Web hosting is at the heart of a lot of what we talk about on this site. As such, we’ve been reviewing hosting platforms for years. For this review, we compiled 105 pages of research to support what we’ve learned through first-hand experience. After rigorous testing, we selected Hostinger as the best hosting service for most. It’s dead simple to set up and so affordable you almost feel bad getting so much for so little.
The Best Web Hosting Services for Most
Hostinger is the most affordable option on our list and one of the easiest hosts to get started with. Plans start at just $1.99 per month if you sign up for four years in advance—meaning it costs less than $100 to not have to worry about a hosting bill for four years. But don’t let its cheap price tag fool you—Hostinger sure doesn’t feel like cheap hosting.
The entry-level plan includes one-click WordPress installation, step-by-step instructions for setting up your site, and a custom dashboard for managing it. Friendly 24/7 live chat support is there to give you personalized help along the way. You get everything you need to start a new website for less than the price of a cup of coffee each month.
The 8 Best Web Hosting Options to Consider:
- Hostinger – Best web hosting for most
- SiteGround – Best for keeping uptime above 99.99%
- HostGator – Best for scaling your small business easily
- DreamHost – Best pay-as-you-go web hosting
- Bluehost – Best drag-and-drop page builder for beginners
- InMotion Hosting – Best price for hosting two websites on one plan
- Nexcess – Best for experienced WordPress users
- A2 Hosting – Most dependable web hosting for European and Asian audiences
When it Makes Sense to Invest In Web Hosting Services
If you want to build a website, you need web hosting—you can’t have a website without a host powering it behind the scenes.
But not all hosts are created equal. Some excel at customer service, others are lightning-fast, some let you host multiple websites for just a few dollars a month, and others offer rock-bottom pricing.
The right one for you depends on what you want.
Maybe you’re building a home on the web for your company from scratch and you need a hosting provider that makes it as easy as possible to set everything up.
Or you may already have a website and want to switch hosting providers if you’re unhappy with your site’s performance or are tired of suffering through poor customer support. It also makes sense if you’re looking for new features your current provider doesn’t offer.
If you’re looking for the right host but haven’t yet made a final decision, this post offers factual, experience-based data and insight from researchers who’ve tested the products inside and out to help you make the right choice.
#1 – Hostinger — The Best Web Hosting for Most
Overall Score: 3.9 out of 5
Do you want to blend hosting that’s easy to use and costs barely anything?
If so, Hostinger is the best choice.
They’re ridiculously affordable, keeping your budget on the straight and narrow. And they give you everything you need to launch your website fast.
In comparison to the other hosts, they lack a few premier features. But you don’t sacrifice the essentials or quality where it counts.
Here’s how Hostinger ranks in our five scoring categories:
- Ease of Use = 5/5
- Uptime = 1/5
- Speed = 3/5
- Price = 5/5
- Customer Support = 2.67/5
Ease of Use: 5/5 – Signing up for web hosting used to be filled with difficult steps to navigate.
You normally get bombarded with all types of extra features and upsells you’re not sure you need.
But Hostinger is different. They didn’t cause any of that anxiety.
The signup process is clear. And once you’ve selected your plan and made your payment, it’s smooth sailing.
There’s no guessing where to go, what button to click, or what you have to do next. There’s zero confusion.
Once you get to the setup wizard, simply press “Start Now” at the bottom and you’re on your way. Just follow the step-by-step guide and answer a few simple questions.
If you can’t finish the setup right now, Hostinger makes it easy to do later. You receive welcome emails that outline all of the steps you’ll need to go through next.
When you click any of the links in the email, you’re taken back to the screen above. All links point to the same place—one single source of truth. Easy.
Once you start your setup, you’re asked about what type of site you’re creating, the name of your website, and whether or not you want to use an existing domain or register a new one.
Next, confirm if you want to start a new website from scratch or if you want to migrate an existing website. Then, you’ll pick the content management system (CMS) you’ll use.
We recommend WordPress since Hostinger offers features specific to WordPress websites that improve security and speed, like automatic updates and caching plugins.
If you go with WordPress, it’s at this stage that you’ll pick your site theme.
After that, you’ll receive name server info—if you’re using an existing domain name—and easy-to-read instructions to point your domain towards your new site if you’re starting from scratch.
Then you’re done.
The entire process takes a few minutes.
By the time you’re done answering all of the questions and following the steps, you have a content management system in place, a theme installed, and your domain set up with basic site settings configured.
In our experience, this was one of the easiest web host setups.
If this is your first time, no worries. Anyone can do it, even if you’re not tech-savvy.
Uptime: 1/5 – For website availability, Hostinger doesn’t shine the brightest.
Online, they claim 99.99%.
But during our 30-day test, their uptime only reached 99.68%. A little less than what they claim on their website, but enough that the actual amount of downtime is concerning.
See the test results below:
The image above shows the key numbers about our Hostinger site’s availability for 30 days. It wasn’t viewable for a total of two hours and 22 minutes during the month.
And there were 58 incidents in total, all connection timeouts that lasted anywhere from a few seconds to a max of 30 minutes.
This happens when a website is trying to use more resources than are available from the server, resulting in your browser not being able to load the site at all.
This can cause visitors to scratch their heads wondering where your site is and move on to a competitor.
The high number of incidents likely means that there’s either a site on the same server that’s sucking up resources or there are way too many sites on the same server pulling from the same pool of resources.
This is a common problem with shared web hosting. But when it’s this bad, it can cost you who knows how much money or missed subscribers.
Our testing shows Hostinger has plenty of room for improvement in this category.
Speed: 3/5 – When your website is slow, it can ruin the user experience and even drive visitors away.
With so many hosting providers claiming to be fast, how do you really know whether they deliver the speed they promise?
So we tested Hostinger for 30 days and put their speed to the test.
Here’s what we found:
The average response time over 30 days was 670 milliseconds, coming in slightly better than average.
The image above also shows traffic spikes that occasionally suppress the load time to 1.5 seconds. Another thing to point out is the maximum time for loading data in a single instance.
At one point, loading our site took over 27 seconds. This is a terrible load time maximum. Luckily it’s not the norm, but it is something to be aware of.
But, for the price you pay, Hostinger’s average load time is good enough.
Their server infrastructure is equipped with premium SSD storage, which provides faster page load times for the websites hosted by them.
They also have even more speed-related tech that makes your site faster:
Seven global data centers are located in the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, Netherlands, Singapore, Indonesia, and Lithuania, this allows you to choose the data center closest to your visitors, reducing load times by closing the physical distance between them and the server hosting your site.
The LiteSpeed Caching plugin for WordPress delivers customizable server-level caching, image optimization, lazy image loading, and database optimization to further speed up load times. And it comes pre-installed, so your site is optimized from day one.
With these features from Hostinger, you can be sure your site visitors will have an optimal browsing experience without any delays or lags whatsoever.
Pricing: 5/5 – If you’re on a tight budget, Hostinger is the cheapest way to get everything you need.
When you get started, the first year of hosting is $3.49 per month, equaling $41.88.
If you don’t have a domain it will cost you an extra $8.99 for the year—significantly cheaper than what other providers charge for domains. And, for another $5, you can protect your identity from dangerous hackers and scammers with domain privacy.
You also get email included for free every year. This brings your total cost to $55.87 for the first year of Hostinger service.
Your renewal rate is $5.99 per month, while your domain renewal price stays put, resulting in a total second-year cost of $80.87.
So, for two full years of hosting, the total price is $136.74. That’s well below the average two-year cost across all hosts we tested of $246.71.
Want more savings? You get even better pricing by signing up for four years in advance at just $1.99 per month.
That’s $95.52 for four years of hosting.
After the first four years on this plan, your monthly rate goes up to $3.99 per month, so Hostinger stays awfully affordable for the long haul.
Customer Support: 2.67/5 – Do you want a service team that pays close attention to your needs and solves your problem every time?
In our experience, Hostinger can be that support team.
The problem is, they’re slow. Really slow.
They will solve your problem and be friendly while doing it. But you’re going to wait around for a while.
In our first chat, we asked about what security features Hostinger offered that could make our site more secure.
It took 16 minutes to get help. The rep sent us detailed instructions on how to enable Patchstack for security, then sent a screenshot of where to find everything in our dashboard.
See our chat below:
The chat itself was quick—after waiting over a quarter-hour for a response—and the support rep was very friendly.
We loved that there was a screenshot with immediate action we could take right away without having to pay for anything.
And they didn’t try to upsell us.
In our second chat, we waited 29 minutes for a response.
