Top 10 Hosting Companies of 2017 - Editor's Choice Awards

Picking the right hosting company for you can be really difficult, so we've combined a list of the best hosts on the market, as chosen by our sysadmin editor who's individually tested (and reviewed) every one of the hosts we have on this list.

Warning: Before you go jumping into choosing a host, it's a good idea to read the description I've put for each host. Some hosts may be better overall than others, but some hosts will be better specifically for your needs.

#1 - SiteGround

siteground review

SiteGround's huge investments in upgrading their entire infrastructure (not only the server side, but also in terms of support) has hugely paid off going into 2017.

They have available packages at affordable prices for pretty much any site on the market - From their cheap SSD shared packages for the small blogger right up to enterprise grad dedicated servers used by some of the biggest brands in the world.

Their insanely quick response times when it comes to support tickets, live chat and their US based call center to handle phone support is likely the best support system out of any host.

They've also got some of the cleverest security setups in the industry and have custom developed software to help improve load times & security for WordPress sites.

Read Our Full Review Here.​..


#2 - WPEngine

siteground review

Though in the past they've been hit with poor management decisions and blasted for under performing, 2016 saw a resurgence in what WPEngine was previously known for:

Their quality support, super fast WordPress load times and expensive (but value for money) pricing.

There is no doubt in my mind when I say WPEngine is THE BEST WordPress host on the planet. They've spent an inane amount of time building custom server setups, security and speed optimizing every element of their process so that you get the most optimal WordPress installation out there.

They've also quite clearly invested a fair amount of money into creating an A+ support system which has dedicated, US based employees that have done over 100 hours training in WordPress & server administration to give you the best support there is for any WordPress problem.

Of course the main downfall is they only accept WordPress sites, but that's what makes them so good at what they do! They also don't support email accounts, but you can easily manage that with a $5/Month Google Apps subscription and some DNS configuration. 

Read Our Full Review Here.​..


#3 - A2 Hosting

siteground review

Taking the #3 spot on our list and for good reason, is A2 Hosting.

From our testing, A2 has shown to be THE FASTEST shared hosting provider on the market - Yes you'll be paying around $10/Month for a shared host.. but when you getting load times of around 1s, and UNDER? Then it's an obvious choice.

Mix that with there A+ support system that covers 4 different communication methods and an infrastructure that spans 3 continents. A2 is a host that has made waves into the industry in the past few years, and continues to be at the forefront of shared hosting server technology. 

The only reason they're rated at a 4.5/5 is due to the higher than average pricing plans they go with.. but that's due to the fact that on average, you'd be getting access to a lot more server resources with A2 than any other shared host on the market.

A hosting plan from A2 also comes with free manual site migration by one of their technical team members and free access to the "HackScan" security system that further improves your site's security.

Read Our Full Review Here.​..


#4 - HawkHost

The animated hawk mascot of HawkHost.

HawkHost's commitment to affordable hosting is the reason it's landed the #3 spot on this list.

Offering SSD shared hosting and VPSs over 3 contients at super affordable prices for those that don't want to break the bank.. HawkHost has gained it's #4 spot on this list by being our most affordable host on the market.

For under $5/Month you can have a fast host, cPanel and unlimited domains with up to 10gb of disk space.​

The only reason they don't have 4 stars is due to the lack of instantaneous support - They lack a live chat and phone support system, opting instead for solely ticket based support.. Which can lead to longer than usual reply times of up to 2 hours. 

Read Our Full Review Here.​..


#5 - StableHost

The animated hawk mascot of HawkHost.

StableHost is taking the #5 spot on our list for having probably the best reputation out of all the companies on this list. 

Not only do they have some of the most reliable load times and uptimes, but they've also got an almost complete package at a very good price range - Spread out across 3 localities to choose from, in 2 continents. 

They have a instantaneous support system, manned by trained technicians. SSD servers running LightSpeed for optimal performance. 

They also have additional free bonuses when joining, such as a site.pro site builder (for those that want a super beginner friendly solution) and R1Soft daily backups across the site - Other security features include mod_security firewalls and spam protection. 

Read Our Full Review Here.​..


#6 - MDDHosting

The animated hawk mascot of HawkHost.

HawkHost's commitment to affordable hosting is the reason it's landed the #3 spot on this list.

Offering SSD shared hosting and VPSs over 3 contients at super affordable prices for those that don't want to break the bank.. HawkHost has gained it's #4 spot on this list by being our most affordable host on the market.

For under $5/Month you can have a fast host, cPanel and unlimited domains with up to 10gb of disk space.​

The only reason they don't have 4 stars is due to the lack of instantaneous support - They lack a live chat and phone support system, opting instead for solely ticket based support.. Which can lead to longer than usual reply times of up to 2 hours. 

Read Our Full Review Here.​..

What Makes A Good Hosting Company?

Support Desk Communication

When you select a hosting company in a way they are becoming your business partner. They will be looking after the platform that allows you to operate online, your website. When researching a good reliable hosting service you want to take into consideration their public standing if its positive and if they are seen as not a reputable supplier of hosting services.

Doing business with someone that delivers what is offered during the sales process is key, Ive had a loss with hosting companies before and Im not the only one. I like to think that the bar is set much higher than it really is with website hosting providers, Ive found many are not skilled in business or vested in customer service but happily invoice a week early. We have covered our Top 10 hosting companies and you should have read that before selecting your next hosting provider.

