Buying dirt cheap web hosting at the lowest rate you can find per month, is not a good way to choose a low-cost website host. That approach, will probably cost you more in the long run. Which amounts to false economy.
I watched far too many students and website owners learn that lesson the hard way, during my 20 years of budget web hosting experience.
It was a painful thing to see and I knew I could help. So…, I began writing best-practice guides to give them far better processes to follow.
Now, you can make informed choices too: by reading the extended versions published here.
Thanks for visiting and all the best. If you leave here happy, please let other people know.
Len Johnson, BSc (Hons)
PS: Check out the rest of my website to find even more cheap web hosting tips and practical tutorials.
Web Hosting Buyer’s Guide – Table of Contents
- Preface: Why You Should Read This Guide
- What is Web Hosting (on a Shoestring)?
- Cheapest Ways to Host a Website
- Low-cost Web Server Platforms
- Cheap Web Hosting Packages: Nature and Features
- Typical Costs
- Choosing the Right Web Host
- Best Cheap Website Hosting
- Risk-free Testing
Preface – Why You Should Read This Guide
So, what makes this budget web hosting buyer’s guide different to the ones shared by review sites and big brand service providers?
The answer is simple. This guide is written by someone who practices what they preach! I only use dirt cheap plans and this site is hosted on a shoestring budget web server – which I run on an old i3 laptop from home!
Read this guide to learn more about both of those approaches and to avoid common mistakes which leave website owners feeling a sense of frustration and buyer’s remorse. Usually because they have signed up to cheap web hosting based on price alone.
Your exact situation may differ but, if you have a very low or shoestring budget to spend on cheap web hosting – you are in the right place.
Not only will you learn how to take due care in buying, you will be able to spot ‘hidden’ and unnecessary ‘extras‘ that make costs creep up.
Making the mistake of jumping in and buying the cheapest plan you can find is not the end of the world though.
You could pay more to upgrade or just move to another host if things do not work out. But, even then, there are other factors you need to think about to make good choices.
How you host, for example, is more important for keeping costs low than finding the cheapest hosting plans.
Ultimately, you need to KNOW what you NEED to make the right choices. Which is what my budget web hosting buyer’s guide will help you to do.
Feel free to jump straight to the sections of this guide that are of most interest if you have some experience. However, you should probably read the guide from beginning to end if you are a complete beginner.
What is Web Hosting (on a Shoestring)?
Making your website available via the World Wide Web for the lowest possible outlay AND being fully aware of the limitations of doing so.
Notice the proviso at the end of my definition. Intentionally choosing dirt cheap web hosting can be a thrifty approach. However, you should not settle for solutions just because they are cheap.
Your choices and costs should be dictated by the type of website you have and the amount of resources it will consume. Any other calculation runs the risk of equating to false economy.
The rest of this explanation covers the basics for beginners. It is short and simple. Skip to the next section if you know what web hosting is.
The first thing you need to understand, is that a website is essentially a collection of web pages. In the simplest scenario, each of those pages consists of one or more files.
Web hosting is essentially the practice of storing those files on a computer (or server), in a way that allows other people and devices to access the pages you want to make available.
While you COULD use your own computer to achieve that, the recommended way is use a third-party service known as a Web host.
In addition to providing a computer to store the files (called a server), Web hosts provide a range of other facilities. For example, they provide faster Internet connection speeds than most of us have at home.
This means that your website visitors SHOULD get faster and more reliable responses from a web host. When compared to pages that you host from home.
Cheapest Ways to Host a Website
Once you know what web hosting is, there are a couple of other basics you need to know about. The first of these is how you get a site online.
There are three main options to choose from to get a website online:
- use a free host or hosted website builder platform
- host your website on a local computer in your home or office
- pay for website hosting services provided by a web host
Use a Free Web Hosting Service
At first glance, you might think that the ‘free’ option has to be the cheapest. Because there is nothing to pay. You would be right – if you can live with the limitations that come with many free web hosting services:
- forced to use sub-domain.provider-name.domain-extension type URLs
- low storage limits (typically 300MB to 3GB)
- ads on your web pages
- no e-commerce facilities
- no email facilities
- downtime: periods when your website is offline
In most cases, however, you have to pay for upgrades to connect your own domain name, remove ads and increase storage allowances.
As a result, this is only an option I recommend to students. They tend to have a limited lifespan in mind for the sites they build and they are rarely interested in paying for a branded domain name.
Host Your Website on a Local Computer
Using a local computer to host your own website might also sound like a super cheap option until you work out the potential costs.
- hardware (computer, router, uninterruptible power supply etc.)
- static IP address
- cost of electricity 24 hours a day
- acceptable (broadband) internet connection
Even if you have a suitable computer to use, the monthly costs of a static IP address and keeping your equipment online around the clock add up quickly. It does not take long for these costs to work out more expensive that the last option: paying for a cheap web hosting plan.
