Whatever size of website you have, this article will help you find the best web host, and the best hosting deals for you. The first step is to identify what your needs are – with one eye on the future growth of your website – then choose an appropriate plan at the right price. Web hosting companies usually offer three main paid-for tiers of hosting packages.
Shared hosting means you share a server with other sites and web hosting accounts. The site can often be slower and these plans are for sites that don't use a lot of bandwidth.
With a dedicated server, you have the entire web server for your own use. Faster performance is pretty much guaranteed.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or Cloud Servers enable you to scale resources as and when you need them, rather than being restricted by the limitations of a physical server. They draw from a pool of processing power, memory and storage depending on your requirements.
Finally, a fourth less common option is co-located hosting, which enables you to purchase your own server and, while it will be kept in the vendor's data center, you'll have complete control over it so you can install anything you need onto it.
Some providers arrange their web hosting deals according to business segments (small businesses, e-commerce, artists, resellers), features (WordPress compatibility, email hosting, cloud computing, managed service providers) or platforms (Linux or Windows).
Many packages include a wealth of features that you may or may not place value upon, including a control panel, the ability to create online stores easily, easy site builder tools and varying levels of support (either on the phone or live chat).
Our list is made up of UK providers (those with a UK storefront and a UK phone number) as well as some foreign web hosts that comply with several ground rules like having EU data centers, a right to cancel, a cooling-off period, a full refund policy and/or a free trial period.
If you don't want to build your own website then do consider simpler, easier to learn website builders.
Finally, it’s worth noting that late last year, GoDaddy, one of the biggest web hosting companies in the world, announced that it was acquiring Host Europe Group which owns the brands 123Reg, Heart Internet, Domain Factory, Host Europe and many others.
Best web hosting services in 2018
Don’t fret that this popular web host’s plans are marketed as ‘business’ products, because they’re applicable to individual users as well as companies. There’s a good range of choice here, and even the starter account allows for hosting two websites (when many rivals only allow for one) – it starts from £4.50 per month.
What’s also good to see here is that InMotion incorporates features into its plans which other providers charge extra for – like malware and spam protection, a system of basic backups, and a WordPress-based website builder.
Another strong suit here is the way that this web host provides full details of all its services at-a-glance on the website, and makes it easy to compare features, and make your decision when taking the plunge with a subscription.
You also get cPanel and Softaculous-powered hosting, a sterling level of technical support, and in our testing, we found this provider delivered some impressive performance levels when it came to site loading speeds. All in all, there are lots of reasons to go with InMotion, and a 90-day money-back guarantee doesn’t hurt, either.
1&1 is a big web hosting player, vying with GoDaddy for world domination, and is the biggest player in Europe. Located in Germany, it offers a bewildering array of services with prices starting from as little as 99p per month excluding VAT (although that rises to £5 after the first year).
On top of that, this host provides some smart freebies (a free domain and unlimited storage for example, with SSL certificates included across all plans), free web design software (NetObjects Fusion 2013), 24/7 phone and email support, a graphics archive, a 30-day money-back guarantee, transparent replication (the company calls it geo-redundancy) and a whopping 300Gbps network connectivity.
- Check out the web hosting packages from 1&1
- Those looking for 1&1 hosting outside of the UK should check here
The US-based web hosting company is one of the largest in the game and probably the best known one as well. It is also the biggest domain name registrar in the world with tens of millions of domain names in its portfolio. GoDaddy’s cheapest web hosting package is decently kitted out at £4 per month excluding VAT (when you sign up for an annual subscription).
This provider offers free backup and restore, an uptime guarantee (99.9%), unlimited storage (although there’s only 100GB for the Economy package), as well as unlimited bandwidth and a free domain with the annual plan.
A pretty nifty feature provided by GoDaddy on all its packages is the ability to increase hosting capacity on demand (e.g. when you experience a sudden surge in traffic) from within your hosting account.
