike some rivals).
Wix even has a free plan, although that limits bandwidth and storage space (to 500MB) and puts branding on your site. Step up to the Unlimited plan, which is the most popular subscription, and you get 10GB of storage plus a free domain, unlimited bandwidth (as the name suggests) alongside $75 (£50) worth of Google Ad vouchers.
- Most popular Wix Unlimited plan (unlimited bandwidth, 10GB storage)
- Wix VIP plan (Professional site review, Email campaigns)
- Wix eCommerce plan (online store, 20GB storage)
- Wix Connect Domain (Wix banner ads, 1GB bandwidth, 0.5GB storage)
Powerful drag-and-drop website builder
SSL Security: Yes | Drag and drop builder: Yes | Search credits: $75 | Free SEO tools: Yes
Like Wix, Weebly is another giant in the website building arena, and it also gives you the option of a free plan – albeit one that’s similarly limited to 500MB of storage. You’ll also get adverts on your site, so if you want to be free of Weebly-imposed ads, you’ll need to move up to the entry-level paid plan which costs $6.80 (£5) per month.
The Starter package has no ads or storage limits, and you also get a free domain. Furthermore, what’s quite nifty for those thinking of selling stuff online is that there’s also support for a web store (albeit a basic one containing a maximum of 10 products).
The chunkier plans give you a ton of features allowing you to build a high-end web store with support for coupons, customer reviews, inventory management – the top-of-the-range Performance plan also caters for gift cards, abandoned carts and email campaigns (it cost $35 or £26 per month).
Weebly’s range of stylish website templates are a real boon, but there are a few niggles here with the editor interface, such as the lack of a general undo function. Still, the slight downsides don’t detract from this well-featured website building service.
Also check out our other hosting roundups:
- Best free web hosting
- Best cloud hosting providers
- Best Linux web hosting services
- Best e-commerce hosting
- Best dedicated server hosting
- Best small business web hosting
- Best Windows hosting services
- Best green web hosting
- Best business web hosting
- Best colocation hosting
- Best email hosting providers
- Best VPS hosting providers
- Best web hosting resellers
- Best CDN providers
The importance of getting the best web hosting:
Today, e-commerce has become a massively lucrative channel for retailers. However, the quality of the hosting services that many small businesses are using often leaves a lot to be desired. A recent report showed that one in three Britons have abandoned their online transactions because of poor website design and inefficient hosting.
Research from hosting company 1&1's '2011 Digital High Street Audit' finds worryingly low levels of consumer satisfaction with the small business websites available to them. The risk to firms from providing a bad online experience is clear – 49% of consumers believe that a bad website makes a worse impact than a business having no website at all. This conclusion has led 37% to walk-away from companies completely, in favour of using a competitor. An additional 9% of Britons have found themselves reducing their spend with small companies as a direct result of being deterred by a poor company website.
Oliver Mauss, CEO, 1&1 Internet said: "Research shows that keeping an ugly or badly functioning website online can comprise a risk to sales revenue. Consumers have ever higher expectations, and it is essential that every company website inspires confidence. Businesses that invest carefully in their web experience will see higher levels of customer spend, retention and referral".
Choosing the right server to host your website
The hosting services your business can choose from will usually mean making a decision whether a shared, dedicated or cloud based server is right for your business. Very small businesses will usually opt for a shared or managed service as these are sometimes called. Costs are low, but your business will be sharing its server with several other enterprises.
"Businesses that invest carefully in their web experience will see higher levels of customer spend, retention and referral". Oliver Mauss, CEO, 1&1 Internet
A dedicated server as its name suggests is just one server reserved for your business. Dedicated servers are not as expensive as they once were and can make economic sense if you want your business to have its own server platform and not have to worry about other businesses on a shared server impacting your online business if they have problems.
It is important to look closely at the service level (SLA) that will be attached to your dedicated server. Look for any additional costs such as maintenance, or other 'extras' that are not covered in the rental cost. And lastly, try and buy server space that you can expand into. You don't want to find after a few months that you have outgrown your server and need to move to a new one.
Lastly as the cloud has made a major impact right across the business environment, business website hosting has also been touched by the cloud and now offers an alternative to the traditional hosting methods. The power of cloud hosting is the flexibility it offers. In effect your business can buy just the space and hosting services it needs now and expand at anytime with no disruption to business.
Abby Hardoon, Founder and MD of second generation web hosting company Daily.co.uk says: "Hosting is very much a horses for courses thing - it's a question of getting the best and most appropriate solution that you can afford. There's no need to hamstring yourself financially, though. If you're just starting out or you're a relatively small business and you know your way around a server, you might like to consider a Virtual Private Server (VPS), for example - they provide the flexibility of a dedicated server but at a reduced cost.
Your business hosting checklist
There's more to choosing a web host than just choosing the right server, you should also consider other parts of the service including the domain name. Business host PEER 1 Hosting offered this advice when choosing a hosting service for your business:
1. Get the right domain name host
A search for 'domain name registrations' on Google generates a number of different companies offering this service. Always read the small print on any domain name registration to ensure it is not going to be sold from under your feet in a year, once your website is established, or that the price isn't going to suddenly go up. If you have a very common name or are in a competitive market then it is worth considering buying the other domain name extensions (.co.uk, .com, .net etc) and pointing them to your website.
2. Do you host with your web designers or a third-party?
Once you have your website built you then have to find a home for your data to be hosted. Many web design companies offer this as part of their service, however this locks your online business into one company. Choosing a separate web host gives you more control and means that you are dealing with the web host directly instead of through a third party. This can come in handy if you anticipate spikes of traffic, perhaps as a result of a marketing campaign, and you need the host to ensure your site does not collapse under this extra pressure.
3. Read the contract small print
Many hosting providers will give you an all-in fee for set-up, hardware, operating system, support and bandwidth. This may seem like an easy option but the problem with these deals is you can't see exactly where your money is going, and so can't see if you're paying for things you don't need. The best way to ensure you're not taken for a ride is to ask for a breakdown of services and individual quotes for support, bandwidth, additional hardware etc. It's the only way to know what's being delivered, what isn't, and what is surplus to requirements.
Often overlooked the hosting services you buy for your online business are vital to get right. Consumers that have become highly critical of the online stores they buy from want to see solid websites that perform efficiently and are available on demand. The right hosting service can ensure your business becomes a destination site in its sector that your customers are sure to shout about right across their social networks.