Web hosting is the unseen foundation of the internet. Every site you visit is hosted somewhere. Your site needs hosting too, and one of the best options available to you is cloud hosting.
Rather than being tied to one server, cloud hosting pulls its resources from a variety of sources to create a virtual server instead. If a shared hosting goes down, your site goes down. If a cloud server goes down, other servers in the network pick up the slack. (If any of that went over your head it may be worth reading our guide to web hosting.) This fluid approach provides an excellent balance between affordability and power.
There are dozens — if not hundreds — of hosting providers to choose from. Finding the right one can be a daunting prospect. That’s why we’ve trawled through ourselves to find the best hosts in the business.
The key factors that went into our decision were core features and affordability. As is true with web hosting in general, mega-plans are only applicable to the very largest sites. When you’re just starting out these are the types of plans you should be looking at.
Read on for a complete breakdown of our ratings. We will cover which providers are suited to which needs, pricing, and throw in a few honourable mentions as well. Let’s get going.
The long and short of it is HostGator and Bluehost are the best entry-level hosting platforms in the industry, and the same applies to its cloud plans. A2 Hosting completes the trio with its cheap, reliable service.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can flow between servers (i.e. your site), the internet, and users. It’s called the world wide web for a reason. Bandwidth dictates how much information can travel along its connections — and how quickly. Ever had slow internet? That’s low bandwidth. Hosting with good bandwidth allows your site to cope with high traffic. Rest assured the three providers here all fall comfortably in the good camp.
If you’re interested in learning more check out Executionists’ excellent explanation of bandwidth.
Random-access Memory (RAM) is a kind of digital brainpower. It provides the data storage necessary for computers to complete tasks. The more RAM your site has, the more work it can handle. For most websites a gigabyte or two ought to have you covered.
The Operating System is the software used to manage your hosting processes. Think of it as a translator between you and the coding language that makes your website tick.
That’s what we think in a nutshell. For a more thorough explanation of the top cloud hosting services, read on.
HostGator is the best all-round hosting provider in the game right now. It topped our research with a score of 4.9 stars, performing particularly well in support and features. Its cloud service meets the same high standards, providing flexible and affordable hosting.
Where cloud hosting is concerned, HostGator has all the essential features in under the hood. There are the basic performance metrics, of course. Uptime is 99.99% across the board, and all plans come with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to keep your data secure.
By spreading the load across multiple servers, HostGator’s cloud options can be up to twice as fast as its shared plans. This adaptability also makes it far better equipped to cope with spikes in traffic. Shared hosting limits you to the resources of a single server; cloud hosting is the sum total of a network of servers.
HostGator’s customer support is peerless, which is particularly important for something like hosting. Things seldom go wrong, but when they do you’ll want experts on hand. 24/7 phone and chat support, as well as an extensive knowledge center, mean you’re in good hands.
The breadth of plans available gives HostGator serious scalability. You can scale up cloud plans as you grow, but you can also move to another type of hosting with minimal fuss if you want something more powerful further down the line.
It’s also worth mentioning that a single hosting plan can be used for multiple sites. The Hatchling Cloud plan limits you to one domain, but the other two packages offer hosting for unlimited domains.
HostGator’s pricing is one of its major draws. Its most expensive plans are cheaper than other providers’ cheapest plans! If you’re new to the world of hosting there’s no sense in breaking the bank. HostGator provides the type of cheap, reliable plans that allow you to focus on what’s really important — your website.
Now, ‘starting price’ isn’t always the same as ‘finishing price’. Odds are you’ll have to pay a few extra bucks to get everything you want. HostGator doesn’t provide a complimentary domain, for example. All the hosting providers do this. They always have ‘sales’ on and invariably require a couple of additional costs. Even with those thrown in, however, it’s hard to argue with a service equivalent to a couple of cups of coffee a month.
Obviously you want to get it right first time, but if HostGator falls short of your expectations they have a 45-day money back guarantee.
We’ve branded Bluehost the Steady Eddie of web hosting, which we think is fair. It finished second in our web hosting rankings with a stellar 4.6 stars. Reasonably priced, rock solid, clean cut — it’s everything a web hosting provider should be.
Like HostGator, Bluehost ticks all the essential boxes. Its uptime is a near-perfect 99.98% and SSL is again included with all plans. Beyond that it sticks to the typical Bluehost ethos of consistency and ease of use.
Its cloud hosting is superb for those looking for a low-maintenance service. Bluehost stores mirrors of your data across three different devices. If troubles arise in one, the other two pick up the slack until it’s resolved. Bluehost’s hefty tech team are always working to get more out of their resources, and it shows in the speed. Bluehost’s cloud hosting is some of the fastest in the market.
Like any good cloud hosting provider, Bluehost allows you to amp up your plan as your traffic grows. You simply ramp up the resources available to your site (or sites) and ramp up your payment accordingly. Fluidity is invaluable in web hosting, and Bluehost’s cloud plans offer plenty.
