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If you're a business owner, a writer, or a hobbyist, sooner or later you're going to want a website. To have a website, you'll need a web hosting service. There are hundreds of web hosting companies available to host your site, but which one do you choose? And, how do you know what to look for?
The first step in choosing a web host is figuring out how much you want to spend per month in hosting costs. While some web hosts are nearly free when you sign up, there is often some fine print involved. Many web hosting companies will lure you in with cheap pricing at the outset, but then will raise the monthly subscription cost when you renew at the end of a month or a year.
Sunday, August 1st
InterServer has been hosting websites since 1999. The service itself comes as a refreshing surprise with regards to pricing packages being simple, affordable, and having a flat-fee with no "gotcha" pricing at renewal time. InterServer's online community forums, where they handle the majority of their support requests, seem relatively open, low-volume, and civil when compared to other hosting company support experiences. Online reviews of InterServer have many more positive things to say than negative on average.
There is a single pricing plan for standard web hosting at $5 per month which will give you unlimited storage, transfer, websites, and email as well as free SSL certificates. That's rather rare.
WordPress hosting is a bit more expensive but still very reasonable at $8 for unlimited storage, unlimited transfer, 1 website, unlimited email, and free SSL.
If you're into ASP.NET web hosting (a Microsoft application server and scripting technology), InterServer's $5 plan will give you unlimited storage, unlimited transfer, 20 websites, unlimited email, and an ASP + MSSQL setup. SSL is not available with the ASP.NET plan.
All pricing plans are the same whether you pay yearly or monthly, and there are no plans that require a multiple-year commitment.
The web hosting centers are all owned by InterServer rather than leased or co-located. InterServer builds and manages all of its own servers in-house rather than outsourcing it to third-party companies. They even build their own custom Linux kernels (the core of the operating system that runs on the servers). This is another refreshing change from larger hosting companies and puts InterServer in a good position to serve their customers' needs more directly and quickly.
InterServer's Support page is rather sparse, with only an alphabetical directory of topics and articles and no apparent way to contact another human being, unless you happen to scroll all the way to the contact link and phone number in the footer of the site. The support article directory list is somewhat technical, so you'll need to know what you're looking for in advance if you hope to gain by using it. Your better option for connecting with a person (outside of the support ticket link and phone number in the footer), or if you're unsure of what you're looking for, is to use the online community forum.
Their reputation seems to be stellar as well. One stockbroker customer's review stated that he uses their VPS service for trading, clocking in at around 2 milliseconds of response time, which is a great response time for such a low price. Another customer notes that support response time is about 15 minutes. When compared to other hosting companies reviewed, this is quite good.
Overall, InterServer leads the pack in web hosting companies. Their competitive pricing, top quality components, and service all combine to earn InterServer our highest rating.
HostPapa, a private Canadian hosting company operating in 14 countries and hosting over 500,000 websites, has been in business since 2002. They, like FatCow, use renewable energy sources to power their server farms. HostPapa offers shared, VPS, and reseller hosting.
Price plans follow the usual introductory pricing scheme that most companies in the web hosting industry follow. But HostPapa makes an exception in not graduating its rates according to the term of service the customer selects. Instead of reducing the monthly cost as the term increases, the monthly cost remains flat.
HostPapa offers a mobile-responsive website builder tool priced independently of its hosting plans, but includes it to varying degrees in the plans. Pricing for the website builder is not subject to renewal rates and is:
Customer support includes searching the knowledgebase, video tutorials, live chat, a dashboard, support ticket info, and a network status tool. Security upsells can become quite expensive (between $29.99 and $479.99 per year) depending on the level of care your site needs. And extra web hosting, email, and domain services are also available a la carte.
Automatic website backups are available, but for a fee of between $35.88 and $249.95 billed annually depending on how much space your site needs for being backed up. Their backup pricing is the most expensive reviewed compared to FatCow's price of only $16.95 per year.
Out of all the hosts we've reviewed, HostPapa seems to have the most positive comments by customers using the service regularly. They're not unlike all the other hosts in the fact that there are several customers who have not had such positive experiences.
