Assessing the pros and cons of web hosting helps new or aspiring website owners figure out which services and providers are the best fit for their needs. Writing out a list of the advantages and disadvantages of a particular choice — whether it’s to have tacos for dinner or deciding on which apartment to rent — is a long-established part of the decision-making process.
You may be debating whether to house your website on your on-premises infrastructure or if you even want to open the web hosting can of worms in the first place. We’ve already explored the benefits of each web hosting service, from shared to dedicated servers, but here we’ll take a broader view of the concepts you need to know as you shop for hosting.
Pros of Web Hosting
Pros and cons lists date back as far as 1772 and can even count Benjamin Franklin among its many fans. The simple methodology promotes rigorous analytical thinking, but many experts use the process as only a high-level, preliminary thinking aid when facing critical decisions such as where or how to host your business website or application.
We are obviously big fans of all (well, most) things web hosting that enable site owners to design and display an online presence without having to learn how to code or optimize and secure a network. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest advantages of finding the right hosting plan.
1. Surprisingly Affordable Prices
Thanks to the rampant competition in the industry — particularly with beginner-friendly shared hosting plans — customers and site owners can score some rather incredible deals. Web hosting is a market where the word cheap doesn’t necessarily mean shoddy or subpar. Hosting providers are clamoring to offer the extra features, stronger security, better support, faster performance, or easiest design tools needed to attract your business.
According to a report from Market Research Future, prominent hosting companies must continually innovate and expand a cost-effective product portfolio to survive and gain traction in the industry. As a result, you can choose from a plethora of top-tier hosting services for less than $5 per month. Here are some of our favorite deals:
Monthly Starting Price $2.95
- Known for high performance at a low price
- Endorsed by WordPress.org team
- FREE Weebly site builder and CloudFlare CDN
- FREE domain and unlimited storage
- Get 63% off today (was $7.99/month)
- Get started on Bluehost now.
Monthly Starting Price $0.99
- Unlimited everything, from storage to databases
- FREE site builder & WP performance upgrades
- FREE daily or weekly backups
- Custom control panel and auto-installation scripts
- SSH access & SSL certificates
- Get started on Hostinger now.
Monthly Starting Price $2.64
- Get 62% off by buying 36 months up front
- Unmetered disk space & bandwidth
- Unlimited email addresses & free SSL certificate
- One-click WordPress install & free blog tools
- Free 1-year domain registration on select plans
- Get started on HostGator now.
2. Performance is a Top Priority
Just like runners crossing the finish line, the first website to load wins fame and glory. Web hosting performance has a direct impact on the traffic your site attracts and how many readers you convert to customers, as 1 in 4 visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than four seconds to load. Instead of slaving away and painstakingly optimizing your network and infrastructure manually, hosts leverage the expertise of dozens or even hundreds of system administrators in massive datacenters to ensure their customers’ sites appear as quickly as possible.
In addition to pairing customers with free access to content delivery networks, which reduces load times by storing files and cached pages on servers as geographically close as possible to visitors, hosts can choose to deploy more modern technologies in their servers. A solid-state drive, or SSD, is always a good sign that a provider values customer success by offering them high-quality services. Although the storage device is more expensive, SSDs can transfer data up to 20 times faster than traditional hard disk drives. The host listed below is our go-to option for high-speed hosting:
Monthly Starting Price $3.92
- FREE SSD speed and optional Turbo Server
- 1-click installs for all popular apps and scripts
- FREE CloudFlare CDN and A2-optimized caching
- Get up to unlimited domains and databases
- Help from the Guru Crew available 24/7
- Get started on A2 Hosting now.
3. Tons of Free Perks
What good is that cheap, fast web hosting plan if you can’t do much with it? In the quest to provide customers with easy-to-use and comprehensive services, many hosts prefer to hook up customers with hundreds of free features and tools that cover seemingly everything you’d want to do with server space.
From a graphical control panel interface and free email accounts to SSL certificates and hundreds of one-click software installations, customers can find easy ways to access the programs and services they’re most interested in. We opted to focus on our favorite host for easy WordPress installations, but you can also find superb options for website builders, ecommerce, and countless other specialties.
