5 Best Web Hosts for Purchasing Shared Web Hosting

A review of the best web hosts to purchase a shared web hosting plan from. Learn about shared web hosting, the benefits it offers, and how to get started.

Best shared web hosting

Shared web hosting is the most popular type of web hosting for launching a website. With literally thousands of web hosts offering shared web hosting in a multitude of different plans, finding the right one for your website can be a daunting task. In this article, we’ll list and review the top 5 best shared web hosts, explain the benefits of shared web hosting, and give you some tips on getting started.

The Best Shared Web Hosts at a Glance

A quick overview of the top choices for shared web hosting listing the different purposes we would recommend each one for:

Web HostStarts at:Recommended for:Learn more
InMotion Hosting$3.49/moBusiness & high performance web hostingView Plans
HostGator$2.78/moAll-purpose web hosting suitable for various typesView Plans
Web Hosting Hub$3.99/moAll-In-One, do-it-yourself shared web hostingView Plans
iPage$1.99/moCheap hosting for personal use or new sitesView Plans
A2 Hosting$3.92/moFast, customizable hosting for developers & businessesView Plans

Rack of servers in a data center

What to Look for in a Shared Web Host?

Shared web hosting is used by over 90% of all websites found on the internet in applications for small businesses, start-up companies, bloggers, eCommerce stores, forums, bulletin boards, wikis, social networking communities, and more. Because there are a wide range of features offered by web hosting companies in shared hosting plans, it is important to know what to look for before signing up for a long-term account. Low cost is considered the most important aspect of shared web hosting plans, as affordable industry rates allow for millions of websites to publish information online in reliable and secure, high-speed public networks.

Softaculous screenshot

QUICK TIP: Softaculous is an open source script auto-installer that is commonly found on shared hosting platforms and supports a library of hundreds of powerful web apps. Take advantage of the “one-click” installation options to speed up LAMP development and quickly launch new websites.

Service Pricing

Most shared web hosting plans start at around $3 to $5 per month, while platform-specific hosting for WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Joomla, and other popular CMS publishing scripts average around $20 per month. The largest companies in the industry provide a service that is meant to support the widest range of website applications used by clients developing on many different platforms at the same time. All of these users share the same disk space and server resources, but performance gains can still be found by optimizing the servers for platform-specific needs. Website owners need to determine if they are looking for the lowest over-all cost in a service provider, or seeking the technical support and expertise of platform-specific hosts who offer CMS optimized plans.

Features

In determining between the shared web hosting services offered by different companies in the data center industry, it is important to review the fine print and compare account features closely before making a purchasing decision. Some of the main features to look for when choosing between shared web hosting plans are:

  • High Performance Server Architecture
  • Unlimited Domains & Storage
  • Control Panel & Domain Management Tools
  • Web Development Frameworks
  • Email Account Security
  • Promotions & Special Offers
  • Customer Service & Technical Support

It is also recommended to be familiar with the standards for data center accreditation established by the Telecommunications Industry Association which rates web hosting company services according to a system of “tiers” relating to the infrastructure quality and capabilities. These accreditation rankings are based on the speed of a data center's internet backbone connection, the onsite power management facilities, the uptime guarantees made by the company, and the back-up storage provisions available.

High Performance Server Architecture

Server hardware which includes the use of the latest Intel Xeon servers with multi-core processing and large amounts of installed RAM memory provide the best performance in a shared web hosting environment. Look for accounts which offer free upgrades to solid state drives (SSDs) on server architecture for additional gains on page load speed. Many hosting accounts advertised as “unlimited” will still throttle websites that consume a lot of CPU resources on a shared server, potentially taking them offline at times of peak traffic. Make sure to confirm any account limits based on processing power usage in the fine print before signing up for a shared hosting account, especially if the plan will be used to serve demanding CMS applications with dynamic content.

