Is Cheap Web Hosting a Good Option for Small Businesses?

If you are not familiar with the concept of web hosting and want to have a website, there are only a few things you have to understand to make a reasonable choice.

Web hosting is the place you rent to store your website. It’s like a storage facility on the internet, where you can keep all of your website’s content, code, videos and audio files or anything else you wish to upload.

Every business has to have a website in order to be able to gather customers and clients from the internet as well. When you’re just starting a business or if it is still small and every dollar counts, you want to cut corners wherever you can. You can definitely keep more money in the bank if you make the right choices when choosing a hosting provider, but first you have to understand what you’re choosing from.

The internet is littered with web hosting providers’ advertisements and reviewers that claim they have the best hosting solution for you. Yet, none of that matters if you yourself don’t actually understand what you’re getting into. It’s not that you have to understand everything, but you definitely want to know where your bucks are going every month and how you can minimize the amount of money spent.

It’s important to look around with open eyes when you’re looking for a hosting provider, because you’ll find plenty of compelling advertised prices that will turn out to require a 2-year contract. Most hosting providers have plenty of upsells and use a lot of pricing tricks to lure you in and tie you up with a year, two-year or three-year contract.

Now, I’m not saying that signing a two-year contract is by any means a bad thing, but it’s important that you know exactly how much money it will cost you and what you’ll be getting for it. To help you with that, we have composed this article. To help you find the cheapest hosting solution for your business, while still maintaining a high speed website and enjoying a powerful hosting service.

If you already have a basic understanding of web hosting and just want to know whether cheap hosting is good for your business or not, skip to the last section of this article.

So, without further ado, let’s get down to it!

The Basics

As I’ve said, web hosting is renting space on the internet. Now, there are three important variables in web hosting. These are speed, reliability (uptime) and customer support. There is also a fourth one, which is the features each individual company has to offer. We’ll cover these concepts in more detail.

Speed

In this rushing age, we want to get everything as fast as possible and we want it faster every day. We get frustrated if our technology lags half a second behind to what we expect. Which is why having a lightning fast website is of paramount importance for your business.

Most hosting providers only say that “yes our services are fast”, but to know how fast and whether it’s fast enough or not, you’ll have to look into it yourself.

If a user finds that your website doesn’t load fast enough, he or she will click away without hesitation. That explains why there is such a strong connection between website loading speed and conversion rates. If a webpage takes more than 2 seconds to load, it will definitely decrease conversion rates by 30% or more. There is about a $500 billion loss due to this single reason, for eCommerce sites every year.

So you should definitely do your research and test a web hosting provider’s services before devoting your money for an entire year.

The first thing is to read a review in which website loading speed has been measured. In an ideal scenario, you will want your website to load in less than a second. So, look for hosting providers that have continually proven to make websites load within 500-800 milliseconds. That’s about the loading time of a high speed website.

Lucky for you, we have covered this part in our hosting provider reviews, so you don’t have too much snooping around to do.

But you still have to test the loading speeds of your website. You can do it during the trial period of the hosting plan you buy. You can safely test any hosting provider’s services within the first month or two of the service.

Once you have a website set up on a server, you can measure its loading speed on a website called Pingdom and know whether it’s fast enough.

Reliability

Uptime, or reliability is the amount of time your website will be up and running on the server. Why wouldn’t it be up and running, you ask? Because the server might malfunction or there are a multitude of other reasons that your website would be down for a few seconds or minutes during the day. Nobody knows, but uptime is also measurable and you’ll want the highest numbers.

The industry standard is 99.72% uptime. This means that a website will be up throughout the year and there might be a few minutes here and there when it won’t be. To make it simpler, these numbers mean that it will be online for 364 days and it won’t be for 1 day. That’s still pretty good, but you’ll want to go as high as possible and choose a hosting provider with 99.99% or at least 99.80% uptime. Even such small numbers count if you want your website to be present through every second of the year.

Customer Support

If you don’t have much technical knowledge and even if you do, you’re bound to run into some problems that you’ll need your providers to help you with. You’ll be signing a contract with people, so it’s best to know who you’re signing that contract with. You’ll definitely want to be with a helpful bunch who you can count on whenever you need something, who won’t leave you hanging at the hour of need.

Of course, as you’d expect, every hosting provider advertises themselves as having a super-duper 24/7 customer support. That’s probably not true for all of them and they might end up pissing you off when you’re busy trying to figure out what’s not working or just want to have your questions answered.

