Businesses and website creators need the best web hosting service to boost the performance of their sites, and because we know this, we've combed through over 160 hosts to find the best of the best.
During our web hosting service tests, we analyze product ranges, compare control panels, explore their tools, build a site or two, try out each customer support option, and run some in-depth uptime and speed tests.
We know that's a little time consuming, that's why our team of expert reviewers have done all of the hard work already. We've also tried and tested each web host on features such as ease of use, price, trustworthiness, and more, by buying domain names and setting up test websites to host on each web hosting platform listed below.
From the over 160 web hosting and website builder (opens in new tab) providers we've reviewed extensively on our site, we've carefully picked the twelve best web hosting providers, compared their strengths, weaknesses, pricing, in order for you to make a more informed decision on which host is best for your online needs.
In this article we're focusing on general consumer and small business web hosting providers, but if that’s not quite what you need, we also have specialist guides on the best free web hosting (opens in new tab), best cheap web hosting (opens in new tab), best WordPress hosting (opens in new tab), best email hosting (opens in new tab), best ecommerce hosting (opens in new tab), best dedicated server hosting (opens in new tab), and more.
Best web hosting services - our top 3
1. Bluehost is the best overall web hosting service (opens in new tab)
While the competition is cut-throat, Bluehost (opens in new tab) continues to impress in almost every aspect, delivering the complete package of speed, security, versatility, and most importantly, superb reliability for just $2.75 per month.
2. Hostinger's Premium shared hosting (opens in new tab)
Hostinger (opens in new tab) gives TechRadar Pro readers the chance to get an additional discount on Premium shared hosting, at just $2.59 per month for a 12-month subscription. It includes 100 GB SSD storage, a free domain, free SSL and a free email.
3. Hostgator has the best shared hosting service (opens in new tab)
Hostgator (opens in new tab) has surprised us with an exclusive offer that delivers some of the best shared hosting features we've seen for a very long time, with a slew of freebies like domain names, an SSL certificate and marketing money from only $2.64 per month.
The best web hosting services of 2022(opens in new tab)
Bluehost (opens in new tab) tops our web hosting provider scoreboard for its vast range of feature-packed plans, easy setup, reliable network and great live chat support to help keep your site running smoothly.
We tested its 10GB single-site shared hosting plan, which we recommend for hosting newbies as it costs $2.75 a month billed annually ($9.99 on renewal), and offers a website builder, WordPress integration, free CDN, and a free domain and SSL for the first year. Upgrading gets you unlimited sites and storage, automated backups and assorted other extras (depending on the plan.)
Bluehost's starter WordPress plans are priced the same, but with important feature tweaks. WordPress comes preinstalled, so you can start right away. We used the Bluehost Marketplace to find gorgeous themes, feature-packed plugins and more. We were able to manage multiple WordPress sites from an easy-to-use web dashboard, although the expert live chat support agents were not the fastest to respond, we got the help we needed once they were active. Another downside to note is that Bluehost has no monthly billing options and you can only commit to a minimum of one year for its hosting plans.
If you're looking for something a little simpler, Bluehost's Website Builder (priced from $2.95 a month billed annually) enables building good-looking sites by little more than dragging and dropping. It's super-easy to use, yet so powerful that the top plans ($24.95 a month billed annually) can even build feature-packed web stores.
There's plenty to like here for experts, too, from value VPS and configurable dedicated hosting, to hosted WooCommerce plans, business-friendly Google Workspace hosting, domain registration, and even migration support to easily move an existing site to your Bluehost account.
Read more about Bluehost
- Read our in-depth Bluehost web hosting review (opens in new tab) to find out why it's the best web hosting service overall
- If you are torn between two web hosting providers, read our Bluehost vs HostGator (opens in new tab)
or Bluehost vs GoDaddy (opens in new tab) comparison articles to help you make up your mind
- We also have a Bluehost vs TSOhost (opens in new tab) article where we compare both hosting providers to help you narrow your search
- Also check out our detailed Bluehost domain registration service review (opens in new tab)
Hostinger (opens in new tab) sells itself on value, and two or three seconds into checking it out, the service specs reveal why. Its starter All-In-One package is only $2.99 billed annually ($8.99 on renewal), but gets you 100GB storage, unmetered traffic, free SSL, a free domain for year one, support for 100 websites, a choice of six data centers, automatic backups, managed WordPress, 1GB email storage, a virus scanner, spam filter and more.
Hostinger doesn’t bury a host of hidden catches in the small print, either. SSL won't cost you extra after year one, for instance: it's free for the lifetime of your account.
