Welcome to the CNET 2020 directory of web hosting services. In this directory, we’ll look at a few of the best web hosting providers like Bluehost, A2Hosting, Hostinger, DreamHost, HostGator, InMotion Hosting and more. In this evaluation of the best web hosting providers, we’re featuring commercial web hosting companies that offer WordPress, VPS, shared hosting and many more web hosting services, along with a variety of annual and monthly plans.
Let’s look at each of the web hosting companies below in a little more depth to help you find the best web hosting provider to meet your needs.
Read more: The best website builders for 2020 The best password managers for 2020 and how to use them
Special offer: Save over $100 with a free WordPress hosting upgrade at InMotion Hosting!
- Shared hosting starting at $2.59/mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $2.59/mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $10/mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $149/mo.
- Cloud hosting starting at $4.50/mo.
Web hosting is, no doubt, as much a cutthroat business as any other. But that’s why the fact that DreamHost’s ongoing offer to provide a free shared website to 501(c)(3) nonprofits is so notable. (Full disclosure: A nonprofit I was affiliated with once took advantage of this offer.)
Beyond that, DreamHost is a top website hosting platform for many reasons. First, it operates its own control panel, which is convenient and easy to understand. While phone customer support isn’t available 24/7, it is responsive to live chat and tickets. The company uses super-fast SSDs for all its storage, has a free SSL certificate (for more secured web browsing) and provides SSH access for those plans that are intended for more technical users.
Other things we like about Dreamhost: First, the company’s pricing is pretty transparent. There are no hidden gotchas in the rates. Plus, DreamHost provides a 97-day money back guarantee. There’s quite literally zero risk in giving them a try.
When you sign up to Bluehost, you’ll get a free domain name for the first year, along with a free SSL certificate (allowing you to operate a secure website for your personal use or business).
If you’re a WordPress user, Bluehost is definitely a web hosting provider to consider. While its managed WordPress hosting is a little more pricey than basic shared hosting, the company has both specific WordPress and WooCommerce hosting plans available (along with management support). It also offers a site migration service for an additional fee.
The web hosting provider got bonus points for its policy of performing regular daily backups, even on the lowest-priced shared hosting accounts. Be aware, though, that the promotional price on the low-cost shared hosting does go up after the promotional period. That said, Bluehost offers 24/7 phone support, a 30-day money-back guarantee and SSH access for certain plan options.
A2 Hosting does a lot of things right. It offers Linux and Windows-based servers, SSD, caching, CDN and SSL for all plans. While some plans offer uptime monitoring and regular backups, all plans offer malware scanning and automatic patching and updates.
The hosting provider offers a managed hosting service called HostGuard. Subscribers of this service have access to a 24/7/365 “Guru Crew” support team that manages network, hardware, software and security. Managed hosting for WordPress customers begins at $9.78/mo and for VPS customers at $25/mo.
The web hosting provider offers solid plans with a good selection of features. The one area we’re concerned about is how it presents its offers. Like many hosting providers, its published pricing is a bit misleading. You’re not getting hosting for $2.96/mo unless you pay $71 for two years of service. Renewals are generally at a higher rate, although a salesperson we spoke to advised you ask for a “loyalty discount.”
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that, like other web host providers, A2 Hosting’s unlimited plans aren’t actually unlimited. It expect you to use its service like “similarly situated customers.” This is like being on a highway. If everyone is going a few miles above the speed limit, you’re probably okay, but if you’re barreling down the fast lane past everyone else, you’re probably going to be asked to slow down.
The company offers a solid 30-day money back guarantee it calls an “Anytime” money back guarantee. Yeah…kind of. You can ask for your money back at any time, but after your first 30 days, how much you get back will depend on a painfully complex pro-rating system.
But, again, operationally it’s quite strong. 24/7/365 customer support is available not only by live chat and email, but by phone. It offers free site migrations with some dedicated attention paid to making a transfer as smooth as possible. And, if you’re willing to go for one of the higher-end plans, the company has put some serious attention into performance and caching.
