Whether you have a website already or a just starting out, at some point you're going to have to consider a web hosting service to allow for growth and additional features. We take a look at what web hosting is, which the best type is for you and which are the best web hosting services available in 2017.

If you have a website designed already and need to get it online, and you can do so using a web hosting service. (If you haven't designed your website yet, check out our pick of the best website builders here).

These services allow you to actually take what you’ve made and put it on the Internet. If you are an individual or small business owner, it isn’t practical or economical to host a website on a server yourself (they’re big and expensive).

The accepted way round this is to pay a subscription fee to a trusted web hosting company. When you buy a package, you’re buying space on a company’s server somewhere to store your website, sort of like storing files on a hard drive. The difference here is that those files can be accessed by anyone anywhere with an Internet connection.

What type of web hosting do I need?

The process can appear confusing at first, as some providers will offer different types of web hosting. The terminology used can also sometimes be presumptuous of knowledge, so we’ll try to break it down for you here.

Linux or Windows?

This is something you should double check with the provider you go for, but by and large, Linux hosting is the best to plump for. It’s an operating system that consumers largely don’t use but is excellent for building a hosting environment.

There are only specific applications that need Windows, and explaining them gets pretty technical. Have a look at GoDaddy’s advice here

Free, shared or dedicated hosting?

For the vast majority of cases, shared hosting is the way to go. Free hosting is unattractive as connections can be slow and the provider is not obligated to have it online at all times. Avoid!

Shared hosting simply means you and other websites owners will share a server. Most public web hosting services offer packages that utilise shared hosting because it keeps costs down. Unless you’re looking to run a huge enterprise business network this will be fine.

Dedicated hosting is only for those who will be handling some seriously high traffic. Fingers crossed that’s you one day, but it may not be for now. It involves renting the physical server itself and having exclusive use of it. It’ll still be housed at a data centre, but it’s all yours. Therefore, more expensive.

What's the difference between free- and paid web hosting? 

1. Cost

This goes without saying, but we're going to say it anyway. Free is free, while the average paid web-hosting service can cost anything from a few pounds a month to several hundred pounds a year.

For those struggling on limited budgets the lower-cost packages can often offer the best compromise, not costing the earth but allowing you to retain some control over your website. You'll also be able to upgrade your package once the money starts rolling in.

2. Domain names

If you use a free web-hosting service you must use their domain name, for example [email protected] rather than simply techadvisor.co.uk.

By using a paid service you can purchase your own domain and get the service to host it for you. If you're looking to build a company website then this will make it appear far more professional, and some argue that it may also help its search engine visibility.

After all, you probably wouldn't be taking our advice if we were coming to you from [email protected] 

3. Customer service

You're not just paying for a professional website with paid web hosting, you're also paying for tech support whenever it is required.

Some free services offer very good tech support, but it's not a given with them all. If you're not particularly tech-savvy then this will prove invaluable when something goes wrong. Every second your site is offline you could be losing money.

4. Advertising

With free web hosting you have no (or at least very little) control over the ads that are displayed on your site. The web host is providing you with a free service and has to cover its costs. That's quite reasonable, but it doesn't mean you'll be happy with its choice- or the quantity of advertising.

With paid web hosting you get control over the adverts, which means you won't ever find yourself in a position where the products of rival companies are plastered all over your site. 

5. Reliability

If you're using a free web-hosting package the service provider is under no obligation to ensure your site is up and running at maximum efficiency at all times.

With paid hosting higher bandwidth and increased data transfer capacity will make your website less vulnerable to downtime, and it will give you more scope to add better content to the site and accept more visitors. 

The best web hosting services

The below services are all shared web hosting services, such is their concentration on those individuals and small businesses that are after a bit of a bandwidth bump and additional features.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy

GoDaddy is a very popular web hosting service and can be commended for the ease of which you can transfer an existing website to a hosting platform.

It offers 1-click app install – you can easily link the site you’ve built or will build with your app of choice, for example WordPress. It also offers use of a CMS (content management system) to help you upload pages faster and with more complexity; also a great thing if you have many writers accessing and uploading content regularly.

GoDaddy’s hosting service prices start from £4.99 per month and at the time of writing are on offer for £2.99 per month. That price is for one website with 100GB storage, but with a slight price increase you can get its Deluxe plan which offers the same services for unlimited websites and unlimited storage.

It also offers a separate, dedicated WordPress hosting option that is tailored to its features – the most expensive is £16.99 per month, which is still reasonable particularly if your website is growing quickly.

1&1

1&1

While debatably web hosting services of this nature are very similar, there is reason to shop around besides price. Having said that, 1&1’s basic web hosting plan at the time of writing is on sale for 99p per month for 12 months, which is an excellent way for you to explore web hosting options without breaking the bank. 

It offers Linux or Windows packages, the finer details of which can be found here.

It offers a hybrid platform that means your web server and webspace are provded on the same platform, giving you decent stability from the off. The process can be daunting and confusing but the open nature of 1&1’s service means you can easily tailor a package to your specific needs, be that email account set up, app integration or DDoS protection against hackers. The latter is included with every single 1&1 product

Like GoDaddy, it also offers app installs of all major open source apps like WordPress and Joomla.

SiteGround

SiteGround

SiteGround offers similar services to GoDaddy and 1&1, but with a slightly less intimidating sign up experience. There is 24/7 customer service that makes itself front and centre from the off which is comforting particularly if you’re on a solo website venture. The customer service feedback is outstanding. 

It offers affordable web hosting plans from £2.75 per month excluding VAT at the time of writing on sale, but even regular prices are just £6.95 per month. Its page loading speeds are proven to be very fast, too.

Take a look at its full plan offerings here.

SiteGround’s approachability is one of its strong traits and its prices are similar to other options, so take a look at everything on offer and inquire with customer service teams before deciding which service is best to host your website.

Easyspace

Easyspace

The name will hope to convince you of a simple setup, and Easyspace tends to deliver. UK based support helps drive packages that start from an incredible £2 per month.

The prices increase a tad when you add mailboxes and more storage but you'll always get unlimited bandwidth. Your domain name comes for free, as does access to two stock image libraries and advanced security features.

Fasthosts

Fasthosts

With 24/7 support, 10GB of web hosting space and  all the basic functions to support a website, this is the ideal package for a WordPress user at just £2.50 per month.

You'll need to pay more if you want to upgrade to include such features on your deal like mobile site versions but it's easy enough to do. Fasthosts is well worth a look, living up to its name.