Three things make a real difference in customers’ decision-making. First, the ease of using the platform no matter the user’s technical skill (or lack thereof). Second, the ability to easily scale up to better plans or more server resources when a site becomes more popular. You should be able to stay with the same provider for the long haul. And, last, the availability and helpfulness of customer support. A hosting provider’s agents need to be there when you really need them—like if your website crashes or you want to upgrade your hosting resources.
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Hostinger does an admirable job at bringing web hosting services to the masses. The platform is easy to use for people of any level of technical skill, offers a variety of hosting packages that can let you scale up quickly, and delivers it all at impressively low prices.
Web Hosting Reviews Methodology
There’s a lot of noise in the web hosting space. Countless providers are vying for your business, making bold claims about why they’re the best. This methodology explains how we cut through the hype to uncover the real story.
There are really just three main differentiators between the big names in web hosting, especially when comparing them at the shared hosting level. We’ll get into those in a bit.
But, first, what did we use to arrive at these findings and judgments? A combination of combing the internet for real people’s thoughts on the providers and some good old-fashioned elbow grease.
- First-hand experience – We signed up for a shared hosting package with every company on this top list. We also put our knowledge about web hosting temporarily to the side, so we could experience the process from A to Z through the eyes of someone new to web hosting.
- User reviews – We combed through thousands of user reviews on trusted sites like G2 and TrustPilot. We read through the comments, identified recurring themes, and compared it all to our own experiences using each web hosting service.
- Expert insights – We interviewed people in the trenches each day, building and hosting websites for their own clients, to hear their first-hand experiences.
As we conducted out research, we kept the three criteria we considered most important in mind. Let’s break each of them down in brief.
Ease of Use
This criteria encompasses the entire user experience, from signing up to canceling service and everything in between. We tested the 360-degree customer experience so you can go into the signup process for any host on this list with confidence.
- First, we signed up for service. We looked at how easy it was to find information on different hosting options and whether we could quickly compare plans. We also noted payment options, since not every new customer has or wants to use their credit card.
- Also, we highlighted when we needed to have my domain name already in hand to get through the signup process. This matters because users may want to get hosting in place before they’re ready to settle on a domain name.
- Next, we tried navigating the user dashboard. Once our new account was set up, we studied the user experience. How easy was it to understand the dashboard and all the options contained within it? Were all the tools we needed to manage my hosting and websites in one place? Were we given quick start guides or tutorials to explain essentials?
- This all was assessed to make sure that anyone, regardless of their technical skill level, could sign up for a hosting provider’s service and not feel overwhelmed when they step into the user portal for the first time.
- Then, we gauged our options and capability to create a new website on the hosting provider’s plan. Even if this review was ultimately about hosting services, new customers have the end goal of creating a website to go along with hosting. We looked at how easy it would be to do that and the tools available to assist customers with little web building experience.
- Last, we made sure to note the process of canceling service. Not every relationship is meant to last and that includes website hosting. We put all the money-back guarantees to the test by looking at how easy it was to initiate the process and how long it took to receive the credit.
Anyone using web hosting services is going to need customer support at some point. Whether you have a big issue or small question, getting the help you need when you need it is critical.
- For the most part, we assessed this by putting each provider’s options for support (and the reps handling our questions) through their paces. We first noted what types of live support are offered. Live chat, telephone, support tickets, email are all possible ways web hosting customers can get help. Each web hosting company takes a different approach. You’ll find some offer combinations that others don’t.
- Using any of the live representative support options, we tested out the responsiveness of the live support agents. We made sure to note how long it took to connect to a real person, whether there were any hurdles to clear (such as live chat bots) before getting there, and just how helpful and understanding each provider’s representatives were. Then, we documented the results.
- It was also important to identify what sort of self-help resources are available. If live support is underwhelming or you’re more of a DIY type of user, knowledge bases, tutorials, videos, and webinars are ways to resolve issues and questions as well. We looked at the available resources to determine how easy each was to use and how quickly we could find real solutions.
