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Unless you work in IT, you might not know which factors to consider when comparing web hosts.
So rather than laying out technical schematics, let’s take a needs-based approach to the best web hosting.
In This Article:
What About My Domain Name?
Opening a hosting account is like renting an apartment, but instead of getting living space you’re renting server space where your web site will live.
Your site’s hosting address will be a series of numbers like this one: 220.127.116.11. As you can tell, this address won’t be very memorable for your customers and friends.
Which is why you’ll also need a domain name — something like ‘my-amazing-site.com’ — which points visitors to your site.
To keep things simple, you can reserve your domain name with the same company you choose for hosting.
But it won’t matter if you’ve already reserved your domain name and want to use a separate company for hosting. You’ll just have to change the domain’s settings to point to your new hosted site.
Best Website Hosting
Whether you are just starting out with a small blog, hosting an online store and growing your money-making platform, you should rely on one of the best website hosting companies to keep you online.
We focused primarily on shared hosting plans to cover the majority of site needs; however, we threw in a couple of the big, but affordable, players in the dedicated space as well. Many of these companies offer varying level of plans, though our prices listed typically reflect entry-level needs.
You’ll do well using one of these best-in-class web hosting companies:
- Bluehost: Best Overall Web Host
- WPEngine: Best for WordPress Blogs
- HostPapa: Best for Small Business
- Squarespace: Best for Basic DIY Sites
- Hostinger: Cheapest Web Hosting
- Wix: Best for Free Hosting
- Siteground: Best for Dedicated Servers
- Hostgator: Best for Cloud Hosting
- Pantheon: Best for Drupal (Advanced)
- GoDaddy: Honorable Mention
Bluehost, founded in 2003, boasts hosting over 2 million websites worldwide.
Customers can expect fairly fast load times, almost 100 percent uptime reliability, and 24/7 customer service in case something does go wrong. Users have access to a control panel where they can manage every aspect of their hosting plan.
They also are given our best overall due to the number of built-in supported platforms, including: WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Bluehost also allows for automatic, daily backups which can be a lifesaver should something go wrong.
Bluehost’s pricing is super cheap ($2.95/mo for 3 years with our link), and you’ll often get a free domain name for a year and a few free email addresses when you sign up. Learn how to start your blog with Bluehost.
- Price and features. MillennialMoney.com readers get discounted rates. Plans for shared hosting start at just $2.95/mo, with more advanced plans available for just $5.95/mo.
- Domain name included. With Bluehost, your domain name is included for the first year, saving you on average $10-$15.
- Migration fees. If you currently own a site and need assistance migrating your site to Bluehost, you will pay a one-time fee.
WPEngine is headquartered in the self-proclaimed “weird” city of Austin, Texas. They have experienced rapid growth over the past few years and really staked their claim in the web hosting industry.
Why are they the best WordPress web host? Because they ONLY support WordPress. Yep, that’s it. 24/7 their focus is on improving their company and product for their customers, WordPress users. They have perfected the platform for complete beginners to the most advanced developers.
WPEngine isn’t going the be the cheapest option available, by far, but their reliability, features and award-winning customer service are well worth it.
I’ve been using WPEngine for the past 6 months and can attest to their performance and reliability firsthand; the server speed is some of the fastest we’ve seen and a constant focus of theirs.
They offer easy automated migrations for existing web sites or you can just have their knowledgable and friendly support team do all the heaving lifting.
You will get free on-demand and automatic backups, ssl certificates, themes from StudioPress; developers will also like their easy to deploy staging and development environments for testing.
- Higher costs. Entry prices may deter budget-strapped users. To offset this, Millennial Money readers can redeem a coupon to receive the first 5 months FREE using the link below.
Hostpapa is headquartered in Canada, but operates in 14 countries (including the U.S.).
If you depend on your site to make money, server downtime can cost you customers and revenue. They are almost always online with uptime exceeding the national average. And if your site does go down, HostPapa has customer service agents available 24/7 to help.
You can get help via email, phone, and apparently even by using a fax machine, which some people still do.
HostPapa consistently stays ahead of security threats which addresses another concern for small business and e-commerce sites.
Their cheapest plan starts at just $1.67/mo (perfect for a small business) and includes a free domain.
A2 Hosting launched in 2003 and is a solid web host to get your site off the ground.
