How much does it cost to host a website? That’s a leading question and one that has a number of answers. It depends very much on what type of website, what type of public, and what kind of budget you have. There are various types of web hosting packages available, each with different cost implications. Let’s focus on these questions, and their web hosting cost impacts.
An important note, when comparing web hosting prices, is that most of the bigger companies offer introductory prices that are often as much as 50% of the annual cost. When you look at the small print, you’ll see that the price rises in the second year onwards. Also discounts generally require upfront annual or multi-annual payments. Keep that in mind when you see low prices.
The first thing to do is to work out what type of website you have. Let’s take some examples:
If your site is a simple business site, with a couple of pages describing your business, and perhaps a small blog. The purpose of the site is to be a point of contact for your clients, and you want to rank well for a number of keywords related to your business. If you’re cost conscious you can certainly start with a basic/mid-range shared hosting package. Prices, at the time of writing, start from around $2.45 introductory offers (GoDaddy Economy package is $7.49 monthly, BlueHost Basic $7.99 monthly, A2 Hosting LIte $7.02 monthly)
Pros: This is a good way to get started, for one site. All big web hosting companies will be able to smoothly upscale your package if you find that the site is outgrowing it.
Cons: You get what you pay for, and so if your site starts creating lots of traffic or is resource heavy, you’ll start to run into problems.
Most large web hosting companies have a number of shared hosting packages, each of which differs primarily due to allocation of resources. The basic packages typically have limits on the amount of sites you can run, the amounts of databases, email addresses, and in some cases backup facilities. If you have a number of websites that you want to run from the same shared hosting account, or if you want to have better allocation of resources on the server (, then you can start to look at the higher end shared hosting packages. Prices range from $8 monthly through to $15 monthly. You should run through what’s on offer in terms of resources to determine the most suitable package for you.
Pros: Some of the extra features can really make a difference – for example, various caching options that will help you speed up your site for google pagespeed (an important factor for usability and also search engine ranking).
Cons: As you increase your budget, you don’t necessarily resolve all your problems and you’ll still be prone to your site being shut down if you overuse shared resources (if you get a viral post driving traffic upwards suddenly, for example). When paying for deluxe shared packages, you’re not far off taking the step towards a more robust solution like vps or dedicated servers.
If your site(s) are built in WordPress, you’ve probably considered one of the many WordPress shared hosting packages. These have sprouted up everywhere over the last couple of years as hosting companies recognise the market dominance of WordPress as a content management system. There are hosting companies that only deal with WordPress, like WPEngine, while others like BlueHost, GoDaddy and SiteGround all offer WordPress specific packages.
Before choosing these it’s important to work out what you’re paying for, as they all cost more than basic shared hosting (where, in nearly all cases, you can succesfully run a WordPress site). These packages have a number of features that make it easier to setup and run a good WordPress site – they are usually configured to boost WordPress speed and offer inbuilt caching. They also generally offer a higher level of security (for example, many of these hosting packages limit the plugins you can use based on security reviews). These are all good things, but often they are things your web developer will have already setup for you in a basic shared hosting package – so it depends upon the level of technical ability you/your team have. If someone is developing your site for you in WordPress, you should check what approach they have to security and speed. If they want to charge you extra, then you may want to opt instead for a WordPress specific hosting package. If ensuring initial security and speed are part of your development package (and we’d argue that they should be), then there’s no need to go for WP specific hosting.
Remember, as well, just because the hosting company is offering WP shared hosting, it doesn’t mean that they’ll help you with specific problems with your WordPress site – so, for example, if your site is running slow despite being on a WP hosting package, your host is unlikely to work with you going through your individual theme/plugins to optimise. They’re offering the basic setup done right – anything that you’ve customised (like your theme) falls outside their remit.
Prices tend to start at as little as 2.95 montly (introductory offer) through to top of the range plans like WPengine’s basic plan at $35 monthly. There’s a vast difference in the resources and setup given between those packages. Generally, if you’re going to go for a WordPress shared hosting package you want to get some of the real benefits from the server setup, so you should choose the mid-range or delux services which tend to start at $5.45 a month. They should include things like staging environments, automatic updates and backups, caching etc.
Pros Optimising WordPress can be tricky, particularly depending upon your server setup. Going for a WordPress specific hosting package can boost performance significantly.
Cons Often these packages are restrictive in terms of what you can and can’t setup on the server. Access to things like cpanel can be limited, and this makes it harder to customise and develop your site. Also, for many WordPress sites a simple basic shared hosting package, which is cheaper, will suffice.
When should you move up from shared hosting to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) solution? Typically when your site has outgrown a shared hosting package (it may have run out of space, or resources due to high traffic), your hosting company will propose a Virtual Private Server.
What is a VPS?
There are many different VPS packages out there, starting from as little as $10 a month, and going up to the higher end of between $30-$50 a month. For most small businesses and startups these can be substantial costs so you need to consider things carefully when choosing your package. You should talk to the sales team to determine what kind of resources you’ll need, and what kind of technical assisstance they provide. Also check how easily you can up/downscale a package.
Pros A VPS gives you control of resources that are not available with shared hosting. If your website is performing well, with high traffic, and is important to your business, you should consider a vps.
Cons With power comes responsibility, and you’ll find that there are technical challenges to running a vps. If you don’t have a competent webmaster, make sure to find out what support your hosting company offers.
We’ve gone through the main categories here, but there are a number of other options – notably free hosting and dedicated servers, each at opposite spectrums of the cost range. We’re presuming that you’ve come here trying to figure out budget options for getting started with your website hosting, so we’ve skipped the dedicated servers option. At the same time we’ve skipped free hosting options, which require an article all on its own (which we’re working on right now.