We've reviewed (and re-reviewed) more than 100 web hosting providers so we know what makes the best website hosting service; from the outside, it does seem like a daunting task with so many technical terms to deal with.
Should you go for a shared hosting provider? or may be website builder? or just a landing page? How much bandwidth or transfer rate do you need? Should you get an email account as well? How much should I pay for my website?
The answer as any web hosting expert will tell you is "it depends". After all we're all unique. What we attempt to do in this buyers guide is provide you with our curated list looking at the most popular categories of web hosting available: Shared, SMB, website builder, VPS, reseller and dedicated.
What's the best web hosting service?
In a hurry? The best web hosting provider right now overall in 2020 is Bluehost – we love its wide and useful set of features (not to mention its affordable price points), and this provider really excels when it comes to WordPress hosting in particular.
Taking top honors in our best web hosting charts, Bluehost is a company based in Utah which is owned by web giant Endurance International Group (EIG). It offers basic shared hosting from $2.95 monthly (on a three-year contract), with WordPress plans starting at $20 per month (although that’s also a discounted introductory rate).
For the money, you get automated setup for WordPress, not to mention other popular apps via a Mojo Marketplace-powered system. There’s also a cPanel-based area to allow expert users to tweak things.
Furthermore, Bluehost provides a Weebly-based website builder. This is a basic browser-based affair that lets you create a website of up to six pages, and there are no extras like site templates included. But still, it’s better than nothing, and more functionality is in the pipeline – plus you get this builder with the basic account.
There’s also good customer support on offer, and the end result is a mix of user-friendly aspects alongside a good amount of power, and potential tweaking for more advanced users.
Cheapest Bluehost Shared Plan |
$7.99 $2.75 p/m | 65% off
A fantastic bargain for TechRadar readers, Bluehost has cut the price of its Shared Plan (regularly $7.99 p/m) down to a mere $2.75 per month for the first term only. You get $175 in offers, 24/7 support, plus a free domain and site builder and 30-day money-back guarantee. Not bad, considering Bluehost is #1!View Deal
If you’re hunting for budget web hosting, then look no further than HostGator’s Hatchling plan. The beauty of this provider is that even this basic plan is unrestricted in many respects. There are no limits on bandwidth or disk space, subdomains, MySQL databases, FTP and email accounts.
You also get cPanel-based management of your website, as well as 24/7 customer support, and $200 worth of Google and Bing Ads credits.
Hostgator delivers an impressive range of products ranging from domains to dedicated servers at very competitive prices and backed by a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Further benefits include a 45-day money-back guarantee, not to mention free transfers for new accounts within the first month after you’ve signed up. There’s lots to like here considering the minimal impact on your wallet, with pricing as low as $2.64 (£1.95) per month on a three-year contract.
- Hostgator Business Plan - $5.68/month
- Hostgator Baby Plan - $3.78/month
- Hostgator Hatchling Plan - $2.64/month
This popular web host is a respected and professional operation that's been in business for over 15 years, with an impressive array of plans on offer including shared hosting, which starts from just a few dollars per month.
What’s also good to see is that InMotion Hosting bundles some pretty neat extras into its plans – services that other providers often charge extra for – including the likes of malware and DDoS protection, ‘spam-safe’ email, and a system of basic backups, with plans starting from $3.99 per month.
InMotion provides both cPanel and Softaculous panels, and another strong suit is some top-notch technical support should you get stuck with anything. In our testing, we found that this firm’s overall performance levels were well above average, which is good news for those who want to see fast-loading websites.
In short, there’s a great deal to like here and some tempting pricing, with the icing on the cake being a 90-day money-back guarantee should you not be satisfied with the service.
EXCLUSIVE InMotion Power Plan | 60% off
Exclusively for TechRadar readers, this top-rated web hosting service is offering its Power Plan (normally $9.99 p/m) for the price of the Launch Plan ($3.99 p/m). This price is for TechRadar readers only, and the package has double the resources and comes with a number of bonus features.
