In this article:
- Web host comparison
- Best web-hosting services
- Other web-hosting services to consider
- More web-hosting services we looked at
- Criteria for web-hosting services
- Web-hosting terms to know
- Web-hosting FAQs
If you want to create a blog, kick off a side hustle or build an online portfolio, you'll want the best web-hosting service for your website. Web-hosting services house your website on one or more servers in data centers around the world. Think of these servers as apartment buildings, and depending on what kind of hosting plan you select for your site, your site can live in a shared space in the building, its own private area or it can live in the entire building.
Comparing website hosting services and plans can be confusing, and that can make choosing the right hosting service for you more difficult. We looked over the data for 22 web-hosting services to make things a little easier on you.
You can read more about our criteria for the best web-hosting services, including how we assess security and customer support, and you can check out important web-hosting terms to know.
Note: Pricing for web hosting is a bit tricky to follow. Listed prices are generally introductory rates attached to contracts that usually last a year or more and renew at the regular -- read higher -- rate at contract's end. Make sure to take regular rates into account when trying to figure out a long-term hosting provider. You can also see our recommendations for how web-hosting providers should advertise their prices.
Web host comparison
||Best for...||Monthly shared plan pricing||Security features||Uptime guarantee||Customer support|
|GreenGeeks||Clean-energy web hosting||$3||Good||99.90%||Good|
|A2 Hosting||Customer service||$3||Great||99.90%||Great|
|InMotion Hosting||First-time website owners||$2.29||Great||99.99%||Great|
|AccuWeb Hosting||Global customers||$4||Good||99.99%||Good|
Best web-hosting services
- Ionos: Great security features
- GreenGeeks: Climate-conscious web hosting
- A2 Hosting: Customer service-focused
- InMotion Hosting: Good for first-time website owners
- HostGator: Good for data-heavy sites
- AccuWeb Hosting: Worldwide data centers
- Extensive security features, including backups
- Unlimited traffic, so no need to scale up plans to handle additional traffic
- 99.99% uptime guarantee
- Website builder costs extra
- Plan prices increase, sometimes by huge margins, over time
Ionos has the lowest starting price point of any other service on this list, but once the plan renews, the price increases drastically. Ionos also has customer support numbers for 14 countries, making it a good choice for international customers.
Ionos offers shared, VPS, dedicated and managed and unmanaged WordPress hosting. The company also differentiates between hosting plans meant for smaller and larger organizations to help customers better understand what plan is best for them.
Ionos offers security features that go beyond what other web-hosting services offer. All plans include SSL certificates, malware scans and DDoS protections. Some plans also help repair damage malware might cause on your website. Backups at least once every 24-hours are also standard with each plan, and each backup is held for 20 days. A full set of a customer's data is also stored in two separate data centers as a security measure, that way customers will always have access to their data, even if one data center is brought down by a cyberattack.
Ionos has a 99.99% uptime guarantee, which is a higher guarantee than most other web-hosting services. Battery-operated power supplies and backup generators help maintain power to Ionos data centers so your site and services stay online even if its data center loses power.
Support is available any time, either by phone or chat. A directory also provides customer support numbers for customers in 14 different countries. Ionos also offers a personal consultant who will be your main point of contact if you need help with your site. A personal consultant and phone numbers for different support centers around the world gives Ionos customers more ways to get help compared to some other hosting providers.
Ionos offers a status page to alert customers when services go down or are being repaired. The page also logs the times when services go down and are brought back up, and it lets customers know of any scheduled maintenance.
Ionos' prices start lower than most other web-hosting services for similar services. However, prices rise -- shared and WordPress hosting rise by 800% -- after a certain amount of time. That means Ionos is a good entry point for web hosting, but it may not be the best long-term home for your website if cost is your primary concern.
- Shared hosting starts at $1 a month.
- VPS hosting starts at $2 a month.
- Dedicated server hosting starts at $45 a month.
- WordPress hosting starts at $1 a month.
- Offers a wide variety of plans for all needs
- Features website builder to help create your site
- Produces three times the amount of wind energy it uses
- Phone support isn't active 24/7
- Prices of some plans are above average
GreenGeeks' promise to offset its energy needs makes this service a clear choice for climate-conscious customers. Some plans also offer unlimited storage and bandwidth. However, prices are a little high compared to other plans.
