Best hosting to buy
In a hurry? The best web hosting provider right now overall in 2020 is Bluehost – we love its wide and useful set of features (not to mention its affordable price points), and this provider really excels when it comes to WordPress hosting in particular. HostGator is another great all-rounder on the market, delivering seriously impressive value for money, and offering a very well-featured basic plan.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the generic name given to the business of, well, hosting a website for organizations or individuals.
But that's just the beginning: selecting a truly reliable, affordable, scalable web hosting provider is a daunting and overwhelming task, as there are so many options out there.
Many packages include a wealth of features that you may or may not place value upon, including a mailing list, a control panel, the ability to create online stores easily, simple website builder tools, and varying levels of support (either over the phone or live chat).
Whether you're looking to build a website for yourself, a website for your small business now or for the future, or a simple online store, or you just want to save money by moving to a cheaper web hosting provider, we've got you covered.
Choosing a host is very much a case of 'horses for courses' – it's a question of getting the best and most appropriate solution that you can afford. There's no need to hamstring yourself financially, though.
If you're just starting out, or you're a relatively small business and you know your way around a server, you might like to consider a Virtual Private Server (VPS), for example – these provide the flexibility of a dedicated server, but at a reduced cost.
Bluehost has also been rated the top web host by WordPress.org. It is our #1 favorite best web hosting service.
Unmetered bandwidth: Yes | WooCommerce hosting: Yes | Free domain: Yes | 24x7-US-based support: Yes
User-friendly yet powerful
Automated setup for WordPress
Basic website builder included
Taking top honors in our best web hosting charts, Bluehost is a company based in Utah which is owned by web giant Endurance International Group (EIG).
It offers basic shared hosting from $2.95 monthly (on a three-year contract), with WordPress plans starting at $20 per month (although that’s also a discounted introductory rate).
For the money, you get automated setup for WordPress, not to mention other popular apps via a Mojo Marketplace-powered system. There’s also a cPanel-based area to allow expert users to tweak things.
Furthermore, Bluehost provides a Weebly-based website builder. This is a basic browser-based affair that lets you create a website of up to six pages, and there are no extras like site templates included. But still, it’s better than nothing, and more functionality is in the pipeline – plus you get this builder with the basic account.
There’s also good customer support on offer, and the end result is a mix of user-friendly aspects alongside a good amount of power, and potential tweaking for more advanced users.
A fantastic bargain for TechRadar readers, Bluehost has cut the price of its Shared Plan (regularly $7.99 p/m) down to a mere $2.75 per month for the first term only. You get $175 in offers, 24/7 support, plus a free domain and site builder and 30-day money-back guarantee. Not bad, considering Bluehost is #1!
Best value for money
Unmetered bandwidth: Yes | Unmetered disk space: Yes | Search credit: $200 | Money-back guarantee: 45 days
Very well-featured basic plan
Unlimited bandwidth, disk space and more
45-day money-back guarantee
If you’re hunting for budget web hosting, then look no further than HostGator’s Hatchling plan. The beauty of this provider is that even this basic plan is unrestricted in many respects.
There are no limits on bandwidth or disk space, subdomains, MySQL databases, FTP and email accounts.
You also get cPanel-based management of your website, as well as 24/7 customer support, and $200 worth of Google and Bing Ads credits.
Hostgator delivers an impressive range of products ranging from domains to dedicated servers at very competitive prices and backed by a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Further benefits include a 45-day money-back guarantee, not to mention free transfers for new accounts within the first month after you’ve signed up. There’s lots to like here considering the minimal impact on your wallet, with pricing as low as $2.64 (£1.95) per month on a three-year contract.
Hostgator Business Plan - $5.68/month
Hostgator Baby Plan - $3.78/month
Hostgator Hatchling Plan - $2.64/month
Another fabulous website hosting option
Wordpress hosting: Yes | Business hosting: Yes | Web design services: Yes | 24x7-US-based support: Yes
Great tech support
cPanel and Softaculous-powered hosting
This popular web host is a respected and professional operation that's been in business for over 15 years, with an impressive array of plans on offer including shared hosting, which starts from just a few dollars per month.
What’s also good to see is that InMotion Hosting bundles some pretty neat extras into its plans – services that other providers often charge extra for – including the likes of malware and DDoS protection, ‘spam-safe’ email, and a system of basic backups, with plans starting from $3.99 per month.
InMotion provides both cPanel and Softaculous panels, and another strong suit is some top-notch technical support should you get stuck with anything.
In our testing, we found that this firm’s overall performance levels were well above average, which is good news for those who want to see fast-loading websites.
In short, there’s a great deal to like here and some tempting pricing, with the icing on the cake being a 90-day money-back guarantee should you not be satisfied with the service.
Exclusively for TechRadar readers, this top-rated web hosting service is offering its Power Plan (normally $9.99 p/m) for the price of the Launch Plan ($3.99 p/m).
This price is for TechRadar readers only, and the package has double the resources and comes with a number of bonus features.
Best for business
Unlimited bandwidth: Yes | Free SSL certificate: Yes | DDoS protection: Yes | Disk Storage: 100GB
SSL included across-the-board
Hostinger hails from Lithuania, and is one of the biggest providers of free web hosting via its 000webhosting brand. It has well over 30 million users, and some of the lowest prices thanks to low running costs and overheads.
Hostinger prefers to use its own technology (for example, it has its own customized control panel instead of the ubiquitous Cpanel), so that it can better control performance and features.
