Choosing a website hosting solution can be difficult. There are a myriad of puzzling terms and price ranges thrown around which you may be uncertain about.
I have created this two-part guide to help you make a more informed decision about your domain, website or email hosting.
In this two part article, I intend to demystify and make clear exactly what service providers have to offer. After reading, you should be able to make a more informed decision about which solutions will be right for you and your business. In the first part of this article, I discussed the services on offer and broke down what you should expect from your email, domain or web hosting package. In this second part, I will round-up some available services on the market and compare and contrast their offerings to help you choose which solution might be of best value to your business or project.
As pointed out by a commenter in Part 1 of this piece, many hosting companies use buzzwords such as ‘Wordpress’ or ‘SEO’ or ‘Cloud’ hosting in their advertising to lure customers to use them over their competitors. You should note than all three of these things (and many more) can be accomplished with any hosting plan and some know-how.
If you already have a solution in place that you are happy with, you may wish to compare this guide with your current plan to ensure that you are getting the best value for your needs.
Please note that I am not affiliated in any way with any company listed in this article, I have included them here simply down to their reliability and because I feel that they offer good value for money. All quoted prices are valid at the time of writing (August 2015)
What to look out for
- 123-reg: First in this list primarily because I have used 123-reg myself for many years and have been consistently happy with their services and the prices they charge. 123-reg offer many types of domain extensions and filter their purchasable domain extensions by category (Sport, Food & Drink, Geographic etc). Their .co.uk domains are among the cheapest in the UK, selling for £3.49 per year for the first two years (going up to £6.99 per year after this period). Their .com domains are also around £23 per year. Each domain can be managed through their in-built Control Panel with a myriad of options for forwarding, DNS and Whois fixes.
- Namesco: A UK based company offering .co.uk domains for £6.99 per year and .com’s for £14.99 with discounts for multiple year purchases. Each domain purchase includes a free (but paltry) 100Mb of storage (that’s Mega bits, not Mega bytes) and website builder (good for one or two static pages but not much more) as well as a 100MB email mailbox for one address and a selection of free stock photographs. Perhaps not the most competitive domain supplier, Namesco has certainly stood the test of time and is a reliable competitor in the market.
- Hover: An American domain registrar which sticks to the basics. They offer a vast selection of domain extensions and divide them up by sub-category, recommending the most popular for your chosen field. A .com domain from Hover is reasonably priced at $12.99 per year. You receive WHOIS privacy opt-outs for free with each domain purchase (something which many domain suppliers will charge for). Not to mention their enticing transfer options, allowing you to keep your time from your current purchase as well as a free year added on for your trouble — nice one! Unfortunately they hide mail forwarding addresses behind a paywall at $5 per address (which many other domain providers offer for free), with mailboxes being priced depending on what size mailbox you desire at an additional $20 (10GB) or $29 (1TB) per year.
- Gandi: French-based domain registrar which offers a ‘no bullshit’ approach to domain hosting with over 500 domain extensions to choose from. Their .com domains are sold at €12.54 per year with .co.uk’s currently being sold at €7 per year. Gandi are well respected for their customer-first attitude. Each domain purchase includes full domain management with total control over DNS and forwarding settings, 5 mailboxes and up to 1000 forwarding addresses as well as a one-page website totally free.
- Hostgator: Hostgator’s services will certainly appeal to newbies in the web hosting sphere. Their hosting plans come in a variety of price ranges depending on the length of time you sign up for, with the ‘Baby’ plan being the most suitable of the three for most people’s needs. What is interesting is that each plan includes ‘Unmetered’ disk space and bandwidth — meaning that you receive effectively unlimited storage space for your website ‘within reason’, assuming that so long as you don’t vastly abuse the policy by hosting gigabytes of questionable files, you should not have a problem with your storage space or bandwidth needs. All aspects of these plans are configured through cPanel, a very competent management panel which allows you to configure your website storage, domains, email, databases, stats and FTP through a web-ready interface. Their 3 price brackets range from $3.96 - $6.36 - $10.36 per month with a 3 year buy-in. The primary difference between the packages is the amount of additional domains allowed, each package provides web space with ‘unmetered’ (i.e. unlimited, within reason) disk space and bandwidth. Hostgator would probably work best for businesses based in the Americas with long-term plans, their price ranges get a lot cheaper if you commit to a longer contract.
