Picking the Best Web Hosting Company for 2015: A Critic’s Guide

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Web Hosting Guide


Quick Navigation:
Intro

  1. What is Web Hosting and Why Do You need It?
  2. Which Type of Web Hosting Do You Need?
  3. What Web Hosting Features Matter and Why?
  4. How Much Space Are You Going To Need?
  5. Avoiding the Headaches – What To Be On the Lookout for?
  6. Top 10 Web Hosts Ranked by WebHostCritic.com
  7. *BONUS* Building a Website Without Coding Knowledge

Conclusion

Why Have a Website?

In today’s world just about ANYONE can build a website and showcase it to millions of users. It has gotten extremely easy and straight forward to get online.

People Who Can Benefit From A Website:

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Professionals
  • Artists
  • Hobbyists
  • Freelancers
  • Businesses
  • People who need to showcase their cat’s

One of, if not the most, crucial parts of building a website is the Web Hosting Service you choose to go with.

But wait… given the fact that there are literally thousands of companies providing web hosting services nowadays, how do you even know where to start, let alone which company will best fit your needs? It’s safe to say that we could all use a bit of help when it comes to picking the right web host.

See Also: Top 10 Best Web Hosting Services for 2015

Whether you are building the next Facebook or just building a small website for a Dentist’s office, the fundamental methodology is the same.

This guide will focus primarily on what you need to look for before in terms of web hosting embarking on your online journey.

As they say, “He who is well prepared, has won half the battle.” So, let us prepare, shall we?

Notes:

This guide assumes that you have some basic understanding of Domain Names Registration and you are ready to purchase web hosting, so we won’t cover that aspect.


1.) What is Web Hosting and Why Do You Need It?

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So you’ve got your domain name purchased and you’re a bit confused as to what to do with it right? Well it’s not too complicated, you just need a modern and supportive web hosting company to provide you with the server space you need to show off your site to the world.

The Web Host Critic is here to help you choose, but first:

Lets cover some basic hosting knowledge:

What is a Web host?

To use a simple analogy, a website is like a house and the web host is like the plot of land it sits on.

Web Hosting companies allow you to “host” your website on their servers (for a monthly fee), which will allow anyone who accesses the internet to view a copy of your site.

Why Do You Need It?

We could feed you a whole bunch of technical mumbo jumbo but, simply put, its just the way the internet and websites work. If there were no web hosts, people would need to directly connect to your personal computer to see your website. Who would want that?


2.) Which Type of Web Hosting Do You Need?

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There are 7 Types of Web Hosting Services you can purchase

  1. Free – Our Picks of the Best Free Web Hosts
  2. Shared
  3. VPS
  4. Cloud
  5. Dedicated
  6. Co-Location
  7. Reseller

Free Website Hosting

Ideal For:

A good option if your budget is non-existent or you’re looking to create your first website without taking too much risk. But keep in mind, this is a free service, so the offerings will be limited. Why are there free website hosting options out there? Well, because they are paid for by advertisements that are placed on websites. Therefore, if you go with this route, your website will be populated with ads, and you most likely will not get much of a say as to which kind or how many.

Probably the biggest catch however is that with a free web host, you very often don’t get your own domain name, but rather your website name will be a subdomain of the hosting site (e.g instead of IamAwesome.com it will be IamAwesome.hostingcompany.com). On top of that, should you require setup and maintenance assistance, free hosting is not the best choice because, well lets face it, you get what you pay for. Though the ads may pay for the hosting fees, they don’t generate enough to hire a technical staff to help assist you properly.

Finally, they usually are behind the paid providers when it comes to features offered. All that being said, it could be the right fit for you if you are just starting out; but overall many people find that a free host just is not the most feasible option in the short term, not to mention long term.

Shared Hosting

Ideal For:

Shared web hosting is a good place to start out. It doesn’t require you to be too technical and usually the cost is minimal. For example companies such as [COMPANY A] and [COMPANY B] both provide shared web hosting for under $4 a month. Shared web hosting means several websites are all stored on one shared server, each paying a monthly fee.  Shared web hosts orient themselves around greater level of customer support and they are sure to provide their customers with a easy to navigate user control panel so they can learn as they go along.