One main thing I want from my hosting provider is communication, I want to know if for some reason I need their help that in 12 hours or less I can have a reply or a problem fixed. At the very least I want to know they have my request for help, if they are busy or will be taking a look at the problem just tell me. There is nothing worse than playing the waiting game, if your website generates money and that website is down so is your business.

Customer Support Times

1.45 mins WP Engine
1.58 mins Bluehost
2.01 mins Liquidweb
5.02 mins Siteground

Test involved 3 phone calls per hosting provider. Calls were performed between January 10th - 17th 2017.

I have an ecommerce website I work with another webmaster with that uses some very tight two step security. This I like however the website crashes and ​the WooCommerce plugin conflicts at least once a week. Contacting the hosting account manager is not ideal, first we are in different timezones and second this takes more often than not 2 days from send the request for help to the initial reply. Calling the office leads me in circles due to the timezone and email has proven the fastest way to contact the account manager. What I want is communication that solves problems, when the problem is with the hosting and popularity of the store I need this resolved. Wondering why the store owner does not upgrade and have premium hosting to cover the surges in traffic, Ive tried and tried but its a non negotiable process. 

Responsiveness To Problems

There might be someone out there that has never had the need of support from their hosting provider, I am the opposite of this person and use my hosting providers resources to lighten my work load. You pay for your hosting services and you should have access to the resources that the hosting company provides, they do not openly offer the services but you can use them.

I rate my hosting companies by their responsiveness and ability to help me, I have many websites I am webmaster to and time is of the essence. When I submit a ticket for help, I need support with a problem or technical question I have not myself been able to overcome. From time to time I request certain tasks from my hosting providers to help instal something or manually update something really to just make the use of their service making me stress free. Most support staff are willing to assist unless you are rude or inconsiderate, word of advice don't be that guy or girl.

If my chosen hosting provider ​can assist me with some of the manual work then they rate much higher on my list than those that are not willing to work with and support a paying customer.

​What Features Make Your Hosting Must Have List?

What features would you be looking for in your website hosting provider, and how do you measure these features against one another to determine the best package for you and your business needs. I'm going to cover what I look for in my hosting provider and why it is important.

Security for my websites has been a worry that keeps me awake at night, worrying about access to and prevention of access. I also take into account SSL as a prerequisite for ecommerce and websites that collect sensitive information and I want this added free. Starting out I wasn't clued up on the terminology of website lingo so seeing a hosting package that had  "free firewall included" was good because it was free and not because of what it actually did, I suggest checking out some of the more technical terminology so you know what you need and what you do not need. 

I consider the uptime of a website as a very crucial aspect of my hosting service package is there a guarantee or do they have a proven track record of low downtime are my considerations.  Backups of the website, I want to know how many are performed and when. My desired times are daily and to be reported if they do not take place for what ever reason. Read down the page to see what my hosting provider did to one of my clients today, and you will understand ho​w important backups really can be.

30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE


Generic hosting company guarantee for the first 30 day cooling down period you can if dissatisfied have a 100% money back guarantee. Please always read the fine print 

As businesses grow and scale they should have flexibility with their website host to upgrade along with their business. You start posting viral posts and repeating that process and your little website that was doing 1,500 visits per month, now registers 100,000 visitors per month and the hosting package you signed up for wont cover the increase in traffic to your website. Considering the growth of my business SHOULD be something an account manager can discuss with me to offer a support during the business growth period, potentially discuss some discount for upgrading and the continuing business relationship. Considerations should be made for the allocation of bandwidth and storage and the resources allowed per ​month.

One thing I always look for is email access, will you have free access to domain mapped emails or will you have to pay extra for this. Establishing if the hosting company offer's webmail like RoundCube or Horde, or do they link in through third party apps and what is the integration like are questions I ask myself. Creating email addresses for websites is necessary for marketing and technical support as well as adding that layer of professionalism to your website have that hello@bitpak.com email looks much nicer than hellonotspam@yahoo.com.au looks much nicer I think. 

​Reading the fine print during the sign up process can help you identify potential holes with your soon to be hosting provider. I recently found out unlimited bandwidth doesn't exist, it is in my agreement but I cant actually have unlimited bandwidth. Taking that into account I now read the fine print before money leaves my account, I have been duped by hosting companies before and now I take more caution. I have found that only some providers and I classify these as the good ones, list the costs and associated costs before you are directed to the payment processing page.

Compatibility ​with multiple CMS platforms not just WordPress as the only option, I use many CMS's although WordPress is the preferred I need access to other's for various reasons. What other features are included when you sign up for the long term hosting packages. The standard is throwing in Google or Bing PPC vouchers I like this and it can be useful, Website builders in some cases useful or not I don't really know I don't use them. I do use the free SSL certificates when provided, this is the shift forward at least with Google and Google Chrome browsing.

For some people Cost and value for money is everything, I fall into this category with grocery shopping but not spending on my business. When I spend money on my business in this example my website is my business I will spend what is needed for it to be secure. Paying $2.99 a month for my business website might sound ideal for the accounts, but not for a business that will grow . I know the start up hustle and grind Ive been there, save where you can. I still have about 18 Semrush trial accounts from the grind phase of my business (they may still be active Ill have to check that), Don't cut corners on your website or the hosting of your website you will thank me when the time comes. When your prospective hosting company has these words in the sales pitch "unlimited" and "cheap" and "easy checkout" I would inspect every feature and the associated fine print and not part with my money until satisfied in the service. Remember to check the subscription period before finalising payment, a sneaky way to add some revenue is to change the subscription period to a longer end date on the checkout cart, so double check your subscription dates and then proceed with your purchase of website hosting services.