We needed help setting up email for our domain. The friendly rep sent us several support articles on how to create email accounts, plus how to forward emails to Gmail.
In addition, they explained different ways we can access domain emails inside our Gmail account.
They didn’t mind us asking more questions.
The only bad part of the interaction was the initial response time.
On our third chat, it took an agonizing 42 minutes before we received help.
Consistent with the others, the rep was very friendly. We asked for help maximizing our site speed, but they only sent us a couple of support articles on how to do it.
The rep could have given us a bit more information instead of sending some articles we could’ve found on our own.
But, overall, it was efficient, they were friendly, and there was no salesy feeling involved with our experience. They answer your questions without trying to suck more money out of your pocket.
Our only wish is that the response time would’ve been faster.
If you want an incredibly affordable hosting provider that also delivers an easy onboarding experience and plenty of tools for site speed, go with Hostinger.
#2 – SiteGround — Best Hosting for Keeping Uptime Above 99.99%
Best Uptime Reliability
With SiteGround, you never have to worry about your site being inaccessible to visitors. In 30 days, our site experienced a mere 2 seconds of downtime, making it the most reliable shared hosting option on our list. Get fantastic uptime reliability, an easy onboarding experience, and solid customer support.
Overall Score: 3.8 out of 5
If your website isn’t available, it means your website doesn’t exist to those trying to find it.
And that’s a problem.
But, SiteGround flaunts the most reliable servers in web hosting.
How do we know?
We tested it for 30 days. Without question, you don’t ever have to worry about visitors wondering if they have the right domain name because they can’t find your website online.
SiteGround makes sure of that. Your site’s always up, so searchers will always find you.
For your business, this means everything.
Let’s look deeper into the details about uptime and how SiteGround did in our five scoring categories.
- Ease of Use = 5/5
- Uptime = 5/5
- Speed = 4/5
- Price = 2/5
- Customer Support = 4.67/5
Ease of Use: 5/5 – When it comes to simple and easy, SiteGround makes web hosting hassle-free. Their user interface makes your website a breeze to manage with its organized layout and smooth design.
From start to finish, we had an incredible onboarding experience.
SiteGround had one upsell during checkout—SiteGround SiteScanner for $19.80 per year, which scans your website daily for malicious code or hackers. But it wasn’t preselected and was very clear about what it is. It didn’t feel like we were being tricked into buying something we didn’t need.
After checkout, you’re immediately taken into a step-by-step wizard to set up your new site.
Follow the guide, answer a few questions, and by the time you’re finished, you have a complete framework for your website.
The first step is choosing your plan, then registering a new domain or entering one you already have.
After that, you’ll enter your contact and payment information.
After successful payment, we received a welcome email with instructions on what to do next.
A simple click of a link in the email brings you to the customer area.
Once you start the wizard, it walks you through starting a new website, migrating an existing site, or skipping the wizard entirely and starting from scratch.
We chose to start a new website. From there, you can choose your preferred platform from WordPress, WooCommerce, or Weebly.
After we chose WordPress, we were asked to set up login credentials
When you hit “Continue”, a screen pops up asking you once more if you want to add the security add-on for $19.80 per year. You can just hit the skip button and move on.
Then click “Finish” and wait a few minutes until the WordPress installation is complete.
From here, you can go to the account dashboard to start managing your site or point your domain name if you didn’t buy it through SiteGround.
We love how clear they make setting up your domain name.
It’s right in your face. No way to miss it.
Most of the others don’t say anything about domain names, but SiteGround offers tons of information.
There’s also a tutorial on how to do it. SiteGround really spells it out for you.
After we finished installing WordPress there were step-by-step instructions back in the dashboard on what to do next.
Overall, the entire process is easy to navigate through, even if you’ve never done it before.
Uptime: 5/5 – If you want a website that’s available for your visitors 24/7/365, SiteGround has your back.
When we ran our tests over 30 days. They destroyed the competition.
None of the other shared hosts on this list were even close to the performance SiteGround provided for uptime. Nexcess is the only provider with no downtime, but it’s 3x the price and not considered shared hosting.
Take a look for yourself:
In the upper left, you can see the availability of 100%. And directly to the right, you can see a total downtime all month of 2 seconds.
Blink your eyes twice—that’s how long your website was unavailable.
And only one incident—an unknown error—was recorded.
Versus the average of all providers on our list of 23 minutes and 55 seconds of downtime, SiteGround performed significantly better than average.
When uptime is low, it can cause countless problems for website revenue, user experience, and your online reputation.
Speed: 4/5 – After running our speed tests. We found SiteGround to be one the fastest shared web hosts you can find.
For 30 days we looked at how our website performed. And what our visitors would experience as they visited our website.
We discovered our average load time was well under one second at 616 milliseconds.
You can see all the results below:
We like how this image shows the traffic spikes that affect shared web hosting websites so often.
It shows the maximum load time for the whole month was just over two seconds. That’s still a full second under the Google-recommended three-second load time for any website.
Pricing: 2/5 – You never feel good when you pay a lot for something that doesn’t work. It stinks.
With SiteGround, you’re receiving high quality in all the areas of hosting that mean the most.
But, they are not cheap. So, if you’re looking to save a buck, this host isn’t for you.
For the first year of hosting, you pay $3.99 per month for 12 months, equaling $47.88 for a year’s worth of hosting.
SiteGround doesn’t offer a free domain. If you want one through them, it adds $17.95 per year. That’s much higher than getting one through other domain name suppliers.
If you can buy a domain name elsewhere, do it. Then bring it over to save some cash.
Next, you have their domain privacy protection, which is $12 per year and definitely worth it. You can’t really put a price on protecting your privacy from hackers and lurkers.
SiteGround gives you unlimited email addresses for free. If you’re running a business, this allows you to organize messages based on your needs.
Altogether, you’re looking at $77.83 for a full year.
For the second year of hosting, it’s $14.99 per month for 12 months—a 276% increase.
We felt SiteGround could be way better on renewal pricing.
That’s $179.88 for the second year of hosting. And with the domain name, privacy, and email addresses remaining the same price, the full second-year total is $209.83.
So you’ll pay $287.66 total for two years, a fair bit more expensive than the average of $246 across all hosts on this list and the second-most expensive among them.
Another issue we found is they make it tough to assemble any deal better than our list’s average.
SiteGround increases the monthly price to $9.99 for two-year plans and $10.49 per month for a three-year plan.
Then, the renewal for both two and three-year plans is $11.99 per month. Sure, both long-term plans have the same renewal pricing, but you pay more upfront on the long-term plans. So is it really worth it?
SiteGround is a great web host offering you premier services that don’t disappoint.
But they’re expensive, plain and simple.
Customer Support: 4.67/5 – We loved SiteGround’s customer support.
The only thing we didn’t like was how hard it was to find the chatbox to get help. It was like a scavenger hunt.
But once we did, they showed us stellar support.
On the first contact, we got connected with a rep immediately.
We asked about how to improve the security on our site.
They told us to turn on automatic core WordPress updates and automatic plugin updates. These are the most common ways sites get hacked. Having the latest updates improves security and removes vulnerabilities.
The rep told us this right away, they knew exactly what we were asking for. And we left the conversation knowing exactly what to do.
We also love that there were no upsells to paid security products.
The whole first support interaction only took four minutes.
On our next chat, when asking about setting up email accounts, we had similar results.
We didn’t wait more than a few seconds for support.
After we connected, it took only 30 seconds for them to give us instructions on how to get to our dashboard to get started.
Then, the rep responded with step-by-step instructions on how to find the area to create an email account.
We followed that up by asking about how to forward those emails to our Gmail account, and they were quick again with an easy solution.
We appreciated the step-by-step instructions they offered, not making us figure it out alone.
The support rep was friendly and patient even though we asked questions that we could easily find in their knowledge base.
After connecting immediately to a rep, we got a friendly response and information about SiteGround’s resources on how to speed up WordPress sites. Plus, the rep sent over a few tutorials to help us out.
However, they sent us directly to a support article without any extra guidance. We wish they would have explained things a bit more rather than just sending us a guide, ebook, and tutorial.
That costs SiteGround the perfect five-out-of-five score; losing a point for not trying to help.
SiteGround support was great and none of the reps tried to sell us anything—they only cared about solving the problem.
Overall, their support is the cherry on top of their fantastic hosting speed and uptime. If you want reliability and can afford higher than rock-bottom pricing, SiteGround is an excellent choice for hosting your site.
