Best Web Hosting Reviews: Web Hosting Basics and Foundations

By: | Updated: April 10, 2021

When you decide you want to start a blog or website, you need to know about the basics. If there was a web hosting 101 class you could take, it might be helpful. However, this guide is a faster alternative and solution.

Choosing the right hosting plan for your website is a hard decision. Depending on what your site will have, like pictures, storing customer information, doing e-commerce, plugins, and other add-ons, different hosting plans will have different perks.

There are plenty of hosting plans out there. So we’ll use this web hosting review to narrow the best web hosting services down to a select few. 

How Website Hosting Works

The first step in the web hosting 101 guide is understanding how hosting works. You need website hosting to make your site go live. It works much like your computer works. Simply put, the domain name is the file path, while the files being accessed are held on a server by your web hosting company.

All pages, posts and emails can be stored on the server. Most hosting companies offer multiple packages for your web hosting needs. As a beginner, you will not need anything more than shared hosting, which is very inexpensive.

Suggested Reading: The best free blog sites in 2021

Static or Dynamic Website?

The next thing you need to do is make the decision about whether you want a simple static website or a dynamic site. Most websites are dynamic today, which includes blogs, forums photo galleries, ecommerce sites and most others. Static sites are usually just used to provide very simple information to visitors.

The best solution is a website/blog combination built with the WordPress CMS. This solution gives you a dynamic site with plenty of static components. You will gain plenty of flexibility to do just about anything you need to do. 

Choosing a Type of Hosting

Another part of the decision-making process is understanding the type of hosting you need. About 95% of websites only require shared hosting and for beginners, this is a great place to start. It’s important to make sure you avoid free website hosting services at all costs. They won’t provide what you need.

However, if you need a higher level of security or you plan on receiving thousands of daily visitors, VPS or dedicated hosting may be a better choice. It’s a good idea to choose a hosting company that offers all three. This will allow you to upgrade as you need to.

Important Factors to Consider

No web hosting 101 guide would be complete without discussing the important factors to consider when looking into a web hosting company. You need to look at uptime, performance, support, resources and cost.

Make sure you choose a reliable hosting company with great 24/7 technical support. They should give you plenty of resources and provide an affordable package. However, be careful with super cheap hosting that’s priced at less than $2 per month.

There are many things you may want to look into when it comes to web hosting. However, this web hosting 101 guide will get you started fast and gives you enough information to help you make an informed decision.


The Best Hosts for Bloggers


The Best Web Hosts Compared

Bluehost

Let’s start with the web hosting plan gaining the most traction these days.

Hosting Plans and Pricing

Bluehost comes with three different hosting plans. 

Their shared hosting plan, which you can use to start a basic website or a startup blog, is only $2.95 a month for a 36-month term.

Their VPS hosting (virtual private server) plan, for sites that need a little more power, is only $18.99.

Their most expensive plan, their Dedicated plan, is for sites that need the highest power to maintain high traffic and lots of plugins, at $79.99. 

The shared hosting plan is the most popular, mainly because it has four sub-plans with different abilities: the Basic, Plus, Choice-Plus, and Pro. Each plan gives you different capabilities with email accounts, storage, customer support, free domains, daily backups, and more.

The Basic shared hosting plan gives you limited options on many things, like how many domains and storage space you get. All the other plans have unlimited options in almost every category. Luckily, storage is pretty high with all options, ranging from 200,000 to 300,000 files.

Website Uptime and Speed

No matter what kind of website you’re running, you need to have good speed for an optimal customer experience. The slower your site is, the more people may click away.

Bluehost’s uptime score was roughly 99.95 and 99.98 in 2019 and 2020. A great-running website should aim for a score higher than 99.95, so Bluehost tested well on that front.

Every site will experience downtime every so often but aim for that general score every time.

Who Should Use Bluehost?

Bluehost is probably best for people hosting small to medium projects, like a blog or a website to advertise your service or small business.

If you’re creating a website that needs to yield lots of visitor traffic, you’re probably better off with something else.

Unfortunately, Bluehost’s servers only cater to users in the U.S. Clients outside the U.S. can experience slow traffic.

