How to Choose the Right Web Hosting
What Is a Cheap Web Host?
Every business—from small sole-proprietorships to sprawling, multimillion-dollar enterprises—needs a website and, therefore, a web host. In an always-connected world, it’s critical to have an online presence that displays at least basic business information. Ideally, you’ll want to be selling products and services, too.
That said, not every business needs an ecommerce presence, and not every company can afford one, either. Sometimes, you just need a simple page listing your hours and location, with maybe a little blogging functionality to keep things interesting—and sometimes that’s all you can afford, too. Cost is a critically important consideration when selecting a web host. But while it’s a truism that you get what you pay for, it’s also true that every penny counts and that there are some great web hosting deals to be had.
First, let’s define web hosts in general. A web host is a company with servers you use to store and deliver the files that make up your website. Large businesses can spend hundreds of dollars each year on dedicated web hosting or virtual private server (VPS) hosting, but there are plenty of web hosts designed specifically for very small businesses, too.
That’s exactly what the services collected here focus on—these are good, functional web hosting companies that will get your website online with the least amount of damage to your wallet. That’s something that we can all appreciate. But how cheap?
Pricing in our list of cheap web hosts is based on the regular monthly or annual prices, with no discounts applied for the starter plans. Some budgets really are that tight, and some projects may not last a year. Our cutoff for inclusion in this table is that a provider must charge no more than $5 per month (after all, some people or companies only need temporary sites) or $50 per year. That’s truly low-cost web hosting. It means that some of our top choices for best overall webhosts, like A2, Hostwinds, and GoDaddy don’t make the price cut. But it also means that some perfectly fine services that don’t appear on any other tables because they don’t make the grade ratings-wise, such as Domain.com and iPower, do show up.
Web hosts that offer both monthly and annual plans are judged in both of those areas. Naturally, if a web host only offers monthly or yearly plans, we adjust our expectations accordingly.
The Cheap Web Hosting Features You’ll Need
Setting up a website with your own domain is easy, and most importantly, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Do you need email, blogging software, email marketing, e-commerce, and file sharing?
Also worth highlighting is the service’s customer support. While it’s nice to have FAQs and forums, when it’s 3 a.m. and your website is inexplicably down, you want someone available right away. Look for 24/7 customer support.
What Cheap Web Hosting Gets You
Cheap web hosting excludes the powerful and relatively pricey dedicated and VPS hosting options. Instead, you’ll need to pick a Shared or WordPress hosting plan.
Shared hosting is a setup in which the hosting company runs multiple websites on a server along with your site. Don’t let the “shared” bit worry you, though, since you can’t peek into anyone else’s files and no one else can touch yours. The benefit? Sharing the server space translates to cheap prices for everyone. The downside? Neighboring sites that consume too many resources may cause your site to run at less than peak performance. They might even crash it from time to time.
Optimized WordPress hosting services let you set up and run a WordPress blog with minimum fuss. If your business website’s primary function is to be a blog, then do your wallet a favor and don’t bother with shared hosting plans or other types of web hosting.
One thing we learned while reviewing web hosting services is that reading the fine print matters, especially if you are concerned about keeping prices low. Many web hosts have several tiers of service, with introductory features in starter packages and expanded offerings in higher-priced plans. Don’t get swayed by the big fonts touting the monthly fee: Make sure that a particular tier actually offers what you need.
Some hosts charge extra for the tools you might use to design your website. Other hosts require you to commit to a three-year hosting agreement in order to get that low per-month price. Or the price is an introductory one, and after a month, you will revert to a higher price. Until you know what features you need and how quickly you plan to grow, don’t commit to annual plans.
Uptime Is Important, Even With a Cheap Web Host
The aforementioned features are valuable to the web hosting experience, but none match the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services. Every customer turned away is a potential sale lost and traffic not monetized.
We’ve recently added uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Even if they excel at all other facets of hosting, services with uptime issues can’t qualify as top services.
You Don’t Have to DIY
If your primary goal is cheap service, and your needs are modest, you do have an alternative to the web hosts listed in this table: website builders. For those who just want a good-looking without any extras—a brochure-ware site, for example—you can skip traditional web hosting and check out website builder services such as Wix and DudaOne.
