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Is Cheap Hosting Worth Your Time?

These days, it’s not unheard of to find shared hosting plans that cost less than $5 per month. Depending on where you live, you probably spend more on coffee each week than what you pay for web hosting, which is impressive. The only question is whether cheap hosting plans are really worth your time to begin with.

The short answer is a qualified yes: cheap hosting is a solid option as long as you choose a quality hosting provider. There are thousands of services available, after all, so it’s normal that prices will go down over time. The lower they get, the more potential customers these plans can reach. It’s a winning situation for everyone.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the features you should look for in a hosting service. Then we’ll go over what cheap hosting can offer you. Finally, we’ll test our own service to show you what low-cost plans can accomplish. Let’s get started!

What to Look For in a Web Hosting Service

The A2 Hosting homepage.
A quality web host will provide you with excellent performance on every one of their plans.

Most hosting providers these days offer a wide array of plans that range from cheap to at least moderately expensive. Judging a hosting provider by price alone won’t give you a good idea of the quality of their service. If you want to get the full picture, there are four criteria you’ll want to consider. Each is ultimately more important than price when it comes to judging a web host:

  1. Strong performance. Ideally, you want your web host to provide you with fast loading times on all of its plans, to keep your visitors happy.
  2. Excellent support. You’ll want the option to contact your provider whenever you run into an issue or have a question. Plus, you should be able to expect an answer – or hopefully a solution – within a reasonable timeframe.
  3. Top-notch security. Even small websites can become targets for malicious attacks, so you want to choose a hosting provider that takes your safety seriously.
  4. A wide variety of plans and prices. In most cases, you’ll want to choose a web host that offers a wide range of plans for different budgets. That way, you can upgrade to something better when it becomes necessary.

If you find a web host that fits those four criteria (and has great reviews), then you’ve got a winner. It doesn’t matter if their plans are cheap, as long as they still offer you a great service in return. Low prices are simply a bonus.

What Cheap Hosting Can Offer You

A few examples of cheap web hosting plans.
Low-cost web hosting plans are a great option if you’re using a quality web host.

Generally speaking, anything below $10 a month is on the cheap end of web hosting. However, these days you can even find excellent hosting plans below $5 per month.

For an example, you can take a look at our own starting shared plan. It offers you unlimited space and traffic, a free Let’s Encrypt Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, 24/7 support, and optimized setups for multiple platforms (including WordPress, PrestaShop, and Drupal). Those are a lot of features for a plan that starts at only $3.92 per month.

Shared hosting is generally a lot cheaper than other types of plans, since it enables providers to share servers between users (hence the name). However, any decent hosting provider will make sure that each server never has more volume than it can manage, while still offering consistent performance.

As you move on to other types of plans, you’ll get more features and hardware all to yourself, which means that prices will rise accordingly. For example, Virtual Private Servers (VPSs) offer you full control over your system, as do dedicated plans. The more resources your web host needs to provide to your site, the more they’ll charge you.

With all that in mind, cheap hosting plans can be a great option. Moreover, you aren’t limited to shared hosting even if you’re on a budget. For example, our own VPS plans start at $5 per month, offering better performance than shared hosting for only a small price increase. If you’re running a small to medium-sized website, you should be able to get everything you need from a low-cost hosting plan. Plus, you can always upgrade to something more robust at any point.

The Effects of Cheap Web Hosting on Performance

One of the most common concerns when it comes to cheap shared hosting is that it will slow down your website. However, as we mentioned earlier, performance often has more to do with the quality of your web host than with the plan you choose.

To demonstrate that point, we decided to run a handful of tests using our cheapest shared hosting plan. For this test, we set up a new WordPress website with some content and a couple of plugins, and used Pingdom Tools to check out how long it took to load:

Our Pingdom test results.

As you can see, our sample WordPress site loaded in 1.31 seconds. During successive tests, this time remained very consistent. In general terms, any loading time below two seconds can be considered a good sign, and achieving that time was simple on the most basic hosting plan, without any extra optimization.

Of course, not every shared hosting provider will offer same performance. We optimize our WordPress setups for performance, but that’s not something every host does. That’s why it’s important to choose your provider carefully. Of course, as your website grows it may start to slow down due to an excess of traffic. When that happens, it might be time to upgrade to a more powerful plan. Until then, there’s no real downside to starting out on a shared hosting plan.

Conclusion

When we call something cheap, we’re often using the term in a negative way. However, low-cost web hosting isn’t by nature a bad thing. As long as you choose the right provider and are ready to upgrade your plan if the need arises, cheap hosting can serve you just as well as a more expensive option might.

Before we wrap up, let’s recap some of the ways you can spot an excellent web host. If you find one that fits all these criteria, then you should be okay in their hands, even if you’re using a low-cost plan. Simply look for:

  1. Strong performance
  2. Excellent support
  3. Top-notch security
  4. A wide variety of plans and prices

Are you still on the fence about signing up for a budget hosting plan? Share your concerns with us in the comments section below!

Image credit: Pixabay.

About Brad Litwin

Brad Litwin is the Marketing Manager for A2 Hosting. He has been with the company since 2007. His specialties include affiliate marketing, content writing and SEO. In his spare time he enjoys running and reading.

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