The web hosting provider you choose will determine how many visitors your site can accommodate, how much content you can safely store, and how user-friendly the site will be in general. In short, it’s important to choose the best possible host for your personal goals.
That’s not a decision to take lightly, which is why we’ve conducted extensive research into the hosting industry in order to make data-led recommendations. We’ve taken a close look at each competitive provider, so you don’t have to. Using our 10+ years of digital experience as a foundation, we put in over 230 hours purely researching web hosting.
In that time, our qualified researcher explored 11 different types of web hosting, studied 15 different hosting providers, and surveyed over 1,200 readers. We measured each hosting provider’s performance across 21 performance areas – meaning we’ve covered 315 performance areas in total.
Of those, we’ve identified the five most important performance areas to consider when choosing a hosting provider:
- Uptime – How dependable is the server?
- Disk space – How much storage is offered?
- Features – What add-ons and essentials are included?
- Pricing – Is a provider affordable, and does it offer good value for money?
- Help and support – How easy is it to get assistance when you need it?
Each hosting provider has earned a score for each performance area based on the data we’ve gathered for that area. Then, a provider’s scores across all five areas are averaged together to give an overall score for each provider, which are the overall ratings you see in our individual reviews.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how we calculate the score for each category:
Uptime gets its own category in our hosting research because it can have a huge impact on a website’s success. Simply put, uptime is the amount of time that the server hosting your website is up and running, meaning it determines whether or not visitors will actually be able to reach your site.
Most web hosting providers offer uptime between 99.90% and 99.99%. This may seem like only a slight difference, but 99.90% uptime amounts to almost nine hours of downtime per year, while 99.99% uptime means just under an hour of downtime per year (“downtime” meaning your site is unavailable to visitors).
When all the relevant information is in place, uptime rankings are easy to determine: it’s a matter of which hosting providers have the highest percentage, and which have the lowest. But our research comes in before that, to ensure that we have the most accurate uptime percentage for each provider. Using the compiled data submitted by hosting providers and third party sources, plus publicly available data, we draw real time averages. We understand that accuracy matters, since an uptime difference of just 00.01% will mean varying levels of downtime for a website.
Disk space is the amount of room on a server that’s available for storing the content of your website. “Content” covers everything from text to multimedia, so larger websites will need more disk space than smaller ones.
Some hosting plans offer a specified amount of disk space in gigabytes, while more advanced plans offer “unmetered” or “unlimited” disk space. However, “unlimited” doesn’t mean there are no conditions at all, and the specifications can vary between providers.
To determine the best disk space scores for each provider, we combined the opinions of regular users with publicly available data aggregated from online sources. We then applied a unique algorithm to this data, and calculated average scores in real time.
A feature can be defined as any additional functionality that makes your website run better. This includes everything from free domain names to unlimited bandwidth. When comparing different hosting providers, the number of features included for free will vary, as will the amount of certain features – like CPU cores and RAM, for example.
In our research, the “features” score takes into account the following:
- Type of hosting available (shared, VPS, Cloud, Dedicated, WordPress) and the difference in feature limitations (like CPU cores and RAM)
- Free extra features included within the first year, such as domain names and backups
- Security measures
- Bandwidth limits
- Control panel abilities and ease of use
- Email account features
We translated these components into a points value system by adding a weight to each factor, and combining the results into an overall “features” score for each provider.
It’s easy enough to rank hosting providers from cheapest to priciest and call it a day. But web hosting is often a long-term purchase, and we think it’s well worth doing the math to find out how much money each provider will actually cost over time.
Our affordability algorithm uses a “cost component” score that covers the cost of hosting a site on a monthly basis for 12 months. The pricing is based on a scenario which represents an average buyer in a particular market, and we use this metric to cover multiple types of hosting, including shared and VPS.
In our final calculation, we also consider a provider’s money back guarantee – i.e. whether they offer one, and how long it lasts.
Good hosting is vital to a website’s success, so it’s important that a hosting provider offers responsive, quality customer support to fix – and prevent – any problems.
The “help and support” section of our research investigates three key service areas: live chat support, email support, and the knowledge center/database of written articles. The users we surveyed highlighted these three areas as being of greatest importance.
Taking a before and after approach to our analysis, we benchmarked providers against the average level of service our users would expect. Using the opinions gathered from research participants, we applied a unique algorithm to the data to then calculate the average quality of the service provided. These components were then translated into a points value system that highlights whether each hosting provider has matched, exceeded, or failed to surpass our initial benchmarked figure.
We also tested the live chat and email support of the top providers ourselves, and recorded the pros and cons of each service to better inform our rankings.
We adapt our research to the fact that there are many different types of hosting, to suit different types of websites. Instead of using the same scoring for every option, we adjust our scores depending on which categories are the most important for a certain type of website.
For example, someone looking for VPS hosting would be more concerned with disk space than someone looking for shared hosting. People looking for a green hosting provider would be most interested in a provider’s carbon offsetting efforts, while those looking for cloud hosting would want to pay special attention to a provider’s fixed pricing plans. At WBE, we support unique “type of hosting” point scoring, so that we can highlight what each provider is and is not good at.
We always consider the fact that different plans support different levels of RAM, disk space, etc. and are priced differently, too.
Website Builder Expert aims to provide you with honest data. That’s why we conduct our own research and obtain direct, personal insight. Analyses and graphics in this article are based on authentic sources, cross-validated by our in-house experts. We take great care to ensure the information we publish is reliable and accurate. However, WBE takes no responsibility for any inaccuracy in information supplied to us by users, research participants, or other entities.
Please note the insight contained within this article is for general information purposes only. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about this article and its supporting research. For further information, please contact Website Builder Expert directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.