As a digital agency, we’ve used over a dozen different web hosts for our clients’ and our own websites over the past 8 years. In this guide we want to share our experience to help you find the best web hosting for your site. Below is a comparison of the top 10 web hosts, based on our experience.
|Web Host||Pricing||Free Domain||Up-Time||24/7 Support|
|Hosts over 1.9 million websites.||$2.95 /mo||99.99%||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 300,000 websites.||$3.96 /mo||99.9%||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 300,000 websites.||$4.89 /mo||99.999%||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 500,000 websites.
||$4 /mo||99.9%||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 1.5 million websites.||$8.95 /mo||100%||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 300,000 websites.||From $4.89 /mo||60-500GB SSD||99.999%||10TB||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 30,000 websites.
||From $29 /mo||10GB-1TB||99.9%||Unlimited||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 125,000 websites.||From $30 /mo||20-100GB SSD||99.9%||1TB||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 2,000 websites.
||From $64 /mo||10-50GB SSD||99.9%||10-500GB||Visit Host|
|Hosts over 300,000 websites.
||From $5 /mo||20-640GB SSD||99.9%||1-9TB||Visit Host|
A lot of people get hung up choosing web hosting, sometimes wasting hours comparing features.
In my opinion, it’s more important to just choose one and start bringing your idea to life – and with the list above you really can’t go wrong. However, if you’re still undecided we’ve built this quick tool that will recommend the best web host for you.
While choosing a web host from the list above will ensure you’re in good hands, we’ve written the following guide on what to consider when choosing web hosting, along with reviews of the nine web hosting companies featured in our comparison table above.
You can use the following links to jump to any section.
|Web hosting guide:||Web hosting reviews:|
The first thing to consider when choosing web hosting is what type of hosting you’re looking for. There are three main types of web hosting; shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting. We’ve explained the pros and cons of each type below.
As the name implies, shared hosting is where your website shares the same server with many other websites. The main benefit of shared hosting is that it’s the most affordable way to host a website, with web hosting companies like Bluehost charging as little as $3.95 per month for shared hosting.
Shared hosting is best suited for new websites, small blogs and small business websites with less than 10,000 visits per month.
A VPS is a hybrid solution that bridges the gap between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. While your website is hosted on the same physical server as other websites, your website is controlled independently, as if it were on its own server. VPS hosting typically costs around $20-30 per month.
The benefits of VPS hosting are that you get many of the same perks of dedicated hosting but without the price tag.
Dedicated server hosting is where you lease a physical server that’s all yours. Dedicated server hosting is the most powerful, secure, scalable and flexible way to host a website. Unsurprisingly, dedicated server hosting is relatively expensive, typically starting at around $150 per month.
Dedicated server hosting is best suited to eCommerce websites, websites that handle sensitive personal information, and established high traffic websites.
Since WordPress became the most popular CMS (content management system) on the web, many web hosting companies have created hosting packages designed specifically for WordPress websites.
In fact, we host this website on Media Temple’s Premium WordPress hosting plan.
There’s nothing dramatically different between the physical servers used for WordPress hosting and standard VPS hosting. The differences lie in the software.
For example, one of the main benefits of WordPress hosting is that it typically makes it easy to install WordPress sites, or migrate them from another server. Bluehost, for example, have a one-click WordPress installation button, which saves having to rename config files and create databases manually.
The second major benefit to using WordPress hosting is to do with security. Due to the open source nature of WordPress, there’s a constant battle to patch security loopholes created by community-built themes and plugins.
As such, the WordPress platform is constantly being updated. Managed WordPress hosting companies like WP Engine and Media Temple ensure that your website is always up to date, and that any security issues get patched quickly.
If you run your website on WordPress, it’s highly recommend that you use WordPress-specific hosting. While there are companies specifically dedicated to WordPress hosting, like WP Engine, you’ll find that most reputable companies including Bluehost and Media Temple both offer a plan designed for WordPress sites.