Hostinger's WordPress support is a major highlight. If you're just looking to run a small blog, the baseline account supports a single site, 30GB of storage, 100GB of monthly bandwidth and free SSL from as little as $1.99 a month on the four-year account (a bargain $95.52 up-front), rising to $3.99 on renewal.
Three further WordPress plans add more features, but even the business-friendly WordPress Pro account (with support for 300 websites, 200GB storage, unlimited bandwidth, daily backups, Cloudflare CDN and more) is still only $11.59 a month on the four-year plan, $19.99 on renewal.
Although, unlike Bluehost, Hostinger doesn't offer dedicated hosting plans, which is perhaps an issue for business users who need the fastest possible speeds. But its cloud hosting plans give you dedicated system resources, which the company claims can deliver 4x times great speeds.
And a wide range of VPS plans get close to dedicated servers in power, with the $77.99 a month high-end plan offering an 8-core, 16GB RAM monster with an enterprise-level 12TB of monthly bandwidth. Our test proved this web host to be a top quality provider.
Read more about Hostinger
- Read our Hostinger web hosting review (opens in new tab) for a more in-depth look at its features, pricing and more
- We've put two of the top European web hosting providers, Hostinger and SiteGround (opens in new tab), head to head to see which is better
- If you want to know how Hostinger compares to Bluehost, which currently holds the spot for of the best web hosting service, check out our Bluehost vs Hostinger (opens in new tab) comparison article
With 20+ years in the business, HostGator (opens in new tab) has grown into a top-notch web hosting provider with products for every level of user.
Similar to both Bluehost and Hostinger, shared hosting is a highlight for HostGator, with even the cheapest Hatching plan offering unlimited bandwidth and disk space, a free domain for a year, free SSL for the lifetime of your plan, one-click WordPress installation and a bundled website builder. There's a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, and HostGator will even move a simple website from your existing site to your new space, for free.
Prices are good too, at $2.75 a month on the three-year plan, $3.95 billed annually (both renew at $6.95.)
HostGator's WordPress plans are a little more expensive, with prices starting from $5.95 a month over three years ($9.95 on renewal), but they also add essential features such as backups and malware protection, which are often paid extras elsewhere.
More demanding users can choose from three VPS and three dedicated hosting plans, and if you’re the ambitious type, you could even start your own hosting business via HostGator's reseller plans.
Their high-end products aren't as configurable as we've seen elsewhere, and starting prices are relatively high, but specs are good, and you'll likely have more than enough power for most sites. HostGator also only guarantees 99.9% uptime on cloud hosting plans.
Nevertheless, whatever type of hosting you're after, the industry-standard cPanel combined with HostGator's own feature-packed web dashboard, did a good job of helping manage our web space and account. And if you do run into trouble, no problem: HostGator's phone and live chat support has solved most of our problems within minutes.
Read more about HostGator
- Read our detailed HostGator web hosting review (opens in new tab) to find out more about its performance and site management capabilities
- When it comes to affordable, high-quality web hosting, find out which provider takes the win in our comparison article: HostGator vs Hostinger (opens in new tab)
US-based GoDaddy (opens in new tab) is a web hosting giant with an absolutely huge range of products. There's shared, VPS and dedicated hosting; WordPress support covering everything from simple personal blogs to full-featured WooCommerce-powered web stores; an easy-to-use website builder, email and Microsoft 365 hosting, digital marketing tools, domain registration, payment processing, point-of-sale systems, and the list goes on (and on, and on.)
GoDaddy has a decent range of four shared hosting plans. All include a choice of data centers in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific; daily backups, and unusual extras such as free Microsoft 365 mailboxes for the first year. But they look a little underpowered in other areas: the lower two plans have no free SSL, and the cheapest paid SSL certificate is $94.99 a year.
Shared hosting prices are higher than most, too, with the single site 100GB Economy plan costing $5.99 a month on the three-year plan, $8.99 on renewal. But GoDaddy's billing is surprisingly flexible, and if you're confident you'll like the service, you can lock in those savings with a five and even a ten-year plan. We found the shared hosting has below-par server response times, which was not the best experience during our tests because it took longer to solve the hosting issue we encountered.
We found GoDaddy delivers a high quality service for your money, too. The well-designed web dashboard is easy to use; an automated installer sets up WordPress and 150+ other top web apps in a click or two; and the industry-standard cPanel has every tool you'll need to manage your web space.
This all worked well for us, but if you do need help, GoDaddy more than delivers with its detailed knowledge base, and multilingual live chat and phone support available in a very impressive 15+ languages.
