What is a good web host? It provides both good service and good performance (fast websites.) But given that fast is expensive, how can we reduce the cost?
What is a good cheap web host? It provides good service but the performance is poor (slow websites.) Bad cheap web hosting gives poor service and poor performance.
When you buy cheap web hosting you usually end up on a server (computer) with too many other people. This usually results in slow PHP/MySQL websites, like WordPress ones. That's why the hosting is cheap. Even good hosts might have some (cheap) options where you get stuck on a server with too many people.
Dreamhost is a good web host with some cheap options. Some 1-year plans with shared hosting cost $2.95/month (paid annually.) But there is still the problem of speed if you're using PHP and/or MySQL. WordPress load times are not likely to be impressive.
Let me call your attention to this WordPress VPS plan at Dreamhost. On the annual plan it's $13.75/month. With a VPS plan your pages will load much faster than with the shared plan. And Dreamhost gets you set up for WordPress. You don't have to do that yourself. The VPS at DreamHost is really good for beginners. It comes with the Dreamhost control panel.
I have a VPS plan at Hostwinds that only includes CentOS for Linux. No control panel, no WordPress install and no PHP/MySQL. This is a bare-bones operation. Fun times. You should avoid this unless you don't mind getting your hands dirty. The price is $8.24 a month (annual plan.) After a couple of weeks of getting the (free) CentOS Web Panel and PHP/MySQL installed and debugged/configured, the performance is real good.
If you want to try the cheapie VPS plan at Hostwinds, then I can save you a ton of time here. I discuss the problems I had and how to fix them. Installation of the CentOS Web Panel (CWP) is real easy. CentOS installation instructions are here. It's the debugging/configuration issues that are the pain which I document here .
When evaluating VPS plan costs I found two key issues to note:
1. What happens to the price at first renewal?
2. Is cPanel or other control panel included in the price?
Companies seem to be heaviliy discounting for new customers. At renewal there is a pretty substantial price shock. Make sure you understand what happens at renewal.
The issue of cPanel is so big that it is a deal killer. I suggest ignoring companies that don't include cPanel (or other control panel) in the base price of the plan. You're going to need a control panel. Don't get hit with an extra $10 to $15 per month just for the control panel.
Hostgator offers a VPS plan for $19.95/month (3-yr plan), but when you convert the plan to annual and add in the $10/month cPanel cost you end up at $33/month (annual plan.)
Liquid Web has a VPS plan that includes cPanel for only $15/month (2-yr plan), the cost changes to $35/month if you get the 1-yr plan.