Note: On Aug. 25, Hostinger revealed that up to 14 million users might have been impacted by a security breach. The company reset passwords for all impacted accounts. Original post follows.
Hostinger, a hosting provider based out of Lithuania, boasts it signs up a new client every five seconds. With 29 million users in 178 countries and subsidiaries in the US, Indonesia and Brazil, the company has been in operation since 2004.
See also: Hostinger in-depth review and hands-on testing
Hostinger has a nice selection of plans, all of which can be optimized for WordPress. We particularly liked that even the least expensive plans offered some level of SSH access for those who need it. The company gained points for its offering of SSD performance, dedicated IP, and regular backups for some plans.
What sets the company apart is its first-year hosting price of less than a buck a month. The company’s least expensive plan is a startlingly low 80 cents a month. This is the least expensive hosting program we’ve seen, although the price does go up after that first year. In fact, most of the company’s plans increase after its promotional price expires.
Hostinger offers a 30-day money back guarantee with wording we wish more providers would use: “If for any reason you decide not to continue with Hostinger, we will offer a full refund on your purchase, no questions asked.” If you have any questions, the company has customer support with live chat lines available 24/7.
HostGator is a full-service hosting company, with plans for almost any need. Whether you’re starting out and need a very basic shared site, or need to be able to operate your own machine dedicated solely to your company, HostGator has a service that can help.
See also: HostGator in-depth review and hands-on testing
We like how HostGator not only allows more sophisticated site builders to customize their dedicated or virtual server, but also to choose Linux or Windows hosting. While HostGator doesn’t support SSDs on all plans, many of its servers can be equipped with the faster drives.
HostGator gained points for uptime monitoring and regular backups, along with free cPanel or Plesk. We liked that SSH is available for the more technically inclined site operators and that dedicated IP addresses could be purchased. We did take points off because it’s sometimes difficult to tell what the price is once promotional plans run their course. That said, with a generous 45-day money back guarantee, there’s a hosting solution for almost everyone at HostGator.
Probably the first thing most folks will notice about iPage is the low price for shared hosting service. At less than two bucks a month for the 36-month plan, you can buy three full years of hosting for under $75, a jaw-dropping deal no matter how you look at it.
That two buck price will go to $7.99 up after your 36 months are over. The company does not claim to offer unlimited bandwidth, but low-end hosting plans generally don’t require a tremendous amount of traffic capacity. If you do sustain a big surge, contact the company and it’ll work with you.
The company now includes a bunch of freebies, even in its lowest-priced plans. It offers $100 in ad credits both for Google and Bing, along with free SiteLock web security.
We like how iPage offers 24/7 telephone customer support and live chat and a 30-day guarantee on top of its low price.
We particularly like that the company offers free backups and SSH access, even on its lower-end plans. WordPress support with integrated WP-CLI is also available.
See also: InMotion in-depth review and hands-on testing
Here are some of the reasons the company gets a top rating. It offers an all-SSD infrastructure. It has 24/7 telephone customer support in addition to the ticket, email and live chat support options. It offers a basic site migration, in that it’ll unpack a site saved from another cPanel instance. It offers free SSL and free malware detection.
Rounding out the wins, InMotion offers a full 90-day money-back guarantee. On top of that, here’s a special money-saving hint. In a chat session confirming pricing and offerings, the operator offered me some special prices and deals that reduced the published price by a few bucks. I was also told that while promotional pricing does go up at the end of the offer period, if you contact customer service, InMotion has a “loyal customer discount” that may bring the price back down.
Complete Internet Solutions
The first thing that caught our eye about Complete Internet Hosting was a great answer to my biggest complaint about hosting providers. Most hosting providers will suck you in with a relatively aggressive starting price, but when it comes time to renew, the renewal price can be two or three times the original price. I’ve even found one company that renews at more than six times the original price.
