How to choose a web hosting company

by Joe Chapuis – Editor & Publisher, WebHostingCheapskate.com
Searching for a new hosting company for your website?

How to choose a web hosting company
I feel your pain.

I’ve been building websites and online businesses since 1995. In that time, I’ve tried dozens of web hosts and spent well over $100,000 on web hosting. So I now know what to look for, and what to avoid.

And I also know that whether you’re moving an existing site to a new web host, or building a website from scratch, trying to find a good web hosting company is about as much fun as going to the dentist.

That’s why I built this site. To help people like you find reliable web hosting at a great price. So if you’re looking for a web hosting company and you don’t know where to start, well… you should start right here!

This short guide will tell you what you need to know when looking for a new web host, and includes a list of my recommended shared hosting plans. And if you’re a total newbie and unfamiliar with web hosting basics, you may want to first visit my Web Hosting 101 for a quick overview. And then when you’re ready to start looking for a new home for your website, just follow these five simple steps…

1

Decide what kind of hosting you need

If you’re just getting started and you’re looking to find a future home for your new blog or small business website, then you’ll probably want an entry level shared hosting plan.

Sometimes referred to as discount hosting or virtual hosting, shared hosting is a web hosting option where you rent space on an internet-connected server (computer) from a hosting service provider so you don’t have to purchase and maintain your own server and connections to the internet. With shared web hosting, the provider is responsible for all server maintenance and software upgrades.

Shared web hosting is the most economical web hosting option, as many people share the overall cost of server maintenance. However, although shared hosting is the least expensive way to create a web presence for your website, it is something you may outgrow over time.

Larger, busier sites usually require a VPS or dedicated server. VPS and dedicated hosting plans are usually for established, growing websites, or those that require more server horsepower than can normally be found with a standard shared hosting plan.

Bottom Line...
Unless you know you need a plan with more resources, save your money by starting with an inexpensive shared hosting plan. You can always upgrade later if/when necessary. 
2

Set your web hosting budget

Fortunately, web hosting prices have plummeted the past few years. When I first started, it wasn’t unusual to have to spend $29/month or more for the most basic of plans.

Now, high quality shared hosting plans tend to fall within the $5-$10/month. It is possible to find them for less than that, but these are usually “teaser” plans. Some hosts advertise $1.99/month hosting plans to get your attention. But what you’ll usually find with these super cheap discount plans is that:

  1. They don’t offer everything you need (e.g., no telephone support), or…
  2. You’ll quickly exceed their bandwidth and storage limits.

In either case, you’ll probably find yourself upgrading to a higher level hosting plan or looking for a new web host shortly after signing up for the budget plan.

While the discount shared hosting plans below are all in the $5-$7/month range, they are NOT the cheapest offerings from each hosting company. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better. These recommend plans cost a buck or two per month more than each hosting company’s entry level plans. But I recommend them because the additional features and benefits of these hosting plans far exceed the nominal extra monthly cost.

Bottom Line...
Don’t be tempted by dirt cheap discount web hosting. You can find high quality shared hosting for less than $100/year.
3

Pay attention to hosting terms & money-back guarantees

Many web hosting companies offer their best deals to customers who sign up and pre-pay for long-term contracts (e.g., at least one year). And some will offer better deals for two and three year contracts. The same service that’s $12.95/month on a month-to-month basis could cost you as little as $6.95/month if you sign-up for two years. (See the “FYI” section below for more.)

But what happens if you sign up for two years and then find you’re disappointed with the service? With some hosting companies, you’re out of luck. But all of the hosts recommended here offer a money back guarantee of at least 30 days — with some going as long as 90 days.

Keep in mind a hosting company’s money back guarantee usually only covers hosting charges. There may be separate, non-refundable fees for items such as domain names and custom services. Read the hosting company’s fine print when signing up. And if there’s any doubt, contact them via email first, and get their guarantee in writing.

Bottom Line...
Don’t commit to long-term contracts unless you can test the waters with a risk-free money-back guarantee.
4

Decide what hosting features are most important

Each of the recommended shared hosting plans below include everything necessary to power just about any small to medium-sized website, including features such as: FTP, SSL, PHP, MySQL, cPanel, multiple email accounts, automatic back-ups, ecommerce capabilities, “1-click” WordPress installation, etc.

