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How Can I Find a Good Web Host?

You’re looking for a place to put your website. Maybe it’s just a single page describing what your business is. Maybe it’s a blog. Maybe you’ve got the next best solution to ecommerce that you’re ready to build out.

There are so many web hosts and hosting alternatives that it’s almost impossible to tell one from the other, much less understand if they’ll be what you need.

There are a number of different types of web hosting and I’ll look at a few of them along with some specific recommendations. Each will have their pros and cons, and each will be suitable for different types of solutions.

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Free web hosting

There are some solutions which are actually free.

However, because nothing is ever truly free, there are often catches.

Free web hosting will often involve two things:

  • Ads will be displayed on or around your website. This is the “cost” of free.
  • You may be limited as to how much you can upload or how much bandwidth people visiting your website can use.
  • You probably won’t have the ability to use your own domain name.
  • There will likely be limitations on the technology that you can use on the site.
  • There will be little or no support.
  • You may be pestered with invitations to “upgrade” to a paid plan for more features or capability.

I’m not a huge fan of free web hosting, but in some cases, the limitations might not be an issue for you and it might prove a reasonable solution.

Your own domain name?

One of the things that many people fail to think of early enough is whether or not they should purchase and use their own domain name.

My recommendation is yes for several reasons.

Here’s why:

Let’s say I start Ask Leo! using the web hosting provided by my ISP. The URL to my site becomes something like:

http://randomisp.com/~askleo

Now I move. And in moving, I have to change ISPs.

That URL will have to change. Except that there are people all over the internet who have links to that old URL, and those links will break once I move the website to my new ISP or other hosting solution.

Much better to start with

http://askleo.com

from the beginning, using it to point to wherever I have the site hosted. That way, I can host it wherever I like, ranging from a server in my closet (which I did) to a dedicated server (ditto) to a virtual private server (current).

Even as business needs might change from a free WordPress-hosted blog to an incredibly complex set of dedicated servers, having your own domain name allows you to keep the same name and keep all those incoming links, regardless of where or how you host.

Free blog hosting

I need to call out blog hosting separately as there are now several solutions that are very reputable and quite popular for hosting blogs.

WordPress.com (not to be confused with .org) will allow you to create and run a blog using WordPress blogging software. In fact, while I keep using the term ‘blog’ over and over, many sites which don’t look like blogs at all are implemented using WordPress and some even on WordPress.com.

Blogger.com is very similar in that you can create blogs and websites using the content management system provided by Blogger. Blogger is owned by Google, and in fact, if you have a Google account, you already have a Blogger account and can create a website right away.

There are in fact many free blog hosts (just Google that phrase some time), including familiar names like Tumblr, LiveJournal, Blog.com, and more. Many are targeted at specific types of sites and/or specific audiences, but they’re worth checking out.

While some feel that living within the constraints of WordPress or Blogger or any of the other provider’s technologies is too limiting, the fact is that these are very powerful platforms on which you may find you can do a lot.

Hosting with your ISP

It’s very possible that you have some amount of “personal web space” available to you as part of your account with your Internet Service Provider. You’re already paying for your ISP account, so the incremental cost is technically free.

As with free accounts, there will probably be some limitations that might include:

  • A fixed amount of storage, but usually enough for a small to medium-sized site
  • An inflexible URL (usually http://yourISPname/~youraccount)
  • Limitations on any server-side technology that you might want to use
  • Possible bandwidth or usage constraints

While the limitations sound a lot like those of free web hosting, they often still compare favorably in that the allowances are usually higher and the pestering is usually less. Like free hosting, many of these restrictions can be adjusted or lifted – for an additional fee, of course.

Shared web hosting

Shared web hosting simply means that your website is on the same hardware as 10, 100, or 1000 other websites – you’re all sharing that machine. (Security in place makes it practically impossible for sites to access the information of another, so there’s really no risk worth worrying about here in most cases.)

In many ways, it’s a lot like the service you might get from your ISP. For a relatively low monthly fee, you get some amount of – or sometimes “unlimited” – space and bandwidth.

Shared hosting companies often provide better service than your run-of-the-mill ISP because hosting is all that they do. They’ll often offer assistance in doing things like getting and setting up your own domain name or other features.

Many, many websites are in fact hosted on shared hosting sites; you’d be surprised.