Whenever we talk about Bluehost we think it’s right to mention its WordPress credentials. We think it’s the best hosting platform around for WordPress, bar none. They pride themselves on making setup easy — one click, in fact. Heck, WordPress recommends Bluehost. They ought to know. If you’re after cloud hosting for a WordPress site Bluehost is our first suggestion.
Bluehost’s value for money is almost as good as HostGator’s, though not quite. They’re slightly less cheeky about addons and freebies though, so the gap isn’t as wide as it looks. Bluehost throws in a free domain with every plan, which saves you another $15 you’d have to spend anyway.
We understand that as monthly fees approach ten dollars the annual costs start to get worrisome. Bluehost has its eye on more established or ambitious sites. If HostGator’s mantra is, ‘Anyone should be able to get online,’ Bluehost’s is, ‘Absolutely, and when they establish themselves they should use us.’
Like all the top providers, Bluehost trusts its service enough to give you the option to back out of it. A 30-day money-back guarantee is, urm, guaranteed, so there’s no risk of getting locked into a contract that doesn’t fit your needs.
As an overall provider A2 Hosting isn’t in quite the same league as HostGator and Bluehost (it scored a comparatively meagre 74% in our research) but its cloud hosting is well worth a second look. It’s cheap and flexible, with excellent personalization options.
A2 is big on speed and flexibility. Its cloud service is up to three times faster than its standard shared servers, while its Turbo Servers claim to be up 20X faster than other cloud hosting providers. That’s the optimistic end of the spectrum, of course, but it’s still fast.
Solid state drives (SSDs) are a big part of A2’s approach. They are faster and more reliable than traditional hard drives, meaning your hosting is faster and more reliable too.
One of A2’s biggest strengths is its customer support. If you’re the type to find solutions yourself, the knowledge base is comprehensive. For a helping hand from experts, personal support includes phone, live chat, email, and tickets. All of these are available 24/7.
A2 have competitive pricing for most of its plans, and that’s certainly true of the cloud options. Its configuration interface means you can make custom plans that fit your needs like a glove.
If all those options are a bit daunting, A2 still offer fixed plans for fixed prices. Those prices are nice, round numbers. Another feather in A2’s cap.
Its claim of ‘anytime money back guarantee’ isn’t quite as good as it sounds, but it’s not half bad. Cancellations within 30 days receive a full refund. After that A2 will pay back any service you haven’t yet used. Pretty good, and a testament to the confidence it has in its hosting service.
There several key factors to consider when choosing a cloud hosting provider. We’ve tried to cater to them here. Only you can know exactly what you need; all we can do is point you in the right direction.
A few key things we recommend prioritizing are:
Your budget is a big one. How much are you willing to spend on hosting? Beginner plans are often very cheap, but the addons can add up. If you’re not careful you’ll find yourself spending more than you had any intention of doing. Set a sensible budget and only go past it if absolutely necessary.
Customer support can be a godsend if you’re new to this whole web hosting malarkey. Not only will it support you through any hosting hiccups, but you’ll learn about how it works. As mentioned above, HostGator has superb customer support, which is a major reason why we recommend it to hosting beginners.
Money back guarantees ensure you don’t get trapped in an 18-month contract for a service you don’t want or need. It gives you time to see a provider in action. If you’re satisfied, marvellous. If not, no harm done. It’s not in anyone’s interests for you to be unhappy with what you’ve paid for.
Most hosting providers have cloud hosting plans. The real trick is finding the one that fits your needs and does so for a reasonable price. The three showcased here provide the best all-round service for people new to web hosting.
That said, they’re not the be all end all. InMotion is a pricier option, but it’s well worth the investment if you’re looking to scale up. It offers free domains and backups with all its plans, which is more can be said for most competitors.
If your cloud hosting needs are more specialized it’s worth fishing around yourself. There’s great big world of hosting out there, and great deals can pop up in the unlikeliest places.
Cloud hosting is a modern, reliable form of hosting. It’s no wonder you’re interested in it. We hope this guide sends you in the right direction. To recap, we think the best entry-level web hosting providers are:
HostGator is the cheapest, while Bluehost make good on its no-hassle approach to hosting. Generally speaking, A2 Hosting isn’t quite in the same bracket as the other two, but it’s cloud hosting options are really quite good.
And all three have money-back guarantees, so there’s no risk to taking one for a spin. Then you can get to the important stuff — your website.
What’s the difference between shared hosting and cloud hosting?
Shared hosting is multiple sites sharing the same server. Cloud hosting is multiple sites sharing the resources of multiple servers. The latter is decentralized and less prone to outages — if one server goes down another can pick up the slack.
Can I change between hosting providers?
Yes. It’s like moving house online. You sign up to a new provider, move your digital belongings to your new home, then cancel your agreement with the old provider. It can be a tad finicky, but you’d be surprised how simple it is at its core. Some providers, like HostGator, offer to make the move for you to sweeten the deal.
Can I host a website myself?
It’s possible, but not recommended. At its heart good hosting is about accessibility. Anyone, anywhere should be able to access a website at any time. Setting up your own server requires a lot of technical knowhow. Odds are you’ll end up spending more for a less reliable server.
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