|Hosting Provider||Lowest Monthly Price||Domain Price||Max Traffic (lowest plan)||Best For|
|SiteGround||~$3.95/mo||$15.95/yr||~10,000 visits per month||Customer Support|
|WP Engine||~$35/mo||Not Available||~25,000 visits per month||Managed Hosting|
|Pixpa||~$6/mo||Included ($12.99 renewal)||Unlimited||Photography/Portfolios|
The Best Website Hosting Services
Buying Guide and Advice
What Is a Web Hosting Service?
Web Hosting is the company and service that stores your website data and makes it available to the public. It’s the online equivalent of how a physical brick and mortar business rents a storefront.
Your Web Hosting determines the speed, storage capacity, security options, bandwidth, and the Content Management System (CMS) that comes with your site.
The only thing it does not automatically include (although sometimes it can if the hosting company provides it) is your domain name, which is just the URL or address of your site. Most hosts will give you the option to either buy the domain name from them or transfer your existing one onto their Domain Name Servers (DNS), meaning you still pay someone else for the name but you use it on their hosting platform.
Web hosting is the company responsible for your site’s performance. Whether it is fast-loading and always available, or slow and unavailable, is determined by the reliability of your hosting service.
With this in mind, it is probably the #1 investment you can make for your online business.
There are 5 main types of hosting services: Free/Subdomain, Shared, Virtual Private Network (VPN), Dedicated, and Cloud.
Click on the + button to read more about any of these terms below:
Virtual Private Server:
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are physically shared resources that are fenced off by a virtual border, so that you have your own virtual area that is not shared with anyone else. This is similar to having a dedicated server in the sense that you are allotted your own resources, but your resources do live within a community of servers. The security and segregation is much stronger than what shared hosting offers making this an appealing yet more pricey option than the shared host plans.
Why Good Web Hosting Is Important For Your Business
Web Hosting, above everything else in your online business, should be evaluated and selected very carefully. This is a decision where it would be smart to research and understand exactly what you are signing up for.
A few reasons you should scrutinize your hosting options rigorously:
Site Speed Impacts Rank & Customer Experience – Site Speed is highly regarded in Google’s eyes and they will reward you for this by ranking your site higher, which means your site shows up in Google’s list before others who are slower. Your customers/visitors also demand a quick site. Studies have found that visitors will leave a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. A slow loading site can lead to frustration and abandonment and even if it doesn’t cause visitors to leave they will still have a negative association to your site.
Downtime Equates to Loss of Sales – On top of being highly annoying and deterring your visitors, downtime can be quite costly from a purchase interruption standpoint. While the severity of your site’s downtime depends on your traffic levels and purchase rates, on average companies can expect to lose an average of $1600 for every minute of downtime (Source: Information Technology Intelligence Consulting Research).
Migration is Costly – It is relatively easy to sign up and start creating your Web, but much harder to correctly move all of the pieces of your existing Web to another host. There can be issues moving your data, databases, URLs, page, post & media IDs, shortcodes, licenses, themes, customizations, etc. Some companies migrate your existing data for free while some charge a hefty price for this. Either way, it will still probably require some cleanup on your part as well to get things working the way you had them before. Avoid this if possible by picking a hosting company you will want to stay with, and whose prices will not change monumentally when you renew your service.
Some Hosts have Hidden Costs – What might seem like a good deal can sometimes hide the surprise nickel and dime laundry list of services you have to pay for. For example, some companies advertise free backups, but to get a restore of the data you have to pay. Or, the renewal price is double what you initially paid for your service. Make sure you understand exactly what you are getting for the price you are paying and what you will have to pay extra for or more for down the road.
What To Look For In A Web Hosting Service
- Speed. Your website’s speed is critical to its success. Not only will a fast performing website help your chances of ranking higher with search engines, it is just a better customer experience to have a site that loads quickly.
- Uptime. A beautiful, fast, well designed site isn’t going to do you any good if it isn’t running. Understand what a company’s SLAs are before you enter into a host contract.
- Customer Support. While you may not need customer support all the time once your site is up and running, when you do need them it can be a very crucial element in your website building experience to have good customer support. Anything from the contact methods available, to wait times, to their knowledge and expertise, can be the difference between fixing a problem quickly and easily or prolonging it for days and weeks with potential detriment to your site. I underestimated the importance of this myself but have since learned this important lesson – choose a company with stellar customer support – it will make a difference.
- Scaling Options. You may only need a tiny amount of bandwidth and traffic allowance now, but what about a year from now, or two years? If you are planning to grow your business and online following, the need to scale might be something to consider. If so, make sure the option you chose initially has an easy to upsize option with the company you picked.
- CMS. Most bloggers or small businesses will opt to use WordPress, Drupal, or Magento as their Content Management System (CMS). The main ones like these are typically supported by almost every host out there. If you are looking for a different and more obscure CMS for some reason, make sure the hosting service supports that CMS.
- Storage. How much can you store for the included price? If you have a business with resource-intensive elements like images or videos, you might use up your max amount quickly and will then need to upgrade your account.
- Documentation. How good and up to date is the hosting provider’s documentation? This is something you should be able to easily gauge before purchasing. Go to their knowledge base and see if you can find and understand one of the topics. If not, you may want to look at a company that has easy to find and use tutorials so that you can find the information you will need quickly and be able to understand it.