Read more about GoDaddy
- Read our GoDaddy review (opens in new tab) for a complete overview of the web hosting provider's performance and capabilities
Founded in California back in 2008, GreenGeeks (opens in new tab) proudly claims to be the ‘world's #1 green energy web hosting provider’, and this isn't just marketing speak: the company takes real action to back it up.
This doesn't just involve designing its platform to be as energy-efficient as possible; GreenGeeks also promises that for every amperage it uses, it invests three times that in renewable energy, helping to reduce future carbon emissions.
GreenGeeks' star products are its powerful shared hosting plans. Even the cheapest offers unmetered bandwidth, a free domain for a year, nightly backups, 50 email accounts, multi-user access, and free SSL for the lifetime of the account. Prices start low at $2.95 a month on the three-year plan, although they jump to an above-average $10.95 on renewal.
GreenGeeks' VPS and dedicated server plans are available for high traffic sites. These look a little more expensive than most providers, but that's largely because they don't have any '70% off for the first year'-type introductory offer. But they're well specified - even the baseline $39.95 a month 2GB plan includes 10TB of monthly traffic - and deliver far better performance than the shared offerings. Similar to GoDaddy, we also experienced delayed responses when testing GreenGeeks.
During our test, we found that GreenGeeks didn't quite match the top hosting providers in every area. There are multiple data centers, for instance, but only in North America and Europe. Phone support is limited to 9am-12am EST Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm at weekends. But on balance this is a likable service which shows that green hosting isn't just about making eco-friendly gestures: you can find some capable products, too.
Read more about GreenGeeks
- Read our GreenGeeks review (opens in new tab) for a complete look at the hosting provider's features, capabilities, support and more
InMotion Hosting (opens in new tab) is a popular provider with 20+ years of hosting experience, and an impressive array of plans covering all kinds of applications.
This starts with capable shared, website builder and WordPress products. There's free SSL and prices start from only $2.49 a month for three years’ service ($8.99 on renewal.)
But InMotion offers plenty more, from configurable VPS plans, to powerful dedicated servers, and enterprise-level hosted private cloud solutions. However demanding your website might be, InMotion Hosting has the power to help.
InMotion’s reseller hosting should appeal to anyone who wants to take a stab at becoming a web hosting provider. 80GB of SSD storage and 800GB of bandwidth can be yours from only $15.39 a month on the two-year plan. We were able to divide this between up to 25 customers. Everyone gets cPanel to help manage their web space, and the bundled WHMCS manages all the accounts and billing for you.
If you're feeling ambitious, upgrading gets you more storage, bandwidth and cPanel accounts. You can resell more powerful VPS plans from $39.99 a month, and WordPress VPS hosting gets you a 4GB RAM, 2 CPU VPS with five cPanel licenses for only $19.99 a month.
Whatever your preference, InMotion works harder than most to help keep your site running smoothly. There's 24/7 phone, email and live chat support, tickets, a support website, even a community forum to chat with others. And if it still doesn't work out, most plans are protected by a market-leading 90 day money-back guarantee period.
Read more about InMotion Hosting
- Read our InMotion Hosting review (opens in new tab) for more details on its account management panel, WordPress hosting offerings and more
- To help you narrow down your options, read our InMotion Hosting vs SiteGround (opens in new tab) comparison article
Domain.com (opens in new tab) may be best known as a domain registrar, but it also offers surprisingly capable shared hosting, and one or two more powerful services than you might expect.
Its easy-to-use website builder is ideal for web design newbies, in our opinion. Drag and drop pre-built sections and page layouts to construct your site, and add a blog, contact form, social media sharing tools and more. Every site gets free SSL for the lifetime of the account. Prices start at a tiny $1.99 a month ($4.99 on renewal) for a simple six-page site, while the eCommerce plan supports unlimited pages and building some professional web stores for only $12.99 ($14.99 on renewal.)
Shared hosting is fair value, with prices starting at $3.75 a month billed annually (there's no monthly option), $4.99 on renewal, for a single website, with free SSL and unlimited storage. Your web space is managed via a very limited dashboard, not even close to matching cPanel, but it covers the basics and you should have your site up and running fairly quickly.
Domain.com's starter WordPress hosting is short on features, but still delivers unlimited storage, free SSL, and pre-installed plugins and themes from only $3.75 billed annually. What's most interesting is Domain.com's WP Live, which gives you specialist WordPress support and design guidance from $29 a month, while the $149 a month WP Live Pro gets you help optimizing content, your landing page, mobile performance and more. Even if you only sign up for a one-off month, getting professional advice on your initial website design could be a huge plus.
