The Best Web Hosting Sites
How We Found the Best Web Hosting Sites
49 Web Hosts
7 Must-have Features
5 Top Picks
The Best Web Hosting Sites
The best web hosting company provides the tools to launch your website and the support to help it grow. We rounded up 49 web hosts known for their reliability and evaluated them based on user resources and customer service. Then we signed up for the top 11 to figure out which company offered the most useful features for new website owners, whether you're a tech pro or an absolute beginner.
How we chose the best web host
Variety of hosting options
We required all of our web hosts to offer at least three types of hosting: shared, dedicated, and VPS or cloud hosting. Shared is most likely your first step if you’re just starting to build your website. Dedicated and cloud hosting are upper service tiers that can help your website flourish as it grows, and an upgrade option will save you the future trouble of migrating to another company as you expand.
Easy-to-compare service tiers
We looked for hosts that made it easy for shoppers to compare services by clearly listing service tiers, the differences between those tiers, and how much we could expect to pay for each. Companies were dinged for being misleading. For example, the incredibly low prices advertised on the front page were sometimes only an option if you signed up for a company’s longest-term contract, and some companies also tacked on a “setup fee” if you signed up for just a month-long contract. Other companies advertised special features that weren’t revealed to cost extra until we’d already signed up.
Having a great website won’t matter if your readers can’t access it because it's always down. Web hosting services manage the mechanical aspects of connecting your site to the rest of the world. (If your website was a house, your web host would own the land the house sits on and make sure that you have utilities and road access.)
How quickly your website displays for your customers depends, in part, on how close to the web host server your customers are. We focused on US-based servers in this review, requiring companies to have at least one data center in North America. We preferred web hosts with additional data centers — if you live in Texas but your readers are all in the UK, it's useful to have a web host with servers in London — but we didn’t require it.
Uptime measures a company’s track record for keeping websites online all of the time. In a perfect world, your website would be available to readers 100 percent of the time. But companies typically only guarantee 99.9 percent uptime, since occasional technical difficulties are inevitable. We used a third-party monitoring service to verify uptime claims and spot top performers: companies that kept their websites up at least 99.95 percent of the time. Less than 1% of difference in uptime may seem trivial, but each .01% of downtime equals 52 minutes of a broken website in real time.
User-friendly knowledge bank
We wanted to find environments that would be easy for brand-new customers to navigate while providing a range of technical resources to accommodate more experienced users. We checked each site for: a knowledge base with tutorials, a forum for user-to-user discussions, and a company blog or news section. We liked seeing user forums for the peer discussion, though we gave the most points to companies with knowledge bases — a section devoted to providing guides, tutorials, and diagnostics to help clients learn about building and running a website. We prioritized those that were easy to search, with comprehensive topics and in-depth responses.
Accessible and responsive support
Your web host should have 24/7 support service, either via phone or live chat. If the website for your company in Syracuse, New York is running slowly — or down completely — you don’t want to have to wait for business hours in California before being able to resolve the issue.
We also wanted to make sure that the customer support representatives would be amiable, patient, and helpful. To score well, a company had to have fast, personalized, and friendly care. Those with generic, vague responses or cold attitudes didn’t impress us, while knowledgeable, personable reps won our approval.
Appropriate specs for beginners and experts
Whether you’re a website beginner or an expert, you need the right set of tools to get started. For beginners, we prioritized companies that didn’t charge exorbitant fees for WordPress or daily backups. Wordpress is one of the easiest ways to get a blog up and running without requiring you to design one from scratch. All of our finalists offered a Wordpress installation button, but we preferred hosts who didn’t upcharge for it. Website backups ensure that, if your site does go down, you’ll still be able to recover your data. If you’re running your website solo, the easiest way to ensure you’re backed up is to go through your web host.
For more experienced web designers, we required current software: MySQL version 5.6+ and PHP version 5.6+. We also required FTP access, which most web hosts have, and SSH access. It’s a more secure file transfer protocol that is particularly useful for advanced technicians (if you’re a beginner and see this option, we recommend asking your web host for advice on how to use it).