The thing is, it’s very difficult to change hosting providers, so those with those big renewal up-charges count on locking you in. When that renewal bill shows up, it can be shocking, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than you expect.
Complete Internet Solutions is not like that. The price they quote is your locked-in price. In addition, they offer a free twelve months on top of your term. So, if you sign up for two years at $3.95 a month, you pay $94.80 for the two years, and then pay nothing for another year. If you choose to renew at the end of those three years, you can repeat that pricing program without a fee increase. This is how it should be done.
Another thing that caught our eye was their support offerings. They’re available with US-based technical support via phone, live chat, and support ticket 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s nice to know that if help is needed, it’s available at all times of the day or night.
Finally, we were quite happy with their money-back guarantee. They offer a full 90-day guarantee (except for domain names you buy) and a pro-rated refund for the rest of your time. So if you want to cancel after 18 months and have six months left in your term, you’ll get back the cost of the six remaining months. It’s clear, it’s understandable, and it’s the straightforward way we’d like to see most providers use as a model.
As dedicated coffee fans, we love the name MochaHost. The company has a wide range of offerings, but by far, the stand-out feature MochaHost provides is a 180-day money-back guarantee. That’s the best we’ve seen so far, and it removed just about all of the risk from any hosting experience.
Overall, we were impressed with how customer-centric the company’s offerings are. For example, unlike some of the hosting providers we’ve profiled (and deducted points from), MochaHost’s published prices don’t balloon once you’ve settled in with its service. It has a lifetime price-lock guarantee.
You get other customer-centric bonuses for 24/7 customer support, including 24/7 toll-free callback phone support, free domain name and SSL certificates for as long as you remain a MochaHost customer, a website builder with 500 free templates (and a service that will custom-design your site if you need) and a site migration service. In addition, all plans are e-commerce ready and come with free shopping cart software.
For more business-oriented customers, it offers a full range of VPS and cloud hosting, along with serious Java Tomcat hosting, including shared and private JVMs, as well as Java VPS offerings. With a company named MochaHost, you’d expect some quality Java support and it has it. So brew yourself a cuppa, open a browser window and give MochaHost a spin. You have half a year to make up your mind, so if it turns out MochaHost really isn’t your cup of tea, it’ll understand.
Web Hosting Hub
- Shared hosting starting at $4.99/mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $4.99/mo.
Web Hosting Hub has an entry-level starting price, but some surprisingly valuable benefits for such a low-price entrant.
In particular, Web Hosting Hub uses BoldGrid as a site builder. BoldGrid is actually an add-on to WordPress, so there’s no lock-in. This overcomes the major problem of most site builders: you’re locked into that host and that tool, often requiring you to completely rebuild your site if you want to expand. By using a WordPress-based solution, all of the rather considerable power of a WordPress site is available for future expansion.
We liked how Web Hosting Hub describes its new customer process. It tells new customers, “We walk you through setting up your account in a personal on-boarding call.” The company has a few other wins as well. It offers an all-SSD infrastructure, automatic vulnerability patches and a custom firewall, SSH access for certain plans, free site migration and an excellent 90-day money-back guarantee.
Other hosting providers
Web Hosting Pad
Web Hosting Pad has a strong international presence. The company has servers in US, Hong Kong, mainland China and Korea, and you can specify which server and location you want when you sign up.
In terms of what many vendors call unlimited service, Web Hosting Pad’s terms of service indicate that its definition of unlimited is what it calls “incremental.” Basically, as you need more capability, it wants to discuss that with you, both to help you get the most out of its services, and to make sure you’re using its systems without abusing them.
The company’s entry-point pricing is extremely low — we’d say it’s among the cheapest web hosting when you first start — and while this will buy you up to three years of very low-cost hosting, do be aware that its post-promotion price will increase substantially, putting its subsequent year pricing more in line with the rest of its competitors. That said, we liked its 24/7 phone customer support, SSD support on some plans and 30-day money-back guarantee.
