WordPress Hosting Review

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)
  • Hosting
    Plans

  • Based on 1 year$ / Month
  • How many sites you can host.# of domains
  • Phone Support
  • The standard in control panels. Your webmaster will most likely be familiar with it.cPanel
  • Low-tech, small sample size testing!Uptime*
  • HostGator

    Eating Up the Competition
  • $3.96

  • unlimited for $6.961
  • yes
  • yes
  • 99.2%
  • BlueHost

    Solid Contender
  • $6.95

  • unlimited
  • yes
  • yes
  • 98.9%
  • DreamHost

    Fanatical Fanbase
  • $8.95

  • unlimited
  • no
  • no
  • 99.3%
  • GoDaddy

    Luck of the Draw
  • $4.99

  • 1
  • yes
  • no
  • 94.0%
  • Surpass

    Works for Me
  • $6.00

  • 10
  • no
  • yes
  • 97.4%
  • page.ly

    Managed Hosting
  • $19.95

  • 1
  • no
  • no
  • ?
  • Synthesis

    Backed by CopyBlogger
  • $27.00

  • 1
  • no
  • no
  • ?

HostGator

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).

Move to HostGator Decreases Load Time for likoma.com by half

BlueHost

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

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

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

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.

Surpass

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.

Synthesis

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.

25 Responses to WordPress Hosting Review

  1. Israel Leichtman February 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    I host my websited on fatcow. I get to host unlimited domains and subdomains. Their phone support is superb. WordPress installs very very easily. Now, let me clarify that FatCow does not provide totally uninterrupted uptime. I will be lying if I claim as such. But what is most impressive is that FatCow is guaranteeing a 99.9% uptime!

    • Bradley Charbonneau February 6, 2012 at 8:12 am #

      Thanks for writing, Israel. Fatcow has been around for ages, good to hear they’re providing great service and support.

  2. Steve February 7, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    Bradley,
    Very good article, thanks. I’m a newcomer to WP – started with several sites at GoDaddy but I’m in the process of moving them. I have moved about half of them to BlueHost, and plan to move the other half to Hostgator. So far Bluehost has been fine, but that story you mentioned certainly doesn’t help me feel very confident.
    Anyway, thanks for the good info. I’m always on the look out for helpful information like this.
    Best of luck,
    Steve
    Steve recently posted … Dog Food

    • Bradley Charbonneau February 7, 2012 at 7:57 am #

      Thanks for writing, Steve. The story about BlueHost is probably repeated at other hosts, it’s just that it didn’t happen directly to a client of mine. The safe path is, of course, to keep regular WordPress backups with a service like BackupBuddy.

    • gabe March 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      Bluehost also lost all of my files, I’m guessing at the same time as the woman mentioned above. I had over 24 sites, ranging from full production sites to little experiments, hosted on bluehost. Many of them were backed up on my end, many of them were not. All of theme were backed up using Bluehost’s backup system, which stores a compressed copy of your server files in a separate location… or so I was told. When I asked Bluehost to restore from the most recent backup, they told me they had also lost those.
      That happened in October, 2011. I am still picking up the pieces. Many of them are lost forever, so many 1′s and 0′s gone to the great server in the sky…
      Bottom line is, you need to either store all your server files locally, or pay a professional backup service SEPARATE from your hosting provider. I recommend VaultPress. I had two clients using vaultpress when Bluehost lost my files, and they had them both back up that morning. That said, I don’t recommend Bluehost. at all. And no matter how good a host is, no matter how redundant, you should always factor in the cost of a professional (and separate) backup system.

      • Bradley Charbonneau March 7, 2012 at 5:11 am #

        Hey Gabe, Thanks for stopping by. Man, sounds like BlueHost had a bit of a falling apart party in October 2011. Who knows when that kind of thing is going to happen. Lots of my client’s files are gone forever and she was a photographer and had zillions of photos up there, of course (site was built in Joomla and I don’t know Joomla so well–or their backup plugins).

        Good recommendation for VaultPress there, thanks for sharing.

  3. tim February 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    very nice post here in fact really good! There very little valid research on hosting companies.

    Can you tell me if those table/chat are plugins?

