Welcome to the CNET 2017 Directory of hosting providers. In this directory, we'll look at a few of the best web site hosting providers on the internet. In this evaluation, we're featuring commercial hosting providers.
When shopping for a hosting service, keep a few things in mind.
Big price jump after promo period
Many services offer a low "starting price," but require you to prepay for two or three years of service to get that price. After the promotional period, the renewal price for some services can be two, three, or even four times the initial promotional pricing. While the initial deal might be incredible, the cost of transferring your site (or paying the added fee) in a couple of years may be something to consider.
What "unlimited" really means
Many services offer so-called unlimited or unmetered service for whatever amount of bandwidth, disk storage and sites you use. It's important to understand that most terms of service actually do limit the definition of "unlimited" to what's considered reasonable use. The bottom line is simple: if you're building a pretty basic web site, unlimited means you don't need to worry. But if you're trying to do something excessive (or illegal, immoral or fattening), the fine print in the terms of service will trigger, and you'll either be asked to spend more or go elsewhere.
Watch out for page builders
Almost all the services offer some sort of page builder that makes it easy to drag and drop to build your page. These are great for getting started, but they often lock you into the service. Most page builders are proprietary to the service, or don't create HTML that's portable enough to be easily moved to another service if you decide it's necessary.
Migration services are great, mostly
Migration or transfer services are often free or offered at a reasonable fee. These services help move your existing site to the new hosting provider. They can save a huge amount of hassle. Just remember that the migration process is often automated, and may fit in with the host's processes and needs rather than yours. Not everything may migrate, and you may find the organization of the newly migrated site makes for harder maintenance in the long run.
Keep those concepts in mind as you shop for a hosting service. Our hosting service rankings are based on nearly 40 factors including quality of support, guarantee, availability of security services, performance architecture, and promotional pricing. CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of these products and services offered by our partners.
Let's look at each of the vendors below in a little more depth.
InMotion Hosting - 5/5
- Shared hosting starting at $5.99 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $5.99 /mo.
- Reseller hosting starting at $13.99 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $24.99 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $99.99 /mo.
InMotion is our top-rated 5-out-of-5 listee. We particularly like that the company offers free backups and SSH access, even on their lower-end plans. WordPress support with integrated WP-CLI is also available.
Here are some of the reasons the company gets a full 5 rating. They offer an all-SSD infrastructure. They have 24-7 telephone support in addition to the ticket/email/chat support options. They offer a basic site migration, in that they'll unpack a site saved from another cPanel instance. They offer free SSL and free malware detection.
Rounding out the wins, InMotion offers a full 90-day money-back guarantee. On top of that, here's a special money-saving hint. In a chat session confirming pricing and offerings, the operator offered me some special prices and deals that reduced the published price by a few bucks. I was also told that while promotional pricing does go up at the end of the offer period, if you contact customer service, InMotion has a "loyal customer discount" that may bring the price back down.
Dreamhost - 5/5
- Shared hosting starting at $7.95 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $7.95 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $15 /mo
- Dedicated servers starting at $149 /mo.
- Cloud hosting starting at $4.50 /mo.
Dreamhost holds a special place in my heart. The company, in addition to its commercial services, offers a free shared website to nonprofits. They provided a free website to a nonprofit I was affiliated with, which at the time, was a huge help for the cause. That offering is still available to 501(c)(3) nonprofits to this day.
Beyond that, Dreamhost is a 5-of-5 hosting company for many reasons. They operate their own control panel, which is convenient and easy to understand. While phone support isn't available 24-7, they are responsive to chat and tickets. The company uses superfast SSDs for all their storage, has a free SSL certificate (for more secured web browsing), and provides SSH access for those plans that are intended for more technical users.
There are two other factors that led to the nearly perfect score earned by Dreamhost. First, the company's pricing is pretty transparent. There are no hidden gotchas in the rates. Plus -- and this is the best we've seen across all our hosting providers -- Dreamhost provides a 97-day money back guarantee. There's quite literally zero risk in giving them a try.
iPage - 4/5
- Shared hosting starting at $1.99 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $3.75 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $19.99 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $119.99 /mo.
Probably the first thing most folks will notice about iPage is the incredibly low price for shared hosting service. At less than two bucks a month for the 36-month plan, you can buy three full years of hosting for under $75, a jaw-dropping deal no matter how you look at it.
