As a private investigator, you may get cases related to investigating the ownership or use of particular websites. As such, it is important for detectives to understand the basics of web hosting, the place where websites are stored. So, this article provides an overview of the different types of website hosting and a list of the best web hosting providers. 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 a type of internet company that allows individuals and businesses to establish a presence on the internet. 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 a great option for new sites and those with limited traffic. However, if your website starts to grow and get 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, also known as a Virtual Dedicated Server, divides a server’s resources into separate areas called “virtual servers”. From a user’s perspective, you have your own 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 also more expensive. Uptime ratings improve considerably with VPS plans.
With a dedicated plan, you’ll get your own individual, private server. With this subscription model, you’ll have full control over the server, but you don’t own it. This option isn’t necessary for beginners or for most small companies. Managing your own server will require that you have the appropriate level of technical skills to configure, install, and maintain everything. If you aren’t the technical type, and you don’t have a technical staff, I would avoid this option. Since your site is the only one on the server, dedicated options offer the best uptime ratings. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, your site may actually be down more often.
Free Web Hosting
Believe it or not, there are some companies that provide completely 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. If you are serious about establishing a quality website and a professional online presence, I highly recommend avoiding free services. If you decide to go with one, the end result is that your company will look cheap and the ads may annoy visitors.
As a small business owner, I am keenly focused on the bottom line. I’m always focused on maximizing profits by doing things that increase revenue and reduce 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 both high and low prices. Ultimately, what I learned along the way is that the cheapest is definitely not the best if you’re running a serious business.
List of the Best Web Hosting Providers
The following is a list of the most popular web hosting providers based on current industry reviews, surveys, and comparisons.
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 a number of reasons:
First, Kinsta is a company founded by a group of experienced WordPress developers who set out to raise the bar in regard to 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. The thing 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, I feel 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.
Visit the Kinsta website to learn more.
SiteGround is well-known as one of the best web hosting providers on this list and yet, they are one of the most affordable. SiteGround is unique, in that they have an excellent balance of everything you need in a hosting company. Their high-quality rating is based on several factors, including speed, stability, and service. Following is more detail on each.
SiteGround is fast. According to Google, and just about 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, the biggest factor in page load time is your web hosting. 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 of their servers are HTTP/2 enabled, which reduces 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 a number of 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 stability of the server. They proactively monitor servers and fix problems quickly. If there are any problems, they have automatic backups, so you can restore your site quickly if necessary. 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’re going to have problems at some point. And when you do, you’re going to need to contact support. Siteground has quality support in a number of areas: self-help, online help, knowledgebases, discussion forums, online chat, and via the phone.
They have very positive reviews. If you do a Google search, you will find hundreds of SiteGround reviews. 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 up to $19.95 per month 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, be aware that the relatively cheap sign-up price is only for the first 12 months.
Unfortunately, I fell for the trap. I used their starter plan for a couple of sites but then switched the sites over to the Kinsta Business 1 plan after the second year. Kinsta migrates the sites over for free. By doing so, my overall costs actually 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 in an entire year.
Recent Updates: SG recently added an additional data center, more storage capacity, faster processors, and free manual site transfer services.
A2 provides a range of services for businesses of all sizes. Whether you are just starting out online or you have an established, high-traffic site, they have a plan that will meet your needs.
They have an array of plans including shared, reseller, VPS, and dedicated options. The company can host sites on all of the major content management platforms, including WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. Their prices range from around $4.00 a month 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 just getting started, 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 is highly rated and well-reviewed. Currently, they have more than two million sites on their platform, 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 personally 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 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 provides a variety of 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. If you’re a beginner, companies like this can help you avoid hiring a developer. Instead, you can use their streamlined services to get online quickly. If you have any trouble, they have 24/7 client support available to assist you. 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 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, and 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 that start a $15 a month for a single site, which includes 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 is NOT one of the best web hosting providers. However, they are the largest 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 will constantly bombard 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 offers affordable VPS, WordPress, Cloud, and Dedicated Hosting plans as well as 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, 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 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 a variety of 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 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, strong security, and quality service. They are a good option whether you need to host a website with a CMS, a CRM application, a discussion forum, or a blog.
WPEngine has more than 90,000 customers in 140 countries around the world. Their technology platform is optimized for WordPress, so it 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, with pricing that is more in line with Kinsta. However, I still consider them to be one of the best web hosting providers on this list. Basic subscription plans start at around $35.
Web Hosting Pricing Plan Comparison for each of the best web hosting providers
Comparing prices is a difficult task, as all of the companies listed above offer a different menu of products and services. Following is a recap of the pricing levels offered by each company, 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.
|Company||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4|
Amazon Web Services has a unique pricing model that charges based on the services you need.
All of the companies listed above periodically offer discounts or promotions that allow you to signup for a discount. Check the web for discount codes or coupon codes prior to signing up. Also, some offer a free trial period that allows you to get started at no cost.
The following table has sample speeds from each of the companies on this list. The challenge with any type of speed analysis is there are so many variables that could affect the result. Examples include the location of the server, the current load on the server, etc.
|Company||Test 1||Test 2||Test 3||Test 4|
Criteria for Selecting the Best Provider
Selecting the right web hosting is an important, but difficult decision. If you are just starting out, any of the companies listed above are likely to meet your needs, at least initially. As your business and your website grow, the list of suitable companies gets smaller.
While many of the features and benefits can be measured and compared, choosing the best hosting company is still subjective. Meaning, it is really 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 at the moment. As your business grows, you want a company that can grow along with you.
- Storage Capacity – The plan must come with adequate storage capacity. I don’t want to have to pay extra every month because I run out of space.
- Bandwidth – Bandwidth is of major 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, you will undoubtedly need to communicate with support. Look for support that is available 24/7 and via multiple channels (i.e. phone, chat, knowledgebase, email, etc.).
- Affordability – Given the amount of 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 both 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. Here, you’ll do things like install apps, review analytics, set up email, and more. 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 trying to figure 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 single site. Do your research on plans, Cpanels, servers, reliability, speed, uptime, pricing, and customer service. Focus on finding the best option for your personal 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. As your business grows, your needs will change and you may need to start your search over again. The good news is that it is relatively simple to move from one host to another. Actually, many of the higher-quality providers, such as Kinsta, will migrate your site to their servers for free.
Once you’ve evaluated all of these features, then can you 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 out by doing a search engine query and coming across 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 was a person’s first visit to your website it is likely you’ll never get them to come back again.
Also, if Google attempts to crawl and index your website while the hosting company is down, it may have an impact on your 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 are likely to 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 Siteground is that you get both quality and affordability.
Questions and Comments
If you have any 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.