Every business—and that includes small businesses, enterprises, and sole-proprietorships—needs a website, but the monthly costs can mean the difference between a full-blown ecommerce presence or a static page listing your hours and location. Cost is a critically important consideration when selecting a Web host. But while it's a truism that you get what you pay for, it's also true that every penny counts and that there are some great Web hosting deals to be had.
What Is a Cheap Web Host?
First, let's define Web hosts in general. A Web host is a company with servers that you use to store and deliver the files that make up your website. Large businesses can spend hundreds of dollars each year on dedicated Web hosting or virtual private server (VPS) hosting, but there are plenty of Web hosts designed specifically for very small businesses, too.
That's exactly what the services collected here focus on—these are good, functional Web hosting companies that will get your website online with the least amount of damage to your wallet. That's something that we can all appreciate. But how cheap?
Pricing in our list of cheap Web hosts is based on the regular monthly prices, with no discounts applied for the starter plans. If the host offers monthly plans, that's the price we use, even though many of them work out to be cheaper on a per-month basis if you pay upfront for the annual plan. If you're buying on price, you might not want to pay the full year up front, even if it means saving a bit on the back end. Some budgets really are that tight, and some projects may not last a year. Our cutoff for inclusion in this table is that a provider must charge $8 per month or less. Yes, that's an arbitrary number. We chose $8 per month because that means you can have Web hosting for less than $100 per year.
The Features You'll Need
Setting up a website with your own domain is easy, and most importantly, it doesn't have to be expensive. Do you need email, blogging software, email marketing, e-commerce, and file sharing?
Also worth highlighting is the service's customer support. While it's nice to have FAQs and forums, when it's 3 a.m. and your website is inexplicably down, you want someone available right away. Look for 24/7 customer support.
What Cheap Web Hosting Gets You
Cheap Web hosting excludes the powerful and relatively pricey dedicated and VPS hosting options. Instead, you'll need to pick a Shared or managed WordPress hosting plan.
Shared hosting is a setup in which the hosting company runs multiple websites on a server along with your site. Don't let the "shared" bit worry you, though, since you can't peek into anyone else's files and no one else can touch yours. The benefit? Sharing the server space translates to cheap prices for everyone. The downside? Neighboring sites that consume too many resources may cause your site to run at less than peak performance. They might even crash it from time to time.
Managed WordPress hosting services let you set up and run a WordPress blog with minimum fuss. If your business website's primary function is to be a blog, then do your wallet a favor and don't bother with shared hosting plans or other types of Web hosting.
One thing we learned while reviewing Web hosting services is that reading the fine print matters, especially if you are concerned about keeping prices low. Many Web hosts have several tiers of service, with introductory features in starter packages and expanded offerings in higher-priced plans. Don't get swayed by the big fonts touting the monthly fee: Make sure that a particular tier actually offers what you need.
Some hosts charge extra for the tools you might use to design your website. Other hosts require you to commit to a three-year hosting agreement in order to get that low per-month price. Or the price is an introductory one, and after a month, you will revert to a higher price. Until you know what features you need and how quickly you plan to grow, don't commit to annual plans.
Uptime Is Important
The aforementioned features are valuable to the Web hosting experience, but none match the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services. Every customer turned away is a potential sale lost and traffic not monetized.
We've recently added uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most Web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Even if they excel at all other facets of hosting, services with uptime issues can't qualify as top services.
You Don't Have to DIY
If your primary goal is cheap service, and your needs are modest, you do have an alternative to the Web hosts listed in this table: website builders. For those who just want a good-looking without any extras—a brochure-ware site, for example—you can skip traditional Web hosting and check out website builder services such as Weebly and DudaOne.
If you don't care about having your own domain and don't want to do a lot of behind-the-scenes tweaking, you should really consider one of these online website builders, as they let you create surprisingly attractive yet functional sites hosted under their domains. Furthermore, these services can be incredibly cheap: Some offer free plans, though that generally means you'll have branding on your site for the website builder's company. You can often pay to get your own domain, and that generally removes the branding as well. But if you need some control over your domain and need a little bit more functionality, Web hosting is the way to go.
So What's Cheap?
As you can see from the above table, not all cheap Web hosts are created equal. Some have data transfer allotment and storage caps. Read the fine print for the unlimited offerings, however, as there are sometimes gotchas that might sneak up on you later. Other services limit what applications you can use. Some require you to upgrade to a higher tier just to get a particular feature. And then there are the bare-bones services offering just space and no built-in tools to make the process of building and maintaining a site easier. If you're a skilled coder, that might be fine. Which Web host you select depends entirely on how you plan to use it—and your budget. If you are ready to select a great Web hosting service that's also cheap, click the links below to check out our in-depth reviews of the best names in the space.