Throughout 2019, our editors compared the best shared hosting services on the market to compile the top rankings below. Each of the shared hosting providers was tested on key aspects such as data protection, server speeds, performance, privacy, and technical support response time. All hosts that made the cut provide excellent security, and website up-times. We update our rankings on a regular basis to ensure we always list the most reliable shared hosting providers.
Best Shared Hosting Companies
What We Look for When Ranking the Top Shared Website Hosting Providers
A web provider’s uptime equates to the percentage of time the website you create through their shared hosting service will be online and available to the public. The higher the uptime, the more consistently your website stays online.
Always look at performance trends and averages as they will indicate a more accurate track record than what the most recent up-time rate is. Generally, anything below a 99.0% up-time average should be a red flag that warrants further investigation. Always keep in mind that averages are not the be-all indicator for reliability.
Occasionally web hosts experience some type of server outage that drags their overall performance down in a way that doesn’t reflect their true reliability. For example, Bluehost suffered several DDoS attacks which caused a considerable drop in their up-time average but after implementing security changes, maintained a 99.99% up-time average for the last six months.
This excellent table from Virtualization Review breaks down how up-time percentages translate into seconds, minutes and hours. The main takeaway from this table is that every additional nine to the right of the dot in 99.0% increases total up-time by a factor of ten and that there comes a point where additional nines become redundant.
Another important factor when choosing a shared hosting service is to understand the relationship between your website’s revenue and the costs of maintaining a high up-time.
For websites that run an e-commerce store, there are a couple things you can do. First, compare the revenue from your average sales per hour and see how much money you lose for each hour of website downtime. Then compare that to the additional rates you pay for increased up-time and see what the differences are. Always take into consideration how website downtime may affect customer loyalty as well, which is another hidden cost of poor up-time.
Second, check which days and hours coincide with peak traffic. If you notice that 80% of your traffic occurs within the same three-hour window every day, make a note of how much revenue loss and customer frustration would happen from a few minutes or hours of downtime in that peak window.
Ultimately, it’s best to view up-time through a probability lens. It’s entirely possible to have a web host with a 97% average up-time be consistent when you need them most and a 99% average uptime web host always crash during your peak traffic hours. Use this probabilistic understanding in conjunction with the other aspects of web hosts performance to make the best decision possible.
Traffic speed represents the amount of time it takes for information to travel from a visitor’s computer to the server hosting the website and back. The most common example would be the time it takes for a website to load once its URL has been provided and the “Enter” button pressed.
Speed is impacted by many factors. When choosing a hosting provider, the two most important factors to understand are web host caches and the speeds of the servers on which your website will be stored. Caches act as outposts that hold your content at locations physically closer to the visitor – that way the information doesn’t have to travel all the way to the main host server for every query. As for regular servers, the faster their hard drives and processors, the faster the data can output and transferred to the user.
Having good website load times may seem trifle to some, but it’s one of the most important factors determining a great website. Here’s a quote from Google, “53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load” . Always aim to have your website load in two seconds than less, with any further speed increases being a welcome bonus. Similar to breathing, loading speeds aren’t noticed until something goes wrong—then it becomes impossible not to notice.
There will be times when traffic speeds are slow for visitors and it’s outside of factors you control. For example, if a visitor’s internet provider has poor speeds then it may appear that your website is at fault. Sometimes the users on the server you share space with cause resource drain and things slow down for your visitors. Understanding these unknown factors will help you minimize slow traffic.
Reliable technical support
Technical support comes in many forms but is usually provided through live-chat messaging, e-mail, or telephone calls. A good support staff offers more than just being the people you contact when your website fails to load. They should be there to help with all the smaller issues you encounter, too.
It doesn’t matter if a web provider has the best features in the world if there’s nobody to help you when things go wrong. When assessing a web provider’s tech support, the most important factors are response time and quality of assistance. Slow technical support could be the difference between getting your website repaired just in time for your daily high-traffic window or having a downed website for several days. Even if the support team responds within ten minutes, low-quality support won’t get the problem resolved.
