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The Best Hosting Options for Online Business
Conducting online business means staking out a domain name and then finding a service to host it. Everything on the internet has to physically exist on a server somewhere, and unless you have thousands of dollars’ worth of high-end computer equipment in your basement, you’ll need to look for external hosting from a third-party company. Don’t fly into this decision blind, though. Take some time to decide which hosting options is best for your online business.
What are hosting services?
A website is really a collection of files, images, buttons, forms, etc that communicate with servers.
All the data it takes to run a website has to be stored on a server somewhere. If you’re like most small business owners, you don’t have these mighty servers hiding in your basement, and so you’ll need a company to host your site for you.
A good web hosting service will have strong customer support, trustworthy security, the ability to scale with your business and guaranteed uptime for your site, meaning it never crashes.
Types of Online Businesses
First, you’ll want to identify just what kind of business you’re running. Are you going to be selling things in an eCommerce store? Making money off affiliate links on your blog? Or something else? If you’re still looking for inspiration in this area, see our guide to all the different online businesses you can start.
Each business has unique needs, and you’ll want to keep yours in mind as you pick out a hosting service.
What kind of site do I need for my online business?
Depending on the type of business you plan to launch is how you’ll select your host.
If you’re looking to start a blog, you’ll want a WordPress site. My favorite hosts for WordPress are Bluehost, WP Engine, and Kinsta. See how Bluehost and WP Engine match up. Also, see why I’m switching to Kinsta for one of my sites.
First, just a quick overview on the types of hosting.
Types of hosting services
Hosting has four main flavors: shared, dedicated, managed, and all-in-one. There is some overlap between these terms, so let’s dig into them one at a time to clear things up.
What is shared hosting?
Shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like. You and a number of other sites are hosted on the same server. Think of it like having a bunch of roommates all on the same wifi. You can save a lot of money by splitting costs, but if one of your friends starts downloading and entire library, it can slow down whatever you’re trying to do.
For just getting started and a low budget, shared hosting is the best way to start, and you can upgrade as you grow.
What are the best shared hosting options for my online business?
Bluehost offers hosting starting at $2.95/month if you sign up through this link.
If you start with Bluehost on a shared plan, through this link, you also get a WordPress installation.
Another good option is HostGator, which offers only budget options. That doesn’t mean the hosting is sub-par, though. They have similar uptime to other providers and offer solid performance. Where HostGator shines is in their customer support, which is very good, especially for a budget option. Hostgator offers multiple real-time ways to communicate with customer support like live-chat or phone in addition to the traditional ticketing system and email options.
HostGator does not offer the same scalability as Bluehost, however. If your company grows, you’ll have to switch hosting providers at some point.
What is dedicated hosting?
Dedicated hosting is the other side of the coin from shared. The entire server is dedicated to your business. This type of hosting is typically going to run you hundreds of dollars a month, making it not a very good choice for a business starting up on a smaller budget. Dedicated is when you run a large scale operation.
However, more popular are cloud hosting services like AWS (Amazon Web Services) that allow you to quickly scale up, or scale down, based on the amount of traffic you have.
You probably won’t be in the market for dedicated hosting until your business is much larger, if ever. For the purposes of getting your online business off the ground, we’ll stick with the basics: managed and shared hosting.
What is managed hosting?
Managed hosting is an all-in-one package for a company to manage your site for you. This takes a massive load off of you and can be the difference between going strong and burning out, especially if you’re working alone or with a very small team. Delegating the management of your site to a trusted hosting service frees up your time to focus on growing your business.
Bluehost also offers a fully managed solution. I use a managed solution because it includes things like:
- Automatic daily backups
- Security – SSL certificates – making sure my site is secure
- Plugin updates
- Dedicated support
You won’t have to think about what you need or install anything extra, it’s all … well, managed.
What are the best managed hosting options for my online business?
If you have a larger budget, there’s no reason not to get started with managed hosting. As your business grows, you will want to get a managed solution eventually to free up your time and energy for other things.
Bluehost’s managed WordPress options are their newest hosting option. Right now they only offer options for managing a single website.
Kinsta’s more expensive packages are enterprise solutions for companies needing dozens or even hundreds of different sites managed. For a single website, Kinsta is very affordable.
