The web hosting industry is expected to grow to $154 billion by 2022, and that’s not without reason. Millions of websites go up every single day on plans that most people can’t afford.
Take Pagely (which you can read more about in our Pagely review), for example, which charges over $1000 per month on nearly all plans. While it’s very good, the price is simply too high for many to pay.
We’re here to help demystify the often confusing and expensive world of web hosting and give you the tools you need to make an informed decision. We’ll talk about how to save a little money when signing up and offer our recommendations for hosting on the cheap.
What is Web Hosting and Why Do I Need it?
Web hosting is the system put in place to store the data of your website. Websites hold data like images and text, and web host stores that and sends it out whenever someone is attempting to access your site.
It’s boring, sure, but understanding what a web host does will save you money. Our full best web hosting guide will dive into the specifics, but understanding this simple definition should suffice for now.
Primarily, a web host rents out internet property. You’re a tenant on a server and can pay more or less depending on how much space you need and how far away that area is from someone else.
Companies like Squarespace and Wix, where many new users flock, take the name “web hosting” out of the equation, but it’s still the same thing. These companies are selling you two main things: a domain name and web hosting. While some other features come along with it, that’s mostly what you’re getting.
You can, however, do this on your own, and save quite a bit of money in the process. By purchasing a domain name and selecting separate hosting, you’ll not only save money but find a plan that works right for you.
Additionally, this opens up the option of using a CMS like WordPress. If you plan on going this route, make sure to check out our best web hosting for WordPress as well as our three guides walking you through using it.
- Beginner’s Guide to Using WordPress
- Intermediate Guide to Using WordPress
- Advanced Guide to Using WordPress
Not all plans are created equal, though, in both terms of technology and money, which leads nicely into our next question.
What Makes Web Hosting Cheap?
Navigating the different types of web hosting can be confusing, especially for first-time buyers. Prices don’t seem to add up and the specs that follow don’t make sense. There is a method to the madness, and knowing how plans work will save you money.
The cheapest way to get your website online is with shared hosting. This architecture takes many different users and put them together on the same server, spreading the resources among the load.
The web host can maximize its resources by doing so, driving down costs and passing that on to you. Instead of buying out all the power of a server and hoping you use it, everything moves as users need it. However, there are downsides.
Speeds and uptime take a considerable hit with shared hosting, along with some security issues. A malicious user, for example, could flood the server with traffic, hogging the resources and eventually take it offline, along with your website.
Shared plans are the most inexpensive, but not the only plans that make web hosting cheap. Cloud hosting is continuing to go down in cost as it grows, and VPS plans offer a dedicated solution without the cost.
Despite the plan, it’s important to understand that the largest expense for a web host is resources. Anything that allows them to put more users under the same umbrella of power will drive down costs. If you want cheap web hosting, it’s best to shy away from any plan that gives you a bulk of resources to yourself.
Don’t confuse cheap with free, though. While there are providers out there that will put your website up for zip, the downsides far outweigh any cost savings. Free web hosting will get you online, and may even give you a domain, but it’s not entirely free.
Large, intrusive advertisements are the concern, taking over your free site and distracting from any actual content on it. The web host is making money off of you but doesn’t allow you to keep a cut.
For sites that want to grow a large user base, the problem is obvious, but it’s still an issue for personal sites too. For example, if you wanted to put up a portfolio, a free web host could accommodate that, but any professional would turn away the moment a pop-up showed on a writing sample.
There are other issues like lack of control, limited choice in domain name, no technical support and more, but the largest is how close you are to a good plan. Most shared plans are only a few dollars per month, which is basically free, and offer way more upsides.
Because a host can gather many users all paying a low fee, you get access to full support staff, customization options, monetization options and more. You’ll have the full suite of web hosting services for a price that might as well be free.
Best for Shared: Bluehost
For shared hosting, you can’t beat Bluehost. Its plans are some of the most comprehensive on the market, with a competitive price point and plenty of included features.
That starts with a domain. You don’t need to go to a separate registrar like GoDaddy to purchase one. Instead, the first year is on BlueHost so you can focus on starting your site up and not what you need to buy next.
I would urge you away from the “basic” plan, though. For the price, there isn’t much value in it due to the limited number of email addresses, website space and subdomains. The “prime” plan, which runs only a couple bucks more per month, offers much more.
All the restrictions are lifted, allowing you to grow and add websites to your plan as needed. You get SpamExperts for malware, domain privacy to get your personal information protected and SiteBackup Pro in the event your site is erased.
The only downside is that you’ll need to sign a multi-year contract on any shared plan. While this theme is common among web hosts, many offer a month-to-month plan at a higher rate.
Such is not the case with Bluehost, so you’ll have to choose anywhere from one to five years of hosting. It’s hard to complain, though, especially when three years of “prime” hosting only costs around $200.
Read our BlueHost review to learn more about the host, or try it out yourself with a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Feature rich
- SiteBackup Pro
- Multi-year commitment
Best for Starting Out: iPage
Web hosting doesn’t get any cheaper than iPage, where plans run only a couple of bucks per month. Don’t let that fool you, though; there is plenty you’re getting for the price. iPage offers free security, marketing and building tools to get you online and ensure you thrive while you’re there.