The best place to know whether a company’s customer support team is good or not is listening to what other users have to say. The internet is littered with plenty of honest user comments. You don’t have to take my word or any other reviewer’s word for it. Read what the people of the internet have to say and you can figure it out yourself. But you’ll definitely see mixed opinions, because not everyone can be satisfied fully.

To leave with you something concrete, I’m going to say that it’s best to have a customer support that will get back to you within an hour (at max), once you’ve sent them your query.

Features

Now, there are a fine line of features in web hosting that either make your experience a whole lot better, or provide you with functions that you cannot live without. What kind of features would be best for you depends on what kind of website you’re looking to host.

Is it an eCommerce website or a portfolio website? Are you going to upload an astonishing amount of files or just a few? Do you want your bandwidth to be unlimited or are you okay with a fixed amount? There are an endless number of questions to ask, so I’ll just show the most common features you’ll be looking at and what they’re good for.

  • Secure Sockets Layer Certificate (SSL) – This is an advanced security feature that you’ll need if you’re building a website to sell. It encrypts the data that moves between your website and the customer.
  • Free Migrations – If you want to move your already existing website to your new host, then it would be great for someone else to do it for you for free, wouldn’t it?
  • Email Spam Filter – It’s useful to automatically weed out any unnecessary emails from your email accounts.
  • Malware and Virus Protection – The internet is dark and full of terrors. Hackers are always looking to exploit vulnerabilities and use them to their advantage. With the right security software, you can stop their malicious software from attacking your website, quickly and easily.
  • Website Backups – Making a backup of your website and files is one of the best ways to ensure that it’s always secure and that you have a plan B. Most hosting providers offer automated backup features and some of them even offer it for free! I’m pretty sure you’ll want go for the free option.
  • Unlimited Bandwidth, Disk Space and Email Addresses – Why would you ever risk falling short on these? Bandwidth decides how many users your website is able to serve, so why not make it able to serve as much as possible? Having an unlimited amount of space to store your website is also pretty convenient.
  • Solid State SSD Drives – In 2017, you shouldn’t choose a hosting provider that uses conventional hard disks. They are much slower and less reliable. Always go for SSD drives, because they make sure that your data is stored more safely and there is no lag when you try to load them or your website.

Choosing a Cheap Hosting Plan – Is It a Good Idea?

Yes, it definitely can be. But the statement that “you get what you pay for”, remains true in web hosting as well. There are plenty of $1 and $2 hosting plans that are definitely cheap but the service is cheap too. They come from „no-name“ companies that either just started out or have really shady terms of service. So it’s best to find reputable companies that have a history of positive customer feedback and a fine lineup of features. Basically, the goal is to pay about $2-$3, for a service that you would get for $6.

What To Look Out For With Cheap Hosting Plans

While the amount of money you can spare is pretty awesome, you’ll want to make sure that saving so much isn’t just a well-fabricated illusion; in many cases, it is.

Pricing Tricks

A lot of companies use pricing tricks that you have to look through. Sadly, only a few companies are truly transparent with their pricing. You’ll often see that you can only get their advertised monthly price if you sign a contract for at least 2 years. Oops!

But this fact would be hard to miss, so just pay attention when you’re looking to buy a certain plan.

High Renewal Cost

You’ll have to renew your hosting plan or your contract within a year or two, and the process always costs money. A lot of companies exploit this, because they know that if you have an already well-functioning website on their server, you won’t hesitate to pay that extra $50 to keep it that way, without having to do anything else.

Always try to find how much the renewal costs!

Extra services

Not every hosting provider is nice enough to offer free website migrations, free backups and malware removal. A lot of them demand big bucks for such services. You want to get as much for free as possible, so look at hosting providers that offer these services for free. This way, maintaining your website won’t ever be a pain in the … neck.

Being Smart About It

Probably the most important thing to do before signing a contract is reading through the fine print. That’s a must!

If you want to keep your expenses low, and don’t want to be surprise by any extra fees you have to pay, read the terms of service and any other information piece that offers a detailed description on what you’re buying into.

Signing up for a hosting company’s service is similar to getting into a relationship with a girl. You don’t always know what you’re getting into and they might turn out to be a bloodsucker in the end.

