Here are my top recommendations for the services you need to run a small business or personal Web site.
Use either GoDaddy or Moniker. Both feature low, comparable rates. Both have all the registration features you will need.
GoDaddy is probably easier for a novice to use. You'll have to put up with some attempts to sell you things you don't need or want. The best way to handle this is to rebuff all such advances; you can always add features later if you need them. GoDaddy also makes zone updates faster than any registrar I've worked with, which is a boon for me.
Moniker is the no-nonsense registrar with a control panel that is slightly more technical. The two key features of Moniker are slightly lower rates than GoDaddy and excellent tools for handling a larger number of domain names. If you have more than three domain names, consider Moniker. If you have more than five domain names, seriously consider Moniker. The Moniker Web site has recently been refreshed and is slightly more approachable.
Both companies make inbound transfers (i.e., moving your domain from someplace else to GoDaddy or Moniker) very easy. If you ever need to transfer your domains away from these companies, neither puts up much resistance.
Don't buy privacy. It isn't what you think - it's just another way for the registrar to extract a fee. If properly managed, there is little danger of identity theft originating from your public registration records. Why? Because unless you are trying to hide, most of the information you provide during registration is exactly the same information you provide on your site anyway.
If you are registered with Network Solutions, you may be interested in my love/hate relationship with the company.
When I speak with clients, I suggest a budget of $20 per year per domain name.
For the typical small business with up to ten domain names, I recommend Pair Networks in Pittsburgh, PA. The company offers a very good hosting platform, clean control panel, acceptable performance (mostly), world-class technical support, free (or very cheap) SSL certificates, and extraordinary prices. Most small clients will be well-served by "Plan 1" at $7 per month.
Pair is very inexpensive but not on the top of my list. That honor goes to InfoQuest Technologies and its Linux hosting plans. Over the course of my presence on the Web, I've spent more time hosted at InfoQuest than at any other provider. There was a period when InfoQuest's support for the PHP programming language was a problem and I moved away, but the company has cured those problems with a strong set of high-performance, Linux-based offerings and the availability of free SSL certificates. InfoQuest's tech support is unmatched in my experience. While the $8 Economy plan will meet most requirements for small businesses with a single domain name, I most often recommend the middle-of-the-road $13 plan instead.
I no longer recommend GoDaddy for hosting due to various technical issues with the hosting plan and the fact that GoDaddy has no option for free SSL certificates.
When I speak with clients, I suggest a budget of $15-$20 per month for hosting in order to anticipate price increases. I expect prices to rise because the growth in volume is slowing for hosting companies.
Use a paid service for email, especially when you want to be mobile. Although most Web hosting plans include email service, today's users want a lot of Cloud-based storage so they can have their email wherever and on whatever device they please. This is very hard to achieve with the limited email accounts in a Web hosting plan.
The two services I recommend below let you use your own domain name, a critical feature. Both services have migration capabilities that let you get your mail from a previous service and import it. Migration of contact and calendar information varies depending on the old service.
My top recommendation is Microsoft Exchange Online Plan 1 (MEO), now part of the Microsoft 365 family of subscription plans. It costs $4 per user per month paid monthly but with an annual commitment. The service includes 50GB of storage per user. Because MEO is based on Microsoft's Exchange Server software, you get enterprise-class service that works well with just about every smart phone. MEO works beautifully with Outlook; the Outlook app on iOS and Android; and the Windows 10 Mail app. Setup of the account on phones is brainless.
Tech support is excellent.
This same email service is part of Microsoft 365 business plans. If you already have a business-class Microsoft 365 subscription, you're all set.
My second recommendation is unusual. It is Rackspace Email. It costs $2 per user per month with 25GB of storage per user. Although my experience with Rackspace is limited, I recommend the email service because of its low price, half that of Microsoft. I suggest this alternative only when the client is extremely price-sensitive. Tech support is very good to excellent. The control panel is reasonably straightforward but does have its dark corners of confusion. The overall experience is not as rich as MEO because it is based on IMAP. The Web interface is acceptable.
The one downside to Rackspace Email is that the minimum is $10/month, or 5 email accounts. If you only have two or three addresses, use MEO instead. You'll like it better.
Don't leave home without them. Free SSL is definitely a thing now.
When you buy these services, how long a term should you buy?
Historically I have suggested longer terms - three years for hosting and five years for domains - because almost all companies used to discount for volume. Things have changed and those discounts for long terms are mostly gone.
I suggest one year terms for everything. I have two reasons.
First, if you force yourself to deal with annual renewals you will stay more current with your subscriptions, especially the status of your payment methods. There is danger when a credit card expires and you don't deal with it promptly - a domain name can be lost.
Second, annual terms give you maximum flexibility should you wish to make a change. Almost nobody gives refunds, so one-year terms limit your financial liability.
Most small businesses, whether on paper or just top of mind, maintain a budget. In my experience, most small businesses do not have a line item for information technology.
If you don't, start. Your electronic, online presence is a fact of life, just like your electricity bill.
Full Disclosure - What Does Will Do?
GoDaddy is my domain name registrar.
I use Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Exchange Online) for email. It's the cat's meow.
I am currently hosted at Pair Networks.
I receive no compensation of any kind for these recommendations.
In the past I have "reviewed" Web hosting companies. Starting now, due to popular demand, I'm not going to do that anymore. My clients have made it quite clear that they just want the benefit of my experience, not a long-winded explanation of how I reach the conclusions. You're asking me to keep it simple (and only a few of you are calling me stupid). I hope this does the trick. Need more info? Just ask.
Note that my recommendations are good as of the date shown here. One of the reasons I'm not reviewing is that these companies constantly make changes to their services and approach. I can't keep up. When discussing these services, just ask me if all this is still current. One thing that can change quickly is rates; consult the vendor for details.
This page was last updated on July 30, 2020.