The 5 best web hosts
- FastComet -
Best website builder
- GlowHost -
Excellent customer service
- InMotion Hosting -
Generous short contract terms
- Bluehost -
Best cheap domestic host
- TMDHosting -
Best cheap international host
Why we chose it
FastComet excelled at presentation, boasting a clean, user-friendly interface. It's easy to find the information you want with just one or two clicks.
Simple website building templates
For beginners, FastComet offers two website builder tools to help you get up and running. A simple site publisher with nine templates — choose the one you like, fill it out, and you instantly have a one-page website displaying basic information. Plus, a more involved website-building tool includes 300 templates featuring drag-and-drop design. If you don’t know anything about HTML or CSS, this tool makes it easy to build a professional website without hiring a web developer.
FastComet’s website builder helps you customize and personalize templates to create a website without needing a lot of technical knowledge.
Extensive knowledge center
We loved FastComet’s in-depth knowledge base, which includes both written guides and video tutorials. It caters equally well to people first setting up a website as well as to those with more advanced technical skills who are trying to troubleshoot specific issues. With easy explanations for things like installing Wordpress, as well as guides for more complicated problems, you can try to DIY before calling in the experts.
Points to consider
Inconsistent customer service
FastComet’s customer service was good, but uneven. It’s one of only six companies who responded to our email inquiry, responding to all of our questions within an hour, and we had a pleasant time using the live chat. But when we called, FastComet’s phone rep struggled to communicate, took a long time to respond to our questions and, at one point, inexplicably began listing off different types of domain names (there are many and we hadn’t asked). Although the rep was friendly and eager to help, we ended up cutting the call short and turning to the site’s email support, live chat, and knowledge base instead, all of which are superb. If phone-based customer service is your top priority, we’d suggest GlowHost.
FastComet might not be the best option if you’re looking for a cheap one-month plan. While most of its service tiers don’t require a service fee, you will be required to pay $19.95 to set up a one-month plan. While FastComet does have a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with its service, you won’t get a refund of the $19.95 fee.
Why we chose it
Generous trial terms
GlowHost has no setup fee, even for month-long contracts, and offers the best one month contract rate — while other providers tacked sign-up and set-up fees onto their base price, GlowHost’s one-month plans start at just $8.95 with no additional fees. For year-long subscriptions, GlowHost also offers a generous money-back guarantee period of 91 days (in contrast, FastComet’s money-back period is 30 days). This gives you more time to figure out if it’s the right host for you.
Exemplary customer service
GlowHost had the best customer service of any web hosting company we tested, endearing itself by responding to our emailed list of questions with detailed and thoughtful answers within an hour. As we sent more questions its way, by email and phone, GlowHost continued to impress with friendly and courteous conversation (although we’re pretty sure its live chat relies on a bot).
Numerous server locations
Spec-wise, GlowHost and FastComet are pretty neck-and-neck, but GlowHost does provide a few additional server locations in Australia and the US. Theoretically, this means GlowHost is more flexible in how quickly it can serve websites up to customers across the globe, but this benefit is primarily for its higher service tiers: If you’re signing up for shared hosting, our rep told us that you’ll most likely be assigned a server based in Salt Lake City or Phoenix.
Points to consider
Simple website builder
If you want a website builder, you’ll be better off with FastComet or a dedicated website builder. GlowHost only includes a site publisher tool. It’s enough to get a single information page, or a temporary status page up and running, but it won’t be much help if you want a fancier layout (read: multiple pages, buttons, or pictures).
GlowHost’s own website has a clunky, late 90s vibe. While not nearly as easy on the eyes, it was similar to navigating FastComet’s and we had no trouble accessing GlowHost’s knowledge base or interacting on its forum.
GlowHost’s no-frills landing page makes it easy to find the exact link you’re looking for, even if it looks a bit plain.
Why we chose it
Generous money-back period
InMotion offers a generous satisfaction guarantee: if you’re not satisfied within 90 days of starting your contract, you can get your money back. Most companies only extend their money-back windows to 30 days, with the exception of InMotion and GlowHost. InMotion makes it easy for you to explore your options before committing to any one plan.
Minimal setup fees
Though its monthly contracts are a dollar or two pricier than other companies’, InMotion balances that out by not charging any setup fees for its shorter-term plans. The only exception is the Pro Plan, which costs $40 to set up. Among our featured picks, InMotion and GlowHost are the only ones to not charge additional setup fees for one-month trials: if a short-term contract is what you’re after, InMotion is a good company to try.
