How to Choose the Best Web Host?
This article on how to choose the best web host will discuss the markers of a good web host, what you need to look for when searching for a host, and which are some of the red flags you need to be mindful of in your quest to find the hosting most suited for your website.
If you’re looking to launch a website, there’s really no escaping from the process of finding a web host. You may be inclined to choose a host based on pricing, but there’s more to hosting than pricing alone. Ideally, you’d want a reliable host that will ensure high availability to your site and that will provide plenty of resources and swift support whenever needed.
But how do you know which host is best for you? In a nutshell, the best web host is the one that can meet all or most of your website’s hosting requirements. Of course, determining the best web host for your site is not as simple as it sounds, and it can be a real head-scratcher, especially if you’re an uninitiated individual.
The hosting landscape is dotted with web hosting providers promising to be the best host in the industry, offering the best speeds, the best support, and best features. Seeing through the sales hype and marketing mumbo-jumbo requires some analysis, testing and foresight. Putting your prospective web host to the test may not be the easiest way to determine if it’s the best hosting provider for you, but it’s certainly the one that will yield the most reliable results.
How to Select the Best Host?
Here’s what you should research, test, and analyze when looking for the greatest hosting provider for your website:
Start with Shared Hosting
While pricing should not be the only aspect that factors into your decision to choose a host over another, starting with an affordable shared hosting plan is a safe and reliable way of thoroughly testing a web host without making a huge financial commitment.
The affordability of shared hosting plans can be explained by their design – more websites housed on the same server share the resources of the entire server amongst themselves. This construction allows hosting companies to keep prices low and attract customers, who can later upgrade to plans with dedicated resources.
Shared hosting is suitable for static websites or small to medium sized sites with low traffic. Today, shared hosting packages have become very affordable (e.g. an entry-level shared hosting plan at BlueHost can cost as low as $3.95/month), yet they are abundant in features (e.g. InMotion Hosting offers a free domain name, free backups, free marketing credits, and unlimited storage and bandwidth with all their shared hosting plans).
If it’s your first time launching a website, shared hosting is all the more suitable for you since it’s a beginner oriented hosting type that usually includes useful tools like a drag-and-drop site builder, marketing and SEO tools, and one-click script installs.
As your website expands with time, it makes sense to upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting plans. Thus, it’s best if you choose a web host that gives your site room to expand. But until then, a shared hosting plan will teach you a lot about your web host including how reliable their servers are, whether they keep their uptime promises, whether their support staff is any good, whether their control panel is easy to use, etc. Your experience with these aspects will make it easier for you to determine whether your web host is the best fit for you on the long run.
Test Customer Support
Having the best web host also means having the best customer support. What makes for good customer support? For starters, you should choose a web host with 24x7x365 customer support. Next, you should look for the customer support channels available. If your web host has live chat, phone support and a ticketing system, then you’re off to a good start. If these are completed by an extensive knowledgebase with FAQs, tutorials and setup guides, you can start digging deeper.
While numerous support options are important, customer support availability and responsiveness are equally important. Luckily, you can test a host’s customer support even if you’re not yet a customer. You could try getting in touch with the customer support team on either of their availabilities and ask a pre-sales question about one of their plans, and see how fast and how professional they are in replying to you.
Receiving lots of pre-generated answers to your questions may be a sign that you’ve either asked a very general question the answer to which is already available on the host’s website or you’re receiving bot-responses, which signals the lack of real human support.
If you’re receiving fast, helpful and genuine responses to your queries, you can assume that support is prompt and knowledgeable. However, you may not want to jump to conclusions too quickly – it very well may be that you got lucky with support. To confirm you tests, make sure to do some research on the web about your web host, read customer generated reviews to learn about other users’ experiences with your host.
If you find some negative reviews here and there, you needn’t get alarmed, especially if most reviews are positive. If reviews are overwhelmingly negative, it should give you some serious pause for thinking.
Research Reliability & Uptime
Reading customer reviews and professional reviews about a hosting provider can also give you an idea about the reliability and uptime of your host. These reviews can give you an idea about any prolonged downtime issues, slowly loading pages, and whether the web host in question lives up to its uptime promises.
The best web hosts will offer at least a 99.9% uptime guarantee and some even offer a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to back their claims, crediting your account any time they fail to meet their uptime promises.
Professional web hosting review sites will have uptime and performance monitoring and aggregated data on a host’s performance over an extended period, usually a year or more.
You can conduct your own tests if you’ve signed up for a shared hosting plan and reach your own conclusions by using various services designed to monitor uptime and performance.
If you can overlook some customer support related mishaps of you web host, uptime is something that you shouldn’t take any chances with, especially if you are going to use your website for revenue generating. High abandonment rates due to slow loading pages or extended downtimes will set your site back in search engine rankings and lose you customers despite all your marketing and SEO efforts.
If you can test uptime over an extended period, make sure to do so, if not, make sure to do your research on the issue.
