Buyers Guide

Our Guide To Cheap Web Hosting

Every website and blog needs a reliable, fit for purpose web host, but it needn't be a huge expense. The fact is, even low-cost web hosting can be of high quality, and for many smaller websites or new blogs, a shared hosting solution will be sufficient and very budget friendly. The trick is to buy what you need. If you are a business which deals with customer data, then you will want to invest in a VPS system or a dedicated server. However, if you are operating a smaller digital asset or just starting out with a content based solution (rather than a transaction or e-commerce related website), you'll find plenty of low-cost, basic feature and good quality cheap web hosting services on offer with good support. 


What is web hosting?

Web hosting refers to a service that allows individuals and businesses to have a web page, website or blog online. A web hosting service provider is a business itself, providing the services and technology needed for that digital asset to be viewed online. These websites and blogs are stored - or hosted - on servers. When a user wants to view your online content, they type in your website address and their device connects to the server, allowing your content to be shared with them via the browser.

What do I need to know about domain names?

You will need a domain name in order buy hosting space with a hosting provider. However, if you don't yet have one - for example, if you are in the process of setting your content or site live - then the hosting company will usually be able to help you buy the right one. Many offer domain name purchasing alongside hosting.

What represents cheap hosting?

Prices have dropped significantly in the last decade and today it's safe to say that any package which has adequate features, and is priced at less than £5 a month, can be described as cheap. The sorts of basic features that you want to see are add-on domains, unlimited data transfer and generous storage.

Features to look for

Today's typical cheap hosting packages tend to offer up to 10 domains with basic support for analytics and tracking, web and email services, basic after-sales and technical support, updated MySQL and PHP, auto script installation, and server uptime of at least 99.8pc.

Other key features include malware scanning, regular server back-up, and private SSL certifications alongside a dedicated IIP address. However, bear in mind that the more you ask for, the more you will need to be prepared to pay.

Benefits

The benefits of cheap hosting are essentially that you buy a hosting solution that is fit for your purpose, but without having to pay over the odds for an overpriced service, or for features and services that you simply don't need.

Common issues

Bear in mind of course that low-cost providers may be associated with a few typical problems. These are common with all retailers of low-cost services in general and of course, we have to remember that commercial businesses exist to upsell and to make a profit. So look out for:

1) Aggressive cross-selling and upselling - this is typical with budget hosting as these firms make their real margins by recommending and selling add-on services, apps and products such as CDN services, CMS tools and themes, email spam protection, email management, top level domain registration services and more. Some of these offers will be genuinely good value and straightforward in nature, but be wary of signing up for something you are unsure about and watch out for the terms and conditions of 'free' trials.

2) Rushed servers - sometimes a provider's hosting will be extremely cheap because it is stuffing an excess of websites onto a single shared server. This vastly limits server resources and can result in frequent downtime and slow load rates - damaging your customer experience.

3) Hosting with bad neighbours - these are spammers, who use up the server resources through bad practices, or webmasters which are careless and become hacked. With the former, you can find yourself unable to access the resources you pay for. With the latter, you can find that your own site becomes at risk from malware.

4) Blacklisted IP - check the Spamhaus block list before you sign up to ensure your server IP is off that list.

5) A lack of technical support - some cheaper hosting companies have poor support available for customers. Avoid those firms which have a poor reputation for service, as you may need technical help if things go wrong.

6) Hidden fees for cancellation and expensive renewals - avoid being stung by checking the terms and conditions of your contract very carefully. For renewal fees, bear in mind that some cheap hosting firms charge a lot more at renewal point, so factor these costs into your decision-making process.

What does hosting uptime refer to and why is it important?

You will see up or downtime percentages advertised by service providers as part of their package marketing and the figure is vital because it tells you how reliable the server is, and how often your website is likely to go down on the server. Uptime refers to the amount of time that your website is available to internet users. In contrast, downtime refers to incidents which render it impossible to access. Downtime is therefore irritating for visitors, which can cost you traffic - and also revenue. Bear in mind too that if new potential visitors cannot access your site on the first occasion, they may not be inclined to try again.

Importantly, hosting providers provide guarantees of minimum uptime, which ensures they will have your site up and in operation within a service level agreement. A general rule is that you should never choose a hosting provider which has less than 99.9pc guaranteed uptime. To know whether or not your site is up and running consistently, you can find various monitoring tools online. Some simply run basic HTTP checks to confirm consistent operation, and others carry out complex back-end analysis and checks across different checkpoints.

Providers

There are a range of quality business hosting providers on the market, each with a targeted offer for their market and varying USPs. GoDaddy offers scalable, rapid and reliable hosting that grows with client needs. FastWebHost already has over 200,000 websites under its care, and One.com has won awards for its business and individual customer packages. A2 Hosting offers speeds of up to 20 times faster than the competition.

So, in conclusion, if your website or blog is small or new, you may find that cost effective shared hosting is right for you. Find a package that is affordable for two years - bearing in mind that your new online venture might not make money at the beginning. Look for a reliable service with good reviews, that has high uptime and few space limitations. With your cheap hosting sorted, you can keep your focus on where it needs to be - building your content, marketing it and growing your community.