Venture Harbour’s Guide to the Best Web Hosting
In the tabs below, you’ll see the top 10 web hosts in order of overall recommendation
scores from surveying hundreds of web designers, developers, and online entrepreneurs.
You can click through the tabs to read more about each host, and compare their prices,
pros, and cons.
Recommended by over 72 of the web designers and developers we surveyed, Media Temple are by far the highest rated web hosting company from our survey, scoring exceptionally high on customer service and overall reliability / performance.
In mid-2014 we migrated this website to Media Temple, and can only reiterate the overall quality emphasised by our survey respondents.
With an average server response time of 0.03 seconds, daily restorable backups, 24/7 technical support, and one of best designed backend control panels we’ve seen, Media Temple’s position as the overall #1 web host is well-deserved.
- Great uptime (we use Media Temple to host this website and have only had 8 minutes downtime in six months)
- Free one-click WordPress installation / migration
- Very fast servers
- Free daily restorable backups
- Great customer service (24/7 phone support)
- While justified, their pricing is on the expensive side.
Go to MediaTemple
If you’re looking for good quality hosting without the price tag, Bluehost are likely to be your best option. At $3.49/month, including a free domain name, their value proposition is hard to beat.
At Venture Harbour, we use a Bluehost VPS (explained below) to host all of our smaller websites under 10,000 visits / month. While not quite as fast as our Media Temple server, the general performance of Bluehost is extremely good for the price.
One of the great perks with Bluehost is their one-click installation of WordPress, which allows you to get a new website up and running in 60 seconds, and with no coding knowledge.
- Great value for money
- Quick one-click WordPress installation
- Great uptime (99.99%)
- Very reliable and fast (relative to other web hosts at this price point)
- Their account setup process is a bit of a hassle
Go to Bluehost
In our survey, WP Engine were voted as the highest-rated hosting company designed specifically for WordPress websites.
One of the downfalls of WordPress is that, due to the platform’s popularity, security loopholes are constantly being identified in plugins, themes, and core files. This is not a problem providing that you keep WordPress updated.
One of the perks offered by WP Engine is that they’ll automatically keep WordPress up to date with the latest patches and security updates. They’re so confident of their ability to prevent your site being hacked that they promise to fix any website that gets hacked free of charge.
With their own built-in CDN (content delivery network), daily automatic backups, and state-of-the-art servers, WP Engine is a great option to look into if you’re running a WordPress website that your business relies on.
Starting at $29 / month, WP Engine aren’t the most affordable hosting company, but you do get what you pay for. If you’re wondering whether to use a managed WordPress hosting service like WP Engine, we’ve explained some of the pros and cons in the next section of this guide.
- Automatic WordPress security updates (and they’ll fix your website for free if it does get hacked)!
- Daily automatic backups & restore points
- Very fast – they have a built-in CDN and cacheing service designed specifically for WordPress sites.
- They have a WordPress staging area for testing updates on your website before deploying them to the live site.
- Free 60-day trial
- Relatively expensive
- They don’t offer 24/7 customer support
Go to WP Engine
Launched in 1997, Dreamhost have won a fair amount of awards for their hosting, including winning PC Magazine’s Business Choice Award for Best Web Hosting Service, where they beat other notable services like HostGator, GoDaddy, and 1&1.
With a free .com domain name upon signup, and many useful features like one-click WordPress installations, Dreamiest are a great affordable web hosting company targeted primarily towards bloggers and small business owners.
At $8.95 / month for shared hosting and $19.95 / month for managed WordPress hosting, Dreamhost’s pricing sits right in the middle between ultra-affordable services like Bluehost, and premium services like Media Temple and WP Engine.
- 100% uptime guarantee (they promise to credit you with a day’s service for every hour of downtime you receive)
- Free domain name
- 97-day money back guarantee
- SSD storage on their VPS packages
- 24/7 phone support
- At $8.95/month, their shared hosting offer is very similar to what Bluehost offer for $3.95/month.
Go to Dreamhost
Powered by Amazon Web Services, and featuring all of the best technology by default, it’s no surprise that Pagely’s managed WordPress hosting comes with quite a hefty price tag.
Starting at $64 / month, you can expect a virtual private server with SSD storage, advanced network security, free support from WordPress experts, dedicated IP addresses, SPDY SSL acceleration, a built-in CDN, and much more.
In our survey, we saw a lot of great praise for Pagely, despite their relatively small and developer-focused userbase.
One unexpected perk that we really like about Pagely is their beautiful hosting control panel, which is exceptionally well designed and one of the best we’ve seen. If you’re looking for maximum performance for a WordPress site, Pagely are definitely worth taking a look at.
- Great uptime (99.994% over the past six months)
- Built on Amazon Web Services
- Auto-updated WordPress + plugins
- Free CDN
- 24/7 UK & US-based phone support
- Quite expensive
Go to Pagely
While they do offer a variety of hosting types, Liquid Web are best known for their dedicated server hosting.
Liquid Web’s hosting services are completely customisable, enabling you to choose the machine and specific add-ons that you wish to purchase. While this does allow you to create the perfect machine to host your website on, it can become very expensive.
The base price of Liquid Web’s single processor dedicated server is $179/month. If you want to add firewalls, load balancing, CDNs, DDoS protection, or private networking, that price will soon creep up.
Overall, Liquid Web are a very highly rated web hosting company, and one of the best for managed dedicated servers – you just need to keep an eye on their pricing.