GreenGeeks offers shared, VPS, dedicated, WordPress and reseller hosting plans. Each plan offers tiered options that let you scale up as your site's needs grow. Some plans are managed, but at a higher cost. Each plan also includes a website builder so you don't have to build your site from scratch.
Each plan includes a slew of security features like SSL certificates, DDoS protections, daily backups, malware cleanups and more to help protect your site.
Like most web hosts, GreenGeeks offers a 99.9% uptime.
GreenGeeks says it checks its servers every 10 seconds for any issues, while other services might check every 30 seconds, every minute or longer. This means if your site runs into any issues, GreenGeeks might already be working on resolving it before you contact them. For more direct customer support, GreenGeeks offers 24/7 chat support. You can also email GreenGeeks support, and the company says you can expect a response in about 15 to 20 minutes. Greengeeks phone support, however, is active every day, but only from 9 a.m. to midnight ET.
For every hosting account, GreenGeeks plants a tree, and GreenGeeks also creates three times the amount of energy used through renewable energy sources. Data centers contribute about 0.3% of global carbon emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, so GreenGeeks' environmental commitment makes it a web-hosting option that gives back.
GreenGeeks' pricing is average compared to other web-hosting services. However, most of the lowest prices from GreenGeeks require a three-year contract paid in full upfront. Other contracts are available at an increased price per month, but must also be paid in full upfront.
- Shared hosting starts at $3 a month.
- VPS hosting starts at $40 a month.
- Dedicated server hosting starts at $169 a month.
- WordPress hosting starts at $3 a month.
- Reseller hosting starts at $20 a month.
- 24/7 "Guru Crew" customer support by chat, email or phone
- Free site migration when coming from another service
- Servers are physically secure on site
- Lowest prices require three-year contracts
- Some plans don't offer enough to justify higher prices
A2 Hosting offers great customer service options, as well as many different types of multi-tiered hosting plans. Plans offer a lot of features at no extra cost. The biggest downside is that the cheapest plans require a three-year contract.
A2 Hosting offers shared, VPS, dedicated, WordPress, reseller and cloud hosting, including tiered options within each plan. Shared hosting, for example, offers plans labeled Startup, Drive, Turbo Boost and Turbo Max. These additional plans give customers more options to choose from to better fit their needs, and allow customers to scale their operation as needed.
Each plan comes with security features like an SSL certificate, dual firewalls, virus scanner and brute force defense. Each plan comes with a Patchman enhanced security tool, which regularly costs about $25 a month, as well as DDoS protections that can detect DDoS attacks as soon as they happen to help keep your site safe. A2 Hosting also boasts about the physical security of its servers -- in order to access them, someone needs to have two separate key cards to enter the parking lot and the server center.
A2 Hosting has a 99.9% uptime commitment. An uptime of 99.9% means your site shouldn't be down for more than nine hours a year, which is the industry standard.
The real distinction for A2 Hosting is its commitment to customer support. A2's "Guru Crew" is available by chat, email or phone 24/7. And if you want to figure something out without talking to anyone, A2 Hosting has a large Knowledge Base filled with information to help you develop and grow your site.
If you are looking to switch web-hosting service providers, A2 Hosting offers free site migration. The average cost of a site migration in 2021 was between $300 to $400, making this a generous offer.
A2 Hosting pricing is about average at first glance, but the lowest prices also come with a three-year contract, so to get the lowest price you are locked into this service for a long time. Some of the service's tiered plan options might not offer enough to justify the price increase, as well. The Turbo Boost and Turbo Max shared hosting, for example, are $7 and $13 per month, respectively. The plans appear to have two differences: Boost has 2GB of physical memory compared to the Max's 4GB. In addition, Max offers "5X More Resources" by using nonvolatile memory express drives, which are faster than solid-state drives. Nonvolatile memory express drives don't seem much faster than SSDs on paper, but if you're trying to sell something in real time online every second -- or millisecond -- counts.
- Shared hosting starts at $3 a month.
- Unmanaged VPS hosting starts at $5 a month.
- Managed VPS hosting starts at $40 a month.
- Unmanaged dedicated server hosting starts at $106 a month.
- Managed dedicated server hosting starts at $156 a month.
- WordPress hosting starts at $12 a month.
- Reseller hosting starts at $19 a month.