Hosting companies leverage the fact that you probably won’t move to another company if you already established your web presence with them and that’s when they start to demand more money. Your monthly price might jump up to 3x as much. So it’s only smart to know how much money that will be. In some cases, it’s better to pay 1$ more in the initial phase and know that the price will be consistent throughout the next 5 years or so.

The Cheapest Hosting Type

Among cheap hosting plans 9 out of 10 are shared hosting plans. Which means that you’ll have your website stored on the same server as a lot of other websites, hence, it’s called „shared hosting“. So guess what? We’re going to look through cheap, shared hosting plans!

Let’s Get Started!

We have looked through the cheapest hosting plans for this article, and selected the ones that offer the best value for a few bucks. To my surprise, some companies offer a lot of good stuff for just $2-$3. Let’s see…

iPage

Let me introduce the king of cheap hosting, iPage!

iPage aims most of their services towards small businesses and bloggers, because they realize the vision of users who are just starting out with their online presence. They want to spend as less money in the initial phase as possible. Which is why iPage gives them what they need, a super-cheap entry plan.

Of course, iPage has had a history with bad uptime, but their recent upgrades and new data centers have turned the tides to their favor. They’ve made some serious improvement in 2016 and their customers have been mostly satisfied ever since.

Their uptime is between 99.85% and 99.98% throughout the year, which is pretty solid, although in some months, it has been reported that their uptime dropped down to 99.50%. In my opinion, that’s still very much acceptable, taking their incredibly low pricing into consideration.

Their page loading times won’t give you stellar speed, since they move between 680 and 1000 milliseconds. If your website is built well enough or if it isn’t filled with too many large files, you should definitely be able to keep your loading times below 1 second.

iPage’s customer support is also quite nice. You can’t always expect a company to have good support for such a low price, but they sure do. You can reach them through phone, email or through live chat and have them answer your question or handle your problem within a matter of minutes.

Their plan also comes with plenty of extras, such as Enhanced Security Options, like the SiteLock security suite. It’s a software that helps in preventing security breaches from happening. It regularly scans for malware, viruses and other security flaws.

You can also connect third-party apps, such as Google AdWords, PayPal and other useful webmaster tools very easily. Installing content management systems like WordPress is also very easy and fast.

iPage also offers a free website builder and a free domain name too.

iPage’s first and cheapest plan, the Go Plan costs only $1.99 per month and requires a 2-year contract, which is really worth it in my opinion. With it, you get unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited domain names and databases, along with the goodies I already mentioned. So if you’re looking for something twice as cheap, than this is the hosting plan you should choose. But it’s important to note that there are a number of upsells to look out for. Some say that their monthly package has went up to more than $5 per month, once they had to renew their plan after 2 years. They charge 35$ for early cancellations. So, the smartest thing to do is to leverage the cheap introductory price and enjoy their hosting services for 2 years. If you don’t like it you can always move your website. You also have a 30-day trial period with money-back guarantee.

There are two other shared hosting plans on iPage’s list. For example, the WP Starter pack comes with a customized control panel and preinstalled important plugins. It’s really convenient for those who just want to upload a blog or a simple website, without having to do any of the technical stuff themselves. It costs $3.75 per month.

There’s also the WP essential, that’s even more awesome for hosting a WordPress site. It costs $6.95, and it offers an SSD based infrastructure which will boost your website’s speed by a great deal.

Overall, iPage is the cheapest hosting provider that offers decent services, but you’ll find something much better if you’re willing to pay an extra dollar per month.

HostGator

HostGator is one of the most well-established companies in the web hosting business and they have been around for more than 10 years. They are not short on experience and constantly strive to provide users with a robust web hosting service that they can rely on. Their technologies are constantly developed, which provides their services with enough speed to run a website quite smoothly and a very impressive, even flawless uptime. The hosting services they provide are excellent value for your money, although it does cost twice as much as iPage’s service. To make up for that, they have much better uptime and all of their other services (support, etc.) are better as well.

You’ll see that their servers’ uptime doesn’t go below 99.99%, so you can rest assured that your website is constantly available throughout the entire year, without ever going off even for a second. You can expect loading speeds to be between 600 and 800 milliseconds and maybe even go up to 1000 milliseconds during a busy day, but it will still run your website well. You can expect about the average speed.

HostGator has some pretty awesome support operators behind their user’s back, who are available 24 / 7 / 365. You can reach out to them through phone, email or live chat. You’ll get a response within a 15 -30 minute time frame, which is outstanding in my opinion. This is the definition of a good customer support.