How Easy is Bluehost to Use?

Bluehost’s Cpanel customization has gotten easier to use with some redesigns. However, the amount of upsell links can distract you from creating your site as you need to.

If you do need help, you can contact the support team by either phone or chat. The support team is usually patient and helpful, with a good knowledge base.

If you decide not to host your website at Bluehost, they offer a free 30-day money-back guarantee without any questions asked.

Pros and Cons

To get a general idea about what makes Bluehost work, let’s narrow down a few pros and cons.

Pros
  • Great bandwidth
  • Capable of storing up to 200,000 files
  • Good uptime
Cons
  • Expensive renewal rates after a cheap first year
  • Entry-level plans don’t have backup solutions
  • It gives continuous and annoying upsell pitches

DreamHost 

Often in competition with Bluehost for hosting solutions, let’s see how DreamHost compares.

Hosting Plans and Pricing

DreamHost includes all the usual hosting plans, including shared plans, VPS, Dedicated, and Cloud. 

Shared plans are affordable, but they mean that you’ll share server resources with other customers. You can’t always expect to get high traffic on such a plan.

On the other hand, the VPS plan allows you control over all your resources, and you won’t have to share with anyone.

A Dedicated server plan is more powerful, giving you access to a server that only contains your files. Unlike other plans, where your MySQL database is on another server, this one keeps everything together in one place.

The Cloud plan includes a cloud-hosting service called DreamObjects. All your data and store backups can go into the cloud. You can access the program in your control panel.

Their basic plans begin at $2.59 a month, and their three Managed WordPress hosting plans begin at $16.95 a month. Except for the Shared Unlimited Plan, you can only host one website under all plans. However, you do get a free domain name for all plans in the first year.

Website Uptime and Speed

DreamHost’s uptime and speed are not the best. Over the last year, their uptime has been around 99.90, slightly below the 99.95 goal.

That slightly disappointing number has also come with eight hours of downtime on average. Ecommerce users or other sites needing high traffic might need to look elsewhere in that regard.

That said, they do have an uptime guarantee in case your traffic falls flat. For every month that your uptime falls below a point, you’ll get a credit.

Who Should Use DreamHost?

DreamHost has enough hosting options that you can find one that works for you. If you want to host an e-commerce or a blog, it should work for either one. You might run into some downtime, but we expect that’s a temporary setback for the site.

How Easy is DreamHost to Use?

DreamHost offers 24/7 live chat and phone support but does not always provide it. Sometimes, if you click on the live chat box, you’ll get a message saying the team is “away” for a while. In that case, you’ll click on a selection of questions to get what you need. They do have business hours, but they are just not 24/7, as promised.

The signup process is a little long and complicated. It has a few upsell pop-ups now and again, but not as many as BlueHost.

Luckily, it has a one-click install for WordPress and other apps. Free site migration is another plus. The custom-made control panel is beginner-friendly. You can find apps for SEO and malware along with templates for website building.

If you don’t like using DreamHost, they offer a 97-day money-back guarantee.

Pros and Cons

DreamHost is not a perfect website host, but it has a few things going for it.

Pros
  • Uptime guarantee provides peace of mind for slow uptime
  • The custom-made control panel is easy to use
  • Month-to-month hosting allows you to cancel anytime
Cons
  • Live support has only select working hours
  • Website speed is not the best
  • Uptime has slowed over the last several months

GreenGeeks

You probably never thought you’d see web hosts be big on using renewable energy. That’s not GreenGeeks’ only claim to fame, as you’ll see below.

Hosting Plans and Pricing

Their three biggest hosting plans are the Ecosite Lite, Pro, and Premium. Surprisingly, each hosting package gives you unlimited options for tons of features, such as unlimited bandwidth, disk space, webspace, email hosting, and monthly data transfers.  

Each plan gets a free domain for the first year but is $14 after that. They also all come with a free SSL certificate.

Website Uptime and Speed

GreenGeeks’ uptime is around 99.98, just a few notches above the minimum 99.95.

