How to Choose the Right Web Hosting
What Is a Dedicated Web Hosting Server?
Launching a business-focused website is not a simple task, as you must build your online destination with commerce, search engine optimization, security, and other factors in mind. For a rock-solid website foundation that can withstand high traffic volumes and let you install your own scripts, however, a dedicated server is an easy choice—if you can afford one.
Unlike a shared server, which powers multiple sites, a dedicated server hosts just one site. Website stability and reliability are the twin benefits of investing in a dedicated server—your site leverages a server’s full CPU, RAM, and storage resources, as it doesn’t share them with other sites. You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of these benefits in terms of site speed and reliability.
Building your website on a shared server means that your pages may be affected by a neighboring site that devours too many server resources. For example, if that site receives a huge spike in traffic, your pages might load slowly—or not at all. Investing in a dedicated server greatly reduces this potential problem, plus it gives system administrators greater control over the apps and scripts that they can install on the server, too. Shared hosting is far more limited when it comes to what you’re allowed to do, because everything you do could potentially affect the other sites with which you share the server. When you’ve got the server all to yourself, your scripts and apps won’t impinge on anyone else’s bandwidth or RAM.
How Much Does Dedicated Hosting Cost?
Dedicated servers sound pretty great, right? They are. That said, you should be aware of their relatively high prices. Setting up shop on a dedicated server will likely cost you more than $100 per month; shared servers, on the other hand, are far less expensive. The cheapest web hosting services will lease you space on the web for well under $10 per month. In addition, you’ll need to handle firewalls and maintenance yourself unless you opt for a managed server, which costs even more.
Dedicated web hosting isn’t cheap, so you should only consider it if you need that level of server power. If you plan to create a personal blog or a business website that does little more than list your location and hours of operation, shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting, or VPS hosting are sufficient—and more wallet-friendly—options.
You can save a nice chunk of money if you sign up for a year or more of dedicated hosting at a time. For example, you can rent a GoDaddy dedicated server for $129 per month, but if you commit to a 12-month contract, the price drops to $79.99 per month. Chances are, if you’re serious enough about your site that you think it needs a dedicated host, you’re probably planning for it to be up for a year. Of course, that’s where the money-back guarantees come in, and some sites definitely offer more than others in that regard, so do your research. All our web-hosting reviews cover these guarantees.
The Dedicated Hosting Features You’ll Need
A cursory glance at the many web hosting services we’ve listed here reveals many similar-looking offerings, but the discerning eye will identify some subtle differences. You’ll want a dedicated server with significant amounts of disk space—preferably 1TB or more—for storing files. You can typically choose either a traditional hard drive or a solid-state drive as your website’s storage medium. There’s a trade-off, however. Solid-state drives are often faster and more reliable than HDDs, but they cost more money and have smaller storage capacities. Traditional hard drives, on the other hand, have large capacities and lower prices but aren’t quite as resilient as their SSD counterparts. Unless you truly need blazingly fast storage, a traditional hard drive will get the job done.
Ample RAM (5GB or more), e-commerce options for selling products, 24/7 customer service, and unlimited monthly data transfers are highly sought-after features, too. Many web hosts cap their dedicated monthly data transfer offerings at 16GB, which is probably fine for most users. Some web hosts offer unlimited monthly data transfers, but they are few and far between, and you need to read the terms of service very carefully to understand just what “unlimited” means to the host in question. In addition, companies that offer dedicated web hosting typically offer daily backups, security options, and malware detection and removal—all very important factors in your website’s day-to-day operation.
Additionally, you’ll want a web hosting service that offers Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) if you plan to sell products. Here’s why: An SSL connection encrypts the data that travels between your site and users’ web browsers, thus safeguarding the transmission of purchasing information. You’ve probably seen a green padlock in your web browser’s address bar while logging into your online bank account or making online purchases. It’s a symbol of trust. Some companies include a free SSL certificate when you sign up for a hosting plan, while others charge close to $100. You can save some money by shopping around for the services that offer the cheapest SSL plans.