Bandwidth is the measurement of data that is sent from your web hosting server to your website visitor’s computer. Imagine you have 10 page views to your website per day, and each page on your website is 10kb in size.
To work out the amount of bandwidth used, you’ll need to multiply the number of page views per month by your average page size. In the example below, you’d have used 3,000kb (or 3mb) of bandwidth (10 x 10 x 30 days).
In reality, you don’t necessarily need to conduct an exact calculation to understand how much bandwidth you need. After all, it’s a constantly changing number. The important thing is to always ensure that you have a large amount of free bandwidth, in case you receive a surge of traffic.
As a benchmark, this website uses around 90GB of bandwidth per month. We receive ~40,000 monthly page views, which suggests our average page size is around 2.25MB. Because we use Media Temple hosting, this is somewhat irrelevant as Media Temple offer 1-5TB’s of bandwidth, which we’re unlikely to exceed anytime soon .
This brings us onto an important topic, unlimited bandwidth.
Many web hosting companies advertise unlimited bandwidth as an incentive, but is it really unlimited?
Technically, it’s literally impossible to have unlimited bandwidth. In practice, unlimited bandwidth tends to mean one of two things:
1. More bandwidth than you’ll ever use – when reputable hosting companies, like Bluehost and Dreamhost, offer unlimited bandwidth, it means more bandwidth than you’ll ever be able to use, so it might as well be unlimited. The important thing is that you’ll never be charged for going over a bandwidth quota.
2. You can use as much bandwidth as you like, but you’ll have to pay for it – when some of the less reputable hosting companies offer unlimited bandwidth, they mean that you can use as much as you like, but you’ll have to pay (often quite a premium) for extra bandwidth beyond a point.
If you’re expecting a large amount of traffic, and are looking at choosing a web hosting company that offers unlimited hosting, it’s worthwhile having a read through their terms and conditions to understand how they are defining unlimited.
If you choose a web hosting package that offers an agreed bandwidth quota, you’ll also want to know what their bandwidth overage costs are i.e. how much you’ll be charged for exceeding your bandwidth quota.
For example, if you choose to host your website on WP Engine’s professional plan, you’ll have a visitor quota of 100,000 visitors per month. If your website goes over 100,000 visitors per month, WP Engine charge a fee of $1 per 1,000 visitors. While this isn’t ideal, it’s often preferable to what many web hosting companies do, which is take your website offline.
Your storage or ‘web space’ is how much hard disk space you have on your web server for your website’s files. Similar to unlimited bandwidth, many web hosts offer unlimited storage, which tends to mean a large amount that you probably won’t exceed.
In terms of how much storage you need, this depends on the number and size of webpages you have, and whether or not you’re hosting files for people to download.
As we calculated earlier, the average page size on VentureHarbour.com is 2.25MB. A quick search in our account centre reveals that we have 119 pages. Multiplying these two numbers together reveals that the total storage requirement for this website is around 268MB, which is less than 0.3% of our 100GB storage quota.
Everyone’s site goes down once in a while – even Facebook, YouTube, and Google have had their bad days. While many web hosts aim for 100% server uptime, the reality is that sometimes things happen that are beyond the capabilities of even the best network engineers.
That said, some hosts have better uptime than others, so how do you choose a web host that’s got the best server stability?
The 100% uptime myth – Like ‘unlimited’ bandwidth, 100% uptime doesn’t really exist. A few years ago, Rackspace were in disputes with the ASA for using the slogan ‘100% uptime guaranteed‘.
The reality is that Rackspace’s ‘guarantee’ simply states that they’ll entitle customers to a refund if their servers go down. Always read the fine print and know what your host’s uptime really is.
Location matters – If your web hosting company’s data centre is located in a city that regularly receives blizzards, storms, or power outages, you’re more likely to have down time. This is one good reason to use a content delivery network (CDN) like CloudFlare or MaxCDN, so that your files are hosted on multiple servers around the world, instead of from one single server.