Yes, that price will go up after your 36 months are over, but can you blame them? The company does not claim to offer unlimited bandwidth, but low-end hosting plans generally don't require a tremendous amount of traffic capacity. If you do sustain a big surge, contact the company and they'll work with you.
We like how iPage offers 24-7 telephone support and a 30-day guarantee on top of its ridiculously low price. If you're on a budget and want to try out Web hosting, we haven't found a better starting price than what iPage is offering.
A2 Hosting - 5/5
A2 Hosting scores a top rating of 5 out of 5. That's because it does a lot right and almost nothing wrong. The company offers much-faster SSD drives for all its plans, which can shorten site-loading time tremendously. It also has a semi-dedicated hosting offering, which is similar to a VPS, except that everything is controlled by cPanel or Plesk, which doesn't require root-level knowledge.
The company offers both Windows- and Linux-based plans for those with more technical requirements, 24-7 phone support, a free site migration service, SSH access for geek-level access, and a solid 30-day money-back guarantee.
Multacom - 4.5/5
- Shared hosting starting at $5.95 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $129.00 /mo.
- Co-location server starting at $99 /mo.
- Co-location full rack starting at $799 /mo.
Multacom is another pro-oriented service provider. As you can see, they're upfront with their offering of a full rack that's rentable in their facility. You can also rent half a rack, a quarter of a cabinet, or even co-locate just one server in their facility. They provide a full 20 amps of power to each cabinet, initial setup, and free IPKVM and remote reboot on request.
So, with all that, you'd think they wouldn't pay much attention to the lower-end entry-level plans. But you'd be wrong. One of the things that sets Multacom apart is that the company offers shared Windows hosting starting at $7.95. If you want to run Windows (or, more likely, IIS and various .ASP capabilities), this is a great way to get a start, or set up a testing or staging server for development.
The company offers SSD speeds on some plans, but has the option of increasing storage capacity measurably in return for using somewhat slower spinning platters. 24-7 telephone support is available, as is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Colocation America - 4/5
- Dedicated servers starting at $119 /mo.
- 1U co-lo space starting at/mo $75 /mo.
These folks are all about the co-lo and dedicated server offerings. They operate 22 data centers in the United States, in eight locations. Co-location is the practice of running your own machines out of a provider's data center. It's a great solution for enterprises and larger site operators.
The company didn't earn a 5 rating primarily because it doesn't offer the consumer-level services provided by other hosting providers that reach a broader market. It also lost points because the sales chat agent couldn't tell us whether or not a money-back guarantee was available. That said, if you're serious about your web presence, and know and appreciate what co-lo means, Colocation America should be one of your first stops on your journey to hosting your servers or renting dedicated machines. The company also offers 24-7 phone support.
Bluehost - 4/5
- Shared hosting starting at $3.92 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $3.92 /mo.
- Reseller hosting starting at $13.19 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $5 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $15 /mo.
- Cloud hosting starting at $99.59 /mo.
If you're a WordPress user, Bluehost is definitely a provider to consider. While its managed WordPress hosting is a little more pricey than basic shared hosting, the company has both specific WordPress and WooCommerce hosting plans available (along with management support). It also offers a site migration service for an additional fee.
The company got bonus points for its policy of performing regular daily backups, even on the lowest-priced shared hosting accounts. It lost points because its promotional price on the low-cost shared hosting does go up after the promotional period. That said, Bluehost also gained points for offering 24-7 phone support and SSH access for certain plans.
Web Hosting Hub - 4.5/5
Web Hosting Hub has an entry-level starting price, but some surprisingly valuable benefits for such a low-price entrant.
In particular, Web Hosting Hub uses BoldGrid as a site builder. BoldGrid is actually an add-on to WordPress, so there's no lock-in. This overcomes the major problem of most site builders: you're locked into that host and that tool, often requiring you to completely rebuild your site if you want to expand. By using a WordPress-based solution, all of the rather considerable power of WordPress is available for future expansion.
We liked how Web Hosting Hub describes its new customer process. They tell new customers, "We walk you through setting up your account in a personal on-boarding call." The company has a few other wins as well. They offer an all-SSD infrastructure, automatic vulnerability patches and a custom firewall, SSH access for certain plans, and an excellent 90-day money-back guarantee.
SiteBuilder - 4/5
- Shared hosting starting at $4.99 /mo.
