Web Hosting Review: So Just Who is the Best?

There are hundreds of thousands of web hosts out there and choosing just one is no easy task.

So to help you get your head around what’s out there, we posted comprehensive reviews of five of the most popular web hosts – Page.ly, Bluehost, Go Daddy, DreamHost and WP Engine – over the past two weeks. The reviews investigated each of the web host’s features, usability, speed and reliability, cost and support to help you decide which host would best suit you.

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To look back at the reviews in this series:

The reviews have certainly generated a lot of discussion in the comments on each review and on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to everyone who has left comments about their experiences with each host on each of the reviews. While I would loved to have reviewed each company over several months with a huge, resource-intensive site to really put the hosts through their paces, it just wasn’t possible. Comments and feedback, particularly from readers who have held accounts with the hosts for a long period of time, have given fellow readers better insight into what to expect when signing up with each host.

So without further ado, the final results!

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Cost

Web hosting review price ratings

Winner: Bluehost

Loser: WP Engine

No surprises here. Bluehost’s plans are dirt cheap, but at the end of the day you get what you pay for.

Of all the hosts I reviewed, Bluehost’s Shared, Dedicated and VPS hosting plans were the least expensive, with Shared plans starting at just $4.95 a month. Go Daddy’s cheap as chips plans weren’t too far behind, though the company’s VPS and Dedicated Server plans were pricier.

At the other end of the scale, WP Engine was the most expensive at $29 a month for a basic Pesonal plan and just one WordPress install.

As hosting plans get cheaper and cheaper with supposedly unlimited features, it makes you wonder: how low can they go?

Features

Web hosting review feature

Winner: WP Engine

Loser: Page.ly

WP Engine easy beat its competitors for the top spot with its feature-rich plans, which include WordPress-specific support, hacks fixed for free, one-click backup and restore, staging area and bundled CDN.

The fact is, though, that you pay a pretty penny for the privilege of having these features.

Page.ly came in last. While the host does offer fantastic security through FireHost, automatic nightly backups and WordPress-specific support, I rated other hosts higher for maintaining their own hardware and security.

Usability

Web hosting review usabilty

Winner: Page.ly

Loser: Go Daddy

Page.ly hosting is super easy to use, from signing up for an account on the website to logging into the Atomic Core in your WordPress admin panel to checking your support tickets. The Atomic Core definitely wins brownie points for its convenience in the admin panel.

Also, the fact Page.ly is a managed host makes the company’s services all the more easy to use because there isn’t much you need to manage – Page.ly does it all for you.

Go Daddy lost points for asking for personal details – copies of passport and credit card – when signing up.

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Customer Service

Web hosting review customer service

Winners: Page.ly and Go Daddy

Losers: Bluehost, DreamHost and WP Engine

With so many web hosts now offering cheap hosting plans with a decent range of features, support has become a make or break feature for many users who now expect 24/7 customer service.

While Page.ly has limited support hours during Pacific Standard Time, I found their support team fast, polite and detailed in their responses, ensuring my support tickets were resolved quickly and to my satisfaction.

Go Daddy was also quick to respond to my support requests. While many users have reported issues with the host’s customer service, I found their team informative and detailed in their replies to my emails.

Of the losers, I must admit WP Engine didn’t give me the run around like Bluehost and DreamHost. I was frustrated that WP Engine support tickets were closed so quickly, particularly as I’m based in a timezone outside the United States. In the WP Engine review, the company’s co-founder Ben Metcalfe commented that a new person is now being added to the support team each week, which should make support much faster.

Speed

Web hosting review speed

Winners: Page.ly and WP Engine

Loser: Bluehost

Page.ly led the charge with its blazingly fast response times, but WP Engine wasn’t far behind with its solid uptime results.

Load time is a major contributing factor to page abandonment. According to Kissmetrics, the average user doesn’t have the patience to stick around when a site is taking too long to load, meaning loading time can affect your bottom line. A total of 47 per cent of customers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. 40 per cent abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Even just a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7 per cent reduction in conversions. So for an e-commerce site making $100,000 a day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales each year.

Bluehost was the slowest of the bunch and my test site experienced unexplained outages. If you’re running an e-commerce site you might not want to register with Bluehost.

Overall Winner

Web hosting review overall ratings

And the winner is… Page.ly!