You won’t find as much freedom and control as you would in a dedicated web host; but you will get your moneys worth as it does not require too much technical expertise to navigate. Thus many people choose to go with a shared hosting plan from the start. As you can imagine however, if all the websites are hosted on the same server, what happens when one of the websites sees an increase in traffic? Well, the others tend to suffer in the form of slowed performance (server space increases your speed).

Also, and unfortunately, if one website on the server is compromised by say a virus or a hacker, the others are not immune to it spreading to them. That being said, if you pay close attention to your shared web servers support features, and properly equip yourself, you will decrease the risk of your website being compromised and will have a running website for a low monthly cost.

VPS Hosting

Ideal For:

Aside from being a fancy name, a Virtual Private Server is a great choice when it comes to an unexpected need to scale and be secure, without having to pay for it upfront. So if you are expecting a jump in traffic but can’t afford it right now, a VPS is perfect because your site will not crash and you will not pay until the increase in bandwidth occurs.A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is usually the alternative people go with when moving away from or in place of shared web hosting, even though it tends to cost a bit more.

What VPS hosting is, essentially, is one server split up or divided into sever different virtual servers. It offers the user a great degree of control, and it is easy to customize even by adding your custom programming and/or application. If you think that shared web hosting is not for you and you just can’t afford dedicated web hosting at the moment, then a virtual private server could be just what you are looking for.

Cloud Hosting

Ideal For:

Not too long ago the internet and the world was buzzing with this new term, the “cloud.” Just what exactly is it? Well , in the interest of time, when it comes to website hosting, it means your website files are stored in the cloud. The cloud is just a term for a network of elements that represent a hosting service which functions kind of like your electric company, you pay for how much you use.

The reason they call it the cloud is because all the elements are essentially invisible to you, you don’t have to know what your electric company looks like to know that you have electricity, same concept. Just like virtual private server (VPS) hosting, as you probably guessed, this is a great choice if you think you will need to scale. Additionally, cloud web hosting is considered reliable because the data is dispersed over multiple locations, so if one were to go down, the data would be safely stored in the other locations.

As far as what cloud hosting lacks, mainly it is the control that you would get with a dedicated web host, additionally security is greater on a dedicated server. But if you are looking to really scale your website and/or business over time, this would be a great choice for you.

Dedicated Web Hosting

Ideal For:

As you probably inferred by the name, dedicated web hosting is just that, a dedicated web host for you. Meaning you’re paying to rent the entire server to host only your website. As you can imagine, this option is by nature centered around you and your website. Therefore it offers you, among other things: a deep level of customization and control, higher security, and more features. This makes it a high end product so to speak, and thus it costs significantly more than shared hosting or VPS hosting.

There are different types of dedicated web hosting, from ones that are managed to the ones that are unmanaged; which is pretty much a gauge for how much support you need from the hosting company. If you know what you are doing, some companies will even give you the responsibility of server maintenance, even though you don’t really own it. Dedicated web hosting is usually the best choice to go with if you possess the technical knowledge to navigate it’s many benefits.

However, you can still get the many benefits without possessing the expertise, by choosing the managed dedicated server option. If you know you need or want a dedicated server, a good route is to look over the list of the best dedicated web hosting companies and review the various packages offered.

Co-location Web Hosting

Ideal For:

If you own a server, colocation web hosting is what you are looking for (but you probably already know that). Colocation web hosting is like dedicated web hosting, except you own the server. The way it works is that the colocation web hosting company will provide the electricity required as well as the internet connection. Support for this type of hosting is very limited usually, because, well if you own a server chances are you know what you are doing.  All responsibility is on you.The company will provide service such as checking to see if your server is on and restarting you server.

Obviously, owning your own server comes with a great deal of control, customization freedom,  and security (if you are not negligent). What is not so obvious is that colocation web hosting costs less than dedicated web hosting, mainly because you are in charge of the entire operation, which means it requires detailed technical knowledge of website hosting servers. Colocation web hosting is usually for large businesses with developed Information Technology departments.

