Virtually any small business operating today needs a website to network with customers and standout from their competition.
When choosing a hosting service, consider what your needs are in terms of speed, storage, security, and customer service, and if the cost is right for your pocketbook.
The scope and specifications of the website hosting you procure depends these needs. Free web hosting services are offered to small, single page sites like personal web pages. For a complex website, a company may need to invest in a more inclusive package, including database support and application development platforms, as well as security features to make sure data isn’t compromised.
We have selected and rated a number of industry leaders in the field of website hosting so that you can find the company that works best for you.
The 3 main configurations for website hosting services are:
What you select should depend on the needs of your small business, as well as your budget.
The most affordable option is to host your site on a shared web host, under which your website will be kept on a company’s server along with hundreds of other sites. The downside is that with all those sites sharing bandwidth and storage, you may suffer some slowdowns.
With a scalable hosting plan you can upgrade if your business grows.
The next step up from a shared host would be a Virtual Private Server (VPS), a server with its own allocated resources, inside a larger server. Though all of the websites kept on the server use the same physical system, each individual VPS website has its own virtual compartment, meaning your performance won’t be affected by other websites. A commonly used analogy for shared vs VPS comes from the world of real estate.
Using a shared host is like renting in an apartment complex with a single landlord, in which everyone uses the same communal properties like the pool or the gym, while the VPS is like a condominium – you own your own individual property, but you still share the communal properties. Just like the apartment vs condo debate, with a VPS you can expect to pay more. Typically people chose to move from shared to VPS when they need more speed to deal with increased traffic and more control over their web hosting.
The next level up – dedicated hosting – gives you your own space (or house, under the previous analogy). No other websites reside on the server and you won’t suffer any downturns in performance due to other sites using the server’s resources. If your traffic increases into the tens of thousands of daily views, switching to a dedicated server is a good way to ensure you maintain speed and performance. One drawback though is that you will be responsible for managing the firewall and maintenance, unless you pay extra for a managed server.
Big businesses have the budget to invest large sums in web hosting, but for small businesses, this isn’t always the case.
The cheapest option is a shared web host, which can run as low as $1.99 a month, though they don’t provide the speed or reliability of VPS and dedicated servers. Better performance comes with a price, with VPS hosting running from between $20-$100 a month and most dedicated servers at over $100.
On Bluehost for instance, a standard VPS package runs for $19.99 a month, while the “ultimate” package with 4 times the storage runs at $59.99. For iPage, the VPS packages work on a sliding scale, with basic running $19.99, and “business” packages with 3 times the bandwidth and more than double the storage costing $47.99/month.
Liquidweb offers a more high-dollar hosting service, with its cheapest offering a 2GB VPS with “fully managed” hosting at $38.25 a month. With Media Temple, a “professional-grade VPS hosting” will also set you back from most of the pack, with prices starting at $55 a month.
With dedicated servers, things start to get steeper. On HostGator, the cheapest dedicated server starts at $119.00/month, while the more expansive “enterprise” package costs $149.00 a month. On Liquidweb, the cheapest option is a fully-managed dedicated server that costs $199 a month. Of our featured website hosting services, A2 Hosting is the most affordable, with dedicated hosting available for purchase at $99.59 per month.
Always be on the lookout for hidden costs. Some hosts may try to charge you extra to link you with a free website builder and others may try to lock you into a multi-year plan in order to take advantage of a good price offered online. Take your time, and shop around for the best website host for you.
If you’re setting up a website for your business, the last thing you’re going to want to worry about is running out of data. Look for plans that offer unlimited data transfers and secure it by way of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This will allow customers to make purchases on your website securely, and will give you the peace of mind you need to focus on running your business.
Some hosts also offer free data backups as well as unlimited bandwidth, domain names, and email storage. A common feature today is for to web hosts to incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) into your site, to help customers find you in their search results. Flexibility is also important, and many hosts allow users to choose which operating system to use.
Another crucial factor to examine is site uptime, and how well the website host does ensuring that the sites they host remain up and running, so that customers can find you and your business.
iPage touts its 99.9% uptime as does HostGator and A2 Hosting, both of which back it up with a guarantee. Web.com is known for great uptime rate, but its guarantee of 99.9% uptime only applies to UNIX customers. Bluehost is our highest-rated host, but it no longer offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee and users have reported problems with page-loading. Our other reviewed hosts have high uptime rates, but do not offer guarantees.
High traffic websites—with hundreds of thousands of views per month—will need to be on either a VPS or dedicated server to ensure that they can handle the traffic.
If you have a low traffic website there is less need to invest in a more expensive dedicated hosting service or VPS. For sites like these, a shared website host probably makes more sense and is more affordable.
Easy, professional, and responsive 24/7 customer service should be a must when you select your website host. You never know when you could potentially face a problem with your site that calls for professional assistance.
Media Temple has some of the best customer support on the market. The company offers 24/7 tech support by phone, email, or live chat. In addition, customer support can also be reached through the Media Temple Twitter account. Though A2 Hosting has our lowest overall rating, its customer support is nothing to sneeze at.
The A2 support team is called “the Guru Crew” and they are available at a moment’s notice 24/7 by phone or live chat. Bluehost, iPage, and HostGator also offer 24/7 customer service by email, chat, or telephone. Web.com doesn’t have live chat, but its phone line and email are rated as reliable. Our experience has shown Liquidweb to be reliable, but without the same assurances as the other website hosts.
The bottom line when looking for a website host is to know who you are and what you need. If you’re a small business with relatively low traffic, there’s little sense breaking the bank on a high-octane dedicated server better-suited to a site with far more traffic.
If you’re a bigger business that expects higher traffic, it’s more than worth it to invest in a host that you know has the bandwidth you need and can guarantee the maximum uptime so you don’t go offline and lose customers.
If you’re new at running a website, customer support should be a high priority, along with ease of use. Read our reviews to see which sites are easiest to navigate for novices, and which you think will present the fewest headaches. Try to find a host that includes a trial period or a money-back guarantee so you can take it for a few test drives before making a commitment.
As always, before signing on the dotted line, look at each of our in-depth reviews and take your time deciding which host is right for you.
With more than 2 million websites internationally, Bluehost is one of the most popular web hosting services in the industry. And that’s not hard to understand when you look at what’s being offered. 1-click WordPress installation, 24/7 expert support from trained professionals, and a 30-day money-back guarantee are just a few of the reasons we’re so impressed by Bluehost.
Not too many people will fail to recognize the familiar friendly gator, the mascot of HostGator. The service is one of the most prevalent in the country, and it has the perks to keep customers coming back. HostGator kicks things off with a 45-day money-back guarantee, 24/7 live chat customer support, and a solid 99.9% uptime guarantee.
You’ll no doubt be familiar with GoDaddy, the somewhat snarky, slightly scandalous, and seriously silly hosting service that combines humor and website hosting in a professional and reliable way. Between that and perks like affordable pricing, 99.9% uptime, and a free SSL certificate with most plans, GoDaddy is a great deal.