We analyzed hundreds of hosts, selecting those with advanced technology platforms, robust security, and fast speeds. We looked for CDNs, SSDs (solid-state drives), provision of daily backups, and high uptime.
From this shortlist, we selected those with superior technical support available 24/7. Then we factored in thousands of user reviews from our proprietary database.
Small Business Web Hosting Buyers Guide
Finding the right hosting for your small business can be overwhelming.
There are hundreds of hosts, all with dozens of plans. And if you don’t have a technical background, most of those plans sound like gibberish.
Meanwhile, all you want is to get your website up and running.
I get the frustration.
So while writing this guide, I had 2 things in mind: clarity and simplicity.
Yes, the post is pretty long, but I’ve kept things as simple and jargon-free as possible.
By the end, you’ll know:
What type of hosting is best for your small business.
How to register or transfer a domain name.
Which business hosting features you’ll need.
How much you should be prepared to spend.
A shortlist of business web hosts that you may want to sign up with.
Who's Best for Business Hosting?
We think SiteGround is the best choice for Small Business.
The cheapest type of hosting. You share the resources of a web server with other websites, so you all share the cost. It’s the slowest and least reliable form of hosting, but an okay option for very low traffic sites.
Again, you share a server with others. The difference here is that you have your own space on the server carved out, so no other site can interfere with your site’s performance. This is a good, reliable option for most small businesses.
Just like VPS hosting, you have a certain amount of resources dedicated to your site. However, a VPS uses a single server, while cloud hosting involves spreading out your computing load over multiple servers. This makes it easier to scale up resources if your site grows quickly, and you usually only pay for the resources you use.
You get a dedicated server with its own IP address all to yourself. These are high performance, but quite expensive. They’re worth it if you have a lot of traffic and sales from your website are worth a lot (more on that later).
A service added to one of the above types of hosting. With a managed plan, your host takes care of server security, backups, and more, and you usually get much more hands-on support. The only catch is that it’s more expensive.
Businesses of all sizes when it’s affordable.
What is Reseller Hosting?
You also might come across reseller hosting, which is a type of hosting where you can sell a host’s services and make a profit. Completely irrelevant for business web hosting, so just ignore it when you see it.
When you go to a host, you’ll see that there are different plans for each type of hosting.
The difference between those plans is the number of resources available to your website.
Start by estimating your web hosting bandwidth needs, or contact a web host’s sales line if you need help figuring out the right plan for you.
Do You Need Windows Hosting if You Use MS Office?
One of the most common sources of confusion is that the vast majority of hosting services are based on Linux web servers.
You can still install them yourself but expect a few headaches the first time while you learn how to.
Advanced Business Hosting Features You May Need
Depending on your specific business, there are other features you may need to specifically look for in hosting services.
When you purchase a hosting plan, your website files are stored on a web server in a datacenter that the web hosting company owns.
Some hosts only have 1 or 2 datacenters with all their servers, while others have servers around the world.
The reason this matters is because the farther a visitor is from the datacenter, the longer it generally takes to load pages on your site.
A slower website results in a worse experience for potential customers, and a lower conversion rate.
So you want to go with a host that has a datacenter near most of your customers.
Or, if your visitors come from all over the world, choose a host that has several datacenters around the world.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
One way to speed up your website, especially if you serve a lot of media (images, videos) or have traffic spikes, is to find a host that leverages a CDN (content delivery network).
A CDN is a network of datacenters around the world that acts as proxy servers.
In plain English, a CDN consists of a bunch of a datacenters that serve a copy of your web files to visitors.
Since there are datacenters around the world, it ensures that all visitors load your site as fast as possible.
This animation from Cloudflare demonstrates how a CDN works. When visitors try to access your site, it’s served to them from a data node that’s geographically closest to them. This is constrasted with serving a website from one centralized location.
CDNs are highly scalable, so while your normal hosting may slow down if too many people are accessing your site at once, a CDN will remain fast.
Some hosting companies like A2 Hosting offer specific CDN hosting packages.
Some hosts come automatically configured with a free CDN, others offer paid options.
HIPPA & PCI Compliance
There are 2 sets of hosting standards that certain businesses must meet:
HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) – Legislation that specifies how medical information must be stored securely.
PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) – Standards that outline how businesses must store sensitive financial data.
If you’re collecting medical information you’ll need to know what data security laws and regulations apply to your venture. You could be fined if you do not comply with the law.
These laws are country-based. For example, if you are an American with an online business that collects medical information, you’ll want web hosting that is compliant with HIPAA guidelines.
If your venture is Canadian, you’ll want to find how Canada’s private sector data and security laws — such as PIPEDA and PIPAA — affect you. Pro tip: Don’t neglect to explore which regional laws may apply to your venture.
Similarly, if you’re collecting and storing payment information of any kind, you’ll want PCI compliant hosting.
Hosting is only a part of fulfilling these standards, but a required one.
Most hosts (especially managed ones) meet these standards, but check before purchasing a plan.
Marketing and Web Development Help
If you’re just starting a small business, you may be looking for some help.
Some hosts also offer advertising, marketing, SEO, and design help.
If it’s available from the web hosting company you pick, should you purchase it as well, or should you find a separate company that specializes in the help you need?
Generally, it’s fine to purchase additional services from a hosting company if it’s related to hosting. That covers work like design or web development.
But if you need SEO, marketing, or advertising help, I’d strongly advise that you hire a company that only focuses on those areas.
Why the Cheapest Hosting Plan Will Usually Cost You Business
Each 1 second delay (past 2 seconds) of loading correlates to decreased customer satisfaction by 16%.
A 1 second delay also correlates to a 7% reduction in conversions.
For most businesses, a 7% reduction in sales will cost you far more than the most expensive hosting out there.
And that’s just site speed.
When you go with cheap hosting, you’ll likely suffer in other areas as well:
Uptime – Your website going down means you lose customers, which will happen on cheap hosting plans. Premium hosts like Liquid Web have 100% uptime guarantees.
Customer support – If your site breaks, customers can’t lose it. How much would it cost you if your site went down for a day or two? Paying extra for immediate, experienced support can save you hundreds or thousands if you run into issues.
I’m not saying you should go out and buy the most expensive plan you can possibly find.
But you want to find a web hosting plan that will keep your site running quickly and reliably, with immediate support available if needed.
Do the math and pick a host and plan that’s not going to come back to cost you more in the long run.
The 3 Best Hosts For The Majority of Businesses
Of all the hosts out there, there are 3 that stand out as business web hosts in my experience.
No matter what your technical level or budget, at least one of these hosts will work well for you.
All of them offer all the basic business web hosting features outlined before, and most of the advanced features as well.
They have several cutting edge datacenters distributed globally. It’s a popular choice for medium and large businesses.
They don’t offer shared hosting at all, focusing solely on fully managed cloud, VPS, and dedicated hosting.
None of the plans are cheap, but they have the best performance you’ll find.
Finally, the “heroic” support goes above and beyond when you need help, and has a stellar reputation in the web hosting industry. You can see my detailed LiquidWeb review here.
Choosing the right web host is a big deal, it will affect the success of your business for years to come.
I understand that this was a long guide and takes some time to get through, but it’s worth spending the time to make sure you understand your options and can pick one that will work well for your business.
Freelance blogger by day, developer by night, Dale is a freelance writer who specializes in technology and digital marketing. He studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo before becoming a freelance writer.
Connect with Dale
Who's Best for Business Hosting?
We think SiteGround is the best choice for Business.