Dreamhost offers this on their website for the "unlimited" feeling, sadly you need to click on the "unlimited policy" to see what really is limited and unlimited. The hook is in the fishes mouth with this clean presentation of giving the user unlimited everything.​

dreamhost-unlimted-hosting-plan

I took a little look into some of the various hosting service providers that are quite popular around the web, leaving out GoDaddy and Hostgator. The table below compares pricing over 36 month subscription service, the short summary of key features, limitations of storage and any free offerings,​

Pricing and basic feature comparison:​

Bluehost

36 month subscription

1 Website

50GB of Storage

  • Unmetered Bandwidth
  • 5 Email Accounts

$2.95 / month

No credit card required.

Siteground

36 month subscription

Free SSL Certificate

10GB of Storage

  • One Website
  • 10K Monthly Visit Cap

$3.95 / month

No credit card required.

Dreamhost

36 month subscription

97 Day Money Back

5GB of Storage

  • 100% Uptime Guarantee
  • Unlimted 24/7 Support

$7.95/ month

No credit card required.

WP Engine

36 month subscription

Free SSL Certificate

10GB of Storage

  • Unlimted Data Transfer
  • 25K Monthly Visit  Cap

$29 / month

No credit card required.

Liquidweb

36 month subscription

SSD RAID 1 Primary Drive

16GB of Storage

  • Single or Duel Process
  • Add Unlimted Domains

$199/ month

No credit card required.

My List:

  • Uptime guarantee
  • ​Email provided
  • Bandwidth and space on disk
  • Scalability 
  • Technical support
  • Security
  • Backups provided​
  • Value for money
  • Cost
  • Resources
  • CMS configuration included

My list is simple and covers the basics, I could list more but thats just bloating the request. To add to my list I'd need a team to scour the web to find such a hosting provider that does it all. Do you know a hosting service provider that can accommodate my list of features from above? mention them in the comments if I like what I see and sign up with them Ill flick you a gift card. 

The Overall Hosting Service As A Product​

The main reason we associate brands is with the logo and the product, your hosting is no different we all know Hostgator and Go daddy. The hosting product is why we visit the hosting providers website, they have something we need and they know we need it, But there is more we need to know than we just need it.

How good of a product can hosting for a website really be?

Your hosting will be as good as the money that you pay for it with. A more simple way to look at it is to ​take your online business sales page and think paying $9.99 monthly for this is great for your wallet, but if that website goes down how much money will you lose? and what if it stays down for longer than an hour and then add an hour and an hour and soon and so on. You can calculate the loss and foresee the risk, paying anywhere from $27.00 to $99 monthly for your website hosting service can be a business risk mitigation factor. If all of my sales came online and my only online sales channel went down I would be pissed and looking for someones butt to kick.

The answer is unique to your business model, your belief of business costs and reducing risks to your business. ​

How important is website hosting in my business?

If you are online and you sell anything then hosting is absolutely crucial in your success. You need to have hosting for your website domain name so that it can be hosted on the web. Imagine you had a really nice website domain name and you didn’t have any hosting for it, what do you think happens to that website domain name and your business? It will just simply not exist online.

A basic step by step of making a website:​

  • You need a domain name
  • You need website hosting
  • You need to connect these two
  • You need to setup and create the website
  • You need to publish the website
  • You then need to market the website online​
Alternatives To Using A Hosting Company

What alternatives are there if you don’t want to use hosting services for your online business? you can use Facebook, Instagram, Ebay, Amazon and Shopify to promote your services and they will host your page or store on their platform for you. When you use this method you still have to play the game by someone else rules and abide by their terms of service. Creating your own website running on your own hosting account allows you more overall control of your online business. 

Website hosting importance in your business - 8/10

Problems

Just today Day 1 I had a problem with a client business website where the website was showing as Forbidden and for a business owner this is bad news. She called me immediately to report the problem and once I had checked the website I contacted the direct point of contact for the hosting account he seemed unsure of the problem or a solution.

After waiting some time I called the hosting account manager and again I was met with a vague answer, I wanted to know ETA until the site is back up and running. The question could not be answered by the direct account manager, and take into account this is a friend of mine who has enormous IT experience far superior to my own understanding of IT.

When someone you know has mad skills with something and you can’t get an answer from them you have moments of embarrassment as you have highly recommended someone that you had seen operate on Doogie Howser MD level skills, have Homer Simpson like intelligence.

I thought about and thought about it and it made sense now, he was just a reseller of hosting and not actually the direct contact. I dug into it some more and I was in Western Australia and the point of origin for the hosting was in Queensland the furthest point from where I was but still in the same country.

Day 2 the website is live in the early morning but the format is out of whack, all the images are gone and contact forms are not working. My client is not happy to say the least, I asked them to upload a backup and the reply I got was “do you have one?”. I did not have one as the deal that the client signed up for included daily backups. I had a real moment of asking myself what the F is he doing, how did someone I looked at as an IT genius not have the fundamentals down.

The end of Day 2 came and the site was lets say patched together with sticky tape and thumbtacks. The client was calling me irate that the expensive website she had just paid for was looking tacky and nothing like her beautiful custom design she paid for. I 100% agreed with her, the website was not nice looking and the UX was way off where we had it almost fine tuned.

