Web hosting is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or web page onto the Internet. A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed in the Internet. Websites are hosted, or stored, on special computers called servers. When Internet users want to view your website, all they need to do is type your website address or domain into their browser. Their computer will then connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser.
You can sell products and services on your website if you have the Ecommerce plan. You’ll have an online store that will allow you to add products and services, set up different types of payment methods, and even specific types of shipping. Your store will be integrated into your website as a page. You can add featured products for your visitors to scroll through, make quick purchases using PayPal and Apple Pay and promote your store/products through coupons. You can also use the same type of email marketing that is included in the Premium plan to send email communications to your subscribers and customers about sales in your store, coupon offers and events. Establishing a strong online commerce can boost your current sales, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar store.
The cloud certainly makes delivering email to your users easier but, for the vast majority of organizations, there's still going to be some setup required beyond simply activating the service. At a minimum, a domain must be purchased and configured to point to the new email host. The service provider can make this process very simple or they can make quite hard; this is something you should watch for in the provider's customer support forums as well as in our reviews. In most cases, there is a validation phase that will require some technical familiarity, though a few providers go so far as to walk even neophyte users through it step by step. Other solid services bolster excellent support with tutorial articles and videos that also walk you through the process. The worst will leave you to figure it out on your own.
Whatever your web mission, choosing a host is the first step toward setting up a site that will attract customers, engage readers, or catch the attention of potential employers. Plans can vary, and there are different types of web hosts to choose from. Knowing the options can help you make the best decision for your online project. Let’s compare, shall we?
Post initial setup, a primary concern will be the log-on issue. If your organization is fine with a separate log-on for your email provider, then this step will be quick. However, that's not typically what businesses want or users expect. In general, users expect to sign onto their desktops and have their email and file sharing sign-ons happen as part of that one-step process. Not surprisingly, this is called Single Sign-On (SSO) and it's enabled in one of three ways: through the use of a back-end directory service like Microsoft Active Directory (AD); an identity management service, like Okta (one of our Editors' Choice winners in that category); or several compatible web services that include SSO along with other apps and email services, like Google G Suite Business and Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium (two of the top providers reviewed here). Which method you choose depends on how your business is configured today and your long-term cloud services strategy. It's definitely a conversation you'll need to have either with your in-house IT staff or your outside IT consultant.
HostGator gained points for uptime monitoring and regular backups, along with free cPanel or Plesk. We liked that SSH is available for the more technically inclined site operators and that dedicated IP addresses could be purchased. We did take points off because it's sometimes difficult to tell what the price is once promotional plans run their course. That said, with a generous 45-day money back guarantee, there's a hosting solution for almost everyone at HostGator.
Business owners can make their products and services available to a global audience by adding eCommerce functionality — an online storefront and shopping cart program — to their website. Adding these features to your site can be complicated for beginners, but many hosts offer easy, 1-click installations of the most popular tools — and the knowledgeable support staffs to help you implement them. Boost sales by offering customers the convenience of buying from anywhere.
For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as Senior Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web hosting, music, utilities, and video game copy, Jeffrey makes comic books, mentors, practices bass and Jeet Kune Do, and appears on the odd podcasts or convention panel. He also collects vinyl and greatly enjoys a craft brew. You can a find Jeffrey online at jeffreylwilson.net, or send him a tweet at @jeffreylwilson
Uptime is the percentage of time that a server is operational. When you’re running a website, you want users to be able to access it at all times. When a server experiences downtime, your site would be unavailable, but ideally, this happens rarely. An industry-wide goal for how much uptime a server should have is “the five nines” – an uptime of 99.999%, meaning the system is highly reliable. However, 99.9% uptime is pretty standard and should more than suffice for the majority of hosting users.
Things are probably more complicated than that, though. As a recent survey conducted by market research firm Statista clearly shows, email is one of the most popular apps for mobile devices across most organizations and even consumers. Given how many workflows, business processes, and just plain important communications take place over email, this is one area where you likely shouldn't skimp.