Read more about Domain.com
- Domain.com offers more than just domain registration services. For more on its web hosting service, read our in-depth Domain.com review (opens in new tab)
Liquid Web (opens in new tab) is an expert provider of high-end managed hosting solutions for everything from email to WordPress, WooCommerce, VPS, dedicated and assorted other cloud products.
Unlike the more consumer-oriented competition, Liquid Web doesn't focus on cutting corners to hit some spectacular headline price. Instead, it builds fast and top-quality products first, and then just charges you whatever they happen to be worth.
Take Liquid Web's VPS plans, for instance. They're crammed with high-end features (Linux or Windows hosting, Plesk and cPanel management, root access, DDoS protection, Cloudflare CDN, and more), and the website claims they're also faster than AWS, Rackspace or Digital Ocean. Would you expect them to be cheaper than everyone else? Of course not.
The service quality is obvious, everywhere you look. Your host has three or four data centers? Liquid Web has ten. Most providers claim 99.9% uptime; Liquid Web quotes 99.999%. The company doesn't just make vague promises about speedy support; its Service Level Agreement guarantees a live chat or telephone response time of under 59 seconds, with hosting credits if this doesn't happen.
All this power comes at a cost, and Liquid Web's baseline prices are higher than most competitors. But they're also fair value for the quality of the service, and still very affordable.
Liquid Web's one site, 15GB managed WordPress plan is $15.83 a month billed annually, for instance, almost eight times the price of Hostinger's starter WordPress product. But it's also faster, more capable and with way more professional features, and if that's more important to you than price, Liquid Web's plan might be the real bargain.
Read more about Liquid Web
- Read our Liquid Web review (opens in new tab) that includes the full rundown of its products and offerings, as well as a detailed breakdown of Liquid Web's pricing
Namecheap (opens in new tab) was founded way back in 2000 as a domain registrar, but over the years it's grown to offer a vast range of products and services. We're not just talking 'domains with some basic shared hosting on the side': Namecheap also has WordPress, VPS, dedicated and reseller accounts, business email hosting, spam filtering, premium DNS, cloud storage, a CDN, even a VPN. There's a good chance you could find all the web-related products you need on Namecheap's site.
Plans are generally good value, with low starting prices and some unexpected features. Shared hosting is priced from $2.18 a month billed annually ($4.48 on renewal), for instance. The catch is SSL comes free for the first year only. But pluses include free site migration, a CDN, a domain for a year with website privacy, twice weekly backups, and support for hosting up to three websites (many budget plans limit you to one.)
It's a similar story of value products with unexpected features in Namecheap's WordPress hosting. Even the company's most expensive plan (EasyWP Supersonic) is only $4.57 a month billed annually ($9.07 on renewal), but that gets you a site capable of 500K visitors a month, with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and a free CDN for the best possible performance.
We found that Namecheap's VPS and dedicated products aren't quite as competitive. Prices are reasonable and there are plenty of configuration options, but they don't cover every need (there's no Windows hosting, for instance.) But even here, Namecheap generally does a good job, and overall it's a great hosting provider for those on a tight budget.
Read more about Namecheap
- Read our Namecheap web hosting review (opens in new tab) for detailed information about its ease of use, speed and experience plus more
Hostwinds (opens in new tab) is a capable web hosting provider with some very configurable products which work for home and more demanding business users.
Shared hosting is priced from only $3.74 a month on the three-year plan, for instance (renewing at $4.99.) But a decent set of features includes free SSL, a free dedicated IP, a website builder, and easy WordPress installation. And optional extras include Hostwinds Monitoring, where the company monitors your site, and automatically opens a ticket if the site is down. (That's $24 a year, but if it gets your site back up more quickly, that could be a price worth paying.) When it comes to keeping our website secure, we found Hostwinds plans come with free SSL, which is used to verify the identity of a website and to encrypt information sent to and from the site.
Hostwinds plans become even more configurable as you head up the range. VPS hosting is available in both Linux and Windows flavors, for example, and in managed (Hostwinds maintains the server for you) and cheaper unmanaged (you handle the technical stuff yourself) forms. One downside that we think you should be aware of is the fact that Hostwinds offers a very short two-day refund period for subscriptions under 12 months.
Hostwinds really excels with its dedicated server range. Prices start at $122 a month for a single CPU, four cores, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD system with 10TB of outbound traffic. That's already enough for many tasks, but Hostwinds has much more: you can choose from 13 base servers, then add up to ten SSD or HDD storage devices, use from 8 to 32GB RAM, opt for your favorite Linux distro (or Windows server), and set your bandwidth allowance to anything from 10TB to unmetered.
