Whether you’re an established small business or have started a blog or other website that’s gaining popularity, the best web hosting company will help you project a professional image and handle increased traffic. The best website hosting companies will also give you enough space and bandwidth for your needs, a range of customizable features, and superior 24/7 customer service — all for a price you can comfortably afford.
The web hosting industry is more competitive than ever, and providers have made previously premium features available with base level plans for just a few dollars a month. That means you have more choices than ever. While that’s a good problem to have, it’s also an overwhelming one if you’re starting from square one.
The Simple Dollar’s Top Picks
In this article, I’ll profile the best web hosting providers overall, the best web hosting providers for customer service, and the best web hosting providers for unlimited features. I’ll also provide a primer on different kinds of web hosting, including whether free web hosting is a wise idea for small businesses, and discuss some of the most important considerations to keep in mind while shopping.
Here’s a look at my picks for the best website hosting:
- Best Overall: InMotion and Arvixe
- Best for Customer Service: A Small Orange and SiteGround
- Best for Unlimited Features: iPage and HostGator
Best Web Hosting Providers Overall
InMotion provides a powerful blend of performance and service at a competitive price. Benefits that set InMotion apart from much of the competition include its use of fast, reliable SSD drives, which help keep your site running smoothly. InMotion also has a 90-day money-back guarantee, among one of the best I saw during my research, as well as a 99.9% uptime guarantee for its sites.
Shared hosting plans start at $8.99 a month annually. At that level, you receive unlimited disk space and bandwidth for two websites. If you need unlimited websites, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium plan at $15.99 a month annually.
All plans include 24/7 customer support, free domain registration or transfer, free website transfer, free backups, and $275 to $300 in advertising credits. Shared and dedicated SSL certificates are available for e-commerce sites, and servers are PCI compliant. VPS, reseller, and dedicated hosting options are also available.
As for cons, InMotion’s plans do have some caps that other providers skip. One of the biggest is the limits on parked domains and subdomains; you’ll get only six and 25, respectively, on the base plan. If you want unlimited domains, you’ll need to upgrade to the most expensive plan.
You’ll also be capped at two or six websites until upgrading to the most expensive plan, which offers unlimited sites. MySQL databases are also capped at two or 50, with an unlimited option in the highest-price tier. Also, if you’re looking for a cloud-hosting option, InMotion doesn’t provide it at this time.
Experts say Arvixe is also an easy-to-use option for small businesses at a relatively pain-free price point if you’re on a tight budget. A 60-day money-back guarantee, though not quite as long as InMotion’s 90-day pledge, also sweetens the pot, as does a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Reviewers say website setup is extremely easy, especially for WordPress sites. The base shared hosting plan allows unlimited disk space and bandwidth for up to six websites at just $5 a month billed annually, and stepping up to the $8 Pro plan will allow you unlimited websites.
One nice perk: You get your domain name free for life, not just for a year like with many other providers. Other strong points include free transfer; unlimited subdomains, email accounts, and MySQL databases; and $200 in advertising credits. E-commerce sites can purchase an SSL certificate as an add-on or upgrade to a BusinessClass plan. Starting at $25 a month annually, you’ll get free SSL for life. Reseller, VPN, and dedicated hosting options are available, too.
On the downside, experts do report some minor lags in responses from the 24/7 customer service team. And like InMotion, Arvixe doesn’t offer cloud hosting.
Best Web Hosting Providers for Customer Service
A Small Orange
A Small Orange sets itself apart from the pack by offering some of the most solid customer service in the web-hosting business, if user reviews are any indication. Most users say the service’s 24/7 customer support is hard to beat, with impressively quick responses to even minor issues.
The three main shared plans range from $4.16 a month to $16.66 a month billed annually, and there’s even a unique “Tiny” plan for the smallest sites for just $35 a year. All shared plans except for Tiny allow unlimited domains.
