If you're on a tight budget, check out these top-rated web hosts that deliver dependable features and performance for less than $50 per year.
All businesses—from small sole-proprietorships to sprawling, multimillion-dollar enterprises—need a website and, therefore, a web host. In an always-connected world, it’s critical to have an online presence that displays at least basic business information. Ideally, you’ll want to sell products and services, too.
That said, not every business needs an e-commerce presence, and not every company can afford one, either. Sometimes, you just need a simple page listing your hours and location, with maybe a little blogging functionality to keep things interesting—and sometimes that’s all you can afford, too. Cost is a critically important consideration when selecting a web host. It’s a truism that you get what you pay for, but it’s also true that every penny counts and that there are some great web hosting deals.
First, let’s define web hosts in general. A web host is a company with servers you use to store and deliver the files that make up your website. Large businesses can spend hundreds of dollars each year on dedicated web hosting or virtual private server (VPS) hosting, but there are plenty of web hosts designed specifically for very small businesses, too.
That’s exactly what the services collected here focus on—these are good, functional web hosting companies that will get your website online with the least amount of damage to your wallet. That’s something that we can all appreciate. But how cheap?
Pricing in our list of cheap web hosts is based on the regular monthly or annual prices, with no discounts applied for the starter plans. Some budgets really are that tight, and some projects may not last a year. Our cutoff for inclusion in this table is that a provider must charge no more than $5 per month (after all, some people or companies only need temporary sites) or $50 per year. That’s truly low-cost web hosting. It means that some of our top choices for best overall webhosts, like A2, Hostwinds, and GoDaddy don’t make the price cut. It also means that some perfectly fine services that don’t appear on any other tables because they don’t make the grade ratings-wise, such as Domain.com and iPower, do show up. We avoid web hosting services with initial cheap prices that go up after an introductory period. This is true low-cost hosting!
Web hosts that offer both monthly and annual plans are judged in both of those areas. Naturally, if a web host only offers monthly or yearly plans, we adjust our expectations accordingly.
Setting up a website with your own domain is easy, and most importantly, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Do you need email, blogging software, email marketing, e-commerce, and file sharing? Many of these features are included with cheap web hosting plans.
Also worth highlighting is the service’s customer support. While it’s nice to have FAQs and forums, when it’s 3 a.m. and your website is inexplicably down, you want someone available right away. Look for 24/7 customer support.
Cheap web hosting excludes the powerful and relatively pricey dedicated and VPS hosting options. Instead, you’ll need to pick a Shared or WordPress hosting plan.
Shared hosting is a setup in which the hosting company runs multiple websites on a server along with your site. Don’t let the “shared” bit worry you, though, since you can’t peek into anyone else’s files and no one else can touch yours. The benefit? Sharing the server space translates to cheap prices for everyone. The downside? Neighboring sites that consume too many resources may cause your site to run at less than peak performance. They might even crash it from time to time.
Optimized WordPress hosting services let you set up and run a WordPress blog with minimum fuss. If your business website’s primary function is to be a blog, then do your wallet a favor and don’t bother with shared hosting plans or other types of web hosting.
One thing we learned while reviewing web hosting services is that reading the fine print matters, especially if you are concerned about keeping prices low. Many web hosts have several tiers of service, with introductory features in starter packages and expanded offerings in higher-priced plans. Don’t get swayed by the big fonts touting the monthly fee: Make sure that a particular tier actually offers what you need.
Some hosts charge extra for the tools you might use to design your website. Other hosts require you to commit to a three-year hosting agreement in order to get that low per-month price. Or the price is an introductory one, and after a month, you will revert to a higher price. Until you know what features you need and how quickly you plan to grow, don’t commit to annual plans.
The aforementioned features are valuable to the web hosting experience, but none match 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. Every customer turned away is a potential sale lost and traffic not monetized.
We’ve added uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Even if they excel at all other facets of hosting, services with uptime issues can’t qualify as top services.
If your primary goal is cheap service, and your needs are modest, you do have an alternative to the web hosts listed in this table: website builders. For those who just want a good-looking without any extras—a brochure-ware site, for example—you can skip traditional web hosting and check out website builder services, such as Gator and Wix.
If you don’t care about having your own domain and don’t want to do a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking, you should really consider one of these online website builders, as they let you create surprisingly attractive yet functional sites hosted under their domains. Furthermore, these services can be incredibly cheap: Some offer free plans, though that generally means you’ll have branding on your site for the website builder’s company. You can often pay to get your own domain, and that generally removes the branding as well. But if you need some control over your domain and need a little bit more functionality, web hosting is the way to go.
Not all cheap web hosts are created equal. For example, some have data transfer allotment and storage caps that are worth investigating. Read the fine print for the unlimited offerings, too, as there are sometimes gotchas that might sneak up on you later. Other services limit what applications you can use.
The web host you select depends entirely on how you plan to use it—and your budget. If you are ready to select a great web hosting service that’s also cheap, click the links in the chart below to check out our in-depth reviews of the best names in the space.
If you’re just getting started in the web hosting game, you should also be sure to check out our primers, 10 Easy But Powerful SEO Tips to Boost Traffic to Your Website, 5 Things You Need to Know Before Signing Up for Web Hosting, and Linux vs. Windows: How to Pick the Best Server OS for Your Website.
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Since 2004, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including the late, great 1UP; Laptop; Parenting; Sync; Wise Bread; and WWE. He now showcases his knowledge and skillset as the Managing Editor of PCMag’s Apps & Gaming team.
When he isn’t crunching copy or facedown in a spreadsheet, Jeff spins vinyl, plays the odd PC game, enjoys a craft brew or a shot of Mr. Black, fires up his Kindle, works the heavy bag, hops on his exercise bike, or dusts off an extremely dusty electric bass guitar.
In the past, Jeff’s appeared on a New York Comic Con panel (Geeks of Color Assemble!: Minorities in Fandom), created his own indie comic (Spin Cycle, Inc.), and put together a PAX East panel (Fragging Gamer Stereotypes). These days, Jeff’s working on a sci-fi novel.
For more than a decade, Mike Williams has covered video games, both on the industry and consumer sides. He got his start covering the business dealing of the video game industry at Gamesindustry.biz, before moving to USgamer, where he covered a host of games and game consoles as Reviews Editor. Now he comes to PCMag as an Analyst, bringing those game reviewing skills to bear. When he’s not reviewing games, Mike dives into all forms of entertainment, including comics, movies, television, anime, and the absolute wildness that is Japanese tokusatsu.
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