Although that uptime is pretty good, GreenGeeks still has an uptime guarantee. If your uptime runs below average for one month, you’ll get credit toward your next monthly payment.

GreenGeeks pride themselves on their Cloudflare CDN (content delivery network). When Cloudflare CDN is activated, your site is optimized, so your webpages’ speed and performance are improved. Your customers’ visiting experience is also improved as a result.

Who Should Use GreenGeeks?

GreenGeeks has a lot going for it, but we think people with renewable energy and otherwise green goals would benefit most. If you’re hosting multiple sites, the unlimited bandwidth and storage will serve you well.

How Easy is GreenGeeks to Use?

GreenGeeks uses a Cpanel control panel that, as we’ve mentioned, is pretty intuitive for beginners to use.

Even with a simple control panel, you can add many apps to improve your site’s content management system (CMS). A few of these apps include Drupal, Magento, or Joomla. You can also easily create a WordPress website with SEO and Amazon plugins.

Unlike some web hosting providers, GreenGeeks, has data centers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Spreading out data centers allows more people to access sites hosted through GreenGeeks, speeding up load times and improving customer experience.

Their security is also pretty good. You get a free SSL certificate, along with the latest PHP and MySQL software.

Live chat and phone support are available for any problems that may arise. They’re only available through EST office hours during the week, but they have forums and useful tutorials. As usual, a 30-day money-back guarantee helps provide extra peace of mind.

Pros and Cons

GreenGeeks is doing pretty good so far, so let’s narrow down their best and worst areas.

Pros
  • Big on renewable energy
  • Tight security and uptime guarantees 
  • Excellent website speed
Cons
  • No staging or team management features
  • Limited backup features
  • Website hosting plans can get a little costly

Hostgator

Hostgator has been a go-to in the website builder industry for a long time. Let’s see if they can stand the test of time against the other sites we’ve seen.

Hosting Plans and Pricing

With all the usual hosting plans available, HostGator shared hosting plans begin at the low price of $2.75 a month. Such plans include VPS, WordPress, dedicated hosting, cloud, and reseller. The dedicated hosting plans are the most expensive, beginning at $89.98 a month.

Domain registration is also free for the first year. However, bear in mind that each plan comes with renewal costs, so even a cheap plan can become expensive if you choose to renew another year.

HostGator’s three shared hosting plans are the Hatchling Plan, the Baby Plan, and the Business Plan. All three plans have unmetered bandwidth and disk space, along with a free SSL certificate and backup functions.

Website Uptime and Speed

HostGator’s Uptime varies from time to time. For the most part, they’ve managed an uptime of 99.93, which is slightly below the mark but is not terrible.

If your uptime is slow, you might be using powerful plugins (like WooCommerce, for instance). If you use plugins that take up a lot of power in your shared hosting plan, you might need to go bigger.

Who Should Use HostGator?

HostGator is pretty friendly toward beginners. They have plenty of tutorials and their website builder tool, Gator, comes with a domain name and free web server hosting. Everything you need to build a basic website comes in one package.

How Easy is HostGator to Use?

HostGator has a lot to offer for beginners, as we said. As a site builder, its drag-and-drop system allows you to change your site’s look easily.

As with most good web hosting companies, HostGator gives you credit toward your next payment if your uptime is not up to par.

Their customer service covers phone, email, and live chat. They don’t have set business hours, so you’re likely to help as you need it. Support team members are usually knowledgeable and quick to respond.

Pros and Cons

Let’s break down the best and not-so-good parts of HostGator.

Pros
  • Stable uptime of 99.93%
  • Quick and knowledgeable customer service
  • Cpanel is beginner-friendly
Cons
  • You have to pre-pay for a plan to get the $2.75 price
  • Security and SEO tools cost extra

Conclusion

Choosing a web hosting company is tough between all hosting offers and features. We know there are other web hosts, like Hostinger, Siteground, A2 Hosting, and GoDaddy, but we found these last four among the best.

For our pick for the best web hosting company, we would probably pick HostGator. You don’t have to wait to get good customer service, and all the tutorials make beginning a website a snap. It is slightly more expensive than other companies. However, for all you get for that price, we think it’s worth it.

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