A Small Orange also uses very fast SSD drives to make sure your site doesn’t experience slow load times. Other perks include automatic daily site backups and unlimited mySQL databases, subdomains, email accounts, and FTP accounts. If you’re looking for e-commerce features, A Small Orange has more robust, PCI-compliant business plans starting at $200 a year that include free SSL. Reseller, cloud VPS, dedicated, and semi-dedicated hosting options are also available.
The main downside: You won’t get unlimited bandwidth or disk space with A Small Orange on any shared hosting plans. For instance, the base shared plan offers 5 GB storage and 50 GB bandwidth; the premium shared plan offers 30 GB storage and 500 GB bandwidth. There also aren’t dedicated tools to help you build mobile sites.
If you’re a small business owner who’s overwhelmed by the thought of setting up a new site or transferring your existing one to a new host, SiteGround could be your best bet. It’s free to transfer your site, and reviewers say the 24/7 customer support is fast and thorough.
Shared hosting plans range from $9.95 a month for one website, 10 GB storage, and unlimited bandwidth to $29.95 a month for unlimited websites, 30 GB storage, and unlimited bandwidth; note that these prices do not reflect a hefty promotional discount of at least 50% off for your first term.
All plans include a 99.9% uptime guarantee, automatic daily site backups, and unlimited mySQL databases, subdomains, and email accounts. E-commerce clients will need to purchase the mid-tier plan at $14.95 a month for a free SSL certificate or the premium $29.95 plan for PCI compliance. Reseller, cloud, and dedicated hosting options are also available.
Unlike a lot of other web hosts, SiteGround does not offer unlimited disk space with its shared hosting plans. It also doesn’t throw in the marketing credits many other hosts provide (up to $200 for Google AdWords or Facebook Ads is standard). Finally, though SiteGround does have spam filtering for its email, you won’t have an email virus blocker.
Best Web Hosting Providers for Unlimited Features
If you don’t like limits (and who does, really?) iPage offers small businesses a sweet deal. Its Essential shared hosting plan offers unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains, mySQL databases, and email addresses at $10.99 a month annually (and just $2.25 a month for your first year).
But perhaps the biggest strength is an anytime money-back guarantee, an offer unmatched by any of the other providers I examined. Other pluses include a free toll-free number for your business and $250 in marketing credits. The three included site-building tools are also particularly strong, experts say. VPS and dedicated hosting are also available through iPage.
The biggest con with iPage is the number of features that are pricey add-ons. If you need an SSL certificate, that’s $39.99 a year. Automatic site backups are $12.95 a year. Site transfers are also upgrades. You’ll need to carefully consider how any necessary add-ons will boost your bottom line when considering iPage.
HostGator is another good option for small business owners who want a lot of bang for their buck. The base shared hosting plan, $6.95 a month billed annually (not including more than a dollar off per month for your first term), includes unlimited disk space, bandwidth, subdomains, and FTP accounts. Stepping up from a single domain to unlimited will only boost your bottom line expense to $9.95 a month.
The 45-day money-back guarantee isn’t quite as generous as iPage’s, but it should still provide enough time to get a feel for HostGator, which also doesn’t require a contract. All shared hosting plans also offer unlimited mySQL databases and email accounts. There is a $100 marketing bonus and 24/7 customer support.
If you want a dedicated IP or private SSL, those features are included in the premium business plan for $14.95 a month billed annually. Reseller, VPS, and dedicated hosting options are available, too.