Their platform is faster than most on this list and they support the most popular software platforms, including: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and OpenCart.
You can get started on their shared hosting plan for just $2.96/mo or more advanced plans at $5.00 per mo.
They offer live chat, phone and email support 24/7, “anytime” moneyback guarantee and free migrations.
Siteground is another big name in the business. They have a multitude of options, but some packages may require a bit more technical knowledge to manage. You can always reach out to their support team if you have any questions.
When you’re paying for a web hosting, you want 100 percent uptime. SiteGround comes as close to perfection as you’ll find.
SiteGround also rates high with its customer service staff which can help in a variety of languages, including Spanish and German.
SiteGround isn’t the cheapest option for a dedicated server, but when your business needs its own server, you’ll get what you pay for. Their prices for shared hosting are on par with many other big names, starting at $3.95/mo.
If you’re working toward a high-traffic site but you’re not quite ready to invest in a dedicated server, Domain.com‘s VPS (virtual private server) offers a compromise.
Domain.com also boasts reseller options for business owners who’d like to optimize profits by selling excess server space.
You’ll also get reliable customer service connections, a partnership with the Weebly suite of site-building tools, and access to an email marketing platform.
- Limited payment options. Yearly commitment is required as there are no monthly payment options.
- Limited discounts. Annual commitments don’t come with discounts.
DreamHost, headquartered in Los Angeles, began hosting sites in 1997 and currently has over 400,000 customers and 1.5 million websites.
Their speed and reliability rivals Bluehost. In fact, with an average-sized site you might not notice a difference.
DreamHost stands out because of its 97-day money-back guarantee. Why 97 days? To make sure you have three full months, give or take a few days, to test your account.
WordPress comes pre-installed and you can get a free SSL certificate to make sure your site is secure.
They offer plans starting at just $2.59/mo for the first year, including your domain name free.
- Customer service not available via chat.
- Lacking in account management software like cPanel
- Migration fees. You will pay a one-time fee if you need assistance migrating your site to DreamHost.
HostGator is one of the largest web hosting companies, with over 8 million domains.
You can migrate one existing site for free using the basic plan. So if you’re moving an existing site to a new host, you can save about $100 or more compared to Bluehost or Dreamhost.
They proudly support popular web platforms, including: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Wiki and phpBB; all with just a single click.
HostGator is unusually user-friendly with helpful guidance available if you get stuck and offer a 45-day money-back guarantee. HostGator offers customer service help via phone and online chat.
Their shared web hosting plans start at $2.75/mo, with business plans beginning at $5.95/mo. Like many of the others, one domain and ssl is included with a hosting plan.
1&1 IONOS is a top cloud hosting provided because of its flexibility which unlocks the power of cloud hosting whether you need a bare-bones account or fully customized options.
And, the first 30 days of your contract will be free which means you can try out an account before funding a long-term contract.
It’s easier to keep your money than to get it back.
You can build a good-looking site on Wix without knowing how to write a line of HTML, CSS, or PHP.
You can use almost all of Wix’s basic site-building tools FREE before running into the paywall.
You won’t be able to connect a domain name, though, without a paid plan. And, your site will include visible Wix branding unless you pay. The company offers solid choices ranging from about $11 to $30 a month. Business-specific plans cost more.
Uptimes rival the best hosting services, but the load times are a little slower; most Wix plans come with a free domain name for a year.
- Email addresses cost extra ($6 per address per month).
- Customer service varies by payment option.
As with Wix, you’ll be prompted to choose a hosting plan as your new site shapes up. Squarespace’s hosting itself isn’t as snappy as Wix’s, so if you plan to build a larger site, your load times may drag a little.
But Squarespace excels at customer service and mobile-first design which has become essential in the smartphone era.
- Slower load times.
- No money-back guarantees.
- Not-so-great SEO tools.
Blogger.com (formerly known as blogspot.com) is Google’s free web hosting service designed specifically for — you guessed it — blogs.
If you’re keeping things basic and don’t have your heart set on fully customizing a theme and connecting your own domain name, you can do a lot with blogger.com.
And, if you have a Google account as most people do, you already have a blogger.com account.
Weebly offers another user-friendly drag-and-drop set-up for non-coders.
Just like Wix and Blogger.com, you can set up your site without paying.