Most of these web hosts will let you host an unlimited number of websites in the same hosting account. All of these plans also include unlimited monthly traffic allowances, and all but one offer unlimited storage as well. But keep in mind that the “unlimited” plans usually do have some kind of a limit (which most website owners will never reach). Again, you may want to read the fine print.

Bottom Line...
Don’t worry if you don’t know what these terms and acronyms mean. Just know that these plans offer just about all the bells and whistles you’ll need to get started.
5

Trust the “Cheapskate Score”

Sorry to tell you, but you ARE going to have questions, problems and trouble — no matter where you host your website. That’s why web hosting customer / tech support is a BIG deal. The companies below all have a solid reputation for providing:

  1. Reliable web hosing and impressive “up-time”
  2. Responsive 24/7 support via email, phone and/or live chat for when problems do arise

Customer support is just one component of the “Cheapskate Score,” which is a method used to rank web hosting companies based on their services, online reputation and overall value.

Bottom Line...
A high Cheapskate Score is an indication that a hosting company has a history of being able to consistently deliver on its promises by meeting or exceeding the needs of its customers.
How to Choose a New Web Host — Summary

There is no one hosting company that’s perfect for every person, business or website. And even the most highly-rated hosting companies sometimes have a bad day.

Servers go down. Hard drives crash. And network cables sometimes get severed when highway workers accidentally dig in the wrong spot, resulting in days of unexpected website down-time as well as thousands of very disappointed customers (this actually happened to me a few years ago when I was running web video hosting company).

Yes, bad things happen. But what’s important is how well a hosting company responds when things go wrong, and the steps they take to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That’s why when it comes to web hosting, there really are just two things you need in a partner. You want a web host who consistently:

  1. Offers great value at a fair price; and,
  2. Is there for you when trouble arises or if you have questions.

That’s why I believe you’re likely to have a positive experience with any of the shared hosting companies listed below. These plans offer all of the hosting features you’re likely to need, and have the reputation to back up their claims. And if you happen to be looking for dedicated hosting, managed WordPress hosting, or VPS hosting, have a look at my list of the Cheapskate’s Top 10 Web Hosting Companies for more options.

Well, that’s about all you need to know to get started. Good luck in host hunting. Feel free to contact me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help you find a web host that’s right for you!

The Top Discount Web Hosting Plans

Web Hosting Plan Overview

  • Hosting Plan Name
  • Cheapskate Score
    The "Web Hosting Cheapskate Score" - a method we use to rank web hosting companies based on their services, reputation and overall value. Highest possible score is a 10.
  • Bandwidth / Traffic
  • Storage Space
  • Websites Per Account
  • Databases
  • Email Accounts
  • Monthly Billing Available?
  • Money Back Guarantee
  • Ecommerce Ready?
  • Automated Backup?
  • Easy WordPress Install?
  • FREE Domain Name?
  • Choose Data Center?
    Does this web host let you specify the location where your website will be hosted?
  • Customer Support
  • Control Panel
  • Discount Available?
  • FYI

A2 Hosting

$4.89per month
$4.89per month
  • "Swift" Plan
  • 9.2
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • YES
  • YES - 30 Days
  • YES
  • YES - "Server Rewind"
  • YES
  • No
  • YES
  • 24/7 phone, email & chat support
  • cPanel
  • Sign up for 2 years for the best deal

Siteground Hosting

$7.95per month
$7.95per month
  • "GrowBig" Plan
  • 9.3
  • UNLIMITED
  • 20 GB
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • YES
  • YES - 30 Days
  • YES - Includes free SSL
  • YES - Daily automatic
  • YES
  • YES
  • YES
  • 24/7 phone, email & chat support
  • cPanel
  • No long-term contract required for best deal

WebHostingHub

$6.99per month
$6.99per month
  • "Nitro" Plan
  • 9.0
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • No
  • YES - 90 Days
  • YES
  • YES ($1/month extra)
  • YES
  • YES
  • YES
  • 24/7 phone, email & chat support
  • cPanel
  • Sign up for 3 years for the best deal

InMotion

$6.29per month
$6.29per month
  • "Power" Plan
  • 8.6
  • UNLIMITED
  • UNLIMITED
  • 6
  • 50
  • UNLIMITED
  • No (Only with "Pro" Plan)
  • YES - 90 Days
  • YES
  • YES
  • YES
  • YES
  • YES
  • 24/7 phone, email & chat support
  • cPanel
  • Minimal savings difference when signing up for 2 years vs. just 1 year
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