With each plan, you get access to the free drag and drop website builder. This tool is tremendous for small businesses who don’t want to fuss with WordPress or HTML but instead need a static website that looks great.
It’s a lot like SquareSpace or Wix, but far cheaper with far better features. You’ll get over $200 in ad credits, a free domain and access to SiteLock security tools to fend off malware.
Like with Bluehost, you can only choose multi-year plans ranging from one to three years. However, the price doesn’t jump as significantly. The difference between two and three years is only an extra dollar.
You’re missing out on some extras like an SSL certificate and automatic backup, but these can be purchased at checkout for a little extra. It’s is a solid entry point into web hosting with the cheapest rates we’ve seen. You can read our iPage review to learn more or test it yourself with a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Dirt cheap
- Free ad credits
- Drag & drop website builder
- Missing some features
Best for WordPress: SiteGround
We found that SiteGround is the best option for WordPress users. It offers managed solutions at a fraction of the cost of its competitors, with plenty of features to boot.
For WordPress, there are three different plans, each of which feels balanced for the price. SiteGround staggers the plans in a way that presents a clear path of growth for WordPress sites, adding more resources as traffic increases.
SiteGround provides features on these plans that other hosts reserve for higher tiers. You’re getting HTTP/2 enabled servers, SSD storage and more. That means your site complies with the latest protocols and is stored on the fastest storage.
Rates start at only a few bucks per month with resources suitable for up to 10,000 visitors. This isn’t a hard number, just a recommendation of when it may be time to jump to another tier. The stepping stone model works excellent here, providing a clear path of growth for those getting started on WordPress.
Read our SiteGround review to learn why we think this host is so great or jump in the driver’s seat with a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Stair-step pricing model
- WordPress pre-installed
- Excellent customer service
- Confusing interface
Best for the Environment: GreenGeeks
GreenGeeks is an environmentally friendly web host that has extremely cheap rates. While the environment has little to do with saving money, GreenGeeks is so good that we had to include it as an addition.
What’s most impressive about GreenGeeks is that it can host sites cheaply and with enough power, while still giving back to the environment. It’s a strange thing to think about, but the web hosting industry will surpass airlines in environmental pollution by 2020.
GreenGeeks combats this by purchasing three times the amount of wind energy credits as it consumes. Even so, the servers aren’t underpowered. GreenGeeks offers the full suite of web hosting features for only a few dollars a month.
There are very few downsides to it when compared to the other options on this list, with the huge upside of reducing your carbon footprint. Read our GreenGeeks review to learn more, or try it for yourself with a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Environmentally friendly
- Plenty of power
- Slightly more expensive
Best Allround: HostGator
When in doubt, go with HostGator. It’s simply the most diverse web host around, accommodating users big and small fully. While many hosts focus on one or the other, HostGator covers all its bases.
You have a few different options when looking at the cheap side of the services. There’s shared, cloud and WordPress hosting. Shared hosting is comparable to any other option on this list regarding price and specs, and WordPress hosting is on par with SiteGround. What’s most impressive is cloud hosting.
This spreads your site on many different servers in the cloud to improve reliability. HostGator has spearheaded this form of web hosting and is one of the cheapest ways to get in on it.
It has a laundry list of features across all plans, so make sure to read our HostGator review to see why we think it’s the best. You can test drive the service for yourself too with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
- Tons of options
- Inexpensive Cloud hosting
- Multi-year commitments on shared plans
- Underpowered WordPress plans
Honorable Mention: Hostinger
A new addition to our lineup, Hostinger is one of the best options for cheap web hosting. Plans are dirt cheap, coming at only a couple dollars per month. You get a ton of features too, including a premium security suite and daily backups.
Security is particularly impressive. Hostinger includes BitNinja protection on every server. This third-party software protects against malware, DDoS attacks and brute force attacks. It uses machine learning as well, meaning that, if one server has an attack, the others will be informed of the malicious IP.
There’s a lot to like outside of that, though. Hostinger is one of the most user-friendly web hosts we’ve encountered. A cleanly designed control panel still manages to give you quite a bit power, without too much overwhelming nonsense.
The included website builder is just as easy. While there’s a learning curve to any of these programs, Hostinger manages to ease the process. The builder can become clunky as designs get more involved, but that’s only because how much it can do.
Hostinger is undoubtedly one of the best ways to get web hosting on the cheap. You get a wonderful security suite, daily backups, a free website builder and pretty fast response times. Check out our Hostinger review to learn more, or try it yourself with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Web hosting can be costly, but there are plenty of cheap options that offer excellent services for not too much cost. The choice of free hosting is there, but it’s hard to justify when these providers are so inexpensive and offer so much value.
We wrote up an article on how to choose a web host in case you need a little more information in evaluating your choice, so make sure to check that out if you need some more to think about. What provider are you going with? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.