Reseller Hosting

Ideal For:

Maybe you are looking to treat hosting space as real estate? Well here we are, with reseller web hosting, you purchase the service, usually shared web hosting, and then sell it to others. The catch being, once you purchase the hosting, you can resell it for whatever price you choose (how much someone is willing to pay for it, however, is a different story). Additionally, you are not usually responsible for any technical issues your clients may encounter, this gets passed along onto the web hosting company you bought the hosting from.

Therefore, if you are looking to do some reselling, make sure that the company you are purchasing the hosting to resell from has a good customer support system in place, in case something comes up and your client is in need of some technical assistance. If this is something of interest to you, take a look at the reseller hosting companies to see what all is out there.


3.) What Web Hosting Features Matter and Why?

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Very Important

Administration

  • Account Settings You can change your account settings.
  • cPanel Your account comes equipped with cPanel.
  • DNS Management You can manage your domain name settings in the control panel.
  • Manage Domains You can manage the domains in your account.
  • Manage Email Accounts You can manage your email accounts.
  • Software Downloads You can download software while logged into your account.
  • Website Stats You can view your website statistics.

Hosting

  • 99.9% Uptime The company guarantees 99.9% uptime.
  • Data Backup The company offers a data backup.
  • Environmentally Friendly implemented environmentally friendly practices, such as using wind power or wind credits.
  • Open Source Hosting The company offers one-click installations of popular open source CMS software.
  • Private Domain Registration option to protect your privacy by hiding your domain ownership information
  • Unique IP Address The company offers an option for you to have a unique IP address for your website.
  • Unlimited Bandwidth The provider offers unlimited bandwidth.
  • Unlimited Disk Space The provider offers unlimited disk space.
  • Unlimited MySQL Databases The provider offers an unlimited number of MySQL databases.
  • WordPress The company offers one-click installation of WordPress.

Support

  • 24/7 Live Chat The company offers 24/7 live chat support.
  • 24/7 Phone Support The company offers 24/7 phone support.
  • Email The company has an email or ticket system dedicated to support.
  • Live Chat The company offers live chat support.
  • Phone You can contact the company by phone to get support.
  • Social Media You can contact the company with questions via social media websites.

Security

  • Daily Server Backups The company conducts daily server backups.
  • Dedicated SSL Certificate The company provides a dedicated SSL certificate.
  • Password Protected The company offers password protection for your website.
  • Secure FTP Access The company has secure FTP access.
  • Shared SSL Certificates The company offers a shared SSL certificate.

Fairly Important

Domains

  • Free Domain The company offers you a free domain when you sign up.
  • Unlimited Add-On Domains You can have an unlimited number of add-on domains.
  • Unlimited Domains You can host an unlimited number of domains.
  • Unlimited Parked Domains You can have an unlimited number of parked domains.
  • Unlimited Subdomains You can host an unlimited number of subdomains.

E-mail

  • Aliases You can create email aliases.
  • Autoresponder You can create auto responses to your emails.
  • Catch-All Email You can have a catch-all email address to capture any emails sent to your domain.
  • Forward You can automatically forward your emails to another email address.
  • IMAP/POP/SMTP The company offers all three protocols for email communication.
  • Mailing Lists You can create mailings lists in your email account.
  • Spam Filter The company provides an email spam filter.
  • Unlimited Email Addresses unlimited number of email addresses associated with your domain.
  • Virus Filter The company provides a virus filter.
  • Web-Based Email You can have access to web-based email communication.

 

Extras

  • Additional Software Included additional software for free, such as web design software or anti-virus software.
  • Free Ecommerce The company offers a free ecommerce software when you sign up.
  • Free Shopping Cart The company offers free shopping cart software when you sign up.
  • Free Toll-Free Phone Number toll-free phone number for free when you sign up.
  • Google AdWords The company provides you with Google AdWords credits for free.
  • Money-Back Guarantee The company offers some form of money back guarantee.
  • Other Advertising Credits offers some form of online advertising credits as a bonus besides Google AdWords.


4.) How Much Space Are You Going To Need?

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Lets take a look at what “space” is and how much you will need.

Bandwidth

What is it?

When it comes to web hosting, we measure the data transferred between your site and its visitors in a measurement called bandwidth. Thus, the more traffic you receive and the more content for them to engage with, the more bandwidth you are consuming.

How Much Do You Need?