Some have complained about being ignored in email ticketing while their sites remained down for over a week. Another user complained that phones go unanswered and tickets and chat are the only way to get through to support.
Further complaints involved malware, spam from the company and other entities who seem to have bought customer email addresses from HostPapa, no support at all on Fridays and weekends, and rude customer service representatives.
Reliability of HostPapa sites is very good, with an overall availability of sites 99.94% of the year. However, performance measured by page loading speed was about 40% slower than the industry as a whole.
Established in 1997, LiquidWeb has 3 data centers serving over 20,000 customers. Their service offerings are on the higher end technically and price-wise, so they are not for people who are new to hosting and are just starting with their first site. Entry-level hosting begins with performance-tuned, managed WordPress and advances through dedicated, VPS, and cloud services.
The WordPress offering starts at $119 per month and offers up to 10 sites with no limits on website visitors, use of a custom WordPress Dashboard, iThemes Sync Pro, or cPanel. There are no limits on plugins and support is 24/7 via live chat, phone or helpdesk.
Upgrading to the $189 per month WordPress package will give you up to 20 sites and the $289 per month package will provide up to 40 sites.
Every WordPress package has one-click staging sites, automatic backups and one-click restores, and free SSL included.
LiquidWeb offers what it calls "Heroic Support", which promises 100% uptime, half-hour replacement time for hardware failure, 30 minutes of turnaround time maximum for all support tickets, and under 1 minute response time for phone and chat. While some reviewers dispute this claim, it appears they are keeping to that promise for the most part.
Some complaints do exist about a recent selloff of various LiquidWeb's customer accounts to DeluxeHosting.com without giving enough notice to LiquidWeb customers.
While LiquidWeb does have an industry-standard 30 day money-back guarantee, due to the fact that their plans are pricier and are for the more technical set of users, it would make sense for them to offer a longer guarantee to match the "Cadillac" nature of their service.
LiquidWeb's dedicated, VPS, and cloud hosting systems are pretty beefy, with lots of memory, bandwidth, and storage space for heavy-duty web applications.
As long as you don't mind not having access to cheap shared hosting, and if your budget and technical staff can handle LiquidWeb's higher-tier services, you will do well to use their hosting.
GoDaddy is, arguably, the biggest name in the hosting business. Starting with their infamous SuperBowl ads of the early 2000s, GoDaddy has become a household brand for people wanting to get their website up quickly. Headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, GoDaddy's revenue is between $1.6 billion and $2 billion and has about 4,000 employees.
The features GoDaddy provides are numerous, including:
In addition, they provide experts to design logos, websites, eCommerce setups, and other marketing materials for your websites.
GoDaddy prices are among the lowest for registering domains and hosting websites. Like most other hosting companies, GoDaddy attracts customers at low introductory rates of between $4 and $8 per month that turn into renewal rates of between $8 and $18 per month after 12 months. Presently, their non-WordPress plans are as low as:
GoDaddy separates its WordPress plans out from its traditional, static website plans. The first tier of WordPress plans is as follows:
GoDaddy also has a set of Managed WordPress service plans that optimize WordPress on their servers so you get the best performance and easiest upgrades. The plans are currently set at:
Despite its popularity as a hosting company, GoDaddy suffers at present from a poor reputation. Many reviewers of the service reported being unhappy with the quality of technical expertise and the slowness of GoDaddy's shared hosting packages in serving up websites. They also didn't appreciate the complex sales process and mystifying configurations of options and upsells when making purchases with the service.
GoDaddy has also engaged in the practice of selling new user information to marketing companies, which again resell the information, resulting in confused users being bombarded with offers from other hosting companies trying to lure them to their services as well.
Further adding fuel to the fire is GoDaddy tech support's unethical practice of upselling packages or additional software without addressing the root cause of the problem the customer was calling about. These upsells are often positioned as solutions to the core issue, but rarely result in a resolution of the ticket. In several cases, users have complained that when their website was hacked, they were told they must buy an additional security package called SiteLock in order for tech support to rescue their site. The more technically-savvy users knew that sites could indeed be rescued without resorting to another purchase and wondered why GoDaddy wasn't concerned enough with security to upsell on SiteLock before the incident had occurred.