You may have thought the days of getting a website for free were over, but with SiteBuilder, they still exist. SiteBuilder generously provides a service where you can host up to five pages, use their website builder application, and even choose from a variety of templates -- all for free. There will be ads placed on your site, but that's a small price to pay for no hosting fees.
If you'd prefer to avoid the ads, you can jump up to plans ranging from $4.99 to $11.99 a month. As you work your way up the pricing ladder, you add on free email, priority support, SEO tools and even an e-commerce store.
The company does offer email support and ticket support, even for its least expensive plans. We did take a point off for the relatively short 14-day money-back guarantee and a slight price increase after the initial promotional period ends. That said, you can certainly set up a small, free site and get a feel for the service, with absolutely no time limit to check things out.
LiquidWeb - 4.5/5
- VPS hosting starting at $59.95 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $199 /mo.
- Cloud hosting starting at $150 /mo.
If you're a web pro, you'll like LiquidWeb. LiquidWeb specializes in offering beefy servers to users who know what they need. If you're just getting started, and want to create a website with just a few pages, LiquidWeb isn't your best choice. But if you want to set up systems exactly the way you want, either with a VPS, a dedicated server or cloud hosting, LiquidWeb may be your go-to choice.
The company earned points with its all-SSD infrastructure and 24-7phone support. It also earned points due to the freedom provided to web professionals when setting up servers. However, there is one issue that cost LiquidWeb a top rating: the company does not offer a money-back guarantee.
Omnis - 4/5
- Shared hosting starting at $5.95 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $15 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $108.60 /mo.
- Co-location servers starting at $35 /mo.
Omnis Network bills itself as "everything hosting," and the company does seem to offer something for everyone. The company has services ranging from competitive shared hosting plans all the way up to co-location services located in its secure Tempe, Arizona facility.
We liked seeing the quality support offered by the company and the 30-day money-back guarantee. We also really liked reading the company's blog, which contains meaty advice about hosting, domain usage, cloud services and more. It's quite well done.
Website Builder - 4/5
- Shared hosting starting at $7.99 /mo.
Website Builder offers a strong selection of business-oriented services, including a free suite of SEO tools. These tools are designed to help you tune your site so it can rank well in web searches. The higher your site ranks, the more traffic you'll get.
Website Builder also offers business email, with your own domain. You'll look a lot more professional using a business email account than one that's derived from one of those commodity email services everyone else is using.
Support is email only, unless you invest in a higher-priced plan. The company also only provides a 14-day money-back guarantee. That said, you can set up a small site on the service for free, which gives you the opportunity to get to know their services. If you keep your site to under five pages and you don't mind third-party ads on your content, you'll never have to pay anything for a fully functioning custom web site.
Web Hosting Pad - 4/5
- Shared hosting starting at $1.99 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $2.99 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $29.95 /mo.
Web Hosting Pad has a strong international presence. The company has servers in US, Hong Kong, Mainland China and Korea, and you can specify which server and location you want when you sign up.
In terms of what many vendors call unlimited service, Web Hosting Pad's terms of service indicate that their definition of unlimited is what they call "incremental." Basically, as you need more capability, they want to discuss that with you, both to help you get the most out of their services, and to make sure you're using their systems without abusing them.
The company's entry-point pricing is extremely low, and while this will buy you up to three years of very low-cost hosting, do be aware that its post-promotion price will increase substantially, putting its subsequent year pricing more in line with the rest of its competitors. That said, we liked its 24-7 phone support, SSD support on some plans, and 30-day money-back guarantee.
GreenGeeks - 4.5/5
- Shared hosting starting at $3.95 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $3.95 /mo.
- Reseller hosting starting at $19.95 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $39.95 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $160 /mo.
If you've ever been worried about the tremendous amount of power large data centers consume, you might want to sign up with Green Geeks. The "green" in the company's name reflects the Green Geeks' commitment to the environment. It purchases three times the energy it actually uses in wind energy credits, essentially putting energy back into the economy. The company does this through a form of renewable energy certificates, which, while a bit complicated, means that it's not just energy neutral, i's actually helping fuel the green energy economy.
Just because it's green doesn't mean it limits your power to do what you need with your Web sites. Rather surprisingly, its low-end account provides both SSH and WP-CLI (useful for automated WordPress deployments) access, along with Git preinstalled. It's also possible to customize PHP and PHP.INI, a capability unheard of on a low-end plan.
The company gained additional points for its all-SSD infrastructure, 24-7 phone support, 30-day money-back guarantee, free site migration and malware detection. The only concern we had is that after your discounted purchase period expires, basic shared hosting jumps to $9.95 per month.