Hostinger hails from Lithuania, and is one of the biggest providers of free web hosting via its 000webhosting brand. It has well over 30 million users, and some of the lowest prices thanks to low running costs and overheads. Hostinger prefers to use its own technology (for example, it has its own customized control panel instead of the ubiquitous Cpanel), so that it can better control performance and features.
Its cheapest offer at the moment is an $0.80 (per month) web hosting package if you take a four-year contract, which is great if you want to kickstart a small online venture, but still limited because there’s no SSL or domain name bundled.
Our preference goes to Hostinger's business package, which offers unlimited bandwidth, MySQL databases, GIT integrations, SSH, CloudFlare DDoS protection and email accounts, plus daily backups (something others charge for), 100GB SSD-based disk space – exclusively for TechRadar readers – and SSL, all for only $3.45 per month when you take out a four-year contract (that’s just under $166 over the period of the contract, and a saving of $600 or 78%).
You get a colossal number of features as well, too many to list here. The Business web hosting plan also delivers 4X processing power and memory, handy if you need a boost during peak trading periods.
Hostinger business web hosting | 4 years | $3.99 per month
Exclusive to TechRadar readers. This is an incredibly cheap deal. For less than the price of a coffee every month, you can get a free domain, 100GB storage, unlimited traffic and a free SSL certificate. This package is perfect if you plan to host just one website and grow it rapidly, with plenty of features not normally found at this price.
The US-based web hosting company is one of the largest in the game, and perhaps the best-known. It's also the biggest domain name registrar in the world, with tens of millions of domain names in its portfolio. GoDaddy’s cheapest web hosting package (Economy) is decently kitted out, and costs $2.49 per month when you sign up for a year.
This provider offers free backup and restore, free Microsoft Office 365 Business Email for one year, an uptime guarantee (99.9%), unlimited storage (although there’s only 100GB for the Economy package), as well as unlimited bandwidth and a free domain with the annual plan.
A pretty nifty feature provided by GoDaddy with all its packages is the ability to increase hosting capacity on demand (for example when you experience a sudden surge in traffic) from within your hosting account.
This UK-based provider plays the value card, with an entry-level plan starting at £1.61 ($2.15) per month (providing you sign up for two years – it’s £1.79 per month if you commit for just one year). That plan limits you to 500MB storage, admittedly, but you do get unlimited bandwidth, Let’s Encrypt SSL and 10 mailboxes.
There’s flexibility here, as well, because you can opt for cPanel hosting, or ‘cloud web hosting’ via Tsohost’s own cloud architecture and custom web management console, which may appeal more to some.
Tsohost’s technical support may not be the fastest out there in terms of response times, at least in our experience, but that said, it did provide clear and accurate answers to our queries. Performance levels are also solid, and the company offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, which is more than you’ll see with most providers.
Wix is a website building service that offers an attractive range of plans, and boasts some truly impressive depth when it comes to tailoring your site to best match your needs. The service has a user-friendly editor that bristles with content and functionality, allowing you to fine-tune your site in a wide variety of ways.
And there’s depth across the board; so for example, when it comes to templates, you don’t just get a scattering of predefined sites, but more than 500 of them. You’ll often find that you’re spoilt for choice with Wix.
Other powerful features include an integrated image editor with tons of Instagram-style filters, and a raft of ecommerce templates to boot (note that Wix doesn’t levy transactions fees on your sales, either, unlike some rivals).
Wix even has a free plan, although that limits bandwidth and storage space (to 500MB) and puts branding on your site. Step up to the Unlimited plan, which is the most popular subscription, and you get 10GB of storage plus a free domain, unlimited bandwidth (as the name suggests), plus $75 worth of Google Ad vouchers.
- Most popular Wix Unlimited plan (unlimited bandwidth, 10GB storage)
- Wix VIP plan (Professional site review, Email campaigns)
- Wix eCommerce plan (online store, 20GB storage)
- Wix Connect Domain (Wix banner ads, 1GB bandwidth, 0.5GB storage)
Many hosting reseller plans are focused on the most basic and underpowered products. That may keep the price low, but the lack of features will also make it more difficult to sell the plans later.
