In this post, I'm going to help you make an educated decision about selecting a hosting provider using actual third-party performance data.
This won't be a long-winded analysis about auto-scaling and RAM usage. I'm not a hosting geek- but I know enough to be dangerous.
I'd like to help you make a quick and data-backed decision about which shared hosting provider you should choose to start your online business.
That way we can dive into the actual interesting stuff- building a monetized content site that will free you from your 9-5 job.
What Is Shared Hosting?
Shared hosting allows multiple websites to utilize a single server. Typically, you’ll have no idea who or what other websites you’re sharing the resources of a server with. Each customer will usually have a limit on the total amount of server resources they can use, depending on their hosting package.
Shared hosting is easily the cheapest and most economical option for your needs. Once your site gets more traffic, you'll want to upgrade to a plan with more dedicated resources. When I hit 1,000 visits a day on my main site- that's when I upgraded to a VPN plan with SiteGround.
Why Your Host Matters
If you're going to build an online business, you're going to need hosting.
It's how your audience accesses the content your site. All of your content needs to be 'hosted' somewhere.
A good host will quickly and reliably serve your pages to your audience. They'll also help you when you run into any difficulties.
In a nutshell, when evaluating hosting providers you'll want to assess their:
As someone who makes a living online, I've gone through many ups and downs with my hosting providers.
Trying to find an honest hosting review online is insanely difficult.
This is because hosting programs have incredibly lucrative affiliate programs- so internet marketers in the hosting 'review' space have crammed the internet full of hosting promotions that masquerade as reviews.
Why Is This Hosting Review Any Different?
After extensive research, I've come to trust Down.com's recommendations- the site keeps a running performance tally of the best shared hosting providers. They actually buy the hosting plan, set up a test website, and run performance tests on a monthly basis to truly assess the speed, uptime and customer support quality.
This is one of the few websites that actually generates an easy-to-understand comparison of the most popular hosting providers.
You can evaluate some of the more popular options below, comparing their performance on Page Speed, Uptime, and Support responsiveness. HostGator is currently the fastest with the best Uptime, though GoDaddy and MDDHosting have the most responsive support.
Comparing Shared Hosting Providers
|Host||Page Speed||Uptime||Support Responsiveness|
|Bluehost||3.11 s||99.93 %||34.7 h|
|DreamHost||3.14 s||99.79 %||2.8 h|
|GoDaddy||2.99 s||99.96 %||0.1 h|
|HostGator||2.85 s||99.97 %||53.4 h|
|InMotion Hosting||3.22 s||99.96 %||0.9 h|
|MDDHosting||3.16 s||99.89 %||0.1 h|
|Namecheap||3.23 s||99.94 %||2.2 h|
|Site5||3.37 s||99.76 %||0.3 h|
|StableHost||3.05 s||99.94 %||0.4 h|
|Yahoo Small Business||4.12 s||99.81 %||50.9 h|
*Down.com doesn't include SiteGround, my current host in its comparison- but according to HostingFacts.com it has a page speed of 483ms, 99.98% uptime, with an average support response of ~2 minutes. The numbers don't really align with Down.com's stats- but I wanted to include SiteGround because that is the host I would recommend since I currently use them.
**Table is accurate as of November 2017
If you're just starting out, go with a shared hosting plan. (That's what this table compares). It's cheap and you don't need a ton of dedicated resources like you'd get in a VPN solution. You can always upgrade later on- I've done this before and the switch is seamless.
This one is a no-brainer. You'll want your host to quickly load your website for your user- people have a very limited attention span. According to Kissmetrics, "47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds."
While speed is crucial- a reliable up time is essential. If your host goes 'down' and your site can't be accessed by your audience- it harms your brand reputation and negatively affects your SEO. Down.com recommends that you aim for a hosting provider that has an uptime of 99.99%, which translates to a maximum outage of 5 minutes per month.
Support is huge. I've spent an inordinate amount of time in conversation with hosting support, theme support, plugin support, auto-responder support, software support- anything and everything.
When something breaks and I don't know how to fix it- my Pavolovian response is to open a support thread to initiate a fix. Down.com averages support response time.
My personal experience has been with Bluehost and SiteGround, and I've found support to be pretty fast- for some issues I post tickets in my SiteGround account and sometimes I use Live Chat- it really depends on the issue.
In the interest of complete transparency, I'm currently an affiliate for Bluehost, SiteGround and HostGator. (I'm a current SiteGround customer). That means I receive a commission at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a plan with one of those providers.
These commissions help me to keep creating actionable and useful content on NicheFacts.
All that said, that will not influence my recommendations- mainly because these hosting recommendations are coming from Down.com, not from me.
Read More Of My Niche Reports
My Hosting Story
When I first started building an online business, I chose a hosting provider based on Pat Flynn's recommendation.
He endorsed Bluehost, so I went with Bluehost. He's an affiliate for Bluehost- you can view his income reports to see how much money he makes from promoting them.
For me, the Bluehost shared hosting plan was OK. Their live chat support was pretty responsive and their service support ranged from incompetent to good. Bluehost gets a lot of flak- one review I read claimed that their support staff actually has sales goals. That's really unethical, if true.
The bottom line was that I found their shared hosting to be an adequate option when my sites were getting under 1,000 visits a day. I ended up switching to SiteGround, however, because Bluehost detected malware on my account and wouldn't help me fix it without potentially shutting my entire account down.
The Bluehost Malware Email
They also promoted a malware removal company that they were clearly affiliated with to help solve the problem for an outrageous amount of money.
This left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Since I was already considering upgrading my hosting from shared to VPN, I decided to migrate to SiteGround. SiteGround promised to help me remove the malware without having any downtime on the sites.
The migration went well and they helped me remove some of the malware so that I didn't have to spend over a $1,000 dollars. All I had to do was manually delete about 6 files. It took me 15 minutes.
I'm still with SiteGround and I'm pretty satisfied- their support is solid. Better than Bluehost's, but I'm also paying more money- so I might be getting comparatively better treatment just for that reason.
If you're a novice looking to grow an affiliate site, eCommerce store, or a small business, hosting will be one of your biggest expenses. Before you commit to buying, it's useful to have an honest side-by-side comparison of their performance statistics.
Use this page or Down.com as a resource so that you have a ballpark idea of the sort of speed, uptime and customer support you'll receive from your hosting provider.