- Add-Ons. From free SSLs, to security, to daily backups, each Host will offer different options.
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Web Hosting Common Terms & Definitions
You should be a bit familiar with some of these terms before you choose a Web Hosting Service so that you know what you are getting or not getting. For those who are brand new to website building, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the new terms and concepts. This will help you to make your website building easier, or even if you are having the website built by someone else, knowing these terms will help you articulate what you need from them.
Here is a list of common terms and definitions to help you decide which items might be best for your business:
|Accessibility||The ability for handicap assisting and voice enabled search devices to read and process your website’s data. For example, image alt tags should have a description so that they can be read by screen readers for the visually impaired.|
|Blog||Short for Web-log, blogs are usually run by individuals (or a small number of people) who want to educate people on a specific subject using articles and video tutorials.|
|Breadcrumbs||Navigational hyperlinks that show the levels of the hierarchy navigated to get to the specific page the visitor is viewing. For example, Services > Design > Logo Design.|
|CDN||Content Delivery Network – This is a caching system that lives on the “edge”. This means that high utilization data such as images, video, and code are stored and copied to various locations around the world, in order to more quickly serve these items to the viewer based on where they live. Similar to companies which have large warehouses in strategic locations around the country, CDNs can speed up the delivery of content by being closer than your hosting company in geographical distance to visitors.|
|CMS||CMS stands for Content Management System and includes the application you use to access the files and data on your website. It also stores your images and code in its file system/structure. The most common CMSs include WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, & Shopify.|
|Cookies||Cookies are small files placed within a visitor’s browser when they go to a website to save their settings and preferences or history of what they were interested in. The intent of a cookie is to give the visitor a better and more personalized experience visiting pages they go to frequently.|
|CSS||Cascading Style Sheets contain the code that determines how your code appears visually for all of the elements on your page that use or call that particular code. For example, if you want all of your links to be in blue font, you can specify this in your CSS file and then if you change this color to red in the CSS file it will change all instances of your links across your entire site.|
|DNS||Domain Name Servers are what routes your domain name to the correct IP address. This is the piece that matches what you type in on a browser to the site you ultimately land on.|
|Domain Name||Domain Names are basically the friendly, word versions of where your website lives. An example is YOURSITENAME.COM.|
|Drag And Drop||A web interface that allows you to design websites or other elements using your mouse to drag items in and out of the page. This makes designing a visual interaction as opposed to a strictly text-based code instruction to the system. For example, to put an image on the right side you would pull it to where you wanted it to show up, rather than coding in something like style=”align:right”.|
|Hosting||The company and location that stores and serves your website’s files so that your website is view-able on the world wide web (www), also called the internet.|
|HTML||Hyper Text Markup Language – This is the formatting code for a website which defines the contents and some of the styling. HTML identifies the Header, Body, Footer, and most of the formatting tags throughout a website, i.e., the b tag here <b>makes something bold</b>.|
|MetaData||Data about data. This is usually the behind the scenes description of what specific fields represent or what your site and page is about. Metadata is not intended to be seen by the human eye, it is the information used by search engines and processors to interpret what your data is about.|
|Plugins||These are tools specific to WordPress that enable custom functionality through use of an add-on enhancement. An example of a plugin could be a contact form added to your website to collect customer email addresses.|
|Responsive||A while back websites did not need to focus on mobile viewports, but today, up to 80% of your traffic is looking at your site using a mobile device, so it has become imperative that your site is optimized for mobile and tablet views. Responsive design uses a framework like Bootstrap to make sure that images and text is converted properly into a mobile-friendly version for easy viewing and interactions.|
|Schema||Schema, or structured data as it’s sometimes referred to as, is metadata that allows search engines to categorize and better interpret what specific data is on your site and for what purpose. For example, local business schema information will tell Google how to classify and list your business in the Google directory features.|
|SEO||Search Engine Optimization. The process of formatting a website to be easily analyzed and interpreted through a search engine in order to maximize that site’s probably of ranking higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).|
|SSL||Secure Sockets Layer – this is the S in https:// – which is a protocol protecting your site by adding an encryption layer between your site and the browser.|
|URL||Uniform Resource Locator – The address of a website or resource such as an image, video, or attachment. Referring to a URL typically refers to the entire address, including the following: protocol (i.e., HTTPS), the subdomain (i.e., www.), the domain name (i.e., thehairypotato.com), and any slugs and permalinks (i.e., /blog/dress-from-azazie/).|
|WYSIWYG||What You See Is What You Get – What your website looks like in your editor is the same thing seen by your visitors.|
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Tips To Get the Most From Your WebHosting
✔️ Know what is important for YOU. The type of business you have might determine what kind of host you ultimately decide on. Make sure you’ve identified your specific priorities before choosing a host. Then make sure the host you pick can accommodate the priorities you’ve deemed most important.
✔️ Start small but plan big. Pick a good host that can easily be scaled up to a larger amount of bandwidth, visitors, sessions, storage, etc. Your goal could be to gain so many followers that you outgrow your existing plan. Choose a small plan from a good, reputable company so that you are happy with what you have from the start, and can expand later down the road.
✔️ Think ahead. Renewal prices can sometimes be twice what you signed up at. Make sure you understand this before your renewal date, and decide if you are willing to switch hosts at this point to save money.