If you want to make money online and be taken seriously, you need a good website – and that means quality web hosting.
“I’m not searching for businesses on Instagram – I’m searching for them on Google,” says Wendy Coop, certified financial education instructor (CFEI) and owner of Creative Consulting LLC, a company that teaches individuals and organizations financial literacy. “So I need to see you on Google. Think about it: if a business doesn’t have a website, it’s kind of suspect. You tend to not trust them.”
One of the most important factors to having a successful website is quality web hosting service. Without web hosting, your website won’t actually be live on the internet. And while it may be tempting to buy the cheapest web hosting service you can find and move on, some providers have features you many want to pay a premium for – such as having a virtual private server (vps hosting), better security, or round-the-clock customer support in case your website goes down.
We interviewed experts for tips and recommendations on the best web hosting services when setting up your website. Here’s what they had to say.
Best Web Hosting for Beginners: Siteground
The majority of experts we interviewed recommended Siteground as the best web hosting provider for beginners.
“SiteGround’s service is impeccable,” says Jasmine Powers, founder of Jasmine Powers Multimedia, a creative agency that offers brand strategy, digital production, and systems management. “I’ve never had any problems as far as security.” Powers suggests looking for statistics from a web hosting provider on uptime, or what percentage of the time the provider’s servers are working. The best web hosting providers should be giving you as close to 100% uptime as possible.
“Are they up 99% of the time, or not?” she adds. “Some hosts, like SiteGround specifically, will tell you their uptime on their website. So look into that.”
SiteGround also has a simple user interface that is easy to navigate, further securing its position as the best web hosting option for beginners, according to Krystle Rowry, a web designer and brand strategist for entrepreneurs.
“All of the other hosting providers make it complicated when you’re trying to navigate,” she says. “SiteGround feels really elementary, which is great.”
Bluehost is a tried-and-true web hosting provider that has the endorsement of WordPress itself, and is widely considered one of the best web hosting companies on the market.
“The only reason people are recommending Bluehost more than SiteGround is because Bluehost has a better affiliate deal,” says Coop. “Because so many other bloggers and other online entrepreneurs are recommending Bluehost, it makes it seem like Bluehost is the only way to go. It’s not.” The company does power many WordPress websites and offers several tiers of dedicated hosting service.
GoDaddy has been a household name in web hosting for years, and the level of service and security you want is customizable. The company frequently offers first-year discounts and promotions, which could make it the best web hosting service for you if you’re looking for a cost-effective trial run.
Look closely at pricing, Powers says. Some web hosting providers offer deals for only the first year, then hike up the price in a way that will cost you more money in the long run; if you’re testing the waters with WordPress hosting or other web hosting, this approach would be fine, but be sure not to forget about your monthly or annual subscription.
“GoDaddy’s target market is the entrepreneur who knows nothing,” she says. “So they hike up everything.”
Best Web Hosting for High-Traffic Websites: WP Engine
If you’re looking for a more advanced hosting provider that is notorious for fast customer service, several of our experts recommended WP Engine as one of the best web hosting services to consider.
When your website is a blog or publication, and you anticipate lots of daily visitors, you might need a more robust web hosting solution to ensure your dedicated server can handle the traffic. Premium providers should also be considered if your site has lots of widgets or structure, says Coop.
“Let’s say you’re in the tens of thousands of monthly visitors to your site because you’re a blogger,” she says. “You’ve kind of outgrown the plans from SiteGround or Bluehost. You’d want to switch to WP Engine. If you’ve put membership sites on there with different extensions, like MemberVault, LearnDash or AccessAlly, then you want to bump up the speed and go into premium service. But again, If your site is not a blog, or people aren’t visiting it regularly, then you probably don’t need WP Engine.”
DigitalOcean offers web hosting and other web services in a more a la carte capacity, which may appeal to developers who want to show functional project mockups to different clients without getting tangled up in multiple web hosting services. The service appeals to both consumers and web developers who may be working through web projects that have several phases.