- 123-reg: Mentioned once already for their exceptional domain registration, 123-reg also offer great value web hosting packages. Perhaps their strongest point is UK telephone support, which many hosts simply do not offer. All of their hosting packages include a free .co.uk domain with a healthy amount of storage space (starting at 10GB on their cheapest packages). Although MySQL databases are limited on their cheaper packages (only 1 on the ‘Essentials’ package) all customers receive unlimited bandwidth for their website. Email allowance is good, with even the ‘Essentials’ package offering 100 mailboxes with a 1GB storage allowance to split between mailboxes. Although they do have their own management panel instead of cPanel, 123-reg are certainly a competent, trustworthy hosting solution for your business. Of the 4 price brackets available, there are a variety of differences with the web space available changing at each price range. The cheapest option ‘Essentials’ starts at £2.49 per month (ex VAT) ranging up to ‘Premium’ at £19.99 per month (ex VAT) with the first year at £14.99 per month. The ‘Essentials’ package offers 10GB of web space which for most small businesses with 1–5 websites hosted should be more than enough.
- 1&1: Offering slightly higher pricing than 123-Reg but with generally higher allowances for storage space and email storage, with both being unlimited on their ‘Unlimited Plus’, £6.99 per month package. Both Linux and Windows hosting can be chosen allowing for versatility in your software options. Strangely, 1&1 offer over 100 server software ‘apps’ which can be installed quickly and easily, including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, unfortunately they do not mention that these can be installed by any user themselves, which does come across as a little misleading — but arguably useful for customers who want to get themselves set up online fast. 1&1 offer 4 different types of shared hosting options with the cheapest ‘Starter’ set at £2.99 per month (ex VAT) includes 10 GB of webspace, 10 email accounts and 2GB of email storage - great for heavy email users. Unfortunately the Starter bundle only includes the capacity for 1 website, but this is bumped up to Unlimited on the further 3 packages. The Unlimited package is perhaps of best value, with unlimited webspace and unlimited website options and 2 GB of email storage for £4.99 (ex VAT) per month with an offer price of £2.99 per month for the first year. Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Pro seem to be a waste of money by comparison with their only real offers being added pre-installed Apps (which any user can install themselves).
- eUKhost: UK-based hosts eUKhost boast over 12 years experience in the web hosting industry and their hosting packages showcase why. Each of their Linux shared hosting plans is powered by cPanel and include unlimited monthly bandwidth. Storage space is also liberally given, with 2GB as minimum on their ‘Basic’ plan, with 10 GB and 20 GB on the ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’ plans respectively. Each plan includes 24/7 technical support too which should be of aid if you ever have a problem with your service. eUKhost also offers Windows hosting plans for those with .net software requirements. With three packages available for shared hosting with cPanel, the ‘Basic’ comes in at £3.33 per month (including VAT) with 2GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited email and 24 hour tech support. The only differentiation with the Intermediate (£4.99 per month) and Advanced (£6.99 per month) plans are an increase in the available MySQL database allowances and disk space (10 GB on Intermediate, 20 GB on Advanced).
- Memset: Memset is a highly recommended hosting company who’s customers include Boots, Lush Cosmetics and the BBC amongst others. Their VPS servers distribute resources from dedicated servers between users and can be configured as you see fit: with choices over hard drive type (HDD vs SSD for storage vs speed). cPanel comes at an extra cost on all virtual servers. With only a minimum term of 1 month and no set up fee, Memset also accommodates those who may want to try before they commit. What’s great about Memset is their customisation options, you can patch together your very own server exactly as you need it. All server options like CPU, Storage Space or RAM can scale up or down depending on your usage needs. Prices for Virtual Servers start at £3.25 per month, but I would suggest you consider the VM2000 at £6.45 per month at the very minimum to allow you enough RAM to install Plesk for easy server management.
- 4D: Eco-friendly hosting is what 4D strive for, with one of the greenest and most innovative data-centres in Europe. Their VPS options simplify things somewhat with 3 options: ‘Start-up’, ‘SME’ and ‘Enterprise’, giving you an easy option for deciding on your server based on your size of operation. The ‘Start Up’ package begins at £17 per month and includes 1 CPU core, 2GB RAM, 75 GB of disk space and 2000 GB of bandwidth as standard, with the SME and Enterprise packages increasing the amount of each of these options in line with the price increase. All VPS options include 24/7 support and free set up. cPanel is available on all packages for an additional £15 per month. All of the packages can be customised for additional resources.
- Bytemark: Certainly at the higher-end of the market, Bytemark offer dedicated servers with high monthly costs but with a focus on automated backups and priority of speed (SSD’s come as standard, with additional storage as an add on). The ‘Dual’ package is an entry level system with 8GB of RAM, 120GB SSD and 3.6GHz Dual Core Intel i3 Processor at £75 per month. Their ‘Pro’ and ‘Max’ dedicated servers ramp up the price to £145 and £179 per month respectively but also bump up the storage capacity and RAM (the Pro includes 4 1TB hard drives).
I hope that this piece has helped to give you a better idea of what hosting solutions are available on the market and some things to look out for. If you’re still unsure about which hosting provider to choose, this comparison of 10 leading suppliers from FirstSiteGuide is well worth a look.