If you don’t care about having your own domain and don’t want to do a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking, you should really consider one of these online website builders, as they let you create surprisingly attractive yet functional sites hosted under their domains. Furthermore, these services can be incredibly cheap: Some offer free plans, though that generally means you’ll have branding on your site for the website builder’s company. You can often pay to get your own domain, and that generally removes the branding as well. But if you need some control over your domain and need a little bit more functionality, web hosting is the way to go.
Good, Cheap Web Hosting
Not all cheap web hosts are created equal. For example, some have data transfer allotment and storage caps that are worth investigating. Read the fine print for the unlimited offerings, too, as there are sometimes gotchas that might sneak up on you later. Other services limit what applications you can use.
Which web host you select depends entirely on how you plan to use it—and your budget. If you are ready to select a great web hosting service that’s also cheap, click the links below to check out our in-depth reviews of the best names in the space.
If you’re just getting started in the web hosting game, you should also be sure to check out our primers, 5 Things You Need to Know Before Signing Up for Web Hosting, How to Build a Website, and How to Register a Domain Name for Your Site.
Where To Buy
Dreamhost Web Hosting
Pros: Lots of security features.
Extensive domain-management tools.
Good VPS offering.
Unlimited data transfers per month.
Cloud storage plans.
Generous money-back guarantee.
Cons: No site builder.
Lacks Windows-based servers.
May prove intimidating to the uninitiated.
Bottom Line: Dreamhost strikes a near-perfect balance of features and price, but it’s for users who are familiar with website administration.
If you don’t have the tools to build your own site or don’t already have one to migrate, Dreamhost might not be for you.
1&1 Web Hosting
Pros: Rock-solid uptime in testing.
Good customer support.
Offers basic and advanced hosting packages.
Offers Linux- or -Windows-based servers.
Easy-to-use website creation tools.No setup fee.
Cons: WebsiteBuilder Plus tier required to add code to site templates.
Competitors have longer money-back-guarantee periods.
Bottom Line: 1&1 has affordable hosting that comes with a rich variety of website-creation tools, as well as good support and impressive uptime reliability in our testing.
Pros: Stellar uptime.
Excellent dedicated hosting plans.
Good customer service.
Offers a choice of Linux or Windows servers.
Cons: Lacks unlimited email with Windows accounts.
No month-to-month shared hosting plans.
Bottom Line: AccuWeb Hosting has many impressive features, including rock-solid uptime and customer service, but its excellent dedicated hosting plans are where this web host truly shines.
FatCow Web Hosting
Pros: A wide array of hosting types.
Excellent customer service.
Cons: No Windows-based servers.
Bottom Line: Web hosting service FatCow is stable in our testing and has top-notch support.
It’s particularly good at shared and WordPress hosting.
Domain.com Web Hosting
Pros: Good shared and WordPress hosting packages.
Quality customer service.
Multiple website-builder tools.
Cons: No cloud, VPS, dedicated, or reseller server options.
Lacks monthly plans.
Doesn’t offer Windows-based servers.
Bottom Line: Web hosting service Domain.com gives you many tools for setting up an entry-level online destination, but it lacks the advanced tiers of hosting growing sites may eventually want.
Hostinger Web Hosting
Pros: Excellent customer service.
Good uptime in testing.
Cons: No month-to-month hosting plans.
Lacks dedicated hosting.
No Windows-based servers.
Lacks phone support.
Base shared hosting plan offers just one email account.
Bottom Line: Hostinger is a reliable, affordable web host that helps you quickly get your business online.
Unfortunately, it lacks Windows servers, phone support, and dedicated hosting plans.
iPower Web Hosting
Pros: Easy-to-use dashboard.
Simple drag-and-drop Web builder.
Adding a store is a fast and straightforward process.
Cons: Importing an existing WordPress blog is complicated.
Some services require a full-year payment up front.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking to build a relatively simple site, iPower is a fine choice, but you should look elsewhere for more complicated ventures.
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