    Also can you tell what plugin the social module on the left is?
    tim recently posted … Puerto Vallarta, Street signage, typography, and hieroglyphics

  4. Ali S February 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Great article, Bradley, and the graph in particular is super useful! Kinda stunned that it’s merely the work of a plugin!

    I’ll add my own host, hostmonster.com, to your mix – I’ve been using them for several years, and have had great experience; the thing that impresses me most is that one the few occassions when I’ve needed to contact support (rarely due to a problem, I typically only call w/’how-to’ questions), I always get a live person within 2-3 minutes, tops. Too, their pricing is between hostgator and bluehost, so surprisingly cheap. Domains are unlimitied, iirc, but I’m not sure of their uptime stats.

    • Bradley Charbonneau February 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Ali. Thanks for the mention of HostMonster, too. It’s great to have the “real world” experiences in here from experienced users to give the real story–and not just a bunch of rants about what a terrible company XYZ is because blah blah blah.

  5. Nigel Minchin February 18, 2012 at 3:37 am #

    Great article. I too have used several hosting providers and godaddy is the worst for site speed, which is pretty crucial! Most shared hosting is likely to suffer server overload at times. I have a VPS solution that I use for ecommerce and larger WP sites. Must try host gator….
    Nigel Minchin recently posted … Google adds a personal touch to search results

  6. Dijin May 21, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Extreamly good and use full information.Hosting critera table is awesome and easy to compre between, anyway thank you for your great effort .
    Dijin recently posted … Top 5 Content Management Systems for eCommerce

  7. Bob Williamson January 27, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    Hi!
    I think you can add a few more companies in your list. For example you can add a reliable Swiss company.
    http://swisshosters.com – Swisshosters (google it).
    They have both dedicated and cloud servers. All of them are protected from DDoS attacks. Their support is 24/7. They have 99.9% uptime.

    • Bradley Charbonneau January 28, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      Thanks, Bob! Always great to get a real-life recommendation on a solid host.

  8. Janet Ridinger March 27, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    yeah, hostgator is a great hosting I wouldn’t use any other else
    Janet Ridinger recently posted … operante opinie

  9. Neq3 Hosting July 27, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    Hey, thanks for this post it was useful.
    Neq3 Hosting recently posted … Neq3 Premium Hosting Review

  10. Silvio July 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    Of all these Bluehost is best – I have used it in many of my sites and found them to be trustworthy. Well researched article and good info throughout
    Silvio recently posted … Vendors: Definition, Advantages and Disadvantages

  11. Sleeva Jackson August 6, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    Hosting services are back bone for any type of websites, so for every business owner should take care in choosing the right and perfect hosting services. The above charts are more helpful in pick up the reliable hosting services.

  12. Susan Taunton August 7, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    I had a client on Dreamhost whose site went down while we were making changes to her account. I tried to communicate this crisis to Dreamhost via urgent messages – since there is no phone. We only got back the usual auto message saying Dreamhost would reply within 24 hours. AND THEN we did not even get a reply for about 36 hours. I immediately began the process of moving all my sites as well as my client’s to a different host. A host that does not kick in to provide emergency care when a site is down has failed the big test in my book. I moved the sites over to webhostinghub.com because i had found good reviews about them, and i like that they use green energy (not sure what that really means though!). This was about 8 months ago (it’s now August 2013). Their name is a bit of a mouthful, i.e., they could use a branding tip or two, but other than that it’s been smooth sailing since the move.

    • Bradley Charbonneau September 23, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      How can a hosting company have no way to get in touch with them quickly? Ouch. Thanks for the comment, Susan.

  13. Ann Mehrman September 6, 2013 at 1:47 am #

    I am working on changing over to WordPress for my website and have been using Network Solutions for almost 8 years now. They have always been there when I needed them for customer service and seem to be on top of any security issues. They don’t rate in the popularity contests when lists are made. Am I missing something?

    • Bradley Charbonneau September 23, 2013 at 9:44 am #

      “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If they’re doing a good job for you, Ann, stick with them. Network Solutions was one of the first kids on the block and they are still a good domain registrar, but I’ve found their hosting environment not as standard as others (e.g. cPanel). But again, if it’s working for you, great to hear it. Thanks, Ann!

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