Home Web hosting Shopping for Web Hosting? Read This Before You Check Out

Shopping for Web Hosting? Read This Before You Check Out

by Lottar

To find the right one web hosting service can be tricky because you have to consider what type of hosting plan you want, what features you need, and more. Adding to the difficulty, the pricing models that web hosting services use are often confusing and difficult to understand.

We’ve compiled this list of things to look out for so you can choose the right web hosting service for your needs and your wallet.

Be prepared to pay upfront for entire contracts

Advertised prices are usually linked to long contracts, and customers are expected to pay for these contracts in advance. This means that if you see a price of 50 cents per month, like Ionos’ Business web hosting plan, you’re probably paying at least $6 today, depending on the length of your contract.

Month-to-month contracts are available but are rarely advertised as they are usually more expensive than annual contracts. In most cases, month-to-month contracts are priced at the standard rate, which can be double the advertised rate or more.

Know what the standard rate is

GreenGeeks Pro Plan

Some services show you the discounted price with the standard rate crossed out.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

The first price you usually see for a web hosting service is the discount rate. The GreenGeeks Pro shared hosting plan is advertised at $5 per month – which really means you’ll be paying at least $60 today since it’s tied to a 12-month contract – and below this advertised price you’ll see the regular rate of $16 per month.

This standard rate is what you will pay once your contract is renewed. This is easy to overlook, and many web hosting services do not prominently display this fact. And some web hosting services, like Hostgator, fail to mention the standard rate until you’re at checkout.

Hostgator Hatchling, Baby and Business Plans

Other services only display the discounted rate.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Before you check out, make sure you understand what you’ll be paying once your contract renews. This saves you some shock and money in the long run.

Clip a few numbers to find the best discount

As you compare the prices of plans, you may be tempted to go with the biggest discount you see. But keep in mind this discount only applies to the initial contract length. Usually, one-year contracts will have the highest discounts attached to them. Longer contract lengths offer smaller – but still significant – discounts that apply for longer periods. The longer contract can therefore save you money as the one-year contract returns to the standard rate sooner. It never hurts to do the math and see which discount is actually the best deal.

For example, Bluehost says that the price associated with the 12-month contract for its basic shared hosting plan is 70% off. This contract will cost you $35.40 for the year. This is about average for a year of shared hosting, and less than the cost of some services, such as AccuWeb Hosting. However, business plans typically span three to five years, according to Nerdwallet, so one year of hosting isn’t going to cut it if you’re a business owner.

Once your one-year contract ends, the price for Bluehost’s basic plan increases to the standard rate and will cost you around $120 per year. After three years — one year with the discount and two years paying standard price — you’ll pay a total of about $275.

Compare that to a three-year contract with the Basic plan, which is advertised at a 50% discount. At first glance, you might think it’s a worse deal because of the 20 percentage point difference in advertised savings. But this plan will cost you about $178 for the entire three years. In short, the plan that boasts a 70% discount will end up costing you about $100 more than the plan that advertises a 50% discount over three years. Why? Because that discount only represents a single year, rather than the long-term value of a contract. If you know you’re only going to need one year of web hosting, the 70% discount is a better deal, but if you plan to keep your site over time, you’ll save money in the long run with the three – annual contract, despite the lower discount.

Research warranties

If a guarantee seems too good to be true, it’s worth looking into – and that goes for anything, not just web hosting. Sometimes web hosting guarantees are only for specific plans, contract lengths or for a limited time.

For example, Mochahost’s lifetime discount guarantee only applies to about a third of the service’s contract lengths. All other contract rates increase upon renewal.

Mochahost plans that qualify for the lifetime discount guarantee

Warranties may not apply to every plan or contract length.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Examine your basket before checkout

Some services try to sneak items into your cart before you check out. These items may include more security features, additional storage, or even higher backup frequency. Most services, such as Hostpapa, allow you to remove these items from your cart before checking out. But it’s easy to miss the opportunity to delete them from your cart, so make sure you carefully read every page leading to checkout.

HostPapa has added two items to this cart

The detailed items were added automatically before the checkout, and it is not immediately clear how to remove them.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

Scroll down on this HostPapa page before checkout to see options to remove or add more add-ons

But scroll down on the same page and you can see the options to remove these items.

Screenshot by Zach McAuliffe/CNET

However, some items added to your cart cannot be deleted. Those items may include a one-time setup fee for some plans — usually month-to-month plans — or a charge for transferring your website from one service to another. This is an average cost of $300 to $400. It’s good to shop around because not all services charge for these items.

‘Unlimited’ is not really unlimited

While comparing services and plans, you may see the phrases “unlimited” or “unlimited” in relation to resources such as storage and bandwidth. These phrases can usually be attached to shared hosting plans, and since these plans are usually the cheapest, you may be tempted to buy them.

However, unlimited and unlimited in this context usually does not mean that you can use all the resources you want. For example, A2 Hosting writes that unlimited and unlimited only apply insofar as your resource usage does not exceed the needs of other customers with similar plans. Think of these resources as a pie. All customers get an equal piece, which makes these resources limited.

Usually your service will contact you to let you know if you are getting close to your limit. However, once you reach that limit, your website may be suspended, your service may automatically upgrade your plan and charge you for it, or you may be charged overage fees.

All of these items are things to consider and pay attention to when shopping for a web hosting service. It’s easy to see a cheap plan and think you’re getting a good deal, but if you do a little math and read the details, you may find that a plan is actually more expensive than it looks.

For more information on web hosting, check out the best web hosting services of 2022why you’re probably spending more on web hosting than you need to be and what to know before starting your site.

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