You’ll also want to consider how long you’ll need dedicated web hosting. If it’s a short-term project—say, less than a month or two—you’ll typically receive a refund should you cancel your hosting within 60 days. Some companies offer 30-day money-back guarantees, while others offer 90-day money-back guarantees. Once again, it’s beneficial to do your homework.
All the aforementioned features are valuable to the Web hosting experience, but none matches 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.
Recently, we’ve added more formal uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most Web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. If they don’t, they suffer for it in our scoring. Even if they get everything else right, sites with uptime problems aren’t eligible for high scores. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to address the problem are penalized accordingly.
You Get What You Pay For
Dedicated web hosting is an attractive option for people and companies who require a rock-solid website foundation. Sure, it’s more expensive than shared web hosting, but you get greater reliability and more flexibility in exchange for the additional money that you pay. We’ve reviewed many dedicated hosting services and included our nine favorites in this guide. The chart above gives you a quick overview of the features you can find with each service. It includes pricing, hardware specs, data caps, and other pertinent information. If you want a more in-depth look at dedicated web hosting services, take a look at the blurbs—and links to full reviews—below.
If you’re just getting started with web hosting, make sure to check out our primer, How to Create a Website, and How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website.
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.
HostGator Web Hosting
Pros: A variety of feature-packed hosting plans.
Excellent shared hosting offering.
Good for novice webmasters.
Useful site-building software.
Good customer service.
Cons: No Windows-based VPS hosting.
Bottom Line: HostGator is an excellent web hosting service that’s simple to use and offers an array of useful plans for consumers and small businesses. It’s our top pick for shared web hosting and for novice webmasters in general.
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.
A2 Web Hosting
Pros: Robust hosting packages.
Excellent customer service.
Good money-back refund plan.
Cons: Not every plan has a Windows server option.
Bottom Line: Packed with features, A2 is a Web hosting service that’s more than worthy of being the foundation for your website.
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.
GoDaddy Web Hosting
Pros: Rock-solid uptime.
Excellent 24/7 customer support.
Windows- and Linux-based servers.
Email tightly integrated into Microsoft apps.
Cons: You must pay for the website builder.
Intimidating WordPress setup.
Skimpy amount of included email.
Bottom Line: GoDaddy is a stacked Web hosting service that boasts dependable uptime, top-notch customer service, and flexible website-building tools, but a few omissions prevent it from taking the Web hosting crown.
Hostwinds Web Hosting
Pros: Excellent VPS hosting plans.
Good customer service.
Linux- or Windows-based server options.
Unlimited email and monthly data transfers.
Minecraft server hosting.
Cons: Lacks managed WordPress hosting.
Difficult-to-find cancellation option.
Bottom Line: Hostwinds offers robust Web hosting options, especially when it comes to the company’s Editors’ Choice-worthy VPS hosting.
However, a few minor missteps keep it from being the Web hosting top dog overall.
InMotion Web Hosting
Pros: Good uptime.
Excellent managed WordPress options.
All plans offer unlimited email.
Lengthy money-back guarantee.
Cons: Lacks Windows servers.
Basic Web builder creates dated-looking sites.
Need to create separate logins for all add-ons.
Bottom Line: The feature-packed InMotion Hosting offers many free tools for building a website, and it’s PCMag’s top choice for managed WordPress hosting.
Liquid Web Hosting
Pros: Offers Linux- or Windows-based servers.
Excellent VPS and dedicated hosting plans.
Prorated VPS plans.
Cons: Underwhelming shared hosting storage.
Bottom Line: Liquid Web is a flexible, feature-packed online host with outstanding customer service and excellent dedicated and VPS hosting plans, but you’ll spend a pretty penny to experience it.
TMD Web Hosting
Pros: Excellent WordPress-based hosting.
Cloud hosting options.
Good customer service and uptime.
Cons: Some plans lack Windows-based hosting.
Limited phone support hours.
Bottom Line: TMD is a feature-packed web hosting service that gives you the tools you need to build functional, beautiful websites, particularly those of the WordPress variety.
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