If you want to do web hosting on a budget, then as this provider’s name suggests, it aims to be inexpensive. You get some impressive value-for-money with Namecheap, particularly with an initial discount for the first year, and there are some heavyweight plans here. However, note the starter ‘value’ plan only gives you 20GB of hard drive space and 50 email accounts, but you get that at the price of just £8 for the first year (yes, year).
Namecheap offers a 99.9% connectivity guarantee, and is a very easy service to set up, with an initial welcome email that points you in the right direction for everything you might need (backed up by some impressive FAQs). It also plays host to an excellent searchable knowledgebase.
To round things off, testing proved that this company generally offers above average speeds compared to rivals, making this the go-to hosting provider for those who aren’t keen on doing too much damage to their wallet.
Based in London, bang in the middle of startup territory (Shoreditch), UK2 offers an impressively cheap starting package at £1 per month excluding VAT (although that rises to £6 a month on renewal). It also offers affordable unlimited packages with unlimited emails, bandwidth, a free SSL certificate (great for improved security and search visibility), a free domain and a dedicated IP.
Prospective customers will appreciate the lack of setup fees or hidden charges, the 30-day money-back guarantee, plus 24/7 UK-based phone support on a freephone number and UK-based data centres.
This is another web host which caters for the more budget-minded, and of course that’s never a bad thing. Although do note that you only get the really cheap prices when signing up for longer contracts with HostGator, so something of a commitment is required for the best savings here. (For example, the cheapest plan is £3 per month if you sign up for 36 months, but £4.50 per month if you sign up for one year).
The good news is that you get plenty for your money, and no annoying limitations, so even the basic plan allows for unlimited bandwidth, web space, email accounts and more. A 99.9% uptime guarantee is also good to see.
Customer support is generally pretty good – although it falls down in a few areas, for example the web help forums aren’t moderated by the company itself – and we found performance was better than average in terms of site loading times.
The importance of good web hosting
Today, e-commerce has become a massively lucrative channel for retailers. However, the quality of the hosting services that many small businesses are using often leaves a lot to be desired. A recent report showed that one in three Britons have abandoned their online transactions because of poor website design and inefficient hosting.
Research from hosting company 1&1's '2011 Digital High Street Audit' finds worryingly low levels of consumer satisfaction with the small business websites available to them. The risk to firms from providing a bad online experience is clear – 49% of consumers believe that a bad website makes a worse impact than a business having no website at all. This conclusion has led 37% to walk-away from companies completely, in favour of using a competitor. An additional 9% of Britons have found themselves reducing their spend with small companies as a direct result of being deterred by a poor company website.
Oliver Mauss, CEO, 1&1 Internet said: "Research shows that keeping an ugly or badly functioning website online can comprise a risk to sales revenue. Consumers have ever higher expectations, and it is essential that every company website inspires confidence. Businesses that invest carefully in their web experience will see higher levels of customer spend, retention and referral".
Choosing the right server to host your website
The hosting services your business can choose from will usually mean making a decision whether a shared, dedicated or cloud based server is right for your business. Very small businesses will usually opt for a shared or managed service as these are sometimes called. Costs are low, but your business will be sharing its server with several other enterprises.
“Businesses that invest carefully in their web experience will see higher levels of customer spend, retention and referral”. Oliver Mauss, CEO, 1&1 Internet
A dedicated server as its name suggests is just one server reserved for your business. Dedicated servers are not as expensive as they once were and can make economic sense if you want your business to have its own server platform and not have to worry about other businesses on a shared server impacting your online business if they have problems.
It is important to look closely at the service level (SLA) that will be attached to your dedicated server. Look for any additional costs such as maintenance, or other ‘extras’ that are not covered in the rental cost. And lastly, try and buy server space that you can expand into. You don’t want to find after a few months that you have outgrown your server and need to move to a new one.