Add one or two optional extras (backups are $1 a month plus storage costs, Hostwinds Monitoring is just $2 a month) and you'll have a capable system ready for even the most business-critical tasks.
Read more about Hostwinds
- Read our detailed Hostwinds web hosting review (opens in new tab) for information on its setup process, support and other capabilities
- We have a head-on contrast between Hostwinds and HostGator (opens in new tab) so you can narrow down and pick the best web hosting provider for you
Some web hosts target the consumer market, others go for businesses, but DreamHost (opens in new tab) is a little more ambitious: its range of plans are designed to appeal to just about everybody.
WordPress hosting starts at just $2.59 a month on the three year plan, for instance ($5.99 on renewal), yet still includes free SSL and unlimited traffic. But if you need more, there's a smooth upgrade path through a WordPress Unlimited plan (unlimited websites and email for $3.95 a month), managed WordPress plans for extra speed and reliability, even WordPress VPS plans for maximum performance.
It's much the same with DreamHost's stand-alone VPS plans. Prices start at $10 a month for a decent feature set (free SSL, unlimited websites and traffic), but you can also upgrade to $20, $40 and $80 a month plans to get more system resources and support more heavy-duty sites.
DreamHost also offers capable email hosting. You might think you have email already with other providers, but that isn't necessarily true. This doesn't necessarily come with all domain registrations or shared hosting packages, and even if you get email, it may be more basic than you think (a 1GB or 2GB inbox, for instance.)
DreamHost's email package goes beyond the basics with a spacious 25GB Inbox. It's IMAP-powered, so you can view the same incoming and outgoing messages from all your devices. Built-in spam filtering blocks junk mail, malware and phishing attacks, and the whole package can be yours for only $1.99 a month billed monthly, or $1.67 if you pay for a year up-front, although, with the lack of phone support, you might find it a tad bit slower to get your site up and running should you run into some complications along the way.
Read more about DreamHost
- Read our in-depth Dreamhost review (opens in new tab) for more information on its servers and WordPress capabilities
- We have a comparison article to help you choose between InMotion Hosting and DreamHost (opens in new tab)
Just about every web host claims to offer a WordPress plan, but these are often little more than their shared hosting plan with some minor tweaks (they'll preinstall it for you, rather than leave you to install it in a couple of clicks.)
WP Engine (opens in new tab)'s plans are built for WordPress from the bottom up, with easier setup and migration, reliable and automatic WordPress updates, extra security features, specialist performance optimizations, valuable troubleshooting features and more.
The difference is obvious. Lesser providers may give you free themes, but they're often basic offerings you'll never want to use. WP Engine throws in 10 gorgeous StudioPress themes, premium products with real value (StudioPress asks $360 a year to access all its themes.)
Staging is another WP Engine benefit. We found that when we were changing themes, adding site features or just making a few updates, the Staging area allows safely testing these on a copy of our site, before we put them live. Other advantages include safer WordPress updates, while integrated performance tests run checks on your website and offer useful speedup tips.
If you don't need all this functionality, it could be a little overwhelming. The WP Engine interface is well laid out, but it's stuffed with tools and options, and this is likely to mean a steep learning curve for inexperienced users.
Prices are above average, too, with even the most basic WP Engine plan costing $25 a month billed annually, around three times the cost of the budget competition. But if you're looking for an optimized environment, with quality tools and excellent support, this could be a price worth paying.
Read more about WP Engine
- Read our detailed WP Engine review (opens in new tab) for a closer look at its features, interface and performance capabilities
How we test the best web hosting services
Our reviewers test each web hosting service (opens in new tab) by signing up and purchasing a plan to check out what each web hosting provider offers new users, as well as how easy it is to navigate around each brand’s dashboard. We pay a great deal of attention to the support that is offered to you.
We weigh up the details of what you get, (as well as what you don't) and rank each web hosting provider based on the quality of its features that many customers will use, and how clear the web hosting company is on what the customer is getting in every product.
Because we know it’s important to pick a web hosting company you can trust, we focus on whether each web hosting provider presents its products in an honest, clear and transparent way. In our tests, this is easy to pick up on as we compare the list of features each company claims it offers, to what we actually have access to once we begin using their service.
Lastly, our web host speed tests are generally based on the cheapest shared hosting plan available from a provider.
