Before you start looking for affordable website hosting, it pays to take a few minutes to consider your needs. That way you don’t end up paying for anything you don’t need or, worse, entering a long-term contract for a service you won’t use.
Requirements For Affordable Website Hosting
First determine what type of website you’re going to build. Will it be a blog, a retail site, a single-page long-form sales letter, or something else? Then figure out what website software you need to build that kind of site.
If you don’t know what website software to use, look at what other people are using to build that kind of site. If it doesn’t say what software they use at the bottom of their site, look at the site’s source code: in Firefox, use the Edit menu and choose View Source. In Chrome, right click on the page and choose View Source. Then look for a tag named Meta=Generator. That’s the name of the software used to create that site.
If you cannot find that then look for anything that mentions wp-content. That will mean it is a WordPress website.
After you know what software will help you create your site, look for affordable website hosting which offers a free install of that software.
Almost all affordable website hosting will offer free installation of WordPress (for blogs), Drupal (for corporate websites), and Simple Machines Forum (SMF, for forums).
Also consider your domain name requirements. A basic website will have just one domain—for example, example.com. But advanced websites may have also have multiple sub-domains. For example: blog.example.com, forum.example.com, ebook.example.com, and others.
Some affordable website hosting companies will let you use sub-domains for free; other hosting companies will charge you extra; so it makes sense to figure out what you need before you make an order.
Also consider your email needs. These days, I suggest you separate your email account from your hosting. Individual users can get free email hosting through Google Apps for a few addresses at their domain name, and if you trust Google with your email, that’s a great free way to keep your email separate from your hosting.
Finally remember that more and more website services are available individually from so-called cloud services. For example, you can host images on Amazon S3 and comments on Disqus. That means you may be able to buy very low cost affordable website hosting without missing any important features.
Choosing A Particular Affordable Website Hosting Company
With the list of your requirements in front of you, look at a few of the top affordable website hosting companies to see which meet your needs. Then compare the companies based on these five criteria:
1. Size: bigger companies tend to provide more reliable service. They also tend to offer 24-hour customer service. On the other hand, they have so many customers that they’re not afraid to drop you if you become a pain in their butt.
2. Trial length: you should always start with a service that offers a free trial so you can get a good feel for the service. But if this is your first website or you’re not a quick website developer, remember that it’s going to take you time to put together all the pieces of your website and, until you do, you won’t be able to properly evaluate the service, so the longer the free trial, the better feel you’ll get for the affordable website hosting service before you buy.
3. Contract term: does the affordable website hosting company charge monthly or annually? If you’re building a new website, I highly recommend that you look for a service which charges month-to-month so you don’t end up paying extra if your site fails. On the other hand, established sites can often save $20 or more a year by buying longer contracts.
4. Data export: this is mostly a feature of the software you choose, but it’s something which often requires the support of the affordable website hosting company. Can you transfer your website to another hosting company—and can you do it for free? This is something I highly recommend you try during your free trial: create a backup of your website within the website hosting program and copy it to another free trial on another website hosting company. If it transfers fine, you know you haven’t been locked in—but if it doesn’t transfer, realize that you’ll always be stuck with that same hosting company.
5. Themes and premiums: look at what bonuses each affordable website hosting company offers. Many companies today offer free extra themes for popular website software such as WordPress. These can be a major value. The hosting company may also offer other premiums such as free advertisements, free backups, and free proprietary plugins.
A Final Test Of Affordable Website Hosting
Before I make a major purchase from any unfamiliar company, I always consider running a search for complaints about that company. You can find information about a lot of companies on the Better Business Bureau website, but I usually just run a Google search for “____ sucks” (replace ____ with the company name).
That search will bring you to blog posts and forum comments from disappointed customers where you can read about what went wrong. You can also usually contact the author of the post for more information—including whether or not the company has fixed the problem by now.
Note that every major company has its disappointed customers, so you’re always going to find some complaints—but if you do your research, you’ll quickly find out which companies offer the best affordable website hosting.
What if Affordable Hosting is Not What You Need?
If you find that this type of hosting just does not cut it for your site, you can bite the bullet and buy the best hosting there is for WordPress called WPEngine. This web hosting specializes in excellent quality, speed and up-time. You can speed up WordPress with their built in CDN, super fast servers and amazing up-time.