Every business, even if it only has a single employee, needs a website. Seriously. A company without a online presence is leaving serious money on the table, because an attractive and informative site can draw a slew of potential clients or customers. That means choosing a Web hosting service and setting up your website.
Fortunately, the process is relatively simple and reasonably affordable. The first step is to find a Web hosting service, the company that will store your files on its servers. The tricky part? Web hosts are all different, offering varying amounts of monthly data transfers, storage capacity, email, and other features. Even how you pay (month-to-month payments vs. annual payments) can be radically different, too.
Web hosting services also offer different types of hosting, including shared hosting plans, virtual private server (VPS) hosting plans, dedicated hosting plans, and managed WordPress hosting plans. The chart above focuses on the Web hosting services that deliver the best all-around package. Many Web hosts offer limited features for the starter packages, and then expand the offerings (sometimes tremendously) for higher-tier plans. Read the small type to make sure the plan you are selecting offers what you need. If you need a site builder application to design your Website, make sure that the low-cost Web host you are picking actually comes with a site builder. Many of them require you to pay for the builder as a separate add-on.
You also want a Web host with 24/7 customer support—if not by phone, then at least by chat. Forums, knowledge bases, and help tickets are all well and good, but sometimes you just need that human to talk to (or chat with).
Some Web hosting services offer a choice of Linux or Windows hosting. If you have specific applications that require Windows, such as SQL Server or a custom application written in .NET, then you need to make sure your Web host has Windows hosting. But don't let the idea of a Linux host intimidate you. Most Web hosts nowadays offer a graphical interface or a control panel to simplify server administrator and website management. Instead of typing at the command line, you'll click easily identifiable icons.
One thing we learned in reviewing the services listed here (and many more!) is that even though the packages are very similar, they are not identical. Some are more security-minded than most, offering antispam and antimalware tools. Others offer a variety of email marketing tools. While most of the hosts have built-in e-commerce, you may want to consider using a robust e-commerce application like Shopify$29.00 at Shopify instead.
Some Web hosts give you plenty of room to grow even within the tier, and others require you to upgrade to a more expensive plan. Consider how much you expect to grow your website and how soon before you commit to anything longer than a one-year plan.
If you're ready to select a great Web hosting service, click the links below to read our in-depth reviews of the biggest and best names in the space.BY MOLLY MCLAUGHLIN , JEFFREY L. WILSON
If you're on the hunt for a Web host that lets you quickly create personal or professional websites, do yourself a favor and check out InMotion Hosting$3.49 at InMotion - Shared. This Web hosting service offers free e-commerce tools, shared Web hosting, dedicated server hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting, and managed WordPress hosting. In fact, InMotion's managed WordPress hosting is so complete that the Web host is the PCMag Editors' Choice for that sub-category. You should check out InMotion for your managed WordPress needs, but know that the Web host has a few issues that keep it from surpassing Arvixe£2.56 at Arvixe UK or Dreamhost's£3.81 at Dreamhost UK PCMag Editors' Choices for overall Web hosting excellence.
InMotion has a generous 90-day money-back guarantee on most of its plans that bests Arvixe's 60-day money-back guarantee, but slightly trails Dreamhost's incredible 97-day money-back guarantee.
Shared Hosting Plans
InMotion offers three Linux-based shared Web hosting plans. The most basic, Launch ($7.99 per month with an annual subscription), supports two websites and up to six domains. Power ($9.99 per month with an annual subscription) nets you six websites and up to 26 domains, while Pro ($15.99 per month with an annual subscription) offers unlimited websites and unlimited domains. All InMotion shared hosting plans include unlimited email, storage, and monthly data transfers, which is a nice touch.
That said, HostGator£2.54 at HostGator UK gets the nod as the PCMag Editors' Choice award-winning shared Web hosting service. InMotion's rival also offers unlimited domains, email, storage, and monthly data transfers, and it adds the choice of Linux- or Windows-based server. The Windows option is an important one if your site has software that runs on an ASP.NET framework.
VPS Hosting Plans
InMotion offers decent VPS hosting, but it starts at a pricey $44.99 per month. Of the VPS services we've tested, only Media Temple with its insane RAM (64GB) and storage (600GB) capacities, costs more money for entry-level VPS hosting. Still, you get decent specs with InMotion, including unlimited email, 8GB of RAM, and 4TB of monthly data transfers with InMotion. Note, however, that Bluehost£2.56 at BlueHost UK has very similar specs for $29.99 per month.
Hostwinds$4.50 at Hostwinds - Shared, the PCMag Editors' Choice for VPS hosting, has wallet-friendly, well-rounded VPS offerings that start at $7.50 per month for 1GB of RAM, 25GB of disk space, unlimited monthly data transfers, unlimited email, and half a CPU core and scale to $172 per month for 28.5GB of RAM, 600GB of disk space, unlimited monthly data transfers, and unlimited email.