In order to sweeten their deal, HostGator also offers free website migrations, so it will be infinitely easy to move your already existing website to their servers. If you go as far as to pay for their more premium plans, you’ll also have an SSL certificate, automated daily backups and more.

If you are a beginner, or even if you’re not, you’ll definitely like that HostGator has simplified everything as much as possible. They have plenty of FAQ pages and documentation to help you grasp each and every function and to provide you with step-by-step walkthroughs.

HostGator’s services start from $3.95 / month, with the Hatchling Plan, which provides you with unmetered bandwidth, plenty of one click installs for apps and content management systems and the space to have a single domain.

If you’re willing to spend an extra dollar ($4.95 / month) you can go higher with the other shared hosting plans, but I would recommend you go for the HostGator Cloud service, because it is twice as fast as any shared hosting plan on the internet. Also, don’t forget that cloud hosting is the way to the future, since it’s much faster and much more reliable.

So, there are plenty of cheap hosting options at HostGator, and all of them are high quality and very reliable.

Although, HostGator has plenty of redeeming qualities there are a few letdowns as well. They use a few pricing tricks, meaning that if you want to go for the advertised price ( $3.95 ), then you’ll have to sign up for at least three years. If you sign up for less, than the price will increase or if you sign up for a one-year period, then the price will go up by 150%. So, it’s a long term decision to start doing business with HostGator. Otherwise, it might not be worth it.

They also demand extra for “True” backups, meaning “Automated backups” are paid for. If you want backups for free, you’ll have to do them manually. But if you want to spare the work and have it automated, then it will cost an extra $15.95 every year.

Overall, if you’re thinking about building a website that will last for at least three years or if you’re thinking in long term options, than HostGator is probably the best. It’s stable and reliable throughout the entire year.

BlueHost

BlueHost has become a household name among WordPress users, due to its cheap and reliable services. It is among the 3 recommended hosting companies on WordPress’ official website, because they really understand the system and provide great support for it. Other than that, BlueHost’s hosting services will handle any website you upload. This hosting company has a number of good things going for it. The first one is the low introductory pricing. You’ll also get started with their service relatively easily and quickly, so it’s perfect for beginners.

They also offer a lot of goodies in their hosting services, the first one being a number of good security options. They provide plenty of tools that will combat most of the common website risks, such as spam, DDoS attacks and more. You’ll get software like Spam Experts, Spam Hammer, Spam Assassin, CloudFlare (for DDoS attacks), so your website will be quite safe from the peskiest hackers on the internet. They also provide link protection  that prevents people from stealing any content from your website. Thanks to their IP address blacklists, they’ll block any known, problematic individuals who would try to access any of your data without permission.

Just like the above mentioned hosts, they also feature many app integrations. You have Google apps and CloudFlare for free, which will increase the possibilities your website has by a great deal.

The core of their services (uptime, speed, customer support) are quite good.

BlueHost’s uptime is 99.90% on average throughout an entire year, so you can rest assured that your website will always show up when people log onto it. Maybe it will be down for a second, here and there, but it won’t have any significant downtime.

Their loading speeds are also average. They move between 1000 and 1200 milliseconds, which is why BlueHost is the third on this list. That isn’t stellar speed but it can be called decent.

Their customer support could be a lot quicker. They take their time to answer. It takes them about 40 minutes or an hour to answer a query, which is okay but it’s not fast.

BlueHost’s basic shared plan costs $3.49 per month, which isn’t too expensive, but you get a much better service for $0.50 more. Also, you can only get that price if you sign a 36-month contract. If you want a 12-month contract, the price will go up to $4.95. You can get the awesome cloud hosting plan at HostGator for that price.
Also, site migrations aren’t free, which is quite a letdown. The services here aren’t truly „unlimited“ as their advertisements say. You can only have 1,000 databases and you can’t go over 3GB database usage, because they might terminate your account for it. This is stated in their terms of service. Here’s a good lesson why you should always read the terms of service!

For more information about BlueHost’s other plans and their pricing, check out their official website!

Conclusion

There you have it! A straight forward guide to how you can find your small business the best and cheapest hosting service out there. You can get an awesome hosting plan even with a little amount of money. A lot of businesses have grown incredibly large from humble beginnings. I hope that your business will do the same. For now, you have yourself the cheapest places where you can store your website for the upcoming years!

I hope that we helped you learn something new today and that you’ve enjoyed reading through this article! Stay safe!

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