All of the web hosting providers above are well-established companies, and at a glance, they all offer pretty much the same entry-level deals. The cheapest plans offer shared hosting for an introductory price of a few dollars per month. So what’s the catch?
For starters, these plans offer storage space and bandwidth on servers that are shared with other customers. The more sites that share a single server, the more likely your visitors will experience slow performance; shared servers also offer a higher risk of security breaches.
Some of the very low prices you see on the landing page of these web hosts are introductory offers. When the promotional period ends, regular prices may be significantly higher.
Also, the low advertised price might require a lengthy commitment. At HostGator, for example, the advertised starting prices range from $2.75 to $5.95 per month, but when you click the Buy button, you’ll see that those rates are for a three-year contract. If you prefer to go for a month-to-month offer, the price ranges increase dramatically, from $10.95 to $16.95, which is also the price you agree to pay when the promotional period ends.
Another common trick is the “limited time” offer: Buy now before the price goes up! Some of the hosting providers we reviewed included a countdown clock on the home page. When we returned a few days later for a second pass of fact checking, the countdown clock had magically reset.
Those prices can still be a good value, but you’ll have to do some research to make accurate long-term comparisons.
Those very cheap teaser fees are designed to lure you in, and some web hosts aren’t shy about making up the difference by charging extra for features like backup and site migration; here, too, you’ll need to factor in those costs before you can make an informed decision.
A low-cost shared hosting plan is probably good enough for a personal website. It’s also suitable for a basic business site whose primary purpose is to serve as an online business card and landing page for visitors who want to know more about your organization. Not a good fit for a site that occasionally needs to handle large spikes in traffic or e-commerce.
If you choose a cheap plan, expect regular upsell offers for more comprehensive (and significantly more expensive) plans. Those upsells come in a wide range of plans. Some of the most popular include these:
Website building tools You typically don’t get as much help with these services as you would with turnkey solutions like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress.com. Some hosting providers offer wizard-driven tools that allow less technically sophisticated customers to create a site with point and click. DreamHost, for example, offers its theme-based Remixer tool as part of a shared hosting plan.
Managed WordPress Hosting Most of the companies listed here have a managed WordPress offering that insulates customers from the task of managing the underlying web server or installing and maintaining their own WordPress instance. Most of these offers include a selection of ready-made themes; others include WordPress-oriented website builders.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) In basic shared hosting environments, multiple tenants share the hardware and software resources of a single server. In a VPS, multiple tenants share physical server hardware, but each server instance is isolated from the others by virtualization software, with resources (memory and storage, for example) assigned directly to the VPS. This configuration ensures that performance remains constant regardless of what happens to other sites that share physical server hardware. It also dramatically reduces the likelihood of security issues affecting accounts in a shared hosting environment. This type of solution may or may not be managed, and it costs much more than a shared hosting plan.
dedicated servers This is the most expensive option of all, with physical hardware dedicated to a specific customer and not shared with other accounts. This option is more appropriate for high-traffic websites that can’t afford any downtime, but the price is far from cheap. At A2 Hosting, for example, the non-promotional price for a managed dedicated server starts at $200 per month, compared to $70 for a managed VPS and $11 for a basic shared hosting plan.
Choose this cheap web hosting service…
If you want…
A high-quality hosting service that allows many options to upgrade in the future
A host that excels at letting you run unlimited websites on the same server
A host that allows templates and a simple interface for new website builders
To run websites that load in the blink of an eye
A host that allows you to run your website without breaking the bank
A website host that gives you 10 domain addresses on the base plan only