- 90-day money back guarantee
- Many customer service options
- Free website builder
- US servers only
- Month-to-month payment plans not available for all plans
InMotion Hosting has one of the longest money-back guarantee time frames, so even if you aren't totally satisfied with its service you can still get some cash back after a month or two. However, InMotion Hosting only has US-based servers, so it's not the best choice for anyone with an international audience.
InMotion Hosting offers shared, VPS, dedicated, WordPress and reseller hosting with different tiered options for each type of hosting. InMotion Hosting also offers managed hosting services. These services can be purchased for one month for $90, or you can purchase these services for three months, six months or a year with prices starting at $48 a month.
Each plan comes with free SSL certificates, DDoS protections and hack and malware protections. Automatic daily backups are also available for some plans.
InMotion Hosting offers 99.99% uptime, placing InMotion Hosting above the standard in terms of uptime. Customers should expect less than an hour of downtime per year, compared to nine hours for companies that only offer 99.9% uptime.
InMotion Hosting's customer support offers more ways for customers to contact them than many other services. Customers can contact a customer support representative by phone, chat, or email 24/7, they can file support tickets or Skype with a representative. InMotion Hosting also offers customers access to a database of instructional posts, as well as a community forum customers can look through for the answer to a question if you can't find it anywhere else.
Most web-hosting services offer a 30-day money back guarantee, but all InMotion Hosting plans come with a 90-day money back guarantee. That makes InMotion a great option for anyone who's trying out a website for the first time but isn't sure if they're ready for a longer commitment.
As with other web-hosting services, the listed price is only applicable before the renewal cost. These can be confusing when comparing prices since some plans appear to cost the same despite one offering more perks. For example, the shared hosting Launch plan costs $5 a month with a three-year contract and the shared hosting Power plan costs the same for the same contract length but has more features -- seems like a no-brainer to go with the Power plan, right? However, after the contract ends, the Launch plan renews at $12 a month and the Power plan renews at $16 a month, leaving subscribers paying more for the Power plan.
- Shared hosting starts at $2.29 a month.
- VPS hosting starts at $20 a month.
- Dedicated hosting under the "Bare Metal" tab starts at $70 a month.
- WordPress hosting starts at $3.49 a month.
- Reseller hosting starts at $17 a month.
- Managed hosting services start at $48 a month.
- Unmetered bandwidth and disk space
- Free site and domain transfers
- 45-day money back guarantee
- Restoring data from backups costs extra
- Add-ons add up
HostGator makes it easy to start and maintain a website with a database of tutorials and walkthroughs. If you already have a site, you can transfer it to HostGator for no extra charge. Make sure you read the fine print when it comes to backups, though -- it left us with questions.
HostGator offers shared, VPS, dedicated, WordPress and reseller hosting plans with tiered options. Each plan comes with unmetered bandwidth and disk space so you can load as much data on your site as you want. That makes it a great option for anyone with lots of video, images or animated page elements.
HostGator offers free SSL certificates, DDoS protections and automated backups. After the backups are taken, HostGator scans the files and makes sure they are free of malicious code, and if any is located the files are quarantined. However, HostGator writes that anyone with "critical business information or important data are STRONGLY encouraged to seek a third-party backup service…" (emphasis theirs). Undermining your own backup system is an odd choice.
HostGator has an industry-standard 99.9% uptime guarantee. Shared and reseller hosting customers can request a one-month refund if their uptime doesn't meet that guarantee. However, VPS and dedicated hosting customers won't get a refund if their uptime isn't met. Instead those customers receive a prorated credit for how long the server was down.
Customers can reach HostGator customer support representatives by chat, email or phone 24/7. A database also offers customers video tutorials, articles and guides. Not all services offer video tutorials, which could help solve an issue when it feels like talking to customer support over the phone or online isn't helping.
HostGator offers a 45-day money back guarantee, which is above average when compared to most other web-hosting services. The tutorials and walkthroughs available also make it easy for first-time site managers to get started.
In addition to renewal prices jumping after a plan's contract ends, add-ons can also significantly increase the price. Restoring backups, for example, costs an additional $25. So while, yes, HostGator offers automated backups, you still have to pay extra to access those backups, which makes it feel like backups are really an additional cost. This is certainly unusual.
- Shared hosting starts at $2.75 a month.
- VPS hosting starts at $24 a month.
- Dedicated hosting starts at $90 a month.
- WordPress hosting starts at $6 a month.
- Reseller hosting starts at $20 a month.