#3 – HostGator — The Best Web Hosting for Scaling Your Small Business Easily
Best for Scaling on a Budget
With a killer combination of speed, uptime, affordability, and numerous flexibile plans to choose from, HostGator brings a lot to the table. Its flexible hosting packages across all types of hosting make it easy to upgrade and scale once your business website takes off and demands better performance.
Overall Score: 3.6 out of 5
HostGator makes it easy for small businesses to grow.
Because of the variety of affordable web hosting plans they offer.
WordPress Hosting, VPS, and dedicated hosting are all options. But their cloud hosting services are arguably the brand’s biggest standout.
Plus, they make it easy to upgrade to the resources you need.
For now, let’s see how they did in the five categories we tested:
- Ease of Use = 3/5
- Uptime = 4/5
- Speed = 3/5
- Price = 4/5
- Customer Support = 3.67/5
Ease of Use: 3/5 – Our experience signing up with HostGator was mediocre at best.
Yes, they score a three out of five, but there are several areas throughout the process we didn’t like or feel comfortable with.
For instance, once you check out, you’re immediately taken into a setup wizard—which is nice—but there are no prompts that follow about what to do next regarding domain setup.
We did realize later on it’s in your welcome email.
But it’s easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for or know what it means to transfer a domain.
However, the rest of the step-by-step setup wizard was easy to follow and the dashboard is also well-designed and easy to navigate.
Here’s a brief rundown of our experience.
The first step is choosing your domain name. You can register a new one or use one you already own.
Then, pick your plan, enter basic info to set up your account, and select what add-ons you might like to add.
There are five total add-ons, and two of them are pre-checked:
- Premium SSL certificate – $3.33 per month
- SiteLock Essentials – $1.99 per month (preselected)
- Google Workspace Account – $6 per month
- Automatic backups – $2 per month (preselected)
- HostGator SEO tools – $2.95 per month
Google Workspace might be the only one you would like to have, but you can always sign up for it later. It allows you to have business email set up through Gmail.
But the others are not required or essential. And, frankly, not worth the price per month.
We liked that the whole process took place on one page. It streamlines the entire process, compared to spacing it out across six different pages.
After checking out, you go directly to a few questions about your skill level and the purpose of your site.
We found this fantastic. HostGator learns how much you know in order to try and tailor your experience.
After that, pick the content management system (CMS) you want to use. WordPress is the preferred choice and it only takes a few moments to set up.
And you’re done.
Next, you’ll see all of your login credentials and a video to help you get started with WordPress.
It walks you through how to navigate the WordPress dashboard, install plugins, change and customize themes, and more.
It’s well-made and helpful for folks just getting started or who need a refresher.
Nobody else had this so easily available, so it was a definite standout onboarding feature among the crowd.
Whenever you’re done watching the video, you’ll click “Go to WordPress”.
However, everything is on a temp domain so you’ll need to connect your own domain name before you can launch your site.
It’s easy to gloss over and forget about it.
We think it should be front and center when you log into the portal and mentioned in the setup wizard.
This will cause frustration if you’ve never set up web hosting before or just haven’t gone through this process in a long time.
You’ll go through the setup wizard, and think you’ve finished. But you’re not. Your website won’t show up when you look for it and you won’t know why.
All in all. setting up WordPress and getting it installed was easy.
But it’s not nearly so straightforward with what to do with an existing domain name.
Uptime: 4/5 – HostGator meets uptime expectations with the reliability you’d expect from a well-known web host.
Our research uncovered that 99.99% of the time your website is available to your visitors.
How do we know for sure?
We took 30 days to confirm HostGator’s uptime availability and also tested for the types of incidents that resulted in any downtime.
Our test results are below.
Notice that during the testing month, downtime was only five minutes and 42 seconds in total.
For shared hosting that’s great.
The longest single duration of downtime was two and a half minutes, caused by one connection refused error (which is usually an issue with the person trying to view the website). There were three HTTP 400 internal server errors and one unknown error in addition.
Compared to the average of 23 minutes and 55 seconds of downtime for all the hosting providers we tested, HostGator performed significantly better than average.
Speed: 3/5 – Being able to keep up with your competitors shouldn’t boil down to if your website is fast enough. But, sometimes that’s the great differentiator.
Plus, slow loading speeds can make or break your visitor loyalty. No one likes a slow website.
When we tested HostGator over 30 days, we were eager to see the results.
Here’s how fast they are:
The average response time was 661 milliseconds. That comes in slightly better than our average across all web hosts of 708 milliseconds.
HostGator’s top speed-related features are:
Cloud-based servers are twice as fast and four times more scalable than their shared hosting plans. With just one click, you can ramp up your resources on-demand without any downtime, reboots, or data migrations.
Unmetered Bandwidth means you don’t have to worry about hitting a bandwidth cap or throttling that’ll massively slow your site down. So, you can transfer as much data to a visitor as they need with minimal restrictions.
Price: 4/5 – HostGator gives you a variety of quality web hosting plans and great speed while remaining the third cheapest web host on the list.
It’s $3.95 per month for 12 months, running a total of $47.40 for your first year of hosting.
Not only is it cheap to start but you also get your domain name and email free in the first year, unlike most other providers.
But, you pay $14.95 for domain privacy.
Everything included, you’re paying $62.35 for the first year.
The renewal rate is $8.95 per month, so your second year starts at $107.40. The renewal rate is 137% higher than HostGator’s promo pricing.
In year two, you pay for your domain name registration at $17.99 for the year. Then $14.95 again for domain privacy.
All in, your second year total equals $140.34.
HostGator’s $202.69 total for two years comes in a good bit below our list-wide average of $246.71.
For added value and more savings, you can get better pricing by signing up for three years in advance, at $2.75 per month. With domain registration and privacy included, that means you can shore up three years of hosting for $179.83.
Customer Support: 3.67/5 – Our customer support experience with HostGator was just above average.
What lowered the score for HostGator was the pushy, sales-y nature of the customer support reps and them not doing more than forwarding standard support articles.
On our first chat, we connected with a rep immediately.
We asked first how they could help us improve security. The rep identified themselves as a security expert, so we were confident it was going to go well.
But they immediately recommended a paid security upgrade and copied and pasted a bunch of features into the chat. We asked if there was anything we could do for free and the rep passed us off to someone else.
This was not great service at all.
We found it annoying and inefficient, especially since they introduced themselves as a security expert—shouldn’t they know what we can do without paying extra?
The second rep briefly explained how they secure things on their end and sent us a support article on what to do on our end.
We liked that they explained their security measures, though they didn’t really tell us what we could do to keep our site secure.
Overall, it felt kind of rushed, a bit too formal, and salesy.
On our second chat, we asked for help with email setup. We were connected with a rep in about 45 seconds.
The rep was very patient and friendly, going step by step with us and explaining where to go and what to click on.
They didn’t proceed until we told them we were ready. We also asked about forwarding emails to a Gmail account and the rep told us exactly where to go and how to set it up..
It was a refreshing change from the first interaction.
The third and final chat wasn’t the best experience. We did connect with someone immediately and asked how we can ensure our site stays optimized for speed as we start building it.
They told us that was outside of their scope, but also explained that site speed depends heavily on the size of your pages.
Then, they sent us a very basic support article about optimization, as well as an Elegant Themes article.
We know there is more they could have helped us with or mentioned, but overall the interaction was decent.
We wish they would have offered a bit more guidance on basic things we can do, like image optimization, caching, and using a CDN. But the support articles were sufficient. Not an overly friendly rep, but they got the job done.
Customer service is the bread and butter of all web hosts. So we were surprised at the lack of quality support from HostGator. We would have liked to see better.
HostGator, though, makes up for that with rock-solid uptime reliability and good speed at a reasonable price. Plus, they make it incredibly easy to scale up to faster plans with more resources whenever you might need to. So, HostGator can be a great hosting provider for the long haul.
#4 – DreamHost — Best Pay-As-You-Go Web Hosting
Best Month-to-Month Plans
Trusted by 1.5+ million users with 750,000+ WordPress installations, DreamHost offers the best pricing any way you slice it. Prefer not locking on a long-term commitment? No problem. DreamHost has the most wallet-friendly month-to-month plans out of all the hosts we tested. Get started with $5!
Overall Score: 3.2 out of 5
DreamHost offers the best month-to-month plans by far. It’s the cheapest zero-commitment web host on the list.
If you’re looking for risk-free hosting with no contract, DreamHost accomplishes it.
They’re particularly suitable if you’re just testing the waters of web hosting before you commit to years at a time. Users love having a really small bill every month rather than a massive expense every year.
They fall a little short in a few categories, but their flexibility makes up for it.
This is how they did in the top five categories.
