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Static Website Hosting Platforms in 2022

The static website hosting landscape has changed significantly in the past few years and is only getting better.

Trends tend to be cyclic in any industry, and the same can be said for web development. The biggest comeback in the past few years? Static websites! But the way we build them today has changed, and so is the way we host them. Today, there are many static website hosting platforms you can use, and we’ve gone through most of them to give you the pros and cons for each one. 

Why is this important? To put it bluntly, just about any server can host static pages. BUT not all of them will be able to meet the needs and expectations of modern web development. 

Take the Jamstack approach to web development as an example. With the broader adoption, a couple of platforms were built with it in mind. The rest follow suit.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s define precisely what we mean by a static website, for starters.

What Is a Static Website?

A static website is made of pre-built static HTML+CSS+JS pages that don’t change between visits and that the server delivers to your browser exactly as stored once requested. Static websites don’t rely on databases, libraries, plugins, or frameworks and, as such, have blazing fast loading times.

In direct opposition, we have dynamic websites that generate content according to various factors (e.g., your location, your time, new vs. returning visitor, etc.). I.e., the pages are rendered with each browser request.

To help illustrate, one of the biggest popular dynamic websites is Facebook and its news feed. On the other hand, a menu page uploaded to a restaurant's domain would be considered the most rudimentary static website.

Of course, because our needs today have changed, static pages and websites today have morphed into something slightly different.

Do You Mean Jamstack?

Yes and no. Because it delivers static files via a content delivery network (CDN), a Jamstack website would be considered a static one. But, Jamstack goes beyond regular static websites. 

To be more precise, Jamstack is a dynamically-generated static website. This means that it can retrieve data from dynamic databases, which then becomes part of the static HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and media files ready for download from the CDN. It only retrieves data on non-user-facing servers, so the websites stay fast and secure.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Static Website?

High Security & Stability

Static websites are served from read-only filesystems, they don’t directly connect to any database or back-end, therefore minimizing any chance of hackers infiltrating into it, stealing data, or tricking users via phishing or similar social engineering schemes.

To add to that, your visitors will always be looking at the last uploaded set of static files, minimizing any downtime and increasing the stability of your website.

Fast Loading Speeds

Because static websites don’t rely on back-end systems, or database requests from the client-side, they are extremely fast just pushing out static files. These files can also be cached, further increasing the speed. For traditional static, stored on a webserver. For modern static, generated on a CDN. So, directly cached on multiple CDN locations on the edge of the world.

On top of that, speed matters for your SEO efforts especially in eCommerce where 53% of shoppers say they constantly research before buying to ensure they make the best possible choice (eCommerce SEO guide). This means not done properly you are leaving $ on the table.

Cost-effectiveness & Scalability

While more traffic and more downloads of your static website files will increase the cost of maintaining your static website, hosting and delivering static files is much more cost-effective than maintaining a dynamic website connected to the back-end. 

Furthermore, it’s much easier to scale your website when it’s static, in contrast to updating and adapting each moving part of the interconnected system we know as the dynamic website.

And Jamstack?

Jamstack allows web developers to claim the benefits static websites bring while integrating dynamic functionalities to make for a more engaging website. 

Similarly, Jamstack generally allows more customizations than static or dynamic websites where you can choose exactly the features you need, no matter how simple or complex.

What's the Difference Between Platform and Hosting?

Now that we have covered the basics let’s just clear up the difference between platform and hosting, both of which will be huge factors in determining which solution will be the best for your website. 

Today the term hosting in most cases refers only to the CDN, the content delivery network made up of the origin server where you upload your static files and widespread edge servers that deliver the files to your visitors. 

On the other hand, the platform also encompasses CI/CD, or continuous integration/continuous delivery, the former of which ensures all changes are pushed to the testing environment as often as possible. In contrast, the latter ensures all those changes are delivered to the right people for said testing before production. Platforms often support cloud functions/node servers.

Top Static/Jamstack Hosting and Deployment Solutions

Cloudflare Pages

Cloudflare Pages is the full CI/CD version of Cloudflare’s impressive content delivery network, designed with Jamstack in mind. 

It offers an effortless Git integration, relies on the Cloudflare edge network for stellar performance, and you can get dynamic functionality through integration with Cloudflare Workers. BTW they have the fastest edge functions we have tested. Lambda warmup + response was in the 50-80ms range, while Vercel was in the 300-500ms range. We talk about it in our Fast eCommerce with Cloudflare Using Next.js Livestream.

Is a Free Plan available? Yes.

Website: https://pages.cloudflare.com/

Cloudflare Pages

Netlify

A company whose founder coined the term Jamstack makes perfect sense that it would be one of the leaders in the market. Netlify is the app for hosting and managing static websites with dynamic functionalities for which they even offer built-in applications. 