- Global data centers
- Cloud hosting offers 100% hardware uptime
- Free site migration
- No unlimited data options on most plans
- Customer support phone service not available all hours
AccuWeb Hosting has data centers around the world to better serve international customers. It offers both Linux and Windows servers for web-hosting needs, but phone support is limited to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, which is less than ideal if you're in another time zone.
AccuWeb Hosting offers shared, VPS, dedicated, WordPress, reseller and different cloud hosting options. There are options for cloud shared and cloud VPS hosting plans as well. Customers can also choose which of AccuWeb Hosting's global data centers will host their data. This means if you anticipate most of your traffic to come from outside the US, you can choose to have your data in a different data center so your site loads quicker for non-US visitors.
AccuWeb Hosting offers free SSL certificates with each plan, free antivirus tools and free daily backups, which are an upgrade over the more standard weekly backups. Security tools like malware cleanup are also included.
While AccuWeb Hosting guarantees an impressive 99.99% uptime, its cloud hosting plans offer 100% hardware uptime. However, just because the hardware is up 100% of the time, doesn't mean your site is reachable all the time as well. If a server is up and running but the network is down, sure the hardware is fine, but your site still won't be reachable.
Customers can chat and file tickets with customer service 24/7, but phone services are limited. Right now, phone service is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET and based in the US and Canada, despite having data centers around the globe.
While other services limit the number of domains an account can have and usually only allow one domain with basic shared plans, AccuWeb Hosting gives you unlimited domains no matter what plan you sign up for. Other services also limit the number of email accounts basic shared plans can host, usually between one and 10, but basic shared plans with AccuWeb Hosting offer 150 business email accounts, so instead of sending an email from your personal account, you can send an email from your business account and give your message more credibility.
Some AccuWeb Hosting plans, like shared plans, are a little higher than other services, while midlevel plans, like VPS plans, are cheaper than other services. If you choose a shared plan but plan to scale up to a VPS plan, the price averages out.
- Shared hosting starts at $4 a month.
- VPS plans start at $8 a month.
- VPS cloud hosting starts at $8 a month.
- Dedicated hosting starts at $80 a month.
- WordPress hosting starts at $4 a month.
- Reseller hosting starts at $12 a month.
Other web-hosting services to consider
These services don't offer one of the three hosting options, don't include sufficient security features, an uptime guarantee or have some limited customer service options. The following services aren't as robust as our top picks, but they're still reasonable offerings.
Dreamhost offers a 97-day money-back guarantee, which is the longest time frame for a web-hosting service on this list. If you're new to web hosting, this window could give you enough time to make an informed decision about whether to stay with Dreamhost or not. Dreamhost offers shared, VPS, dedicated and WordPress hosting plans, as well as an upgraded WordPress plan called DreamPress. Dreamhost has a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and plans come with security features like SSL certificates and malware remover. Chat and email support are available 24/7, and phone support is available via callback, however one phone callback request costs an additional $10. You can also purchase three callback requests a month for an additional $15. Callbacks are also only available between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. PST. Dreamhost offers a step-by-step online user guide with how to handle technical issues. The least expensive plan includes one month of hosting. Afterwards, the price renews to the standard rate, which is about quadruple the starting price.
Dreamhost plans start at $2.59 a month.
NameCheap offers some of the cheapest pricing plans. Month-to-month plans in particular are less expensive compared to monthly plans from other services. Some other services might offer monthly shared hosting plans for $20, but a NameCheap monthly shared hosting plan can cost less than $5. NameCheap also offers VPS, dedicated, WordPress and reseller hosting plans. NameCheap has a 99.9% uptime guarantee for VPS and reseller plans, as well as a 100% uptime guarantee for most shared, VPS and dedicated plans. Each Namecheap plan comes with a free virus scanner, two-factor authentication and DDoS protection to help secure your data and your visitors' data. SSL certificates are free for one year. After that year, you can buy SSL certificates through NameCheap. Prices start at $6 a year with a five-year contract. NameCheap offers 24/7 email and chat support, but no phone support. The pricing for some plans can be confusing. For example, the cheapest dedicated hosting plan comes with a one-month contract for $41.88, and then the price reverts to the standard rate of $61.88. Over a one-year period, this plan will cost $722.56. This appears to be a good deal, but the same plan with a one-year contract costs $650.88, a difference of about $72.
NameCheap plans start at $1.98 a month.