Even if you don’t have a growth mindset today, that could change down the road. Switching hosting providers can be a pain, so knowing what resources a hosting provider has as your site needs grow is important.
- First, understand what types of hosting plans are available. We looked at the options for growth within the same plan category (such as shared hosting). When you are in growth mode, you might satisfy your needs by moving up to a new plan within the same hosting category. The more plans a provider offers within a category, the better, and something we critiqued with each hosting service provider.
- We also considered alternative plan categories available, like VPS hosting, managed hosting, and cloud hosting. When you outgrow shared hosting, you’ll want a provider that can grow with you for the long haul. We looked at how well each provider could grow with you, from day one with a basic website on shared hosting to the ultimate, enterprise-level online presence.
- Next, get acquainted with what the upgrade process entails. We tested what we could do on our own via the user dashboard. Then, we looked at the process for moving up to a new category of hosting.
Ideally, a quality host gives you what you need at a fair price when you’re starting, but offers a wide array of ways to upgrade your hosting when you’re ready to take the next step towards fame, fortune, or online omnipresence.
Website Hosting Pricing and Costs
You may be tempted to focus solely on the amount you’ll pay-out-of-pocket today. We don’t blame you—if you’re just getting started, you probably don’t want to spend more than you need to.
However, upfront pricing is only half of the conversation. Every host on our list (except WP Engine) offers significantly discounted rates for new customers.
They often advertise these really low prices and make it seem like there’s no catch. But there is.
Once your initial promotional period is over, you’ll start paying regular rates. It’s not uncommon for your web hosting bill to jump 4x or 5x when it’s time to renew your contract.
On top of that, most web hosting providers want to lock you in for at least a year (or more). That’s why they tend to offer the best per-month pricing if you sign a long-term contract. If you don’t mind paying for it all upfront, this isn’t that big of a deal.
But if you want to try it out without committing to a long-term agreement, you’ll pay less today but end up spending more in the long-run because you’ll be paying more per month.
You may even be out of luck with some providers—many of them don’t offer monthly plans at all.
However, if you still want to pay monthly, DreamHost offers the most affordable month-to-month plans at just $4.95 per month for the first three months, then $7.99 per month after that.
Aside from actual hosting costs, you should also keep in mind that you’ll need to purchase a domain name. A lot of hosting companies will give you one for free for the first year. After that, they charge you a recurring fee that’s usually between $10 and $20 per year.
They’ll also likely charge you an extra $10 to $20 per year to protect your private information.
You can get the same thing with a domain registrar for a fraction of the price, but it’ll be more challenging to set up your website and manage two separate subscriptions.
Types of Web Hosting
There are six types of web hosting, including:
- Shared Hosting – an affordable entry-point for new websites
- Managed WordPress Hosting – enhanced performance for WordPress sites
- VPS Hosting – an upgrade from shared hosting with better performance
- Cloud Hosting – typically a unique and more affordable flavor of VPS hosting
- Dedicated Hosting – most people don’t need this, but you get an entire server to yourself
- Reseller Hosting – lets you sell hosting services to your own clients or customers
We touched on each of these types throughout our list, but focused mostly on shared hosting because that’s what we recommend for most websites. It’s cost-effective and the best place to start if your building a brand new website.
Companies like Hostinger offer scalable options as your website grows, so you can move to more capable plans when you need to.
In most cases, we highly recommend starting with shared hosting and upgrading later.
Other Website Options
For those serious about building a website, we recommend doing so with WordPress. To use it, you need a place to install the software and store all of your files.
Which is exactly what web hosting services give you. Without hosting, you won’t have a website.
The same is true if you want to code a custom website or use another content management system (CMS), like Drupal or Joomla.
However, a content management system isn’t the only way to build a website.
If your concept is simple and your site won’t see more than 10k visitors per month, a website builder might be better. It’s easier to set up, comes with everything you need in one package, and the heavy lifting is all done for you.
An ecommerce website builder follows the same idea, but is specifically for selling online. It comes with everything you need to build your store, facilitate online payments, handle shipping, and more.
Unless you fall into one of those two categories, it’s best to go with WordPress and shared hosting.