I worry a lot about this page. I originally set it up to cut down the amount of email I receive at thesitewizard.com asking me to recommend a web host. However, over time, I have found that I had to revise this page numerous times as a result of changes in the web hosting scene. The worst thing is finding out that the quality of hosting at the hosts I had mentioned here earlier had deteriorated. Naturally those hosts are no longer listed below.
The best way to treat this page is to regard the comments I make here about web hosts as merely the opinions of one person given at a particular point in time. I recommend that you investigate thoroughly any host before signing up. You can find a list of things you should look for in a web host in my other article How to Choose a Web Host.
Note that I only mention commercial and free web hosts providing shared hosting (where yours is not the only website on a particular machine). Since I have no direct experience with leasing a dedicated server or getting a virtual private server (VPS), this page will not mention any companies providing such facilities.
At present, thesitewizard.com is hosted at FutureQuest, and indeed has been on this host since 2000. So far, I have found them to be reliable, honest and competent, with those at the helm appearing to be people who understand the software and issues that surround running web servers. Their prices are not the cheapest around, but I find that they are well worth the price. The old adage, "you get what you pay for", seems most appropriate in their case, and I would rather pay that few extra dollars for their reliability and competence than to find my sites down for long periods at a stretch, costing me more money than the few bucks I can save in hosting fees.
One of the things I like about them is that their packages are developer-friendly without the nonsense you get from some web hosts. That is, they provide, out-of-the-box, facilities that web programmers and developers need. For example, all users automatically get a secure shell account ("SSH") without having to ask for it. (In layman's language, SSH is a way to access your website to do a variety of advanced tasks you can't otherwise do using the normal methods.) Your account also comes with numerous Apache modules, including the important mod_rewrite module. Such modules allow you to configure certain aspects of your website, such as create 404 and other error pages, block unwanted visitors, redirect old pages to newer ones, etc. There are numerous other programmers' facilities as well, including access to a C compiler, numerous scripting languages, etc.
Equally important, no other customer with an account on the same server as you can look inside your scripts (ie, computer programs) and thus discover things like your database passwords, either through scripts (programs) running on their account or by connecting by secure shell (the "SSH" thing I mentioned earlier) and changing to your directory. You will probably be appalled to learn that this very basic security measure is something that numerous other web hosts don't seem to have done properly.
And then there are the intangibles, which are hard to quantify. For example, there are things like their competence which has been demonstrated in the way they manage their servers, plan ahead, etc. I also like their honesty, even in small matters like automatically refunding money for "down" times (ie, times when your site is not accessible) that exceed their guarantee (not that there's much "down" time). It's little things like these that increase my confidence in a host and make me willing to trust my website (and credit card number) with them.
Of course there are numerous other features in their hosting packages, but those are fairly standard among most other hosts (like a control panel to manage your email addresses, PHP, Perl, etc), so I'm not going to bother to mention them here. In fact, simply doing a feature versus price comparison of web hosts is not really very useful since most people only use a subset of all features offered (and web hosts know it, and so bloat their feature list to get customers). Far more important, in my opinion, are the above things.
Very often, when people ask me about web hosting, they want to know if I know any cheap but good web host. This particularly applies to those who are just starting their web site and are not willing to sink a lot of money into it.
My problem with this question is that although I'm willing to answer it, my experience with cheap web hosts has not been entirely favourable ("favorable" in US English), so it is difficult to recommend the cheap ones where I have actually placed sites on.
As such, at this point in time, if you really want dirt cheap hosting, you will have to evaluate them for yourself. Sorry. There are a number listed in thefreecountry.com's Annotated List of Budget Web Hosts.
I previously had a section mentioning free web hosts that I had found noteworthy. However, as I have not had a major site hosted on a free web host since 1999, my knowledge of good free web hosts quickly became dated, and is now hopelessly obsolete. Since the free web hosting scene changes even more rapidly than the commercial web hosting scene, with web hosts disappearing every now and then (sometimes even within the month they start), it is best to check out (and evaluate) for yourself any free web host you come across. A number of them can be found on thefreecountry.com's Free Web Hosts page.
Before you rush out to sign up for a free web host, you should read my article on All Those Disappearing Free Web Hosts.
Price is always a factor in choosing web hosts. You would be fooling yourself if you told yourself otherwise (unless you have lots of money to burn). However, higher prices do not mean that you'll get a good web host. Higher prices do, however, mean that you have a better chance of getting good support, since at least they will have the money to hire more staff if they want to.
There is always a trade-off. At least for me. There's no way I can afford to put all my sites on my "ideal" web hosts. For sites that are not so critical, I am willing to pay a cheaper price at the cost of a little more "down" time and inconvenience than my more important sites.
In general, if you run a business on the web, you will not want to take that kind of risk. Bad support and "down" times have a habit of occurring at the worst possible moments (such as during your peak ordering seasons).
One (cheap) host (not listed above) that used to house one of my non-critical "play" sites has had over a period of a few months numerous problems: repeated periods of "down" times (sometimes running even for hours with them not only unaware of the situation but also unreachable), email problems (their email system was down so mail from my visitors could not reach me), FTP problems, and so on. If you're running a business, I suggest that you weigh the costs of your site being down against the cost of paying a few dollars extra per month for a good web host. When your site is down, you will lose your sales and customers for that period. If you're earning from your website, it may be worth your while to pay those extra dollars. After all, as long as your site is running, you stand the chance of getting additional sales which will more than make up for the extra cost of a few bucks. Remember: no site, no sale.
As for free web hosts: you just have to swallow whatever you're dished out. Support is often non-existent for free web hosts. It never ceases to amaze me to hear from people who complain of free web hosts that have lousy service. You didn't pay a cent, so what did you expect? Frankly, I don't recommend that you run a business site on a free web host. Hobby sites and personal sites are probably okay. You might still want to consider getting your own domain name though. If you don't know why this is so, see my article, Is it Possible to Create a Website Without Buying a Domain Name? The High Price of "Free"..
My personal policy, however, is that if it's an important site, don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Saving one or two dollars per month is not worth the loss of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars when your site goes down.
So that you do not get tricked by web hosts who are less than upfront about their packages and practices, you may also want to read these other articles:
Best wishes for your site!
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