What is the difference between web hosting plans? Which is best?

The cost of web hosting covers a large range and when you are starting out with a website or blog, how much should you pay? What is the difference between cheap and more costly hosting plans?

It is possible to find web hosting for free and services like WordPress (wordpress.com) and Blogger (blogger.com) are two of the best known.

There are also extremely cheap web hosting deals and it is possible to get a website up and running for under (US) $1 or (UK) £1 a month. That is usually an introductory price, but it makes the first year of web hosting cost little more than a few lattes at your favourite coffee shop.

There are also web hosting plans that cost $5, $10, $50 and even more than $100 a month. What is the difference between them and why would one be so cheap and another so expensive? Which would be the best for your site and how much should you spend?

1and1 web hosting plans
1and1 web hosting plans (affiliate link)

Web hosting hardware

A website is simply software running on a computer. As you know, computers with different specifications run at different speeds. A cheap computer with limited processing power, memory and disk space will not run software as fast as a more expensive computer that has more powerful hardware.

It is a similar situation with the computer hardware that runs websites and more expensive and more powerful hardware will run your website faster.

Pay more for web hosting than the minimum and you get a more powerful CPU or one that has more CPU cores. More expensive hosting plans provide more memory and more disk space too. All of these hardware differences affect the performance of your website and how many visitors it can cope with.

The hosting plans below are from 1and1 and they clearly show the difference in hardware and processing power at different price points. You get 2.5 GB of RAM with the cheapest plan, 6 GB with the middle plan and 9 GB with the most expensive plan.

Different web hosting plans use different hardware configurations

Not only do you get more RAM if you pay more for hosting, the website will be able to cope with more visitors. In the hosting deals above this is expressed in terms of the number of visitors per minute. The three plans can cope with 100, 200 and 300 visitors per minute.

Other web hosts may express the visitor numbers in terms of monthly visits, so you may see budget plans that can cope with up to 10,000 visits per month, 25,000 or 100,000.

Siteground web hosting plans
SiteGround hosting plans

Quoting different ways of measuring website traffic makes it hard to compare hosting deals. Which can cope with more visitors?

  • 10,000 a month = 323 a day = 13 an hour
  • 100,000 a month = 3230 a day = 130 an hour

The StartUp plan is quite llimited. What would happen if you exceed the number of visitors for a plan?

Occasionally exceeding these limits by a small amount will probably go unnoticed. However, if you regularly exceed them by a wide margin you may receive a warning from your web host and you may be required to upgrade to a more expensive plan that can cope with more visitors.

Hosting plans usually quote the amount of disk space you get, but most websites will not use anywhere near even the smallest amount of space on the cheapest plan.  Your site is likely to use 1 or 2 GB at most.

The only time disk space is an issue is if you plan to store large files, such as video clips or RAW photos.

Shared hosting – limited performance

Budget web hosting is usually shared hosting. A server will simultaneous run many websites for many people and the hardware is shared by each website.

Although shared hosting is cheap, the performance is limited because the server hardware may run dozens of websites. It is a bit like trying to run dozens of apps on your computer all at once. It will slow down, especially if one app uses too much processor and memory.

It is the same with shared hosting and one website could use too much processing time or memory, slowing down other sites on the shared server.

Cloud hosting – better performance

The next step up from budget hosting plans is cloud hosting, which costs more, but offers advantages over shared hosting.

It isn’t important how it works and you just need to know that it is better than budget hosting, is more reliable, and can cope with a lot more website traffic.

It is a sort of virtual web server spread across multiple hardware resources. See how the hardware improves as you pay more for each plan.

Cloud hosting plans from 1and1

It starts with one CPU core, 1GB of RAM and a 50 GB SSD (solid state disks offer high performance), and goes to four CPU cores, 8 GB of RAM and a 160 GB SSD with the top plan.

You can easily add more cores and more RAM as you need it with cloud hosting, which makes it flexible.

Managed hosting

What is managed hosting? You may see web hosting described as ‘managed’ and that it costs more than the usual budget shared hosting plans. Why?

Managed hosting means that all the hard stuff is done for your by the hosting company. Things like setting up, installation, WordPress updates and upgrades, daily and weekly backups, website security, technical support and so on.

The idea is that technical issues are handled for you by experts, which leaves you to focus on adding content to your site.

Some people prefer this, but others are happy to do everything themselves. A lot depends on how technical you are and whether you are confident in handling things yourself.

The DIY route saves money, but managed hosting should, in theory, mean fewer problems and even then, someone else will help sort them out.

Which web hosting plan is best?

A top plan like the Managed Cloud Hosting XXL shown in the last picture above is for businesses with very busy websites. If you are a blogger just starting your first or even second website, one of the budget plans will be sufficient.

Try to estimate the number of visitors you hope to get by the end of the first year and second year, and get a hosting plan that can cope for at least a couple of years.

Don’t worry about starting with a cheap plan because hosting companies will upgrade you as you gain more visitors and your website grows.

If you want to start a new site on a very limited budget, take a look at 1and1 web hosting plans (affiliate link).

Is it any good? This site is on 1and1’s £/$0.99 a month plan and it works fine.