There are a few minor cons to consider. Customer support receives uneven reviews — raves in some corners of the web, rants in others. HostGator also only automatically backs up sites weekly, which could be a concern for small businesses who don’t want to fuss with doing it more frequently themselves. There are no cloud-hosting options, and experts say the customer interface is a little tricky to navigate.
|Monthly cost of base plan for 12 months (non sale)||Data and bandwidth||Number of domains and subdomains||Free automatic backups?||Money-back guarantee?|
|InMotion||$8.99||unlimited||2, 25||yes||yes, 90 days|
|Arvixe||$5.00||unlimited||6, unlimited||yes, daily||yes, 60 days|
|A Small Orange||$4.17||5GB,50GB||unlimited, unlimited||yes, daily||yes, 90 days|
|SiteGround||$9.95||10GB, unlimited||1, unlimited||yes, daily||yes, 30 days|
|iPage||$10.99||unlimited, unlimited||unlimited, unlimited||no||yes, anytime|
|HostGator||$6.95||unlimited, unlimited||1, unlimited||yes, weekly||yes, 45 days|
Web Hosting for Small Businesses: A Primer
If you need a frame of reference in your search for the best website hosting, keep reading. I’ll detail the major types of web hosting plans, whether free web hosting is a good idea, and detail some of the biggest factors to consider as you shop for a web host.
Four Main Types of Web Hosting Plans
- Shared web hosting is the most popular option for small businesses because it’s generally the most affordable and easy-to-understand option. When you opt for shared web hosting, your website will be hosted on the same server as other sites. That’s why shared hosting is cheap — all the sites on that server are sharing the cost. The downsides are that your site may suffer slowdowns or even downtime if the other sites are using up a disproportionate share of resources. You’ll also have fewer options to truly customize your site at this level.
- VPS, or virtual private server web hosting, blends aspects of shared web hosting and dedicated web hosting. When you choose VPS, your site is still hosted on the same physical server as other sites, but that server is divided into individual sections so that your site won’t be affected by others. VPS gives you more control over your site, but you’ll be paying substantially more for VPS than shared hosting.
- Dedicated hosting means your site gets its very own physical server. Again, you won’t need to worry about any other site usurping a lot of server resources, and you’ll have a maximum amount of control over customization with a dedicated server. But this is the priciest option, and your business will need substantial technical knowhow to take advantage of the freedom you’ll have with dedicated hosting.
- Cloud hosting, the new kid on the block, connects a large number of servers that work in concert to host websites. Because cloud hosts can scale up easily by adding more resources, it’s easier for them to keep sites that might need more power from adversely affecting others. Cloud hosting can be pricey in the long term, however. Some experts also say reliability isn’t as solid with cloud hosts, and most say cloud hosting isn’t for web-hosting newbies with little technical knowhow.
What About Free Web Hosting?
Free web hosting options are out there, but experts caution that they probably aren’t the best choice for small businesses. Why? Several reasons:
- Anemic customer support: Some free web hosts don’t offer much at all, and few if any will offer the 24/7 support you’ll want when your site comes crashing down.
- Advertising on your site: Your free web host needs a way to make money, too. Chances are that it might do so by plastering ads on your website that you won’t be able to remove until you upgrade services or move to another provider. You also probably won’t even be able to use your own domain name, meaning your customers will find your site at a URL like “amazinglyfreewebhosting.com/yourbusinessname” — not exactly a professional image.
- Low limits: A free provider may cap basics like storage space or bandwidth at limits that it won’t take long to outgrow. In contrast, paid providers offer higher or even unlimited limits.
- Spotty reliability: Paid providers have to make sure their servers can handle a heavy load, or they’ll pay the price in downtime and lost customers. Free providers don’t have the same incentive to keep their reliability up to snuff.If you’re tempted to try a free service, keep in mind that many reputable web hosts offer shared plans for less than $10 a month. That means you’ll avoid the headaches above for less than the cost of a pizza.
How to Shop for the Best Web Hosting Provider
Shopping for the best web hosting provider is a dizzying lesson in technical terms and endless lists of similar-looking features. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the most important considerations to keep in mind as you compare providers.
- Compatibility with your CMS: If your content management system is near and dear to you, you’ll want a web host that makes it easy to install. Almost every provider will play nice with a common CMS like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla.
- Well-explained technical terms: Unless you’re an IT expert or have one on call, chances are you won’t understand all the jargon in a web host’s list of features. The best hosting sites will allow you to mouse over terms for more explanation or host a glossary somewhere on their site so you can find out more.