Host Metro - 4.5/5
- Shared hosting starting at $2.95 /mo.
HostMetro only has two plans, a $2.95/month Mega Max and a $6.95/month Super Max plan. The lower-end plan offers all the basic Web hosting services we've come to expect. The Super Max plan adds an SSL certificate, SEO help, and a daily malware scan.
What we liked most about HostMetro was its guarantee that the price is locked in. It gets major points for clarity. Unlike some other vendors, after your purchase period ends, you're not going to be hit with a surprising new rate. While the company makes no mention of an SSD infrastructure, they do offer 24-7 telephone support, a 30-day money back guarantee, free site migration, and very clear terms of service.
- Shared hosting starting at $3.95 /mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $5.95 /mo.
- Reseller hosting starting at $19.95 /mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $19.95 /mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $119 /mo.
- Cloud hosting starting at $4.95 /mo.
HostGator is a full-service hosting company, with plans for almost any need. Whether you're starting out and need a very basic shared site, or need to be able to operate your own machine dedicated solely to your company, HostGator has a service that can help.
We like how HostGator not only allows more sophisticated site builders to customize their dedicated or virtual server, but also to choose Linux or Windows hosting. While HostGator doesn't support SSDs on all plans, many of its servers can be equipped with the faster drives.
HostGator gained points for uptime monitoring and regular backups, along with free cPanel or Plesk. We liked that SSH is available for the more technically inclined site operators, and that dedicated IP addresses could be purchased. We did take points off because it's sometimes difficult to tell what the price is once promotional plans run their course. That said, with a generous 45-day money back guarantee, there's a solution for almost everyone at HostGator.
More information about Web site hosting
You may also find other hosting services more appropriate depending on your needs. Hosting services such as cloud hosting, e-commerce hosting, reseller hosting and WordPress hosting are providing customers with a lot of flexibility.
Cloud hosting is a great option if you want to make sure you have a lot of storage space and allows you to utilize cloud computing to do so. There are many advantages to selecting cloud hosting, such as guaranteed server resources, redundant data storage and unlimited website growth.
E-commerce hosting is a popular option for many online businesses. In addition to providing customers with ecommerce functionality, many web-hosting service providers are also capable of providing you with a web server to host your website, along with an email server and other standard web-hosting features.
Reseller hosting is ideal for users who are interested in using his or her allotted hard drive space and bandwidth to host websites on behalf of third-parties. To do this, the reseller will need to purchase the host's services wholesale and then sell them to customers separately for a potential profit at retail prices.
WordPress hosting is an ideal platform for customers who are interested in creating a custom-built website. WordPress is popular among customers because it lets you build a professional custom website using a variety of templates, plug-ins and widgets.
What about after picking a provider?
Once you choose your provider, it's time for you to open an account with the monthly plan that fits your needs. If you still have questions about which plan is suitable for you, call their customer support staff and have them assist you through the registration process. Companies will generally charge a credit card on a monthly basis, however, some companies will also offer discounts for paying a yearly payment at once.
After selecting a provider, it's highly recommended that you test your internet speed to ensure that the data is being processed in a timely manner. You can visit CNET's Internet Speed Test to instantly assess your current internet speed.
How to speed up your website? Finding the fastest hosting provider?
People often think that a web host is the main cause of a slow website but, this is often not the case. When picking a provider, it's important for find a hosting provider that is close to your users and has a good amount of RAM and fast CPU power. Beyond that, it's often the way the website is set up that slows it down for users. To ensure that your website speed is optimal for users you need to make sure you pay attention to the following:
- Minimize HTTP requests to the server. This means that we limit the amount of request that are required to download the page
- Enable server caching. WIth server caching, after content has been download, the content is stored locally to allow faster access of the content and a reduction of strain on your web server.
- Enable compression of larger files. Compression reduces the bandwidth of your files, resulting in a lower HTTP response.
- Remove code bloat. Remove any unnecessary code or plugins.
- Optimize images. This will reduce overall page size.
There are many other ways to increase website speed but, these are the items that will have the biggest impact. You can visit CNET's Internet Speed Test to instantly assess your current internet speed and find a new provider if need be.
What if I can't find my questions here?
Many of your questions can be answered in our CNET Forums. If you're still seeking additional answers, then you may find more helpful information in our database of web hosting articles.