What’s more important: fast response time or protection against DDoS attacks?
Live tech support of unlimited disk space?
Does low price mean poor quality?
Are all hosting providers basically the same?
Finally, what does it mean for a host to be reliable?
With hundreds of providers on the market, choosing hosting can be a daunting task. In this post, we analyze the main factors that define a really good hosting company – and list the current top 10 most reliable hosts.
Table of contents
- Basic Requirements: Drive Space and Bandwidth
- Reliability: Uptime and Response Time
- Security: Protection against DDoS and other attacks
- Price: Read the Fine Print
- Live 24/7 Tech Support
- Top 10 Most Reliable Hosting Providers in 2020
1. Basic Requirements: Drive Space and Bandwidth
Before you start comparing hosting providers, you need to understand the requirements of your site.
It may be tempting to go for an unlimited package, but in reality, most sites don’t need it.
So why overpay?
Better do some math first.
Find out your average page size and multiply it by the number of pages. Or, use a free online tool like Rankwatch or Duplichecker. In WordPress, you can use a plugin like Page Size Checker. Make sure to keep your average page under 2 MB. Anything above that and your load speed will suffer.
An average WordPress site takes up about 1 GB of disk space. Of course, you’ll need more if you stream videos or allow users to share pictures.
The real meaning of bandwidth is how much data is transferred between your site and its visitors every second. But most users and hosting companies use this term to measure total data transfer in a month.
To calculate how much bandwidth you need, do the following:
- Take your average page size and multiply it by the number of pages viewed by each average visitor. If your site is very new, you’ll need to make an educated guess.
- Multiply the result by the number of monthly visitors.
- Increase the result by 40-50% to be on the safe side.
The important thing is to pay only for what you need.
Say your website weighs only 100 MB and you’re not expecting too much traffic at the beginning.
Then you’ll be fine with a minimal $2 hosting plan.
There’s no need to purchase an unlimited package for $10.
Also, remember that there’s no such thing as truly unlimited hosting. There’s always a limit, but chances are you’ll never reach it.
Somewhere in the agreement, it will say that your consumption must fall within “normal usage limits”. Providers know how much space and bandwidth their clients use on average – and set their “unlimited” ceiling above that. But if something happens and your numbers spike, you can go above that normal usage range. In this case, you might have to pay a hefty excess.
So, as you see, even unlimited hosting plans don’t fully protect you.
2. Reliability: Uptime and Response Time
Uptime is the percentage of time that a server runs properly and your site is up; conversely, downtime means those periods when the site isn’t working.
In the following diagram, 300 hosting companies are distributed according to their average uptime. Note that quite a few providers scored above 99.95% – but nobody demonstrated 100%.
Hosting companies aren’t too modest when it comes to advertising their super-low response times and incredibly high uptime. Many of them go so far as to guarantee a 100% uptime. Don’t be fooled by such guarantees, however – here’s why:
- No hosting company will ever let you take a peek at how its servers work. It knows that most users don’t do their own research. Instead, they trust reviews (often fake) and fall for so-called “guarantees”.
- It’s impossible to have 100% uptime. Servers need maintenance every once in a while, and errors do happen.
- A 99.5% guarantee doesn’t mean that the downtime will never exceed 0.5% in a month or in a year. All it means is that the host will refund you for any excess downtime. As long as you measure it and prove it, that is.
- To prove that there was excess downtime, you need to have a monitoring system in place (such as Uptime Robot). Most website owners don’t use such services, though.
- Even if you do use a monitoring service and detect that there’s too much downtime, you won’t get much from the company. For instance, if your actual uptime was 99.4%, and the host promised 99.5%, you’ll be refunded only for that 0.1%. If you pay $10 a month, you’ll get back 0.1% of that – or $0.01.
Response time is another key factor when choosing a hosting. It’s one of the things behind load speed.
We all hate slow pages, right?
A Google study even showed that over 50% of mobile users will leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. The current best practice for page loading speed is 1.3 seconds or less.
Here’s the trick, though. The response time only means how long it takes the server to serve the first byte of data. After that, it takes much more time to actually load the page. So a response time of more than 1 second is definitely too much.
The chart below represents the distribution of 300 web hosting providers by their historical response time. As you can see, most hosts fall in the range from 400 ms to 1 second.
Really good hosts can go below 0.6 seconds.
So how can you find out the real uptime and response time for a host?
There are free online services that track websites’ metrics and calculate averages. From such a ranking, you can see which company is really faster and has less downtime – based not on its advertising claims but on real historical data.
3. Security: Protection against DDoS and other attacks
DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks are on the rise again. According to Kaspersky Lab, their number grew by over 80% in Q1 2019 compared to Q4 2018. Interestingly, over half of them happened in China.
The way DDoS attacks work is very simple: bombard a server with thousands of fake requests from bots until it goes down. Hackers build whole bot networks by infecting other computers with Trojan viruses.
The damage from such an attack is clear:
- Your site can be down for hours;
- You’ll lose sales and traffic;
- Visitors who try to visit your site during an attack might not return.
You can’t protect your site from a DDoS attack; your host will have to do it for you. Installing proper protection is very expensive, so only the largest hosts can afford it. A security system like that comprises many elements:
- Security updates;
- Third-party services like Cloudflare, etc.
Some web hosting companies offer DDoS protection. Providers tend to transfer the costs to their customers, though. So you’ll find that this type of DDoS-resistant hosting isn’t cheap.
