Web hosting for small business is not something that we usually focus too much attention on. I mean, even when building a website for a small business client, we are still very likely to recommend a popular overall hosting solution, like WP Engine or SiteGround.
But perhaps the topic of web hosting for small business specifically – the kind of hosting that’s optimized for small businesses in some way – deserves a little more attention.
What I’m thinking is this, even though a small business website might not be very technologically advanced in terms of WordPress development, or not even very traffic heavy, it still has its specific requirements when it comes to the hosting part of the whole project.
Let’s try looking into what that might be, and then decide on the hosting plans that have a good chance of working for such a small business client and their WordPress website.
Web hosting for small business – the limitations
First off, most small businesses can’t afford expensive hosting setups, nor should they have to afford them.
Some reasons for that:
- The website is often a test – just to see if the client’s online presence can bring in any actual benefits.
- It takes second place to the other expenses that the client surely has on their plate.
- It’s often treated like a one-off thing. It’s still a popular point of view that a website is something that “you get created” and not something that “you work with regularly.”
- It’s hard to see the value in a thing like web hosting for some clients.
About that last point – the low perceived value of web hosting. Here’s what I mean, and please bear with me…
For most people walking this planet, web servers are not something that they’re aware of. Common knowledge is that websites are “on the Internet.” Not that they’re on “computers in distant data centers that are connected into a network and remain powered on permanently.”
In general, for the average human being, the difference between a domain name, a website, and web hosting isn’t as easy to grasp as you probably think it is.
Therefore, expecting that all small business clients will jump on board immediately and enthusiastically get a ~$20 / month hosting plan (or even a $10 / month plan) is just unrealistic. Hosting doesn’t carry that much perceived value.
So what can we do when working on a small business website for a client? And also, how can we show them exactly what the value of hosting is?
The requirements for quality web hosting for small business
There are two sides to the story here:
- what you need from web hosting for small business as a developer,
- what your client wants from the host.
Let’s start with the client.
So first of all, something that we already know is that the client would probably very much like to have to spend nothing on hosting (which is a possibility too, if you’re curious).
The only thing they want is for their website to be accessible on the web at all times, and to not have to deal with any technical aspects of the setup. Not much more than that.
So now come your requirements as the developer. As you would imagine, there’s going to be a bit more stuff here:
- Reliable. Reliability is always a big question mark. Stuff can always happen unpredictably, and even the best servers can go offline from time to time. However, it’s still worth keeping in mind that if anything should go bad at any point in time, the client is still going to come to you for answers (and probably blame you a little as well). For that reason, working with web hosting for small business that has a good track record is crucial, as it will limit the times you’ll have to explain why this or that is not working.
- Room to grow. Even though most small businesses will probably want to launch just one website, it’s worth having the possibility for the client’s portfolio to grow and expand to a couple more websites. Even though most hosts will allow that, some of them might charge more than what can be considered reasonable. Also, rolling out new sites should be easy to do – without the need to reconfigure or move the original site.
- Backups, updates, other management on autopilot. You want the host to offer some maintenance and handle things like backups, updates and etc. There’s high chance that the client won’t bother to take care of those things on their own. And since you always want to be protected in case disaster strikes, having those things taken care of on the host’s end can be incredibly beneficial.
- Data centers in multiple locations. Or at least in a handful of locations. Basically, if your client operates in the Chicago area, why would they get a server that’s in San Francisco, right? It will only make the site take longer to load for its target audience.
- Good support. Good both in terms of customer service and their problem-solving skills.
- Some security measures in place. You really do not want your client to ever see their site hacked.
- Possibility to launch an e-commerce store later on. Adding an online store to a small business website is a fairly common thing. However, if the site is set up on a server that does not offer affordable SSL certificates, dedicated IPs, or PCI compliance, then you might end up having to move the entire website to a completely new host. It’s best to avoid that and prepare yourself ahead of time. More on best hosting for e-commerce.
Taking all of the above into account, let’s look at some specific options when it comes to web hosting for small business websites:
Three of the best web hosting options for small business websites
Note; in addition to the factors listed above, I also went back to our hosting survey results and filtered the list to only focus on the hosts reported to be in use on small business sites. I then included the rating scores from the survey for each host below.
- “Launch” – $2.95 / month, 2 websites, unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited emails.
- “Power” – $4.49 / month, 6 websites, unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited emails.
- “Pro” – $7.49 / month, unlimited websites, unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited emails.
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles, CA
- No data centers outside of the US
They are transparent if one of their servers goes down, and they actually tell you what the problem is if it is serious. One time a usual update knocked out their servers for 2 days. They told everyone what happened. I’ve never heard this from another hosting company.
- InMotion runs automatic remote backups on all shared hosting and VPS hosting plans for free. Each account comes with the first 10GB block of remote backups free. (Important note: New backups overwrite previous backups, so it’s recommended that the user maintains backups on their end as well.)
- You get access to a 24/7/365 US-based support, and there’s 24/7 server monitoring on all hosting plans.
- Although InMotion doesn’t offer any specialized WordPress update features on their own, they do allow you to configure the site to update itself via WordPress’ own built-in tools.
- For an additional fee, you get access to InMotion’s team of experts that can help you set up a site or take care of any other management-related tasks. The price tag on this varies from $40 / month to $100 / month. Also as part of the deal, you get enhanced security measures, fast-responding support, and additional platform optimization.
