The Best List of Top Web Hosting Companies

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Top Value Propositions and Differentiating Factors of the Best Web Hosting Companies

Overview

Web hosting is a fact of doing business online. In order to have your site function on the web, you have to pay a web host for the privilege. Many businesses neglect to factor in the price of hosting plans when estimating costs for building and running a website, and it’s not uncommon to encounter confusion when trying to parse the differences between web hosting providers.

What follows is an overview of the primary types of web hosting and which kinds of website each hosting solution is best suited for. We also cover the main differentiating factors that distinguish the top web hosting companies from the competition.

Types of web hosting

Shared hosting - Shared hosting is the least expensive hosting option available to you. With shared hosting multiple websites share space on the same server, which is what keeps costs low. The potential drawback of this option is that because space is shared, a traffic surge on one site can monopolize server resources and result in performance issues for another site sharing the same server. Still, because of its affordability shared hosting is usually a good option for small businesses, freelancers, bloggers, and individuals.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting - VPS hosting is something of a happy medium between shared hosting and dedicated hosting (see below). With VPS hosting you still share a server with other websites, but you have dedicated resources so traffic spikes on another site do not diminish the resources available to you. You are also able to customize your setup the same way you’re able to with a dedicated server.

Dedicated hosting - Dedicated hosting is the most expensive option because it allocates dedicated servers to each customer. With this option you’ll have the entire server to yourself, which means speed shouldn’t be an issue. Having dedicated servers is usually only necessary for websites that receive very large amounts of traffic.

Additional hosting options

What is cloud hosting?

With cloud hosting, a group of servers are employed to manage multiple sites.The result is that in the case of an issue with one server, the other servers can pick up the slack. This reduces the risk of website downtime. Cloud hosting is highly scalable and websites are charged based on actual usage, which means you don’t end up paying for bandwidth you don’t need.

What is reseller hosting?

Reseller hosting is a web hosting option that allows you to re-sell server space to other websites and businesses. In essence, you buy server space from a hosting company and they allow you to turn around and re-sell that space at whatever price you choose. Reseller hosting allows you to become a hosting provider yourself and can be a good option for web designers and developers who want to offer hosting services to their clients, for example.

Uptime guarantees

The most important aspect of running a website is making sure that it is never (or almost never) offline. That’s why uptime guarantees are a critical consideration when evaluating web hosting options. If your web host goes down, so does your website, and that means lost business and angry customers. Top hosting providers guarantee 99% and better uptime. Some even guarantee as much as 99.9%. This is the threshold you should be aiming for, and you can feel free to dismiss any providers who fall below it.

24/7 technical support

Second-only to uptime guarantees in evaluating potential web hosting solutions is the quality and reliability of support you can expect to receive. Top hosting services offer 24/7 customer support which helps ensure that when problems arise they can be resolved quickly. It’s important to evaluate exactly how customer support is handled, however. Many businesses prefer to have the option of actually speaking to a customer service representative on the phone if they wish, but this isn’t an option provided by every hosting company. Other forms of communication may involve email, a web ticketing system, and live chat. Be sure you’re familiar and comfortable with the level of customer service available to you before entering into an agreement.

Email hosting

If you’re running a business, you need professional business email addresses for you and your employees. Most top web hosting companies offer email hosting as an add-on service included in the monthly price of hosting. Be sure to pay attention to how many e-mail accounts are included, as you may end up paying extra in the case that account creation is not unlimited. If your top hosting option does not include email hosting, you’ll need to look elsewhere for this service and factor in the additional cost (though it’s usually minimal in the grand scheme of things).

Malware and spam protection

Malicious attacks and spam are part of doing business on the web. Because there’s no way to avoid them entirely, it may be important to you to engage a web host that can help deal with malware and spam quickly and efficiently. Certain hosting packages include automatic detection and removal of malware as part of your hosting plan.

Migration

Many top hosting companies offer free server migration to transfer your site from your existing host to the new one. While this isn’t a consideration for brand new businesses, it can be a windfall for anyone switching providers, especially those without the technical expertise in-house to manage such a process. Allowing the web host to handle the migration on your behalf can help ensure the process goes smoothly. For new businesses, some hosting providers will even cover the cost of domain name registration.

