8 cheap hosting services to help you claim your corner of the web
We’re feeling a little philosophical, so riddle us this: If a tree falls in the woods, does anyone hear it? And if you don’t have your own website in the ever-crowded wilderness of the World Wide Web, do you really even exist?
Well, yeah. The answer is obviously “yes” to both. But just like that mighty toppling oak, there will be no one there to marvel at your greatness and sing your praises (and potentially bring you some business) if you don’t have a nice little corner of the web carved out for yourself. The question is, where you do you even begin?
Signing up for a web host is one of the very first steps to getting your website up and running, whether you’re running a small business, advertising your talents, or just blogging for fun. The trick is finding one that meets your needs and your budget: You shouldn’t be paying a premium for features you’ll never actually use (think unlimited storage and emails), but at the same time, some of the free options might not include all of the tools you need for your site.
Cheap hosting wasn’t always a thing, but many of the bigger providers out there now offer more affordable options that anyone can use to create their own website. These budget hosting plans usually come with fewer features than some of their premium counterparts, but they’re still perfectly sufficient for individual needs. (Plus, you can always upgrade in the future if you need to scale up.)
With that in mind, remember that not all cheap hosting services are created equal, and there’s still a lot you should take into consideration before entrusting one with your web presence. But don’t worry: We’re about to answer some of the most common questions on the matter so you can make the best possible decision for your cheap web hosting needs.
What is a web host, anyway?
Simply put, web hosting is a service that lets you rent out some space on a secure server where you can store files and post a website. You’re basically claiming a plot of internet land where your online content lives.
We’ll be talking specifically about cheap hosting plans that don’t cost more than $5 per month, but you can click here to check out a list of our favorite web hosts at all price points.
What’s the difference between cheap shared hosting and dedicated hosting?
Shared web hosting means your site will be hosted on a server that also hosts other people’s sites. No one else can see or touch your files, but you’ll all be able to tap into the same resources (i.e. storage and bandwidth). This drives down the per-person price of being hosted there, but since you share the same space and features, your site’s performance can be affected if another person’s site on the same server gets a lot of traffic.
On the flip side, dedicated hosting gives you a server all to yourself so you won’t have to worry about anyone else hogging resources. Plans are usually pricier for this kind of hosting, unfortunately, so prepare to share if you’re looking for a bargain on web hosting.
One happy medium can be a virtual private server (VPS) where server space is shared, but by much fewer sites — i.e., you’re far less likely to experience performance issues because of your server mates. This option is more expensive than shared hosting, but way more budget-friendly than going the dedicated route.
What is WordPress hosting?
WordPress itself is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) that’s ideal for creating highly customized websites, but especially blogs. If that’s the kind of site you’re going to be building, your best bet is to look into WordPress hosting. This is a special kind of hosting service that’s optimized for websites made using WordPress; it’ll make transferring your content from the WordPress CMS to your host’s server super easy, and typically stays pretty cheap. (Bonus: A WordPress hosting provider usually handles all of the backend updates and tech stuff, so you don’t have to worry about anything but your content.)
What can you reasonably expect to get with a cheap hosting plan?
Whether it’s a portfolio site for your photography, an online shop, or a simple landing page with your business’ basic contact info, your vision and needs for your website are ultimately going to dictate what parameters you should seek in a web host.
For example, you’re likely to get anywhere from 10 to maybe 25GB of storage included with a cheap hosting plan. That should be sufficient for simplistic, mainly text-based sites, but if you plan on uploading a good amount of high-quality images and videos, you’re better off splurging on an unlimited storage option.
As for limits on site traffic, you’ll find that most hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth even with their lowest-priced plans. This means you won’t be charged extra or restricted based on the amount of traffic coming to your site. You might also see references to “unmetered” bandwidth, which is essentially a set amount of bandwidth that you can use to transfer as much data as you need. The maximum server speed may be limited, but you won’t incur an extra fee for heavy traffic.
Most budget hosting plans will also throw in a free domain for a year, and a free SSL certificate for your site. (That stands for Secure Socket Layer, a security protocol that encrypts your traffic.)
What are the non-negotiables when it comes to inexpensive hosting?
Regardless of how much space you’ll need or how much you’ll be paying to have your site hosted, any self-respecting web host (cheap or not) should be providing customers with solid support options 24 hours per day, seven days per week. You don’t want to be caught with your site down, period.
Along those same lines, you should absolutely not compromise when it comes to your web host’s uptime. If your site is down, your audience or customers cannot reach you, and that almost always results in lost sales and opportunities. (Seriously, your web host has one job — to host your site — so reliable uptime is not too much to ask.) Fortunately, most web hosts abide by guarantees of 99% uptime or better.
What should I look out for when choosing a cheap web hosting plan?
To keep costs low in the long term, make sure you read the fine print before committing to a budget hosting plan. Most web hosts offer multiple tiers of service, and they often sweeten the deal on mid- to high-level plans with special introductory pricing. It’ll seem like a bargain — and it is, at first — until it reverts to its regular monthly rate and you’re stuck paying for a bunch of features that you don’t actually need. You’re usually better off sticking with the lowest-tier option that only includes your must-have features, even if it technically costs more than a discounted premium package for your first few months.
Also, be on the lookout for providers that require you to commit to a long-term plan in order to score the lowest monthly price. If you’re not exactly sure what you’ll need over time or how much your site will grow, you’ll probably want to avoid a multiyear contract.
Now that you know what to look for, keep reading: Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best cheap web hosting plans for a variety of needs so you can score the best bang for your buck.