- Ease of Use = 2/5
- Uptime = 5/5
- Speed = 2/5
- Price = 4/5
- Customer Support = 3/5
Ease of Use: 2/5 – Getting started with DreamHost is more challenging than it should be.
It’s frankly a below-average experience. Ease of use is 25% of the overall score we award in our reviews, so this really hurt DreamHost.
There are confusing upsell sections and preselections during the checkout process. We’ll explain what to watch out for below, so you’re not taken by surprise.
At one point during the signup, it said we owed twice as much before we even scrolled down to the add-ons section—confusing us immediately.
So, that was a bad start for us.
However, we did like that there’s an option to pre-install WordPress for free.
But, once WordPress is installed, there’s nothing telling us what to do next.
We knew we were supposed to log into our WordPress dashboard, but a beginner may not.
So, again, a poor user experience. Which cost DreamHost in the rankings.
Your first step is registering a domain with DreamHost or adding a domain you already own. You can also skip this step and do it later.
For us, we already had our domain name, so we selected the last option.
After working through the domain section, you go to the next step
Remember when we told you our price was double what we expected? It happened here.
We noticed it automatically increased the price we owe at the bottom with no explanation until you scroll down. Revealing the pre-selected upsells being the culprit.
If you had never gone through this process before, you’d probably already be confused as to why the price changed.
We don’t think DreamHost means to make you feel this way. But nonetheless, that’s how we felt.
After you enter your account information, you’ll run into the add-ons:
- WordPress preinstallation – Free
- DreamSheild Protection – $3 per month
- DreamHost Email – $1.99 per month
- Google Workspace – $6 per month
This is the only provider that makes you pay for email if you want it. Very different from every other provider on the list.
You can only pick one email option between DreamHost Email or Google Workspace.
Here’s a first-person view of this stage of the process:
When you uncheck all of them except the free WordPress installation, It brings the price back down to our expected total of $4.95.
You’ll need to create a password for your account before you’re automatically directed to your control panel.
It took around eight minutes for the WordPress install to complete.
We got a welcome email after this but it wasn’t very helpful. In the email, there were a ton of links with too much info and not enough explanation.
In fact, it was a bit confusing since it included FTP (file transfer protocol) login information, with no explanation of what this is or why it’s separate from the account we just created.
This can easily become overwhelming, especially if you’ve never signed up for hosting before.
In a second email, it gave us WordPress login info. But again, it was confusing and had no explanation of why this is different from the two other logins we already created.
Also, there was no information on how to actually connect the domain we wanted to use.
We found it very easy to get started on the WordPress side of things, once you actually figure out how to get there.
Once you do log into WordPress, there’s a nice configuration wizard that walks you through choosing a theme, adding the pages you need, and adding social media and contact info.
We loved that you can set up the kind of pages you want from the start, choosing from three options:
- Base – includes Home, About, and Contact pages
- Five Page – includes base pages plus two more preconfigured pages based on the theme you pick.
- Kitchen Sink – includes four more preconfigured pages
We can see this being very helpful for anyone who has never built a site before.
You can also toggle blog functionality on or off. So, if you want a blog installed it’s as easy as flipping a switch.
After choosing which pages you want, you can enter in your contact and social media info and you’re done.
Overall, the process took a lot longer than it should have and wasn’t nearly as easy an experience as we like it to be.
Uptime: 5/5 – If you’re looking for the highest quality uptime at the cheapest possible price, DreamHost takes the #1 spot.
Our research shows DreamHost only had a downtime of 49 seconds over the entire month, coming from a single incident.
This is outstanding since some other hosts are more expensive and don’t give you this type of reliability.
The one incident was an HTTP 500 Internal Server Error, a catchall for server-side errors. But it only lasted 49 seconds and that was the only hiccup for the whole month.
If you want to sleep easy knowing that your site will be up and running for every opportunity to close a sale, grab a new subscriber, or even persuade a reader to consider your point of view on your blog, the opportunity is there.
In fact, when we averaged the downtime for all the providers on this list, it was 23 minutes and 55 seconds—way higher than DreamHost’s average.
Speed: 2/5 – For your website to be taken seriously, you need to have one that loads fast. There’s no getting around it.
DreamHost gives your visitors an average response time of 813 milliseconds.
Here’s what our speed research looks like over our month of testing DreamHost:
Looking at the image above, you can see that response time goes up and down. But it doesn’t go any higher than 1.5 seconds.
It goes to show that you don’t need to pay a huge monthly price to get solid results for your visitors.
DreamHost also invests in speed-related features that help with speed without you having to lift a finger:
Unmetered bandwidth is included in every plan, meaning you never have to worry about a usage cap. Some providers immediately slow you down the minute you have more traffic than they feel is appropriate for your plan level. But not DreamHost.
Resource Protection helps prevent your shared hosting resources from being wasted because of malicious intent, like bots or attacks. The DreamHost team monitors resources 24/7 to keep an eye on things to ensure your site performance doesn’t suffer from things like that.
With that said, DreamHost definitely lacks other speed features for the entry-level monthly plan that other web hosts give you that optimize speed even more.
But you get a free content delivery network that can be installed easily.
You just need to remember you’re responsible for configuration and this can be a bit more challenging since it’s not built in to your hosting account or pre-configured for your server environment.
Price: 4/5 – Hands down, DreamHost offers the best month-to-month pricing around. You can test their services and features for as long or as little as you want because you have no commitment.
You don’t need to worry about remembering if the guarantee is 30 or 60 days.
You can say, “Nope, this isn’t working out. See ya, DreamHost” and not be on the hook for anything more than you’ve already paid.
Let’s look a little deeper at your costs.
Full disclosure, we scored pricing for a one-year contract for every host, to get an apples-to-apples comparison.
And because DreamHost offers a monthly plan as well as a one-year contract, we will show you both options.
But the score for DreamHost above is based on a one-year contract.
When going month to month, DreamHost is $4.95 per month for the first three months.
After that, pricing goes up to $7.99 per month, making the total for the first year $86.76.
If you want a domain through DreamHost the cost is $15.99. For email, you pay $1.99 per month, equaling $20.04 per year. So even though you’re paying month-to-month your domain pricing is paid for the year.
Domain privacy is included for free, which is something no other provider on this list offers. This is a huge benefit. You’re getting full online privacy protection at no cost, DreamHost values your identity being safe and pays the price to prove it.
So, your first year of no-commitment monthly hosting would total up to $122.79.
Second-year costs are $7.99 a month going forward. Totaling $131.91 over a year. A lot cheaper than many annual plans for the second year. Coming in way below the two-year average of $246.71.
If you want to opt for the yearly contract, upfront costs for the first year of hosting run $2.95 per month, equaling $35.40 for the 12 months.
With this plan, your domain and domain privacy is free. But email is still $1.99 per month, totaling $20.04 for the year.
In total, your plan costs you $55.44 for the first year.
Upon renewal, the cost goes up to $6.99 per month. Your domain now costs $15.99 for the year, but it’s still $0 for domain privacy and $20.04 for email. That brings the total cost to $119.91 for the second year.
The renewal rate is 137% higher than promo pricing. High, yes—but you are still paying less in your second year than you do with the monthly plan.
Overall, for two years of hosting it’s $175.35.
The average price across all the hosts on our list is $246.71 for two years of hosting. That’s with email, domain registration, and domain privacy.
DreamHost is significantly cheaper than the average, saving you $71.36 with a contract.
You pay a bit more over two years on the monthly plan. A total of $7.99 more. But for flexibility, and removing the risk of commitment, it can be exactly what you need.
Customer Support: 3/5 – We left no stone unturned when reviewing customer support for DreamHost. Our research revealed an average experience. They were helpful but lack that extra oomph we were hoping for.
Here’s how things went.
The first thing we noticed was that their live chat widget is hard to find. You have to go looking around to find it for it to start a conversation with support.
There is no chat button unless you click on support in the left menu navigation bar inside your dashboard.
Once we found it, we asked our question about improving site security. At first, it automatically sent us to a support document that was relevant but didn’t fully answer the question.
We had to click around a few more times to get in contact with an actual person.
Depending on the topic of your question, you can either start a live chat or submit a ticket.
When submitting a ticket, you can let them know how much experience you have and the level of detail you need. Which is unique to DreamHost customer support.
When we asked to contact a rep, it took three minutes to get a response.
The first thing the rep told us about is a paid upgrade, and they pushed it hard without telling us first what we can do for free. A few minutes later, they sent us an article on how to enable extra web security for our site.
