Newbie needs advice on web hosts


I’m very much a newbie - I’ve never had my own website before - and over the past couple of weeks I’ve discovered how difficult it is to choose a web host. I’d therefore appreciate any advice on offer.

Here are a few details:

[INDENT][/INDENT]I’m aiming to set up what I think is a smallish commercial site, running to a maximum of around twenty pages and with very little in the way of graphics. There’ll be no video and although there may be some audio content at some stage it isn’t a priority at the moment.

[INDENT][/INDENT]I’ll be offering an educational service to international customers. My ‘product’ will be delivered by email and probably paid for through PayPal or similar.

[INDENT][/INDENT]I’m based in the UK.

[INDENT][/INDENT]I’ll need some means of accepting payments, but I’ll only be offering a limited number of purchase choices - probably five options and certainly no more than ten.

Cost: I’ve already decided against free webhosting. I’d obviously like to spend as little as possible, but I’d be prepared to go to about £100 a year (currently about $150, I think), to get a reliable, helpful host. (I am, of course, wary of added extras that turn an apparently cheap deal into an expensive one.)

I’m considering a US-based hosting company at the moment, because - from what I’ve seen so far - US hosts seem to be more reliable and to provide better deals that UK-based ones. (I realise I may just be falling for superior advertising and promotion, though.) However, I wonder if I’d be making a mistake in signing up with a US host, since transatlantic telephone support would presumably be expensive - and time differences might cause problems as well.

So, if anyone can recommend a web host - US-based, UK-based, or other - I’ll be very grateful.

  • Mike

Hi Mike. Welcome to SitePoint! :slight_smile:

It would be fine to choose a site in the UK or the US. It’s up to you, really, and your circumstances. If the majority of your sales will come from the US, there’s a good argument for hosting there. But really, it’s much of a muchness if your sales are worldwide.

A simple way to get started with online sales is PayPal, which sounds good for what you are doing, but of course there are many other choices.

Do you have experience building websites? If not, another solution is to sign up for a hosted content management system, which will allow you to build a site online without coding knowledge. Services like Squarespace specialize in this.


Thank you for the quick reply. You ask: “Do you have experience building websites?” In fact, although I’m new to it, I’m not having trouble with the XHTML side of things, so I don’t think I’ll need hosted content management - but thanks for mentioning it as a possibility. I’ve pretty-much built my site on my hard-drive (excepting the PayPal element), but I’m having great difficulty deciding on a web host.

I’ve done a certain amount of research online, both here and elsewhere, and I’ve been generally confused by the offers I’ve seen - particularly where statements like ‘Starter Plan: $5.95 a month!’ seem to turn into $25 a month or more by the time I’ve clicked through to the purchase page. (That’s a made-up example, by the way, but I quickly developed the opinion that web hosting companies were trying to bamboozle me with the complexity of their offers.)

In addition, I’ve become rather suspicious of reviews. A lot read like adverts. I’ve come close to signing up with a host a couple of times, based on positive reviews, and then found other, highly critical comments from existing users, which put me off.

What I’m hoping for here is suggestions for a short-list of five or so good hosting companies in my range, which I can then compare before I buy.

Thanks again for the reply.


  • Mike

I spent a lot of time just over a year ago agonizing over hosting in the same way. A common Google tip is to type the name of a host along with the work “sucks”. It’s amazing what you find.

I was looking for a Virtual Private Server (VPS) which is slightly different from what you want, but even though I’m in Australia I ended up settling for a US host, called KnownHost. I read tremendous things about them, and didn’t find a single “sucks” post online.

After more than a year I’m still incredibly happy with them. They do offer shared hosting (single websites) so I can recommend them.

I have two friends who swear by Dreamhost, although there are lots of sucks stories about it too!

EDIT: O, regarding communications overseas, KnownHost (and probably the others, too) operates via support tickets/email, rather than telephone calls. I’ve had to ask quite a few questions over the last year and a bit, and every time I’ve had replies within minutes. They are there for you 24/7, and the issue is always resolved. It’s amazing, really. I can’t speak highly enough of them.

Hi Mike - nice to have you here at Sitepoint!

Ralph’s given you some good pointers already so I’ll just add my .02 cents to this.

I originally chose my host many years ago after reading some positive reviews here and knowing someone that hosted with them.

I’d start by figuring out what features are important to you, look for reviews here and elsewhere online, and narrow your choices down to 5 or 6 hosts. Then spend some time on their sites and see if they have a forum of their own where you can check up on them and see how they take care of their customers. Think up a pre-sales question or two you can contact them about and see how quickly they respond - maybe something about how they work with international clients or where their datacenters are located, if you’re still considering a US company to host with.

