Best web hosting for small businesses

Find out the key points to consider when choosing a web hosting service and read our reviews of the best providers here

Slow page loading speed? Unsecure purchase platforms? Whole site down for long periods of time? If your business’ website is undergoing any of these issues – or you’ve experienced them as a user – you’ll know how frustrating they can be. So what’s the solution? This is where web hosting steps in, a service that allows your business’ website to be located and viewed online.

We’ll provide you with the information you need to know about the different types of web hosting available and how to choose the right provider for your start-up. Plus, we profile some of the best web hosting for small businesses.

If you’re not sure why your company needs to be online, find out more about what a website can do for your business.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Read on for a complete overview or skip to the section that’s most relevant to your business.

Or, if you’re ready to compare quotes now, just go to the top of the page and fill in the form.


What is web hosting?

Web hosting is a service provided by specialist companies to allow a website to be viewable on the internet. It works by someone searching for your website (the domain name, such as www.startups.co.uk) and then their computer being connected to a server to view it. All websites need to be hosted on a server so that people can access them.

You can use your own domain name that you’ve purchased in advance, or if you don’t yet have one, the web hosting provider can help you to find one that’s suitable for your business. So your options are to either create a new domain name or transfer a pre-existing one across to your new provider.

It’s important to note that a web hosting provider maintains the server that your company’s website is hosted on – it’s still your responsibility to maintain the website itself.

There are a lot of key terms and jargon used to describe web hosting providers and the services they offer. Here, we breakdown some of the most common ones so that you can learn more about what web hosting is and how it works.

  • Bandwidth – this can refer to two processes; either the data that’s exchanged between a website and a user, or when files are downloaded from a site
  • Control panel – an application that allows you to manage the server of your hosting service from a web browser, without needing to know how to code. For example, you can access the domain name, email system and files, as well as back-ups
  • Data centre – where the servers are located
  • Downtime – how long a website is inaccessible and not operating successfully; the opposite of uptime
  • Storage – how much data (such as files and images) your website can hold. This is either unlimited or measured as a certain amount e.g. 5GB
  • Uptime – the amount of time that a website is live and fully functional

Uptime is measured as a percentage. The highest score (99.999%) is known as the Five Nines. 99% suggests that in a 30 day period, a website would experience seven hours and 12 minutes of downtime.


How to choose the best web hosting for small businesses

Just as there are many types of business’ websites, there is also a wide range of web hosting providers. In this section, we’ll cover the key points to consider and factors that may influence your decision to help you choose the best website hosting for your start-up.

What are the different types of web hosting?

  • Cloud – a server that is hosted virtually, as opposed to on a physical device. As it’s virtual, there’s no need for additional hardware. This is ideal if you foresee your business growing and having increasing web hosting requirements
  • Dedicated – a server that only hosts one website. This is the most expensive option as it requires someone to manage it. So it’s only suitable if you run a large company and/or have a website that uses multiple resources or caters for high numbers of users
  • Reseller – this is a web hosting service for other web hosting companies. As such, this is a specialist service that’s only applicable if you’re running this type of business
  • Shared – a server that is shared between multiple websites. This is a cost-efficient option and is often marketed as unlimited, meaning you can host several of your business’ sites on the same server, shared with other people’s websites
  • VPS – this stands for Virtual Private Server. It’s a mid-way point between a shared and a dedicated server. It’s ideal if you want exclusivity for your high traffic websites, without the expense of a dedicated server

As you can see, there are five main types of web hosting. However, in this article we’re going to focus on shared web hosting, as generally it’s the cheapest option and is most relevant to new, small businesses.

For example, a shared web hosting service is like taking the bus. You pay a small fare to go to your destination. You have your own seat but you’re sharing the vehicle and the journey with other passengers, and the route is already mapped out for you.

In comparison, dedicated web hosting is similar to riding in a chauffeur-driven limousine. You get the sole focus of the driver, and the route can be altered to your specific wishes. Plus, you’re likely to be doing the journey in a high-end, custom vehicle, with a price tag to match.

What to consider when choosing web hosting

So while the above points may clarify what type of web hosting you should use, what else should you consider as part of the decision-making process?

Backup frequency – it’s useful to know how often backups happen. This is when copies of your website’s data are saved and stored so you can access your business’ information and files if a crash should happen.

Bandwidth amount – check the amount of bandwidth the web hosting provider offers. If your website receives a lot of traffic or if you run an online business or shop, it’ll generally need higher bandwidth to handle the number of visitors.

Customer support – it’s worth thinking about how you can contact the web hosting provider, as well as which forms of communication best suit your company’s needs. Common examples include email, live chat and phone support.

Email – check if email is available as part of the service. This is usually as an email address with your website’s domain name, as well as how many emails you can send.

Hosting code – this a more advanced consideration, and you’ll only really need to think about this if you (or your web developer) will be accessing the web hosting code. If so, find out if Linux or Windows (the two types of programmes) are used and what this means for your site.

Number of websites – find out how many sites can be hosted with your chosen provider and package. While you may be looking to host only one site at the moment, as time goes by and your business expands, you may require multiple sites to be hosted with the same provider.