Other than that, they didn’t really help much or explain anything. It was very generic and not overly friendly, but also not rude. The interaction was very fast—five minutes and straightforward.
However, the first thing they recommended was a paid upgrade. Which is not a sign of good service in our opinion.
They lost points here for no phone support, being too salesy, and not offering any help beyond sending us to a support article.
In our second interaction around noon, the live chat option wasn’t available. We wanted to ask how to set up an email for our website.
It told us to submit a support ticket instead. So, we did.
We also left the chat window open to see which option was faster. We actually got an email back from the ticket we submitted faster than we did with the live chat.
The ticket took 17 minutes for a response and the live chat took 24 minutes. We weren’t sure how this was going to go, since we didn’t have a hosting plan that had email included.
Here’s the conversation below:
For the third and final chat, we asked how we could improve speed on our site.
We were immediately connected with a rep, who did a speed test on our website so they could offer personalized advice on how to make it faster, which was nice.
Since there’s no content on our site, there wasn’t much advice to offer but we still appreciated that they tried.
After that, the rep sent us a support article with more steps and information to continue to optimize our site further.
Overall, we were pleased with support but we felt they had opportunities to go past average.
They solved our problems and, minus the first chat and not having the full chat service available in the middle of the day, our experience was pleasant.
Even though you pay such a small price for the hosting plan, you still get an above-average customer support experience. Couple that with their exceptional uptime reliability and DreamHost stands out as a great hosting option with no annual commitment.
#5 – Bluehost — Best Drag-and-Drop Page Builder for Beginners
Best and Easiest Page Builder
Want an easier way to build a WordPress site? With Bluehost, if you can click and move your mouse... you can build something beautiful. Its drag-and-drop builder is one of the best we've seen. It's user-friendly, extremely customizable, and dead simple to learn. Build your first site in just 10 minutes with Bluehost today!
Overall Score: 2.9 out of 5
Do you want to create a website that gets visitors excited? Would you believe you can do it yourself, while barely breaking a sweat?
Bluehost makes this so simple. Anyone that can point and click a mouse can create a great website fast. No experience needed.
Let’s talk further about the setup of your hosting and website as we go through our five testing categories:
- Ease of Use: 3/5
- Uptime: 3/5
- Speed: 1/5
- Pricing: 3/5
- Customer Support: 3.67/5
Ease of Use: 3/5 – The overall score for ease of use is for the web hosting setup. This score has nothing to do with how simple it is to create a website with the Bluehost website builder.
They are two separate things and we’ll touch on the site builder towards the end of this section.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about getting your web hosting up and running first.
Bluehost isn’t the easiest, but it’s not the worst—it’s pretty average, overall.
They lost a point because of the huge push on upsells and preselected boxes. If you’re not careful you will easily be paying for things you don’t need or understand.
After you pay, you’re automatically taken into a setup wizard that walks you through everything, including installing a content management system (CMS) and configuring all of your settings.
You can even choose how much help you want with the process.
But, another point was taken off of Bluehost’s score because of the lack of direction on setting up your domain name after the wizard. We’ll talk more about that later.
You set up your account by answering a few questions. Bluehost asks if you need a new domain or if you’re bringing your own.
On the next page, you enter your account information, select the package you want, choose your add-ons and extras, and enter your payment information.
Once you get to the package extras section, a few are pre-checked for you.
It’s common among web hosts to have preselected upsells, so be careful. Oftentimes they are suggestions and not required.
Once you’re finished, hit “Submit” and you’re done.
Next, you’ll create a Bluehost account.
Follow the simple steps and, once you login, you’re asked how much assistance you want with setting up your new site.
In the first option, Bluehost will stay clear and let you handle your site setup alone. Or, you can opt for a little help and get step-by-step instructions and tips.
For the third option, you can set up a consult and have Bluehost do everything for you, completely leaving it up to them to build your website.
We picked the middle option since that’s probably what most people will pick as well. Then, it asks what type of site you’re building.
We liked that you have the option to skip talking about what kind of site you want to create if you’re not sure right now or don’t want the extra help for that specific step.
To create your site, you can choose from a basic WordPress install or Bluehost’s drag-and-drop builder. Some people will already know how to use WordPress while beginners may want the extra help of the drag-and-drop builder.
The builder is very easy to use and offers you guided help making it impossible to get it wrong. If you scroll down, there are a few FAQs to help you choose the right option for you.
The pros of Bluehost’s site builder are that it’s easy to learn and you get a flawless design in half the time it takes to learn WordPress.
The con is the site speed performance is not as fast compared to a site designed on WordPress. But using WordPress will take longer to learn and set up.
If you choose the page builder, you’ll jump right into it, answer a few questions, and start designing your new site.
If you go the straight WordPress route, it asks about your industry and who you’re creating the website for.
After that, the setup wizard is complete. You’ll be automatically directed to your control panel.
To help you get started and familiar with WordPress, Bluehost offers a checklist of things to do to build out your website. This is super helpful and a great place for beginners to start.
However, this dashboard is missing information on what to do with a domain name.
This is where you can get lost.
If you’re bringing over a domain they don’t show you how to point it towards their servers so it’s hosted.
They leave it up to you to figure this out, and that is not a good strategy.
You have to hunt around for it or call support, which we find is an unnecessary step that takes away from Bluehost’s onboarding simplicity.
Uptime: 3/5 – Bluehost performed well enough during our uptime testing period. We found that 99.95% uptime was the average over a month, with 20 minutes and 28 seconds of total downtime during that time.
The longest single duration of downtime was 10 minutes and 4 seconds. Our site wasn’t accessible for that whole time, which is a bit lengthy. That means no visitors, no money, no subscribers.
There were seven incidents that caused the site to be unavailable. Our site experienced one refused connection—meaning a problem with the site visitor’s connection—and three connection timeouts that usually happen when a website on the server is using up too many resources.
There were also two SSL errors, where the browser couldn’t verify the SSL certificate and showed a warning that the page wasn’t safe to visit.
This is a terrible error to see because it tells visitors they shouldn’t trust your website.
If you sell goods or services that require credit card payments, this error is saying customer transactions are not secure.
The last incident was an unknown error.
Bluehost’s total of 20 minutes and 28 seconds of downtime was slightly better than the average of 23 minutes and 55 seconds of downtime for all the hosts we reviewed.
Speed: 1/5 – When we did our speed test, we found Bluehost to be the slowest of the pack.
The average response time for visitors was over 1107 milliseconds. An average of over one second is no good at all.
A couple of instances of your site taking one whole second to load is nothing to worry about. But averaging that doesn’t bode well and implies many periods where the load time is much longer than that.
The image shows a roller coaster of server traffic surges affecting the response time for visitors of our website, meaning resources are not managed as well as they could be.
Which is surprising, since Bluehost has a speed-related feature called resource protection.
It’s supposed to ensure other sites on your server can’t use up your resources, which improves your site’s performance without it being compromised because of someone else’s website.
As we continued our research into why Bluehost was slower than other shared hosting plans, we found out most of Bluehost’s speed and performance features are reserved for managed WordPress hosting users.
That’s definitely a downside and is probably one of the reasons Bluehost performed so low in our speed tests—they’re virtually doing nothing related to performance for shared hosting.
Bluehost was much higher than our average response speed of 708 milliseconds across all the providers we researched.
Pricing: 3/5 – Bluehost gives away an easy drag-and-drop website builder for free.
No other web host on this list does that while still staying competitively priced.
For the first year of hosting, it’s only $2.95 per month for 12 months, equaling $35.40 for your first year.
Bluehost also removes the yearly cost for a domain name. You pay nothing for a full 12 months of domain registration. That’s a huge bonus.
And if you want to protect your private information, it’s $11.88 for a year of domain privacy. Email is included for free.
So, to get started with a complete web hosting package, it’s only $47.28 for the first year. That’s a great deal to start with.
Renewal prices are reasonable, as well, Going up to $9.99 per month for the second year.
In the second year, your domain will cost you $17.99, which is on the expensive side. Domain privacy comes down just a bit for the second year to $11.80
So, for the second year of Bluehost service, you’re looking at $149.75. That gives you a total of $226.82 for two years of worry-free web hosting. That’s just a bit below the average price across all the hosts on our list of $246.71.
Even though the renewal rate is 102% higher than promo pricing, it’s still slightly cheaper than the average.
Sign up for three years in advance at $2.95 per month, though, and you’ll pay only $106.20 for three years of hosting. That’s a killer discount.
Just keep in mind you’ll still have to pay for your domain name for the last two years and domain privacy for all three years, making the total for three years $177.58.
