Secure Servers: Web Hosting Providers for Investigating Cybercrimes

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The best web hosting providers
Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay.

As a private investigator, you may get cases related to investigating the ownership or use of particular websites. As such, detectives need to understand the basics of web hosting, where websites are stored. So, this article provides an overview of the different types of web hosting providers and a list of the best. In addition, I’ll provide a brief overview of each of the top companies (currently, there are 13 on the list). Also, I’ll share more detailed information on my favorite choice. Let’s get started with an overview of web hosting in general.

Web Hosting: An Overview

A web hosting service provider is an internet company that allows individuals and businesses to establish an online presence. Web hosting companies own and manage a group of servers, also known as a data center. The hosting companies then lease space on those servers for a fee.

Also, web hosting companies provide other services such as hosting for content management systems, email, cloud, WordPress, WooCommerce, and much more. The following are different types of hosting services.

Different Types of Web Hosting

Shared Plans and Subscriptions

With a shared plan, your site will share space on a server. This means that there will be multiple websites using the server’s resources. The shared option is very affordable, usually around $5.00 a month. This is an excellent option for new sites and those with little traffic. However, if your website grows and gets more traffic, you will quickly outgrow this basic option. While this option is usually cheap, it comes with the most potential headaches. In addition, shared plans usually have the worst uptime ratings of any plan.

Virtual Private Server (VPS)

A Virtual Private Server, or a Virtual Dedicated Server, divides a server’s resources into separate areas called “virtual servers.” From a user’s perspective, you have your server with a VPS plan, but it is still hosted on the same server as other sites. These plans offer improved performance over the shared plans and are more expensive. Uptime ratings improve considerably with VPS plans.

Dedicated Servers

With a dedicated plan, you’ll get your own private server. With this subscription model, you’ll have complete control over the server but don’t own it. This option isn’t necessary for beginners or most small companies. Managing your server will require you to have the appropriate technical skills to configure, install, and maintain everything. I would avoid this option if you aren’t the technical type and don’t have a technical staff. Since your site is the only one on the server, dedicated options offer the best uptime ratings. However, your site may be down more often if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Free Web Hosting

Believe it or not, some companies provide entirely free hosting plans. In most cases, the company will place ads on your website, which allows them to earn advertising revenue. Sometimes, the number and placement of those ads can be obnoxious or, at the very least, distracting to the visitor. I recommend avoiding free services if you are serious about establishing a quality website and professional presence. If you decide to go with one, the result is that your company will look cheap, and the ads may annoy visitors.

I am keenly focused on the bottom line as a small business owner. I’m always focused on maximizing profits by increasing revenue and reducing expenses. As a result, I’m always looking for a deal or at least a discount. When I first started my online business, I set out to find cheap web hosting to host my first website.

At first, I based my decision mainly on price. What I learned was that cheap web hosting is easy to find, but quality web hosting that is also cheap is much harder to find. But it is possible. Continue reading to learn about the companies that provide a wide array of plans, configuration options, extra services, and high and low prices. Ultimately, I learned that the cheapest is not the best if you run a serious business.


List of the Best Web Hosting Providers

The following list of the most popular web hosting providers is based on industry reviews, surveys, and comparisons.

Kinsta

Kinsta is a managed WordPress hosting provider. They are somewhat unique, even among this list of the best web hosting providers. I like them for many reasons:

  • First, Kinsta is a company founded by a group of experienced WordPress developers who set out to raise the bar regarding quality, technology, and service. They offer premium WordPress Hosting built on cutting-edge Google Cloud infrastructure. They focus on delivering stability, speed, and industry-leading security.
  • Second, they make my life easier. They have the most streamlined cPanel I’ve ever seen. It’s called MyKinsta, and it makes it easy to manage my site.
  • Third, they have unparalleled customer service. What I love the most is that I can reach them via chat at any time via my MyKinsta dashboard. I’ve pinged them numerous times for assistance and with technical questions. In every case, they were responsive, professional, and helpful.

Kinsta is one of the more expensive options on this list. However, it is worth the extra cost to have peace of mind. They offer weekly automatic MySQL database optimizations, self-healing PHP, GCP Firewall, and more disk space (SSD Storage) on all plans at no additional cost. In addition, they recently moved to Google Cloud Platform’s (GCP) next-gen compute-optimized (C2) virtual machines. After doing so, they added another great feature: external backups.

