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We've done the testing, and if you need to build an SMB-focused website, these 10 services can help you get the job done.
Does your small business have a website? If not, it's time to build one. Companies without an online presence face an incredibly difficult uphill climb, because we live in a connected world where people discover products and services by searching on the internet—you don't want to miss that potentially lucrative boat. Sure, creating a business website may take months of painstaking planning, debating, and compromise, but setting up a decent website doesn't have to be painful, provided you have the proper tools. And the most important tool is the right web hosting service.
If you aren't familiar with web hosting, here's a simple explanation. A web host is a company that has servers that you'll use to store and deliver the audio, video, documents, and other files that make up your website and its content. These servers can be of the shared, dedicated, or virtual varieties. If you want to learn more about those hosting types, please visit the highlighted links that are sprinkled throughout this article for primers on each of them. And if you want to launch your own web hosting company without many of the associated hardware headaches, you should look into reseller hosting.
There are dozens upon dozens of web hosting services clamoring for your dollar, including super-popular services (such as GoDaddy) and the lesser-known offerings (such as SiteGround). Large businesses can spend hundreds and (sometimes thousands!) of dollars each year on dedicated hosting or virtual private server (VPS) hosting, the two categories we're focusing on for small businesses with website needs.
One thing we learned while reviewing web hosting services is that reading the fine print is a must, especially if you are concerned about keeping prices low. Many web hosts have several increasingly expensive tiers, with introductory features in starter packages and more robust offerings in higher-priced plans. We recommend a healthy course of comparison-shopping before pulling out a credit card; you'll want to sign up with a service that has the features that best align with your website-building goals.
If you're a small business owner, you're going to want to run with either dedicated or VPS hosting. A dedicated server will likely cost you more than $100 per month; it's definitely not cheap web hosting. The benefit? Your website lives on a server all by its lonesome, so it takes advantage of the server's full resources. You'll probably need to handle firewalls and maintenance yourself, however, unless you opt for a managed server, which costs even more money.
If you want to save some cash, VPS hosting is generally a sufficient—and more wallet-friendly—option. VPS hosting falls midway between shared and dedicated hosting. By building your website in a VPS environment, you won't share resources with the other sites that live on the same server, the way you would with shared hosting. In fact, your site lives in a partitioned server area that has its own operating system, storage, RAM, and monthly data transfers, so you can expect smoother, more-stable site performance. You can get solid VPS hosting for approximately $20 to $30 per month.
Don't be swayed by the big fonts touting the monthly fee: Make sure that a particular pricing tier actually offers what you need. Some hosts charge extra for access to website builders that can help you design your site. Other hosts require you to commit to a three-year hosting agreement in order to get that low per-month price. Or the price is an introductory one, and after a month, you will revert to a higher price. Until you know what features you need and how quickly you plan to grow, you might not want to commit to annual plans.
When you begin shopping for a site, it's good to have a list of the features you need. For example, you'll want a web host that offers unlimited monthly data transfers and email, a choice of solid-state or traditional hard drive storage, and 24/7 customer support. Even the server's operating system selection is important; Windows-based servers offer an environment to run scripts written in a Microsoft-centric framework, though Linux-based servers are also available (and more commonplace).
Please note that if you're planning on selling a product, look for a web host that offers a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, because it encrypts the data between the customer's browser and web host to safeguard purchasing information. You're probably familiar with SSL; it's the green padlock that appears in your web browser's address bar as you visit an online financial institution or retail outlet. A few companies toss in a SSL certificate free of charge; others may charge you $100 for that extra layer of security.
All the aforementioned features are valuable parts of the web hosting experience, but none matches the importance of site uptime. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
To test this important aspect of hosting, we include uptime monitoring as part of our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping sites up and running. Sites with uptime problems aren't eligible for high scores. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to quickly address the problem are penalized accordingly.
PCMag understands that no two businesses have the same web hosting requirements, so we've rounded up our best-reviewed web hosting companies for small businesses and detailed their offerings in the table above so that you can get a jump-start on picking a service. If an offering catches your eye, make sure to click the appropriate link from the capsules below to read the in-depth review of the service in question.
If you're just getting started with web hosting, make sure to check out our primer, How to Build a Website, and How to Register a Domain Name for Your Website.
Bottom Line: HostGator is a reliable Web hosting service that's simple to use and offers an array of useful plans for consumers and small businesses. It's our top pick for novice webmasters.Read Review
Bottom Line: 1&1 is an affordable web host that offers rich website-creation tools, solid support, and impressive uptime. It's our top choice if you need WordPress hosting.Read Review
Bottom Line: DreamHost boasts an outstanding set of features that should satisfy even the most expert users, and a new easy website builder tool makes the web host more welcoming to newbies, too.Read Review
Bottom Line: GoDaddy is a feature-packed web hosting service that boasts rock-solid uptime, excellent customer service, and flexible website-building tools.Read Review
Bottom Line: InMotion is a feature-stacked web hosting service that offers many attractive features, but a few issues keep it from being the top dog.Read Review
Bottom Line: Hostwinds is a robust web hosting service that has the tools you need for building highly functional and user-friendly websites. It's a top choice overall, and it's particularly strong for d...Read Review
Bottom Line: Packed with features, A2 is a web hosting service that's more than worthy of being the foundation for your website.Read Review
Bottom Line: Media Temple's recently revamped, featured-packed plans make it an attractive web host for small businesses, but its offerings are expensive and you have to pay extra for website building to...Read Review
Bottom Line: SiteGround offers excellent uptime, customer service and strong security, though you'll need to look elsewhere for Windows servers or plans with lots of storage.Read Review
Bottom Line: Arvixe is a web host with several well-rounded hosting packages, but the company falls just shy of being considered one of the elite in its space.Read Review
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For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as Senior Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out Web hosting, music, utilities, and video game copy, Jeffrey mentors, practices Jeet Kune Do, blogs, podcasts, and speaks at the occasional con. He also collects vinyl and greatly enjoys... More »