As the webmaster of a whole bunch of web sites, I have spent a lot of money on web hosting over the last few years. At its peak, I was paying about $400 in monthly hosting fees, including multiple dedicated servers and a remote site admin. However, while I’ve been busy working and making money, hosting costs have continued to become more competitive. Obviously, it would be pretty stupid of me to continue to pay that kind of money if I can get quality services more cheaply elsewhere. Hosting can be a many-faceted issue, depending on your needs. My needs are generally rather simple…but they are also fairly specific. Many of my sites are bandwidth-intensive, because of the large number which feature free, legal MP3 downloads. So I shop for deals…but balance that with my needs for features and quality service. I thought I would take this opportunity to share my experiences with you, in case you might find them helpful. But…these are only MY experiences. They are not a professional analysis of hosting by someone who checks out all the features. I am looking for reliability and a solid basic feature set…at a good price. There are certainly some amazing deals out there. But, are the companies reliable? To be clear, I can’t say that any of these companies will or won’t suck for you. What I’m relating here is my personal experience with them, in hopes that you won’t have to make the same expensive mistakes that I did.
HOSTING COMPANIES I RECOMMEND
HostGator – I’ve heard both pro and con about them in the past, but decided to give them a whirl myself. Interestingly, I had a problem right out of the gate with adding on domains (which is sort of funny for a company that advertises itself as the place to “host unlimited domains!”). However, they’ve got support via live chat, and a young lady named Jennifer was able to solve the problem in a few minutes. I currently have quite a few domains on a shared hosting account with them, and am very pleased.
Future Hosting – I have had a VPS with these folks for a few months now, and the overall experience has been quite good. I have had some sites hacked and they helped out during that time. Support has always been there when needed.
[Visit Future Hosting]
Acenet – I had past experience with these guys, and it was consistently pretty good…so when I was looking for the best shared hosting package I could find, I came back to give them another go. Their support department is extremely responsive via a trouble-ticket style system (I have seen response times within 2-3 minutes, which is exactly the way that such a system should be used…not as most companies use it…as a SHIELD to hide behind). At this time, all my very busiest sites are hosted with Acenet. On my second experience with them, I’ve really put them thru their paces (including one busy site, which received as many as 40K unique visitors a day). They are not cheap (about $15 a month), but I would describe them as prime quality shared hosting. Sometimes, you do get what you pay for. As you might imagine, I give them two thumbs up.
Hostmonster – One hosting package, $6.95 a month (2-year prepay…but still very reasonable!). Loads of disk space, 999 gigs of transfer bandwidth…and server-level spam filtering (specifically, Spam Assassin, which is what I have used with reasonable success via Cpanel in the past). With that one account, you can host unlimited domains…which is very nice. The control panel is laid out very nicely (you can see a demo on the site). Other than the desperate need for a “Force Add Domains” feature built into the control panel, I am pleased with their value and the timeliness of support. For a Shared Hosting arrangement, they’re pretty solid. If your domains are very busy…you can expect to get them switched off temporarily for consuming too many resources. But for an average web site, they do a fine job.
LiquidWeb – I was with these guys for a few months and was very impressed with them. Frankly, I only left because of a small issue of incompatibility with my particular needs for which I couldn’t find a workaround. What I have to say about them is that they provided the ABSOLUTE BEST customer service I have ever received from a hosting company. And, eventually this drew me back to them when my needs changed somewhat. I was with them again for a couple years until they tried to force me to upgrade to their Storm servers at twice the price. Still, a really good company overall.
NameCheap – I have nearly 100 domain names registered with these guys, so I have come to know them fairly well as a company. And when they ventured into hosting, I gave them a shot. They did a nice job for the time I was with them. Server speed and availability was good. And if I was looking for a great little shared host that would permit me to pay month-to-month, I’d have no hesitation to jump back in with them again. Their communication speed was fairly mediocre, but I believe they’ve beefed that up since I last hosted with them. And I’m a little uncomfortable having the same company handle both my domain registration needs and my hosting. But I doubt that would be an issue for most people.
HOSTING COMPANIES I DO NOT RECOMMEND
BlueHost – I have used BlueHost in the past and found them to be adequate. However, my most recent experience has turned me off from recommending them permanently. I signed up for them to host A SINGLE SITE…a 700-page WordPress site that averages less than 2000 visitors a day (not that heavy a load, really). The response time on the admin time of the blog was terrible. Completely nonfunctional using Internet Explorer, and about 15 seconds page load time on Firefox and Chrome (their tech support department said this falls within their range of acceptability). To me…this is completely unacceptable under any circumstances. I did inquire of the tech support person whether their “enhanced” shared hosting (an extra 10 bucks a month) would result in improved page load times for admin, and they said “probably”. Problem solved: I moved the site back to Hostgator…where it consistently works just fine. There’s no excuse for Bluehost’s policy here, and I can no longer recommend them.
