Good budget web hosting is mostly about delivering on the fundamentals: providing plenty of disk space, no stupid limits or restrictions, a fair price, and with just enough professional features, like SSL, that you're able to produce a decent site.
Spotting a good business host is a little more difficult. Every quality provider will deliver on the fundamentals – that's a given – so to identify the best companies you'll have to drill down into the details.
You might start by looking for more high-powered products, with the best technologies around. But these will also need to be configurable enough to match your business needs. You'll want more flexibility in everything from upgrade and downgrade paths to billing and contract terms, and a support system which can fix any problem almost as soon as it appears.
These are big tests for any web host, but we've found five providers who may be able to deliver. Keep reading to find out more.
- We’ve also rounded up the best overall web hosting services
Michigan-based A2 Hosting has been delivering quality web hosting since 2003, and this experience has helped build a service with a lot of business appeal.
The company offers a full range of hosting products, for instance, including shared hosting, managed WordPress, VPS, cloud, dedicated, reseller, email and more. Whatever you need, you'll probably find it here.
There's support for an array of capable speed-boosting technologies: Cloudflare Plus CDN (not just the free version), Railgun, Anycast DNS, HTTP/2, SPDY, OPcache, Memcached and more.
A2 has come up with its own enhancements, too. A2 Optimized is a WordPress plugin which automatically configures your site for the best performance and security, and, it's claimed, can speed up page loads by a factor of six. HackScan is a security system which includes a firewall, virus scanning and brute force defense, while Patchman gets you automatic updates for some common apps.
Most plans offer plenty of flexibility and control. All VPS and dedicated plans give you a choice of Windows or Linux, for instance, and you get three levels of management. A fully managed server is entirely maintained by A2 Hosting and you don't have to do any more than browse cPanel. A core managed server is the same, but adds root access, and if you choose an unmanaged server, maintaining it is entirely up to you.
Best of all, A2 Hosting's pricing policy is refreshingly straightforward. There's no clicking Buy and discovering sneaky setup fees, or that you have to sign up for three years to get the advertised price. Every plan comes with a monthly billing cycle, no long-term contract required, so you can easily upgrade at any time to suit new business requirements.
1&1 is best known as a provider of budget shared hosting, but the company has much more to offer, including some surprisingly flexible business-oriented products.
If you're looking for a dedicated server, for instance, 1&1 delivers its usual value options, with starting prices as low as £49.99 ($70) a month. Even these starter systems are more powerful than you might expect – four cores, 12GB RAM, 1000GB storage – but there's plenty more available if you need it.
The high-end X10i server gives you 10 cores, 128GB RAM and 6TB of storage via 8 x 1000GB SATA drives. The regular price is £349.99 ($490) a month, and you can extend this by adding SSD storage, server management, a backup plan and other useful add-ons.
Maybe you need to schedule extra resources to meet demand, perhaps for a promotion or special event? 1&1's bare metal server is a simplified form of its dedicated servers that can be prepared and ready to go in only eight minutes, and is billed by usage.
Alternatively, 1&1's cloud server scheme offers versatile cloud-based hosting where you're able to adjust your allocated CPU cores, RAM and storage at any time. The Cloud Server Flex account even allows defining your own custom setup from the beginning, so if you're happy with 1GB RAM and 20GB storage, but know you need eight cores, that's exactly what you can get.
1&1 may not have all the features to compete with the best of the business hosting competition, but don't rule it out entirely – there are still interesting products and options to be explored. It’s well worth a look.
Dedicated hosting is often the best choice for demanding businesses, but finding the right plan for you can be a challenge. In many cases you're left browsing lengthy and complicated comparison tables, and even if you spot something interesting, it can't always be tweaked to suit your needs.
Hostwinds' dedicated server setup is far more straightforward. There are only six starter plans, each with a sensible starting configuration (fully managed, 1Gbps port, nightly backups available), and key options like operating system, RAM, storage, RAID, IP addresses and bandwidth just a click or two away.
