Would you rather pay less for web hosting or more?
It seems like sort of an idiotic question, right? Less, of course! The trouble arises when you embrace a cheaper-at-all-costs mentality that ends up costing you dearly in terms of poor website performance and lost business.
What you’re really looking for is great value, and the price point for that likely should be different depending upon whether the project you’re looking to get online is a personal blog or an actual business.
What we want to do in this article is educate you in regard to the cheap web hosting options available depending upon what you want to accomplish.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here, but by the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a good idea of how to stay out of trouble with ridiculously underpriced hosts and make an intelligent web hosting decision from among the rest.
Why Ultra-Cheap Web Hosting is a Bad Idea
We’re not going to beat around the bush. If you’re paying less than a buck per month for web hosting you are flirting with disaster, my friend.
Hey, we love a good deal as much as anyone, but when you get down into that price range it’s not a deal you’re looking at – it’s a risk. You will end up paying MORE in the future for cheap hosting than if you spend an extra $1-2 dollars a month on a better quality host.
There is one Big Picture reason to avoid these cheap hosting shops. The first is that the only way they can make any money at that price is to throw all their clients’ websites together on a big old shared server with the same IP address. There are a handful of good reasons to be leery about this practice.
But first this…
Lame nerd joke, I know. We’ll tell you a few reasons why insanely cheap hosts aren’t great.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Hackable: The bad guys target shared IP addresses because the security is usually weak and it’s easy to get in and create mischief on a larger scale.
Spreading the Disease: Since it’s so easy to get into the source code, expect that your website will soon be showing off all manner of viruses, malware, and advertisements that you’d rather not be associated with.
Bad IP Neighborhood: Since this type of hosting is so cheap, your neighbors on the shared server will likely be a bunch of spam blogs who contribute nothing positive to the internet and whose entire life’s goal seems to be to clog everything up with junk.
Google Will Hate You: Thanks to all the above, there’s a good chance your proximity to junk blogs and hackability will make Google look at you with disdain and punish you accordingly with low search engine rankings.
Terrible Downtime: As you might expect, your friendly neighborhood cheap web hosting company is not going to dedicate a lot of quality equipment or resources to make sure you have the best customer experience.
While a legitimate web host normally promises at least 99% uptime, your deep discounter figures anything over 50 percent is good. A web host that leaves your site down for minutes or hours at a time is not doing you any favors, no matter how cheap it is. 🙁
Bad Support: More likely you will experience no support. From their perspective they just can’t allocate any but the most basic of resources to solving your problems. Expect a very general FAQ section at best.
If you’re especially unlucky, you’ll get an unresponsive customer support email or telephone that sends you into an automated system so convoluted you give up and decide to throw yourself in the path of the next passing truck – just kidding.
SSL NOT Included: Cheap web hosts charge you up to $80 a year for Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protection. Our recommended hosts all offer 100% free SSL.
Without this, no credible payment processor will touch you. If you’re trying to sell anything, this is a problem.
If you’re trying to have a website that is actually trusted by Google and be able to one day sell something on, you will absolutely 100% need SSL.
The real trouble arrives after you finally get fed up with the crappy service, but the refund period has already passed, and you paid for an entire year of service in advance to cash in on the great rate.
Meanwhile, a hundred other suckers a day are making the same mistake you just did by signing up with such a cheap web host. Little do they know that in a few short months their dreams are liable to also be crushed like yours just were.
For far too many internet entrepreneurs and new bloggers this kind of discount web hosting is not a good deal at all – not when you take into account the REAL final cost.
Now that we’ve given you a proper fright, let’s take a quick look at the different kinds of value-based web hosting you should be looking for. These solutions range in price from around $5 monthly to $100 or more. The right one for you depends, once again, on what type of project you’re interested in hosting.
However for our purposes we’re going to suggest hosts that we’ve been using for years that offer premium hosting features and freebies for $3-4/month.
Let’s break it down.
What’s the Best Cheap Hosting Option?
Let’s get down to brass tacks and sum all this stuff up. What’s the best value-based cheap hosting plan for your situation?
For bloggers or those with simple websites, shared hosting (as long as it’s not SEO hosting!) is a perfectly fine option. This gets your website online at a minimum of expense. You can always upgrade to more sophisticated hosting as traffic increases.
The bottom line is there’s no reason to jump straight to a dedicated hosting plan when it might take a year or longer to actually need those additional resources. Trust us, your web host – if they’re legit – will be happy to help you upgrade when the time comes.
For anything less than around 4,000 monthly visits, shared hosting is fine. SiteGround offers some impressive performance for its price (mostly thanks to its state of the art datacenters).
Even if you have a small business, don’t automatically assume you need a dedicated hosting package. A majority of small business websites are more informational than anything and don’t actually receive a ton of traffic. In most cases, shared hosting is a wise economical choice.
One thing a small business owner should keep an eye on when choosing an initial hosting plan is the cost to eventually upgrade or move your site to a new host.
If you expect your hosting needs to grow, look for one that won’t break the bank when it comes time to change things. Add-on fees can kill you and that’s what the dirt cheap guys specialize in. Luckily Siteground offers 100% free transfer and upgrades on accounts.
E-Commerce is a Different Ballgame – You Need Quality Hosting
As opposed to informational websites or personal blogs, let’s take the case of an e-commerce site that’s sole purpose is to make sales. Now the idea of uptime becomes more critically important. If your website is down, you’re not making sales, and if it’s your only income, you might be eating Ramen Noodles that day.