Points to consider
Average customer service
InMotion was one of our only top picks to not send us an email response to our queries. While we received all of the answers we needed from friendly phone and live chat reps, they didn’t go out of their way to help: If we had a question, they answered. If there was a natural follow-up question, they left it up to us to ask. That’s not a dealbreaker, but if you’re a beginner and attentive customer service is a priority for you, it’s something to keep in mind.
No international servers
InMotion is the only one of our picks without any international servers: this means if you know your site will be getting traffic from around the world, it might be a better idea to go with another provider. InMotion’s servers are based in Los Angeles, CA and Ashburn, VA, so if your intended audience is based in the US, these two servers on each coast should cover your bases.
Why we chose it
Great sale prices
Bluehost is running a sale for 2018, with a 50% discount on all of its plans that lasts until your first renewal date. While this current sale won’t last forever, it does offer significant savings in the present: BlueHost’s cheapest year-long plan at the current price is only $35, compared to $60, the average cost of the cheapest year-long plans of our other top picks. The current discount may make it a great choice for anyone planning to upgrade their growing website in the future.
Accessible customer service
BlueHost has multiple 24/7 customer service platforms, including phone, email, and live chat. Bluehost’s help services are split into three departments — Sales, Tech Support, and Account Management — which are each further broken down into more specialized subdivisions. And if you want to avoid phone trees, you can easily call directly into the relevant divisions: It provides not one, but seven different contact numbers. New customer questions? There’s an extension for that. Questions about a plan? There’s an extension for that, too. And that’s in addition to BlueHost’s live chat and ticketed support system.
Points to consider
Mediocre customer service
We got answers when we posed our questions to BlueHost’s customer service reps, but it wasn’t as easy as with some other companies: our questions in the live chat were answered vaguely (“We have servers around the US”), and we had to prompt the representative to answer our questions more thoroughly after they suggested we check the homepage for more information about pricing. Granted, quality may vary between reps, and BlueHost’s were very responsive, just not the most forthcoming with their advice and expertise.
Why we chose it
Affordable international servers
TMDHosting is the cheapest of our four finalists. Compared to FastComet, GlowHost, and InMotion, its service plans are less expensive at almost every tier. The cost savings aren’t huge — at most, $36 per year — but if you don’t need the specific features offered by our top picks, there’s no reason to avoid TMD. We also liked that for its affordable price, TMDHosting offers a good number of servers (seven altogether), including five international ones — Amsterdam, London, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney — in addition to Chicago and Phoenix.
Points to consider
Average customer service
The company was one of only six web hosts to actually answer our email. Its response was short and professional, and while we had to rephrase our questions a few times on the phone and in live chat to get the answer we needed, we eventually got it.
Basic website publisher tool
While the company provides a basic site publisher tool, if you’re looking for a more robust website builder, you’ll want to look elsewhere. If you’re a beginner and want as much support as possible while navigating website design, TMDHosting may be a little too basic for you.
Guide to Web Hosting
How to choose a web host
You should probably start with shared hosting.
Shared hosting is the most basic form of web hosting, and is best for websites with low to moderate traffic — small businesses and new websites will benefit from the low cost and relative simplicity of using a common server. Your website will be located on the same server as other sites, and will share the common resources of that one server (which usually means sharing an IP address, too). Your site will be allocated a certain amount of the collective bandwidth, and it may be impacted by other sites on that same server since the server’s abilities will be affected if any one of its websites — yours or someone else’s — experiences unusually high traffic. If someone else’s site has excessive usage, your site may slow. If your site has a spike, it may be shut off by your host and you might be charged for exceeding your allotted bandwidth.
VPS hosting is one step up. It uses a single server, but makes virtual copies of it — even though lots websites live on the same server (just like with shared hosting) each one gets its own personal copy. You get your own IP address, root access to your individual space, increased security, and stabilized site performance. VPS hosts are still designed to handle low-to-moderate traffic levels, but if you don’t want your site’s performance to be impacted by anyone else’s, it’s worth it.