GoDaddy has a relatively slow website response time compared to other services in its class. It performs fairly well, with sub-second response times, until between 10 and 25 or more users are concurrently using a GoDaddy-hosted site. At that point, response times range between 25 seconds to 4 minutes.
HostGator was founded in 1997 and is now a hosting brand of Endurance International Group (EIG). The company has a large market presence, bringing in about $800 million a year in revenue. They offer full-service hosting for small and large businesses with competitive pricing.
Hostgator's offerings include:
The standard, shared, static web hosting packages are priced in three tiers with introductory rates leading to higher renewal rates at the end of 12, 24, or 36 months depending on the term chosen at signup. The renewal rates are not immediately apparent on the HostGator website, so the numbers given below are estimates based on their stated discount on each plan:
WordPress hosting is similarly cryptic with regards to renewal rates:
HostGator finds praise in its hosting package pricing being among the lowest available among new users looking for shared hosting. There is also a 45-day money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with the service. This is a bit more than most other hosting companies which only offer a 30-day guarantee. And, if you need your site migrated over from another host, HostGator will do that for free. Plus, if you buy a premium plan, they'll do malware scans and fixes and give you a free SSL certificate, which is important for secure eCommerce and good SEO.
People like the familiar cPanel interface. However, some find that HostGator lacks CPU (processing) power and memory, causing CMS platforms like WordPress to install incorrectly. The VPS offering has also been reviewed as being lackluster when compared to shared hosting. However, most shared hosting customers aren't going to be as concerned about VPS offerings until their sites become popular enough to need VPS.
Other problems HostGators have reported include long hold times on phone and chat as well as long resolution times for email-based support tickets. One reviewer wrote about how his web development client's sites were frequently hacked and taken down by HostGator, which replaced the site with a "suspended" message. Upon calling support to resolve the issue, the support reps consistently told them they had to purchase other services to secure the sites. He canceled HostGator and moved the site to another hosting company, but was unable to obtain any refunds for the HostGator plan.
Backups at HostGator come in two types: "instant" backups, which the user initiates through the cPanel on an as-needed, manual basis, and truly automatic backups, which cost $15.95 per year.
HostGator's performance is on the slower side, being just under 1 second to render a page for one user on shared hosting. Their Cloud hosting service, being about twice as fast as their shared server offerings, is a much better option for all website performance concerns.
Uptime at HostGator could be much better. It registered at about 99.85% in one test, which is far below the industry average of 99.90% and the industry ideal of 99.95% or more.
FatCow was founded in 1998. Since then they've made a speciality of low-cost hosting for individuals and small businesses. FatCow uses energy generated from wind to power their services. Their brand is quirky and even includes a "heifercratic oath" stating, among other things, that their mission is to provide "around-the-clock phone and online support, a satisfactory resolution to any issue that may arise, and - most importantly - a consistently positive, can-moo attitude."
Hosting plans at FatCow include "Original FatCow" static website hosting, WordPress, VPS, and dedicated servers. For static web hosting, which is essentially unlimited in everything except cloud storage, they have a sale price of $49 for the first year, renewable at a regular rate. The regular renewal rate prices are:
There is a $15 non-refundable domain fee if you register a free domain with monthly service through FatCow and later cancel.
For WordPress, here's what you'll expect to pay for the introductory rate:
When you renew the WordPress packages at FatCow for the WP Starter, you pay:
Renewal for the WP Essential plan will set you back:
FatCow's reputation, in terms of net positive reviews, is higher than other hosting companies. But because it has grown beyond its kitschy beginnings, and has been acquired by Endurance International Group (a company that tends to drag hosting company brands down when it buys them), customers are starting to see and complain about FatCow's focus away from an optimal support experience in a perceived pursuit of more profits.