Unlimited Domains & Storage

The ability to host unlimited domains and subdomains on a single account is one of the best features available in an inexpensive shared hosting plan. Many companies will promote this on cPanel sites with additional offers of unlimited hard disk storage, data transfer, and MySQL database installation. Most websites published on shared hosting attract low enough traffic that the company can still host thousands of domains on a server without overloading resources. If a single domain uses too large a percentage of CPU resources, it will be forced to upgrade to a dedicated, cloud, or VPS account. Unlimited accounts can be useful for developing many websites with the same hosting company at an affordable monthly rate.

Control Panel & Domain Management Tools

A control panel with a file manager, domain management, and database installation tools is an essential part of a shared hosting account. cPanel offers an industry standard platform based on WHM and CentOS that includes the ability to manage FTP, email, MySQL, and PHP settings in a single administration panel. Other companies have developed proprietary control panels with similar features. The main aspect to determine about the webhost is what control panel platform is used to manage domains. The inclusion of advanced data analytics tools for access to page traffic statistics and domain reports is also helpful, especially with sales & marketing oriented sites. Make sure the shared hosting account includes automated backup & restore tools for database and website files.

Web Development Frameworks

Support for advanced web development frameworks is another important fundamental to look for in a shared hosting account. The ability to choose which PHP version is running on a server, including support for new PHP 7, is important for many CMS scripts. Many website developers will require an option to login to the server with Secure Shell Access (SSH) tools. Other users prefer the option for simple “One Click Installation” applications like Softaculous & Fantastico for script management. Choose a shared hosting account that will also permit the development and hosting of Python, Ruby on Rails, & Perl scripts on the LAMP stack for maximum flexibility and value.

Email Account Security

Email account security on shared web hosting relates to the level of encryption used in transmitting messages to the end client. The easiest way to accomplish this on shared hosting is to integrate a SSL certificate with the SMTP/POP3 settings in cPanel. Web browser email access is offered by most companies using a number of different open source and proprietary tools. Check to make sure the web hosting company uses encryption protocols for browser-based email access as a standard practice.

Promotions & Special Offers

Free annual domain name registration services on the root account of a shared hosting account is frequently offered and can be viewed as a $10 to $12 discount on the annual price of the service plan. The provision of a free SSL certificate for HTTPS access on the main account domain is another similar value. Many large companies offer Google AdSense or Microsoft Bing Ads credit of $100 to $150 on new accounts, as well as various SEO registration services. Free offers and special promotions can make a shared web hosting account cheaper by contributing value-added services to the bottom line cost.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Most shared web hosts offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee and 24/7 customer support service pledges. Access to experienced professionals in data center management through technical support channels can also be an important factor to consider when deciding which shared hosting plan to choose. Managed web hosts often outperform large hosting companies by providing excellent customer service, platform-specific technical support, as well as servers that are optimized for the needs of CMS driven websites. For developers, this can be worth the extra cost between service plans.

Final Thoughts on Choosing a Shared Web Host

When comparing the wide variety of features offered by shared web hosting companies in a competitive industry, it is important to read the fine print and do a cost comparison between the different service plans. Search out independent reviews and benchmark tests of the various web hosts to see what users frequently complain about and if the company sales & marketing rhetoric matches actual performance.

Small companies that develop innovative, platform-specific managed hosting frameworks that are optimized for popular CMS scripts also employ knowledgeable experts with dedication to the developer community. Many times these smaller managed hosting companies can outperform the larger hosting companies by offering platform-specific website development tools.

Best practice is to develop a website on a shared hosting platform and only upgrade to a new server if the site traffic scales past what the account limits will support. Avoid the trap of “unlimited” hosting plans which include strict limitations on the use of CPU processing power that can take a site offline in moments of peak user activity. Look for web hosting companies who are integrating new developments in cloud computing into their shared hosting accounts, and who continually upgrade server architecture to keep ahead of the competition.

In making the final decision between shared web hosting plans, the cost basis needs to be compared to the server architecture, number of free add-on features available, and the quality of technical support provided as the most important determinants between the variety of company service plans offered. Attention to these factors can help to avoid the problem of having to move a site between two or three different hosting companies before finding the optimal service to keep a website performing online.