Cheap Web Hosting (below $5): A-to-Z Guide

I receive readers’ emails asking for web host recommendations regularly – often, most of them want the best web host. Hence in this article, we are going to learn all we can about *best cheap hosting service*. First thing first, as a smart shopper, you have to understand that…

There is no such thing as BEST CHEAP HOST!

(Huh? What the…)

I know this sounds like a joke but the truth is, we can never be 100% sure if a web host is the ‘best’ – especially when you are looking for ‘cheap’ and ‘best’ in the same time. And, even if we manage to get the *best* web host, we can never be sure that it will be the best for long.

What we can do, however, is to eliminate most of the bad cheap host and land on a cheap web host with good (or acceptable) quality of service.

Define “cheap” in today hosting world

Things change fast on the Internet. What seems cheap yesterday might not be a good bargain today. For example, this is how a cheap web hosting deal looks like 5 years ago:

Cheap Hosting Deal: $22.95/mo for 1.5GB disk space, 80GB data transfers

Lunarpages cheap web hosting deals
Ref: http://web.archive.org/web/20050213090646/http://www.lunarpages.com/

Looks cheap to you now? Certainly not! Therefore, it is necessary for us to define what is ‘cheap’ in the hosting world at this time of writing.

How cheap is *cheap*?

When I talk about ‘cheap web hosting’, I mean web hosting services cost below $5/mo for a maximum 24 months subscription.

When I talk about ‘good cheap web hosting’, I expect cheap web hosting with characteristics below:

  • Unlimited* disk space, bandwidth, addon domain capacity (so that you can host as much websites as you can in one account).
  • Support one-click installation for at least 35 to 60 common web applications; including all the major blog, forum, and cart software.
  • Sufficient level of CPU resources to sustain moderate site traffics (roughly 3 – 5% CPU resources) and sudden traffic spikes (at least 10% CPU resources for 120 seconds).

These are the must-have features when you are searching for a cheap web host.

*Note: However, you have to understand that unlimited hosting is not unlimited (sorry for the pun).

Unreal statements about cheap web hosting

Lunarpages cheap web hosting deals

Unfortunately, the convenience of Internet also brings us noise and distractions. Some misunderstandings about cheap hosting must be corrected.

Myth 1: All cheap hosting services suck!

Truth is only a small minority cheap web hosts are blood suckers that tend to cheat your money with terrible service.

Most low cost hosting companies I knew often over-deliver and provide excellent service for long term. Many webmasters misunderstood that cheap hosting services are normally bad because: 1. Negative reviews are easier to be accepted (and passed along) in forums and blogsphere; 2. Webmasters made unrealistic expectation (for example, I received Hostgator complaints because the web host does not provide real time web analytics data); 3. Problems with users’ websites are out of the host provider’s control (buggy codes, hacked site).

Myth 2: My site get 5,000 visits per day, a cheap shared hosting plan certainly cannot handle my site.

Believe it or not, WebHostingSecretRevealed.com gets about 10,000 unique visits quite frequently and guess what, I am still hosting this site on a ‘cheap’ shared hosting package.

Many webmasters and bloggers simply opt for VPS or dedicated hosting because they think it is ‘cooler’. What you need and what you want are two different things. Fact is you can do a lot of things with a cheap hosting deal nowadays and you are always recommended to start small with an affordable shared hosting plan. The challenges are 1. Can you utilize the resources smart enough? And 2. Can you upgrade your web host later (if necessary)? VPS and dedicated hosting are vital for sites that need high CPU resources; but in case you are just running a high-traffic blog, it’d be better if you can save those hosting money and buy me some beer. ;)

How to find out if a cheap web host is good?

Sadly, as mentioned, you can never be 100% sure that a web host is good.

However, there are a few we can employ a few “check points” that will help eliminate most lousy hosts in the list.

Does the web host provide at least 30 days of trial period? The longer trial period the better – long trial period simply means that the web host is confident with their service quality.

Does the hosting deal come with a reasonable refund policy? Avoid those with outrages cancellation fees. Tips: Some fishy web hosts will charge their customers enormous setup fees upon refund so make sure you read the TOS clearly before purchase.

What is the average uptime record? Search for web host uptime reviews or use website uptime tracker tools (example: Pingdom, Uptime Auditor) to check your site’s uptime, anything below 99% is unacceptable.

Does the web host have clear and strict policy against spams? Serious hosting companies (yes, even for low cost hosting providers) will have very clear and strict policy against spammers.

How well does the web host support department handle your questions? Get in touch with the web host supports via live chat and see how your questions are answered. Ask technical and sensitive questions (where most web hosts don’t want you to know) like CPU cycles, cancellation fees, inodes, MySQL limits, and so on. What we want to know is how well-prepared are the support staffs and how much honesty we can get when it comes to h such sensitive issues. (side note: I prefer the support staffs to be honest and tell me the ugly truth, for example, admit that users get very low CPU cycles, instead of giving me unclear answers.)

My list of good cheap web hosting

It is very time consuming to answer readers’ emails one-by-one – although I’d love to get in touch with my readers as often as I can; but there is no point to keep interacting on the same topic. So for the ease of reference, here are some cheap hosting providers that you might want to check out – iPage, eHost, BlueHost, Arvixe, A Small Orange (these are all EIG hosting brands); and HostMetro, WebHostingHub, Interserver, and A2 Hosting.

I understand exactly how it feels to be stuck in an economy bad-turn and I know there are lots of countries have not crawl out from the mud of debt till now. It is absolutely important to save more and spend less in this difficult time. But let’s not sacrifice quality over cost in web hosting. I hope this post helps you in finding a reliable, honest, low cost hosting provider.