The web's full of services happy to host your photos, blog postsand other online data, but if you're control- or privacy-minded, you can do better. If you're thinking about hosting your own site, check out these five popular personal web hosts.
A few things are worth noting about nomenclature used by web hosts, especially those catering to individuals doing small-time hosting. The term "unlimited" is bandied about a lot in the small web hosting circles. The key to understanding what "unlimited" means is to read the terms of service for your account. Unlimited almost never means "You can use our service as a file dump and share enormous files with your friends" but almost always does mean "We won't slap you with overages if your legitimate web site racks up some serious bandwidth usage". With that in mind, we'd urge you to carefully read the fine print of any host you're considering.
Oz ed note: Unsurprisingly, most of those hosting companies are based in the US. For a personal web site, that's unlikely to be a major issue (and won't stop you using a .com.au domain if you wish). My own researches into the local web hosting market suggest that few offer quite as good a price/features combo as those listed here, though of course that equation shifts depending on the exchange rate. If your favourite hosting provider does operate from Australia (with $AU pricing), give them a shout-out in the comments.
NearlyFreeSpeech (Starting at $US0.25/month)
NearlyFreeSpeech is a host that takes an interesting tact. You're not promised a massive (and oversold) plan that you may never fully utilise; instead, you're billed incrementally based on usage. If you're hosting a simple personal landing page site to showcase your resume and some place you can be found online, you may never pay more than a buck or two a month for the tiny amount of resources you use. NearlyFreeSpeech isn't the easiest personal web host to get started with—they say as much in their FAQ file, and there's not a "single click" web setup application to be found—but the prices are rock bottom and you'll be out less than a cup of coffee a month for a simple personal web site. You can view the services offered by NearlyFreeSpeech here.
Bluehost (Starting at $US6.95/month)
Bluehost offers unlimited disk storage, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited hosted and parked domains, and a free drag-and-drop web-based site editor. You can have up to 100 MySQL databases, 2,500 email accounts, and 1,000 FTP accounts. Bluehost offers one-click installation of forum, image gallery, blogging, and content management tools. Check out the details of their hosting features here.
1&1 (Starting at $US3.99/month)
1&1 hosting starts at $US3.99 a month and even the basic package includes a free domain name. The basic plan comes with 10GB of storage, unlimited monthly transfer, and hosted email. All accounts come with the 1&1 Webspace Explorer a web-based tool for managing account files and site organisation. Basic accounts don't include any one-click application installers, but all accounts above the basic tier include site templates and applications like forums, blogs, and task management tools. You can compare hosting plans at 1&1 here.
HostGator (Starting at $US4.95/month)
HostGator packs in quite a few freebies for even their lowest-tier plans. The basic "hatchling" plan comes with unlimited disk space and bandwidth, access to their site building application, unlimited email accounts, and dozens of one-click applications like information portals, forums, and more. Upgrading from the basic plan gives you additional features like unlimited domains, domain parking and SSL. You can compare plans here.
Dreamhost (Starting at $US8.95/month)
Dreamhost has made a name for itself with frequent promotional sales with outrageously good prices. Even if you don't catch them during a promotional window, the $US8.95 per month plan includes unlimited storage, bandwidth, email accounts, MySQL databases, and domains hosted. Every account comes with a free domain registration, and additional domains are $US9.95. Dreamhost accounts include one-click installation of popular blogging tools, forums, and wiki software. You can view everything included in a hosting package here.
Have a tip or trick for getting started with your first web site? Want to give a nod to a host not listed here? Let's hear about it in the comments.