Its cheapest offer at the moment is an $0.80 (per month) web hosting package if you take a four-year contract, which is great if you want to kickstart a small online venture, but still limited because there’s no SSL or domain name bundled.
Our preference goes to Hostinger's business package, which offers unlimited bandwidth, MySQL databases, GIT integrations, SSH, CloudFlare DDoS protection and email accounts, plus daily backups (something others charge for), 100GB SSD-based disk space – exclusively for TechRadar readers – and SSL, all for only $3.45 per month when you take out a four-year contract (that’s just under $166 over the period of the contract, and a saving of $600 or 78%).
You get a colossal number of features as well, too many to list here. The Business web hosting plan also delivers 4X processing power and memory, handy if you need a boost during peak trading periods.
Exclusive to TechRadar readers. This is an incredibly cheap deal. For less than the price of a coffee every month, you can get a free domain, 100GB storage, unlimited traffic and a free SSL certificate.
This package is perfect if you plan to host just one website and grow it rapidly, with plenty of features not normally found at this price.
Best for SMBs
SEO Services: Yes | Free domain: Yes | Database backup and restore: Yes | Unmetered bandwidth : Yes
User-friendly website builder
cPanel-powered Linux hosting
The US-based web hosting company is one of the largest in the game, and perhaps the best-known. It's also the biggest domain name registrar in the world, with tens of millions of domain names in its portfolio.
GoDaddy’s cheapest web hosting package (Economy) is decently kitted out, and costs $2.49 per month when you sign up for a year.
This provider offers free backup and restore, free Microsoft Office 365 Business Email for one year, an uptime guarantee (99.9%), unlimited storage (although there’s only 100GB for the Economy package), as well as unlimited bandwidth and a free domain with the annual plan.
A pretty nifty feature provided by GoDaddy with all its packages is the ability to increase hosting capacity on demand (for example when you experience a sudden surge in traffic) from within your hosting account.
Web hosting: our must-know tips before you get started
From our experience, we believe these are the five key things to consider when selecting yours:
a. You almost always get what you paid for If your website is primarily a hobby on the side then this shouldn't matter as much. However, as an essential business tool, it's often a false economy to go for the cheapest deal (or a free one) on offer.
b. Beware of pricing tricks The overwhelming majority of web hosting vendors offer low prices at the beginning of their contracts, but jack up the pricing after the introductory period ends, which can be 24, 36 or even 60 months after signing up. Always look for the total cost of ownership.
c. Just how trustworthy is the provider? Just about anyone can pretend to be a real web host and just be reselling someone else’s products. So, look to see how long they’ve been around, if they have a contact address, who owns them, are they making realistic promises on the website and so on. Google is your friend here.
d. Know your limits How comfortable are you with creating your own website? Do you need external help to understand the numerous ramifications (including legal and commercial ones) that publishing one entails?
e. Consider website builders You don't need web hosting to get online, and website builders offer an interesting and compelling alternative. However, you can't migrate your content easily if you want to leave because of their proprietary nature.
Shared, VPS and dedicated web hosting... which do I need?
In a Shared hosting service, one user shares a server with other sites and web hosting accounts. While these are cheaper, shared hosting is best suited to smaller websites that don't use a lot of bandwidth resources.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or Cloud Servers enable you to scale resources as and when you need them, rather than being restricted by the limitations of a physical server. They draw from a pool of processing power, memory and storage depending on your requirements.
With a dedicated server, you have the entire web server for your own use, with significantly faster performance at the core of the offering. You will have to pay extra though, and you'll be responsible for maintenance.
Web hosting companies usually offer three main paid-for tiers of hosting packages. Other than the aforementioned tiers, we will also be considering WordPress hosting, as well as more powerful website building services.
Web hosting: paid or free?
Everyone loves free stuff, and it comes as no surprise that free web hosting services are wildly popular – but unless you're planning to use them to learn coding or run a personal website, we wouldn't advise using a free web hosting service.
Don't get us wrong: we love them, we've even produced a best free web hosting guide; however, using them for businesses purposes is fraught with potential issues that make it hard to recommend them.
Unlike free software, services (web hosting or VPN for example) cost money to run, which is why most web hosting companies use a freemium business model, and will try to convince you to move to a cheap, paid service.
Expect a number of limitations on disk space and bandwidth. You won't get an SSL certificate, which is a sine qua non condition for running a proper business website. You won't have regular backups, and some will even shut down your website for one hour a day!
How to choose the best web hosting service
The hosting services your business can choose from will usually mean making a decision about whether a shared, dedicated, or cloud-based server is right for your business.
Very small businesses will usually opt for a shared or managed service, as these are sometimes called. Costs are low, but your business will be sharing its server with several other enterprises. You can always move up to a virtual private network (or VPS) if needed.
A dedicated server, as its name suggests, is just one server reserved for your business.
Dedicated servers are not as expensive as they once were, and can make economic sense if you want your business to have its own server platform, and don't want to have to worry about other businesses on a shared server impacting your online business if they have problems.
It's important to look closely at the service level (SLA) that will be attached to your dedicated server. Look for any additional costs, such as maintenance, or other 'extras' that aren't covered in the rental cost.
And lastly, try and buy server space that you can expand into. You don't want to find after a few months that you've outgrown your server and need to move to a new one.
Lastly, as the cloud has made a major impact right across the business environment, business web hosting has also embraced the cloud, and now offers an alternative to the traditional hosting methods. The power of cloud hosting is the flexibility it offers: in effect, your business can buy just the space and hosting services it needs now, and expand at anytime with no disruption to business.