Analyze Guarantees, Policies & Terms
It might sound like a tedious job to analyze guarantees and read through refund policies or terms and conditions. However, being thorough in your search for the best web host, will pay off on the long run. You could once again resort to getting the input of hosting reviews, but you could just as easily skim read through your hosts policies and guarantees to get updated and firsthand knowledge of these aspects.
Look into the money-back guarantees offered by your hosting provider keeping in mind that not all plans are backed by the same money-back guarantee. For example, InMotion Hosting’s shared hosting plans come with a 90-day money-back guarantee, but their dedicated servers feature only a 30-day money back guarantee. Some hosts will offer a 30-day guarantee with most of their plans or offer no money-back guarantees at all.
Make sure to take a look at the refund policy that’s attached to these guarantees – is it a no-quibbles refund, are there some conditions to be met?
Even if you don’t read the Terms of Service line-by-line, at least read the parts related to prohibited use or acceptable use policy, especially if you’re planning on hosting content that may be deemed inappropriate by your web host. Some hosts don’t allow the hosting of adult materials, other hosts may not allow you to host video content with some of their hosting accounts (e.g. shared hosting plans).
Apart from these factors there are, of course, other things that may influence your decision to choose a certain web host over the other. Pricing may be one of these factors, and you may give up on some of your other requirements to benefit from a lowered price.
Sometimes, you may simply not like the type of control panel offered by your web host, and you’d rather choose another host that may not rank as high in customer support, but offers the type of control panel you want. Whatever compromises you find yourself willing to make, always weigh the pros and cons of each.
Top 3 Recommended Hosts
Our top picks for best web host comes down to three contenders – BlueHost, InMotion Hosting, and HostGator. Here’s a quick review of each:
BlueHost is one of the top-rated hosting companies in the industry. They have been around since 2003 and power over 2 million websites worldwide. Their plans cover the entire range of hosting types including shared, cloud, VPS, WordPress hosting, dedicated servers and reseller hosting.
Plans & Features
Shared hosting plans start from as low as $3.95/month, while all-unlimited plans (storage, bandwidth, email accounts, domains hosted on one account, etc.) start at $4.95/month. A free domain is included with all packages, and so is an enhanced cPanel control panel. The CloudFlare content delivery network is built directly into your account, increasing the performance of your site. Courtesy backups, SSH access and resource scaling are a few of the great features included with these shared plans.
Cloud hosting prices range between $6.95/month and $15.95/month. Unmetered bandwidth is included with all plans, while unmetered storage, emails, and domain hosting is included with all plans except the entry-level plan. BlueHost’s cloud hosting automatically distributes three mirrored copies of your data across multiple devices, thus, ensuring that your data is safe and protected. Cloud hosting plans are fully managed and are instantly scalable.
VPS hosting at BlueHost is built using all-SSD storage for better performance and reliability. Plans start at $19.99/month, and include a free domain, unlimited bandwidth, up to 2 IP addresses, a 30-day money-back guarantee, enhanced cPanel, and 24/7 support.
BlueHost’s dedicated servers pack the most resources (up to 1TB mirrored storage, 16 GB RAM, 15 TB bandwidth), allowing further storage upgrades. Instant provisioning, RAID storage, root access and dedicated support, and an improved cPanel are available with all dedicated hosting plans. Prices for dedicated hosting plans are between $79.99/month and $119.99/month.
BlueHost offers 4 WordPress optimized hosting plans starting at $19.99/month. These plans are built on VPS technology and come with a free domain, a free IP, enhanced cPanel, SiteLock CDN, SiteLock Pro security, and free SSL certificate. Backups, dynamic upgrades, and an enhanced cPanel are included with these plans as well. Those looking to host an ecommerce site, should check out BlueHost’s WooCommerce optimized plans that start at $6.95/month.
BlueHost offers US-based 24/7 customer support via live chat, phone, and ticketing system. Certain plans include specialized support (e.g. WordPress expert support). Self-help support resources are also abundant on their website.
InMotion Hosting is an independently operating hosting company founded in 2001. They market themselves as a business hosting provider, but offer hosting plans for all skill levels and hosting needs. Their feature-rich hosting plans are offered with a generous 90-day money-back guarantee and an arsenal of useful site building, marketing, security, and ecommerce tools.
Plans & Features
Shared hosting plans at InMotion Hosting are built with SSD storage and include a free domain name, free data backups, SSH access, unlimited disk space, transfer, email accounts and email storage. A free drag-and-drop site builder tool, free marketing credits, free SSL, cPanel control panel, spam and malware removal are also included for free. Prices start at $5.99/month and go up to $8.99/month through three plan iterations.
Fully managed and built on cloud technology, InMotion’s VPS hosting plans feature SSD storage, unlocked CPU cores, live-state snapshots, cPanel & WHM included, up to 5 IP addresses, root access, eCommerce tools, DDoS attack protection, CentOS with LAMP stack, Launch Assist, and the possibility to choose the data center closest to you. VPS plans start at $24.99/month.