Established back in 1998, HostPapa operates three state-of-the-art data centers. Equipped with multiple GigE fiber connections to the internet backbone, the company built out seismically braced racks and cabinets, fully redundant Liebert HVAC cooling systems, a diesel generator that can run for weeks and a preaction dry pipe fire suppression system.
All of this infrastructure has been built out to support the a wide range of hosting services. The family-owned company gains points for understanding the importance of transaction security by offering free AutoSSL and Let’s Encrypt SSL encryption for its plans. While the company offers sophisticated services for technically strong clients, it also has a Weebly web builder option to get you up and running quickly.
Some plans offer SSD performance, and while there’s no uptime monitoring provided, the company also gained a nod for its offering of both Linux and Windows plans.
For the technically inclined, SSH access is available for a $2/mo upcharge, as is a dedicated IP address. The company allows for backup through its various dashboards and permits customers to build scripts to automate the backup process. While the company doesn’t automatically perform malware scans, you can request one if desired.
BigCommerce is a bit different from our other hosting plans in that it’s a SaaS (software-as-a-service) provider instead of an IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) provider. In other words, rather than renting space on a virtual machine where you setup and configure your own site, BigCommerce provides you with an app you login to that creates and online store.
So instead of worrying about servers and hosting applications, SSH and cPanel, you’re going to be paying more attention to the business applications you can integrate with, the selling channels you use and the products and inventory you spotlight.
The key benefit is that, out of the box, you are able to host securely, drive traffic, convert visitors, accept payments, and ship and fulfill orders. There’s even an API so that if you do scale and need special integrations unique to your business, you can make it happen.
Service price varies a lot. There are really two factors: how much you pay per transaction and the features offered. All plans charge $0.30 per transaction plus a percentage.
At the lowest end, you’ll be paying 2.9% of the amount you charge. Bumping up to the Plus plan gets you a lowered 2.5% of the transaction fee and adds Google customer reviews, the ability for customers to filter their product searches and custom SSL (a security certificate you may have already purchased).
The Pro plan is costly, but you get a lot. First, you share considerably less of each transaction’s cost, down to 2.2%. Then, on top of the Plus plan features, you get even more customized filtering, price lists, unlimited API calls, can have sales up to $400K per month, and get premium hosting account services.
If your hosting needs lean towards setting up an online store first and foremost, give BigCommerce a look.
- Shared hosting starting at $4/mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $1/mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $2/mo.
- Dedicated server starting at $45/mo.
- Cloud hosting starting at $15/mo.
1&1 IONOS provides a wide range of hosting services, along with a full e-commerce stack, domain name registration, Office 365 solutions and online marketing programs.
The company also offers higher-end Windows and Linux servers, available with Plesk and cPanel respectively. We were very intrigued to see that the company offers low-end Atom-based dedicated servers as well as the more traditional Xeon-based machines. One great resource for those doing some basic experimentation, or site development, is that it has a free, three-month trial for one of its lightly equipped Atom servers.
Be careful when placing an order with this company. Most of its plans jump in price after a year, but some (like dedicated servers) jump after six months, and the buck-a-month advertised basic web hosting plan jumps to $4 per month after just a month of service.
Good phone, email and chat tech support, along with SSD-based hosting for faster performance and a free SSL certificate round out the offerings.
- Shared hosting starting at $3.95/mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $3.95/mo.
- Reseller server starting at $42/year.
- Cloud hosting starting at $80/mo.
SiteGround sits in the middle ground between a consumer web hosting provider and those who cater to enterprise business solutions. If you’ve got a small business with more complex web needs than a typical small business, SiteGround is an ideal solution.
Although offerings start as low as $3.95 per month, we particularly like the company’s GoGeek plan, which is chock full of useful features, including access to a staging server and one-click Git repo creation.
