Web Hosting Guide and Comparison of the Top 6 Hosting Providers

web hosting guide and comparison

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Starting a website without a web host is akin to opening a new business in your town without having the physical location for it.

You may have the merchandise, a team of employees, and the layout. The only thing you’re missing is the place to put all these things. You’re just someone with a business name, welcome sign, and some big ideas and plans…standing out on the street.

That clearly exhibits the importance of having a web hosting service, but picking one and picking the right one for you is a whole different conversation.

If you have a layout of your business, but the location you get is not at all conducive to such a layout, you are not going to be able to set things up the way you want.

Presumably, you have a limited budget for rent, so a cost that is way out of your budget can rule an ideal location out. This is similar to the considerations and details you need to keep in mind to select a web host.

The following is a web hosting guide and comparison between 6 web hosting services generally regarded as the premier choices to use for those looking to establish a website for a business.


Website Hosting

So how does web hosting work? Well, websites are ultimately a conglomerate of files arranged and brought together in a particular order. But much like files sit on your PC, a website is ‘hosted’ on a server.

When customers, visitors or leads search for your website’s URL, they reach the server that your website is on, and it renders in their browser.

In addition to hosting space for your website, a web hosting service provides you with security, a variety of support levels, and assure that your website is up and running (at least 99.9% of the time).

So which hosting service is right for you? Before looking into the options it’s a good idea to level-set your criteria.

Much as you would want your business needs to have a location that can be found and frequented by clients in the target audience niche you are looking to do business with, your web server needs to match the needs of your website.

There are several different types of web services:

Shared Hosting:

The server that your website resides on is also home to other websites.

This drives down the costs for you, but as you are sharing finite allotted bandwidth and space with other websites, you would only want to do this if the expected traffic volume to your website is low.

VPS (Virtual private server):

While this type of server is not strictly “private”, it does mimic the nature of one.

It allows for greater customization and better performance than a shared server and is therefore suited for higher traffic volumes than a shared server can accommodate.

Dedicated Server Hosting:

The server your website is on is reserved exclusively for your website. This is ideal for sites with lots of traffic and you are in complete control over the site’s security as well as everything else related to your server.

That also means that you are responsible for all of the activity on the server. You will likely need someone whose job is dedicated to managing the server appropriately for you.

Managed Hosting:

For businesses with a dedicated server who cannot afford or do not want a full-time manager for the server on the staff, the option is there to find a web host that will take care of managing the operation, maintenance, and security of your server.

Cloud Hosting:

This newest option in the web hosting realm allows many servers to behave like one larger server. This is an ideal choice for growing companies.

The benefit here is that as the volume of traffic grows, the cloud space available can grow alongside it. These hosting services typically charge either a pay-by-use fee or pay for the amount of cloud space being utilized.

The next step is to figure out the type of website you are creating. To do that there are some pertinent questions that you have to ask yourself.

  • Who is the target audience for this website?
  • Why is this website being created in the first place?
  • What type of business will this website be for?
  • Will your website be static (rarely changed in response to user actions) or dynamic (lots of interactive elements with feedback features and lots of contrast change)?

People create (or hire a web development company) to create different types of websites. These can range from individual small business websites to ones meant for medium to large-sized businesses. They can be blogs, online portfolios, or online marketplaces.

Once you know what kind of website you will be building and the types of web hosting services to choose from you will need to determine the attributes you want/need to have for your web hosting service.

For example, if you are going to run an online marketplace, you would want to make sure that your web host is capable of supporting e-commerce. If you are a business on the rise, you will need to ensure that the web hosting services can grow alongside your business.

The next step is when the web hosting guide and comparison of available choices come into play. You will need to consider some things about your business to make the right choice for web hosting for it.

Do you have a dedicated person on your staff who will manage the needs of your web host? If your website has a problem, how prepared are you to deal with the problem quickly to get it back to working order to avoid losing customers and damaging your brand?

The answers to these questions will be important in the choice you make.

You should also evaluate the size and scope of the anticipated growth of your website.

Does your website expect a lot of traffic? Do you foresee that traffic volume increasing steadily over time or do you expect to have consistent traffic for the life of your business?

Depending on your traffic volume, you may want to consider a dedicated server.

Finally, you need to weigh your web hosting criteria against your budget. There are free web hosting services as well as ones whose monthly costs can be as low as $3, and heavy-duty contenders that may cost you over $100 per month.

When all of these pieces have been figured out, you can be ready to move on to choosing the web server.

Here are 6 web hosting services which are regarded as being some of the best available:

1. Bluehost

One of the most recognizable names in the web hosting industry is Bluehost, known for being the uptime leaders (99.99%) and a respectable .98 second full page render speed.

In addition to that, Bluehost offers a free domain name (for your first year), free SSL, a single click WordPress install, $150 in ad credits, use of the Weebly web builder, and a 3-day money-back guarantee.

All of this for just $2.75 a month if the plan is purchased for 36 months. After that, the renewals cost $7.95 per month, and unfortunately a high price jump, but the inarguable 3-year value of the money.