InMotion Hosting offers dedicated IP addresses on some hosting plans, various SSL options, and also PCI compliance on top of that.
SiteGround is one of the top rated companies in our hosting survey overall (4.6 / 5). They have hosting plans that are optimized to run WordPress sites, offer good server parameters at an affordable price, and let you choose from a handful of data centers.
Overall, SiteGround hosting plans let you grow quite nicely, and deliver different features and parameters based on the scale of the small business website in question.
- “StartUp” – $3.95 / month, 1 website, 10GB of disk space, suitable for ~ 10,000 visits monthly, free email accounts.
- “GrowBig” – $5.95 / month, unlimited websites, 20GB of disk space, suitable for ~ 25,000 visits monthly, free email accounts, priority support, 1 year of free wildcard SSL.
- “GoGeek” – $11.95 / month, unlimited websites, 30GB of disk space, suitable for ~ 100,000 visits monthly, free email accounts, priority support, 1 year of free wildcard SSL, free PCI compliance, staging features.
- Chicago, IL
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- London, UK
- Milano, Italy
I love SiteGround, and I think they are the best option if you need to host multiple sites on one account and especially if you also want to have email and other benefits of cPanel.
SiteGround has earned their reputation as the current WordPress shared-hosting darlings. Their offerings hit the sweet spot for performance and optimization plus their commitment to security and performance is admirable. They pioneered one-click Let’s Encrypt certificates. What more can you say?
- SiteGround offers free daily backups on all hosting plans. Starting from GrowBig, they also keep up to 30 backup copies of the website.
- There are free Let’s Encrypt certificates available. Also wildcard SSLs available on higher-tier plans.
- 24/7 award-winning support, over phone, chat and ticketing system.
- Additional security features offered via their “SG Site Scanner” option – monitoring service that checks your website daily and immediately notifies you if it has been hacked or injected with malicious code.
- There’s an auto update feature available for WordPress sites. You can choose if you want to enable automatic updates for the WordPress core only, plugins, or everything.
- One-click staging and pre-installed Git available on the GoGeek plan. While not for everyone, this can be handy when doing any changes to the client’s live site.
- “Lite” – $3.92 / month, 1 website, 5 databases, unlimited storage, unlimited transfer, 25 email addresses.
- “Swift” – $4.90 / month, unlimited websites, unlimited databases, unlimited storage, unlimited transfer, unlimited email addresses, free file recovery.
- “Turbo” – $9.31 / month, unlimited databases, unlimited storage, unlimited transfer, unlimited email addresses, free file recovery, 20x faster page loads, A2 site accelerator (custom caching).
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
After struggling with GoDaddy and all there options, I found DreamHost too expensive, and A2 offered me the speed, reliability and scaleability necessary to grow.
- Backups are taken automatically on the Swift and Turbo plans. Plus, they come with a file recovery feature in case anything goes bad.
- Offsite backups available.
- Free SSL certificates via Let’s Encrypt available on all hosting plans. Wildcard SSLs and advanced SSL available as well.
- 24/7/365 “guru crew” support available via email, phone, live chat.
- A2’s Perpetual Security package included on all plans – proactive protection against malicious hackers and security threats. Includes: KernelCare, Dual Web Hosting Firewall, Brute Force Defense, Virus Scanning, Server Hardening, 24/7/365 Security Monitoring.
- A2 enables you to activate WordPress’ own auto update capabilities via cPanel.
- You get free CloudFlare CDN integration.
- Easy Google Apps setup.
A2 Hosting offers good SSL options, including free Let’s Encrypt certificates, as well as wildcard SSLs and advanced SSLs. There’s also the possibility to get a dedicated IP address for $1.96 / month.
When it comes to PCI compliance, here’s what A2 says:
The short answer is that A2 Hosting does not support PCI compliance. However, you can use a third-party shopping cart API (application programming interface) on your site to ensure PCI compliance.
Overall, you can’t really go wrong choosing any of the featured platforms offering best hosting for small business here. They are all more than capable of serving any business, and also leave a lot of room for growth.
The right approach would be to always look into the individual features and parameters of each of these hosts, and pick the one that really looks like it’s been tailor-made to fit both your client’s needs and yours.
Something you’ve probably noticed is that I didn’t feature WP Engine on this list. This is no mistake (or at least I hope). As awesome as WP Engine can be, it’s just too expensive of a product to recommend to most small business websites. If you’re lucky, the price tag will be $19.33 / month = $232 / year, and potentially a lot more. This is just not the kind of investment that most small business owners will be eager to make.
Here’s a quick summary of some of the more significant parameters of the platforms and what makes them possibly the best web hosting for small business available:
|Hosting plans start at ($ per month)||$2.95||$3.95||$3.92|
|Available data centers||Washington, D.C. / Los Angeles, CA / No data centers outside of the US||Chicago, IL / Amsterdam, the Netherlands / Singapore / London, UK / Milano, Italy||Michigan / Amsterdam, the Netherlands / Singapore|
|Reliability||4.36 / 5||4.65 / 5||4.43 / 5|
|Support rating||4.18 / 5||4.69 / 5||3.71 / 5|
|WordPress auto updates||YES||YES||YES|