5 Jun 2024 · Software Engineering

    5 Low-Cost Web Hosting Alternatives

    9 min read
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    Traditional web hosting services, such as shared hosting, have long been the preferred choice for hosting sites and web applications. However, the web hosting landscape has evolved considerably in recent years. With advancements in technology and the rise of innovative platforms, numerous low-cost alternatives are now available for individuals and businesses seeking reliable hosting solutions.

    In this article, you will understand what traditional web hosting services are, what they offer, and how much they cost. You will then explore five modern alternatives that offer affordability without compromising on performance or functionality.

    Let’s dive in!

    Traditional Web Hosting Services: Types, Cost, and Providers

    A web hosting service is an online service where a provider reserves space on its servers for storing and serving websites. This allows individuals or companies to host sites and make them publicly accessible on the Internet. Usually, these services can also host files, databases, and domain-specific mailboxes.

    web hosting

    There are three types of traditional web hosting services:

    • Shared
    • Dedicated
    • Managed

    Let’s dig into them, explaining what they offer, analyzing how much they cost, and mentioning some key providers.

    Shared Hosting Services

    Shared hosting providers share the resources of a single server among many different domains. This makes shared hosting a cost-effective solution for sites with limited traffic, such as blogs or small sites.

    • Cost range: A few dollars per month
    • Some well-known providers: Bluehost, HostGator, Hostinger, SiteGround, InMotion

    Dedicated Hosting Services

    Dedicated hosting providers assign one or more servers to each domain exclusively. In other words, servers are not shared with other websites or applications. That means greater performance, security, and control. However, it also implies that server management in on the customer.

    Note that many shared hosting providers also offer dedicated hosting plans.

    • Cost range: From over $50 per month to hundreds of dollars per month
    • Some well-known providers: InMotion, Liquid Web, Bluehost, A2 Hosting, AccuWeb Hosting

    Managed Hosting Services

    Managed hosting combines the benefits of dedicated hosting with expert management services. Unlike shared hosting, where multiple websites share the same server, managed hosting provides dedicated servers to individual companies or users. The hosting provider takes care of all server maintenance tasks, including security, software and hardware upgrades, and backups. Managed hosting is ideal for companies that want the reliability and performance of dedicated hosting without needing in-house expertise to maintain the server.

    These services usually provide specific solutions such as Managed WordPress, Managed WooCommerce, Managed Magento, and the like.

    • Cost range: From over $20 per month to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on the managed technology
    • Some well-known providers: WP Engine, Kinsta, Liquid Web, EasyWP, tsoHost

    Top 5 Inexpensive Alternatives to Web Hosting Services

    You know that traditional hosting services range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars per month. Aren’t there less expensive solutions? Of course, there are!

    If you are eager to find out what these solutions are, take a look at the table below:

    ServiceCostNumber of sitesIdeal projectsSupported SitesSupported Technologies
    Free Hosting ServicesFree1-5Small sites or non-commercial projectsStatic sites and/or web applicationsHTML, CSS, PHP, Node.js, React, Next.js, WordPress, and others
    Web Hosting via GitHub PagesFreeOne for each public repositoryNon-commercial personal projects or static sitesStatic sites and client-side sitesHTML, CSS, JavaScript, static site generators, some client-side technologies
    CDN HostingFree—$50+/moPotentially unlimitedStatic sitesStatic resourcesStatic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and image files
    Cloud Hosting<$1/mo—$1000+/moPotentially unlimitedProjects with fluctuating trafficStatic and dynamic sites, web applications, and moreAny
    VPS Hosting$2+/mo—80+/moPotentially unlimited, but depends on the resources of the VPSProjects needing variable resourcesStatic and dynamic sites, web applications, and moreAny

    Time to explore the five best alternatives to traditional web hosting services to save money!

    Free Hosting Services

    Free hosting services offer space on their servers at no cost, typically for small sites and non-commercial projects. These providers usually offer free plans with limited resources, restricted bandwidth, and basic features, supporting only specific stacks like Node.js or traditional web development technologies like HTML, CSS, and PHP.

    Some of the providers that offer free hosting services are:

    • InfinityFree: Supports sites based on PHP and MySQL.
    • 000WebHost: Supports sites based on PHP and MySQL.
    • Netlify: Supports web applications and sites built with React, Next.js, WordPress, and other technologies. It offers continuous deployment from GitHub.

    💰 Cost range: Free

    👍 Pros:

    • No financial investment required
    • Suitable for small or personal projects
    • Great for testing
    • Basic features and functionality for getting started
    • Ideal for beginners who do not want or cannot afford to pay for hosting

    👎 Cons:

    • Limited storage, bandwidth, and customer support
    • Only a few technology stacks supported
    • Advertisements may be displayed on all pages

    Web Hosting via GitHub Pages

    GitHub Pages is a free hosting service to host static sites directly from the files in a GitHub repository. It works with technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and natively supports Jekyll as a static site generator for blogging. Other static site generators like HugoGatsby and similar can be used as well with some limitations. With some workarounds, it is also possible to deploy some client-side applications, such as React applications. As of this writing, GitHub Pages does not support server-side languages such as PHP, Node.js, Ruby, or Python.