Day 3 and no sign of the hosting company, a phone call and I was handed over to the office guy “Mike” so ok lets make some progress with Mike. Mike asked me for a screenshot of everything wrong, I sent him a bullet point list and screenshots of every page so he would get the idea. I received a reply from Mike saying “is the logo on the home page to big?” from 47 bullet points and 38 pages all I had from Mike was 1 sentence about the home page logo size.

🙁 <- sad face

I don’t deal with simpletons well, Where I come from you sink or you swim in life and Mike was sinking. To throw a floatation apparatus to Mike I made a Google slide with the bullet points and then the screenshots with some arrows and notes pointing at the problems, This took some time but I felt it required to cover my points and so a newbie could follow along. Mike came back with “where are the pricing tables from?” I am now sad.

At the time of writing its now Day 4 and Ive been updating the website,  I believe Mike is also the IT office’s stapler and he’s currently out of staples.

this-stapler-is-a-replica-of-mike

The point of this is that even though your IT provider for other businesses and has done amazing work with some clients, when they suddenly become a hosting provider but previously have not offered the service don’t fall for the smooth talking sales buddy of yours.

Treat all service providers that will be a crucial part of your business as business partners, research them and put them under the same scrutiny that you would as hiring a General Manager. At the end of the day they are providing a service that you don’t and you need to know that they can provide it like a steaming boss!

Picking The Right Host For You

Your requirements

When selecting hosting for your website it is important to know what you need and what you want. Being prepared means you will get this process done much faster, I always put some effort into researching a product or service offered online. What type of hosting account will you need? from the list below ill cover what they mean, helping you choose the right type of hosting account for your website:​

  • Dedicated Hosting
  • Shared Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • VPS Hosting
  • WordPress Hosting​

What are these hosting types and how can I use them?

​Dedicated Hosting Services

This sounds straight forward, dedicated means its sole purpose is to do one thing host your website. This hosting type means you are not sharing this with other people or businesses, the server is yours for use only. If you have a heavy traffic or large website I suggest using a dedicated server, another reason for using this type of hosting is for increased security for your website. Using dedicated hosting keeps you safe from the uncontrollable actions of other websites, using shared hosting you run the risk of being on the same server as for example www.strangecreepyguy.co who happens to import illegal substances and do naughty things online in bulk.

Using a dedicated hosting service you can experience  almost 100% uptime daily, high performing seamless operations for your visitors. The added bonus with a dedicated server is that you can have access in most cases to an account manager as you are using a dedicated account. Being a dedicated resource you will have problems and need support to fix the errors if and when they happen, this is rare but it does happen.

Shared Hosting Services

​Exactly like the name suggests, you are sharing the server with other websites, this option is usually much cheaper than a dedicated server. The upsides are the cost per month but the downsides are you are at risk of suffering from other peoples online behaviour while sharing the server. Take this example of the negatives of shared hosting, If someone has suddenly discovered the art of going viral but has yet to upgrade their hosting plan. The volume of traffic using the website pushes a massive surge onto your shared hosting server, this causes your site to time out or be ultra sluggish and you have no control over it. Call support and see what they can do? not likely.  

this-image-went-viral-blocking-website-servers

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

See this image to the left, this image went viral a thousand times over the last 3 years. People took this picture of The Rock Dwayne Johnson and an image of him considerably lighter side by side. They used headlines like "The Rock Steroid Scandal Exposed" and other click bait titles to generate traffic. This is relevant for those considering using shared hosting services.

The example:  Greg's personal trainer website generates 30 views per day, no real issues with his websites resource requirements. ​ Greg decides he needs more traffic and uses this popular image of former professional wrestler  Dwayne Johnson with a click bait sounding title, this drives thousands of people to Greg's personal training website.

Whats the bad news? well the bad news is that your website www.bitcoinhq.io is also on the same shared hosting server that Greg use's.​ Your website generates $800.00 to $1,200.00 per day, you start getting calls from customers saying that they can not access your website. Your website is the only channel you use to advertise and trade business on, and you don't have access to it and neither do your paying customers. Starting to see the writing on the wall? I hope so there is a time and a place for shared hosting but also for moving away.

Our boy Greg has sent so much viral traffic to his website that it has overloaded his shared server, his shared server is also YOUR shared server. Does this start to paint a clear picture?​

​Shared hosting plans appeal to you now take some consideration into the example above and prepare an exit strategy, timeline and scalability plan of action. This style of website host is great for set periods in your business, it gets the job done but is not going to work when you grow. If you had to estimate when you should be looking at moving away from a shared hosting plan, monitor your analytics and keep a copy of your hosting agreement on hand so you can quickly see the almost at capacity of your resources warnings. I can not provide an actual timeframe for your business that would involve me auditing your business data and web stats.  

Shared hosting accounts are very common and you can find almost every company offers shared hosting. Cheap and easy works for some people and it comes down to your budget and goals with your website. Not planning on attracting large surges of traffic and aim to have a steady predictable flow of regular traffic to your website, Shared hosting is fine for this style of website. 

Building a business with shared hosting? consider the negatives before you proceed. Building a money maker on a shared server is putting that business at risk. While building your business it is ok to use a shared host, but once you start to really make profit on your website or you start to attract larger traffic numbers than you anticipated perhaps its time to move on.

Cloud Hosting Services

If you like innovation and technology you will like cloud hosting, you have a number of systems acting as one to complete tasks. The overall security of your server is far superior with cloud hosting as many machines are working together ​to get the task completed. While using shared or dedicated hosting you are counting on one server only and not backups of backups as with cloud hosting.