Monthly Starting Price $4.99
- WordPress pre-installed with NGINX and PHP 7
- FREE SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth
- Automatic plugin, theme, and core updates
- Features a FREE drag-and-drop WP page editor
- Premium themes and plugin subscriptions
- Get started on InMotion now.
4. Hands-On Expert Support
Once you’re equipped with all the tools you’ll need to succeed (and then some), perhaps one of the most comforting advantages of web hosting plans is the army of customer support agents available to help 24/7 in case something goes wrong. Pretty much any host worth your interest should offer around-the-clock support via phone, chat, and email, with bonus points going to those companies that prioritize fast response times, employ knowledgeable experts, and supply extensive knowledge base articles and tutorials.
SiteGround is synonymous with the best web hosting support, having built multiple proprietary systems and promising responses to email support tickets in 10 minutes or less. Learn more about the experts by clicking on our review below:
Cons of Web Hosting
Rainbows may be beautiful, but you wouldn’t be able to see them if not for the rain. Web hosting is a complicated, tangled mess of wires and cables that few people understand. The cutting-edge technologies can add some stress to the site-owning experience if they aren’t implemented properly or completely understood.
Much of these drawbacks can be alleviated by skipping over the free or bargain-basement hosting services in favor of seeking a reputable, established provider already serving thousands or millions of customers. Be sure to do your research to avoid being ensnared by one of these potential pitfalls of web hosting:
1. Not Necessarily Having the Room to Grow
If you sign up for a shared hosting plan, as most novices and aspiring developers do, you’ll be sharing a server with hundreds or thousands of other customers. Given the finite resources available, you’ll be slightly constrained if your website or big idea becomes a viral sensation. Many of our favorite affordable providers tout unlimited hosting resources, but you still may be penalized for exceeding a certain threshold.
The solution here is moving from shared servers into a more scalable solution like cloud or VPS hosting. These plans offer ample resources that can be allocated as you need. Cloud hosting entails leveraging a wide network of multiple servers to share the workload of delivering your website, while a virtual private server gives you more control over a much larger slice of a server’s resources. Our recommended cloud provider, below, offers simple scalability at an affordable rate.
Monthly Starting Price $5.00
- Ranked #1 for cloud VPS hosting
- Fault-tolerant SSD storage and up to 8GB of RAM
- FREE control panel with choice of Linux OS
- Full root access or managed servers available
- FREE live-state or scheduled snapshots
- Get started on InMotion now.
2. Lax Security Protections
You see the headlines every day; seemingly no company is immune from data breaches. Storing your website data — to say nothing of potential customers’ personal or financial information — in a server hundreds of miles away, in a datacenter you can’t access, is certainly an exercise in trust.
Fortunately, though, the web hosting industry employs many of the world’s foremost security experts, who keep an eye out for both emerging threats as well as promising solutions and safeguards. Unless you know more than they do about how to secure a network, you’re probably better off following some website security best practices and finding a highly regarded company, like the one below, to protect your data.
Monthly Starting Price $2.64
- Familiar and easy-to-use cPanel control panel
- FREE drag-and-drop custom website builder
- Unlimited disk space, email, and bandwidth
- Flexible term lengths with no contract required
- 62% off your first three years
- Get started on HostGator now.
3. Can Get Costly as Your Site Grows
Figuring out how much to pay for web hosting is usually a pretty straightforward endeavor, especially for your first year of service. Most new site owners will opt for a shared hosting plan, which should cost less than $5 per month. However, the introductory discounts you enjoyed that first year will expire and bump up costs either slightly or exponentially, depending on the host. Plus, with any luck, your online presence is growing and will soon need the additional resources of a cloud or VPS plan. Once you cross that bridge, web hosting prices may get prohibitive and hard to calculate.
This is another case where your upfront research will pay off in the long run. Comparing web hosting prices will separate the scammers from the best values, revealing where you can find high-quality service that doesn’t break the bank. We recommend staying away from most free VPS hosting providers for anything other than development or testing purposes, but check out the value a company like Hostwinds brings to the table:
Should You Host Your Own Website?
No. Trust us — just don’t do it. Taking matters into your own hands probably sounds like an excitingly nerdy way to cut costs and cut out corporate interests, but neither ends up being the case. Hosting your own site inevitably leads to headaches, hassles, and an empty wallet.