SiteGround's reseller plan is a little more ambitious. Every user gets 10GB of disk space and cPanel site management, and there's unlimited bandwidth, email addresses, databases, and FTP accounts. Highlights include Spam Experts-based spam filtering, free Let's Encrypt SSL, daily backups and an integrated Cloudflare CDN.
These accounts cost more than the very low-end competition, but they're hardly expensive, with prices starting at $3.50 a month over a year.
There's more good news in SiteGround's pricing structure. Other companies often ask you to pay upfront for the resources to support perhaps hundreds of clients, whether you need those resources at the outset of your venture or not.
SiteGround allows purchasing plans in much smaller numbers – five to get started, 11 or more to get the best price – and these are only activated when you sell them. If you buy 20 plans now, for instance, they'll never expire. Whether you sell them in days, weeks or months, each one will still get you a full year of hosting from the date the account is launched or renewed.
How you manage and run the business is up to you, but SiteGround offers a simple control panel to review your accounts (there's a tutorial here), and a white label option and private DNS upgrade ensures that you can use your own branding everywhere.
Hostwinds offers a range of dedicated servers with powerful configuration options for anything from general to heavy-duty use, which makes them ideal for hosting everything from company websites to gaming servers.
There are multiple base options to select, which you can then customize according to your preferences. The cheapest models have a quad-core single processor and start with at least 8GB of RAM, which would make them ideal for most typical users.
However, more expensive (but competitively-priced) models offer multiple processors and up to sixteen cores, as well as RAM options that go as high as 82GB, making these potentially serious workhorses capable of handling the most demanding tasks.
Pricing isn't clear, however: initial list prices displayed by each model don't factor in RAM and number of IPs. This means that if you click on the option to 'customize' a server a price clearly displayed in a blue box will show the total cost according to whichever RAM and IP options are selected by default.
Otherwise, there are a good set of additional options available for customization, with different RAID configurations and a number of operating systems available, including standard CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, or Fedora options, as well as a Windows Server option.
A 1Gbps network link means that whichever bandwidth option you choose (all of which are generous) you shouldn't need to worry about traffic being throttled at your end.
Full server management is provided, which will be handy for those not wanting to get overwhelmed by sys admin duties, with server monitoring and nightly backups also provided as part of the service.
If there's one criticism we have, it's that a control panel such as CPanel, Plesk, or Exim isn't provided as standard, which can simplify a lot of server operations for users; however, if you contact Hostwinds they'll be happy to advise on the best option as an addon, if you don't feel comfortable with setting up one yourself.
Like Wix, Weebly is another giant in the website building arena, and it also gives you the option of a free plan – albeit one that’s similarly limited to 500MB of storage. You’ll also get adverts on your site, so if you want to be free of Weebly-imposed ads you’ll need to move up to the entry-level paid plan, which costs $6.80 per month.
The Starter package has no ads or storage limits, and you also get a free domain. Furthermore, what’s quite nifty for those thinking of selling stuff online is that there’s also support for a web store (albeit a basic one containing a maximum of 10 products).
The chunkier plans give you a ton of features, allowing you to build a high-end web store with support for coupons, customer reviews, and inventory management – and the top-of-the-range Performance plan also caters for gift cards, abandoned carts and email campaigns (this costs $35 per month).
Weebly’s range of stylish website templates are a real boon, but there are a few niggles here with the editor interface, such as the lack of a general undo function. Still, the slight downsides don’t detract from this well-featured website-building service.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the generic name given to the business of, well, hosting a website for organizations or individuals. But that's just the beginning: selecting a truly reliable, affordable, scalable web hosting provider is a daunting and overwhelming task, as there are so many options out there.
Many packages include a wealth of features that you may or may not place value upon, including a mailing list, a control panel, the ability to create online stores easily, simple website builder tools, and varying levels of support (either over the phone or live chat).
Whether you're looking to build a website for yourself, a website for your small business now or for the future, or a simple online store, or you just want to save money by moving to a cheaper web hosting provider, we've got you covered.