Bluehost gets a special mention here for being the only quality shared hosting provider we’ve seen that offers exceptional live-chat messaging, e-mail, and telephone support to all users regardless of account tier. They also have one of the largest support staffs on the market. StableHost was the slowest to respond in our experience, taking one full day before replying to our rather simple queries.
Pricing Structure and included features
All web providers offer some combination of resource access, core website requirements such as domains, and additional services. The quality of the resources and additional features is what users need to evaluate in order to choose the pricing structure that best suits their needs. The more accurately you can pinpoint your website’s needs and which features support those needs best, the better deal you’ll choose.
Resources and access
The guiding principle to being a web provider goes as follows: own a data center filled with servers, rent those servers out to customers for a price, and give access to more services on those servers to customers that pay more.
These services take many forms but often amount to a choice between either having a limited or unlimited amount of resource access. Common upgrades also include features such as unlimited e-mail accounts, unlimited hosted domains and sub-domains, and unlimited website space.
All providers on our list offer unlimited data bandwidth, but the resource most precious to users is hard drive space. The more hard drive access, the more memory, and storage gets partitioned off for a user’s sole use. Higher memory equates to faster server speeds since more hard drives are working in unison. For example, Bluehost offers a special “pro” tier that grants customers access to servers with 80% fewer users than other tiers, meaning each user gets five times the hard drive memory.
Oftentimes, one website with good speeds and security gets the job done. Anybody looking to run a simple blog, for example, will have all their needs met by an entry-level package.
Usually, an additional plan exists for users who do not require unlimited resources but are rather in need of extra security features. Bluehost and HostGator do an excellent job of offering multiple service packages for users like these. DreamHost however only offers a single shared hosting service plan.
Users operating many domains and websites, or users operating a single website with large traffic (35000+ daily visitors for simple text-based websites) benefit more from the unlimited resource plans. Ideally, and whenever possible, try to find a way to host your content on multiple, smaller websites – this will reduce damages in case any single website happens to go out of service. If hosting everything on a single large website becomes unavoidable, it may be time to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server service.
Ease of setup and customization
Regardless of your technical background, a good web provider offers the tools to get your website online quickly and securely. Before purchasing a service, always look for the “getting started” checklist or guide they use. Always remember, if your first experience with a hosting provider is that of being unable to get your website working, this sets the stage for your future relationship with the company.
The sign-up process for providers is uniform across almost all services. Select and purchase a domain name, choose the service plan that meets your needs, make your payment, and gain access to the web host’s control panel. Some users need to transfer domains instead of purchasing a new one, which can be done during the domain selection process.
Unlike other factors which have tangible metrics to measure and compare services with, a well-designed interface requires searching through customer reviews. Most customer reviews are fair reports on their personal experiences with a provider, but sometimes personal feelings can get in the way. When reading through these reviews make sure to look for positive and negative common trends. For example, almost everybody that uses Bluehost and leaves a review mentions how intuitive their cPanel feels compared to other shared hosting providers.
A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack overwhelms a server with a flood of fake traffic, which causes it to shut-down or become vulnerable to other types of hacks and exploits.
Some web providers, such as StableHost, employ their own DDoS security network that’s capable of repelling DDoS attacks up to certain sizes. Oftentimes, the best DDoS security services are third-party applications such as CloudFlare. These companies create massive dedicated DDoS absorption networks designed to handle the largest DDoS attacks on the web.
Data protection services monitor information for malware and remove them when found. This usually takes the form of malware scanners and vulnerability testers.
Shared hosting providers frequently offer packages with their service that cover most general-case data protection needs. DreamHost has an excellent in-house malware scanner they run on all their servers, for example. Other companies, such as HostGator and Bluehost, offer the aforementioned SiteLock with some of their plans.