Buying, installing, and configuring the hardware is challenging enough, to say nothing of the constant stream of updates and security patches that need to be installed. You’ll also need a redundant high-speed internet connection, lots of time, and loads of experience — all to deliver service that probably isn’t as secure or fast as what the professionals can give you.
Sure, we can tell you how to host your own website from home, but tons of experts will agree with us in providing reasons why you shouldn’t. Do the research, and find the respected hosting provider that can deliver top-notch service and support for affordable rates. What’s more, many of our favorites actively contribute back to open-source communities, like WordPress, helping internet users worldwide discover and use stronger and safer technologies.
If you’re looking to fashion yourself into a web hosting provider, consider going the reseller hosting route. These hosting plans give you a larger portion of a server that you can then divide up and sell (or give) to clients, friends, or family. The reseller hosting path enables you to take more of an administrative role without the headaches of running your own on-prem server. Plus, you can even make a little money doing it!
What are the Different Types of Web Hosting?
Given the ultra-crowded and competitive web hosting industry, providers are clamoring to stand out with specialized services. We’ll get into the niche markets later, but here are the standard hosting plans you’ll encounter:
- Shared hosting entails hundreds or thousands of customers sharing one server’s resources. The service is extremely affordable and beginner-friendly, thanks to high levels of support and design tools.
- VPS hosting reduces the number of clients on physical servers and allocates more control and flexibility. Servers are virtually partitioned into smaller environments, or virtual machines, that run independently from each other.
- Cloud hosting spreads the computing workloads of virtual machines across several physical servers. Customers can easily add or remove computing resources as traffic fluctuates, and they enjoy extra redundancy and stability.
- Dedicated server hosting allocates an entire physical server to one customer. While these plans include the most security, performance, reliability, and control, dedicated servers are also the most expensive.
Generally speaking, every other service fits into one of these categories. Managed hosting simply alludes to the providers taking a more hands-on approach to your site’s performance and security, as well as mundane management and maintenance tasks. Reseller hosting enables entrepreneurs to start their own hosting business by portioning off parts of their computing resources to other customers.
Some services are marketed based on the software the platform is optimized to run, such as those touting WordPress hosting, website builders, and ecommerce, while others represent specific services or functionalities that might differ slightly from standard web hosting, including domain hosting and email services.
What are the Disadvantages of Free Web Hosting?
We get the allure of free web hosting — why pay for something if you can get it for free? Free web hosting plans sure seem to be a good bet, as they often seem to come with many of the same perks as our recommended high-value hosts: unlimited storage and bandwidth, email accounts, design tools, and maybe even ecommerce functionality.
But as the saying goes: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many free hosting services lack the modern hardware and security protections to deliver high-quality services, and many companies resort to placing ads on their users’ sites or insisting they use subdomains instead of a custom domain name. Free web hosting, at whatever level, is best used only temporarily. As long as you’re aware of the dangers and potential pitfalls, free hosting can be a helpful method to try out a new idea or get comfortable with a different technology. Use it to prove a concept, then look elsewhere for long-term hosting.
Instead of searching for less-than-desirable free hosting services, look around for reputable hosts that offer lengthy money-back guarantee policies. Sure, you’ll likely have to commit some funds up front, but companies like InMotion Hosting give customers more than three months to request a full refund — more time with better hosting services.
Review All Your Options When Getting Started Online
Now that you’ve seen all the options out there, you may be wondering: How do I choose a web host? As you may expect, though, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Certainly, the first step involves taking stock of where you need to start. Are you a first-time site owner, or are you a developer looking to finally take on a side project?
Having a realistic inventory of your tech experience, timeline, and website traffic goals will help steer you to the right type of hosting plan. You’ll most likely start with shared hosting, but don’t be afraid to start bigger if you’re creating a website for an established brick-and-mortar business or plan on developing other websites for clients.
From there, shopping for web hosting is a balancing act between your budget and the number or types of features you’d like to have. Plans with faster solid-state drives tend to be more expensive and come with less storage, for example, but businesses will likely see a greater return on investment and higher conversion rates.
The options are endless: free domain registration, domain privacy, SSL certificate, content delivery network, live-chat support, and so on. The process of choosing your web hosting is much like that of going to a restaurant. Spend the time thinking about the meal you want to have and how much you want to spend — then go out and find it!