Choosing a host is very much a case of 'horses for courses' – it's a question of getting the best and most appropriate solution that you can afford. There's no need to hamstring yourself financially, though. If you're just starting out, or you're a relatively small business and you know your way around a server, you might like to consider a Virtual Private Server (VPS), for example – these provide the flexibility of a dedicated server, but at a reduced cost.
Web hosting: our must-know tips before you get started
From our experience, we believe these are the five key things to consider when selecting yours:
a. You almost always get what you paid for
If your website is primarily a hobby on the side then this shouldn't matter as much. However, as an essential business tool, it's often a false economy to go for the cheapest deal (or a free one) on offer.
b. Beware of pricing tricks
The overwhelming majority of web hosting vendors offer low prices at the beginning of their contracts, but jack up the pricing after the introductory period ends, which can be 24, 36 or even 60 months after signing up. Always look for the total cost of ownership.
c. Just how trustworthy is the provider?
Just about anyone can pretend to be a real web host and just be reselling someone else’s products. So, look to see how long they’ve been around, if they have a contact address, who owns them, are they making realistic promises on the website and so on. Google is your friend here.
d. Know your limits
How comfortable are you with creating your own website? Do you need external help to understand the numerous ramifications (including legal and commercial ones) that publishing one entails?
e. Consider website builders
You don't need web hosting to get online, and website builders offer an interesting and compelling alternative. However, you can't migrate your content easily if you want to leave because of their proprietary nature.
For more hints and tips you can scroll towards the bottom of this page for a full web hosting FAQ. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any outstanding questions.
Shared, VPS and dedicated web hosting... which do I need?
In a Shared hosting service, one user shares a server with other sites and web hosting accounts. While these are cheaper, shared hosting is best suited to smaller websites that don't use a lot of bandwidth resources.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or Cloud Servers enable you to scale resources as and when you need them, rather than being restricted by the limitations of a physical server. They draw from a pool of processing power, memory and storage depending on your requirements.
With a dedicated server, you have the entire web server for your own use, with significantly faster performance at the core of the offering. You will have to pay extra though, and you'll be responsible for maintenance.
Web hosting companies usually offer three main paid-for tiers of hosting packages. Other than the aforementioned tiers, we will also be considering WordPress hosting, as well as more powerful website building services.
Web hosting: paid or free?
Everyone loves free stuff, and it comes as no surprise that free web hosting services are wildly popular – but unless you're planning to use them to learn coding or run a personal website, we wouldn't advise using a free web hosting service.
Don't get us wrong: we love them, we've even produced a best free web hosting guide; however, using them for businesses purposes is fraught with potential issues that make it hard to recommend them.
Unlike free software, services (web hosting or VPN for example) cost money to run, which is why most web hosting companies use a freemium business model, and will try to convince you to move to a cheap, paid service.
Expect a number of limitations on disk space and bandwidth. You won't get an SSL certificate, which is a sine qua non condition for running a proper business website. You won't have regular backups, and some will even shut down your website for one hour a day!
Instead, we'd recommend checking out our best cheap web hosting sites guide, which we regularly update to include the hottest deals around.
How to choose the best web hosting service
The hosting services your business can choose from will usually mean making a decision about whether a shared, dedicated, or cloud-based server is right for your business.
Very small businesses will usually opt for a shared or managed service, as these are sometimes called. Costs are low, but your business will be sharing its server with several other enterprises. You can always move up to a virtual private network (or VPS) if needed.
A dedicated server, as its name suggests, is just one server reserved for your business. Dedicated servers are not as expensive as they once were, and can make economic sense if you want your business to have its own server platform, and don't want to have to worry about other businesses on a shared server impacting your online business if they have problems.
It's important to look closely at the service level (SLA) that will be attached to your dedicated server. Look for any additional costs, such as maintenance, or other 'extras' that aren't covered in the rental cost.
And lastly, try and buy server space that you can expand into. You don't want to find after a few months that you've outgrown your server and need to move to a new one.
Lastly, as the cloud has made a major impact right across the business environment, business web hosting has also embraced the cloud, and now offers an alternative to the traditional hosting methods. The power of cloud hosting is the flexibility it offers: in effect, your business can buy just the space and hosting services it needs now, and expand at anytime with no disruption to business.