We then upload a basic static site to our web space, including HTML and CSS files and some images, and configure Uptime.com to check the availability and server response time of our site at five-minute intervals. This gives us a general indication of the speed and uptime you are likely going to experience when you finally make a decision on the best web hosting provider for you.
Each web hosting provider below has been selected based on it being at the top of its game for one aspect of web hosting service or another. From shared hosting to reseller hosting, we have put together the best of the best for you to find a web hosting company that suits your individual needs.
Should you need more tips on buying a web hosting service, what the different types of hosting services are, or how to choose the best web hosting service for you, scroll down to the bottom of this page for all this and more.
How to choose a web hosting provider
The web hosting world is stuffed with cryptic-sounding jargon, and it’s very hard to avoid. Even deciding which type of plan you need requires a little knowledge of technical terms (what’s a VPS, again?) But, don’t panic: this is a lot simpler than it looks at first.
In reality, although it helps to learn a few hosting basics before you go shopping, you don’t have to spend any time on the technical details. If all you know about hosting is shared products are slow but cheap; VPS plans are faster and a little more expensive; and dedicated hosting is fastest but can cost huge amounts, then you’re already off to a very good start. It's also worth mentioning that customer support is a very important factor when it comes to choosing the right web hosting service for you. After all, if you're a beginner, you'll want the security of knowing your chosen provider will be able to give you quick and useful solutions to your queries.
Of course, it helps if you can go a little further than that, which is why in this guide we’ll break down the types of hosting you can get, explain who they’re for and give you a little buying advice. It won’t hurt - we promise - and by the end you’ll have a much better idea of the hosting you need, and what to look for when you’re checking out a provider.
Best web hosting service FAQs
What are web hosting services?
If you've found yourself asking "What is a web hosting service and how does it work?" we've written a detailed explanation with all the information you need to help you understand the service before picking the right one for your website needs.
In a nutshell, web hosting is a service that makes your site or web application accessible on the internet - and is generally considered as one of the most important elements needed when building a website of any sort.
Web hosts maintain and run physical servers that house websites, and there's lots to choose from depending on your website's needs and your budget.
From shared hosting, to VPS and WordPress hosting - the type of server space that you rent to store your website's data can be specifically tailored depending on the web hosting service you choose and what package you select from the provider.
What is shared hosting?
Shared hosting is a simple scheme where multiple websites are stored on the same web server (a type of computer.)
Sign up for a shared hosting plan and your provider allocates you some space on the server. You can then access that space to install WordPress, WooCommerce or some other app, or just upload a site of your own. Buy a domain like MySite.com, set it up to point to the web space, and your site becomes available to the outside world.
One benefit of shared hosting is its simplicity. You don't have to spend any time maintaining the server, because your provider does that. All you need to do is work on your own site.
Sharing a web server means sharing the costs, too, and with sometimes hundreds of websites on the same server, that usually means rock-bottom prices.
The big problem with shared hosting is you’re also sharing your server's system resources: CPU time, RAM, storage and network connection. There's only so much to go around, and the more sites on your server, the slower and less dependable your own website is likely to be.
Shared hosting is still the best choice in many situations. If you're creating a simple blog, a site for family, a local club, anything with very light traffic where no-one will care much if the site is a little slow occasionally, the shared option is ideal. It's very easy to use, and you can get decent plans from many providers for around $2 to $4 a month.
But if this is something more important, a web store, maybe a business site, then a slow or unreliable website will drive visitors away. It’s well worth upgrading to something more powerful.
What is VPS hosting?
VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting is a clever technology which divides a single physical server into multiple server environments.
Log onto a VPS and you'll have access to what looks like the full server. This is far more complex than shared hosting, but it also gives you much more control. You can install any apps, tweak any server settings, even replace the entire operating system if you like.
There will be other VPS environments on the same physical server (though not as many other accounts as with shared hosting), reducing your performance a little. But you'll have your own allocation of network bandwidth, RAM, storage and CPU time. These won't be shared with other customers, which means your site should see higher and more consistent speeds than you'll get with shared hosting.
Upgrading is often very easy, too. If website traffic grows and you need additional resources - more CPU time, extra RAM, a higher bandwidth allowance - then you can typically add them to your plan in a click or two, and they'll be available almost immediately.
This extra power comes at a price, but it might be much less than you think. Hostinger's cheapest shared hosting plan is $1.99 a month on the four-year plan; its cheapest VPS plan is just $2.99, again over four years. It's a very basic plan, but at $8.99 for a one-off month, it's not expensive to see if a VPS could work for you.
What is dedicated hosting?
