I’ve built over 300 WordPress sites and I have used all kinds of hosting companies over the past 10 years or so. In this WordPress hosting review, I will use my experience to show you the pros and cons of these hosting companies.
One rule I’ve found with hosting is that it doesn’t play by the rules. For the most part, again, in my experience, it’s not necessarily “You get what you pay for.” I’ve seen $4.99 starter hosting packages blow away $30 semi-dedicated servers. I’ve spent hours trying to fix a hosting solution to find that a simple fix in an htaccess file solved it all. Max upload size changes in 3 files to finally get (close to) the desired result. It’s a jungle out there.
With hosting, it’s not You Get What You Pay For.
I have my opinions and I won’t hold back. I don’t want you to host with an unreliable host because, especially if you’re my client, I’m the one who’s going to get the phone call. I don’t want your site to go down as much as I don’t want my own site to go down. We all want the same thing: speed, reliability, and ease of use. But then we get into other questions:
- Do they have an 800#? Or ANY number? Some hosts only have chat or forums.
- Is the help desk local? Or at least understandable? Knowledgeable?
- Can you browse their help forums? This can be a good way to see, for example, how many people are complaining in the My Site is Down forum.
Here’s a table with some of the basic hosting criteria, but also some other factors (e.g. cPanel) that you may not normally consider. I’m going to assume certain things that I won’t put into the table. For example:
- Unlimited server space (or at least lots)
- Unlimited bandwidth
- 99% uptime (they’re all going to at least “say” this anyway)
HostGatorEating Up the Competition
GoDaddyLuck of the Draw
SurpassWorks for Me
SynthesisBacked by CopyBlogger
HostGator has been the clear leader for WordPress hosting for the past few years for Likoma. We have loads of sites hosted there, have reseller accounts there and have been more than pleased. Fast, reliable servers and good support. That’s about all you need, right? I moved my own site (likoma.com) to HostGator in March of 2011. Here’s a graph from Pingdom showing the drop in load time (it’s in the middle of the graph).
BlueHost has been a solid name in WordPress hosting for years. But in 2011, again, just in my experience, they ran into some troubles. A handful of my clients said their sites were running slow or even not accessible. But the kicker was when a client found all of her sites down, contacted BlueHost and they basically told her, “Sorry, we lost all of your files.” Sucker punch. That was pretty much the clincher for me. Sure, I bet other company lose files, too, but you’d think they’d have some sort of backup. Yes, of course, we’re all backing up all of our files on a regular basis, so that wouldn’t happen to us … but just in case. I think even GoDaddy has some sort of $150 “we’ll get your deleted files back” deal. She would have happily paid $150 to get her three sites–and years of work–back in some form. In the end, they did have the databases, so at least that was some content, but she’s a photographer, all of the photos were gone.
DreamHost has a fanatical fan base, but my main issue is their control panel. I just can’t seem to make it do what I want it to do. For example, pretty easy–and important–but backup. I can’t figure out a way to do a backup of all of the files on the site. Their fans do talk about SSH connections, but I don’t use that much, so I don’t miss it when I don’t have it. From experience, I’ve had them switch some DNS info and didn’t tell my client so his site was down. Granted, they might have posted it or even emailed it, but as often happens, my client didn’t know until his site was down and I didn’t know until my client told me–in a panic. It’s just not great policy to go changing DNS. It’s almost like the post office saying, “We’re changing zip codes, so your mail might not arrive. Ever. Again.”
I also wish they had a phone. Any number, I’ll pay the big bucks to call, but no, no phone number anywhere. If they had cPanel, I wouldn’t need a phone number, but they have their own nightmare panel, so I’d love to have a phone number so someone could explain how to do the simplest things.
GoDaddy hosting for WordPress is, as far as my years of experience goes, hit or miss. It’s truly the luck of the draw or maybe better, the luck of the server. I have some sites hosted there and they run fine, relatively fast, and seem stable. Other sites are unbearably slow. Broken slow. One trick I’ve learned is that, at least as far as I understand how their hosting works, if you just delete your WordPress database and then re-create it, it will then be hosted on a new SQL server and chances are good that it will be an improvement. I’ve read that your files and your database are not on the same machine, so that’s why your files might upload just fine, but WordPress can’t talk to the SQL server fast enough so your WP site suffers. An HTML site might run speedy, but your content management system site can drag along with a ball and chain.
Page.ly has a different approach than most Do It Yourself hosting companies: they’ll completely manage your WordPress site. They’ll back it up, upgrade WordPress core files, themes and plugins. Keeping core, theme, and plugins up to date is going to be one of the best tools to keep your site safe and secure, so that’s a plus right there. They’re not cheap, but if your site is your day job, it’s probably a small price to pay to make sure it’s loading fast and reliably present.
It’s not one of the big names, but Surpass Hosting does a good job of hosting. Been reliable, good prices, about medium speed using my oh-so-not technical testing methods (i.e. off the top of my head). But hey, that’s what makes it, right? If they were terrible, I would have remembered that. If they’re doing their job, they’re not, well, memorable.
I have zero experience with Synthesis, but wanted to put them up here as an example of a new hosting company from a very reputable WordPress shop: StudioPress. It’s also managed hosting, but supported by the folks who created the Genesis Framework. If you have a site built with Genesis and you’d like to have it hosted by the same crew, Synthesis might be your best bet. Again, it’s managed hosting, so it’s going to be pricier, but that price gets you peace of mind.