For most small businesses, organizations, and others looking to set up a website that will attract traffic and be an important part of the business operations, I typically recommend starting with shared hosting.

I often refer people to BlueHost, but there are many including DreamHost, Hostgator and others.

Your domain registrar

When you purchase a domain (for example, as I’ve purchased “askleo.com”), you’re often offered a wide array of additional services, including website hosting.

Some, such as my recommended SimpleURL offer good value and are often great places to start.

Others, however, not so much. In fact, in general I recommend that you avoid registrar-provided hosting with the major registrars. You are effectively purchasing shared hosting in such situations, and my experience is that dedicated shared hosts such as those listed above offer much better value and reliability.

Managed or Unmanaged?

When leasing a VPS or dedicated server you’re effectively taking on the management of an entire (possibly virtual) computer. That requires some amount of server support knowledge.

Hosting companies in this arena typically offer two scenarios:

  • Unmanaged: they provide the hardware, power and network, and after that you’re on your own. Software updates, problems, installations and the like are yours to take on and perform. This works well if you have the knowledge to do so, or have staff with that knowledge.
  • Managed: in addition to to the hardware, power and network the hosting company also provides management services. How much that implies varies from service to service, but typically at least covers troubleshooting, keeping software up to date and proactively monitoring that the server is up and functional.

Even though I technically have the knowledge to operate an unmanaged server, and have in the past, I’ve opted for managed as a form of insurance and assistance for one of my businesses biggest assets. If the server hosting Ask Leo! has problems, Ask Leo! effectively doesn’t exist.

Virtual Private Servers

Virtual Private Servers, or VPS’s, are a kind of hybrid between shared hosting and dedicated servers which I’ll talk about in a moment.

A VPS is nothing more than a virtual machine, sharing hardware with one or more other virtual machines. The VMs are separate and independant, and look and behave as if they were on their own dedicated hardware.

Ask Leo! is hosted on a VPS, as are all my sites theses days.

One of the neat advantages of VPSs is that some aspects can be reconfigured without needing to reinstall from scratch. For example if I want more CPUs, more memory or more hard disk space on my server I access a control panel and make the changes. The machine reconfigures, eventually reboots, and comes back
up in the new configuration.

I use and recommend Storm On Demand. Additional alternatives include The Rackspace Cloud (where I used to have a server), as well as Amazon’s EC2.

Virtual Private Servers are just that: entire servers that you end up managing and controlling completely. You can do pretty much anything, within the constraints of the hardware’s abilities, but you will need some knowledge of server operation.

Dedicated Servers

A dedicated server is exactly what it sounds like: a computer in a datacenter that you rent by the month that is dedicated to you.

Like VPSs it’s a server, unlike a VPS it’s not sharing hardware at all – it’s all yours.

As you might imagine, dedicated hosting is often more expensive than a VPS, but for many companies with more intensive server requirements it’s often a practical solution.

LiquidWeb, the parent company of Storm On Demand, is typically where I send people these days. Alternatives include RackSpace and others.

Not On The List: Your Own Machine

I get asked from time to time “well, couldn’t I just host whatever I want on my own machine here at home? It’s on the internet, after all.”

Technically: yes.

Practically: no.

You’ll quickly run into a number of issues:

  • Your upload speed is the speed at which visitors to your home-hosted site would be accessing your website. Typically it’s significantly slower than you would want for that purpose.
  • Your site visitors will be competing with you for your internet connection. In otherwords, they’ll slow down your ability to use the internet.
  • You must leave your machine on all the time.
  • You’ll need to deal with the fact that the IP address of your machine may change, or pay extra for a static IP.
  • You’ll need to know how to configure your router properly for incoming connections to your machine.
  • There are probably more issues I’m missing…

The biggest roadblock is often not technical at all: your ISP probably doesn’t allow it.

Though of course that restriction can often be lifted – for an additional fee.

If you have a little money to spend the options above are typically much preferable.

61 comments on “How Can I Find a Good Web Host?”

  1. I followed your advice and found a great web host – citizen-hosting.com. They offer excellent service for a reasonable price. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. This question actually was to go on the page about IPs, bu I couldnt find it. My query is but a simple one:

    A few days back, I had a dynamic IP, so (using IIS, with Win XP), I was able to view my site as http://localhost/, and consequently as http://[IP] wheneever I was online…

    Now I have switched to a static IP. My site still finds itself at localhost, but with the IP, a window opens up asking for a username and password. In a word, I’m lost with the IP.