Recently, the team added Edge Caching, which saves pages to Cloudflare’s global network of 275+ PoPs. As a result, it delivers your site’s pages to visitors faster. Plus, it reduces the number of requests for your service. As a result, you get a faster site and better Google speed rankings.

Visit the Kinsta website to learn more.

SiteGround

SiteGround is well-known as one of the best web hosting providers on this list, yet they are one of the most affordable (at first). SiteGround is unique because it has an excellent balance of everything you need in a hosting company. Their high-quality rating depends on speed, stability, and service. Following is more detail on each.

SiteGround Managed WordPress Hosting

SiteGround is fast. According to Google and almost every search engine optimization expert, page speed is a critical ranking factor. You can spend a LOT of time trying to improve the speed of your pages. You can research and install the best caching plugins, optimize your images, streamline your databases, and more. But, your web hosting is the most significant factor in page load time. The industry average for a page to load is 4.7 seconds. Using SiteGround, pages load in 1.3 seconds. This makes it one of the fastest options available.

They leverage the latest web hosting speed technologies, innovative architecture, and the best software solutions. They use Solid State Drive (SSD), which provides a 1000x increase in speed compared to regular drives. They use NGINX to make load times faster. In addition, they use a proprietary caching mechanism to optimize the serving of content. Also, all their servers are HTTP/2 enabled, reducing website loading times. Plus, they always run the latest version of PHP. On top of all that, they offer a free CDN, which caches your content and makes your website load faster.

They are safe. SiteGround boasts a 99% uptime, one of the best ratings in the industry. Their outstanding uptime rating is due to several factors. Their platform is built on Linux containers, which are highly efficient and stable. This allows your site to deal with sudden spikes in traffic without impacting the server’s stability. They proactively monitor servers and fix problems quickly. They have automatic backups if problems exist so that you can restore your site quickly. Uniquely, they use artificial intelligence (AI) to block spambots. This blocks brute force attacks and prevents unauthorized access.

They have great support. You can set up the most expensive account with the number one web hosting company that would probably even host your site on a golden server. But I can assure you you’ll have problems at some point. And when you do, you’re going to need to contact support. Siteground has quality support in many areas: self-help, online help, knowledgebases, discussion forums, online chat, and via the phone.

They have very positive reviews. You will find hundreds of SiteGround reviews if you do a Google search. Most of the data-supported surveys I’ve seen always include SiteGround as one of the top three contenders. However, I am skeptical about the authenticity of some of their reviews, especially after using their service for a year.

SiteGround has “affordable” hosting plans. Their starter plan is just $3.95 a month. However, their “starter” plan is also a bait-and-switch. The $3.95 a-month price jumps to $19.95 monthly in the second year. That’s a 400% increase for the second year! If you’re a small business, it is unlikely that your sales will increase at a similar rate. If you choose this company, know the relatively cheap sign-up price is only for the first 12 months.

Unfortunately, I fell for the trap. After the second year, I used their starter plan for several sites but switched them to the Kinsta Business 1 plan. Kinsta migrates the sites over for free. By doing so, my overall costs decreased.

Their environment is stable and reliable. In the past, I’ve had nightmare experiences with companies like GoDaddy and Bluehost. Several times a year, the GoDaddy or Bluehost hosting platform would crash, making every website hosted on the platform unavailable to users. When one of my sites goes down, I lose more revenue in a single day than I typically pay for hosting an entire year.

Recent Updates: SG recently added a data center, more storage capacity, faster processors, and free manual site transfer services.

A2 Hosting

A2 provides a range of services for businesses of all sizes. Whether you are just starting online or have an established high-traffic site, they have a plan to meet your needs.

They have various plans, including shared, reseller, VPS, and dedicated options. The company can host sites on all major content management platforms, including WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Their prices range from around $4.00 to $100 a month.

Visit the A2 Hosting website to learn more and get current pricing.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Amazon Web Cloud Computing Services is on many lists of the best web hosting providers. They offer on-demand cloud computing services to individuals, companies large and small, and even government organizations.

AWS has all of the products and services you will ever need. Amazon is geared toward larger companies and developers with high-traffic websites. However, it is far too complex and not for the beginner. However, if you’re starting, I recommend using one of the other options unless you have a technical/web support resource.

Visit the AWS website to join and learn more.