“For me, my favorite is Digital Ocean,” says David Yarde, a brand architect and software engineer with over 17 years of experience. “I can spin up a little droplet for a project that I’m working on, and it’s pretty low cost.”
It’s important to determine whether your web hosting provider will deliver your service on a private server or a shared server, Yarde notes. Shared hosting costs less, but since you’re sharing a server with other customers, your web hosting neighbor’s bad behavior online could negatively affect your own website performance.
“The most common options that people tend to go for are shared hosting providers, which tend to have different [customer] accounts all using the same ‘gardening container,’” he warns. “You end up with an issue where if somebody’s not properly taking care of their site, or if they’re doing less than pleasurable things – sending spam emails and just not providing great content – it can affect your overall site as well.”
Shared hosting may be more than enough for you if you don’t anticipate a lot of website traffic, but it’s good to know the differences and understand that dedicated server hosting is also an option.
Which Type of Web Hosting Is Best for Beginners?
When it comes to beginner-friendly features, several of our experts said you should consider a web hosting provider that has 24/7 chat functionality for technical support.
“Being able to log into a chat is huge,” says Rowry. “It’s a game changer. When you get on these chat calls, sometimes the support person on the line will actually take care of the thing that you’re having trouble with. That’s awesome.” A reliable web host will do its job in the background, but if things go awry you’ll want to have quality customer support.
Prioritize fast customer service, preferably a chatbox or chat widget, so you can get help immediately if something goes wrong or your site gets hacked.
Look for a provider that does continuous backups of your website to protect you from a potential catastrophe, Rowry suggests.
“There are some web hosting providers out there that will continuously backup your site for you,” she says. “So you don’t have to think about it. In the event that someone hacks into your site, or something catastrophic happens, you can reach out to the web host service and ask them to revert to a previous version of your site. That’s actually been a saving grace for me a couple of times over the years.”
How Much Should I Spend on Web Hosting?
Expect to pay between $5 and $20/month for hosting services, along with an annual domain purchase of about $10 to $20. Keep in mind that web hosting expenses may be separate from the expense you pay for your actual website builder. If using a tool like Squarespace or Wix, you may pay a monthly subscription to access additional features; if using WordPress, you may pay additional fees to download premium plugins.
Most beginners should be able to get up and running for a total cost of under $50/month.
Pro Tip: Purchase Your Domain Name Separately
Most web hosting providers and website builders give you the option to purchase your domain name (or even get a free domain name) right within the app, but nearly all of our experts advised against this temptation.
“Purchase your domain name through a domain name registrar, not through your web hosting company, even though it’s convenient,” says Yarde. “The reason for that is if something happens to that provider, you can still have control of your domain.”
Coop agrees. “I don’t recommend it, because it usually costs more to have that domain through the provider,” she says. “And if you don’t like the hosting provider, or you need to move or you want to move at a later day, it’s that much harder if [your web hosting provider] also owns your domain. I always recommend people buy their domains from a site like NameCheap, where you pay $8 or $9 for the year. They also run sales often.”
Powers also recommends DreamHost for domain purchases because the pricing is predictable and steady.
“I like DreamHost, because if I buy [a domain] for $7.99/year, chances are it’s going to be $7.99 next year,” she explains. “Whereas GoDaddy, you’ll buy a 99-cent domain, but the next year it’s $40.”
A free domain name is tempting for professionals who want to get started quickly; assume you may switch web hosting providers at some point in the future.
Are Web Hosting Expenses Tax Deductible?
The cost of web hosting services, like other software expenses for your business, is classified as an operating expense. Your ability to deduct this expense on your taxes will depend on whether or not you have a business formation.
In a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), for example, your end profits determine your tax bill at the end of the year. Profit is revenue minus expenses, so the additional expense of web hosting would reduce your overall profits. The lower your profits, the less tax you pay as an LLC.
Having the best web hosting is essential if you want to have a web presence, and websites are the calling card of your business or brand. Take the time to research the best web hosting provider today and you’ll be positioned well to make the best possible first impression tomorrow.