    Do I need to download some special software to access my own server? I dont need to host a permanent website, I just need a server with IP access for a few stuff.
    Oh, yeah, and the FTP dont work either.

    Help Me,
    Ayush

    Reply
  3. After much searching on google, I went to FindMyHosting.com and signed up with 3Essentials hosting (www.3essentials.com). They had excellent ratings, which was primarily why I chose them. Since I was a little hesitant, I called them to get some questions answered. They’re really responsive, I got someone of the first two rings.

    Happy Host Hunting…
    W.T.

    Reply
  4. i have a static ip,how can i host my website on my system.plz help me in access my file via ip address anywhere…

    Reply
  5. Hello, I would like to know is there a company that I can call that will help me with my key words to put me at the top. Also, is it a good idea to have more than one .com address for a business. I was told that some company have as many as 40

    Reply
  6. Dear Leo,

    Thanks for all the help and the answers that you have posted. I’m an editor and i like to post a website for me including all my videos editing etc..like a demo reel.

    I was wondering how much it cost by month or year? for a webserver to host my files. say for exemple i have 100mb or 200mb of data. is it very expensive and it’s better to do it from home if i have broadband cable 786kbs?

    thanks

    Reply
  7. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    There’s no single answer … it depends on your needs. It can be free,
    inexpensive ($10/mo) expensive ($100’s per month) or more. My guess is for
    someone starting out free or inexpensive will do just fine until you discover
    you need more, at which point you upgrade. (It’s the path I took).

    I do NOT recommend hosting it yourself on your DSL. Outside access will quickly
    saturate your connection and make it slow for you to use.

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFG8skiCMEe9B/8oqERAg6MAKCJlompxakAvnZZoszuownpRDjPZQCfa5Hp
    W8xGrgIxQNlieYxpeaj3g1U=
    =W9dv
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

    Reply
  8. Found some pretty balanced reviews over at thebestwebhostingreview.com. Hope this helps.

    It really depends on your needs. The site I just mentioned seems to only cover cheap, shared hosting.

    Reply
  9. I have changed a lot of host providers along the years, because their support was miserable.
    The only host I could find, which is cheap and reliable, with 24h support is: eboundhost.com. Livehost.net used to be the best, but not anymore since Thomas left.

    Reply
  10. i know this topic is too old , but i reach to this article within my search , so i want to mention some companies which offer a wonderful free hosting such as byethost.com and of course these days we can’t forget blogers websites such as blogger.com , blog.com , blogspot.com , wordpress.com and more …

    thanks leo…

    Reply
  11. I highly recommend Kionic: I have been with them for many many years, the hosting is reliable and customer service is excellence.

    Reply
  12. I use GotHosting.org and they have been wonderful from day one. The support responds reasonably and I don’t think my site has been down since I started. Very competitive packages. Secondly, I have heard great reviews for Hostgator

    Reply
  13. I just wanted to Say that I found a webhost that i switched over to, I was using Dreamhost but i decided to go with hostgator because they are so much cheaper and I get a little more space and almost double the bandwidth. I would highly suggest checking this out.

    Any questions please ask. Thanks alot! Enjoy!

    Reply
  14. A good web hosting provider (and one that I currently use) is WebHost4Life.com. Their performance is quite good. Their plans start at $4.99/mo. They have both Windows and Linux plans. They are currently hosting 200,000+ sites and claim a customer retention rate of more than 90%.

    Good Luck
    Ian

    Reply
  15. I have 62 websites hosted with havaweb, they built every website for me for free and paid for the domain names. If you want a custom website havaweb is the place to get it.

    Reply
  16. Really a nice Post on Web Hosting Importance,
    I totally agree,

    We have also worked on the Need of web hosting and worked hard behind it to get a list of Best Web Hosting. Which are best in the industry now.

    And We compiled it together and assigned it in a proper RANKING.

    So if you want a detailed Review and Analysis on all best Web Host you can also refer to : webhost2all.com

    Reply
  17. I have 9 websites with hostjaguar.com and pretty happy with their services. I wouldn’t touch free host, I simply don’t trust them.

    Reply
  18. I found this new site that I liked. It is Mycampushost.com. It offers some tuttorials and good rates on web hosting. It was perfect for me starting a new business. Very easy to use.

