|---------Which web host to choose?---------|
[Before that, let us announce that we have no commercial dealing with any of hosts mentioned here, and no interest in promoting or denigrating a web host. The positives and negatives given against these hosts are based on our understanding about them, feedback received from users and reviews on the web. If any of these hosts finds our comments unduly critical, they are requested to write to us and we'd publish their version too if relevant.]
All the web hosts covered here have many features in common. They have many shared hosting plans (as against dedicated hosting plans), which suit most website owners and bloggers as these plans give enough bandwidth, etc for their purpose. All of them offer packages/ plans in a range of prices. All offer many more services than just website hosting.
Almost all of these hosting websites give discounts on multi-year plans over the yearly plan. You can also find occasional special discount offers and country-specific offers (All hosts do not have presence in all countries). Sometimes their affiliate websites/ blogs can give you discounts beyond what the company offers. Sometimes they bundle third-party offers with their plans.
The daddy of domain name registration and website hosting. It claims to be world's largest registrar of domain names, managing more than 60 million domains. It also says, it provides 'award-winning' 24x7 customer service and guarantees 99.9% server uptime. Service includes help in transfer of content between websites and hand-holding. US plans come with a 45-day money back guarantee, which may not always be there with other country plans.
GoDaddy has establishments in a number of countries and packages are available in different currencies too.
All GoDaddy packages include single-click installation of over 50 applications (e.g. Wordpress, Joomla). Plans start from $7 per month, and you get discount for long-duration plans and bundled services.
It also claims 99.9% uptime, multiple servers on cloud, one-click installation of many applications, transfer of content and superb customer service.
Hostgator packages start from $7 per month for yearly plan, with discounts on longer-duration plans. Each plan, besides quick installation of applications and 45-day money-back guarantee, offers AdWords and Yahoo!/ Bing credit.
In addition to what GoDaddy etc offer, this host offers 97-day money back guarantee and 100% uptime. It also gives $100 AdWords credit with all plans.
DreamHost yearly base plan costs $10 a month.
It too offers all the goodies in its base plan that starts with $8 a month at present.
WordPress recommends Bluehost on its web hosting page.
The most basic plan costs $4 per month. It has WordPress pre-installed and also boasts of 90-day guarantee.
What is hiding under the hood of the web hosting offer?
Some web hosting sites boldly display their heavy discount for the first year but give in small print the real price they would charge at the time of renewal. For example, Bluehost website prominently displays $3.5 a month offer (charge for the first year) but gives a small footnote about double the amount it would charge on renewal.
Most website hosts offer free domain name registration, but often it is free for only the first year. So, check this aspect carefully.
Some hosts offer domain name registration and web hosting bundled as the most-advertised offer. Do you need both?
Is the website builder that is offered with hosting for free or an extra? Do you really need it? You better check. You might need this tool only if you want to set up website and then host it too, without bothering to go for other blogging or website creation platforms/ tools.
If you are outside the US, check whether the web host has its branch or a collaborator or re-seller/ distributor in your country. Chances are that you will get better rates from the local seller.
Many discounts, special offers and sales may or may not apply when you buy the hosting service. Even some standard ones quoted here, might not be on offer in future.
Sometimes small local web hosting sites make unbelievably cheap offers. Look under their bonnet for any catch; can they survive by offering you web hosting almost free?
Take the ratings and reviews given on the web by even the most unbiased experts with a pinch of salt, for various reasons: One, the expert does not know your specific requirements unless he talks to you in detail; two, the web host might have improved or deteriorated over time; three, the review methodology or the ranking criteria may be faulty or unscientific; four, all reviewers are not unbiased.
What others have to say about major web hosts?
PCMag, the reputed IT magazine, has been issuing yearly user reviews of major web hosting companies. In the 2016 review, it finds InMotion as the best host for WordPress hosting. For those familiar with web administration, DreamHost comes on top. It finds HostGator very feature-rich but needing tech skills for best use of these features. GoDaddy gets good ratings for support and uptime but bad for WordPress installation.