BlueHost

BlueHost is highly rated and well-reviewed. Their platform has more than two million sites, which says a lot. In addition, they have low-cost plans that include a free SSL certificate. Notably, they offer a free money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied.

However, I can’t give them a high rating because I had a bad experience with them. I had several sites hosted with them, and their entire hosting platform went down (crashed) three times in the same year. As a result, I do not consider them to be one of the best web hosting providers. Visit the BlueHost website to learn more about their products and services.

Cloudways

Cloudways is a high-quality managed cloud hosting provider. They specialize in providing environments for businesses that need to scale quickly. They specialize in solutions for agile teams and sites built on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Laravel, and PrestaShop. Visit the Cloudways website to learn more about their offerings.

DreamHost

DreamHost provides various fast and reliable services, including Shared, WordPress, VPS, Dedicated, and Cloud. They have about 1.5 million websites on their platform. In addition, they offer domain registration services, serving as a one-stop shop for getting your business online.

Something notable about DreamHost is that they offer one-click installations for services like installing WordPress. Companies like this can help you avoid hiring a developer if you’re a beginner. Instead, you can use their streamlined services to get online quickly. They have 24/7 client support available to assist you with any trouble. In addition, they have a 100% uptime guarantee. So you don’t have to worry about your site going down and outages lasting for hours.

Visit the DreamHost website to learn about costs and how to sign up.

FlyWheel

FlyWheel focuses on providing a platform for websites built on the WordPress content management system. They target freelancers, agencies, high-traffic sites, and enterprise development teams. Their platform is host to about 70,000 companies.

They partnered with Google Cloud to build a fast, scalable, reliable platform. FlyWheel has a simplified cPanel, which makes managing your site more intuitive. And, if you want to become a reseller, this is a great option.

They have affordable plans starting at $15 monthly for a single site, including a free SSL certificate. Also, you can add a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to any plan.

Visit the FlyWheel site to get the details.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy is NOT one of the best web hosting providers. However, they are the most prominent solution provider in the industry, with more than 17 million customers. They have some of the cheapest plans we’ve seen and have a wide variety of products and services. Generally, they have the same products and services as other high-quality providers. However, GoDaddy constantly bombards you with sales messages, trying to get you to upgrade or purchase additional services. This quickly becomes annoying.

Visit GoDaddy to view current plans, costs, and how to get started with a free website.

HostGator

HostGator offers affordable VPS, WordPress, Cloud, and Dedicated Hosting plans and domain registration services. HostGator includes a drag-and-drop website builder with each plan. So you can have your small business or enterprise-level website up and running quickly. They boast a 99.9% uptime, a 45-day money-back guarantee, and 24/7/365 support.

Based on their affordability, up-time track record, and quality support, HostGator is one of the top contenders on this list. Visit HostGator to get the most up-to-date information and offerings.

InMotion

InMotion offers options for WordPress, VPS, Dedicated Servers, Resellers, Managed, and businesses. In addition, they provide domain registration services. Each plan comes with a free SSD, cPanel, and a domain. In addition, they have over 400 applications that can be installed with a single click via the cPanel.

In addition to WordPress, you can install content management platforms like Joomla, Drupal, PrestaShop, Moodie, OpenCart, Magento, and BoldGrid.

They have various pricing plans but are not as cheap as GoDaddy or HostGator. In addition, InMotion is certified by CNET and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Visit the InMotion site for more information.

TMD Hosting

TMD offers fully managed cutting-edge technology solutions for shared, cloud, Virtual Private Servers, resellers, WordPress, and Dedicated servers. Their costs are among the most competitive on this list. TMD is PCMag Editor’s Choice for the best web hosting provider.

All accounts include easy installation of more than 300 applications, a drag-and-drop site builder, and unlimited email accounts. They have fast servers, robust security, and quality service. They are a good option for hosting a website with a CMS, a CRM application, a discussion forum, or a blog.

WPEngine

WPEngine has more than 90,000 customers in 140 countries around the world. Their technology platform is optimized for WordPress, which is fast, secure, and stable.

WPEngine plans include three environments – dev, staging, and production. In addition, they include the Genesis framework and premium WP themes. Plus, they come with free CDN and SSL certificates. Additionally, they offer features like auto migration, automated backups, serviced onboarding, and much more.

They are one of the more expensive providers, pricing more in line with Kinsta. However, I still consider them one of this list’s best web hosting providers. Basic subscription plans start at around $35.