Customer Support: 3.67/5 – Bluehost surprised us with their customer support. You’ll see what we mean in a moment.
It was slightly better than average, and for the price, we couldn’t complain about too much.
Here’s how it went down.
It took about 30 seconds to connect with a rep. After asking about security features, the rep immediately said we need to pay more for an upgraded security package.
We asked if that costs extra and the rep copied and pasted a bunch of features with no explanation whatsoever into the chat window, carelessly responding to our question with zero effort and leaving us wondering if they even wanted to help us.
We asked what we can do for free and the rep told us that the free options they offer for security plugins weren’t very useful.
That made us feel they were being very pushy towards getting us to pay more.
We honestly felt a bit of trickery and scare tactics during this interaction.
The chat was also riddled with typos throughout, which didn’t inspire confidence in the information we were getting.
Here’s the chat itself:
On our second interaction, where we asked about email setup, we were Immediately connected with a rep. We specifically asked how to create an email account and the rep typed out step-by-step instructions for us.
They were straightforward and we also appreciated that they didn’t just send us an article to read through on our own.
We also asked how to forward emails to Gmail and the rep responded again with step-by-step instructions. We followed all the directions and everything was exactly as they said it was.
Overall, it was very fast, as we felt it should be for a simple question. We were extremely pleased in this instance.
For our final test, we were immediately connected with a rep.
After mentioning that we were not having any specific issues and were just interested in getting help with optimizing our site’s speed, the rep asked if they should send us the guide we literally just asked for.
So we found this rep not very attentive. We say that because instead of sending it over, they sent us an article on how to set up an email account.
After sending us that, they finally sent a good answer for speed and site optimization. It was thorough and overall pretty helpful with specific advice as well as a few articles to check out.
But after that, they started talking about security features and the paid security upgrade we were offered the first time we spoke to someone.
This was unnecessary and annoying, especially since it’s something we didn’t even ask about this time. They lost points for being overly salesy with the security upgrade (again) and for not being super knowledgeable or friendly.
All in all, they offered adequate support, however, it seems they focus a lot on sales and upgrades. You will get help, but you have to bob and weave around the sales pitches and a lack of focus on solving only the problem you asked to solve.
If you want the most help with building your site at the same time as you set up your hosting, choose Bluehost and enjoy their multiple ways of creating a great website.
#6 – InMotion Hosting — The Best Price for Hosting Two Websites on One Plan
Best Price for Hosting Two Sites
The only provider where you can host two websites on the same entry-level shared hosting plan, InMotion delivers solid uptime and great loading speeds no matter if you choose to host one site or two on it. And good customer service is available for any hiccups that may arise along the way.
Overall Score: 2.8 out of 5
InMotion Hosting is the only shared web host on this list that offers an entry-level plan that lets you host two websites on the same plan. To sweeten the deal even more, it’s cheaper than other plans that only give you one website. For just $6.99 per month and a one-year agreement, you can host two sites for the price of one.
Plus, you won’t have to manage two plans on different platforms or deal with the headaches doing so can cause with billing and renewals every year.
InMotion Hosting’s Launch plan—the one we fully tested ourselves—makes your life a heck of a lot easier.
While InMotion technically offers an even cheaper plan (the Lite Plan), it only lets you host one website. We recommend going with another provider if you only need to host one website.
Here’s how InMotion scored overall in our five rating categories:
- Ease of Use = 0/5
- Uptime = 4/5
- Speed = 5/5
- Price = 3/5
- Customer Support = 4/5
Ease of Use: 0/5 – InMotion tied with A2 Hosting for the last place for ease of use.
The customer dashboard is hard to navigate.
It’s not easy to understand what comes next or even see beyond the bunched-together user interface.
When you finish the signup process there’s no instruction on how to proceed. Making it very stressful for anyone not familiar with setting up web hosting.
We found the overall experience lacking in structure.
But one thing InMotion offers is a free 30-minute onboarding call, something no other web host on this list offers. That can help you along the way if you’re confused.
Full disclosure: We opted to skip this free service and did not test this. So we cannot attest to its quality or helpfulness. We can only say that it’s a feature you can take advantage of.
We feel If you get a knowledgeable rep, the feature could be really helpful.
But we still wish that there was more guidance for those that don’t want to use this feature or don’t have time to jump on a call with someone.
Here’s a brief walkthrough of the setup process.
The first screen starts with your account information and the plan selection. It also shows an outline of all the add-ons they offer.
- Backup Manager for $24 per year (was automatically checked to yes)
- Dedicated IP address for $72 per year (automatically checked no)
- QuickStarter for a one-time fee of $249 – you get a professionally designed one-page website built on WordPress (automatically checked no)
For backing up your site, you can add a free plugin that will do this for you.
Next, you’ll set up your domain. You can add your own or buy one from InMotion.
Next, you’ll set up a new account and then add simple account and billing details.
In our opinion, the checkout process was clunky. It felt unnecessarily long compared to other checkout processes.
There were a TON of fields to fill out and a few pre-checked upsells.
After payment, we got a welcome message and the option to get help setting up a personalized one-on-one call with a New Account Specialist.
We then received three separate emails. The first two were basic emails about receipts but the third was the welcome email, which had a ton of information in it.
First, it told us how to access the account management area with a button to set our password.
Next was a link to InMotion’s WordPress guide and how to get help if we need it, including through customer service or the support center with thousands of articles.
There were also two attachments: a guide on how to set up a new site and a guide on how to transfer a website.
Once we set up our password we were brought to our dashboard. There’s no instruction on what to do following that.
We definitely wish there was more of a guided process or setup guide like most of the other hosts have.
At this point, we didn’t even have WordPress installed and were not sure how to do that.
We opened up the getting started guide under the “Recommended For You” section at the bottom.
Then, we clicked on WordPress since that was the content management system (CMS) we wanted to install.
However, there was nothing about how to actually install it—only how to use it after it’s installed.
It definitely takes some digging to find out how to do this, but it shouldn’t.
You have to open up Softaculous and install WordPress from there. If we didn’t already know that, it would definitely take a long time to figure it out.
After that, we clicked “Install”. In about 15 seconds, it told us the install was successful and what URL to use to log in to WordPress.
During our setup for InMotion Hosting, none of the boxes for ease of use we find useful for setting up web hosting were checked off.
So, InMotion scored a zero out of five for ease of use.
Even if you have experience, there are a lot of holes in this onboarding process we hope to see improved.
Uptime: 4/5 – The availability your website has to its visitors is crucial to success. For InMotion Hosting our research shows a 99.99% uptime with 6 minutes and 17 seconds of total downtime over 30 days. The longest duration was 2 minutes and 59 seconds. There were 4 incidents that caused the site to be unavailable.
Two of the incidents were SSL errors that displayed a security warning to visitors. One incident was a bad gateway error, meaning the end user’s browser got an invalid response from your site’s server. The last incident was an HTTP 503 internal server error.
The HTTP 503 error means that the server was temporarily unable to complete the request. Overloaded servers or maintenance are the most common causes of this error.
Across all the hosts we tested, the average down was 23 minutes and 55 seconds. InMotion performed significantly better than average.
Speed: 5/5 – Keeping your website fast, gives you a clear advantage when doing business online. It also keeps your users happy when they are just searching your website for information.
No matter what it’s a critical piece of providing a good user experience.
When we tested InMotion speed performance we found the average response time was 339 milliseconds, making it the fastest host we tested.
The average server response time across all the hosts we tested was 708 ms, and our InMotion server did significantly better. In fact, it was almost twice as fast as the average.
If you’re looking for sheer speed at an affordable price, you can’t go wrong with InMotion.
You also get various speed-related features that further enhance the entry-level plan’s speed. So, there’s even more room to improve this as you get started and build out your site.
Unlimited Bandwidth allows your website to transfer as much data to a user visiting your site as they need. Some providers cap bandwidth and slow your site down when you hit that data cap. But InMotion hosting doesn’t limit you and provides enough so your site is fast for your visitors.
UltraStack Optimized Performance is on InMotion’s entry-level plan. It’s a proprietary operating system stack that’s pre-optimized for your server environment so you don’t have to touch anything. So, your site is as fast as possible right from the start.
Max Speed Zones is a fancy name for the option of choosing between two Category A data center locations, one on the east coast in Washington D.C. and one on the west coast in Los Angeles.
Price 3/5 – Pricing for InMotion Hosting is slightly above the average for two years of hosting, when compared to other hosts on this list.
For the first year of hosting on the Launch plan (formerly the Lite plan), you pay $6.99 per month for a total of $83.88 for the first year. The domain name and email are free, but if you want to protect your identity you’ll need to add on domain privacy for $12.99.