PCMag also runs Business Choice Awards for Web Hosting Services every year. For 2015 and 2014, the award has gone to DreamHost. It tops in reliability and tech support, and is the most likely to be recommended by users to others. Bluehost needs the most assistance (poor score) but users get very good tech support and [therefore] it has high likelihood of being recommended to others.
TopTenReviews, a product review site, has given InMotion the Gold Award for web hosting services. This host is supposed to have no hidden charges, and offers high quality of customer support and security.
Of the web hosts mentioned by us here, Bluehost, HostGator, Dreamhost and GoDaddy come at progressively lower levels. Interestingly, unlike PCMag, TopTenReviews finds Bluehost lacking in tech support in terms of response time (but good value for money). HostGator ranks low on tech support but high on flexibility of plans. DreamHost is credited with good plans but low on security and without telephone support. GoDaddy gets good points for ease of use but poor for features in the low-end plans.
HostingAdvice, a site with comparisons between different types of web hosts, has only InMotion, Bluehost and HostGator (out of those mentioned here) among the top ten best hosts. It gives the top ranks to eHost, a site not included in the present post as we didn't find it matching other major web hosts.
We found a good comparison between GoDaddy, Bluehost and HostGator for small business on InlineHostBlogger. The site recommends GoDaddy over others.
IndianTopBlogs advice on web hosts
Web hosting and related services are good money spinners. Many companies have opened a number of web hosts (including some top global ones). All of these advertise a lot and many are known to get paid reviews and articles written in their favor. Even user comments are reported to be manipulated.
We have been in the blogging business for long now, and keep getting views of established bloggers and website owners on many mattes including web hosting. Before writing this post, we have visited numerous forums, review sites, affiliate blogs and sites, etc to collect genuine advice and feedback. Anybody can do that, but just to save fellow bloggers' time, we took this task upon ourselves.
Our sense is that all big web hosts have competitive plans and a blogger or small website owner should go for the base plan that suits his requirement. If the site grows and more resources are needed, one could upgrade the plan.
But 'upgrade later' is not the best option when you plan special features on the website. For example, if you want to carry out e-commerce, even on a small website, you will need proper design and necessary resources from the beginning. Such sites cannot afford to hang when there is sudden surge in traffic. Nor can the site be allowed to be down often.
That takes us to the other aspect: service. All sites have occasional issues, but these do not hurt much if the host is responsive. Big web hosts are not likely to care for small customers, and there are numerous complaints on the web about such behavior. On the other hand, many small web hosts do not invest enough and so their service is poor.
Technological hand-holding is needed for all who are not webmasters, however much a host might claim that it has one-click solutions. You need support for customization, data integration, website transfer, installing applications and so on. So, if you are not tech savvy but still want to set up hosting of your website on your own, there are chances that you might mess up things. So, give a high value to support.
We'd advise that you look at the local collaborator of any of these services and try to find their service level from other users. Even if you don't get such feedback, it will be much easier for you to deal with local vendors rather than one sitting ten thousand miles away.
However, going for an unknown and unproven local web host is a risk unless it belongs to someone you know.
Also remember beforehand that not all companies would be ready to leave you when you ask them to return your money during the guarantee period. They'd plead with you, give you something free, offer to solve your problems in future... but if good service is not in their DNA, they'd remain what they are. So, do not get influenced too much by money-return guarantee.
Finally, don't fall for any discount offer however attractive it may be, especially offers that show too much urgency (e.g. prices slashed by 90% only for the next 24 hours). If you ever have to leave the web host because of its over-charging, not giving proper service, poor complaint redressal etc, that would be a big big pain.
Among major web hosts, we'd advise in favor of DreamHost. Though we have good comments from others too, we are definitely influenced by the views of PCMag.
GoDaddy is the global biggie; it is supposed to give good service in some countries. We have seen rather good comments on its service in India.
If you want to host a website/ blog created on WordPress CMS, we'd advise Bluehost. InMotion, if one of its plan suits you, is also worth considering for WordPress hosting.
Our background posts on the subject, especially for bloggers:
Why host blog on a good server
Independent blogging tips
Qualities of good website hosts