From what I’ve seen most hosts offer plenty of disk space and bandwidth for between $5 - $10 US/month - though the biggest discounts go to those willing to pay for a year at a time instead of monthly. Most good hosts offer some kind of money back guarantee and before you commit to anyone, google for some coupons and you’ll usually find some good deals.



I would be happy to share my experience here! Over the last 9 years, I have tried 5 hosting companies including the leading 3 hosts [the other 2 were locals who helped me at the beginning]

When I tried the cheapest one available at the beginning, my site was the slowest one on the web. Then I moved to another giant [I don’t like to share name] who appeared to be the best one on earth. The loading speed of my new site was comparatively many times than the previous ones but I encountered a new problem in the 3rd month itself. Though I had been paying regularly, I got a message that my subscription has been canceled due to fake credit card info [I’m still having no problem with the card in fact!]. Next came the chance of another big shark in the industry where I started an unlimited hosting plan. The first few days were okay and they were excellent in support but that too didn’t last much. Sooner I got a new info from them saying me that I have made an affiliate sale for my own account [duplicate sale] WOW! I never did an affiliate program yet! Though they apologized later, I still am confused of whom to live with!

Thanks very much for the advice, Ralph and Ravedesigns. I’ve had a look at Knownhost and Dreamhost and both look promising. Yesterday, Knownhost replied to a query very promptly - on a Saturday! - which may be a good sign. I’ll look at the forums today, Ravedesigns. Thanks for the suggestion.

Solace, I sympathize. Fear of being messed about and let down is my main reason for hesitating before I dip my toe in the webhosting water.

Thanks to everybody. This really is helping. Things are gradually coming clearer.

  • Mike

The KH forums aren’t bad—they are very helpful—but like many other fora, it can be a little hit and miss. If I have a problem or question, I always submit a ticket and get a quick reply. I submitted one today (Sunday Australian time, so late Sat night US time) and got an instant reply… in fact three of them, as I had to ask several questions.

Forums is the place where you can discuss genaral questions and there you can wait for response for a long time. That is not right place to get support regarding your account only.

??? - I’m confused.

  • Mike

(Later) … But perhaps I misunderstood, ServerPoint. Initially, I thought you were telling me I was asking my question in the wrong place - hence my puzzlement. But I’ve realised you probably mean that web host forums aren’t a good place to ask questions about one’s own hosted site. If that’s the case, I apologise for misunderstanding you.

  • Mike

Yes, that was the intended meaning. The moderators of my web host forum are pretty diligent, but they’re not obliged to answer every question. It’s more like a place where members can chat about issues if they want to. If the question doesn’t inspire interest, there won’t necessarily be a response from anyone.

But if there’s a serious issue that must be attended to, that’s the role of support tickets.

If anyone’s interested, I’ve taken the plunge. (And thanks again for all the advice I’ve received here so far.)

I came very close to signing up with KnownHost but I was finally put off them by the apparent complexity of having to register a domain with a different company and then transferring the domain to KnownHost, since KnownHost say they don’t register domains themselves.

If I hadn’t been new to all this I probably would have gone ahead with them. However, since - as a complete novice - I was operating in fog, I decided to sign up with ThisWebHost instead, their main advantage being that I could register my domain with them and sign up for web hosting at the same time.

I ended up paying $5.99/month for a Standard deal - which sounds reasonable at the moment. I paid $11.95/year for my .com domain, plus an additonal $8.00/per year for ID protection. (I don’t know if that’s really necessary, but I thought I’d better be safe than sorry.) I decided against their offer of a dedicated IP address - at additional monthly cost - because I hadn’t heard of that particular wrinkle until I met it during sign-up.

I’m happy enough at the moment, though I realise I may be in for surprises later. The main thing that struck me about the sign-up process, though, was that I was encountering the need to make new decisions on almost every page - so the whole process was like taking steps in the dark.

I’ll try to post a review of ThisWebHost in a month or so’s time. This forum has certainly been very useful for me and I’d guess there are other people out there who, like me, need very basic information about webhosting.


  • Mike

They probably shouldn’t offer that by default anyway. There are a limited number of them available, and they’re mainly useful for creating secure sites with digital certificates, like shopping carts etc.

At the end of the day, there’s probably not a huge difference between hosts, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.

Whoever you get a domain with, you just need to ‘point’ that domain to your hosting account by adding in a line or two of code. But by having your domain at your web host, you’ve saved yourself that two-minute job, which is fair enough when you’re starting out. That’s how I started, and I’m glad I did it that way.

Best wishes with the hosting!

Hey Mike - glad you found someone to start with and I hope all goes well with them, but don’t ever be put off by domain names and hosting.

I have a number of domains registered with different registrars and it’s a simple matter to change the DNS (domain name servers) with them to point to the host you’re using for your site.

See for more info if you need a good primer on the subject.



What a nice web site Steve. In suppose that referring our customers there will save a lot of time.