The biggest drawbacks: scrubbing your records is not fast enough because the emails are retained for 14 days, and system logs up to 180 days. Also, compared to Rackspace, Zoho and G Suite, Fastmail has less storage space for a basic plan: only 2 GB for $3/user/month. Still, we’re giving it the highest rating, 5 for Value, on account of the sheer number of supported features.
Unlike shared or VPS hosting, dedicated hosting makes your website the lone tenant on a server. To extend the housing metaphor, having a dedicated server is like owning your own home. The means that your website taps the server's full power, and pays for the privilege. If you're looking for a high-powered site—an online mansion for your business—dedicated hosting is the way to go. That said, many dedicated web hosting services task you with handling backend, technical issues, much as homeowners have manage maintenance that renters generally leave to their landlords.
In all Website Builder plans any data transmitted from your site will be encrypted using a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. Your SSL will establish an encrypted link between your web server and the browser of the person visiting your site. This means that all data will be kept private; which is important if you want visitors to your site to be safe. If you want to sell products or services in your store, you will want to have a SSL since it protects credit card and bank numbers from being intercepted by hackers.
What about those merging business and web hosting? Now that you’re learning about the facets of what makes a good host, maybe you’ll want to start your own hosting business. Resellers basically sublease some of their server space to others. They buy hosting — typically a virtual private server, or VPS — from a provider for wholesale rates and set the retail rates for the hosting resources you want to sell to others.
To choose the best web hosting service for your website needs you need to consider many options like, how much do you want to spend? How much space do I need? Do I need a domain? There are some top quality web hosts around who have been in the industry many years, so they can offer you a higher level of service than some web hosts who can charge nearly 3 times as much. So with web hosting you don’t always get what you pay for. Try to stick with reputable companies, who you know will have the best uptime and reliability for you website. They usually can afford to offer you better deals also as they have economies of scale from hosting many hundreds of thousands of websites. Sites like eHost.com, iPage.com, BlueHost.com are first class website hosts who you should definitely consider.
Why? Because word of mouth only gets you so far in the internet era. People discover new businesses—even local business—via Bing, Google, and Yahoo. The days when they'd just look you up in the yellow pages are long gone. If you don't have a sharable website address, your chances of building online word of mouth via social networking plummet, too. In other words, no website, no discoverability, no money. Of course, web hosting isn't just for businesses. You may want to host a personal website or blog, too. Either way, the services here have you covered.
As with backups, SSL certificates are not a necessary feature your web host must offer, this is especially so since companies like Let’s Encrypt offer them for free. However, if you’re looking to streamline the process of getting your site fully equipped and online in no time, the extra convenience of getting this certificate from your web hosting provider is a nice add-on.
Migration or transfer services are often free or offered at a reasonable fee. These services help move your existing site to the new hosting provider. They can save a huge amount of hassle. Just remember that the migration process is often automated, and may fit in with the host's processes and needs rather than yours. Not everything may migrate, and you may find the organization of the newly migrated site makes for harder maintenance in the long run.
An uptime guarantee from a web host basically says “We promise that your website will be online __% of the time during this billing cycle.” The best web hosts will set that guarantee as close to 100% as possible, and that’s exactly what you should be looking for. By having this guarantee in place, you’re assured compensation from your host in the case that there is a server outage or something else takes your site down.
Many web hosting services offer a low "starting price," but require you to prepay for two or three years of service to get that price. After the promotional period, the renewal price for some web hosting services can be two, three, or even four times the initial promotional pricing. While the initial deal might be incredible, the cost of transferring your site (or paying the added fee) in a couple of years may be something to consider.
If you’re not online, many people won’t know you or your business exist, as 95% of consumers search for local businesses online. Business owners aren’t the only ones who benefit from a powerful online presence. Creatives can share their artistry. Writers find a platform from which to be heard. And computer science majors can flex their programming muscles.
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That’s why it’s critical for businesses to establish a strong online impression. Websites attract new customers from around the world, and choosing a reliable, reputable hosting provider is just as important as the website itself. Uptime and performance rates matter to online shoppers like me, and finding the right host for your business needs will help sales soar. Read on to see who we say are the 10 best web hosting services for small businesses in 2020!