Hostinger offers a competitive price point. Shared and WordPress plans start at $2 a month, VPS plans start at $4 a month and cloud hosting plans start at $10 a month. There are also video modules on YouTube to show you how to, for example, build your WordPress site or how to change your domain name. Plans include SSL certificates and all servers have an advanced security module to protect your data. Some lower-tier plans offer weekly backups, while higher-tier plans offer daily backups. Hostinger has a 99.9% uptime guarantee, too. Customer support is limited, though. Live chat is available 24/7, as is email, but Hostinger doesn't offer phone support.
Hostinger plans start at $2 a month.
SiteGround is a good option if you're new to web hosting. It offers a 99.99% uptime, 24/7 customer support and plans include security features like SSL certificates, spam protection and a web access firewall to help protect your site. The company also has a 100% renewable energy match. However, Siteground offers shared, cloud, WordPress and reseller hosting options, so while these are good options to have, as your site grows and gains more traffic you might want to consider a service that offers VPS or dedicated hosting options.
SiteGround plans start at $3 a month.
GoDaddy Web Hosting offers unmetered storage and bandwidth with its plans so you can upload as many images and videos onto your site as you want. GoDaddy offers shared, VPS, dedicated and WordPress hosting plans, has a 99.9% uptime guarantee and 24/7 customer support. However, its security offerings are inconsistent. For example, SSL certificates are included with some higher-tiered shared plans, but not lower-tiered plans. If this is your first site, you might want to start with one of the lower-tiered options, but the lack of security features might push you to get a more expensive plan.
GoDaddy Web Hosting plans start at $3 a month.
HostPapa has global data centers, so you can choose the best data center to reach your visitors the quickest. Hosting options include shared, VPS, managed WordPress, reseller hosting and PapaCare Plus, which is similar to managed shared hosting. HostPapa has free SSL certificates, DDoS protection and other security features included in each plan, a 99.9% uptime guarantee and 24/7 phone, chat and email support. However, the lack of a dedicated hosting option means if your site grows too large, you will have to migrate to another service. Also, if you choose HostPapa, make sure to look over what you are buying when you're checking out. As I went through checkout, some features, like automated backups and a security tool, were automatically added for an additional charge. When comparing plans, these additional features are mentioned and marked as included in higher-tier plans, but not in all plans.
HostPapa plans start at $2.95 per month.
Hostwinds offers unlimited storage and bandwidth, as well as unlimited free business email accounts with each plan. It offers shared, managed and unmanaged VPS, dedicated, reseller and cloud hosting plans, has a 99.99% uptime guarantee and offers 24/7 chat support. Hostwinds plans also come with free SSL certificates and free nightly backups. However, in comparison to other services, Hostwinds isn't as forthcoming with information on other features or plan differences. Usually services show detailed charts that lay out what features come with plans. Hostwinds' shared chart, for example, only lists bandwidth, disk space and how many domains come with each plan. Since bandwidth and disk space are unlimited, the only noticeable differences with each plan are the domains offered with each plan, the price and name of each plan.
Hostwinds plans start at $5.24 a month.
Bluehost specializes in WordPress hosting and offers additional resources, like its Blue Flash customer support team, for anyone who chooses WordPress hosting. It offers shared, VPS and dedicated hosting as well as managed and unmanaged WordPress hosting. All plans include free SSL certificates, two-factor authentication and anti-spam protections. Bluehost customers can call or chat with a customer support representative 24/7. Bluehost doesn't offer an uptime guarantee, but instead says it resolves issues within 15 minutes of them being reported. However, it doesn't say how many issues you should expect on average. If your site is down for about 15 minutes a week, your site could be down for about 13 hours a year, which is higher than standard.
Bluehost plans start at $2.95 per month.
GlowHost's worldwide data centers give you the flexibility to host your site from a certain region if you anticipate most of your traffic will come from that region. Glowhost offers shared, cloud VPS, dedicated, semi-dedicated, reseller and what Glowhost calls an elastic plan, which it compares to a managed VPS plan. Security features include free SSL certificates and McAfee Secure, which starts at $30 a year, and customer support is available by phone or chat 24/7. Uptime is harder to discern though. Some dedicated hosting plans guarantee 100% uptime, but a Glowhost administrator in 2008 said it could be 99.7% or higher, which means your site could be down for at least a day over the course of one year.