Available more as a service than a product, the way this works involves an impressive network of web servers. These web servers use resources from one another to help lighten the load of heavy surges, this is an innovative alternative to the traditional hosting methods. Expect reliability from this type of hosting service, when a server goes down another server picks up and takes on the tasks. You could describe cloud hosting to work almost like an ant colony, working together to accomplish many goals.

The security of the servers are very secure being housed in data centres often under tight security. User pays for what user uses, just like your gas bill if you use a lot you pay for that equal amount. This style of pay as you play is quite common now days and Im a fan of it, This makes people more accountable for their usage and what they pay. ​

VPS Hosting Services

​VPS stands for virtual private server, a virtual window to a machine server. This type of hosting service acts as its own copy of the operating system, a virtual platform to operate on without the restrictions of your actual machine you are working from. The various plans available for running VPS hosting range in size of what the user requires. You have the virtual server doing your assigned tasks such as hosting the website and any other applications you need without draining your computer you are working from. This is like having two computers but one you are working on and the other you are assigning tasks to.

WordPress Hosting service

Using a managed WordPress hosting service comes with the benefit of ​having all the manual updates of plugins, themes, backups and monitoring taken care for you. Managed WordPress hosting also allows for optimizing for speed loading and security of your website. If I had to sum this up for you I would say this is like having a website butler do all your chores for you.

Hosting Special Needs

Considering your out of the box needs and if you will have additional requirements. In the age of viral click bait news websites that generate millions of visits daily, do you need more bandwidth for the massive traffic you attract? or do you need the most secure server on planet earth? possibly. There literally are a million hosting companies out there, so choosing just one can be tricky and time consuming.

​Imagine you were a massive WWE fan like me, and that all the hosting providers on your list of prospects are WWE Superstars. Now also for a moment imagine that they are all pitted against one another, in an elimination over the top rope Royal Rumble. All this chaos for your money sounds crazy, but the competition in the hosting space is extremely competitive. If you do not understand what a WWE Royal Rumble is look at the image below, super athletic men use their bodies to overpower competitors in an effort to throw them out of the ring and win the match.

website-hosting-providers-compete-for-most-recommended
Gathering Candidates

The list of hosting providers found online is extensive, but how do you seperate these providers and services that number in the millions. You can narrow them down by these three buckets cost, features, & reviews.

  • Looking for the lowest cost
  • Looking for the most features
  • Looking for the most descriptive reviews​
Reviews on Hosting Providers 

Should you believe the glowing reviews you read about the potential hosting company you may choose to host your website? take a moment to reread over those reviews. While reading the reviews see if you think that they read as if it was a genuine customer writing the review or a paid reviewer. How would you spot a paid review and why would they use paid reviews, well they would use a paid review because the product either blows chunks or they paid people when they started their hosting service to generate social proof, a sad but common occurrence in the digital space.

Social proof manipulation is sadly becoming more & more standard practise in the digital space, if providers just made products and provided services that worked the reviews would come naturally.​

highly-recommended-hosting-providers-facebook-poll

Top 3 Hosting Suppliers as voted by the Public.

  • Does the review oversell the item?
  • Does the review sound natural?
  • Does the reviewer appear to be a real human?
  • Look at the negative feedback and replies from the company
  • Read the company replies to the feedback 
  • Do they offer help and more insight into fixing the problem?
  • Do they take offence and pass blame?
  • Don't be a sheep and follow the most popular option.

I would carefully inspect every review of a hosting service provider as outlined above if that is your preferred method for selecting a service provider. Reviews should sound natural and read as if a human wrote the review, you should look at the user that generated the review. With a keen eye you can begin to spot the computer generated reviews, the paid for reviews and sponsored influencer reviews. The internet marketing space has some undesirable practises, but to avoid these pitfalls use common sense and vet the providers that do not meet your requirements. I started keeping a logbook of hosting suppliers, domain register's and service providers. This helps me identify poor quality vendors and take away half of the market efficiently so my process is cut in half. 

Narrowing Down Your Selection

After you have decided on your selection method (cost, features or reviews) you should have a list of possible providers for your website hosting. The list may be quite long or a handful of decent contenders, but as Christopher Lambert said in Highlander “there can be only one”. Choosing the final contenders is a tedious task, what if you eliminate the wrong one and miss out on a hidden gem. This is true there are hidden gem’s but there are also dud’s and more dud’s than shining gem’s.

Using the elimination method you chose, you can now use the secondary elimination method to narrow down your list to a final number. Once you have completed the second round of removing unmatched providers you have another shortlist, now use the final elimination method to remove all providers that don’t match your requirements. This brings you to your final list, you may have 3 you may have more but you should have a clear idea of the top 3 choices.

selecting-a-website-host-there-can-be-only-one

Highlander - Christopher Lambert

Identifying Your Top 3 Choices

Having identified your final 3 providers for hosting your website you have a tough decision to make, unless you are going to be hosting 3 seperate websites than you have your 3 hosting providers identified and ready to use. Lets say you don’t have 3 websites to use of this example and only have 1 website to allocate to one hosting provider. 

I used to hesitate at choices like this that involved my business, I began flipping a coin to decide important business decisions that I could not decide on. ***DISCLAIMER I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS METHOD FOR YOUR BUSINESS***. I am at a point in life where flipping a coin works for me, not everyone has that luxury.

We used some elimination methods earlier to remove hosting providers that did not meet our set requirements per bucket. 

