As personal websites and technical expertise have become more refined, so has the taste for the shared hosting provider keeping everything online. In the beginning, many site owners crave the equivalent of hosting fast food: something cheap, with name recognition, served with fries, a drink, and a toy — everything I need, all on one tray.
As the hosting customer gains more expertise, their palate becomes more sophisticated and discerning. Speedy solid-state drives, ultra-helpful support teams, and that second or third nine after the decimal point when describing reliability and uptime guarantees stand out more and more.
As with food, finding the right hosting meal is all about finding the balance between the nutritional elements you want and how much you’re willing to pay. We’ve targeted some of the biggest shared hosting differentiators and highlighted the providers with the best services for whatever you’re craving.
A deep affinity for fast food is by no means bad — just because it’s at the lower end of the fine dining spectrum doesn’t mean you should go without. The same goes for web hosting: Even the most basic plans come with some pretty amazing standard flavors and features. Here’s what you can typically expect from most shared hosting packages:
- Free domain
- Unlimited domains, email hosting, databases, storage, and traffic
- User-friendly control panels
- WYSIWYG website builders and one-click CMS installs
- Modern hardware and software support (Linux OS, SSD servers, etc.)
- Ecommerce options (Magento/PrestaShop support, PayPal integration, etc.)
- Free marketing and SEO tools
- 24/7/365 expert support
To start figuring out what to order, you’ll want to take stock of the menu and what you’re hungry for. What’s your budget? Are you looking to blog or start an online store? Is this a pet project or something you want to grow to reach a large crowd? How much help do you need to get a site online?
Who doesn’t like ordering off the value menu? Don’t let a low price tag fool you into thinking a host’s services are necessarily subpar. Since web hosting providers can put hundreds or even thousands of customers on a single shared server, cheap hosting plans include extra features without raising prices. Here are some of the perks you’ll commonly see when signing up with an affordable web host:
- Free domain name registration
- Free website builder
- Free paid advertising credits
- Costs less than $5/month
When it comes to a reputable and affordable shared hosting provider, Bluehost is among the best in the business — combining low cost with modern hardware configurations and reliability. The biggest deal of the industry, however, falls to iPage. Boasting excellent features and performance, iPage excels at a price point that is hard to beat.
Hosting providers give their customers a control panel to simplify account management and provide access to several helpful tools. The most popular option, cPanel streamlines the hosting experience for both beginners and more experienced users. Be sure to look out for these options when looking for a shared hosting plan with cPanel:
- Free cPanel license
- 1-click software installs
- SSH and phpMyAdmin access
You’ll most often find cPanel on Linux shared hosting, and few are better than Bluehost. The company’s custom cPanel interface unlocks one-click installations of popular content management systems, email setup, and domain management.
Another control panel option, Plesk is most commonly associated with Windows hosting plans. Boasting a sleek, modern interface, Plesk gives users the same powerful tools for managing your hosting account, websites, files, applications, and email accounts. If you want to explore shared hosting options with Plesk, look out for the following:
- Free Plesk license
- 1-click software installs
- SSH and phpMyAdmin access
We appreciate GoDaddy’s industry-leading load times and how the company gives customers a choice between cPanel and Plesk. Already the world’s top domain registrar, GoDaddy is a shared web host tailored for usability and support at unbelievably low prices.
Although many novice customers won’t notice a difference, the operating system installed on your shared server can affect performance, security, pricing, and technical features. Linux plans tend to be cheaper because the platform and much of its supporting software programs are created and maintained by open-source communities. Linux has inspired several other operating systems, so keep an eye out for these features:
- Linux operating system (CentOS is most popular for shared servers)
- Linux-friendly software support (Apache, PHP, MySQL, etc.)
You’ll want to choose a Linux shared hosting package especially if you expect to use a popular content management system such as WordPress or Drupal. Given how involved they are with the WordPress website hosting community, Bluehost is an easy recommendation for Linux hosting.
One of the most frequently used perks of shared hosting is the one-click installations of the internet’s most popular programs. Add content management systems, ecommerce tools, forums, and more in seconds by signing up for a shared host that offers:
- One-click installations for WordPress, Magento, Joomla, Drupal, PrestaShop, and other programs
- Hosting unlimited sites on a single account
- Integrated caching features for added performance
- CMS-specific support (BONUS: Team maintains the core/plugins)
Most hosts provide easy access to WordPress and similar programs, but some of our favorite providers go a step further. Bluehost actively contributes to WordPress, while SiteGround optimizes performance by including three layers of caching. For those customers needing more help getting started with WordPress, InMotion Hosting created its own site builder, BoldGrid.
No matter the goals for your website, you don’t want your visitors to gather dust while waiting for your pages to load. You’ll see these words if a shared hosting provider wants to brag about being optimized for speed and performance:
- Solid-state drives (SSDs)
- Free CDN
- Caching features
Consistently one of the fastest hosts in the game, InMotion Hosting boasts top-notch SSDs that will load your website up to 20 times faster than the regular hard drives you’ll get with other shared hosting providers. What’s more, the company offers a 90-day money-back guarantee to give you ample time to test putting the pedal to the metal.
New customers getting started with their first website might understandably be intimidated by coding or content management systems. Drag-and-drop website builders provide a pain-free experience by simplifying site creation into a code-free, what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface. Here’s what to look for:
- Free drag-and-drop website builder
- One-click software installs for WordPress/CMS website building
- 1,000s of free and paid templates
We love when hosting providers craft their own site building solutions to meet the specific needs of their customers. The one-of-a-kind BoldGrid is the first builder to harness the power of WordPress, while iPage’s WebsiteBuilder provides hundreds of templates for creating a stunning responsive look.
Trust us — a quality shared web hosting package is worth the investment. The best hosts reinvest your money into upgrading infrastructure, adding services, and hiring more support agents. Free hosting plans put your website on slow servers and won’t pick up the phone when you have a question. Save yourself the trouble by starting with an affordable host right off the bat.
Classy restaurants commonly station a host or hostess at the front door to welcome prospective patrons and answer any questions they might have about the menu before they come inside for a table. Hosting companies employ similar tactics by welcoming new customers with discounts and extra features. Figure out what features you’re craving, find the best deal, and watch yourself quickly become a hosting connoisseur!