The Weebly builder makes it very beginner-friendly, containing an extensive knowledge base delivered in a highly consumable form, along with an ever-evolving 24/7 customer service. This makes Bluehost a great starting place for beginners and owners of small businesses who need their own websites.

Bluehost offers VPS, WordPress hosting, and a dedicated hosting option. However, they are limited to migration options, and what is available, is not free.

Their backups are controlled, so buying a third party back-up software is recommended.

2. Cloudways

In a growing field of cloud-based servers, Cloudways distinguishes itself by allowing users to select from one of five platforms, including Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services and sign up without needing to use your credit card with trial runs for their pay-as-you-go plans.

With this free trial period, you can actually build out your entire site for free with the three-day trial account.

Being a cloud-based server a load of your website is balanced across multiple clustered servers.

There is no dealing with shared, dedicated, or VPS plans, just cloud-based plans which charge you only for the time that you are using the service.

Most other monthly subscription services charge for a month, even if you only used a few days out of it.

The web hosting plans start at $10 monthly (for 1TB of data transfers, 25 GBs of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and a single-core processor) and go as high as a $1,035 tier (with 12TB of transfers per month, 3840 GBs in storage, 192GB of RAM and a 32-core processor.

Where Cloudways lacks is in that it does not allow you to register a domain and the back end design does not make it clear how to identify that you have already purchased your URL, so this process may turn off some beginners.

Cloudways also does not offer email accounts, but rather works with RackSpace which expects a payment of $1 for every email account per month. Depending on your needs, these amounts can add up.

3. Hostinger

Hostinger is not only one of the least expensive web hosting services, starting for as low as $0.99 a month for the single shared hosting plan, but it also sports the fastest hosting speeds, clocking in a response time for the initial byte’s load in just .19 seconds, and only .68 seconds to render the entire page.

Hostinger’s customer support is available 24/7 and they offer an easy to use website builder, paired with the CPanel control panel makes it a tremendous choice for beginners and small business websites who do not require a lot of advanced features.

There are also powerful hosting plan options starting at $2.89 per month. These include everything the basic plan does, with the addition of a free domain, unlimited domain add-ons, unlimited bandwidth, and MySQL databases.

While Hostinger will keep your site secure, the $3.99 (“Business”) plan is the only that offers daily backups and SSL. Additionally, the shared hosting plan does not offer a free domain name.

4. SiteGround

SiteGround is widely regarded as having the best customer support of all web hosts. It has a powerful backend and is a primary choice for shared hosting services, being the recommended service of WordPress.org.

The loading speed is a very respectable .67 seconds thanks to the multitude of data servers spread out globally and the site has an uptime (how often it is available) of 99.9%.

The customer support is top-notch, with fast, smart, courteous agents available to help at all hours.

The hosting service also provides free email and SSL, as well as free daily backups and an easy site-building tool.

The basic plan does not have a free domain available, nor is it the least expensive, at least by comparison with the StartUp SiteGround plan costing $3.95 per month for 12 months, assuming you are hosting only one site. This includes unmetered traffic, 10GBs of space, and about 10,000 visits.

5. A2 Hosting

Another solid performer in the hosting world is A2 Hosting. Websites utilizing this host take about 1.01 seconds to fully render a webpage, and sport a solid back end averaging just under .7 seconds.

This hosting service is optimized for WordPress, utilizes servers that are twenty times the speed of typical web hosts (with their ‘turbo’ version), free domain names, an easy to use site building tool, free SSL and online backups, as well as free site migration.

They also have excellent customer support and even offer an anytime money-back guarantee.

This makes A2 Hosting an environment that is very friendly to a growing online business.

They provide a high level of flexibility with choosing the type of host you feel is right for your website as well.

The plans start at $2.99 (shared hosting plan) and scale up nicely with the $5 (VPS Hosting), $13.99 (reseller hosting), and dedicated server option priced at $99.59.

There are two key drawbacks to A2 Hosting, however.

The first is that if you require migrating your data center without upgrading your account, there is a fee involved.

The other is that A2 does not support PCI (payment card industry) which makes is a near-non starter for any eCommerce websites.

6. HostGator

HostGator offers high reliability, exceptional uptime, intuitive interface, solid knowledge base, and a wide selection of hosting solutions. Rendering a full-page takes about 1.15 seconds.

HostGator is beginner-friendly, providing an easy to use website builder tool for website and eCommerce markets.

They also offer a 30-day migration period where you can work with HostGator migration experts who will transfer any cPanel account for free.

The company has good customer support, lots of features, and a competitive $2.75 a month starting price.

The renewal price for HostGator however is less attractive, bumping the cost way up to $10.95. The basic plan has no SSL availability either.

You do get a free domain name, but only as long as you sign up for a plan for one, two, or three years.

If you want to migrate your site or to restore a previous version of it, there is a fee that will be incurred.

Hopefully, this web hosting guide and comparison was helpful for you to have an idea of what’s out there.

The above list is far from the limit on web hosting providers as there are countless other quality options out there.

When researching, keep in mind the important traits, and consider what is important to your website specifically.

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