- 24/7 customer service: This is crucial, particularly for small businesses with limited technological experience. If something goes wrong on your website’s back end or your site is hit with a sudden outage, you won’t want to want to wait until business hours for help.
- Solid uptime: Your web host may guarantee 99.9% uptime, and this is always something that’s good to look for. You can also double-check yourself whether they’re living up to that promise.
- Option to add domains: If you want to snap up a common misspelling of your business URL, or perhaps a .com version if your main URL is .net, the best hosting sites won’t charge you an arm and a leg to add on domains so you don’t lose web traffic.
- Scalability if your business grows: Your small business might not need anything more than shared hosting right now, but what if business explodes in the next few years? Your site might outgrow its current plan. Make sure your provider offers more advanced hosting, including VPS and dedicated options.
- Adequate e-commerce support: If you’ll be selling products on your website, you’ll need features to make that happen. Experts recommend you opt for dedicated or private SSL encryption over shared SSL because it uses your own domain name in the URL, building customer trust. Other features to look for include PCI compliance and easy-to-install shopping carts. Sometimes you might have to upgrade from a basic shared plan to a more fully featured business plan for e-commerce.
- A money-back guarantee: Sometimes you simply have to try a web host to know whether it will be a good fit for your needs. Look for at least a 60-day money-back guarantee so that you have time to thoroughly test the service.
- Reasonable renewal prices: It’s standard for many web hosts to advertise a low promotional price for your first service term, only to jack up that price when it’s time to renew. Be sure you read the fine print to know what you’ll be paying after the promotional price expires.
- Automatic site backups: Daily automatic backups are preferable for obvious reasons, but you should also be able to backup (and restore) the site yourself via your control panel.
How I Chose the Best Web Hosting Providers
I considered the following factors as I was narrowing down my list of the best hosting sites. First, I evaluated each company’s base-level shared hosting plan in terms of included features and price, since this is where many small businesses will start. Bonus points went to providers that included the following features in particular: unlimited data, domains and subdomains, bandwidth, email, databases; free daily backups or site transfers; and e-commerce features such as shared or private SSL, one-click shopping cart installation, private domains, PCI compliance, and marketing credits with services such as Google AdWords or Facebook Ads.
I also considered how many shared hosting plans were on offer. More plans means a better chance a business can find a better match for its need, and less need for aggressive upselling of add-on services, a tactic that many web hosting companies use. I also looked for companies that provide more advanced hosting options (VPS, dedicated, cloud) for businesses that may outgrow their original plans but don’t want to switch providers.
I also considered whether a company offered a free trial, or as is more standard in the web hosting industry, a money-back guarantee (and how long that guarantee is).
I looked at expert and customer reviews from several sources to gauge experiences with ease of use and customer support, and whether that support is 24/7 (bonus went to companies that use U.S.-based support to lessen the chance of miscommunication). Review Signal was a particularly good source for customer satisfaction because it uses an unbiased algorithm to classify positive and negative Twitter comments about several of the best website hosting companies.
To Find the Best Web Hosting Companies, Sweat the Details
As the profiles above illustrate, the differences between the best web hosting companies can be small. Most offer similar features and guarantees at similar price points. Because of this, it’s important to identify what matters most to your small business when you shop around for web hosting.
If you’re just starting out with a small blog, you’ll want to keep your focus on ease of use rather than worrying about unlimited domains or bandwidth. But if you’ll be using your site to sell products, advanced e-commerce features and security will rise to the top of your list.
Whatever you deem important, make sure your web hosting company has responsive customer service and will give your site the opportunity to grow.
If you’re still unsure where to begin, consider starting with a company that’s relatively strong all around such as InMotion or Arvixe. And if you need guidance on related products, take a look at our guides to the Best Email Marketing Services, the Best Project Management Software, the Best Cloud Storage Providers, and the Best Accounting Software.