So, your first-year total is $96.87 for all the essentials you need to get started.
For renewal, the hosting price increases to $11.99 per month for your next 12 months, equaling $143.88.
This year you add in the domain price at $15.99. The domain privacy remains $12.99 per year. But, email is still free though.
So, the total cost for year two is $172.86.
The renewal rate is 72% higher than promo, which is the lowest percentage increase out of all other providers on the list.
Added up, you’re looking at $269.73 in total for two years of web hosting.
The average price across all the hosts on our list is $246.71. InMotion is slightly more expensive than average and the third most expensive option.
But, you can get better pricing by signing up for two years in advance at $5.99 per month and paying $143.76 for two years of hosting.
You’ll still have to pay for your domain name for the second year and domain privacy for both years, making the total a more palatable $185.73. After the first two years, your monthly rate goes up to $10.99 per month.
Customer Support: 4/5 – Our experience with InMotion’s customer support was pleasant and they have above-average service that made us feel they wanted to solve our problems.
In the first chat, it took 16 minutes to connect with someone.
The rep gave us lots of great information on on-site security, including SSLs and server-side protections they have in place.
They also said that we are mostly in charge of security, but that they have a tool that helps manage passwords and things of that nature.
After that, the rep mentioned a paid security tool called Sucuri, but they were very transparent that it costs extra and the rep even said we probably didn’t need it right now.
We appreciate that the rep took the time to explain things to us rather than immediately sending us to a support article.
We also really liked that they didn’t mention a paid upgrade until the very end. Overall, the interaction was excellent, although it did take a while to connect with someone, initially costing them one point since it took more than 10 minutes to connect.
In our second interaction, when we asked about setting up email for our domain, we were connected with a rep in 30 seconds.
The rep was really friendly and patient, plus they also walked us through the process step by step to make sure we were following along.
They told us what to click on and where to look for it, as well as what certain icons looked like to help us find everything. They did the same after we asked how to forward emails to our Gmail account.
We feel like the rep really went above and beyond by walking us through everything.
Despite them taking the time to do all of that, the interaction still went pretty fast and our new email account was set up in about 15 minutes.
We loved this interaction and can see how this level of support would be helpful to anyone who needs it.
In our last chat about website speed and how to improve it, it took just 30 seconds before we connected to a rep.
The rep first mentioned a few caching plugins to look into.
Then, they said they have several optimization guides to help and asked if we would like to see them. We said yes, and then the rep sent a string of eight hyperlinks with no explanations as to what they are or anything.
They quickly asked if we needed anything else and ended the chat.
We didn’t like when they sent us a string of eight different support articles with no explanations.
We also didn’t like that they immediately asked if we needed anything else before we even responded to the barrage of links.
It felt really rushed like they didn’t have time to explain anything more so they could get on to the next person.
The first two interactions were really good, but the last one was subpar.
We really enjoyed our experience with InMotion Customer support overall. They really show up to help and make themselves easily available for their customers with a public forum, knowledge base, live chat, and phone support.
All in all, InMotion Hosting provides a well-rounded experience with above-average support, as long as the difficult onboarding doesn’t present too much of a barrier.
#7 – Nexcess — Best Web Hosting for Experienced WordPress Users
Best for WordPress Pros
If you're an experienced WordPress user and want a step up from the wide array of basic shared hosting options, go with Nexcess. Its hosting provides a fantastic combo of speed, security, and uptime with a great deal of user control for maximizing your resources without all the bloated features you don't need.
Overall Score: 2.6 out of 5
Nexcess is a step up for the other web hosts on this list. It’s a top-tier web host for WordPress users.
They don’t offer shared hosting plans and they specialize in ecommerce platforms.
It’s for users who know what they’re doing and want a bit more control over their servers and web hosting experience. So, it’s not as beginner-friendly as the others.
And the scoring reflects this.
Nexcess offers managed hosting, something we haven’t talked about. It makes managing a site much easier because it removes most if not all of the DIY management of your website. Extending an added freedom from stress with Nexcess.
However, it’s the setup and onboarding that requires more technical knowledge and understanding of setting up web hosting.
Here’s how they did in our five major categories:
- Ease of Use = 2/5
- Uptime = 5/5
- Speed = 4/5
- Price = 1/5
- Customer Support = 4/5
Ease of Use: 2/5 – Nexcess isn’t for beginners, so ease of use takes a hit. It’s made for those who know a bit more about web hosting.
There is very little direction whatsoever after you’re done signing up.
All the hosts that scored higher immediately took you to a setup wizard, but you’re left to figure things out on your own with Nexcess.
It’s clear this host is meant for more experienced users who want something with better performance, but don’t want to fork over $25 or $30 per month.
When you get started, you select your payment terms. We went with the monthly plan.
After that, you can change the name of your plan to keep track of them and also choose your server location.
There are five server locations:
- Asia Pacific
No other web host so far has allowed you to do this.
Then, you’ll see an order summary. There are no upsells, so you don’t have to worry about any unnecessary extras.
You also get a welcome email before finalizing your purchase with info on how to finish setting up your account.
This is great, it’s like two-step authentication. They want to make sure you’re getting what you asked for.
After clicking on the email link you’re taken back to the signup page. After you click ”Purchase”, you are immediately redirected to your portal with a popup message that says it’ll take a few minutes to set up your new plan.
There’s a short tutorial walking you through important features of the portal and how to use it.
We clicked “Learn More” to check it out.
We found this to be a plus for Nexcess during the setup, and worth calling out. But it doesn’t improve the overall score.
The first screen walks through how to use the main navigation panel of the portal. It tells you about the plans, support, and billing tabs.
Clicking “Next” shows you how to use the user menu on the top right corner.
The last screen is for support shortcuts. It tells you all the different ways you can get in touch with the support team if you need to. This makes it simple for you to find help, not forcing you to waste time looking for it.
It’s great for general information, but it does not actually help you set up your website. And that’s the whole point of this right?
By the time you’re done with the wizard, your hosting plan is ready to go.
At this point, we got another welcome email with an invoice for the payment, a link to our portal where we can access our site, and additional information on how to get support if we need it.
After that, we got one more email telling us the account is ready and that WordPress is installed on our site.
Other than that, there’s not really much info on what to do next.
We weren’t even sure how to log in to WordPress at this point or start editing our site. There’s also nothing telling us what to do with our domain name. Again, not very easy to follow.
Here’s what the home screen of the dashboard looks like:
After spending a few minutes figuring out how to get to our WordPress dashboard. We were in.
We found a detailed analytics section that allows you to look at total bandwidth and disk space used. Data like this is something you can wield to see how you can make site improvements.
It definitely feels like a portal that’s better suited for advanced users who have specific preferences.
Nexcess expects you to know the basics and be comfortable with creating a new website. And there’s no need for slow, step-by-step instructions since you should already know what to do.
Despite the lack of further instructions, we loved that there were no additional payment upsells.
And the WordPress install was also very clean, with only three plugins and standard themes installed. Much different than shared web hosting that usually comes with tons of plugins, upsells galore, and pre-installed themes, which actually slow down your site.
Nexcess is great for users who know how to set up a web host. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this is not the host for you.
Uptime: 5/5 – Nexcess is all about performance, and our research validates that. They notched a perfect 100% uptime with zero seconds of total downtime over 30 days.
Nexcess keeps your website’s doors open like a 24-hour market, always ready to serve customers and visitors.
Take a look:
There were zero incidents causing the site to be unavailable. Happier visitors, increased traffic, and more sales are the results you can expect when you host your site with Nexcess.
Obviously, that perfect performance ranked at the top of all the web hosts on our list.
Speed: 4/5 – When you pay top dollar for web hosting you expect it to be fast. And we wanted to make sure that’s exactly what you got.
So we tested Nexcess servers for a month to see how they did.
They turned in an average response time of 565 milliseconds. This means your site loads in about half a second— a literal flip of a light switch.
When you look at the image above, you can see the spikes in load time don’t move any higher than 1.2 seconds.
Nexcess does everything it can to make your site a speeding bullet out of the gate, bolstered by their many speed enhancement features:
You can choose from eight data centers, spread across Michigan (where they have two), California, Florida, the UK, Amsterdam, and Sydney. This gives you control over minimizing the physical distance between your server and your visitors, which reduces load time.
You also get 2 TB of bandwidth, which most sites won’t reach for a very long time, if ever. Having lots of bandwidth means there’s plenty of room for traffic spikes and surges without them affecting your site’s performance. You also have a lot of room to grow before needing to upgrade to a higher tier.