Dedicated hosting is renting a server that’s completely yours. You’ll get the highest speeds (at the highest costs) and you’ll be on the hook for server management. If you’re not sure whether you need a dedicated server, you probably don’t. It’s meant to handle routinely high traffic and offer more server control.
Cloud hosting is relatively new and has the potential to be the best option for everyone because, in theory, your website will never go offline. It’s not tied to anyone particular server, so if one fails, your site will bop over to one on a different cloud. And you pay for only the server space you use: you’ll pay less when you have slower traffic and more when you have a traffic spike. The downside is that it’s new enough technology that security is a concern — no one is quite sure how safe information in a cloud can be.
We recommend getting upsold.
All of our top picks include most add-ons for free, like daily backups and basic SSL encryption. But it’s worth paying the extra $10 a year for private domain registration. This keeps your personal information out of the internet’s required registration database, WHOIS. Instead of listing your phone and address, your server will list a proxy, so you won’t have to contend with spam calls to your real phone number. (One tester from our original review on web hosting, published in 2016, has only just recently stopped receiving daily telemarketing calls — almost two years later.)
A dedicated IP address (the number that locates your website within a network) isn’t necessary for domain owners who are just starting out, but it’s worth considering. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing an IP address but it can lead to consequences beyond your control. For example, if one of the websites on your shared server sends spam emails or engages in other illicit behavior, that website’s IP address may be blocked from other sites or services. The firewall used to block the IP won’t be able to distinguish between the offending site and yours and you’ll be blacklisted (at least temporarily) from sending emails, too.
The free basic-level SSL is likely enough.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption is the “s” in “https://” that gives your website its green browser padlock. It’s an absolute necessity for websites that deal with any sort of sensitive information, whether it’s credit card numbers or usernames and passwords. But it’s important beyond that, too: Google considers security as a factor for ranking, which means opting for SSL encryption doesn’t just ensure your visitors’ browsing actions can’t be seen by a nefarious third-party, it might also increase your site’s position in search results.
"We’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web."
Domain validation (DV) is the most affordable and most common option, and it’s free with all of our top picks. This level certificate indicates that the domain is valid and the applicant controls that domain. It’s easy to obtain and doesn’t require any paperwork. On a site with DV, you’ll see a green padlock in the browser bar, and for most sites, this is plenty.
You’ll only need to step up your SSL level if you need to connect your website to a physical company or business, or if there could be confusion about your web address. Your options are organization validation (OV), which costs $80+ and validates the site owner’s legal existence and physical address, or extended validation (EV), which verifies this same information but through third-party, not self-reported, sources. You’ll spend $100+ a year for an EV certificate and the browser padlock will also display your company name. Many banks have this level of validation on their websites, but both Google and Amazon simply use OV.
Web Hosting FAQs
Web hosts not only host your website, they give you tools to access, create, update, and maintain it. Most of our finalists use versions of a software called cPanel to do this — it’s one of the most common and universal interfaces for web hosting. If you ever want to change between web hosts, it’s good to have a common interface between your old and new hosts, since this can make the transition easier.
There are small differences in the appearance of each web host’s cPanel — where specific buttons are located, or what their icons look like — but navigation is pretty much the same and includes a search bar at the top if you get lost.
What’s the difference between a web host and a web builder?
Web hosts do precisely that — they host your site. You’re still the one responsible for creating it. This means either writing the code yourself, hiring a web developer to do it for you, or using a website builder.
Many web hosts do include a website builder of some kind — whether a simple “fill out this form” tool that publishes a single page, or a more in-depth program with dozens of templates and customizations — but it’s not the focus of their business. An actual website builder, like SquareSpace or Weebly, will have the most robust set of tools to help you customize your website.
How long before my site goes live?
Signing up for a web hosting service is like signing up for cable or Internet: We selected the package we wanted then gave them our credit card information and waited. A few companies let us into the backend of our nascent websites so that we could play around while they worked on building the infrastructure, but most didn’t. Expect a wait time between four and twelve hours.
If you’re using a business credit card to place your order, the wait can be longer. We found that some companies needed additional information to verify our identity: discrepancies between your name and the card name can raise red flags for fraud. Usually, you’ll need to make a phone call to the company’s billing department and provide a scan of a government-issued ID to straighten things out.