IX Web Hosting – I was with them for a few months and was quite pleased…but eventually saw a serious decline in their customer serivce and quality of hosting. I was eventually forced to take my business elsewhere. And, more recently, a friend who was with him (at my recommendation) has been screwed over by them as well. Their biggest drawback is that they don’t offer Cpanel account management…but they’ve got some other signficant issues to resolve, and I can no longer recommend them.
[Visit IX Web Hosting]
Dreamhost – These guys are quite the odd bird in the hosting field. Employee-owned, heart out on their sleeves, gripes from customers are aired right out on the front page. Unless they REALLY suck as a company, you’ve got to give them credit, at the very least, for bravery! Their packages are amazing. I signed up for a great package called Code Monster…normally about $40 a month, but with a two-year prepay, I got in for $15.95 a month. This give me 400 gigs of disk space and 4 terabytes of bandwidth per month. Quite impressive. And, they offer a 97-day money-back guarantee. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the account for at least two days. Because they have been stuck with fraud, they are punishing me, the user…by making me fax them an impression of my credit card after completing the ecommerce credit card purchase…and then waiting til they can approve it by hand on the next business day (2 days, in this case). I’ve never been thru a situation like that before. And it’s not a great way to start a relationship…especially since they don’t warn you ahead of time. This is an area that deserves their attention. However, it wasn’t enough to scare me away. (update) Final determination…for my purposes, support is just too hard to reach. Account cancelled.
Media Temple’s Grid Server – A solid package for 20 bucks a month…somewhat less if you prepay. A sophisticated shared hosting arrangment that spreads the load in ways that give everyone the best possible server response time. 24/7 PHONE support is very nice. Their response to tickets isn’t quite as fast as live, but it’s not awful. Their admin section lacks a bit in terms of clear navigation, but it’s very nicely laid out. And the server speed when doing admin tasks is very sluggish, although they expect that to improve. These guys are getting the lion’s share of my business. The only downside to a service like this is that you really need to be handling all the site maintenance yourself unless you’re willing to hand out your master password to all your clients…which I’m not. UPDATE: As this company grew (obviously at a rate for which they were unprepared), they tried to keep up, but page load times and especially sluggish MySQL database response time finally drove me away. Account Cancelled. SECOND UPDATE: After my first poor experience, I tried them once again a second time because I had heard others liked them. But again, found the interface unwieldy and the database speed very sluggish. Account cancelled a second time.
[Visit Media Temple]
LunarPages – I signed up for a two-year deal with these guys. Very attractive price point for the disk space and bandwidth. Unfortunately, someone on their staff took it upon themselves to “go all cowboy” on some of my biggest and most important sites. They were pulled offline at critical times and left that way FOR DAYS without any notice to me…costing me hundreds of dollars (more than I’d paid for the hosting in the first place). I attempted to contact the head of company or someone above the level of the Average Joe about the situation, but my little shared hosting account apparently wasn’t worth their time. Very disappointing. Account cancelled (although I still had more than a year left on my contract). I would never do business with this company again).
HostPapa – They appear to be a well-established company…based in Canada, I believe. I signed up for them to host just two domains. However, in the first 40 days, I had two major problems…one with FTP uploading because of clearly overtaxed servers (unable to load more than a few files over a period of several hours). The second issue was page-loading time. This was not always a problem with page-serving, but when I see a simple page with little-to-no graphics taking 5 seconds to load, there’s clearly an issue with quality. After my first unsatisfactory experience with the service reps, I decided not to bother with the second issue…and instead, cancelled my account (too late to receive a refund…so it was an extra painful experience). No way to know without more extensive testing, but they certainly seemed to be the poster children for oversold servers.
JustHost – Another disappointing experience. Two arrogant, unhelpful reps in their service department drove me away within the first day. The tech support seemed to be “farmed out” overseas, although I can’t be sure. I don’t know anything more about the company. The prices were excellent for the packages they offer. They may well be a decent company, but they blew it with me.
NOTE: Yes, you’ll find my affiliate code in some of the links above (whether or not I’ve recommended the host)…so I stand to profit somewhat if you sign up for service thru my affiliate links. But these are my honest opinions, and I hope you find them helpful. I am a busy webmaster, and it cost me a fair chunk of change and a lot of angst and wasted hours to form those opinions.