Note: There are a few ways to use dynamic IP addresses via domestic Internet connections. Even if you can get the setup to work, you should check that this does not breach the terms and conditions of use.
Pay for Web Hosting Services
This is best way to host a website in most cases. You have far fewer things to worry about, compared to the other options and everything you need will be provided.
Expect to pay anything between $3 and $6 USD (up to £5) for the cheapest web hosting plans from a reputable service provider.
With that price range in mind, it should be easy to work out if either of the other options works out cheaper for you.
For example, you can expect to pay around £5 every month just for a static IP address in the UK. So, paying a web host is the way to go if you have a shoestring budget.
Other Good Reasons to Pay for Cheap Web Hosting
In this section we only considered costs, because we were looking at the cheapest ways to host a website. However, there are other good reasons to use a professional company to provide cheap web hosting.
Here are just a few of those reasons:
- It is recommended best practice
- Web hosts deliver web pages faster and more reliably than home-based setups
- The security of your web server is handled by experts
- User-friendly interfaces make using and managing your web space easy
- You have more flexibility than you tend to get with free services
Low-Cost Web Server Platforms
Hopefully, the previous section will have persuaded to consider buying a cheap hosting plan. Whether you do so or not, the next thing you need to consider is the right type of web server platform for your website.
There are four main types of web server platform sold by service providers: shared, virtual private server (VPS), cloud and dedicated server.
Understanding the main differences between them and their key benefits is essential if you want to get a good deal AND find the best host for your website.
See Different Types of Web Hosting for more detailed summaries of each type than the ones that follow.
- Shared hosting tends to be the cheapest option for a single website. However, you really need to study the pros and cons before deciding that this is the type that you need.
- VPS hosting offers the greatest flexibility for the lowest cost but, it can be a challenging option for beginners to get to grips with. You, or someone you know, will need to be comfortable with technicalities, such as using the Linux command line. to make the best use of a VPS.
- Cloud hosting is is similar to the shared type. However, rather than choosing from a fixed set of features, you get to choose the amount of resources that you want. In terms of things like storage space and server memory usage.
- With prices starting at around £35 per month, running a dedicated server is NOT cheap in the big scheme of things. I have mentioned them here for the sake of completeness. Further detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this guide.
Cheap Web Hosting Packages: Nature and Features
The next step in the buying process involves visiting hosting sites to see what they offer. When you do so, you will usually see descriptions of their services and plans (or packages) presented in a pricing table.
‘Basic’, ‘Starter’ and ‘Economy’ are common names for the cheapest packages.
Deciding whether they are the right choice for you can be tricky though. While these packages have the lowest prices, they also have the lowest allowances.
Should you buy the bare minimum or err the side of caution, and buy a package with more allowances than you need?
This is where many people make buying mistakes.
Avoid those mistakes:
- be prepared by having a shortlist of key features you need at hand
- read package descriptions carefully
- ensure you understand the terms that are being used
Refer to the glossary in web hosting features explained, then answer the following questions to make a list of features that you need.
- How many websites do you want to host?
- Do you need a domain be registered?
- How much storage (or disk space) do you need?
- Do you need a database? If so, how many?
- How many visits to your website do you expect each month?
- Do you have need a specific brand of control panel?
- Do you need an SSL certificate to serve your web pages securely (over HTTPS)
- What type of support would you prefer (email, chat, telephone, support ticket)?
Before you decide on a plan, it makes sense to have an idea what the going rate is, for the features and allowances you have in mind. Which is what this section of my guide provides.
Website hosting fees are ongoing. While some hosts allow or insist that you pay for a year or more in advance, the vast majority expect you to pay fees on a monthly basis.
From a ‘value-for-money’ point of view, paying for longer terms in advance makes sense. Your annual costs will be lower. Because you will usually get a discount of 15+% compared to paying fees on a monthly basis.
Whether paying upfront makes sense for you depends on two things really:
- the size of your budget
- how long you expect your site to be online
One reason that shoestring-budget web hosting is a reality for many of us, is that we aim to run websites that will not generate enough income to pay for themselves.
That could be because the website is for a personal or non-profit project or for a start-up where the commercial viability is unknown.
If you truly have a shoestring budget then paying a little more in regular monthly fees, is the way to get started. You can always upgrade you payment options when you have more cash or if you believe that the road ahead looks more certain.
How Much Does Website Hosting Cost?
This can be a tricky question to answer. Prices vary wildly among web hosts and some companies may even charge different prices depending on the county you reside in.
IONOS (by 1 and 1) is a good example of that so I will use that company to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay. The company has competitive but typical prices and it is well-known internationally.
Please note: the prices quoted here are ‘Normal’ monthly prices in GBP pounds sterling (and US dollars). They do NOT include VAT, discounts, special offers or promotions.
- Shared (Linux or Windows) Hosting: £5 to £10 ($4 – $14)
- Cloud Hosting: £5 to £360 ($5 – $360)
- VPS Hosting: £10 – £30 ($10 – $40)
- Dedicated Hosting: £50 to £120 ($65 – £160)
- WordPress Hosting: £4 to £18 ($3 – £18)
Choosing the Right Web Host
OK. It is time to go window shopping.