But, the ability to connect your own domain name will require an upgrade. Unlike its competition, Weebly has a domain-only plan for $5 a month.
If you’re starting a blog or a very simple site such as a portfolio, you may not want a full-blown WordPress installation on a server.
WordPress.com offers a simpler level of service. You can customize a WordPress theme and launch your web presence within a few minutes.
To get your own domain name — my-amazing-site.com instead of wordpress.com/my-amazing-site — you’ll have to opt for a paid plan starting at $5 a month.
- Limited tools and functionality.
- Html knowledge is helpful to fully customize a template.
Compare Shared Web Hosting Speeds
The following data is provided by Pingdom and is shows average uptime and hosting speeds for December 2019
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How Much Should You Pay for Web Hosting?
Comparing costs for web hosting gets tricky because prices change frequently. But here are some general guidelines:
Lock-In Your Rate
Unless you don’t plan to keep your site for more than a year, you should pay upfront for three years of hosting.
Paying upfront lets you lock in a low rate. Your per-month rate will typically be lowest when you pay for three years upfront.
The most expensive per-month rates kick in when you pay monthly or quarterly.
Right now you can pay as low as $2.50 to $3 a month by paying three years upfront. If you pay by the month, expect to pay more like $10 or $12 per month.
Expect Higher Rates After Renewal
Locking in a low rate is great, but after your initial term expires and you need to renew your hosting account, most service providers increase the cost significantly.
Rather than paying $2.50 to $3 per month, you’ll see $8 to $9 monthly fees billed upfront which results in $100 to $110 per year. By paying for three years instead of one year, you’ll usually save a couple of dollars per month.
You could simply switch hosts every few years, but many companies, including Bluehost, charge site transfer fees which would erase your savings.
Pay for Only What You Need
Cloud-based hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers matter a lot — unless they don’t matter at all for your site.
You can save a lot by sticking with traditional shared hosting which is what the majority of this post has discussed.
If your business needs the security and control a dedicated server can provide, paying the extra fees will be worth the money.
If you don’t really need that level of service, I’d invest that money somewhere else, like in a custom logo or getting the e-commerce tools you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Get Free Hosting?
If you’re just experimenting with a site idea, you may not want to commit to an ongoing hosting bill.
The market has several good options for free hosting. Just don’t expect the same level of customer service and professionalism a paid hosting account will provide.
For example, with a free hosting plan, your site may feature ads you don’t want on your home page. And, free hosting typically won’t include your own domain name.
If you’re considering free hosting, I’d check out options like Wix, Weebly and Blogger.com.
Do I Need A Dedicated Server?
A site builder who needs to maximize control over a site should consider a dedicated server.
Hosting your site on a dedicated server will cost significantly more, but you’ll be able to customize security features and optimize bandwidth.
Since you’re not sharing server space with other sites, you’ll have more independence.
If you don’t have an IT staff or you don’t know how to take advantage of a dedicated server’s strengths, you probably don’t need one.
What Is Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting now offers an alternative to a dedicated server while still providing some of the advantages.
Rather than being saved in one place, a cloud host will spread your site’s files along with many different cloud-based servers.
As a result, your site isn’t entirely dependent on the health of one physical server.
What If I’m A DIY-er?
Some people have the technical chops to hand-code their site into existence. For the rest of us, the market offers an ever-growing array of do-it-yourself site building tools.
Once you’ve built your site, you’ll still need to host it. The following DIY site builders also have nice built-in options for hosting.
Each service has a free option, but you’ll get a more professional site up and running with a paid plan.
And when you compare these services’ prices to traditional hosting prices, remember you’re getting access to site-building tools as well as hosting.
What About Email Hosting?
Email hosting works a lot like web hosting but instead of renting a home for your web site content, you’re using the server space to hold email inboxes.
Small businesses — and even side hustles — can gain credibility with hosted email addresses because your address can match your domain name.
To a new customer, for example, email@example.com seems more credible than firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
You can add email hosting to your web hosting account without too much extra work or money. Some hosts offer a free email address or two. Others charge per inbox per month.
Larger businesses may want a dedicated email server or a cloud-based server.
Find The Best Hosting for Your Needs
Your hosting account will be your site’s home sweet home online.
By extension, your hosting account will help determine how your business site or your blog interacts with the wider world.
So before buying a three-year hosting plan, make sure you’re getting a suitable home for your site.