Spam mail can be classified as anything that is either irrelevant to your needs or contains potentially harmful viruses. Most spam mail has been meticulously designed by marketers or hackers to bypass standard e-mail spam filters and to land in the inbox. As a result, specialized filters which either change dynamically over time or employ advanced filtering methods become necessary.
Two of the most prominent spam filters on the market right now are SpamAssassin and SpamExperts. SpamAssassin has been around longer, uses the more static approach of rigorous testing of all incoming e-mails and as a Linux based application is more commonly supported. SpamExperts utilizes modern machine learning approaches to dynamically identify spam and stop it from ever entering the network, but has less support from shared hosting companies.
All web providers on our list of recommendations offer either SpamAssassin, SpamExperts or both.
SSL security certificates
SSL certificates digitally link a website’s details and traffic to a cryptographic key, creating a secure connection between users. Oftentimes, you see a website’s SSL certificate as the padlock icon in the URL with the word, “secure”. Some SSL certificates use more complex cryptographic keys, making it harder for hackers to destabilize them. Having a secure connection prevents outside influences from rerouting or slowing down website visitors. It also enhances a websites Google ranking score and creates customer trust.
All web providers on this list will help you register a free SSL certificate. HostGator offers the largest selection of SSL certificate bundles to choose from, but BlueHost has the best Comodo SSL certificate deal at $49.99 a year.
Domain Name Privacy
When you register a domain name for your website you are required to include your personal or business information, which can be found by anyone using a Whois database tool. Adding domain name privacy allows you to keep all of your information hidden and confidential.
Usually, domain name privacy costs around $10/year per domain, however many domain registrars and hosting companies have started offering free domain name privacy as a part of their service. For example, DreamHost offers free domain name privacy credits with their plan.
Data / Website Backups
Data backups are complete digital images of your website put into storage. Not all web providers offer data backup services. HostGator and Bluehost both offer CodeGuard with their services. CodeGuard automatically stores your information in multiple secure locations and has a one-click rollback feature to instantly revert websites back to previous versions.
Linux vs. windows hosting
The virtual machines that shared hosting users are given access to run on an operating system. That system dictates some important functionality and compatibility differences. In the same way that you can’t use certain programs from Microsoft on an Apple machine, hosting servers can’t use applications they’re not compatible with.
If your website’s core functionality requires using a Microsoft application, you must use a shared hosting service that offers Windows hosting on its servers. For example, DreamHost only offers Linux-based servers through its shared hosting service and therefore wouldn’t work for you.
Servers running Linux kernels offer greater versatility in third-party application selection and offer compatibility with just about anything – with the exception of Microsoft applications, which require a Windows kernel.
Shared Web Hosting Security Concerns
Security, privacy, and encryption carry implicit and explicit values. Some people don’t want others to know their private information on principle. Others have sensitive information that could harm their users if released to the public.
Below are some things to consider with regards to the security and privacy of your shared hosting provider:
- if your private information is unprotected, hackers can steal your identity
- if your website is insecure, hackers can take control of it for nefarious purposes
- if your data isn’t encrypted, you could be held accountable in the eyes of the law
- firewalls that don’t stop fake traffic lead to wasted resources and slows down websites
- lack of an e-mail spam filters leads to bloated inboxes and vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit
Should a hacker steal your identity, they can create bank accounts or carry out other malicious acts in your name. You will be suspected as the culprit, damaging your credit score and reputation. If hackers gain control of your website, they can use it to attack other websites or host illegal content, getting your website blacklisted in the process. Since you’re on a shared server, allowing fake traffic to burn resources negatively impacts all other users on the server as well. Not taking steps to prevent these things could be considered negligence in a court of law.
Web hosts offer a wide variety of standard security applications for shared hosting services. Many of these protective measures come pre-installed and additional security applications can be installed at any time. Any hosting company that doesn’t provide baseline security protections or allows users to install security for shared hosting services should be avoided.