Most websites do not consume a significant amount of bandwidth, however, should you exceed your set limit, it can end up costing you. It is not uncommon for website hosting providers to shut off peoples websites at a time when it is crucial for the site to be up and running (shocking, isn’t it). This is why it is advised that you have a good understanding of what your consumption needs will be and plan your bandwidth usage around it.

Additionally, as we mentioned earlier in this article, virtual private servers (VPS) and cloud website hosting companies are a good choice when you cannot predict your traffic but also would not like your website to go down should your traffic increase dramatically.

Disk Space

What is it?

Disk Space is the “amount” of space (in bytes) that all of your website files (text files+media files) take up on a web hosting server.

Quick Note: The more disk space you have, the slower your website will load because it takes time to download large files.

How Much Do You Need?

Disk space is very important if you plan on building a website of a substantial size, and/or if you plan on growing your website with lots and lots of content. If you just start off with good old plain text, you need not worry about taking up too much disk space, as text does not take up much space. But images will, so too will videos and audio, and given the face of the internet in today’s day and age, there is a good chance your website will need all of those.

Thus, if you factor all of them in, and sum up months upon months of generated content, you can see just how quickly disk space became of the utmost importance. You’ll need plenty of it if you grow your website at a steady growth rate.


5.) Avoiding the Gimmicks - What To Be On the Lookout for

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It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and when it comes to web hosting companies, well it’s no different. Given the fact that there are literally thousands of them around the world, it is not unfair to say that some of them practice some questionable differentiating methods. For example, there are a few methods by which web hosting companies will sway the unassuming consumer, either by pushing on you and making you overpay for features or by charging for features that are just a figment of their imagination.

Some of the common ones you may encounter on your web host search, and that you need to be on the lookout for, are:

Limitations

Yes, of course, the web hosting companies are allowed to cap their resources, however it is when these resources are capped at an unusually low threshold that it becomes questionable. Usually this is a tactic to make you pay for more features to have your website function at a basic level. Not fair. We stray away from the unethical web hosting companies in our reviews, and so should you; if you do decide to venture out on your own and come across ones that you just aren’t comfortable with, here is what to look for, most honest web hosting companies will have the following attributes:

  • Number of allowed domain names per hosting account: At least 10
  • Number of emails: 50+
  • Number of files or disk space: At least 50,000 files or 1GB of disc space
  • Number of Databases: 10+
  • Number of Database tables: This should be unlimited or 3000+
  • FTP account: 50+

Add Ons

Have you ever been tricked into subscribing to something that was never your intention by the time you clicked purchase? It is one of the most frustrating moments. Be on the lookout for hidden packages that web hosting companies may try to throw in the checkout process, either automatically or inconspicuously. It is suggested you take your time when making the purchase, no need to hurry.

When checking out the only thing you may want, or need in some instances, is domain privacy. Which is a shield on your contact information so when people attempt to look up the owner of your website (you) they will be provided with very limited information. Some people don’t mind having their information out in the open, others are more private. It is up to you and your circumstances.

CMS “Exclusivity”

Do not get fooled by hosting providers who push their so called superior, ability to host a CMS website, (i.e. a WordPress website), all hosting providers nowadays offer one click installs of the major Content Management System platforms. Because CMS platforms are so popular and user friendly, you can easily see why hosting providers would want to capitalize on that popularity and associate themselves with it, because it means more profit for them. Be weary of this little misrepresentation of information.

Search Engine Listings / Increased traffic

A web hosting provider is just that, a web hosting provider. Their expertise does not lie in optimizing your website for search engines and increasing your traffic. Search Engine Optimization is a long and patient process if your goal is to build a consistent traffic flow, requiring nerves of steel, experimentation, and most of all, quality content.

Your web hosting company on the other hand is there to provide you with a place to host your files and make sure they load quickly when a site visitor requests them, that is pretty much the bread and butter of it. A good recommendation is to keep the money in you pocket, or use it to buy a Search Engine Optimization manual, it will do you more good than dishing out a monthly fee to your web hosting provider for ineffective SEO packages.

If you plan on spending a significant amount on search engine optimization and/or increasing traffic, take your money to a firm that specialize in SEO and has a proven track record.