Your final three providers have been identified and are now in front of you, a choice needs to be made that decides on a clear winner.  I know not everyone would have played this game but, you have 3 choices you have to sleep with one, marry one and oh wait! lets keep this PG. The image below sums up what you should have after running the elimination process a couple of times, your Royal Rumble contestants should be narrowed down to a final three providers. ​

selecting-3-of-the-best-hosting-companies-online

Identify Your Top 3 providers

Testing First or Take the Plunge

There are two types of webmaster, those that test everything with sandbox websites and those that move volumes. Taking the plunge and adding your website collective to a new hosting provider can be quite scary, you have account registration and website migration to manage and the transfer from old to new. I prefer to test with one foot in the water and see if its worth the risk of immersing myself fully in the water. The options presented here are views of my own and what Ive done previously, rushing in and moving website networks = young uneducated me verse testing a new provider = older more wise to the digital space me.

You can choose to move one test site across to the new website hosting provider and monitor the website for the first two weeks to see the downtime, how your storage (try to bloat the server with large files) and really try to break the website if it is a sandbox site. This method here gives you data and a feel for customer support, when you bloat the server you can call for support as to why its so slow. Gaining a feel for customer support and how helpful the provider will be, and this is just one website imagine if you had more.

After you have tested the provider and made your decision you can make the move.

how-do-you-judge-your-final-web-host-company-list

Compare Your Final Providers

Signing up for your Host

You have made the choice and tested the main contender, this is your new business partner congratulations. After all the selection process and testing you made the choice and want to get started, ok so go for it sign up! Go through the companies sign up form and double check all your selections, look for contracted months, total pricing and add on’s. Word of advice if you see anything suspect on the payment pages that seems odd or makes you think “why did they have that there” that is a sign to DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING!

Ive been stung before with blindly taking the sale gateway journey eyes half closed, then the final recipe comes through and it was twice what I remember seeing and signing up for, Add on’s my friends they sting you with the add on’s. Always check the cart and any extra tick selection boxes, cover your butt and check everything before you confirm payment.

Once you have confirmed payment and are satisfied you paid for what you wanted, its time to setup your hosting and build it, build it so good. In the past month I have seen so many complaints and requests for good hosting providers, i don't understand the drop of the ball with customer service.

Your hosting is an integral part of your online business strategy, you should consider the quality of your website hosting provider and have in your mind the potential for scaleability and growth. Will your hosting provider and all service providers have the capacity to grow with you or will you outgrow them? Important business projection questions.

website-hosting-issues

​While you might not be in a position right now to command a meeting with an account manager, it might pay to make a call to arrange a time to speak to an account manager about potential growth options. You like me might be very suprised at the willingness of the account manager to help assist you when the time comes. The manager I spoke with about a JV business growing was super helpful and has checked in several times to make sure the service is satisfactory. Use your positioning to your advantage and while not every account manager will give you the time of day, you need to establish some rapport for the future of your growing business.

Getting The Most Bang For Buck

Ill admit that I’m a serial bargain hunter, we all work hard why give our hard earned dollers away. For every product on sale there is a discount coupon, sales campaign, referral savings. Hunting for a bargain for your website hosting good or bad? I think we already covered the reasons why that is bad in the above paragraphs. You can leverage bargain hunting to your advantage, while browsing the thousands of hosting service providers on the internet. To do this you make a compromise on some features for savings or you compromise on saving a few bucks to get the best features.

One method could be to contact the hosting provider accounts department, ask to speak to senior operator or account manager. When speaking to the account manager, have your list of hosting providers and some of the features in a list or sheet handy. You will be using some of these as bullet points, you can make the account manager aware of his competition.

Do you want my money? this is rude, but if you rephrase this to "I really like your website and the account features are great, But!". You create an inroad for negotiation, This wont work for everyone and not if 2,000 people reading this try it in one weekend. ​You want to let the account manager know you are thinking of joining up, and you want a plan that works for you. You can mention that you saw company C was offering free SSL certificates or multiple email account setups.  

It is important to add that if you are looking at a 6 month hosting plan you should NOT try this. This works best when you have long term in mind, multiple hosting accounts or bring a friend for double the signup points. 

​Setting your Budget

Getting from Seattle to Mexico involves some planning, and so should your online presence.

Set aside a budget that you want to work with, outline the maximum cost and your minimum spend. Outlining a minimum price allows you to know what is budget below average quality, setting a maximum budget is what you can not exceed.

Avoid cheap hosting that screams "I'm cheap hosting" it is what it is. The term WYSIWYG  speaks volumes about cheap hosting, What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) is often used by online sellers to describe what you see is what you are going to get when you buy. When you buy cheap hosting you should expect that, you are going to be using a hosting provider that caters to the bottom level. Bottom level association means you can be categorized into one three categories.

  1. The Bargain Discount Hunter
  2. Complete Newby
  3. The Gullible 

Why would you be categorized into these three if you buy cheap hosting? ok a little harsh but lets look at the reality. Cheap hosting means it is not expensive, the word cheap is associated with lesser quality. Bargain hunters look for cheap low quality deals, they can use the low entry pricing to add multiple websites. This could also be associated with spam website owners, overloading their cheap host to maximize its features. 

How do complete newbie's get roped into cheap hosting? newbie's often don't have capital to purchase premium hosting services they are often start ups. You don't see to many newbie's dropping $99.00 per month on premium hosting for their 7 page website. They look for the cost with some extra features, trying to stretch their budget as far as they can. There is nothing wrong with stretching the budget and making the most of your money. Alternatively settle on a hosting package that costs a little more, but also comes with more bang for your buck.