The bottom line is that, for some online entrepreneurs, the cost of being down is more literal – lost money. In this case, a shared hosting package is not worth the risk of a slow or non-loading website.
Downtime to a website selling products is just like….burning money
To be fair, many e-commerce sites are packed full of high-resource features like high-resolution images, streaming audio and/or video, and more.
Remember how we talked about how all accounts on a shared hosting can suffer due to one bandwidth hog? Well, if you think you might be the hog, don’t go the shared route.
People these days are highly impatient online. If it takes more than a few seconds for your page to load, forget it. They’ve moved on to spend their money with a competitor. Suddenly the one or two bucks you’re saving seems like a very poor trade-off.
1. SiteGround – The Best Overall Hosting For Price / Speed / Uptime / Support. ($3.95 / month)
Average Uptime: 99.95%
Average Load Time: 475Ms
We won’t beat around the bush. For our money – and yours too – the best option for hosting is a company called SiteGround. At $3.95 per month, the price is deeply discounted but not so much so they have to cut corners. Sure, we could pay less and host our client sites elsewhere, but we don’t. We choose SiteGround because of great service and high uptime numbers.
Trust us, if they didn’t treat us right, we would find a new host. In an industry where too many web hosts have come to look at their clients as nothing but a monthly direct deposit, SiteGround realized they better stick to the core priority of value and customer service if they wanted to succeed.
In addition, you’ll get:
Free SSL: Remember when we mentioned how critical it is to have SSL with your website? Siteground offers it at no charge. If you’re selling either digital or physical products online and want your website to show up in Google searches, this is not optional. Other places charge anywhere from $60 to $80 annually for this.
Best Support You’ll Find: Yeah, yeah, everybody claims they have great support but most really don’t. Well, Siteground does because they realize you’ll leave if they don’t. From in-depth technical issues to general troubleshooting, you can rest easy you’ll talk to a knowledgeable, friendly, trained rep who will actually help resolve the issue.
99.5% Uptime: We’re not kidding. We know how much you hate it when your website goes down. We hate it too and will move heaven and earth to keep you up and happy.
2. A2 Hosting – Great Speed and Loading Times ($3.92/month)
Average Uptime: 99.1%
Average Load Time: 601Ms
We know people like to have more than one choice. If for some reason you’re not a fan of Siteground (hard to imagine but we’ll play along), we’d put A2 right up there as a solid choice for cheap web hosting that won’t leave you crying. Essentially, you’re getting all the same features, benefits, and service and at three cents less per month ($3.92). Pick one or the other. You’ll be happy either way.
Understanding the Different Kinds of Hosting Available
This next section is gonna explain the different kinds of hosting that are available and the differences between the various plans. If you’re looking for the cheaper options then shared hosting is the plan that you want.
“Okay, didn’t you just finish telling us how bad shared hosting is?”
Actually, we didn’t. We warned you about the dangers of BOTTOM FEEDER pricing associated with deep discount shared hosting companies, but there are plenty of hosting companies who use the shared model and put enough resources into the effort to make it a legitimate option.
Sometimes visuals help. Shared hosting is like an apartment building where you have a bunch of different people living and sharing some of the same resources like electrical and water supply and maybe a laundromat or swimming pool. Think of the apartment building as the Internet Protocol (IP) address.
The thinking behind this idea actually makes good sense; it’s the execution that sometimes lacks. In general, no single website comes close to needing the resources available of an entire server, especially if you’re running a simple informational website or a blog-based Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress. These are undemanding websites – they sip they server’s resources under normal conditions. Dozens or even hundreds could adequately be hosted by a single server.
Like the communal swimming pool at our fictional apartment building, it all works fine until someone poops in the water and then no one can use it.
As mentioned, if you’re seeing prices for a shared hosting package that land in the $5 to $10 monthly range, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a legitimate outfit, given that you understand the foundational drawbacks of any shared platform (performance for ALL hosted websites can get bad if one starts sucking server resources with traffic spikes).
The bad guys in this area are the ones we’ve already talked about, who sell web hosting for less than a buck a month. This is referred to in the industry as SEO hosting, and it’s not a good thing if you want any credibility associated with your website.
This side of shared hosting is strongly associated with spam websites and operates on the turn and burn principle of taking your money then abandoning you.
Sticking with our brilliant living quarters example, a dedicated hosting package would be if you decided to move out of that crowded apartment building with the stuff floating in the pool that shouldn’t be there and rented a house. Ahh…see how much nicer it is?
More expensive, yes, but you’re no longer at the mercy of the good behavior of everyone else in the building. You have your own water and electrical supply. This is a great option for small businesses.
This is the opposite of shared hosting. You are actually renting a certain amount of speed and bandwidth on the server and are given a unique IP address for your website. It’s not as expensive as buying your own server, but this falls on the opposite end of the price spectrum from shared hosting and might cost a hundred bucks a month or more.
The cost is probably not worth it for a personal blog or informational type website, but if you have a small business that takes a severe financial hit any time customers can’t reach you online, and uptime reliability is a BIG deal, dedicated hosting might be a good idea.
The concept of Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting lands somewhere between shared and dedicated hosting. It comes at a higher price than the former but offers some of the features of the latter. In many ways, it mimics a dedicated hosting account through administrator-level access and the ability to install and configure your own software.
While your hosting plan provides a unique IP address and ‘guarantees’ a certain amount of bandwidth and processing speed, the division between clients is virtual in nature, and the underlying physical hardware that powers your website is the same as many others, which could result in less than optimal page serving during high demand times.
Make no mistake, however, that VPS is a serious upgrade from shared hosting. Prices usually fall in the $50 per month range.