- Very bespoke – you can create a server that perfectly matches your needs
- Free migrations
- Continuous backups
- 24/7 phone support
- You have to pay for add-ons like a CDN, DDoS protection, and firewalls.
Go to Liquid Web
Starting at $9.95 / month for 10gb of web space on a shared server, Siteground are a good option for those looking at affordable hosting.
Like most hosts, they have a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and 24/7 support (with an average response time of under 10 minutes). One thing that separates Siteground from the slew of other web hosts is their focus on WordPress and Joomla hosting.
While WordPress hosting has become commonplace, there are few hosting companies focusing on other content management systems like Joomla.
- Good uptime (99.9%)
- WordPress & Joomla autoinstaller & updater
- They own three data centers on three continents (in Chicago, Amsterdam, and Singapore) enabling you to be hosted nearer your visitors
- 30-day money back guarantee
- 24/7 phone support
- Not the most affordable hosting
Go to Siteground
In our survey, designers and developers voted Rackspace as the #1 rated hosting platform designed specifically for developers – just ahead of DigitalOcean. Rackspace have such a huge range of server configurations and custom technology that it’s almost overwhelming to know where to begin.
In terms of pricing, Rackspace is a premium service that starts around $150 / month. As you’d expect from a server in this price range, server response times are the industry’s best, and creating a bespoke server is relatively easy.
24/7 phone support, ultra high security, and industry-strength infrastructure come as standard for all Rackspace hosting accounts.
- 24/7 phone support
- Easy to scale
- Bespoke server configuration
- You can use multiple platforms on the same server (.NET, PHP, WordPress, Drupal etc.)
- Fully managed
- Overwhelming range of options
Go to Rackspace
A Small Orange (ASO) are one of the only hosting companies in our list to provide sustainable low-carbon web hosting. In addition to using energy efficient hosting technology, ASO have agreed to match 150% of the electricity it uses in Renewable Energy Certificates.
Voted by Lifehacker and ReviewSignal as one of the best hosting companies, ASO not only have world-class hardware and technology, they’re also extremely affordable and offer great customer service.
Starting at $5 / month for 5GB of storage and 50GB of bandwidth, they’re one of the most competitive hosting companies in their price range.
- Green & sustainable web hosting
- Very affordable
- Great customer service
- 90-day money back guarantee
Go to ASO
Designed with developers in mind, DigitalOcean were up there with Rackspace as one of the top-rated developer hosting platforms in our survey.
At $0.02 per GB of bandwidth, DigitalOcean is 5-6x more affordable than Linode or Amazon Web Services. Earlier this year, Csaba Okrona ran an experiment to test the disk speed and CPU speed of DigitalOcean servers against Amazon EC2 servers, and found that DigitalOcean’s performance was significantly better.
With SSD hard drives and powerful Hex Core machines under the hood, you can be sure that your site will running at lightening speed with DigitalOcean
- SSD hard drive storage
- 55 second provisioning
- Private networking
- Simple API
- IPv6 support
Go to Digital Ocean
What to Consider When Choosing a Web Host
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, to help you make a well-informed choice.
Want to jump to a specific section?
- How much bandwidth and storage will you need?
- Performance & reliability: uptime, security & site speed
- The SEO implications of web hosting
- Customer service & contract length
Step 1. What type of hosting is best for your website – shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting?
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.
VPS (virtual private server) hosting
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.
A Word on WordPress Hosting
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.
Step 2. How much bandwidth and storage will your website need?
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 above, 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 unlimited bandwidth with no overage costs.
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 Media Temple, 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.
Step 3. Performance & reliability: uptime, security & site speed
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
Step 4. The SEO implications of web hosting
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.
Step 5. Customer service & contract length
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.
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.
So, to wrap this guide up I want to recommend the best web hosting companies, in my opinion, for a number of different circumstances. Hopefully, your circumstance will fall into one of these categories, making your decision a little bit easier.
Let’s kick off with the best web hosting company for small businesses.
The best web hosting for small businesses –
For virtually all small businesses, I wholeheartedly recommend Bluehost. They’re extremely affordable, easy to use, and their hosting is the fastest and most reliable you’ll come across for $3.49/month.
The best web hosting for bloggers – This somewhat depends on how much traffic your blog is receiving. If you’re brand new to blogging and don’t have any traffic, I’d recommend Bluehost. If you’re past the 10,000 visitors / month milestone, I’d recommend Media Temple’s VPS / WordPress hosting package.
The best web hosting for startups – It really depends on your level of traffic, but generally I’d recommend Media Temple, due to their ease of scaling. Their servers are extremely fast, they have amazing customer service, 99.99% uptime, and you can easily upgrade your account as you get more traffic.
The best web hosting for WordPress sites – As mentioned in the section on WordPress, I’d recommend either WP Engine or Media Temple. WP Engine are specifically built for WordPress sites, so their service is probably a bit better, but I can also vouch for the quality of Media Temple’s WordPress hosting, which is more affordable.
The best web hosting for large businesses – This is where things get tricky. If we’re talking about where to host Google, then you probably need to buy a server farm in Iceland and fill it to the brim with dedicated servers. If we’re talking about a site with 1,000,000+ visitors per month then I’d recommend looking at either Media Temple or Rackspace’s dedicated server packages.
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.
Image Credit: Tom Raftery