There’s a lot to like about SiteGround, but the company did lose some points due to its policy of more than doubling your hosting costs after the first year. That nice $3.95/mo price shoots up to $11.95 per month. The company calls it a first-year discount, but that’s in very tiny, light gray print.
On the plus side, SiteGround offers free automatic daily backups, access to the Cloudflare CDN, high-performance SSDs for all plans, unlimited email accounts and integration of the free LetsEncrypt SSL certificate into sites. The company does limit bandwidth and storage, but even those who claim to offer so-called unlimited bandwidth and storage really have some limits in its terms of service.
SiteGround is proactive about protecting its customers’ security. It has a dedicated security team that writes necessary patches and web firewall rules that help mitigate zero-day vulnerabilities. It also uses an AI-based system to monitor and apply fixes to all its servers dynamically.
Finally, the company offers an entire tier of custom enterprise business services. So, if you start out with a small business and do GrowBig (as its mid-tier plan is named), you’ll be able to stay with the company no matter how big you get.
- Shared hosting starting at $2.95/mo.
- WordPress hosting starting at $2.95/mo.
- Reseller hosting starting at $19.95/mo.
- VPS hosting starting at $5/mo.
- Dedicated servers starting at $169/mo.
If you’ve ever been worried about the tremendous amount of power large data centers consume, you might want to sign up with Green Geeks. The “green” in the company’s name reflects the Green Geeks’ commitment to the environment. It purchases three times the energy it actually uses in wind energy credits, essentially putting energy back into the economy. The company does this through a form of renewable energy certificates, which, while a bit complicated, means that it’s not just energy neutral, i’s actually helping fuel the green energy economy.
Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it limits your power to do what you need with your websites. Rather surprisingly, its low-end account provides both SSH and WP-CLI (useful for WordPress websites and automated WordPress deployments) access, along with Git preinstalled. It’s also possible to customize PHP and PHP.INI, a capability unheard of on a low-end plan.
The company offers an all-SSD infrastructure, 24/7 phone support, 30-day money-back guarantee, free site migration and malware detection. The only concern we had is that after your discounted purchase period expires, basic shared hosting jumps to $9.95 per month.
- Shared hosting starting at $4.95/mo.
- Reseller hosting starting at $24.95/mo.
- Elastic Sites hosting starting at $13.49/mo.
- Semi-dedicated servers starting at $49.99/mo.
- Managed dedicated servers starting at $129.95/mo.
- Cloud VPS hosting starting at $75.00/mo.
- Enterprise cloud hosting starting at $199.00/mo.
GlowHost offers a wide variety of plans for those with very different hosting needs. We were particularly impressed with its media hosting plans, which include offerings for FFmpeg, SHOUTcast and podcast hosting.
The company doesn’t list a virtual private server offering, but it bills its Elastic Sites service as a VPS alternative, offering the ease of use of a simple shared hosting plan and the performance and scalability of a VPS. GlowHost also offers a number of different cloud hosting plans, with special attention to providing enterprise-grade services.
GlowHost earned our kudos for its 91-day money-back guarantee. It’s six days short of DreamHost’s 97-day guarantee, but with these numbers, who’s quibbling over a few days? The company also offers 24/7/365 phone support option and free cPanel offering for most plans. The company operates 18 data centers worldwide. Finally, the company garnered extra kudos by driving all its hosting services with wind power.
Planning your purchase
When shopping for web hosting solutions, keep a few things in mind
Big price jump after promo period
Many web hosting services offer a low “starting price,” but require you to prepay for two or three years of service to get that price. After the promotional period, the renewal price for some web hosting services can be two, three, or even four times the initial promotional pricing. While the initial deal might be incredible, the cost of transferring your site (or paying the added fee) in a couple of years may be something to consider for even the cheapest web hosting service.
