Large corporations, small businesses, and individuals are spoilt for choice when looking for the best web hosting provider. There are quite a lot of very good web hosting plans available at the moment. There are also some very heavy discounts available and being offered by top quality web hosting companies, so even the task of identifying the best cheap web hosting solutions has become difficult.
This web hosting review narrows down the field to the five best web hosting companies operating right now and the deals that they are offering on their web hosting plans. We will identify the best web hosting packages for small businesses, the perfect online store systems for business websites and we will find ways that startups can keep their hosting costs down when entering the world of eCommerce. We will explain the different types of hosting accounts available and what a typical hosting package includes.
The best web hosting options
The website hosting industry has its own trade terms, which you will need to learn in order to work out which server hosting type is best for you. Web hosting solutions are offered in the following types:
- Shared hosting plans
- WordPress hosting
- VPS hosting
- Reseller hosting
- Dedicated servers
- Cloud hosting
Each configuration has its own conventions and pricing standards.
Shared hosting plans
Shared plans put several hosting accounts on the same server. This is the most cost-effective form of web hosting and the most widely used. It is suitable for individuals and small companies for either a blog or an online store, or a website that combines both elements.
All accounts are sat on top of a common operating system, which manages the whole server. This could present a security risk because if any customer could get to the operating system, the shell script language would be available to them, allowing them to access the files of other accounts on the server. For this reason, operating system access is always blocked on shared hosting plans.
The user’s credential gains access to a hosting platform that is supported by a control panel. The most frequently used type of control panel in these plans is cPanel. It is impossible to break out of the account management software to get to the operating system. The control panel provides all of the functions that an administrator would usually need operating system access for, such as file handling procedures.
Most WordPress hosting plans are shared server hosting accounts with the WordPress software pre-installed. WordPress sites can also be created with any standard shared hosting plan because most web hosting providers make the WordPress software available for free. Where this is the case, the user can get a one-click installation of the CMS from a resident installer, included with the plan.
Many web hosting providers advertise eCommerce hosting packages that are based on a system called WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress. It adapts the content management system to create a typical online store layout. The WooCommerce system also provides guidance for the small business owners setting up an online store on what steps to complete in order to get the site fully operational. A typical WordPress hosting plan will also include a free WooCommerce option. WooCommerce hosting plans are shared hosting services and usually any shared hosting plan that gives access to WordPress also makes WooCommerce available.
“VPS” stands for “virtual private server.” This is a blend of the cost benefits of a shared server and the privacy and security offered by a dedicated server. In this scenario, special hardware management software divides up the resources of the server, including processors and disk space. This creates separate accounts, which each needs an operating system installed on it.
The partitioning system is called a hypervisor and it is impossible for the user of one account to break through the hypervisor wall and access the files of another account. The settings of the hypervisor can be adjusted, however, so it is very easy for the technical support team to adjust the space allocated to each account. So, users of VPS hosting accounts usually get the option to pay for more processors or more disk space.
VPS hosting packages are less likely to include as many free extras as a shared hosting system. This is because it is assumed that the typical customer of a virtual private server is a larger business that has its own technicians. The advantage of a VPS over a shared hosting plan is that the account holder can get down to the operating system, so it is expected that the customer wants greater control and already has software to install and a technical team to carry out the work.
Some VPS hosting providers will make a free software library available for the customer to install applications on the VPS. In some cases, the customer will be provided with a control panel. In some cases, the customer will get a control panel and won’t get access to the operating system as well. VPS hosting accounts can be used for WordPress hosting and that software can be made available for the customer to be installed or can be installed by the support team of the web hosting provider.
VPS web servers are provided either as a bare server with no operating system or with an operating system installed on it, which is usually Linux. Some VPS hosting packages just include the web server. This is called an unmanaged VPS hosting service. The alternative is a managed VPS hosting package, which includes the services of a technical support team.
Reseller hosting is a sub-type of VPS hosting. In these plans, the account holder has the right to subdivide the account and sell on those subaccounts to others. In this case, the reseller makes money by levying fees for each sub-account that totals more than the original web hosting provider charges for the reseller hosting package.
A reseller hosting package usually allows white labeling, so that the reseller can replace all logos and identifiers of the original hosting service to create his own branding. The customers of the reseller do not realize that they are not dealing with the owner of the underlying server. They will never access the customer support team of the original web hosting company but will get access to a support team provided by the reseller.
A dedicated server is an entire server rented to one customer. This can be offered with or without an installed operating system. Where no operating system is pre-installed, the account holder is usually offered a list of operating system options, which are usually all flavors of Linux. The account holder also has the option of sourcing an operating system and installing it on the rented server.
Dedicated hosting is offered as either an unmanaged plan or a managed package that includes technicians. The dedicated server packages usually include very few extras other than an uptime guarantee, a stated disk capacity and processor count, and a bandwidth pledge. It is common for the dedicated hosting plan to include a dedicated IP address. Dedicated servers are usually only of interest to large corporations with a heavy web presence.
The term “cloud hosting” can be applied to any web hosting package. However, in its narrowest definition, cloud hosting refers to a platform that is installed on a server. A platform is san extra layer added to an operating system. It provides commonly used services. In the case of cloud hosting, the most commonly used platform is OpenStack. The platform manages server resources so that they can be accessed by remote users. This platform can be loaded onto a VPS or a dedicated server.
Typical web hosting package contents
There is very tough competition in the web hosting world right now and, as well as offering big discounts, web hosting providers are piling in extra services to try to attract customers. The shared hosting plan has the highest volume of business and this is where new customers can get the most free extras with a hosting package. Here are some of the lures that are currently on offer:
Free domain name – Most of the web hosting providers are also domain registration services. New websites will need both hosting and a domain name, so it makes sense to buy them both together.
Free SSL certificate – An eCommerce website has to use the HTTPS schema otherwise the connection isn’t secure enough for people to enter their credit card details. The SSL certificate is an essential component of HTTPS. Also, Google blocks access to sites that don’t use HTTPS.
Unlimited websites – Most of the overhead involved in web hosting lies in setting up an account, the cost of enabling multiple websites on the same account is marginal and it also encourages hosting customers to buy more domains from the associated domain name registration division.
Unlimited bandwidth – A web server will refuse connections and the website will appear to be offline if there is not enough processing capacity at the internet interface.
Unlimited email accounts – a website’s proprietor and staff need to be able to use the same domain name on email addresses as the domain name of the website. These should be managed from the control panel of the hosting account.
SSD disks – Solid state disks are faster than other configurations. Faster disks mean the processor can fetch the necessary files for requested web pages and send them out quicker.
Unlimited storage – HTML files don’t take up much space. However, images, videos, and other visual content do need a lot of room. Databases and other services can also use a lot of space and access log files will keep growing through the life of the site. Unlimited disk space removes the worry of running out of room.
Content delivery network (CDN) – A CDN stores copies of the website in data centers around the world. Being close to faraway visitors means that web page code has less distance to travel. Therefore, CDNs improve the load times of websites. They also keep the site available during downtime on the main server. The most successful CDN provider is called Cloudflare.
The best web hosting providers
We have created a shortlist of the best web hosting providers. These are the web hosting companies to investigate for the best web hosting packages, whether that is a shared hosting plan, VPS hosting, or a dedicated server.
The five best web hosting providers of 2020 are:
The plans offered by each of these web hosting providers are detailed in the following sections.