There are many other types of attacks, of course. They include DNS spoofing, phishing, viruses, SQL injections, etc. No hosting server is completely protected against such threats. What’s worse, you have no way of knowing how secure a particular host is. In most cases, users presume that the most expensive hosting is also the safest. Always make sure to read the service agreement and to ask lots of questions. Find out if you’ll be entitled to any compensation if your site goes down because of hackers.
4. Price: Read the Fine Print
The fierce competition in the web hosting industry keeps driving prices down. So a cheap plan doesn’t have to mean poor quality. Often you can find heavily discounted offers from major providers that are a great value. Just make sure to read the full terms and conditions: sometimes the price goes up steeply after the first year.
On the other hand, don’t presume that more expensive always means better. Rather, calculate carefully what you need – and look for a plan that suits the specific needs of your site. In any case, the price can never be the only parameter when choosing a hosting.
5. Live 24/7 Tech Support
This can seem like a trivial matter – until your site goes down.
Many hosts promise 24/7 support, but usually, it just means a sales chat. What you really need, however, is round-the-clock technical support. If you have a problem late at night on Saturday, you need a way to talk to someone who can solve your problem. A message like “we’ll get back to you within 24 hours” simply won’t do.
So, before you pay for your hosting, contact the host’s live chat and double-check that they can resolve tech issues 24/7.
6. Top 10 Most Reliable Hosting Providers in 2021
We’ve seen that many factors have to come together to make a good host great – from affordable plans to live tech support. Still, you should pay particular attention to uptime and response time. This is because a slow site that often goes down won’t win you many customers or readers!
To form a list of the most reliable hosting providers currently on the market, HRank analyzed over 300 companies. The criteria of historical uptime and response time get the most weight in our evaluation. Here is the list of leaders for 2020:
SiteGround’s cheapest plan starts from just $3.95 a month for 10 GM of space and “unmetered” bandwidth.
Careful, though: starting from the 2nd year, it costs $11.95/mo.
This is the only host on the list that reaches 99.995% of historical uptime. Plus, you get a free SSL certificate.
Special managed hosting for WordPress and WooCommerce sites is also available.
Though this company is mainly known as a domain registrar, their web hosting uptime is extremely high.
Their starter package with 50 GB of space and unlimited bandwidth costs about $6.40/mo.
A free .co.uk domain is a nice bonus. Note that an SSL certificate will set you back an additional $6.4 monthly.
The advertised price is $4.08 per month, but it’s increased to $14.95 starting from the second year.
The offer includes unlimited disk space and data transfer – as long as it’s used for “normal operation” of the site.
Every customer also gets a free domain name and $100 in Google AdWords and BingAds credits.
This host advertises unlimited space and scalable bandwidth for $5.95/mo – but only if you pay for 3 years at once.
For a 1-year package, it’s $7.95 in the first year and $12.95 after that.
The free domain offer also extends only to the first year.
BlueDomino’s response time is extremely fast at 419 ms.
They also have a well-developed support & knowledge database.
The limited-time offer is just $3.88/mo for the first year and $14.95 after that.
This comes with unlimited mailboxes and $100 in Google AdWords credits.
The load-balanced technology ensures that your site remains up even if one of the servers goes down.
Unlike many other hosts, PowWeb isn’t a reseller – it owns its hardware.
This company is a popular provider of reseller hosting. If you’d rather just host your site than build a reseller hosting business, the starter package is about $6.46/mo.
This comes with 10 GB of SSD space and 50 GB of bandwidth.
20i also offers a range of free security tools, such as 1Tbps+ DDoS protection and a free SSL certificate.
This provider’s response time is currently the best on the market at just 397 ms.
The promotional offer is $10.99 per month. But starting from the 2nd year, you’ll pay $19.99/mo.
While disk space is unlimited, bandwidth is scalable. This means that if you get lots of traffic to your site, the host might make your transfer to another solution, like VPS.
A domain name costs $17.99 per year.
The Starter plan with 10 GB of space and 250 GB of bandwidth should be enough for most websites – though it includes only 1 email account.
The price tag is $3.99/mo in the first year and $8.99 afterward.
The host is also running a promo on the Pro plan for 3.95 monthly, with unlimited space, data transfer, and email accounts.
Be careful, though – it renews at $ $12.95/mo.
QTH focuses on hosting sites of radio companies, but of course, you can host any page there.
The Starter plan for $5.25/mo includes a free SSL certificate – but only 1 GB of disk space, so make sure to calculate the size of your pages.
Reseller hosting is offered, too.
This host’s response time is very fast at 415 ms, and the number of sites hosted on the same server (1090) is low, which adds to reliability.
The Basic plan comes at $6.65 per month, with 10 GB of space and a free SLL certificate.
The provider also offers dedicated servers in Europe from $110/mo, VPS hosting, and reseller hosting.
There is no perfect hosting company. Sometimes a provider that is very good overall just won’t fit your needs. But here are a few basic rules to help you with your search:
- Calculate how much space and bandwidth you need first;
- Double-check historical uptime and response time;
- Read the small print – remember that hosting companies tend to make their plans look better than they really are.
Most importantly, don’t rush to pay when you see a limited-time offer. Invest a few additional hours in research. Compare dozens of providers if you need to. Remember that the wrong choice of a hosting company can cost you lots of time and money down the road.