Domain Hosting Services Review
Why Use Domain Hosting Services?
The top domain hosting services in our review are InMotion Hosting, the Gold Award winner; DreamHost, the Silver Award winner; and Arvixe, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a domain web host to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the best domain hosting services.
You can't have a website without at least one domain name. If you're a web-based business, then a domain name can highly influence the success of your site. Even if you are a brick-and-mortar, domain names in this digital age are a vital piece of every website and, ultimately, your marketing campaign.
We found that all domain hosting services that offer web hosting service plans have some combination of unlimited features, usually bandwidth and disk space. Whenever you see this term listed as part of a package, pay close attention to the terms of service for each company or ask a representative how the service defines "unlimited" when you sign up. Most services actually do have limits for their unlimited features; you may be asked to upgrade to a higher-level plan if you use more than what the company deems excessive amounts of the unlimited feature. Each company determines excessive limits differently and usually bases them on an average of what a personal or small-business website uses in a month.
Domain Hosting Services: How It's Priced
Each domain hosting service we looked at combines its domain hosting with a web hosting package, which typically includes enough resources to build and manage the website that'll be your domain. Each service offers one to three different shared web hosting plans based on how many resources you need and want to pay for. We did not look at free domain hosting services.
Services price their plans using a subscription-based model. The prices advertised are based on a monthly rate. However, most services offer long-term plans, where you can save a certain percentage based on how many years you opt to pay for up front. Companies also generally give the option to let you pay month to month; however, websites are generally a long-term investment for any business, so a longer-termed plan can be a benefit, but only if you're certain you'll be staying with that host for the long run.
Domain Hosting: What We Tested, What We Found
We have been monitoring and updating this category closely for the past six years. Most recently, we researched over 45 web hosts before narrowing it down to our current top 10. We purchased the most basic shared web hosting plans of the 10 services in our review. Our numbers, including a service's disk space, bandwidth and other hosting package features, are based on the lowest-level shared hosting plan for each service to offer the clearest comparison. Whatever plan you sign up for, it will generally be set to auto-renew at the end of every term, whether that's a month or a couple of years.
As some features vary from package to package, such as the amount of allowed disk space and bandwidth, we checked the flexibility of companies in how many packages they offer. Services in this industry offer one to three shared web hosting plans. Each plan differs in the limits of each feature it includes. For example, some basic plans set limits for how many parked domain names you can associate with your site, while higher plans in the same service may offer an unlimited number. We checked with each service's staff to see how easy it is to upgrade to a higher plan at any time.
Once we purchased a basic plan on a month-to-month basis, we used each service to set up a website landing page for a small business. On our landing pages, we included images and content specific to each business. We then had various Top Ten Reviews employees use the control panels of each service and rate how easy they were to learn and use and how simple it was to download additional content management apps, such as WordPress or Joomla. Almost all services offer the cPanel system for content management and can integrate with other apps, such as WordPress.
Help & Support Testing
When you're looking at a domain registrar, the company's customer support is vital to make sure your website is always accessible and running smoothly. Support representatives are always available 24/7; most companies offer contact through phone, email and live chat, though a few don't offer all three. We called at varying times of the day, including at night, to test the quality and response time of support. Usually, we found the support we needed quickly, but often the support agent turned our question into a sale for additional services.
We also tested the average time it took for employees to respond to us on live chat if the company offered it. We tested live chat 10 times for each company and took an average from there. Services with faster, thorough support received higher scores. Of the services we tested, InMotion Hosting offered the best support quality, addressing our questions quickly and without upselling us to a higher-priced service.
What to Know About Registering or Transferring Domains
The features in each hosting plan vary from service to service. Some features included for free in some hosting plans, such as automatic regular backups on your site, cost a small additional monthly fee with other services. We awarded higher scores to services that offer backup and site restorations for free. While most of the services do, iPage, HostPapa, HostGator and FatCow charge for backing up a site, restoring it or both.
You may also consider additional features such as domain privacy, which is offered for an additional yearly fee with most domain hosting services. This feature replaces your personal information tied to the registration of your domain name with the company's generic contact information. Registration information is listed publicly on the internet for anyone to view and copy and generally includes your first and last name, address, phone number, and email.
Transferring a Domain Name
If you already own a domain name and wish to transfer it to a new service, most domain hosting services offer to transfer it to their systems at no additional charge. A few do charge an additional fee, however. If you need a new domain name, most services offer one new domain name registration free when you sign up for a new plan. Should you cancel your service, the domain registration fee is usually not refundable, while unused service time often is.
Although many hosting services make it easy to have your domain name and your website hosted by the same system, you may still consider using a separate domain registrar from your web hosting service to host your domain. That way, if anything goes wrong with your website host, you can move your website to another host without much worry. Sometimes, canceling a service package may interfere with your domain's use. However, keeping both your domain and website hosted on the same service makes for easier payments and management if either has an issue, as you can use the same support service.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
There are many companies competing for your business. Although many packages offer "unlimited" features to encourage you to sign up with them, you must clarify with each service you consider what it really means by "unlimited."
In addition to many unlimited features, most notably unlimited disk space and bandwidth, InMotion Hosting offers an easy-to-use website builder and superior technical support to the other services in our review. This service has all of the features we looked for and several hosting plans you can upgrade to as your company grows.
Both DreamHost and Arvixe compete well with InMotion Hosting. These two companies offer unlimited hosting packages and all the features we looked for in a web host. While the quality of the support we received did not compare to InMotion Hosting, these two web hosts also offer cheap domain hosting plans with easy-to-use web builders.
While the top three services outweigh the others, all of the web hosts in our domain hosting review deserve consideration. We found that our top 10 offer affordable web hosting plans with easy website builders and superior customer service. Most services we looked at offer at least one year free for a new domain or the ability to transfer a domain name from another hosting provider for no charge. You should also be able to find domain privacy add-ons in most services.