Dedicated Hosting Plans
You can configure the company's Linux-based dedicated Web servers (starting at $189 per month) with 1.2TB of storage, 15TB of data transfers per month (which tops Arvixe's 10TB and SiteGround's 5TB), and an impressive 64GB of RAM (the majority of Web hosts we've tested offer 16GB).
Inmotion has solid dedicated Web hosting plans, but HostGator—the PCMag Editors' Choice for dedicated hosting—has better all-around packages. HostGator's servers have up to 25TB of data transfers per month (which is quite generous) and a choice of Linux- or Windows-based operating systems.
Setting Up an InMotion-Hosted Website
We chose the Launch plan, but were disappointed to learn that we had to sign up for a full year. Like most Web hosts, a discount is applied to the first term (for up to three years). InMotion discloses its renewal rates, so you don't get any surprises. In this case, we paid $4.89 per month, discounted from the regular rate of $7.99 per month.
After we chose a domain, funtechtimes.com, the upselling began. First, we were offered an upgrade to the Power plan, then domain privacy ($9.99 per year), managed hosting services, and email protection packs from McAfee. Finally, we were offered the option to add a free content management system (CMS) to our account: WordPress, PrestaShop, or Joomla. At checkout, there was an option to pay by purchase order or check, which we hadn't seen before.
We were worried when the confirmation page said that an account specialist would contact us by phone to help us get started; we couldn't log in otherwise. However, the call was quite helpful, and we weren't pushed into making any additional purchases. The representative asked a few questions about the type of website we wanted to build, and then emailed us welcome materials, including WordPress installation instructions, since we had told her we wanted to create a blog.
We managed the general account settings from the Account Management Panel (AMP), but managing the website required a separate cPanel login. We had some trouble finding and installing the basic Web builder, which is oddly enough called the Premium Website Builder. Eventually, we contacted Web chat support, but the person referred us to email support. Thankfully, we got a quick response, and after supplying my AMP password, the support team was able to set us up (we were nervous about sharing our password via email, though).
The website builder requires yet another login and password, but building a website was a straightforward affair. You can choose between three types (site, blog, or photo gallery), select themes and colors, and then you can pick the types of pages you'd like to include on your site. In addition to standard pages such as Contact Us and About Us, you can add special pages, such as Flash Intro and eShop. Next, you can drag-and-drop a map, poll, RSS reader, or script module into your pages. Unfortunately, the Premium Website Builder doesn't produce very attractive pages; my site looked very dated. Alternatively, you can use WordPress to create your site.
Setting Up a WordPress Blog
There are two ways to get WordPress up and running on an InMotion Hosting server: You can install WordPress on a standard Linux-based server environment you get through the Web hosting plan or just sign up for managed WordPress hosting (starting at $7.99 per month). It's the latter in which InMotion Hosting excels, and why we named the Web host the PCMag Editors' Choice for managed WordPress hosting.
Like other managed WordPress hosts, InMotion Hosting's managed hosting environment is specifically designed for installing WordPress and associated plug-ins. In fact, you don't have to install the CMS at all, as it comes preinstalled. Once you're logged into WordPress, you can create posts, pages, and galleries as you would with any other self-hosted WordPress site.
InMotion Hosting tops the competition by tossing all limitations to the wind. It offers unlimited websites, page views, disk space, and data transfers per month. Many of the managed WordPress hosts we've reviewed have caps in place that limit the plans in some regard. Unlike WP Engine$29.00 at WP Engine andPressable$25.00 at Pressable, InMotion Hosting doesn't make you go to a third-party Web registrar like GoDaddy for email accounts and domain names—it's all included as part of the package. In fact, InMotion Hosting's managed WordPress hosting includes a free domain name, which is a plus. Other features include daily backups and Google Apps integration.
Unfortunately, e-commerce isn't available with the basic Launch plan. Regardless, InMotion Hosting is an excellent managed WordPress host.
Setting Up Email
InMotion includes unlimited email with its shared hosting plans. Other competitors, like iPower and JustHost$5.99 at JustHost - Shared only offer that on their top-level plans. Email setup is simple and the interface includes a password strength indicator. InMotion lets you access your email through desktop programs like Outlook, or Web-based or mobile clients. As you set up email, you're offered McAfee protection once again.
Setting Up a Store
InMotion has many e-commerce options. You can add an eShop page using the Premium Web Builder and build a simple store. Payment options are limited, though. You can also download OpenCart or PrestaShop (both free) for a more robust store. We gave OpenCart a try; it offers a comprehensive dashboard for tracking customers and sales and multiple shipping and payment options. This beats other hosts like iPower and JustHost, which charge an extra monthly fee for e-commerce.