What “unlimited” really means
Many web hosting services offer so-called unlimited or unmetered service for whatever amount of bandwidth, disk storage and sites you use. It’s important to understand that most terms of service actually do limit the definition of “unlimited” to what’s considered reasonable use. The bottom line is simple: if you’re building a pretty basic website, unlimited bandwidth means you don’t need to worry. But if you’re trying to do something excessive (or illegal, immoral or fattening), the fine print in the hosting platform’s terms of service will trigger, and you’ll either be asked to spend more or go elsewhere.
Watch out for page builders
Almost all the services offer some sort of drag-and-drop website builder that makes it easy to drag and drop items to build your page. These are great for getting started, but they often lock you into the service. Most website builder setups are proprietary to the service, or don’t create HTML that’s portable enough to be easily moved to another service if you decide it’s necessary.
Migration services are great, mostly
Migration or transfer services are often free or offered at a reasonable fee at web hosting companies. These services help move your existing site to the new hosting provider. They can save a huge amount of hassle. Just remember that the migration process is often automated, and may fit in with the host’s processes and needs rather than yours. Not everything may migrate, and you may find the organization of the newly migrated site makes for harder maintenance in the long run.
Keep those concepts in mind as you shop for a hosting service. Our hosting service rankings are based on nearly 40 factors including quality of the support team, guarantee, availability of security services, performance architecture and promotional pricing.
More information about website hosting
You may also find other hosting services more appropriate depending on your needs. Hosting services such as cloud hosting, e-commerce hosting, reseller hosting and WordPress hosting are providing customers with a lot of flexibility.
Cloud-based hosting is a great option if you want to make sure you have a lot of storage space and allows you to utilize cloud computing to do so. There are many advantages to selecting cloud-based hosting, such as guaranteed server resources, redundant data storage and unlimited website growth.
E-commerce hosting is a popular option for many online businesses. In addition to providing customers with functionality for an e-commerce site, many web-hosting service providers are also capable of providing you with a web server to host your website, along with an email server and other standard web-hosting features.
Reseller hosting is ideal for users who are interested in using his or her allotted hard drive space and bandwidth to host websites on behalf of third-parties. To do this, the reseller will need to purchase the host’s services wholesale and then sell them to customers separately for a potential profit at retail prices.
WordPress hosting is an ideal platform for customers who are interested in creating a custom-built website. WordPress is popular among customers because it lets you build a professional custom website using a variety of templates, plug-ins and widgets.
What about after picking a provider?
Once you choose your provider, it’s time for you to open an account with the monthly plan that fits your needs. If you still have questions about which plan is suitable for you, call its customer support staff and have them assist you through the registration process. Companies will generally charge a credit card on a monthly basis, however, some companies will also offer discounts for paying a yearly payment at once.
After selecting a provider, it’s highly recommended that you test your internet speed to ensure that the data is being processed in a timely manner. You can take the Internet Speed Test to instantly assess your load time and current upload and download internet speeds.
How to speed up your website? Finding the fastest hosting provider?
People often think that a web host is the main cause of a slow website but, this is often not the case. When picking a provider, it’s important for find a hosting provider that is close to your users and has a good amount of RAM and fast CPU power. Beyond that, it’s often the way the website is set up that slows it down for users. To ensure that your website speed is optimal for users you need to make sure you pay attention to the following:
- Minimize HTTP requests to the server. This means that we limit the amount of request that are required to download the page
- Enable server caching. With server caching, after content has been download, the content is stored locally to allow faster access of the content and a reduction of strain on your web server.
- Enable compression of larger files. Compression reduces the bandwidth of your files, resulting in a lower HTTP response.
- Remove code bloat. Remove any unnecessary code or plugins.
- Optimize images. This will reduce overall page size.
There are many other ways to increase website speed but, these are the items that will have the biggest impact.
What if I can’t find my questions here?
Many of your questions can be answered in our CNET Forums. If you’re still seeking additional answers, then you may find more helpful information in our database of web hosting articles.
Originally published two years ago. Periodically updated with new recommendations.