This is a quick summary of how to find a budget host, followed by more detailed discussion for those who are interested.
This guide is meant for those who:
- Need a modest hosting plan for a site for a nonprofit / small business / personal / etc.
- Have a budget for hosting of about $8 a month or under - perhaps well under.
- Want a free standing hosting plan (not a reseller plan to aggregate several such sites).
- Find a free plan or ISP web space doesn't meet their needs.
- Don't expect lots of extras or handholding.
THE SHORT VERSION
Well run, reliable hosts can find it worthwhile to offer plans for those with limited needs and budget. Some can make money doing it. Others find that it's a way to bring in new clients whose needs will grow over time.
It's good advice to avoid offers that are too good to be true - you often won't get what you were promised, and neither will the rest of the horde of bargain hunters that overwhelm the host's servers with their sites. But that's not what we're talking about here. You can get a good host on a budget.
try to get some sense of the features, space, and bandwidth you'll need. If you can come up with even a rough idea, it will help.
identify some good candidates for hosting. With luck, there will be enough listed in the posts in this thread to save you time in coming up with some candidates.
look for reviews of potential hosts from actual users. As with a restaurant, the quality of a host has a lot to do with the way it's managed. New hosts might or might not be good; and established hosts can go downhill if the management doesn't consistently stay on top of things. Service isn't always perfect, but what separates the good hosts from the bad is how often there are problems, and how the host handles things when something goes wrong.
- Search WHT.
Do a Search
of the Web Hosting Forum here at WHT, by searching on the host name. Don't search on "All Open Forums" - you'll get too many results that aren't relevant. You might try a couple variations to allow for different ways people spell - with or without spaces between the words in the name, for example.
- Use findmyhosting.com
to find hosts and reviews of hosts. Their Advanced Search page
lets you specify a lot of options, but often it's best not to narrow it unnecessarily. Just enter your budget and location, and use the "List By Highest Customer Rating" option in the lower right corner. Also, see below for more discussion of findmyhosting.com
the host's name, and variations of it, to see what turns up.
Neither of these approaches will find good information on every host, or has all the info on the host - unfortunately, that site doesn't seem to exist. Many of the hosts mentioned below aren't listed on findmyhosting.com. But these resources should help you narrow the list to current good prospects for hosting.
Some U.S. budget hosts that seem promising
so far, based on a January 2005 search, <<< Let's let members follow your guide and decide on their own. >>>
As you might have discovered, most of the web hosting directories on the web are advertising driven - there are no real reviews there. Here are a few places to look for info. And if there are other resource sites that have real info (not ads), let us all know by posting in this thread:
- findmyhosting.com's Advanced Search page
- Web Hosting Reviews
- not particularly focused on inexpensive hosting, but a number of useful articles and a list of hosts. The Related Sites
page has a number of other useful links and sites as well.
- You can sometimes find a good price on a good host or domain registrar at fatwallet
or the Anandtech
Hot Deals forums - search for host, hosting, domain, and so on.
If you do find a particular site valuable when choosing a host, you might try to sign up via their links so they get the referral credit.
Narrowing the search:
1. User Forum.
A forum discussing the host's features and any issues that arise can be very useful. You can often find answers to questions that aren't in the host's help pages, without needing to contact support. It also gives you a sense for the kind of people you're dealing with.
2. A whois search
on the domain name of the host might give you a sense for whether they look reliable and established.
3. Money back guarantees.
Many people recommend choosing a host with a money back guarantee. Maybe. I'd recommend choosing a host where you won't need the guarantee, if you can! Often it isn't worth chasing, if you turn out to need it.
It's a little hard to say precisely which features you'll need for your site, but:
- You can do a nice little site with: Linux hosting, php, mySQL databases (multiple tables or databases), htaccess control, several email boxes, email forwarding, and webmail.
- With that, you can run quite a few things; but if you're new to hosting you may want some preinstalled or auto installed scripts, too.
- Control panel.
A poorly designed control panel (such as the one at 1and1) can make it slow and unwieldy to administer a site.
(help.mydomain.net, store.mydomain.net) can be nice to have.
- Multiple domains.
If you need to host more than one domain name (mydomain.net, myotherdomain.org), be sure to check if the plan allows that.
You probably don't need (and can't get, on the really inexpensive plans) SSH, root access, or detailed DNS server setup - though if you know what it is you can decide for yourself!
5. Service and support.
Look for a reasonable turnaround time (depending on the problem) and basic courtesy (always). And personally, I'd rather have them warn me in adaance about changes and downtime, than worry about how quickly they respond when my site goes down or some new "feature" they installed makes something stop working. Think about what's fair to expect at the price of the plan you're looking at. In any case, don't ask for a lot of handholding - use the forums for that.
6. Does it feel right? This might not work for everyone, but many people get a sense of whether it's a company they want to do business with. Sometimes it's a good feeling, sometimes it's a bad feeling. Don't sign on with anyone who doesn't seem capable and straightforward. Contrary to what's often posted here, hosting is not
a commodity business. There is intense competition, but the quality of management makes some firms a better choice than others.
Like others, I always register my domain names at somewhere other than my host, even if it costs more. That allows me to very quickly change hosts if there's a problem with the site for an unacceptably long time. Changing hosts can often be done in a matter of hours, if need be - see the Changing hosts with Almost NO Downtime
Look in the Domain Name Discussions
forum for comments on domain registrars. As of January 2005, people seem to recommend <<< Let's let members follow your guide and decide on their own. >>>
For those new to hosting:
- You will get a shared hosting plan, at this budget. Your site will be one of many on the physical server it is hosted on.
- You will have varying degrees of control and features (depending on the plan you choose), but something less than full control.
- Your site may be affected by the usage of other sites on your server.
None of this is likely to be an acute or long term problem, if you choose a good host.
You may be able to host a couple small sites on one hosting plan, if you don't mind administering them through one control panel, and your plan allows multiple domains.
If you have several sites you plan to oversee, you may be better off getting a reseller plan to host them all.
Note that findmyhosting.com does not list every host
. In fact, it only lists those hosts who are currently paying it a referral fee for new clients who find a host using findmyhosting.com
Some people will have the knee-jerk reaction that's inherently bad. And, it does have some drawbacks:
- Some good hosts don't like to pay referral fees, or would just rather get clients by word of mouth. They won't be in the findmyhosting.com listings.
- Hosts who get terrible feedback may end their arrangement. All that useful feedback disappears.
But getting a fee if a client finds a host using the site does not
completely undermine the fundamental idea of having honest host reviews, as long as they aren't favoring one host over another, and aren't trying to make them all look good. There are clearly some candid reviews at findmyhosting.com. And findmyhosting.com has bills to pay, too - depending on how much the fee is, it's not unreasonable for them to get paid.
As always, you need to read the reviews with a critical eye. But findmyhosting.com is a good supplement to the inevitably anecdotal evidence you often find by turning up a few forum posts here and there about a host.
Why start this thread?
Some of this may seem obvious to the older members, but there's a big gap in what's here at WHT now. Sure, lots of people throw out a recommendation to search the forums - but search on what? And for how long? Similarly, just mentioning findmyhosting.com doesn't really help much. This thread would have saved me several hours when I first started looking.
And for those who can't help but post "Price isn't everything" - there are decent hosts for these needs and budget. Paying more will not necessarily get you a host that does a better job for these needs.
Additions and updates
I don't think the forum will allow me to edit this post, so look for updates below. And of course, look for other constructive comments from WHT members!
Please don't post requests for hosts here, or anecdotal comments - especially comments based on little or no experience with a host. To be reliable, we want to discuss hosts where there are a number of informed reviews.