Added features and functions in exchange for a slightly higher monthly payment, you can decide for yourself but that sounds pretty good to me.

Cheap Hosting is Attractive for Start Ups

For a startup its all about using your start up capital as wisely as possible, get every possible advantage out of every single dollar. Unless a start up is providing IT, Web Design or SEO services website hosting is on the lower end of capital expenditure. That mentality should shift towards having minimum standards when starting out. One proactive shift towards that, is Google using Chrome to display un-secure on non SSL websites that take sensitive information. This move could start to shape small startups and newbie's going about setting up websites for business and ecommerce.

Completely understandable as they don't know that they need premium hosting services until they know that they need it. That was a little mind bending but very accurate. Take for this example your first car, my first car was a little drive around nothing special. As I drove it more and more, I needed more and more room as my friends were seeing me in the car and wanting to hang out. Like your website generating more traffic, I needed to upgrade my car to a bigger vehicle to accommodate more people. This principle applies to your website hosting, I thought I would be driving around by myself for a while and instead needed a bigger car. Had I known that I would be needing to have more room for my mates in my car, I would of purchased a larger car and the same goes for your website. Plan ahead and think of scaleability and growth, budget for it and think of the future not just the now.

How do you know you need premium hosting, if you don't really understand the difference between premium and cheap hosting. I touched on this in the above section, set parameters of expectations, goals and targets. Identify your minimum requirements and for your budget the maximum cost you can afford. 

 The Gullible are also perfect candidates for click bait, FACT! The gullible are persuaded into low level hosting deals with those first year website hosting for $3.99 per month but the small print reads "In month eleven the month to month service costs resets to $49.99 per month". Do they read the fine print? most will not.  The Gullible also get stung with add on's and Up-sells, when taking the sales funnel the value add ons and recommended products claim many scalps. Think about that, you are looking at hosting in the same category as the gullible. I though better of you.

​Become a Hosting Reseller

A popular option among computer tech heads is becoming a reseller of a hosting service, Ill use my foray into website host reselling. I used Host9 as my reseller of choice, they came highly recommended. My account was all set up and approved i was ready to let the reselling begin! At first the customer support was taking place over 36 to 48 hour period, but it was still reasonable compared to some providers support desk.

How hosting reselling works is, you purchase a reseller package from a large hosting company example Host9. You would then split that up into smaller packages to sell to customers, with the ability to place your brand on the dashboards and control panels. My short journey with hosting reselling did not last long at all, ill be honest it isn't my game. Some friends make really good money reselling hosting packages, targeting clients and related service providers in their industry.

What Type of Reselling Services Are There?

You can charge the clients for their standard hosting packages, but you will become the hosting services provider. Pointing back to the earlier paragraphs will you be attracting the cheap hosting bargain hunters. You can create pricing brackets that seperate the cheap hosting hunters from those searching affordable hosting. When you work outside of the package service agreement you could charge a hands on service fee, adding to your profitability. If you are looking for some bang for your buck, look at reselling larger hosting companies hosting services. 

Who is Reselling Hosting Packages For?

Reselling hosting packages is for anyone that wants to get into the website hosting business. You will require to be somewhat technical with hosting accounts, FTP and website migrations. Imagine your clientele and what they would have as problems, then you can understand what skills you would need to understand as a minimum. When someone purchases a reseller hosting account with you, they officially become your client look after them as you want to be looked after.

Step By Step with Reselling Hosting Packages

  1. Research and identify a solid hosting company.
  2. Find your desirable package.
  3. Customize your own white label hosting packages.
  4. Identify your target audience and pricing.
  5. Start marketing to your audience.
  6. Sell those hosting packages.
  7. Make bang for your buck.
Upsize My Features

​Features and functions we want it all and we want it at bottom dollar. When you have complied a list of providers for a service, you have picked a winner at least on paper they looked like a winner. Have you ever purchased the hosting package and found that half of what was on the sales page was an "upgrade?" It happens. This comes back to CYA covering your ass and checking the details, simple things like email accounts and SSL certificates should be included not as upgrades. 

The features add usability to the hosting account, if you can select a provider with more bang for you buck do it. Sign up after checking the fine print and reading their policies, try not to overlook this step of the agreement. 

A common throw in with hosting accounts now is either a Google Adwords or Bing advertising voucher usually for $50 to $100. This is a good play on the hosting provider's part, because you have built your website its live but how do you get traffic to the website? Pay per click will get you some leads. 

Setting Your Expectations

As we covered in the above topics figuring out your requirements, targets and budget outline your expectations. Ive been an avid believer of setting goals and having realistic expectations. One time early on I was looking for some hosting for a couple of project websites, I read a Facebook review of Hostgator and how crap the service was. I on that same day, saw a Hostgator deal for $2.50 per month hosting. I thought that it was the steal of a lifetime and despite what i had read earlier purchased, I think it was 36 months of website hosting concerned with the price. I should have reminded myself about the review when I was in the shopping cart, I didn't and finalized the purchase.

The original expectation when I was reviewing the service in the morning were quite low, and actually ​thought to myself that they sound horrible. Once I had seen the amazing deal, it was on my mind buy it now buy it before it runs out. Classic marketing scarcity 101, my expectations were blown out of the water when I saw the price per month. I'm almost certain my wallet spoke to me as I was confirming the payment, I had blindness to reviews and was rushing for the savings. What a rookie mistake.