Glowhost plans start at $3.47 per month.
iPage offers customers a free website builder to get their site up and running, as well as e-commerce tools to easily integrate into your site. iPage offers shared, VPS, dedicated and WordPress hosting plans, and has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. The service only offers 24/7 chat support. Each iPage plan comes with a free SSL certificate, but additional security features like daily malware scans and backups are not included. To fill those security gaps, iPage offers SiteLock, which starts at an extra $4 a month. iPage's site is also hard to navigate in comparison to other services. For example, I had to scroll to the bottom of its homepage to find additional web-hosting plans, like VPS and dedicated.
iPage plans start at $2 per month.
Mochahost, unlike most other web-hosting services, offers a lifetime discount guarantee. However, this discount doesn't apply to every contract, so it can be a headache to figure out where the lifetime discount does or does not apply. From what we've seen, the lifetime discount guarantee is usually attached to three-year contracts, but these contract lengths aren't usually the lowest priced. The advertised prices might be the lowest price, but that doesn't mean they'll save you the most money. The largest discounts often apply for just one month, and the renewal price could be double that original cost. Longer contracts, like those that are three years long, are more expensive for the first month, but you'll save money in the long term because the lifetime discount is lower than the renewal price of shorter plans. In other words, longer contracts that appear more expensive can save you money after about the second month. Mochahost offers shared, VPS, dedicated cloud, WordPress and reseller plans, a 100% uptime guarantee and 24/7 live chat support. Phone support is also available on callback. Free SSL certificates are included in each plan as well, but other security features, like spam and malware filters, come at an additional cost or with more expensive plans.
Mochahost plans start at $2.29 per month.
WebHostingPad offers shared, managed and unmanaged VPS, WordPress and a mini hosting plan for smaller sites. Each plan includes free SSL certificates and SiteLock Lite, and WebHostingPad has a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Chat support is available 24/7, but phone support is only available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. CST. WebHostingPad also offers competitive prices, starting at $1.99 a month, but they're only available with four-year and five-year contracts. There is a mini plan that has a fixed price point of $3 a month, but it's offered with a three-year contract, otherwise the price is $3.50 a month for one year or $3.25 a month for two years. Domains are also an additional $17 at checkout.
WebHostingPad plans start at $2 a month.
More web-hosting services we looked at
Most of these services specialize in one type of hosting, like shared or WordPress, which means they're not the best if you plan to grow your site. They also tend to be missing some security features and customer support options. However, they could be right for you and your needs if you have specific or smaller-scale hosting needs.
Liquid Web: No shared hosting. Security features include an integrated firewall and standard DDoS protections. Offers 99.99% uptime and 24/7 chat or phone support. Prices start at $15 a month.
Web Hosting Hub: Offers shared and WordPress hosting. Has free SSL certificates but other security features cost extra. Offers 99.9% uptime and has 24/7 chat and phone support. Prices start at $6 a month.
WP Engine: Offers WordPress hosting. Security features like free SSL certificates and daily backups. Has a 99.95% uptime guarantee and offers 24/7 chat and phone support. Prices start at $20 a month.
Kinsta: Offers WordPress hosting. Security features like free SSL certificates and automatic backups. Has a 99.9% uptime and 24/7 chat support. Prices start at $35 a month.
Pantheon: Offers WordPress hosting. Security features include DDoS protection and automated backups. Offers 99.9% uptime and customer support is available 24/7 via chat, phone or even Slack. Prices start at $41 a month.
Criteria for web-hosting services
While we didn't test the services, we did carefully examine each service's offerings and ranked them according to essential web-hosting features. Here's what we looked for to determine the best web-hosting services. You can also check out CNET's 11 things to know about web hosting for more information about these and other features.
- Hosting plans: We checked to see if the service offered shared, VPS and dedicated hosting plans. Inclusion of all three plan types allows customers to scale their plan up as their site grows.
- Security features: Services need to include some basic security features such as SSL certificates, DDoS protections and backups to protect your data as well as your visitors'. The best web hosts do this at no extra charge.
- Uptime of 99.9% or higher: An uptime of 99.9% or higher ensures your site won't go down for more than 20 minutes a month, so you keep losses of readers and sales to a minimum.
- Customer support: All services offer some kind of customer support. Most services offer email support, which is a good start. Others offer live chat -- which is better -- and others offer phone support -- which is best. The best services offer all three at no additional charge. Even if phone support is only available in a certain timeframe, it's better than nothing.
