If you have a business, you need a website. It’s that simple. Companies without an online presence face a huge challenge, because we live in a connected world where people discover new products, services, and businesses—even mom and pop shops—by researching them on the internet. Of course, building a business website may take months of detailed planning, debating, and compromise, but setting up a decent website doesn’t have to be painful, provided you have the proper tools. The most important tool is the right web hosting service.
The Business Hosting Basics
If you aren’t familiar with web hosting, here’s a simple explanation. A web host is a company that has servers that you’ll use to store and deliver the audio, video, documents, graphics, and other files that make up your website and its content. These servers can be of the shared, dedicated, or virtual varieties. If you want to learn more about those hosting types, please visit the highlighted links that are sprinkled throughout this article for primers on each of them. If you want to launch your own web hosting company without many of the associated hardware headaches, you should look into reseller hosting.
There are dozens upon dozens of web hosting services clamoring for your dollar and offering many hosting types. That said, we’re focusing on a specific hosting type: business hosting. Business hosting is, admittedly, a somewhat vague term. Technically, if a business has a website detailing the company’s location, operating hours, and other information, its hosting provider, no matter how small, is acting as business hosting. We are not focusing on that. Instead, we’re highlighting web hosts that have infrastructures devoted to larger businesses.
The Business Features You Need
When you begin shopping for business hosting, it’s good to have a list of the features you need. For example, you’ll want a web host that offers virtual private servers, dedicated servers, advanced cloud server platforms (such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud), high-end WordPress options, custom server builds should you need it, and 24/7 customer support. Depending on your business’ focus, you may need a web host that can handle pageviews or visitors that rank in the high thousands or millions. Basically, anything more advanced than shared web hosting.
If you’re planning on selling a product, look for a web host that offers a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, because it encrypts the data between the customer’s browser and web host to safeguard purchasing information. You’re probably familiar with SSL; it’s the green padlock that appears in your web browser’s address bar as you visit an online financial institution or retail outlet. A few companies toss in a SSL certificate free of charge; others may charge you roughly $100 for that extra security layer.
How Much Does Business Hosting Cost?
A dedicated server will likely cost you more than $100 per month; it’s definitely not cheap web hosting. The benefit? Your website lives on a server all by its lonesome, so it takes advantage of the server’s full resources. You’ll probably need to handle firewalls, updates, and maintenance yourself, however, unless you opt for a managed server, which costs even more money.
Managed hosting is a service offered by web hosts that sees the company handle the care and maintenance of your dedicated server. Basically, the web host acts as your IT squad. If you rather have a web host do the server-related dirty work, managed hosting is the way to go.
Depending on how you spec out your hosting package, your can easily expect to pay close to $1,000 per month. Maybe more! Still, that price comes with excellent security, stellar customer service that onboards you, and a scalable architecture that lets you grow as needed with no downtime.
Some web hosts offer prorated plans that charge you by the amount of resources that your site demands. For example, Cloudways hosting plans start at $0.0139 per hour, which, including fees, equals roughly $10 per month. That’s assuming that your site’s online at the beginning of the month; if your site goes live half way through a month, you’ll see a reduced bill that reflects two weeks’ worth of resources use. Similar rules apply should you quit the web host.
The Importance of Uptime
All the aforementioned features are valuable parts of the web hosting experience, but none matches the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, new clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services. As if that weren’t bad enough, regular customers may lose confidence in your service if they can’t reach your site. Or they may simply need access to a service or widget today, which means they might go to a competitor to get the job done—and they might never come back. Anyone who’s ever tried to build customer loyalty understands what a catastrophe this is.
To test this critical aspect of hosting, we include uptime monitoring as part of our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Sites with uptime problems aren’t eligible for high scores, no matter how good the rest of their offering may be. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to quickly address the problem are penalized accordingly.
Are You Ready to Get Started?
We understands that no two businesses have the same web hosting requirements, so we’ve rounded up our best-reviewed web hosting companies for small businesses and detailed their offerings in the table above so that you can get a jump-start on picking a service. If an offering catches your eye, make sure to click the appropriate link from the capsules below to read the in-depth review of the service in question.