Renewal rates – confirm what the price is both for now and for the future. If you do decide to renew the service, it’s wise to know ahead of time if the price is going to increase and if so, by how much, so that you can plan your business’ cashflow accordingly.

If you want to avoid increases after renewal, you could shop around and switch web hosting providers before they’re due. Just bear in mind the cost and time involved to change providers frequently, as well as if transferring your website incurs any charges.

Security – review what security features the provider offers. Pay particular attention to if Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are included, or if you’ll have to pay for them separately, whether with the web hosting service or from another source.

These are the padlock and ‘https’ you see at the start of the domain name in a browser window. If you’re looking to sell online, you’ll need these so that your customers can feel safe using your ecommerce platform.

Server location – think about where the servers are located. Generally, as a UK start-up, you’d want the servers to also be in the UK so that your site loads as quickly as possible.

Plus, having access to support in the same location and timezone can be helpful to address any issues as easily and quickly as possible. However, if you run an international business or you’re looking to target customers in different locations, then consider servers located in or near to the relevant location.

Service level agreement (SLA) – this refers to what servicing and maintenance is included in your chosen plan and price point. Review this to know what your responsibilities are, as well as what the provider’s duties are too.

Storage – this refers to how much data can be stored. Essentially, it’s how much space the web hosting provider offers. How much you’ll need will depend on how big your business’ website is, as well as what’s on the pages, such as the files it holds – images, text, and HTML code, for example.

Price – this is likely to be a top priority for you as a small business owner. Think about how much your business can afford and which frequency (monthly or yearly) is most suitable.

Usually, web hosting providers offer a monthly price. Be sure to check what the requirements are of this, such as if it’s an introductory offer or if that price is based upon a long-term contract.

Generally, if your business is completely new, with a recently launched website, you may want to consider a lower priced option. Then, as your business grows and develops, you could decide to pay more for an enhanced service.

What about free web hosting?

Free web hosting is possible and cost-saving is its main benefit. However, these services may experience slower connection speeds and more downtime, as well as increased advertisements. Plus, they may not be able to offer SSL certificates, which may be a security concern.


Best web hosting providers

In this section we’ve compiled a guide to our top three picks for best web hosting for small businesses.

hostgator

HostGator

HostGator began in 2002, and is a US company with offices also in Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico and Russia. It offers a range of hosting services, including cloud, dedicated and reseller, as well as VPS and WordPress.

In terms of its shared web hosting, HostGator offers three plans: Hatchling, Baby and Business.

For pre- or freshly launched businesses, the Hatchling plan could be suitable, offering a single domain name, unmetered bandwidth, and a free SSL certificate.

If your business is developing or growing, you may want to consider the Baby plan, which includes the above features, as well as unlimited domains.

Alternatively, the Business plan could be ideal if you’re looking to advance your site’s web hosting. It includes the features from the other two plans, plus enhanced SSL security, as well as a dedicated IP and SEO tools for free.

Key features

  • Scalable – a selection of plans that can match with the different stages of business development
  • Reliable – 99.9% uptime guaranteed
  • US data centres – two sites in the US; located in Texas and Utah
  • Easy to use – the one-click installs available across all plans allows for easy and quick installations for a variety of website types, such as a blog or an online shop

greengeeks

GreenGeeks

Started in California, GreenGeeks offers data centres around the world. It hosts more than 300,000 websites, offering standard hosting, as well as specific WordPress and reseller packages. GreenGeeks also offers an unique environmental policy – it replaces the energy your website uses with three times that amount in wind power credits.

The Ecosite Starter is suitable for start-ups that are early on in their journey, offering unlimited bandwidth, one free domain name and SSL certificates.

For growing businesses, the Ecosite Pro is available, which includes the Starter services, plus PowerCacher technology to help increase website speed.

Online shops or business websites with high levels of traffic could consider the Ecosite Premium, as in addition to the above features, it includes a premium SSL certificate and the ability to send 500 emails every hour from the site.

Key features

  • Eco-friendly – replace energy used by websites with renewable energy credits
  • Multiple plan types – suitable for a variety of start-ups
  • Global data centres – options in Europe and North America

siteground

SiteGround

Established in 2004, SiteGround has a UK base and hosts more than 1.6 million domain names. It offers a range of hosting services, including cloud, dedicated and reseller hosting, as well as the standard shared hosting.

The StartUp package is ideal for completely new businesses, offering hosting for one website and 10 GB of web space, and can accommodate up to 10,000 monthly site visits.

The GrowBig package is suitable for growing businesses, as it offers hosting for multiple websites and 20 GB of web space, with the ability to cater for up to 25,000 monthly site visits.

Key features

  • Uptime – average of 99.9% uptime in the past 12 months
  • Security – free SSLs and daily automatic backups, plus GDPR compliance
  • Customer service – technical support is available 24/7
  • Multiple data centres – located in Asia, Europe and the US
  • SuperCacher – own product developed to cache (store) data for faster website speeds

What are the next steps?

From reading this article, you’ve learned more about web hosting, including what it is and what the impact could be for your business. Also, we’ve provided information about three of the best website hosting services suitable for start-ups.

So where do you go from here? The next step is to speak with suppliers – Startups can help with this. Simply complete the form at the top of the page to compare hosting quotes.