Performance of FatCow's web hosting clocks in at about 99.90% uptime, which is lower than BlueHost. In terms of overall percentage, it's not too terrible, but it still leaves about 9 hours that an average website might be down in a 12-month time span.
FatCow also has some pretty slow page speed times. One reviewer measured average speed of an active account's web pages over 12 months and found it to be 1.2 milliseconds. That is far slower than many of the speedier hosts out there which tend to fall into the sub-millisecond range.
Support includes live chat, a support ticket form with email notifications, and a toll-free phone number. However, even with FatCow's higher satisfaction ratings, there are still a significant number of customers who aren't happy with the company. One complaint was with a $35 fee charged for cancellation after the 30-day moneyback guarantee period. In other words, if you go past the guarantee period, you can't just walk away and cut your losses. You must pay to leave the service.
Backing up your site isn't free, either. You can get daily backups of your site for $16.95 per year.
Other complaints were about far too many upsells when signing up for the service. New registrants are encouraged to watch the line items at checkout carefully to make sure to not buy more than is needed.
iPage is known as one of the cheapest hosts when it comes to monthly subscription fees. At $1.99 per month, you'll get a great deal if your monthly spend is your biggest criteria for choosing a web host. However, you do get what you pay for with cheap hosting. Many reviewers panned iPage customer support and refunds are almost impossible to obtain in spite of the iPage money-back guarantee.
As noted, prices are low for iPage plans. At least in the first 12 months. Then, like other EIG-owned companies, they renew at a much higher regular rate and canceling your free domain results in a $15 cancellation fee. Here's the breakdown:
Essential (non-WordPress) gets you unlimited everything and a free domain for 1 year. It is
WP Starter and WP Essential both start at $3.75 and 6.95 per month for 24- and 36-month terms (respectively) and renew at between $8.49 and $12.49 for 12-, 24-, and 36-month terms.
Besides price, one of the biggest draws to iPage has been its page builder tool, Weebly. It allows non-technical, non-programmer, non-designer site owners to quickly get a nice design up and running. The designs can look a little "stock" in their finish, but are serviceable to a majority of casual website owners and small businesses. If you're looking for a design that is more well-customized to your particular brand and is more "open" for specialized configuration and eCommerce tools, then iPage Weebly is not your best bet.
Another problem with iPage Weebly, and other drag-and-drop builders in general, is that they tend to slow down page speed. Page speed has become a big deal recently in the world of search engine optimization in that Google, especially, is penalizing sites that have slow page load times. If you're trying to improve your Google search ranking, steer clear of drag-and-drop page builders and go for a custom-designed site, or a WordPress site instead.
iPage uptime is well below average at 99.77% in a 12 month period, which equates to about a full, 24 hour day of downtime when other hosts only experience about 8 hours of downtime maximum.
Page load times with iPage average over 1 second. That's slow when compared to other hosts coming in at under 1 second.
Customers with iPage complain of tech support not having good coverage on weekends, support staff being from non-U.S. countries, and customer service not honoring money-back guarantees. Other problems ranged from being promised follow-up and not receiving it to very slow websites, or sites that don't work at all.
BlueHost, founded in 1997, is rated highest in content management system support (WordPress, Drupal, et. al.) and is known for helping users quickly establish their websites in an affordable price range. They currently host 2 million websites and are one of the most popular hosting companies due to their high-paying affiliate program blog backlinks skewing the positive reviews in their direction.
Features that BlueHost offers are
As with most hosting companies, the rates you see on BlueHost's pricing pages are promotional or introductory rates that will increase upon renewing service. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, but it doesn't apply to the purchase of domain names.
Shared hosting for static websites is split into three plans with somewhat complicated and hidden upcharges:
The "extras" that the more expensive two shared hosting plans provide are not specified on the pricing pages of BlueHost.com, leaving potential customers wondering what they are and what the real value of those plans might be.
Optimized hosting for WordPress sites is split into four plans:
The WordPress plans are positioned in the context of hundreds of millions of visits per month. That magnitude of monthly site visits is unrealistic for the vast majority of WordPress sites that see only a fraction of that level of traffic. These rates may be reasonable for the publisher of an already very popular WordPress site with a lot of big media files. However, budget-conscious WordPress site owners who are just getting started and won't expect high numbers of monthly visits or a need for big amounts of storage, even out to years 2 and 3, will want to look to another hosting company with lower renewable rates.