6.) Top 10 Best Web Hosting Companies Ranked by Us

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# Web HostInformation accumulated in our web hosting research has determined the following host companies to be the best web hosting companies around. VisitSimply click visit for more info on any one of these top web hosts! PriceWeb Host Critic provides our visitors with the best deals available! DomainsUnlimited meaning manage as many domains as you wish via one account. Disk SpaceRefers to the amount of data you are allowed to update to the web hosting company’s server. Money BackThe best web hosting companies allow for money back at any time. Usually the portion of your plan which you have not used, will be refunded to you. Review ScoreCalculated based on web host features, customer service, reliability, and speed.

1

Bluehost.com
Visit $3.95 Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited Any-Time 98/100
2
iPage.com

Visit

$1.68 Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited Any-Time 96/100
3
Justhost.com
Visit $2.75 Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited Any-Time

95/100

4
ixwebhosting.com
Visit
$3.95
Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited 30 Day 94/100
5
StartLogic.com

Visit

$4.50 Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited 90 Day 90/100
6


Hostgator.com

Visit
$3.96
1 Free Domain Unlimited 45 Day

90/100

7
Hostmonster.com

Visit

$4.95 Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited Any-Time 89/100
8
iPower.com
Visit $3.25 2 Domains
1 Free Domain
Unlimited 30 Day 85/100
9
Web.com
Visit
$7.95
Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited 30 Day 82/100
10
myHosting.com
Visit $3.95 Unlimited
1 Free Domain
Unlimited 30 Day

80/100


 

7.) Building a Website Without Coding Knowledge

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If you are short on time, motivation, or necessity to learn web development, you are lucky to live in the modern day world.

Nowadays you can simply click the mouse, install a Content Management System, browse the internet for a theme (the design and layout), and be up and running in a matter of hours.

So if you have not and are not planning to hire a web developer to perform this task for you, a good route to take is the aforementioned Content Management System (CMS) approach. Essentially there are two approaches you can take:

  • Website Builder (Usually provided by your web host of choice)
  • Content Management System (Most Web Hosts include a 1-click CMS installation)

The CMS approach is more feasible in my opinion.

A CMS company called WordPress is the market leader, and with good reason, it is very user friendly with an immense community. This community is of great benefit because it is full of developers who are constantly building widgets and plugins for every feature you will require in building a website and more. All the web hosting providers offer one click installations of the major Content Management Systems.

If you’re not hiring a firm or individual to develop your website using WordPress and selecting or purchasing a nice website theme – Themeforest  is a great place to get up and running. You will find that the selection of themes for these CMS platforms is seemingly endless, which further evidences how far we have come in web development. You can choose from plenty of free website templates or you can choose to purchase (for a reasonable price, given what you are receiving) a paid one, and from there you can go on to build really remarkable websites that your visitors will appreciate if done right.

Using the website builder provided by the web hosting company is another way to go about it. However, unless you are looking to build something very basic, you should consider the CMS approach. You are bound to run into some major issues when taking this route. For example, you will be very limited when it comes to advanced website features, as you will find them very difficult to incorporate. Typically, the website builders will let you pick from a few themes and therefore your website will look like many other ones, and that you do not want.

Overall it is more trouble than it is worth, which is the reason WordPress and other CMS platforms have become extremely popular over the years. They offer you countless features, allowing for customization and content distribution through various outlets, as well as allowing for a much much wider array of content to be published than, say, a website builder.


Wrapping Things Up

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There you have it, you should now be in a much better position to choose the right web hosting company for your endeavors.

Let’s take a second to review everything we mentioned above.

Essentially, start off by posing the five questions to your self, and try to be as honest as possible with your answers. Figure out what type of hosting you will be needing, whether or not you will need assistance putting up a website, familiarize yourself with the highly and fairly important web hosting features, try and quantify how much space you will require, and lastly be weary of the gimmicks some of the web hosting companies try and pull on novices.

Now that you are ready to begin the actual search, please keep in mind that you are not alone in all of this. Our job is to make your life simpler by doing the due diligence that we know not everyone has time for; and then to report back to you with a much shorter list of the best web hosting companies out on the market. Take a look around, and shoot any questions our way, the Critic is more than happy to assist!

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