If you use any of the hosting companies recommended in this guide, you likely won’t receive too much downtime at all. In six months of hosting with Media Temple’s servers, we’ve received less than 8 minutes down time. On Bluehost, who we host several of our portfolio websites with, we have also received 99.98% uptime, according to Pingdom.
If maximum security is your primary concern, you will probably require a dedicated server.
Most hackers target shared or VPS servers by uploading their malicious code onto a website that gains access to or somehow negatively affects other sites hosted on the same server.
This is obviously not possible on a dedicated server. So how do you know whether a web host is secure? Most hosts will tell you whether they have a firewall installed and what actions they take to prevent malicious attacks, such as DDoS surges.
If you can’t find anything about this on the web host’s website, I’d be cautious. All of the reputable hosts, such as WP Engine, BlueHost, RackSpace, and Media Temple are very good from a security perspective.
Of course, your website’s security is affected by so much beyond the web host you use – from the passwords you create, to the quality of plugins and WordPress themes you use. However, prevention is a far better strategy than cure when it comes to improving your website’s security, and using a secure host is a good starting point.
In 2006, Amazon reported that a 100-millisecond increase in server loading speed translated to a 1% increase revenue for them.
The web server that you host your website on will have a significant impact on your website’s loading speed for several reasons.
First of all, the physical location of your website’s server will determine the distance between your website’s visitors and your computer. If the majority of your visitors are based in the United Kingdom, it would be faster to host your website on a server in the UK, compared to one in Australia or the United States.
The quality of your web server’s hardware and software will also influence your website’s loading time. All of the hosting companies recommended in this guide have been voted highly for their performance and reliability, so whoever you choose you’ll be in good hands.
“It pays to have a good foundation for your website. Services like CloudFlare can significantly improve a website’s loading speed, but it’s no substitute for having a good web host to begin with.”
– Maria Karaivanova, Head of Business Development, CloudFlare
While the quality of web hosting you use isn’t a factor that Google directly use to determine where your website ranks in the search results, it does have an indirect impact on a number of ranking factors.
For starters, Google announced several years ago that page speed plays an important role in their ranking algorithm. As discussed in the previous section, the amount of bandwidth and the quality of your web hosting server will have a major impact on this.
The location of your web hosting server is also noted to have an impact on your search rankings. If, for example, you want your website to rank well in Google.com.au, you may want to consider choosing a web hosting company with servers based in Australia.
“Good hosting is very important for SEO. Page speed is vital for maximising conversion rates, but it’s also an ever-increasing factor towards search engine rankings, so having an unreliable host can be costly in more ways than one. Plus, you also want to make sure the location of your server is from your target country, otherwise you may have issues ranking within the correct geographic search engine.” – Kevin Gibbons, MD, BlueGlass
Finally, you’ll find it very difficult to rank well in Google if your website is constantly going offline, or having malware installed on it. These are both symptoms of using an insecure and unreliable web hosting company.
Choosing a fast and reliable web hosting company will not only raise your conversion rates and provide a better user experience, it’ll also set you up to rank well in Google, too.
Like any long-term relationship, there will be ups and downs with your web hosting provider.
Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs with Venture Harbour’s web hosting providers. From having sites go down hours before a big product launch, to full-blown security hacks, there aren’t too many things we haven’t seen.
As a result, we now only use web hosts that offer decent 24-hour phone support with English-speaking technical support. When you agree to use a host, you’re not just agreeing to let them host some files on the Internet – you’re trusting them to protect your brand, reputation, and revenue streams. It can be incredibly damaging to have a site go down at the wrong time, so you’ll want to be sure you’re in safe hands before you agree to become a customer.
The best way to ensure you’re in good hands is to host with a reputable company with fantastic customers support, and lots of positive customer reviews.