    By default, after publishing a site from a repository, it will be available at https://<username>.github.io/<repository> for individual users and https://<organization>.github.io/<repository> for organizations. However, you can also host GitHub Pages on custom domains as explained in the official guide.

    Note that GitHub Pages is available for free in public repositories for both individual users and organizations. For more technical information, explore the GitHub Pages documentation.

    💰 Cost range: Free for GitHub users

    👍 Pros:

    • Free hosting with custom domain support
    • Built-in integration with GitHub for version control and automatic deploy at each push
    • Supports Jekyll natively
    • Automatic HTTPS for secure connections
    • Configuration in a few clicks

    👎 Cons:

    • Limited to static content with no server-side processing capabilities
    • Requires knowledge of Git
    • Limited storage and bandwidth
    • Hosting sites from private repositories requires a Pro plan
    • Forbidden for commercial use

    Content Delivery Network Hosting

    A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers distributed globally to strategically cover as many geographical locations as possible. Its purpose is to deliver web content efficiently to users, reducing latency, and speeding up loading times.

    Specifically, a CDN caches and delivers resources such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and images from the server closest to the user. Thus, CDNs host static sites by distributing their files over a network of servers around the world to guarantee fast and reliable access to them.

    These services usually offer pay-as-you-go plans where you pay per GiB of bandwidth and/or monthly plans in which you pay a fixed amount for a given level of service. This makes CDN hosting an inexpensive and efficient option for static sites. Most CDNs complete their offering with anti-bot protection, image optimization, and many other features.

    Some popular CDN providers for hosting static sites are Cloudflare, Amazon CloudFront, Fastly, and Akamai.

    💰 Cost range: Free, a few cents per GiB of bandwidth, up to $50+ per month, depending on traffic and/or enabled features

    👍 Pros:

    • Improved latency times
    • Reduced resource load times
    • Enhanced global reach with servers worldwide
    • Scalability to handle traffic spikes
    • Extra features like DDoS protection, image optimization, anti-bot solutions, and more

    👎 Cons:

    • Limited to static content, with no dynamic processing allowed
    • Complex DNS setup for beginners
    • May become expensive on sites with high traffic

    Cloud Hosting

    Cloud hosting uses virtual servers in the cloud to host sites and web applications. It pools computing resources from a network of virtual and physical servers, offering high scalability and flexibility.

    In most cases, cloud hosting works on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means that you pay only for the resources you use. That is especially beneficial for projects with unpredictable or fluctuating traffic, as there is no need to worry about overprovisioning or underprovisioning of resources.

    Compared with traditional web hosting, cloud hosting can be more robust and reliable. This is because when a site hosted on a traditional provider needs more resources, you manually have to buy a new plan to get more computing power. Instead, cloud hosting automatically scales resources up or down for you.

    Some popular cloud hosting providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), DigitalOcean, and Vercel.

    💰 Cost range: From a few dollars a month to thousands of dollars a month, depending on usage

    👍 Pros:

    • Automatic scalability to handle varying traffic levels
    • Pay-as-you-go pricing model for cost efficiency, especially on sites with fluctuating traffic
    • Redundancy and reliability through distributed infrastructure
    • Integration with CI/CD pipelines
    • Tons of other useful features and services

    👎 Cons:

    • Requires technical expertise for setup and management
    • Traffic spikes can lead to unexpected costs
    • Vendor lock-in

    Virtual Private Server Hosting

    A VPS (Virtual Private Server) is a virtualized server environment created by splitting a physical server into multiple virtual servers. VPS hosting providers generally provide access to Linux or Windows virtual servers, with users who are tasked with configuring them from scratch for website hosting.

    This hosting experience is similar to that offered by a traditional managed hosting service. The main difference is that VPSs are more flexible in that resources can be added or removed dynamically according to your needs, as they are virtual servers and not physical ones. Moreover, you typically pay based on the resources selected. Thus, in the long run, dedicated VPs can be a more cost-effective solution than managed hosting services.

    Popular VPS providers include DigitalOcean, IONOS, InterServer, Vultr, and Linode.

    💰 Cost range: From a few dollars per month to dozens of dollars per month, depending on how large the VPS is

    👍 Pros:

    • Improved performance compared to shared hosting
    • Resource scalability
    • Root access for full control over server configuration
    • A single VPS can host several sites
    • Usually cheaper than managed hosting

    👎 Cons:

    • Requires technical expertise for server management
    • Responsibility for security and updates
    • Maintenance and support might come at an additional cost
    • Security concerns as they are virtual servers

    Conclusion

    In this article, you learned what types of traditional web hosting services are and how much they cost. Fortunately, there are other low-cost modern solutions. Here, you dug into the five best alternatives to traditional web hosting solutions to save money without compromising on functionality. If you are an individual developer or small business, knowing these low-cost hosting solutions can save you a lot of money!

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    Writen by:
    I'm a software engineer, but I prefer to call myself a Technology Bishop. Spreading knowledge through writing is my mission.
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    I picked up most of my skills during the years I worked at IBM. Was a DBA, developer, and cloud engineer for a time. After that, I went into freelancing, where I found the passion for writing. Now, I'm a full-time writer at Semaphore.