How web hosting companies market themselves

Being discovered via search is critical for web hosting companies who generate a significant amount of business through paid and organic search channels. Most companies don’t think about hosting until they need it for the first time or until some issue with their current host precipitates a migration. Once a need is identified, most people turn to search to identify the top web hosting solutions. As a result, SEO and paid search are chief marketing priorities for web hosting companies.

A good way to get a sense for who the industry leaders are is to look at the content they publish and distribute. Top hosting companies are generally highly engaged in the tech industry and they publish a lot of material designed to help companies navigate the process of identifying the best hosting solution for their business. Content marketing and social media marketing are at the forefront of their efforts to do so.

Takeaways:

Choosing a web hosting solution can be a confusing process. Ultimately it’s impossible to recommend the best solution for everyone because the ideal host varies based on the specific needs of each business. Evaluating and understanding your own business needs is a critical first step to choosing an effective web hosting provider. Once you understand your needs, you can evaluate your options based on the following criteria:

●     Uptime guarantees - What uptime guarantees does the web host offer? Are they upfront in sharing their uptime statistics? Are guarantees stated clearly in your agreement?

●     Customer support - Does the hosting company offer 24/7 technical support? How is support managed -- through phone, ticketing, email, live chat, or all of the above? What are average response times for customer requests?

●     Email hosting - Is email hosting included in your web hosting package? Are email accounts unlimited or will you have to pay once you surpass a certain threshold? What other enticements does the hosting company offer? For example, some hosting plans include domain registration and money-back guarantees within 30 days.

●     Malware and spam protection - Does the hosting company offer malware and spam protection as part of their service? How will threats and attacks be handled if and when they do occur?

●     Migration - Will the hosting company handle server migration on your behalf, or will you be responsible for doing so yourself? Do you have the resources to handle the process on your own if required?

Top Qualities of the Best Hosting Companies

Storage and Bandwidth

Your site’s storage and bandwidth needs are what determine how much you will pay for hosting. Small, text-based sites with limited audiences won’t require much of either, but larger sites with big media files will need to be careful about accurately assessing their requirements. Regardless of your site’s needs, most top hosting companies offer solutions to fit a range of websites of all sizes, including unlimited bandwidth options. You want to go into the evaluation process with a clear idea of what your site’s storage and bandwidth needs are so you can make an informed hosting selection.

Guaranteed Uptime

When you pay a hosting company, you’re basically paying for the privilege of having your site displayed on the internet. Uptime is, in a nutshell, the essence of what a hosting company is responsible for. As a client, you should feel confident that your site is going to be available when visitors arrive. That’s why guaranteed uptime should be part of any agreement you make with a hosting company. Otherwise what are you paying them for? Top hosting companies will generally guarantee 99% uptime or better. 

Support

With guaranteed uptime you can minimize risk, but you can’t prevent every single issue that might occur. There are bound to be problems at some point in your relationship with your hosting company, and when there are, you need to be able to get help to resolve the issue. Top hosting companies offer high quality support to their customers. Make sure you understand the way customer service works at your hosting company. For example, will you be able to reach someone 24/7? Will you be able to speak directly with a representative on the phone or does all communication go through web chat and email?

Scalability

Even though you’ve been careful in estimating your storage and bandwidth needs, you can’t predict the future. A bit of press coverage might send a spike in traffic your way, or a mention from a social media influencer could cause an unexpected flood of visitors. You want to make sure your hosting company can handle spikes and that they’ll be able to meet your needs if and when your business expands and your traffic grows. Top hosting companies will be able to offer solutions that can meet your growing needs.

Backup

Despite your best intentions, accidents and malicious attacks do happen. In the case of lost data, a hosting company that does regular backups of your site is a life-saver. Top hosting companies include regular backups (every 24 hours is the target you should aim for) so you can rest easy that in the case of a catastrophe, you’ll be able to recover with minimal losses.