Page.ly offers a consistent managed hosting service that takes the hassle out of running a WordPress website.

Despite the company’s its teeny tiny support team of just two people and their limited opening hours, tickets are resolved quickly.

I was impressed with Page.ly’s speed and ease of use. Of all the hosts I reviewed, Page.ly was the the most pleasant hosting company I dealt with. It’s their personable and friendly approach that sets them apart from the hosting corporate giants that treat customers like numbers.

Bluehost goes home with the wooden spoon, scoring below par for each of our review criteria, other than price.

In the end it was a close race. While some hosts excelled in areas like speed and customer service, others offers better features or cheaper prices.

WordPress.org recommends three hosts – Bluehost, DreamHost and Laughing Squid – but it’s best to be mindful when signing up for plans with these companies that their listing is completely arbitrary and includes an interesting array of criteria: contributions to WordPress.org, size of customer base, ease of WordPress auto-install and auto-upgrades, bundling “sane” themes and plugins, avoiding GPL violations, design, tone, presence in forums, historical perception, using the correct logo, capitalizing WordPress correctly, not blaming WordPress.org for security issues and having up-to-date system software.

Summing up, there are many factors to consider when looking for a web host, such as cost, features, usability, customer service and speed,and while this review did pick a winner, it’s always best to decide what you need from a host before committing to a hosting plan. If you have multiple resource-intensive websites, you might not want to go for Bluehost. On the other hand, Go Daddy would do you just fine if you’ve got a popular blog with low traffic, of if you’re after a Managed WordPress solution then you might want to check out Page.ly or WP Engine.

Is Page.ly a deserving winner? Which web hosts do you hate/rate? Have your say in the comments below.

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Comments (264)

  1. Most of the individual reviews/comments can be considered anecdotal. Some users have a good experience while others have a bad experience with the same hoster. These differences could be attributed to the host server configuration, WordPress content, plugins and database size. WP dashboard operations and responsiveness is another feature that my clients have complained about as site content grows.

    While the original post aimed to “measure” several key hosting features, I wish that it included a description of the server and WordPress content/database in each case. Perhaps some sort of benchmark suite could have provided a “standard” measurement that addresses those key WP site features. Unfortunately, most PHP/MySql benchmarks require root permissions to install.

  2. Does anyone have experience with wpwebhost.com?

    Just curious. I am looking to switch to a new host. Currently I maintain 40+ sites, some wordpress, some not. None of the sites are extremely high traffic, with most averaging <10,000 per month. I am looking for more of a managed solution, where I don't have to maintain the server, though I don't mind updating wordpress and the plug-ins, and actually prefer it that way. Also, hosting email needs to be an option.

    Currently, I am looking at WPwebHost, Rackspace, KnownHost, LiquidWeb and WiredTree.

    Let me know if you guys have any suggestions. I very much appreciate it!

  3. This is anecdotal re: LiquidWeb, but I think it’s still worth telling:
    After the Great Bluehost/Hostgator Blackout of a few weeks ago, I moved two clients to LiquidWeb, because they demanded to be moved somewhere. Then yesterday, in the middle of the day, the shared LiquidWeb server both of these clients is housed on went down due to a hard drive failure. They were down for ~3 hours in the middle of the day. After the server came back up, the DBs were still down, so WordPress could not function.
    I also had trouble with LiquidWeb’s free account transfer service. The first account they moved had configuration problems — something about the way they moved over the existing WP installs messed up the LiquidWeb dashboard, and I couldn’t use FTP or basically do anything until they fixed it. Then on the 2nd move, I warned them in great detail what went wrong the first time, asked the tech to talk to the first tech, etc, and exactly the same thing happened. I could not set up email, because it turned out they had been blacklisted due to a current client on the shared server engaging in spam-like activity. They didn’t know that until I reported a problem.
    Their techs are available, polite, communicate well, responsive. But I have experienced a lot of technical problems in 2 weeks with them. Should a hard drive unit in a RAID bank take down an entire shared server? Should they know when their email services have been blacklisted? I don’t know, but I was told they were better than bluehost, and I never had such issues at bluehost (again, anecdotal). So I opened test accounts at A2 and InMotion. I may not move any more clients to LiquidWeb. We’ll see…

  4. @lbdesign – isn’t that amazing… I am so sorry to hear of your experience with Liquid Web – I hired them almost 5 years ago when shared, even “vps” hosting was so over sold my ecommerce sites were painfully slow. Of course, I pay a premium for my managed dedicated server but I could not be happier. That being said, I agree with you – each person has a different experience. I think also, each of these companies experiences growing pains, they are good – great (i.e. hostgator) so they get more and more customers and then they have a hard time meeting the needs.