    Reply
  19. Very good description about Shared Web Hosting Services.
    I have also a website which provide information about the Shared Web Hosting Services. Really it services are very good and it also take guarantee for the best services.for more information please visit on link… http://www.prestigetechnologies.com

    Reply
  20. A good place to find a good host is webhostingtalk forums. You may end up with hostgator, dreamhost, etc.

    But there are other resellers out there offering cheaper packages but is still hosted in hostgator – Pinoguin.com It also offers building your website with cms like Typo3 or Joomla.

    Reply
  21. After lots of searching and failed attempts, i have found my host:

    MingledHost.com

    Cheap, efficient and great customer service. MUCH easier than hostng from a pc at home

    Reply
  22. 15 most cheapest web hosting companies for WordPress and other websites

    tips29.com/2009/11/15-most-cheapest-web-hosting-companies.html

    Reply
  23. Hello,

    I have also a suggestion regarding good Web Hosting provide they should have good support, Good server quality and its always better to pay a bit more when you get such host..I have been with http://www.webhost.uk.net for year now ..absolutely no problem ..I feel they are the best UK Web hosting provider.

    Reply
  24. Well I usually just start googling various webhosting sites and then compare the features for the price. For the most part it works out for me 🙂
    Currently I’ve got a site on Awardspace.com …but only because they have a Valentines Day deal running at $.14 for 6 months…which is an awesome deal haha

    [images removed]

    Reply
  25. I use http://www.kwelhosting.com and never had any problems. They have lot of good and cheap services and also excellent support. I pay only $4.99 for web hosting a month and they offer 99.99% up time guarantee. With every new non-domain account they give domain name for just $3.99, and also have a big number possibilities for international international domain names registration

    Their website address: http://www.kwelhosting.com

    This is good web hosting service and I suggest it to all

    Cheers!!!

    Reply
  26. After many hours of googling + reading reviews, I’ve chosen this one:
    HostGator.com

    Im using it right now and I gotta tell you that it’s by far the best webhost out there!
    Cheap,speedy,reliable and with excellent support.

    Save yourself lots of time and money,by not
    choosing a web hosting plan which you’ll regret doing so 1 hour later..Choose HostGator!

    Reply
  27. MY web site is http://www.doctorarshadmalik.com and never had any problems. They have lot of good and cheap services and also excellent support. I pay only $1.00 for web hosting a month unlimmted space and bandwith and they offer 99.99% up time guarantee. and 24×7 live help {tested}
    For domain account http://www.HostSo.com give domain name for just $9.99, and also have a big number possibilities for international domain names registration and 24×7 live help {tested}

    Their website address: http://WebHostingWorld.Net

    This is good web hosting service and I suggest it to all

    Best wishes of u!!!
    Dr Arshad Malik Pakistan

    http://www.doctorarshadmalik.com

    Reply
  28. Globat is one of the good and cheap services and also excellent support which provide effective Web Hosting Plans.

    Emma.

    Reply
  29. Another good company is frogsplat.com

    They’re new (I think) but they’ve been excellent so far. I’ve been with a few different companies over the years and there’s a few really good ones out there, Frogsplat are just as good as any of the better ones only they’re a little cheaper than most, hence the reason for me switching over.

    Remember though, always look around for the best deals when getting yourself a host, set a price in your head and try not to go much over this, hosting and stuff doesn’t cost much these days so there’s no reason you should be paying crazy money anymore.

    Actually there is at least one reason to pay more: reliability and support. If your web site goes down all the time it’s worth paying more for a better solution.

    Leo
    21-Aug-2010

    Reply
  30. HostGator is one of the best hosts there is with completely un-metered hosting that allows you to host unlimited websites all from one host if you choose the Baby Plan.
    You can keep up to date with the latest money off coupons from http://www.freehostgatorcouponcode.com

    All coupons are up to date and verified working.

    Hope this helps 🙂

    Reply
  31. I am a search engine optimizer and currently have my hosting through a company called vpswebserver, the guy in there is very helpful and available to sort out any problems (not that i have had any),. I previously used to host with dreamhost and also 1and1 but both companies let me down, transferring things out were a real pain as well, but the guy at vpswebserver did it all for free and quickly.
    My view is that even thouh vpswebserver is a small hosting company, its actually a bit better than the big companies, there is a lot more effort and kindess from the company.My rating for this company is 9/10, extremely happy 🙂
    I hope my review helps.
    by the way their website address is http://www.vpswebserver.com/.

