Anyone can build and maintain a website. These invaluable internet pages can be used for virtually anything, including commerce, education, entertainment, or networking. Websites are especially important for business owners: a reliable site can rally customers to your business, boost sales through online orders, or just keep them abreast of new developments. Regardless of the size or type of business you run, an online presence is imperative in this internet-connected, social era. Without one, your business essentially does not exist on the world wide web, meaning you are leaving potential clients and money on the table for more resourceful competitors to snatch up.
Websites are important for optics, too. Businesses without a website may come off as out of touch, or maybe even untrustworthy. You don’t want your business to fall into either camp. Even the smallest business should have one, which means choosing a web hosting service to build and maintain it. If your site has modest needs, and you are working with a similarly modest budget, you should consider shared web hosting services.
With that in mind, these are the best shared hosting sites we’ve tested. Read on for our top picks, followed by what to look when choosing the right shared hosting services for your site.
Is Shared Hosting Good?
Unlike a dedicated hosting server that powers a single site, a shared web hosting server houses multiple sites. The upside to shared hosting? It’s cheap web hosting. In fact, it’s sometimes free web hosting. Shared web hosting is extremely wallet-friendly; you can host a website on a shared server for under $10 per month in most cases. Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, can cost hundreds of dollars per month.
The downside to shared hosting? Potential website instability, as your site shares server CPU resources with other sites. For example, if you’re sharing a server and one of the sites on that server has a traffic spike, your pages might load slowly—or not at all. Still, shared web hosting is a super-affordable way to get a site up and running.
That said, not all shared hosting plans are created equal. Sure, all web hosting companies let you store files on their servers, but they offer varying amounts of monthly data transfers, storage, and other features. Even how you pay (month-to-month vs. annual payments) can be radically different, too. Most shared web hosts offer multiple plans that represent their low-, medium-, and top-tier products.
Naturally, you’ll pay more for an upper-level service, but you’ll get more features. Web hosts typically give you a discount if you sign up for a multi-month plan.
What You Need to Know About Shared Hosting
The blurbs above focus on the web hosts that boast the best shared hosting plans of all the services we’ve reviewed. Many shared web hosts offer unlimited monthly data transfers and storage, so other factors may help you decide which service is best for your business. Note, however, that if you rely on “unlimited” anything, be sure to read the small print to make sure that there aren’t any gotchas. Make sure your definition of unlimited matches the hosting service’s.
Then there’s the operating system question. Do you need Windows servers? Linux servers? It’s best to shop around. When it comes to server operating systems, Linux is typically the default option. Still, some services offer a choice of Linux or Windows hosting. If you have specific server-side applications that require Windows, such as SQL Server or a custom application written in .NET, you must make sure your web host has Windows hosting. But don’t let the idea of a Linux host intimidate you. Check out Linux vs. Windows: How to Pick the Best Server OS for Your Website for more information.
Nowadays, most web hosts offer a graphical interface or a control panel to simplify server administration and website management. Instead of typing at the command line, you’ll click easily identifiable icons.
There are some specs that you may not find while browsing a web host’s site. For instance, many web hosts don’t list the amount of RAM offered by their shared hosting plans. In such instances, you can safely assume that the RAM total is less than 1GB. A few web hosting services offer premium shared plans that offer 1GB of RAM or slightly more. If you want dependable-under-pressure performance without spending hundreds of dollars per month, look into virtual private server (VPS) hosting. Signing up for a VPS plan gives your future site a significant amount of computer resources.
You’ll also want a web host with responsive 24/7 customer support. Forums, knowledge bases, and tutorials are useful tools, but there’s nothing like getting another human being on the horn (or at least in a web chat).
On the other hand, if you’re looking to create your own web hosting company, but without the associated frustrations, check out reseller hosting.
What Is the Difference Between Shared Hosting and WordPress Hosting?
An alternate form of shared web hosting is WordPress hosting. This option is for people who want to build their sites on the back of the popular WordPress content management system (CMS), but don’t want to bother with a lot of the backend stuff, such as updating the apps, plug-ins, and CMS, and enabling automatic backups. Managed WordPress plans typically have security features designed to protect the CMS from ne’er-do-wells.
Some web hosts offer managed WordPress as just one of their many hosting packages. Others specialize in WordPress hosting and don’t offer additional hosting plans.
Shared Hosting Uptime
All the aforementioned features are valuable to the web hosting experience, but none matches the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
Recently, we’ve added more-formal uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping your sites up and running. If they don’t, they suffer for it in our rankings. Even if they get everything else right, sites with uptime problems aren’t eligible for top scores. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to address the problem are penalized accordingly.
Which Is the Best Shared Hosting Service?
Starting a website isn’t easy, but our chart gives you a solid foundation on which you can begin your journey. Ready to select a great shared web hosting service? Click the links to read our in-depth reviews of the category’s best services.
If you’re just getting started with web hosting, make sure to check out our primers, How to Create a Website and How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website. The Best Courses for Learning How to Build Websites is another informative starting point.