Lastly as the cloud has made a major impact right across the business environment, business website hosting has also been touched by the cloud and now offers an alternative to the traditional hosting methods. The power of cloud hosting is the flexibility it offers. In effect your business can buy just the space and hosting services it needs now and expand at anytime with no disruption to business.
Abby Hardoon, Founder and MD of second generation web hosting company Daily.co.uk says: “Hosting is very much a horses for courses thing – it’s a question of getting the best and most appropriate solution that you can afford. There’s no need to hamstring yourself financially, though. If you’re just starting out or you’re a relatively small business and you know your way around a server, you might like to consider a Virtual Private Server (VPS), for example – they provide the flexibility of a dedicated server but at a reduced cost.
Your business hosting checklist
There’s more to choosing a web host than just choosing the right server, you should also consider other parts of the service including the domain name. Business host PEER 1 Hosting offered this advice when choosing a hosting service for your business:
1. Get the right domain name host
A search for 'domain name registrations' on Google generates a number of different companies offering this service. Always read the small print on any domain name registration to ensure it is not going to be sold from under your feet in a year, once your website is established, or that the price isn't going to suddenly go up. If you have a very common name or are in a competitive market then it is worth considering buying the other domain name extensions (.co.uk, .com, .net etc) and pointing them to your website.
2. Do you host with your web designers or a third-party?
Once you have your website built you then have to find a home for your data to be hosted. Many web design companies offer this as part of their service, however this locks your online business into one company. Choosing a separate web host gives you more control and means that you are dealing with the web host directly instead of through a third party. This can come in handy if you anticipate spikes of traffic, perhaps as a result of a marketing campaign, and you need the host to ensure your site does not collapse under this extra pressure.
3. Read the contract small print
Many hosting providers will give you an all-in fee for set-up, hardware, operating system, support and bandwidth. This may seem like an easy option but the problem with these deals is you can't see exactly where your money is going, and so can't see if you're paying for things you don't need. The best way to ensure you're not taken for a ride is to ask for a breakdown of services and individual quotes for support, bandwidth, additional hardware etc. It's the only way to know what's being delivered, what isn't, and what is surplus to requirements.
Often overlooked the hosting services you buy for your online business are vital to get right. Consumers that have become highly critical of the online stores they buy from want to see solid websites that perform efficiently and are available on demand. The right hosting service can ensure your business becomes a destination site in its sector that your customers are sure to shout about right across their social networks.
Best small business web hosting deal
1&1 | Plus | Web space: Unlimited | Included domains: 1 | £3.99 per month for 12 months, then £6.99 a month
Unlimited web space and an unlimited number of websites. What more could you want than that? There's full SSL certificate support, while you can have up to 500 MySQL databases plus there's 24/7 support. 1&1 also provides 'click and build' web apps, meaning you can rapidly roll out new features, too.
Best value web hosting deal
123-reg.co.uk | Linux Essentials | Web space: 10GB | Included domains: 1 | £2.49 per month
The features you need to make your first personal or community website a success with an included domain and hosting for a single site. You can host a MySQL database up to 500MB, plus you get up to 10GB to store all your pages, posts and images.
Best WordPress hosting deal
Fasthosts | Ignite | Web space: 10GB | Included domains: 1 | £2.50 per month
As well as 24/7 support and 10GB of web hosting space, you can have two databases up to 1GB in size. You don't get a dedicated SSL certificate and advanced scripting, so more complex sites will need to plump for the £7 a month deal called Momentum (20GB of space).
View this deal: Fasthosts Ignite
Best Windows web hosting deal:
Windows hosting is necessary for websites that use ASP.NET and MS SQL, which are only available on the Windows hosting platform.
EUKHost | Windows Intermediate | Web space: 50GB | Included domains: 0, but 3 supported | £4.99 per month
As well as support for three domains, you can have unlimited sub domains and email addresses with this package. There's also 24/7 technical support and unlimited monthly bandwidth, too!
View this deal: Windows Intermediate