Web hosting companies store your website online and keep it visible to the public. You pay for a certain amount of bandwidth, technical and customer service, speed, and reliability based on the needs of your website. Web hosting companies then provide the space, relevant features, and support to keep your website running and online.
There is a large assortment of companies to choose from and without knowing what to look for the decision can easily become overwhelming.
Plans offered by web hosting companies
Web hosting companies operate under a few different models and this is the first place you make a decision to narrow the options down. The names describe the configuration that the server uses to store your website and data. There is:
- free web hosting
- shared web hosting
- dedicated web hosting
- virtual private servers
Free web hosting is just that: free. Free hosting can work for personal websites, websites for nonprofit organizations, and small business websites, but professional websites and websites will need paid hosting. Free web hosting companies do not offer live technical support or advanced features like shopping cart modules and domain names.
Shared, or virtual, web hosting is the most common type of web hosting. Shared web hosting means that the resources of one server, like memory and loading speeds, are divided into set amounts between multiple websites. Sharing the server with other websites reduces the cost of web hosting because the costs are also shared. One unfortunate side effect of this is that you could potentially exhaust your resources.
Dedicated web hosting is the opposite. Your websites are stored and run on one server that you control and no one else uses. This maximizes the amount of server resources you can get for your website, but this is also the most expensive option.
Virtual private server hosting, is hosting on a server that is configured to appear and work like dedicated hosting, but it is actually shared by a small number of websites and thus reduces the monthly costs. Each website can pull on the full amount of resources on the server instead of being given a set amount of the resources, but unlike shared hosting, one crashed site won’t bring the whole server down.
Most web hosting companies offer various packages of services and features that fit all budgets. Prices range anywhere from $1-$10 to $30-$50 to several hundred dollars a month depending on the type of hosting, the features, and the amount of space you choose.
Features offered by web hosting companies
Web hosting companies offer a variety of features that assist you in publishing your website and maintaining it once it is online.
Research web hosting companies to see the features they offer. These are some of the most important features:
- bandwidth and disk space
- site builder
- technical support
- customer service
- domain hosting
- access to FTP, PHP, Perl, SSI, .htaccess, telnet, SSH, MySQL, crontabs
- user forums
- control panels
- SSL (security for e-commerce)
The reliability or uptime of a web hosting company is crucial to your decision. No one can see a website that is down, so look for an uptime of at least 99.5%. Anything under 99% should be avoided. A majority of web hosting companies also often offer money back or credits during down times.
Your website takes up a certain amount of disk space on your hard drive and will take up the same amount of space on the Internet. Make sure the plan offers more disk space than what you are currently using. The plan should also offer adequate bandwidth amount to allow for the traffic coming in to your website.
Having access to the rest of the items on the list will be up to your personal preferences and needs. If you need a way to build your website then look for a hosting company that includes a site builder in the package. Good technical support and customer service are important to the ease of maintenance of your site.
If you don’t already have a domain to point to your website you can manage that through the hosting company for a small fee. If you are more technical you will want to ensure access to the various protocols for programming. User forums can help you troubleshoot and learn the various features of your hosting package. Access to SSL is only necessary to protect a user’s personal and credit card information if you are going to have a shopping cart on your site.
Best free web hosting companies
These are a few free web hosting companies that are listed as best web hosting companies
- Zymic- 5 GB of disk space, 50 GB of bandwidth
- Freehostia- 250 MB of disk space, 6 GB of bandwidth
- XtreemHost- 5.5 GB of disk space, 200 GB of bandwidth
- Host-Ed- 150 MB of disk space, 4 GB of bandwidth
Best paid shared web hosting companies
These are some paid web hosting companies that are listed as best web hosting companies by users and offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth.
- Bluehost- $6.95
- Dreamhost- $8.95
- StartLogic- $7.95
- HostGator- $3.96
- HostMonster- $5.95
- FatCow- $3.15
- GreenGeeks- $4.95
Best web hosting companies using virtual private servers
These are some web hosting companies that use virtual private servers and are listed as best web hosting companies by users.
- DotBlock- $34.95, 40 Gb of disk space, 500 GB of bandwidth
- StartLogic- $29.95, 20 GB of disk space, 1 TB of bandwidth
- HostGator- $39.95, 30 GB of disk space, 500 GB of bandwidth
- MyHosting- $15.95, 25 GB of disk space, 300 GB of bandwidth
- GreenGeeks- $39.95, 512MB of disk space, 150 GB bandwidth
Best dedicated web hosting companies
These are some paid dedicated web hosting companies that are listed as best web hosting companies by users.
- Codero, $122.50, 250 GB of disk space, 12 TB of bandwidth
- InMotion, $229.95, 160 GB of disk space, 1500 GB of bandwidth
- SingleHop, $179.00, 500 GB of disk space, 10 TB of bandwidth
- Hivelocity, $209.00, 500 GB of disk space, 4000 GB of bandwidth