Web Hosting Pricing Plan Comparison for Each of the Best Web Hosting Providers

Comparing prices is difficult, as all companies offer different products and services. Following is a recap of each company’s pricing levels, without regard to product names. Generally, the most basic plan is for shared hosting. Higher-level plans for VPS, dedicated, cloud, etc., are more expensive as you increase options like storage, bandwidth, etc.

CompanyLevel 1Level 2Level 3Level 4
A2 Hosting$3.92$5.00$99.59$99.59
BlueHost$3.95$5.95$9.95
Cloudways$10$22$42$80
DreamHost$2.95$13.75$149
FlyWheel$14$28$69
GoDaddy$5.99$9.99$14.99$19.99
HostGator$4.95$5.95$29.95$119.00
InMotion$6.38$7.26$21.04$105.68
Kinsta$30$60$100$200
SiteGround$3.95$5.95$11.95
TMD Hosting$2.95$5.85$12.95
WPEngine$35$115$290

Amazon Web Services has a unique pricing model based on your needed services.

All the companies listed above periodically offer discounts or promotions that allow you to sign up for a discount. Check the web for discount codes or coupon codes before signing up. Also, some offer a free trial period to get started at no cost.

Speed Comparison

Criteria for Selecting the Best Provider

Selecting the right web hosting is an important but difficult decision. If you are starting, any of the companies listed above are likely to meet your needs, at least initially. As your business and website grow, the list of suitable companies gets smaller.

While many features and benefits can be measured and compared, choosing the best hosting company is still subjective. Meaning it is a matter of opinion. You have to weigh all of the offerings, such as:

  • Variety of plans – One size doesn’t fit all. You want a plan that is right for you based on where your business is. As your business grows, you want a company that can grow with you.
  • Storage Capacity – The plan must come with adequate storage capacity. I don’t want to pay extra monthly because I run out of space.
  • Bandwidth – Bandwidth is of significant importance. Does the plan offer adequate bandwidth to support your website traffic? If not, can it scale up without crashing? If not, you’re in for some headaches.
  • Customer support – Quality of support is critical. No matter how skilled or tech-savvy you may be, it would be best to communicate with support. Look for support available 24/7 and via multiple channels (i.e., phone, chat, knowledgebase, email, etc.).
  • Affordability – Given the competition in this industry, there are many affordable options for getting your business online. Avoid cheap providers. If you focus only on pricing, you may live to regret it. The ideal choice would be a reliable company with a good reputation that is inexpensive and provides high-quality service.
  • Simple is better. Almost every plan will include access to an administrative panel, often called the Cpanel. This is where you’ll manage the technical details for your site. You’ll install apps, review analytics, set up email, and more here. The number of features available in the Cpanel can vary widely. If you don’t understand how to use the features, you’ll have to spend a lot of time figuring things out. Choose a provider with a simple interface. In my opinion, Kinsta has the most simplified interface of any company on this list.
  • Read reviews before you make a decision. Don’t base your decision on a review you read on any site. Do your research on plans, Cpanels, servers, reliability, speed, uptime, pricing, and customer service. Focus on finding the best option for your situation, not based on a sole recommendation from an affiliate.

One final note – Your choice is not permanent. Even if you decide to go with what is widely recognized as the top web hosting provider, it may not be the best for you. Your needs will change as your business grows, and you may need to start your search again. The good news is that moving from one host to another is relatively simple. Many higher-quality providers, such as Kinsta, will migrate your site to their servers for free.

Once you’ve evaluated all these features, you can select the top company for your needs.

The impact of web hosting outages

In addition to the daily loss of revenue, there is a longer-term impact. Think of it from the perspective of a potential customer. They start by doing a search engine query and finding a link to your site. The description meets what they are searching for, so they click on the link, only to find out that the website is unavailable. If that were a person’s first visit to your website, you’d likely never get them to return.

Also, if Google attempts to crawl and index your website while the hosting company is down, it may impact your search engine rankings. Google wants to serve search results for websites that help answer people’s questions. If your site isn’t available, Google views that as a letdown to their customer. So, they will likely devalue your website in search results, especially if you have multiple outages.

Google and Search Engine Optimization experts recommend that you have quality web hosting. The great thing about Kinsta is that you get both quality and affordability.

Questions and Comments

If you have questions about this overview or the list of the best web hosting providers, please post a message below. For related information, see how to set up a website.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

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