As the name suggests, dedicated hosting is a plan where a physical server is dedicated to a single client. That means no more speed issues because you're sharing bandwidth, RAM or CPU time with other accounts: the entire system is yours alone.
As you're renting the entire physical server, most providers allow you to build it with whatever hardware you need. You can typically choose your CPU, storage drives and type (cheap and high capacity HDDs, smaller but faster SSDs), operating system, bandwidth allowance and more. If you've the cash, you're often able to build some hugely powerful systems (Hostwinds' top-of-the-range dedicated server supports up to ten hard drives, for instance, if you can think of a reason to use them.)
This can be expensive. Even budget providers like Namecheap charge a monthly $50-$60 for their most basic dedicated servers, and Liquid Web's top-of-the-range enterprise models might cost $500 or more (although they're aimed at huge sites which might have a million page views a month.)
There's more work involved in managing a dedicated server, too. With shared hosting, if your server crashes, the provider support team should notice and fix or reboot it. But if you're running the server, all that is up to you, unless you pay even more to the provider to handle it for you (see 'What is managed hosting?')
If you absolutely need top performance and complete control of your server, though, a dedicated plan is probably the way to go.
What is WordPress hosting?
WordPress is a popular free platform which makes it easy to build all kinds of websites, from a simple one-page offering, to a blog, a professional business site, even a full web store.
Many web hosting providers offer WordPress plans which simplify the process of setting up your site, and often include tools to boost speeds and keep the site running more smoothly.
Buy a plan and WordPress usually comes pre-installed, for example, so you won't have to set it up yourself. WP Engine throws in some stylish WordPress themes, allowing you to create a gorgeous-looking site even if you've zero design skills. And most plans make at least some effort to automatically update WordPress with new patches as they arrive, reducing your site maintenance hassles.
If your WordPress needs are very simple, you may not need a specialist WordPress hosting plan. Most shared hosting plans have easy WordPress installation and a handful of other relevant features, and Hostinger's All-In-One shared hosting product gives you all kinds of valuable extras - automated updates, a WordPress site-building wizards, performance accelerators, more - from as little as $2.99 a month.
What is managed hosting?
Shared hosting accounts are generally very simple to operate, but higher end products - WordPress, VPS hosting, dedicated servers - often require running all kinds of maintenance tasks. You might need to test and update WordPress plugins, install operating system patches, spot and troubleshoot server errors, maybe reboot a server if it locks up or crashes.
Buy a managed web hosting plan and some or all of these tasks will be carried out by your hosting provider's regular support team. You'll potentially save real time and hassle, and if problems do crop up, they'll be speedily addressed by the people best qualified to fix them.
Sounds great-- so why would anyone do anything else? Cost, mostly. Hostwinds' 4-core 8GB RAM VPS costs $59.99 fully managed, for instance, but only $38.99 for the unmanaged DIY version, a big drop in price.
One key message here is to keep this in mind when comparing WordPress, VPS or dedicated plans between hosting providers. Host A may look seriously cheap, but are you comparing a managed with an unmanaged plan? Be sure to check the small print.
There's no precise definition of 'managed', either, so don't simply assume a managed plan means you'll have absolutely no maintenance to do. Every provider has its own definition of what's covered and what isn't, so check it out, make sure you understand exactly what's covered before you buy.
What is email hosting?
One of the big advantages of registering a domain is you can have your own custom email address (Steve@thebestbuilder.com is far more impressive and business-like than email@example.com.) But it's not always as easy as you might expect.
You probably won't get email when you register a domain, for instance. Most hosting plans include some email support, but it may not be as powerful as you need, especially for business use. You'll often see strict limits on Inbox size, the number of accounts you can create, even the number of emails you can send a day.
Email hosting is a service which allows you to send and receive emails via a custom domain. You don't have to buy email hosting from the same provider as your web hosting, and in fact you don't need web hosting at all: just register a domain, buy an email hosting plan and you're ready to start creating and using all those firstname.lastname@example.org email accounts.
Signing up for email hosting may get you a better service. The top providers give you plenty of Inbox space, support large attachments, don't hold you back with annoying usage limits and provide built-in spam, phishing and malware filters to keep you safe.
This could be a feature well worth adding to your hosting line-up, and it's generally inexpensive; many email hosting plans cost around $1-$2.50 a month. But if you currently have a budget shared hosting plan, keep in mind that upgrading might get you better email features and a bunch of other goodies, too. Check your provider's hosting feature lists to find out exactly what you get.
What web hosting features do I need?