If you’re just getting started with web hosting, make sure to check out our primer, How to Build a Website, and How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website.
Featured in This Roundup:
Dreamhost Web Hosting
Pros: Lots of security features.
Extensive domain-management tools.
Generous money-back guarantee.
Good VPS offering.
Unlimited data transfers per month.
Cloud storage plans.
Cons: No site builder.
High setup fee with monthly plans.
Long wait times for help chat.
Lacks Windows-based dedicated servers.
Bottom Line: Dreamhost strikes a near-perfect balance between features and price, but it’s for users who are familiar with website administration.
If you don’t have the tools to build your own site or don’t already have one to migrate, Dreamhost might not be for you.
A2 Web Hosting
Pros: Robust hosting packages, particularly WordPress.
Excellent customer service.
Good money-back refund plan.
Cons: No Windows server options.
Bottom Line: Packed with features, A2 is a web hosting service that’s more than worthy of being the foundation for your website, especially if you’re looking to use WordPress.
Pros: Stellar uptime.
Excellent dedicated hosting plans.
Good customer service.
Offers a choice of Linux or Windows servers.
Cons: Lacks unlimited email with Windows accounts.
No month-to-month shared hosting plans.
Bottom Line: AccuWeb Hosting has many impressive features, including rock-solid uptime and customer service, but its excellent dedicated hosting plans are where this web host truly shines.
Cloudways Web Hosting
Pros: Very easy to set up.
Supports numerous apps.
Several flexible account tiers.
Can try service for free before signing up.
Cons: No domain registration option.
Email costs extra.
Bottom Line: Cloudways leverages powerful servers to deliver affordable, powerful, and easy-to-set-up web hosting. It doesn’t offer domain registration or email, however.
Pros: Excellent VPS hosting plans.
Linux- or Windows-based server options.
Unlimited email and monthly data transfers.
Good customer service.
Minecraft server hosting.
Cons: Lacks managed WordPress hosting.
Hard-to-find cancellation option.
Bottom Line: Hostwinds’s varied and powerful Web hosting options are excellent, especially when it comes to VPS hosting, for which it is an Editors’ Choice.
A few minor missteps keep it from winning our overall Web hosting award, however.
Liquid Web Hosting
Pros: Offers Linux- or Windows-based servers.
Excellent VPS and dedicated hosting plans.
Prorated VPS plans.
Cons: Underwhelming shared hosting storage.
Bottom Line: Liquid Web is a flexible, feature-packed online host with outstanding customer service and excellent dedicated and VPS hosting plans, but you’ll spend a pretty penny to experience it.
WP Engine Web Hosting
Pros: Excellent uptime.
Good customer service.
Real-time threat detection.
Useful Staging Area.
Choice of either Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform cloud hosting.
Cons: Limited phone support for Startup plan customers.
Doesn’t come with email.
Doesn’t sell domains.
Bottom Line: Excellent uptime, reliable customer service reps, and platform flexibility make WP Engine more than worthy of hosting your WordPress pages, even if you’re running an enterprise-class site.
11 Web Hosting
Pros: Easy-to-use website creation tools.
Free domain transfers.
No setup fee.
Cons: WebsiteBuilder Plus tier required to add code to site templates.
Customer service didn’t impress.
Competitors have longer money-back-guarantee periods.
Bottom Line: 11 has affordable hosting that comes with a rich variety of website-creation tools, but it can be inflexible and frustrating in some ways.
Pros: A wide range of website-hosting options.
Knowledgeable customer service reps.
Helpful Sidekick walkthroughs.
Lets you host many domains.
Cons: Lacks Windows-based servers.
Expensive VPS and dedicated server plans.
Lacks website building tools.
A few annoying capped features.
Bottom Line: Media Temple lets you easily build Linux-powered websites, but a few missteps keep it from ranking among the elite Web hosts.
Pressable Web Hosting
Pros: Unlimited storage and monthly data transfers.
Automatic daily backups.
Useful cloning feature.
Cool collaborative tool.
Cons: Limited customer service support.
Doesn’t sell domains.
No money-back guarantee.
Bottom Line: Pressable makes it easy to setup a managed WordPress site, and includes several useful features, but competitors offer more bang for the buck.