BlueHost's reputation is not as high as other web hosting companies. One reviewer took WordPress.org to task for endorsing BlueHost and recommended they stop doing so because of BlueHost's slower servers, poor technical support, and more frequent outages than other hosts. Other sites also had numerous comments from real BlueHost users complaining about these same problems.
Performance of BlueHost hosting got a description of "lackluster" from one blog that frequently posts comparison reviews of load tests done against various hosting companies. The maximum web page response time in that test was 10.64 seconds under a load of 20 concurrent users. Even at only 10 active users, the response time was inconsistent and ranged between 1 to 3.5 seconds on average. Overall uptime (availability) of websites was recently measured at 99.93%, slightly under the industry average of 99.94%.
BlueHost's security is generally recognized among most reviewers and customers to be fairly good for the price paid.
Customer service at BlueHost is not its strong point. People who have BlueHost accounts complain of curt replies, long wait times, and difficulty getting issues resolved quickly. There are a number of YouTube videos BlueHost has published to try to reduce the load on their support team, so if you have a problem it's best to start with those first.
One will help you get your website up and running quickly with easy website builder tools. The pricing is very cheap at only $0.25 (yes, twenty-five cents) per month for the first year, renewing at a higher rate in the 2nd year and onward.
Plans include Starter, Professional, Professional Plus, and Business. All plans appear to be a part of shared hosting with no dedicated, VPS, or cloud offerings available and include SSL.
Unfortunately, One offers no phone support. If you have a problem or question, you are limited to contacting them via an online form or via live chat. Live chat was somewhat difficult to find. The money-back guarantee is only 15 days with One, so you must be sure that what you order is what you want and that you don't delay in setting it up and finding out for sure that it will meet your needs.
Because the resources offered on the services they provide are so limited, you are somewhat restricted as to how much you can accomplish with their hosting setup. While this might be fine for new website owners just getting started, it will quickly become untenable for the majority of business users.
The user interface for One features is pretty rudimentary and no-frills. While not exciting, you can do most of the things you need to do in a relatively short amount of time.
The majority of the reviews for One are negative, so be very careful in your decision to purchase a plan with them. There are better hosting companies available, even if they cost more. You'll definitely get what you pay for when you buy the cheapest hosting.
Some web hosting companies will offer you a lower overall cost if you choose to pay up front for multiple years. While some web hosts will seem really expensive compared to other, that's because they're usually offering more value for your dollar in more advanced or innovative features their cheaper competitors aren't covering. Whether you choose a more expensive host will depend on whether those features improve convenience or lead to a better return on investment (ROI).
That leads us to the next decision to make: features. You'll want to decide which features you genuinely need versus which ones you don't really need at all. Aside from the core service of hosting the actual website will be offerings such as web design, do-it-yourself site theme implementation, domain registration, email, eCommerce tools and setup, online advertising to promote your website, website development tools, and search engine optimization (SEO) help. Some of these will be important to you and others will not be necessary.
Security and performance are considerations that often get overlooked in the drive to find the cheapest web hosting available. Cheaper cost to you means the web host is cutting corners somewhere in how they host your site. Often that means "shared hosting", which means your site is put on the same web server as hundreds of others. There are security and site speed implications to this that often are not in your best interests.
Reputation can also be a key factor - web hosts with bad reputations or "fly by night" business practices can hurt your business or position in search results.
Finally, you want to know how reliable and supportive each web host is from the perspective of its customers. How many people are complaining about hacked sites, slow page load times, poor support, and price hikes over time? There will be many, many complaints across all web hosting options, so you'll want to narrow the list of things that are important to you and focus primarily on those as you evaluate options.
Once you have an idea of which web host you want to subscribe to, shopping online will make it easier than ever to find it. To summarize, as you decide which web host should get your business, keep in mind these criteria:
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