At InMotion Hosting, even dedicated servers include free SSD. Regular dedicated server plans start at $99.99/month, while commercial class dedicated server packages start at $319.99/month. Server management, 24/7 support, 1-to-1 Sysadmin time, rebootless upgrades, 100% network uptime guarantee, and free cPanel & WHM are included with each package.
WordPress optimized web hosting starts at only $5.99/month. These plans have WordPress preinstalled and ready, while the drag-and-drop site builder and free themes allow you to quickly get your site up. A free domain is offered with each plan, unlimited hosting is available with some plans, while a 90-day money-back guarantee backs each WordPress optimized plan. The same features offered with shared hosting are included with these packages as well.
Reseller hosting starts at $13.99/month with free eNom domain reseller account, free SSD, free backups, free cPanel & WHMCS, 90-day money-back guarantee, private nameservers, SSL, IP addresses, and multi-layer defense.
Ancillary to web hosting services, they also offer web design services and domain registration services, including domain privacy services.
InMotion Hosting offers US-based 24/7 customer support on live chat, phone, and email. The Support pages on their website have numerous tutorials, product guides, a FAQ section, education channels, and community support, which are all part of InMotion Hosting’s efforts to offer premier support on all hosting levels.
HostGator is an Endurance International Group hosting brand, and it was founded in 2002. The company offers both Linux based and Windows based hosting with cPanel & WHM and Plesk included for free. Their product range covers the needs of both first-time users and professionals.
Plans & Features
Linux-based hosting plans are available for all hosting levels, while Windows-based hosting is only available with shared and dedicated hosting packages. Linux-based shared hosting starts at $3.95/month, while Windows-based entry-level shared hosting starts at $4.76/month.
In terms of features and specs, shared hosting packages come with unmetered bandwidth, and some packages include unmetered disk space and hosting for unlimited domains.
HostGator’s shared hosting includes unmetered bandwidth, one click installs, free website builder, free site transfer, free advertising credits, 99.9% uptime guarantee, and a 45-day money-back guarantee. The smallest shared hosting package allows you to host a single domain and starts at $3.95/month.
Affordable pricing characterizes HostGator’s cloud hosting plans as well, which start at only $4.95/month. Here too the entry-level Hatchling plan is designed for hosting a single domain, while all other cloud hosting plans allow unlimited domain hosting. With HostGator’s cloud hosting, your pages will load faster due to an optimal caching configuration, your data is mirrored across multiple devices, you can easily monitor and supplement your resources. cPanel is offered for free and several add-ons are available for an extra fee (CodeGuard, SiteLock, Domain Privacy, G Suite, etc.).
WordPress hosting at HostGator is built on cloud technology and plans have a built-in content delivery network and multiple caching layers. You can scale resources with a single click and backups can be done automatically. Unmetered storage space and $100 worth of Google AdWords credits are included with each package. The smallest WordPress plan, the Starter, is priced at $5.95/month.
VPS hosting plans are scalable and root access allows complete customization of your hosting environment. All plans include a full suite of website development tools with free templates and script installer. HostGator offers courtesy off-site backups on a weekly basis and 2 IPs with each plan. The Snappy 2000 is HostGator’s entry-level VPS plan, which costs $19.95/month.
HostGator has three dedicated hosting plans with the option to choose between HDD or SSD hardware and Windows or Linux OS options. There is the option to have a semi-managed or a managed dedicated server. The semi-managed dedicated server does not include cPanel or Plesk, these are only available with the managed option. All dedicated servers include 3 dedicated IPv4 IPs, full root access, unlimited databases, RAID-1 configuration, 24/7 support, and DDoS protection. Prices start at $119/month.
Reseller plans start at $19.95/month offering plenty of resources and hosting for unlimited domains. They include cPanel and WHMCS, a free Reseller Club account, automatic weekly off-site data backups, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and private nameservers based on your domain. Reseller plans offer you complete control over the services you want to offer to your clients, including any additional services that you may want to add (SSL, domains, etc.).
As it is expected from a contender for best web hosting, HostGator offers 24/7/365 support. Support is available via live chat, ticketing system and a US toll-free phone. Other support options include a knowledgebase and support forums.
These are our top recommendations for best web host, however, depending on your requirements, you may or may not find them suitable for hosting your site(s).
While there are many objective factors that go into choosing the best web host, sometimes subjective preferences may trump some objective considerations. In any event, when selecting a host for your site, make sure that it’s a reputable hosting provider, that the plan you choose matches your skill level, and that your website’s hosting requirements are being met.
Hopefully, our article has managed to answer all or most of your questions about choosing the best host for your site. Ultimately, the best web host is specific for each website, and while there are hosting companies universally recognized for their reliability, performance, support and great features, they may still not prove to be a suitable choice for certain websites.
The hosting companies reviewed in this article have a variety of hosting plans from affordable shared hosting to high-end dedicated servers meeting a wide range of hosting needs. Most plans also come with a host of freebies (free domain, free cPanel, free backups, free advertising credit, etc.) that other hosting companies may not offer for free.