Like Kinsta, WP Engine is a WordPress-exclusive hosting company. This means more specialized tools for WordPress sites, but you cannot host a non-Wordpress site with them.
Site Ground has the cheapest managed hosting option on this list, however, their $6.99 tier lacks a staging site, an important hosting feature.
Does my WordPress site need hosting?
Yes! As we’ve established, hosting is one of the two key components of a functional website, along with a domain name. When you set up your website via WordPress, you will still need hosting. Now, whether or not you get that hosting externally is up to you.
First, is your website on WordPress.com or WordPress.org? This is a big difference.
Setting up a site on WordPress.com is like renting or borrowing a website of your very own. You don’t have to worry about the hosting. You’ll be stuck using a WordPress subdomain, and there’s no plug-in integration, which severely limits your options. This is a setup that may work well enough for someone running a personal blog with limited advertising needs, but it won’t be able to keep up with the demands of a scalable eCommerce store or other business.
WordPress.org on the other hand allows you to buy your own domain and get outside hosting. So unlike the .com option where WordPress was hosting everything for you, with a WordPress.org site you’ll need to get that hosting on your own via Bluehost, WP Engine or another option.
I don’t have WordPress, do I have to use a hosting provider?
The answer is no. There are many all-in-one site builders that act as a sort of “complete package”, eliminating the need for separate hosting. So instead of creating a WordPress site and then looking for a hosting site like Bluehost, you can commit to an all-in-one package.
Companies like Weebly function much like WordPress.com, allowing you to build your site with user-friendly tools and then doing the hosting for you via a shared platform. The biggest difference is that while WordPress uses open-source templates and themes, sites like Weebly may use proprietary ones, which can limit your design options.
The best hosting option for your online business may be a site builder
You may want to choose an all-in-one package from the start, before you have even designed your website. Using a comprehensive site builder can help keep things simple and get your site up and running even sooner.
Squarespace is really popular for its user-friendly interface. They also have extensions, SEO tools and access to experts to help you. You can view Squarespace’s available templates here.
What sets Wix apart from Squarespace is that it is unstructured. This means you can drag and drop elements anywhere on the page, while with Squarespace they “snap” into place, limiting your options.
Wix can be chaotic at times and a little bit harder to get to grips with than Squarespace, but it remains one of the most common website builders for a reason. Wix also has more templates to choose from, though Squarespace’s templates are a bit more polished.
Weebly’s biggest advantage is its lower price (Weebly also has a free plan which Squarespace does not). Weebly’s other major selling point is that it is incredibly easy to use. If you’re not tech-savvy and the idea of designing your website seems daunting, it may be worth giving Weebly a try.
If you have advanced technical skills you can build full scale web applications and apps on some of these no-code builders like Webflow and Bubble.
Disadvantages of comprehensive site builders
So if Squarespace or Wix will do it all, why would you ever choose anything different? Well there are some disadvantages to the all-in-one platform.
With complete site builders, you have less control. Your choice of themes, while broad, is still limited to pre-built options. Ultimately, a site created with these tools won’t be as scalable as one you create using a hosting site. Remember, the best hosting option for your online business is one that grows as you do.
Should I use an all-in-one site builder or a separate hosting service?
If you’re just starting out, you want to choose a website option that won’t overcomplicate things. You want to focus on getting your business off the ground, finding your audience and starting to make sales. A website builder that comes with hosting can definitely save you some time.
However, you will have more control and customization options with separate hosting. So there’s no right or wrong answer. You just need to know your business and your own comfort level.
Conclusion: What is the best hosting option for my online business?
You want to keep it simple when you’re just starting out. Getting too tangled up in expensive hosting options can hamper your new online business. If you need to get off the ground really quickly, choose an all-in-one site builder with built-in hosting like Squarespace.
If you need a little more flexibility but still don’t want to be overwhelmed, then Bluehost is your best option. Through them you can get managed or shared hosting and can get hosting for non-Wordpress sites, as well.
And remember, you’re not locked in to a hosting service for life. If your business grows or changes, you can adapt along the way. So don’t panic too much over what your hosting needs might become, and instead focus on getting your site off the ground and running today.
Disclaimer – affiliate links are used on this site as a way to pay for hosting and occasional snacks.