Understandably, most web hosting companies try to lock you into a contract for a certain amount of time (usually 6-12 months minimum). Generally, this is not a big concern as most websites remain hosted for a long time anyway. After all, hosting is not the sort of thing you switch regularly.
It does, however, become a problem if you’re just testing an idea for a new site, or if the site quickly outgrows the server you’re hosted on. In all cases, it’s worth knowing what you’re signing up for.
Below we’ve written a short review on the nine web hosting companies featured in our comparison table above, along with who we’d recommend each hosting company to.
If you’re looking for a web hosting service that’s easy to use, cheap, and won’t drive you crazy, Bluehost are a good option. My favourite thing about their platform is just how easy they make setting up a new site.
Minutes after creating an account you can click ‘Install WordPress’ – and a few clicks later you’ll be building and designing your website.
At Venture Harbour we’ve been using Bluehost to host several of our sites for around two years. While we also have two high-performance VPS (virtual private server) with other web hosts, we tend to prefer hosting our new websites on Bluehost as it’s a quick and easy way to get started.
In the two years that we’ve used Bluehost we’ve had a few occasions where our sites have gone offline, but that’s to be expected with all hosts. Compared to other hosting companies we’ve used our experience has been quite painless.
The only downside is that because they’re so popular it can sometimes take up to an hour to get a response from their support team.
Hostgator are another good budget web hosting provider. As one of the biggest brands in web hosting, they’re widely considered to be among one of the best hosting companies for beginners and small web projects.
It’s hard to say anything unique or special about Hostgator, though, as their offering is very similar to GoDaddy and Bluehost.
From my experience, Bluehost tends to be both more affordable and better performance. If for whatever reason Bluehost isn’t a good fit for your site, but you still want something around the same price range, Hostgator are worth looking into.
GoDaddy are one of the best known brands in web hosting. While the performance and quality of their web hosting is not as good as Bluehost’s from my experience, it’s certainly not bad.
As you’ve probably noticed, most budget web hosts offer more or less the same product – unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, a free domain name etc. GoDaddy is a bit different in two ways.
Firstly, their deluxe plan lets you host as many websites as you want for just $4.49 / month. Most other services charge this amount to host one website, so this is good if you’re thinking of hosting several websites.
GoDaddy is also the most popular website for buying domains. If you’re thinking of acquiring new domains in the future, it makes it easier having your domain names and web hosting all in the same place.
As a word of caution, though, GoDaddy are notorious for charging ‘additional fees’ for extra features that most other web hosts like Bluehost offer for free. If you’re thinking of choosing GoDaddy to save money, you’ll probably end up paying more in additional fees over the long run.
One of my favourite things about Siteground is that they let you choose where you’d like your website to be hosted from four options: United States, Netherlands, UK, or Singapore.
As we’re based in the UK, it’s preferable for us to have our sites hosted in the UK as this improves loading speed and SEO. The problem is that most of the best hosting companies only have data centres in the United States. Siteground are one of the few exceptions.
Siteground are neither the cheapest nor most expensive web hosting service. They’re positioned as providing a decent service with great customer service at a price that’s affordable to most website owners and businesses.
Two months ago we started a new website at Venture Harbour. Unlike our other new sites (which we usually host on Bluehost) this project needed the ability to scale up quickly. We also needed top of the range hardware to ensure that the performance was as good as possible, within a sensible price range.
After narrowing the options down to MediaTemple, WPEngine, and Dreamhost, we chose Dreamhost. Without going into the technical reasons behind our decision, we found that Dreamhost were the best bang for the buck in terms of scalability, cost, and hardware quality.
For tech startups and businesses that may need to scale up their storage and bandwidth requirements quickly, DreamHost are particularly attractive as their lowest pricing tier starts at just $15/month for a high quality VPS with fast SSD hard disk drives. From here it’s easy (and not too expensive) to increase your storage, RAM, and bandwidth.
