The top domain hosting services in our review are Arvixe, the Gold Award winner; InMotion Hosting, the Silver Award winner; and Just Host, 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 hosts.
You can't have a website without at least one domain name. If you're a web-based business particularly then a domain name can make or break the success of your site. Even if you are a brick-and-mortar, domain names in this digital age are a vital and necessary piece to every website and ultimately your marketing campaign.
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 used for your domain. Each services typically offers one to three different hosting plans based on how many resources you need and want to pay for.
Services price their plans using a subscription-based model. The prices advertised are based on a per-month 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 purchased the most basic shared web hosting plans of each of the services reviewed. 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 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 offered. Services in this industry offer anywhere from one to three shared web hosting plans. Each plan differs in the limits of each feature included in the plan. For example, some basic plans offer 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 Review employees use the control panels offered by each service and rate how easy they were to learn and use or to download additional content management apps, such as WordPress or Joomla. Almost all services offered use of the cPanel system for content management and can integrate with other apps, such as WordPress.
Help & Support Testing
When looking at a domain registrar, the company's help and support is vital to make sure your website is always accessible and running smoothly. Help and support representatives are always available 24/7; most companies offered contacts through phone, email and live chat, while a few didn'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 calls turned from our question to sales for additional services.
We also tested the average time it took for employees to respond to us on live chat if offered by the company; 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, WebHostingPad offered the fastest live chat response times.
Features included with 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, are a small additional monthly fee with other services.
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 publically 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 system 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, cancelling 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 help and 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 they really mean by "unlimited." Most services we looked at offered 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.