The best web-hosting services meet all four of those criteria. If a service falls short on one or more of those measures, you'll find it in our list of other web-hosting services to consider or our list of additional web hosts we looked at.
Web-hosting terms to know
Content management systems can help create and maintain your website. A CMS is a lot like the tools used to create posts or upload pictures to your social media profile, for example. A CMS does the same thing, but for your site. You don't need a CMS, but without one you'll have to code your site from the ground up. In addition to WordPress, a few other CMS tools are Joomla and WooCommerce.
A file transfer protocol is a method for transferring large files -- like videos and other data-heavy files -- from one location, like a server or computer, to another. Think of FTP as a type of delivery service. Imagine you order a television from a company and have it delivered to your home. The delivery truck that drops off the television at your home is the FTP. If you've ever used software like FileZilla, you've used an FTP. While FTP is generally vulnerable to malicious actors intercepting your data, secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) and FTP over SSL/TSL (FTPS) offer safer ways to transfer your files and data with security measures, like firewalls and data encryption. If given the option, always choose SFTP or FTPS rather than FTP when choosing a web-hosting service.
Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is buying and selling items online. If you've bought anything online like a new shirt, food or digital music, you've participated in e-commerce. Web-hosting services will usually mention e-commerce in plan descriptions to signal it includes tools to help get your online shop up and running. If you plan on opening an online store or selling items online, you should look for plans that include e-commerce tools and resources.
Content delivery networks, or content distribution networks, are groups of data centers and servers that help deliver content to people on the internet based on a visitor's physical location. Imagine you are hosting a site out of Dallas:
Without a CDN, if people from the Netherlands try to access your site, your visitors might have to wait a while for the content of your site to be delivered to them because of the distance. However, if your web-hosting service uses a CDN and has a data center in the Netherlands, your visitors from the Netherlands will access a version of your site stored in the much closer data center. This version of your site has some cached files stored in it to boost webpage load times and reduce bandwidth usage. This is good for you since some web-hosting services limit bandwidth usage, and faster load times means happier visitors.
According to a study by Digital.com, half of shoppers expect a site to load in three seconds or less, and almost a quarter of shoppers said slow load times are their main source of dissatisfaction when shopping online.
You can check out CNET's web-hosting FAQ or tips to help secure your site for more information, too.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the act of storing a website's data on a server or series of servers. Imagine a website as a work of art. That art needs to be housed somewhere for people to see, and web hosting is like a gallery where your art can be stored for others to view.
What are the basic types of hosting?
There are three common types of web hosting: shared, virtual private server and dedicated hosting.
Shared hosting is typically the most basic, and the least expensive, type of hosting. Continuing the art example, shared hosting is like a small gallery presented in a coffee shop. Yes, the art you created is there, but so is art by other people. Shared hosting is similar. You're usually charged a few bucks a month to house your site, but you don't get a lot of resources to help you take care of your site. These plans usually cost between $2.50 and $15 a month.
VPS hosting is a step up from shared hosting and is a little bit more expensive. Here, your art is stored in a gallery downtown. Other art is still stored and displayed alongside yours, but unlike shared hosting, each artist has their own booth within the gallery. With VPS hosting, you get more resources which allow you to handle more traffic and display more items. These plans usually cost between $20 and $80 a month.
Dedicated hosting is when you house your site on a whole server without anyone else. This is like having the entire art gallery to yourself. Everything there is your art and you get dedicated people to help take care of your art. These plans are the most expensive, but you get the most resources. Dedicated hosting plans usually cost between $80 and $300 a month.
What are some other types of hosting?
Some other types of hosting include reseller, cloud and WordPress hosting.
Reseller hosting involves subscribing to a web-hosting service and selling that space to a person who wants to put a website online. Back to the art example: Imagine you don't own any art, but you see a bunch of people who want to display their art. You have some money so you buy a space in a building for artists to display their work and charge them for using that space. That's reseller hosting. You buy space on a server, not to use, but to resell to people in order to make money.
Cloud hosting is like having copies of your art featured online, instead of just physical locations. That way, even if one gallery is closed your art is still viewable somewhere else. Cloud hosting is similar in that your data is stored in a network of servers so if anything happens to one server, visitors can still view your site like usual. These are generally used by larger businesses and organizations.