This immediately gives you more freedom than you'll often get elsewhere. You're not forced to choose between a plan with 1TB SATA or 500GB SSD drives, for instance – you can mix and match any two drives from 1TB-3TB HDDs to 120GB-1TB SSDs. Prices are reasonable, too: a 1TB SSD costs only $30 (£21) more than the equivalent HDD.
Hostwinds gives you some more unusual choices, too. While other providers might force Windows hosting customers to use Windows Server 2012, Hostwinds supports Windows Server 2008, 2012 and 2016, and you can even opt for the Data Center edition (the differences are detailed here if you're curious, although if you don't recognize the name already, the chances are you don't need it).
Whatever you're buying, the default plan settings are designed to deliver the performance you need, rather than to achieve a low headline price. The top-of-the-range offering comes with 48GB RAM and 10TB bandwidth as standard, for example, more than enough to host most business projects, yet value is still reasonable at $171.90 (£123) a month.
Some web hosts focus on value, others go for high-end functionality, but OVH is a rare provider which has something for everyone.
This starts with a shared hosting plan which includes a free domain, 'unlimited' traffic, free SSL and DDoS protection for only £1.69 ($2.40) a month.
Business users get much, much more. Buy a VPS plan, for instance, and you're not stuck with your provider's idea of the best operating system. OVH gives you options that include CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, CloudLinux, Gentoo, Slackware, Arch Linux, openSUSE, Fedora, FreeBSD, SmartOS, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2016, SQL Server, VMware, Citrix Xen, Hyper-V Server and more.
The location of your site can be important, particularly if your target audience is in a specific country. Many providers give you little or no choice, but OVH can host sites in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Singapore and the UK.
The company doesn't stop there. You can also purchase geo-located IP addresses, so for example a site hosted in the UK could appear to be located in Canada, a clever way to improve SEO in some situations.
There's similar depth everywhere you look. OVH doesn't just allow choosing between regular and SSD storage: it also supports NVMe, non-volatile memory-based storage which can be up to five times faster than SSD.
OVH has a huge range of business-friendly plans, covering everything from an £8.99 ($12.60) a month VPS offering to an industrial strength software-defined data center starting at £1,199 ($1,680). Browsing through all these plans can take a while, but if you need more power than most hosts can offer, it's well worth the effort.
Liquid Web is a professional provider of dedicated, cloud, managed and other business-oriented web hosting. Products can seem expensive, at least initially, but that's largely because they're designed to deliver the features a business needs, rather than cutting corners to hit a low headline price.
To take one example, Liquid Web's managed WooCommerce plan costs from $249 (£178) a month, while 1&1's starter eShop product has a regular price of only £14.99 ($21) – less than 10% of the price of the former. Is that extra outlay really worth it?
Well, WooCommerce is a vastly more powerful product than anything 1&1 can provide. It allows selling physical goods, digital downloads and virtual products. You're able to define as many products as you need, and display them in one of the most comprehensive and configurable catalogues around. And there's support for all the professional features you might require, including coupons, promotions and customer reviews.
WooCommerce can also handle many supporting business tasks. You're able to set up custom workflows for orders, manage your inventory, perhaps allow staff to manually enter orders, and set up multiple accounts for staff members to administrate the store. It's not just a website control panel – it's a key element of running your business.
There's a lot of clever technology under the hood, from image optimizations that help speed up page downloads, to container-based hosting which allows servers to dynamically allocate RAM and CPU cores when demand is high.
Professional extras include Jilt-based abandoned cart recovery to cut revenue losses, while Glew analytics help to extract meaningful data from your store traffic and order information.
All this is based on an excellent hosting platform with high redundancy, a 100% uptime SLA (service level agreement) and 24/7/365 monitoring to help detect and address problems as soon as they appear.
You get the picture. Liquid Web products aren't cheap, but there's usually a good reason why, and the company could be a smart choice for businesses with more complex website needs.