While we’ve only been customers for a few months, there are a lot of nice touches with Dreamhost. It’s clear that Dreamhost are obsessed with security, and similarly to MediaTemple their control panel is very clean and easy to use. Unlike MediaTemple, Dreamhost make it easy for developers to get under the hood of the server.
After a spike in traffic in 2014, we decided that it was time to move this website (VentureHarbour.com) to a faster, higher-performance, hosting provider.
After much time comparing between the various web hosting providers, we chose MediaTemple’s VPS (virtual private server) solution.
Our experience has generally been very positive. We have had quite a few issues with them automatically updating our WordPress plugins / themes – causing incompatibility errors. These issues aside, the performance has been exceptional, and their customer support is among the best I’ve ever dealt with.
At $30/month for VPS hosting, MediaTemple is an affordable option for businesses like ours that need high performance, while not being overly complex or expensive.
WPEngine do one thing, and they do it very well: WordPress hosting.
Used by lots of big names including ConstantContact, Asana, and Soundcloud, WPEngine are the de-facto standard in hosting WordPress sites. If you use (or plan to use) WordPress and expect more than 10,000 visits per month, WPEngine almost certainly going to be the best option.
Why? You’ve probably noticed that most web hosts bolt on WordPress hosting as an option. WPEngine on the other hand have specifically optimised their servers and hosting for WordPress. The key benefit to this is security. As WPEngine monitor hundreds of thousands of WordPress sites they’re one of the first to notice new security loopholes. Their team are then able to patch these loopholes before they have time to affect your site.
In addition, there are speed, performance and scalability benefits to having a web host specifically focused on WordPress.
While we haven’t used them for any of our own sites, we’ve worked with several clients who have hosted their sites on WPEngine, who were all very pleased. If I could turn back the clocks I probably would have chosen WPEngine over MediaTemple for hosting this site (VentureHarbour.com).
Pagely are one of the only web hosting companies in this post that we’ve never actually used at Venture Harbour. We had to include them, however, after repeatedly hearing so many positive things about them from customers who responded to a Reddit thread we ran last year.
In the thread we asked entrepreneurs and web developers what their favourite web hosting companies were. Among those already mentioned, Pagely was getting a lot of love from the web developers working for enterprise companies.
Used by Booking.com, eBay, Microsoft, Warner Bros, Disney, and Meetup.com, Pagely’s client list is certainly impressive. Pagely’s value proposition is that their hosting is almost infinitely scalable – thanks to their usage of Amazon’s AWS servers. Whether you have ten or one hundred million visits, Pagely have you covered.
Understandably, Pagely isn’t cheap. If you’re considering Pagely it’s likely that you’re a large enterprise in need of something very powerful. As such, you’re probably best getting a custom quote based on your storage and bandwidth requirements.
When we asked web developers on Reddit who their favourite web hosting provider was, we were bombarded by people saying great things about DigitalOcean. To be clear, DigitalOcean is definitely not for beginners or anyone non-technical.
As you’d expect for a web host aimed at developers, DigitalOcean offer top-of-the-range hardware and have a beautiful user interface, making it simple to deploy servers with root access quickly and effortlessly.
Similarly to Siteground, DigitalOcean let you choose your datacenter regions to reduce latency. One of the most impressive things about DigitalOcean is the sheer scalability of their hardware – in fact, their basic plans scale up to a whopping 9TB of disk storage!
If you’re a developer building a web or mobile application that needs to be easily scalable (in both directions), DigitalOcean are one of the most reputable web hosts among the development community.
Most web hosting problems come from choosing a poor web hosting company to begin with. I won’t name any names, but there are a lot of really shoddy web hosting companies out there.
Fortunately, whoever you choose to host with from the table above, you’ll be fine with.
I hope this guide’s been useful and has helped you narrow down your choices as to which web hosting company to use. If you still have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.
Published by Marcus Taylor, Founder of Venture Harbour, on 2014-03-27.
Last updated on 2016-01-3
Image Credit: Tom Raftery