    I had to go through an IP migration (I guess it’s related to the IPv4 thing) and it was not easy but I had very little down time and these guys stayed on with me until it was all figured out.

    All of that said I have noticed that with their growth they have on occasion brought in a newbie that really wasn’t a good fit – they have to be smart and patient and able to work with a huge variety of personality types. I don’t consider myself an expert (nor do I want to be) on server technology so when I get someone that doesn’t know as much as me I get a little frustrated but if I ask for someone else it usually works out ok.

    It is not “really” their responsibility to know my software – but I am amazed at how many times they have helped me troubleshoot (inevitably my bad!).

    Anyway, I hope you have a better experience with them moving forward.

  5. Thank you @coburnenterprises
    I do want to be fair and communicate they have been really nice to work with, and I agree that they never say “this goes beyond basic server support”. I’ve got one VPS with them as well, and that has gone better, though not perfectly. They do get extra points for how helpful they are.
    And I agree that there can be a lifecycle to any host: excellence, followed by growing pains, that may result in worsening experience. Or not, depending on how they handle themselves.

  6. I currently have a vps, scalable, fast and dedicated with ease of adding more resource, ip’s etc in seconds, cannot recommend it highly enough as a great second to a dedicated server. I am UK based and use Heart Internet for any UK guys, also would recommend UK Fast for people wanting a dedicated solution, personal service and quality.

  7. I’d just like to put my 2 cents in requesting reviews of hosting solutions that are more in the $20-$30/mo range that will host several WP sites as well as WPMU.

    Page.ly is just ridiculously expensive. WP Engine is a BIT better, but they don’t include email… and still too expensive.

    Right now, I’m using Bluehost. Lots of outages. Lots of emails not not through. Sloooooooow. My clients aren’t happy. When I suggested a $99/mo host, though, they were all “I’ll just stick with Bluehost” heh.

    I’m especially curious about Wiredtree and AECNU.

    The ones reviewed here are either $4/mo and crappy or $100+ and amazing.

  8. Web site for a business is much more important today for a business than most other tools and assets. I think investing $30 or 40/mo. for this important asset is very reasonable.

  9. I believe that most of the reviews here were for ‘shared’ hosting services. The next step up is VPS and then dedicated servers.

    A quick look at Dreamhost VPS shows a $15-200/mo plan. Although I’m unfamiliar with their VPS RAM pricing model – how would one determine RAM needs?

  10. If one stays with a low-cost ‘shared’ service, consider the MySQL-Optimized Database option to provide an incremental performance improvement. This option is typically implemented through a dedicated MySql server and pricing averages $0.05/MB/mo. Does anyone have any experience with this type of add-on?

  11. This was a really helpful post. I appreciate the in-depth breakdown of each of these companies. It would be nice if you took it even another level further and added more hosting companies to the mix. I would be really interested to see how Media Temple and Nexcess stack up.

  12. Hi,

    Great post, but why so few hosting services were reviewed ?

    Would be great if you also would have considered WPwebhost.com and wpoven.com. These are hosting also could have been really good competitors.

    Keep the great articles coming.

    Thanks

  13. Did page.ly have a big price increase since this review?

    $24/month for a single site doesn’t seem to put them anywhere near the price range of others like godaddy from the list tested

    Disclaimer:
    Not that I would use Godaddy

    ever

    again…

    …okokok… unless I was paid a ridiculously high fee, such as much as Van Damme was, to do their commercials.

    Hey! Don’t look at me with that you-can-be-bought-look… I have 4 kids to feed :P

  14. I would suggest trying out Arvixe. Priced well and the shared regular and pro accounts are good. Tech support is real live people 24/7 and they really do go the distance to solve the problem. Priced the same or cheaper than Bluehost (which is now owned by web.com, just like GoDaddy and several other hosting companies they recently purchased).

    GoDaddy sucks big time for service and support although they did finally enter the 21st century by offering cPanel instead of that piece of crap custom control panel!

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