Everyone has their own individual hosting priorities, and we can't tell you exactly what you'll need and what you won't. But we can give you some general rules that will point you in the right direction.
Unlimited (or unmetered) disk space and bandwidth sounds great, and all that really matters is you've enough for your site, and that may be much less than you think. Web host Kinsta reported (opens in new tab) that its clients' WordPress sites averaged only around 1GB in size, for instance. If that's you, paying for 'unlimited' space won't bring any benefits at all.
Your website almost certainly needs an SSL certificate to enable secure encrypted connections with visitors, and avoid the worrying 'insecure' warnings they'll get if you're SSL-free. Most plans offer free SSL, but check the small print: occasionally SSL comes free for the first year only, and you'll have to pay after that.
Many web hosting plans include a free domain name, a tempting sweetener if you don't have one already. But beware, it's typically only free for a year, and then you'll pay the provider's standard renewal fees. Dot com domain renewals don't vary much (an average $10-$20 a year), but it's a different story with others. Bluehost asks $29.99 a year to renew .co.uk domains, for instance, while Namecheap asks $9.48. If you need a domain, check renewal prices to find out the real long-term cost.
Websites can break for all kinds of reasons, and if you want to keep downtime to a minimum, backups are an absolute must. Look for a plan that includes a backup service, and pay attention to frequency: weekly backups might be just about acceptable for sites that never change, but daily backups are much better.
No matter how experienced you are in the web hosting world, you're sure to need support occasionally. Check out your prospective hosts' support site: does it have content on the topics you'd expect, and is this helpful and easy to read? A host should at least have 24/7 live chat support, but telephone, ticket, and email helps, too: there can't be too many ways to get in touch.
What else should I consider when picking a web host?
Three or four-year hosting plans can have appealingly low prices, but they don't always work out. If you're unhappy with a host, or your site grows and the old plan can't handle the increased traffic, you may have to buy something else early. It's safer to sign up for a year (or even less), at least initially, and perhaps choose a VPS or similar plan where it's easy to add more resources as required.
Uptime (the percentage of the day that your website is available) is a key stat for any serious website. If a potential customer can't find or use your website, at best they'll think you're unprofessional, at worst they'll give up on you entirely and go elsewhere.
Web hosting providers often quote uptime figures such as '99.9%', but these don't always cover the issues you might expect. Check the small print carefully for any hidden catches.
Look for a Service Level Agreement (SLA), too, especially for dedicated and other high-end hosting plans. These go beyond vague website promises to guarantee uptime, support response times and other elements of the service, and describe the compensation you'll get if the target is missed.
And if you're looking for more specific advice on one type of hosting in particular, chances are we've an article that can help. Get started with our guides to the Best free web hosting, Best WordPress hosting, Best VPS hosting, Best managed hosting and Best Minecraft server hosting. Each article has links to other guides and reviews where you'll find out more.
Web hosting features explained
If you’re new to web hosting, some of the terms and features may sound confusing. To help you understand them, we’ve come up with a quick explainer for the most common elements in web hosting services:
Domain name. It’s the address people type in their browsers to visit your website, like techradar.com. Many hosting plans include one domain name for free for the first year of registration. Choose a .com domain to establish your credibility or .online for an affordable alternative.
SSL certificate. This feature encrypts the connection between your website and your visitors’ browsers, preventing hackers from accessing it. Hosting providers usually provide one for free from Let’s Encrypt. Some also offer a premium version as an add-on, which can provide a better warranty and level of verification.
Unmetered bandwidth. This means the hosting provider won’t monitor or cap the amount of data transferred, so there’s no need to worry about extra bandwidth usage fees once the website’s traffic grows. Each company has a different policy on unmetered resources, so make sure to read their terms and conditions beforehand.
SSD disk space. Compared to HDDs, SSDs are a much more reliable storage solution. They’re less prone to disk failures and can serve data twenty times faster, speeding up your website’s performance.
cPanel. With this control panel, new users can manage their hosting via an intuitive interface – no technical skills required. You can access different features, check out your resource usage, and configure the domain’s settings within a few clicks.
WordPress auto-installer. This feature lets you set up WordPress in a few clicks from the hosting’s control panel. That way, there’s no need to download and upload the CMS files yourself.
Website migration. Most hosting providers allow transferring an existing site from another host to their servers. Typically, you have to insert some information about the website, submit a ticket to their customer support team, and wait a few hours for the migration to initiate.
Custom HTML and CSS. The control panel should provide access to your website’s files, including HTML and CSS, via the file manager or an FTP client. Feel free to edit them to customize the site’s front end to your liking.