Netlify is a complete CI/DN solution designed to work as part of a seamless Git-based developer workflow. Netlify is a framework-agnostic hosting service, and the team behind it is focussing on building out an ecosystem of services to support the Jamstack community.

Is a Free Plan available? Yes.

Website: https://www.netlify.com/

Netlify

Vercel

While most static website hosting platforms support a variety of frameworks and languages, if you opt for Next.js, you should look into Vercel, who created the framework.

Their platform is highly front-end friendly with advanced Git integrations that enable a streamlined CI/CD process with zero configuration necessary.

Is a Free Plan available? Yes.

Website: https://vercel.com/

Vercel

Gatsby Cloud

Gatsby Cloud is the hosting service from the team behind the open-source Gatsby frontend framework. If you use the Gatsby framework, you have a purpose-built hosting platform available.

Is a Free Plan Available? Yes.

Website: https://www.gatsbyjs.com/

Github Pages

If you use Github and need to host a small website, Github Pages may be the right solution for you. Your static website is pushed straight from your Github repository, and the file changes are instantly deployed.  

However, note that some other solutions from the list may be better suited for more complex projects or projects that have to look top-notch (the available themes are a bit outdated).

Is a Free Plan available? Yes, for non-commercial projects.

Website: https://pages.github.com/

Surge.sh

Surge brands itself as static web publishing for front-end developers, which is pretty much it. It makes deploying projects to a CDN through Grunt, Gulp, and npm. 

Much of Surge comes for free, and it perfectly works with the build tool you already may be using, including the Grunt plugin, Gulp plugin, npm script, Git hooks, Jekyll, Node.js, Static Site Generators, CI services, and more. 

Note that Surge doesn’t come with a built-in CI/CD. 

Is a Free Plan available? Yes.

Website: https://surge.sh/

Azure Static Web Apps

The Azure static web platform also offers automated global content geo-distribution, along with native Github CI/CD workflows designed to streamline the development experience. 

A significant benefit of the Azure ecosystem is that many businesses are already on the Microsoft stack. Especially in cases where the organization does not take lightly on introducing a new service in their stack - read enterprise B2B organizations.

Is a Free Plan available? Yes.

Website: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/app-service/static/

Comparing The Options

Obviously, much more influences your decision besides free plan availability and pricing, right? So, how does one go about comparing static hosting solutions?

Well, there are two ways. You make the same applications/website on each solution and test them out, i.e., compare performance and build times results and packages and pricing (used and offered). I've found this post from Kev Quirk to be a great example of that approach.

The second way, if you don’t have time to go through the offerings page by page, utilize one of many available review/comparison pages. I am especially fond of Bejams comparison tool that allows you to pick and choose hosting providers for a complete features head-to-head comparison.

Bejams comparison tool

Static Pages and eCommerce

Wait, static pages for eCommerce? You have to be kidding. How do you handle the classic dynamic functionalities of an eCommerce website in modern-day static websites? I'm talking about the checkout process, cart setup, search functionalities, etc. Well, thanks to the capabilities of modern browsers and the power of API microservices, most of the limitations often associated with static websites can be easily overcome.

Take a search, for example. The growing API economy offers many options for your static website, with Algolia and ElasticSearch leading the way.

The second problem is build time. Modern approaches (like Jamstack) require you to re-build the whole website, however big or small the change you’ve made is. Basically, if you make a simple change to a single product of yours (like changing the price), you’ll have to re-build the whole website, which can be a problem for a website with thousands of pages.

This simply is not true anymore. For example, Gatsby (static site generator), since version 3 released Incremental Builds, i.e., the ability to rebuild only pages that are actually changed. Next.js has Incremental Static Regeneration (ISR) etc.

The old problems are being taken care of, and the rapidly evolving ecosystem and VC support aim to bring the static approach to web development of any kind to new heights.

One of the newest inventions in the static website space is the introduction of on-demand revalidation (in beta at the time of writing). With proper hooks from your eCommerce webhooks you can play with the Time to live (TTL) of the cache and dynamic triggering cache revalidation for a sound event-based eCommerce cache strategy - when the product information changes.

This means that you can generate a static page, let it live for a long time (cache time to live), and generate a new fast cached version when your pricing, stock, or product marketing copy changes. And all of these make your eCommerce static website possible, always fresh and super-fast.

Takeaway

It looks like I sidetracked a bit. So, static might be hyped right now, but with hosting solutions and CDNs becoming much more than just a place for your website, the future does seem bright for static. Don't get me started with Edge computing.

Which one is the best? Depends. It depends on their project tech stack, scale, and budget for most companies and businesses. I’d add a level of support in the free and paid tiers and the community engagement in the decision-making process as well. It’s not the same if you have a problem and have to wait for 24h before the support finally answers.

START building for FREE with Crystallize or schedule a 1-on-1 demo so we can show you how you can utilize the power of headless commerce on your preferred static host solution.