Let’s assume that you have a a list of the features that you need to how your website. And you know what the going rate is. Where should you go to buy a suitable plan?
You may already have some ideas about the web host you want to go with. Maybe because of a TV commercial you have seen or because a service have been recommended to you by a friend or colleague.
Ideally though, you need a shortlist of three service providers that offer what you need.
Why three? Because you want to see how they compare. In terms features, price and the small print that is hidden away in Service Level Agreements and terms and conditions of sale.
You need to find answers to the following questions, for each host in your shortlist, so that you can compare them.
- Date established – how long has the host been in business?
- Reputation – do reviews and ratings at independent sites bode well?
- Uptime guarantee – does your host match or beat the industry standard of 99.9%?
- Performance – what is the download speed of your host’s sites like (see: host-tracker.com)
- Backup solutions – are these provided as standard or is there an extra cost?
- Terms and conditions of use – are these satisfactory? Much of the small print can be found here.
- Support – what channels are available and do these suit you?
- Trial Periods – Are free trials or money-back guarantees available?
This is a necessary but time-consuming task. Which might explain why so many site owners experience avoid it and end up experience buyer’s remorse.
See my comparison of the cheapest web hosting to save yourself time. You will be able to pick three web hosts from the shortlist of top providers I have reviewed.
Best Cheap Website Hosting
If you have followed this guide from the start you will know that there are three main types of hosting that webmasters on a shoestring budget should consider: shared, cloud and VPS.
Each of those types has it own benefits but shared hosting is the cheapest type.
The two packages I recommend most often are OVH Personal and IONOS Business (from the UK site).
Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a referral commission from these companies if you buy services via one of our links. Please note: using these links adds nothing to the cost to your purchase and we rely on the commissions to keep this guide online.
OVH Personal – Cheapest Web Hosting Per Year
Priced at £20.28 per year, the OVH Personal plan works out to only £1.29 each month. If you come across packages that appear to be cheaper – READ THE SMALL PRINT!
I have researched the cheapest web hosting packages from the top 50 companies. OVH Personal comes out on top even after drilling down into the price promotions offered elsewhere.
Given that you can host up to 5 websites on this package, the equivalent cost is £4 per year for each website!
Main OVH Personal Plan Features to Like
- No setup fee
- Host up to 5 websites
- Free domain name included for the first year
- 100 GB shared HDD storage
- Unmetered monthly traffic
- Free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate
- Backups for three weeks
- Extensive help and support via online guides, tutorials and FAQs
Limitations You Should Bear in Mind
- Only 1 database with a 200 MB size limit
- No Secure Shell (SSH) access
- No money-back guarantee
IONOS Business (UK) – Best Cheap Web Hosting for ONE Year
Prices and offers for new customers change frequently at IONOS . However, they always tend to be insanely favourable!
If you start new website projects regularly, AND you are unsure if they will still be online in 12 months time, this could be just the right package to keep your initial costs low.
Main IONOS Business Features to Like
- Get your first 12 months FREE and only pay a £1 setup fee (subject to change)
- Number of websites: 1
- Free domain name included for the lifetime of your subscription
- 100 GB shared HDD storage
- 25 databases
- Unlimited monthly traffic
- control panel is easy to use
- GeoTrust Wildcard SSL certificate
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- SSH access
Things You to Bear in Mind
- Pricing increases to £5 per month after the first year
Before you sign up with any host, be aware that signing up and paying for a plan is NOT the end of the buying process. You should check and test that everything is working to your satisfaction.
OVH does NOT offer a money-back guarantee but most of the top companies do. Their guarantees allow you to try services for 30 to 45 days to make sure you are happy with them.
You should take full advantage of money-back guarantees when they available and use the service as soon as possible.
Here are a just a few suggestions about things you can do and, questions you can ask yourself, to check and test everything is working to your satisfaction:
- Login and browse around your control panel. Does it have all the features you need?
- Set up a mailbox and an email forwarding address. How quickly sent to and received from your private email address?
- Upload test web pages and files to your web space. Were you able to do this without any issues?
- Test the performance of web pages using a tool like host-tracker.com. Are the results OK?
- Contact support with a query using your preferred method. Was the response helpful and timely?
Hopefully, you will be happy with your test results. If not, then you need to decide whether you want to stay with your service provider or not.
Moving to another host can be a little inconvenient but, don’t be afraid to do it if the service you signed up to is not meeting your needs. You have nothing to lose. Which the purpose of a money-back guarantee.
Should you decide to change web host, make sure that you cancel your web hosting plan within the time-frame given in your hosts’ terms and conditions. Then checkout the next best host in your shortlist.
Get Extra Help and Information for Free Via Email
This is a lengthy guide with a great deal of information, so you may have questions, or maybe you just need to double check information you have read here or elsewhere.