How to Choose the Best Web Host for Your Business
Choosing the best web host for your business can be tough
There are plenty of people out there armed with affiliate links who would love to tell you who has the best web hosting plan so that they can make a buck. The problem is that most of these people simply want to make money, they have probably never actually used the web host they are advertising, and they do not really care whether the web host they recommend will actually help you build your business.
Here I intend to give it to you straight: what web hosts work, what web hosts are crap, and precisely what influenced my verdict concerning that web host.
Believe me – there is plenty of crap out there
If you’ve ever been told that your choice of web host does not really matter, you have been lied to.
It’s true that you do not need to spend weeks researching a web host before purchasing their services, however there are a few things you should double check before handing over your hard-earned cash.
The first thing to check is whether they use Windows-based hosting or Linux-based hosting. Web hosts will usually disclose this information somewhere in their list of hosting plans. Occasionally you may have to check in their ‘About’ section or their FAQ page. If nothing else, call their customer service department and ask.
If you are using WordPress for your company website, you want Linux-based hosting. If you are having your site built in a .NET environment, you can work with Windows-based hosting. I typically prefer Linux hosting simply because it’s far less hassle to work with, and in my experience Linux hosting is far more reliable than Windows hosting. For 90% of business websites, I would recommend using a Linux-based host.
The next thing you will want to check is whether or not your hosting plan comes with CPanel. CPanel is a control panel for managing your hosting. It allows you to set up emails, databases, install CMS’s, change file and FTP permissions and more. If you don’t understand all of that – don’t worry. Just make sure that you have it available. CPanel is an invaluable tool for site owners and developers alike, and you do NOT want to use a web host that does not support it. Typically CPanel will come free with your web hosting plan.
The last major item to check on is how trustworthy the web host itself is. Do they have customer reviews you can read? Do they appear trustworthy? Do they have ‘verified’ security certificates listed on their website?
Do not base your decision of their trustworthiness on the appearance of their site alone. Many cheap web hosts have very cheap looking sites. As a designer/developer I can tell you that most hardware guys (the people who manage things like web host servers) are not so great at design, and most design guys are not so great with hardware. More than anything else, you’ll need to go with your gut feeling on this one.
Cruise through their site and get a feel for the company. If you are specifically looking for a dirt-cheap web host, their site is not going to look as professional or polished as a company like BlueHost’s will. If the company feels shady, run the other way. If they seem trustworthy, but their site looks a little dated and cheap you will probably be fine. If you REALLY want to avoid having to make those decisions, your best bet is to go with a larger hosting company like BlueHost who has an established reputation.
So how can you find a reliable, cheap web hosting plan?
Googling things like ‘Best web host’ or ‘Cheap web hosting’ will only get you so far. Most of the time you will still come up with search results for bigger hosting companies. If you are planning to operate a reasonable-size website, I would recommend using BlueHost. They are my go-to web host for most of my projects, they have very affordable plans, and their services are pretty phenomenal.
However if you want to find recommendations for other cheap web hosts, look in places like forums and blog posts. These posts are usually well-researched and come from someone who is familiar with web hosting and knows their way around a server. Try searching for things like ‘Cheap web hosting reviews,’ ‘Cheap web hosting comparisons,’ and other similar searches.
Before you look into selecting a web host, you should consider what your needs are.
If you are simply planning to start a blog, you do not need expensive hosting. In situations like that, super cheap web hosting would be fine. Most blogs do not receive copious amounts of traffic for the first year or two. Purchasing $1 per month web hosting will work just fine for things like small blogs, affiliate sites or small businesses that only target a very small area.
If you will be operating a website for a small business, you will either want a lower end hosting plan from a larger company (like BlueHost), or one of the medium-sized plans for a cheaper web host. You can typically find pretty reasonable web hosting plans from a cheap web host for around $2-$3.50 per month or less. The downside to these is that you will usually have restrictions on both your storage space and bandwidth. Larger hosts will likely charge slightly more for their smaller packages than a cheaper web host, but they usually don’t have bandwidth restrictions and are very generous with their storage space limits.
If you are planning to operate a larger site, an ecommerce store, or any site that you expect to have a rapid growth rate: DO NOT SKIMP ON HOSTING. If you foresee having mid-range to high traffic volume, please purchase a higher grade hosting plan. Switching hosts on a larger site is a huge hassle, and if your host cannot handle the traffic volume your site is receiving you will have a very slow site, which will negatively impact SEO and drive visitors away. Having an inadequate hosting plan could even result in your site going offline, which would mean more hassle for you and lots of lost revenue. If you do not have the cash on hand to purchase a higher grade hosting plan, purchase a low level plan from BlueHost – you can easily upgrade your plan later.
My full list of web hosting recommendations:
These are some of the hosts I have personally used and would recommend. I have personally used all of these web host companies and currently hold accounts with all of them. If you decide to purchase their services after clicking one of the below links, I do receive a small commission from the sale. However I only endorse services that I trust and would recommend to a friend.
- BlueHost – this is my go-to hosting provider for most sites, especially if a reasonable or rapid growth rate is expected. Plans run as low as about $35 per year. They have great customer service, support CPanel, have reliable servers, and have a very user-friendly interface.
- AICheap Web Hosting – These guys are great for smaller or mid-level sites. They have great support and a good user interface. This is my second choice for hosting when I don’t need something as hefty as BlueHost’s plans. Plans run as low as $12 per year.
- MyTrueHost – Not the most professional looking website, but their services are solid. Their control panel can be a little bit confusing at first, but they offer great value for the money. Plans as low as $12 per year.
- 1 Dollar Web Hosting – Not my favorite web host, but they’re easy to work with and have REALLY cheap plans. Similar to MyTrueHost, their interface is not the greatest, but if you are willing to deal with a less-than-awesome user interace, you can’t get much better value for your money. Plans run as low as $0.50 per month.
My top recommendation here is BlueHost. They have consistently impressed me with their services and reliability. If you can’t quite afford BlueHost, definitely go with AICheap Web Hosting. They’re a close second to BlueHost’s service and reliability.
Web hosts you should be careful to avoid:
I’ve worked with several other web hosts, and I’ve heard plenty of web host horror stories. Here is a list of web host companies you should definitely avoid:
- GoDaddy – Yeah, I said it. GoDaddy is great for purchasing domains and the like, but their hosting services are pretty terrible and customer support isn’t always very good. Considering how much they charge for hosting, I would NOT recommend using GoDaddy for hosting. They are unreliable, don’t provide value for the money, and do not provide good customer support.
- GearHost – If you are building a site in a .NET environment, GearHost isn’t too bad of a host. They are a bit pricy and their customer service isn’t stellar. Their plans run upwards of $90 per year, and in my opinion it simply isn’t worth the money. GearHost is TERRIBLE for hosting WordPress sites. Absolutely avoid this host if you will be running WordPress. They use Windows servers, and they do not support CPanel.
- 1&1 Hosting – 1&1 does not make a point to please customers, and their user interface is confusing. They do not have a well-designed site, and honestly it’s just too much of a hassle to use.
- 3ix – Very cheap hosting, but they have extremely insecure servers, do not provide good customer support and have constant hardware issues.
- LiquidWeb – Shady business practices, terrible support, slow servers, low security and overall terrible service. Definitely avoid this hosting service.
I hope you can use this information to choose the right web host for your business! Do you have any hosting horror stories? Do you have any questions concerning choosing a good web host? Feel free to share or ask questions in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!