Finding a good host can be tricky – there seem to be a lot of great deals out there, but you never know whether they’ll deliver or not. In the past 16 months, I’ve used 4 different website hosts. I don’t have any qualms about switching hosts if their service is lacking. The price range is roughly the same, about $5-10/month, except for MediaTemple which was $20/mo.
Blogging systems like WordPress use a database to keep track of all the information. Every time someone goes to a page, the database is checked and the page is created on the spot. This requires the databases to be on fast servers – something that many budget website hosts don’t deliver. I’m glad to say that I found one host that costs less than $10/mo that does deliver (this site is hosted there).
A couple more things – all of these reviews are for Shared Hosting, where many websites are hosted on 1 server. This is why it’s so cheap, but it’s also the source of problems. If another site on the server is slowed by a lot of traffic, that will affect your site too. Basically – someone else having problems will result in you having issues too. A good host will be responsive to this and fix problems quickly.
Also, all of these hosts offer ridiculous amounts server space (how much room you have for your site) and bandwidth (how much data can be downloaded from your sites). It sounds like a lot, but it’s a practice called overselling, where they expect the average person to rarely use that much space & bandwidth. It makes their deals look better. It’s like inviting a bunch of 5 year olds to an all-you-can-eat pizza party – you tell them they can eat as many pies as they want, but you know that most won’t eat more than a couple of slices.
But all the space and bandwidth in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the sites are slow and unresponsive. Or if the host takes too long to respond to problems or service requests. Read on for some insight into 4 hosts that I’ve used extensively. (Note: websites involved ran on either WordPress or Drupal)
1and1 was my very first host, back when they started their crazy 3 years free hosting promotion. They are still cost-effective, offering plans ranging from $4/mo and up. They also do domain registrations, which is cheap ($7/yr) and convenient. Unfortunately, the performance of database-backed sites on their shared hosting is mediocre. Of the 4 hosts in the review, 1and1 is easily the slowest. Every site that I moved from 1and1 to another host immediately became snappier and more responsive, especially bigger and more intensive sites. Differences in speed were less noticeable on smaller blogs. Overall, I would not recommend 1and1 unless money was the #1 factor.
- Cheap – plans as low as $3/mo
- Cheap domain registration ($7/yr)
- Pathetic site speeds
- Administrative area (where you go to create email accounts & stuff) slow, clunky and not intuitive
- Response time to emails & service requests ranged from 6-24 hrs
- Mediocre help documentation
- No one-click blog installs
When I started a web design & development partnership with a friend, I could not recommend 1and1. We picked DreamHost (DH) because they seemed to be a great deal – tons of space & bandwidth for $10/mo. We were green and didn’t know about overselling. Their performance, in terms of site speed and responsiveness, was middle of the road. Nothing amazing or horrible. What killed them was the downtime, of which there was a LOT. Within 4 months we had to look for a new host. I hope they’ve improved since then, but I’m not interested in trying them again.
- Reasonable domain registration ($10/yr)
- Clean & well-organized administrative area
- Good help documentation
- Reasonable response time for emails & requests
- Claims to be green
- Offers free hosting for non-profits
- 1-click installs, including WordPress
- Excessive downtime
- Average site performance
MediaTemple (MT) were the step up from DreamHost, thanks to their GridServer. At the time, it was new & hot and, in their words,
replaces yesterday’s obsolete shared server technology. We’ve eliminated roadblocks and single points of failure by using hundreds of servers working in tandem for your site, applications, and email.
The gist is that instead of sites being hosted on one server, the load was spread out amongst multiple servers. Sounded like a smart solution, but did I mention that it was brand new? It wasn’t ready for prime time either. MT cost $20/mo, and for double the cost, I expected double the performance. Sadly, the performance was almost identical to DreamHost. Decent site speeds and excessive downtime. Again, they may have improved but I’ve found better hosting for less than $20/mo. On the plus side, their administrative are was purty, shiny and all Web 2.0-y. Recently, they offered a separate service to improve database performance – for an extra $20/$75/$150 a month!
- Fast responses to emails and requests, usually within 6-8 hours
- Offered free & helpful phone support
- Excellent help documentation (the best, actually)
- 1-click installs, including WordPress & Drupal
- The administrative area was REALLY attractive.
- Beautiful administrative areas don’t help sites run better or faster
- Site speeds were painfully average
- Excessive downtime
- Expensive upgrade for database performance
4. AN Hosting
After MT, I spent a lot more time reading hosting reviews. Trouble is, everyone seems to have different experiences with the same hosts. I read about DH customers who were thrilled and others who had experiences like me. So I looked for some more specific reviews. I noticed that my sites built on Drupal tended to always run slower than my WordPress sites. I assumed (correctly) that a host successfully running an intensive Drupal site would have no problems with WordPress blogs. That led me to ANHosting. Their price was right $6/mo (now $7/mo). A couple of the Drupal-based reviews noted significant performance boosts when sites were moved from other shared hosts. Since they offered a nice 30 day money-back guarantee, I took the plunge.
AnHosting has been quite the surprise. I doubt you can do better than the $7/mo Mega plan. Sites are snappy and responsive. Downtime is minimal. Response time to service requests is fast – and they offer phone support. And they offer Cpanel, a nice administrative interface, as well as a LOT of 1-click installs. I have no qualms recommending ANHosting. They’re cheap, fast and reliable and way better than anyone else in the price range.
- Sites are snappy and responsive – the performance alone is worth more than $7/mo
- Very fast responses to emails & other requests (often 2 hrs or less)
- Support by phone available
- Added an upgrade without charging (SSH)
- 1-click installs, including WordPress & Drupal
- Mediocre help documentation (practically non-existent)
- Some people don’t like that they are Russian
- Other people don’t like that they are owned by MidPhase
I recommend ANHosting first, followed by 1and1, Dreamhost and MediaTemple. ANHosting also has frequent promotions and it’s possible to get hosting with them for $5/mo. The price to performance ration with them is outstanding. 1and1 and Dreamhost are crapshoots, and MediaTemple’s performance may have caught up with its technology by now. It’s certainly possible to have good hosting experiences with any host, but the only I’ve had that I really feel confident about is ANHosting.