My expectations were low when reading the review, but much higher when I had finished signing up and had become an official Hostgator customer.​ I flip low level websites for money, one simplicity I want in my hosting provider is ease of transfer. I will state that I have had nothing but delay and frustration with Hostgator. As recent as mid December 2016 I had a purchase of 3 websites I wanted to transfer to my account, this proved to be much harder than it first sounded. I am still waiting for the customer service support person, I asked for help mid December at the time of posting this its near the end of January 2017. Here is me still waiting for that superior customer support, I managed to do this after getting the seller of the websites on the phone and co-ordinating the exchange ourselves.

While I sorted this out myself, the problem was I was losing money daily while waiting. These websites were live active websites that make money, when I couldn't migrate the websites smoothly I had to work out an alternative. During the time of sale to the time I implemented an alternative, I had contacted Hostgator customer support 5 times for help. My expectations for getting help from this hosting provider now is very low, I have an exception to this with my main hosting provider who reply within 28 hours and its almost always the same dude. Shout to Max at WP Engine you have saved my butt so many times we should exchange christmas cards.

While Max saves me on an almost quarterly schedule my expectations for WP Engine are very high, the service level is decent and the actual product is easy to use, opposed to Hostgator I find them very clunky. The different expectations were formed by the first two to three interactions with the service and supporting personnel. I found Max to be informative and helpful, often sending tutorials and FAQ links that were able to answer my questions. When I contacted Hostgator I don't know any of the names there, but the support was lacking and the navigation of the panels confused me slightly.

This degree of variation in offerings made me associate the two companies in two very different ways. 

  • Easy to use 
  • Informative and resourceful support
  • Reliable support 
  • Responsive support contact
  • Clunky Features
  • Confusing UI
  • Uninformative support staff
  • Unresponsive support staff

As an end user of the service we want easy to use dashboards, we want easy to navigate control panels. The things we don't want is hard to navigate and clunky user interfaces. When I have a technical problem and cant fix it myself, I contact support for help and expect helpful support.

The moment I have a reply from support that doesn't help me rectify the original problem, my perceived value of that hosting company goes down. The core function of customer support is to help the customer when they have a technical issue and require support. In my experience the customer support should be the service sector that you aim to excel at, this creates happy customers and returning clients.  ​The real bang for my buck comes from customer service and support, the things I cant do and need someone that does know is crucial for technical updates.

The Unlimited Plan

When it sounds to good to be true, it usually is as is the case with so many service providers in the digital space. Website hosting providers have a name for being quote skilled at crafting the fine print of terms and conditions. Read the description if Gullible above for more about this.

​When a website offers "unlimited" you can be pretty sure it comes with limits. Check out Dream host's unlimited offer here, and now visit the unlimited offer policy explainer here. You can clearly see that the plan is NOT unlimited, there ARE limitations. Reading the policies and fine print become's second nature, if the sales page gives you reason to doubt then read the policies and all fine print.

I have a saying called CYA that stands for Cover Your Ass, it means that you are responsible for yourself and you should cover yourself from any liabilities. I say that but do not lose hope in unlimited plans of any sort, just assess each offer as it is presented.

There are good guys and bad guys in sales and marketing just read the fine print.

Security The Final Word

What would you consider as more important, the security of your domain or your hosting account? 9 out of 10 people would say the domain WordPress log in screen or more commonly known as ".com/wp-admin/". While this is important you should place more thought into the security of your hosting account. While rare to see a hacked hosting data centre, the abnormality of hosting

​Im subscribed to Orbit Media's mailing list, I love the articles Andy Crestodina puts out. The below images are real and were live for all of 45 minutes before being shut down. I added these to this post to showcase some security alerts and reinforce that you should be thinking about your website & hosting security and access at all times.

orbit-media-hacked-first-attempt

This website was hacked during a scheduled post.

Now that was not cool for that business, but the drama didn't stop there.  Our hacking guy noticed that the traffic being generated by the scheduled post, they came back and added some colorful language and some old school "WaS Here" type of territory markings.  This post was taken down and the actual post, added within 45 minutes. I was watching the whole thing unfold, I gave old mate Andy a shoutout on Twitter with no reply.  I thought our connection on Twitter was more than an appreciation of pizza and search engines. Morale of the story security of your digital assets is something to keep in mind, when purchasing anything that will be primarily running online.

orbit-media-hacked-2nd-attempt

Having realised how much traffic the post generated the hacker became more creative.

Keep your digital real estate safe my friends.

Conclusion

Hosting has been getting cheaper and cheaper, with most hosts switching to solid state drives instead of the traditional spinning disks that can cause major load time problems. Due to the price of hardware and bandwith falling, you're getting more value for money than we ever could of dreamed of just 5 years ago.​

This has resulted​ in not only there being a huge amount of competition in the marketplace, but also a huge amount of technological advancements that have only benefited the end user of these services more and more.. And will continue into the years to come.

We congratulate SiteGround in being our #1 recommended host for 2017.. They're a prime example of a high quality host in all aspects​ and we look forward to seeing what they have to come in the future.

About the Author

Though I don't like to reveal my personal identity, I've been a sysadmin for the better part of a decade. Those days however, are now behind me, as I run my own consultancy firm, specializing in speed optimization, penetration testing and system management. This blog is a personal project of mine, so that I can share my own opinions, feelings etc.. without ever having clients phoning me up screaming down the phone. Enjoy!