If you have a business, you need a website. It’s that simple. Companies without an online presence face a huge challenge, because we live in a connected world where people discover new products, services, and businesses—even mom and pop shops—by researching them on the internet. Of course, building a business website may take months of detailed planning, debating, and compromise, but setting up a decent website doesn’t have to be painful, provided you have the proper tools. The most important tool is the right web hosting service.
The Business Hosting Basics
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, graphics, 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. 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 and offering many hosting types. That said, we’re focusing on a specific hosting type: business hosting. Business hosting is, admittedly, a somewhat vague term. Technically, if a business has a website detailing the company’s location, operating hours, and other information, its hosting provider, no matter how small, is acting as business hosting. We are not focusing on that. Instead, we’re highlighting web hosts that have infrastructures devoted to larger businesses.
The Business Features You Need
When you begin shopping for business hosting, it’s good to have a list of the features you need. For example, you’ll want a web host that offers virtual private servers, dedicated servers, advanced cloud server platforms (such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud), high-end WordPress options, custom server builds should you need it, and 24/7 customer support. Depending on your business’ focus, you may need a web host that can handle pageviews or visitors that rank in the high thousands or millions. Basically, anything more advanced than shared web hosting.
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 roughly $100 for that extra security layer.
How Much Does Business Hosting Cost?
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, updates, and maintenance yourself, however, unless you opt for a managed server, which costs even more money.
Managed hosting is a service offered by web hosts that sees the company handle the care and maintenance of your dedicated server. Basically, the web host acts as your IT squad. If you rather have a web host do the server-related dirty work, managed hosting is the way to go.
Depending on how you spec out your hosting package, your can easily expect to pay close to $1,000 per month. Maybe more! Still, that price comes with excellent security, stellar customer service that onboards you, and a scalable architecture that lets you grow as needed with no downtime.
Some web hosts offer prorated plans that charge you by the amount of resources that your site demands. For example, Cloudways hosting plans start at $0.0139 per hour, which, including fees, equals roughly $10 per month. That’s assuming that your site’s online at the beginning of the month; if your site goes live half way through a month, you’ll see a reduced bill that reflects two weeks’ worth of resources use. Similar rules apply should you quit the web host.
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, new clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services. As if that weren’t bad enough, regular customers may lose confidence in your service if they can’t reach your site. Or they may simply need access to a service or widget today, which means they might go to a competitor to get the job done—and they might never come back. Anyone who’s ever tried to build customer loyalty understands what a catastrophe this is.
To test this critical 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, no matter how good the rest of their offering may be. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to quickly address the problem are penalized accordingly.
Are You Ready to Get Started?
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.
Where To Buy