    Reply
  32. I believe that one of your adverts instigated my web browser to resize, you will probably want to place that on your black list.

    I’d love to, but I’d have to know which advertiser that was. (Google could place any of thousands of different advertisers on my site.)

    Leo
    11-Jun-2012
    Reply
  33. I know this guy who knows almost nothing about computers.( Fine, ok, thats me). I am trying to learn about web hosting and how an idiot can get started with the process and learn more about the advantages of computers. ANY advice would be so appreciated

    I’ll start you here Webinar #11 – Mastering your own domain

    Leo
    06-Jul-2012
    Reply
  34. I have been using Mister.net for over five years for three websites I own and haven’t had a problem and they are cheap, $35.00 a year per site.

    Reply
    • I know… I am a Mister.net customer myself. I have used Mister.net many years for the same reason. They have excellent up time, but their tech support is limited. When I compare them to other popular hosts, Mister.net is telling the truth when they say their ad-free hosting is “unbeatable”. I haven’t found that price cheaper anywhere else. You can have unlimited email accounts. However, you better hope that Google does not flag your site as being the victim of a malware attack because resolving that issue with Mister.net is a pain. I ran into a problem when one of my email accounts got hijacked and was being used by someone I don’t know to send thousands of messages. Consequently Mister.net shut down all my email accounts and threated to shut down my entire website! I was falsely accused, it was not my fault at all. I had no control over my email, so I eventually lost the whole domain.

      Reply
  35. Interestingly enough, hosting a personal server at home is not that hard, assuming you have a vested interest in the subject, you have the time and you are not using it for anything permanent.

    Stuff like xampp is a good place to start on learning how you would host your own server. And if you wanted, you could use it to set up an actual online server.

    Then, getting into domains isn’t that hard either, go to some place like dot.tk and set up the domain to point to your personal ip address. If you have a dynamic ip, get something like DynDNS, and use it to set up your domain to change whenever your ip does.

    This will work as longs as;
    1: You don’t worry about uptime
    2: the speed of the server isn’t that important
    3: and the whole project is academic.

    Nobody wants to view a site that has terrible speed, and not much content, but there people out there who like to see what other people have done with their personal servers.

    If you really just want a blog, i recommend WordPress.com, and if you don’t want to pay for anything but need more control i recommend 000webhost paired with a good free domain host. (dot.tk, co.cc, etc)

    Reply
  36. Good basic article, not getting into much detail. The way I see it, shared hosting rules the market because of people’s ignorance, they’re attracted to “unlimited” hosting plans which couldn’t be a bigger lie. Every website on those shared plans is limited – in speed – as websites compete with each other for resources of a single machine. You can test this – open some 100 applications on your PC. How fast are they now? Exactly. The same thing happens to your website on a shared hosting plan.

    It isn’t any better than a free plan at 000webhost.com, which allows you to use your own domain name. For beginners, this is the way to go. No investment, other than the $10 per year for the domain name.

    For profitable businesses which can earn over $300 per month, a dedicated server is a good investment. My favorite is the Finnish company Icebluehost.

    Reply
  37. Not all free web hosting companies allow you to use your own domain name, but there are many that do (and possibly some ISP supplied web hosts also). In fact, they often offer you that option themselves as that’s one way they make money. I had a web site with one of these, and when I was ready for an upgrade to a paid host, I was easily able to move my website to the new server and keep my URL.

    Reply
  38. Many, if not most, free web hosting services allow you to use your own URL. In fact, many will even do the registration for you for a small fee.

    A trick I used to get more web space was to move the larger files (eg .avi and .mp3) to DropBox and put a link to those on my page. Once I started paying for web space, this was no longer necessary, but this might be a viable option for people starting out.

    Reply
  39. Actually, I’m .net programmer for 9 years and I always find .net hosting provider. I have used many .net hosting provider, from godaddy, etc. But I only have good experience with 2 providers, they are http://asphostportal.com and http://hostforlife.eu. For past 3 years, I use http://asphostportal.com as my project require US datacenter. So, I use them and have very great experience with them. The price is good and their support is very friendly.

    How about hostforlife? I just host with them for about 1 year and they are also good in pricing and support. They have good server and that makes my site running very good from Germany. I love them. 🙂

    Reply

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