WordPress hosting is optimized to use WordPress as a content management system. WordPress is a popular system used by many organizations, offering over 54,000 plugins to help build your site. This system is designed to be easy to learn, which means WordPress is a good choice for people who are hosting their first site.
What's uptime and why is it important?
Uptime is a measurement of how long your site operates without going offline. The longer your site stays up, the more traffic it can handle and the more money you can potentially make if your site is for a business. Imagine you've narrowed down where to hang your art to two places: One is open two days a week and the other is open seven days a week. You want more people to see your art so you go with the place open seven days a week. That's similar to uptime. However, uptime can be confusing. Generally when you see something is 99% effective, you think that's pretty good. But a 99% uptime means your site is down for over three days a year. The industry standard uptime is 99.9%, and anything more is best for you and your visitors. Most web-hosting services have uptime guarantees and offer some form of reimbursement if your site is down longer than the guaranteed uptime.
What are the differences between unmanaged and managed hosting?
Unmanaged hosting plans place responsibility for some administrative work on you as the customer. Managed hosting plans, however, leave the heavy lifting to the web-hosting service provider. Unmanaged is like if you hang your art in a gallery and you have to clean it, make sure it's hung right and generally maintain it. Managed is like gallery employees handling those tasks for you. Unmanaged plans are generally more cost effective, but managed plans free up your time to focus on your site.
What security features should I look for in a hosting service?
Some of the key security features you should be on the lookout for are secure socket layer certificates, distributed denial of service protections and web application firewalls.
SSL certificates are a form of cryptographic protocols that encrypt and authenticate data between servers, machines and applications operating within a network. These are like a coded language between the server your site is hosted on and the computer of a visitor. Only your server and your visitor's computer have the keys to the coded language, ensuring no one intercepts any of your or your visitor's data.
A DDoS attack is a flood of traffic to your site that overwhelms and shuts down your site, and potentially the sites of others depending on your hosting plan. Imagine you hang your art up in a coffee shop, for example, and someone doesn't like your art so they convince hundreds of thousands of protesters to swarm the shop to stop anyone from seeing your art. Not only can most people not see your art because of the crowd, but people can't see other artist's work either. Having DDoS protections in place helps monitor your site's traffic for anything suspicious, and stops DDoS attacks from happening before they cause significant damage.
A WAF is a layer of security on your site that filters, monitors and blocks malicious traffic from accessing your site. You have hung your art up, and in order to protect your art and anyone who's come to see it, the gallery has hired a bouncer to pat down people as they walk in to see your art. The bouncer is the WAF. If traffic looks suspicious, the WAF blocks it.
What are website builders? Do I need one of those?
Not necessarily, but if this is your first site you might find a website builder helpful, and some web-hosting services offer free website builders with plans. Instead of coding your site from scratch, website builders are tools that help you easily create your site through simpler interfaces.
What is site migration? Can I do that myself?
Site migration is the process of moving your already established website from one web-hosting service to another. You might do this because the price to renew your current web-hosting service increased dramatically or you're unhappy with your current service. Some services will migrate your site for free, while others will charge you to migrate to their service. You can migrate your site manually, but you could lose traffic as well as content if done improperly. If it's your first time migrating from one service to another, it might be best to let someone else handle it.
Should I use a Linux or Windows server?
It depends on your goals, but a Linux server will work for most people. Servers that run the Linux operating system support most programming languages and have more features web developers might expect. Linux is also the more popular server operating system, powering about 37.8% of all websites on the internet, according to Web Technology Surveys. A lot of website-creation tools and applications run on Linux so they will work on these servers with no extra effort. Linux servers are also generally cheaper than Windows servers. If you're a small business owner maintaining your own site, or you're starting your own blog or online store, a Linux server has what you need.
Servers that use the Windows operating system use the programming language C#. That means if you already know Python, Perl or another language, you'll have to learn C#. Windows servers also use Microsoft-specific tools and applications like Microsoft Access, Microsoft SharePoint and MSSQL. If you run into issues with these applications or your server, you can contact Microsoft's customer support who should be able to solve your issue in a timely fashion. Linux is an open-source operating system, so while there is a community of people working to fix bugs, you'll likely have to dig around to find a solution that works for you. Many large corporations and organizations use Windows servers, so if you want to work for one of them in the future, you could benefit from practicing with your own server and putting that on your resume.
For more on web hosting, check out the best website builders, the best VPN services and the best identity theft protection services.