Auto-scaling technology from Nexcess lets your site go beyond your PHP limits for a short amount of time in the case of intense traffic surges or spikes to ensure your site doesn’t crash. Even on your busiest days, every user will experience fast load times and great performance no matter what.
Nexcess’ content delivery network (CDN) features 22 edge locations in North America, Europe, and the Asian Pacific region. The CDN is automatically configured with all new Nexcess accounts so you don’t have to do anything, it’s all taken care of for you. It requires no configuration or tweaking on your part and is preconfigured for your server environment, with the best settings selected for you.
Image Compression and Lazy Load reduces the file size of JPG and PNG images automatically without sacrificing image quality. The days of spending hours configuring images to the perfect compression size are a thing of the past. Nexcess has partnered with TinyPNG so you get the premium compression plugin for free.
With all this attention on speed, it’s no surprise/ or a surprise that Nexcess is significantly better than the average 708 milliseconds for response times across all the hosts we tested.
Price: 1/5 – Predictably, Nexcess scores horribly in this category. They are not your average cheap shared web hosting provider. And they are the most expensive hosting provider on this list. Shared hosting isn’t even an option with them.
For the first year of hosting you pay $15.83 per month for 12 months, totaling $189.96 a year for hosting.
With this plan, you pay nothing for an email address. But you do pay $15 a year for your domain. Then, if you want to protect your identity with domain privacy, it’s another $5 per year.
That’s a total of $209.96 for year one.
But there is something unique about Nexcess. On renewal, there’s no increase in price. They’re the only provider on the list to have this price lock guarantee.
So, you pay the same $209.96 for your second year as well.
That runs your two-year total to $419.92, which is still very pricey.
Nexcess is expensive and not for everyone. They are way above the average price for all the other hosts.
If you want to save a little, buy a domain name from another domain provider. Instead of paying $15 a year with Nexcess.
Other than that, this is the best deal you can get.
Customer Support: 4/5 – With a web host that gives you all the bells and whistles, we’d expect outstanding support. Though they scored above average, we feel our experience should have been much, much better.
Here’s what we mean.
On our first chat, we asked about website security. We were immediately connected to a rep.
About five minutes into the conversation, the rep forwarded us three articles they felt would be helpful:one about iThemes Security Pro, a second on how to get started with managed WordPress hosting, and a third about securing WordPress sites.
The first two were not helpful at all. But the last one was extremely valuable to answering our question.
But, the rep just sent us a bunch of support articles to read on our own. We’re paying for premium hosting and customer support, yet it didn’t feel like the support was any better than the shared hosting options on our list.
The rep didn’t really know much about the product, even for a simple question about if something comes with our plan or not.
And response times were very long in between answers.
We liked being connected immediately, but the rest of the interaction was slow, bland, and impersonal. The rep was friendly but not knowledgeable.
On the second interaction, we were connected with a rep in 30 seconds.
We asked the rep to help us set up an email account for our domain name.
The rep asked us a series of confusing questions, which we list below.
The first they asked us was, “Can I point mail service to Nexcess? Could you please confirm?”
We told them we didn’t understand the question, and they repeated the above question again. To avoid any further confusion, we basically just said, “Okay, do whatever you have to do.”
The rep responded and said, “In order to access email service, we require MX records. Could you please confirm whether I can create it for you?”
We responded in the affirmative and they said it could take up to four to eight hours for the changes to go through and to check back later.
They also dropped a link with instructions for us on how to get to our email later on.
We thanked them and we ended the chat.
Though confusing, we appreciated that they actually went into our account and did everything for us.
We found Nexcess’s process to be much different from everyone else’s. Which doesn’t make it bad. It’s just normally email setup is a really simple thing to do.
We would have liked to have the rep recognize our confusion and explain a bit more to us. But they did solve the problem and took matters into their own hands.
Definitely more on par with the level of support you’d expect with a premium host.
On the third chat, we were connected with a rep immediately.
We asked about optimizing the site for speed and they mentioned three tools to look into: WP Rocket, a content delivery network, and Redis, with a support article explaining each tool.
WP Rocket and Redis are both paid tools.
We definitely wished they would have mentioned some more things we could do for free, or at least explain things a bit rather than just shooting over an article for us to read on our own.
It was really fast, though, which was nice.
But we also felt like the rep could have offered advice beyond sending us to paid tools and support articles.
It almost felt a little bit rushed, as if they just didn’t have time to explain any of it to us, especially after we said we were a beginner and just getting started.
Beyond naming the tools and sending us to a support article, the rep didn’t really do much else.
But the chat took only five minutes, so they were friendly and fast.
Although Nexcess scored a 4/5 on support, it didn’t feel that way. We definitely expected it to be better since their services are so much more expensive.
We expected the reps to be a lot more involved and hands-on, but many of them seemed to not really know much about Nexcess services.
With that said, we were connected with reps quickly which is nice.
And they offer five ways to get help: email, phone, live chat, social media, and knowledge base articles.
But they were really disappointing for premium hosting customer support when compared to other high-end hosts not included in our list.
All that being said, you do get the performance you’re paying for from Nexcess. It’s not for beginners, but if you know what you’re doing and you want unflagging uptime and speed, look no further than Nexcess.
#8 – A2 Hosting — Most Dependable Host for Europe and Asia
Best for Europe & Asia
If you are catering your website to mostly European and Asian audiences or just want reliability for visitors from all over the globe, use A2 Hosting's server selection to make sure everyone gets a pleasant site experience. Enjoy multiple data centers, excellent customer support, and decent performance.
Overall Score: 2.3 out of 5
A2 Hosting is well known for its blazing-fast site speeds. Our research put that to the test. You’ll find detailed data about it below.
But what we didn’t know—and found surprising—is how well their data centers perform in Europe and Asia.
They are exceptional at catering to visitors in these parts of the world.
If you do business internationally in these areas, you need a web host you can trust that’s built to perform well for overseas customers.
A2 Hosting will exceed your expectations in this department, providing your visitors with speedy access to your website without a problem.
Now, with that said, we found A2 Hosting doesn’t perform as expected in other areas we find crucial in web hosting. Falling far behind other shared web hosting comparisons.
Let’s look at how well they performed.
- Ease of Use = 0/5
- Uptime = 3/5
- Speed = 1/5
- Price = 3/5
- Customer Support = 4.33/5
Ease of Use: 2/5 – A2 Hosting proved to be one of the hardest web hosts to use when getting started. It’s surprisingly challenging with its difficult dashboard design and riddled with upsells during the checkout process.
We found it cluttered and difficult to navigate. To make matters worse, there were no instructions on how to get started after checkout—leaving us frustrated as we clicked and scrolled trying to figure things out.
It’s definitely a terrible user experience for us, one that can leave you feeling uneasy and lost if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Here’s how getting started looks.
When you first sign up, you register a new domain or transfer an existing one, by updating nameservers or using a temporary subdomain from A2.
After you finish the domain step, things get very cluttered and confusing.
You’re taken to a new screen that’s very overwhelming with so much crammed onto the screen.
If you’ve never done this before, you won’t know what any of this means. Since we opted for one month of hosting at $10.99, we found the price of $60.98 due today a bit shocking.
The advanced SSL certificate is pre-checked, which is causing a massive price spike of $49.99. But A2 doesn’t tell you it’s an advanced option.
To us, we feel you may see “Rapid SSL” and assume you need it, even though the free SSL that comes with the plan is more than enough. It feels very misleading.
It should be clear as day that it’s advanced and not required. But it’s not.
As you scroll down, you’ll choose your plan, and decide where you want your server. Then choose which SSL certificate you want.
After that, there are four more add-ons you can choose from. None are pre-checked except the expensive SSL certificate we already mentioned.
The upsells are:
- A premium SSL certificate
- A dedicated IP address
- Offsite backups
- A spam firewall
- A2 website builder
These upsells all come at a cost. However, the pricing is not listed unless you select the upsell.
The premium SSL certificate is the only one that was preselected. Once we unchecked it the price returned to $10.99.
Once you finish selecting your content management system (CMS) and checkout, you’ll finish up with general account information and process your payment.
If you aren’t aware, a CMS is where you store all of your website content: your blog posts and media. It’s also the place you manage comments, update plugins, and manage your website security. WordPress is the most well-known CMS.
Then, you are greeted with this screen:
There’s no guided setup or checklist. There’s absolutely nothing telling you what to do next.
We also received a welcome email filled with web hosting jargon, with no explanation on how our control panel, FTP, SSH, and email actually work, or why each of them has separate accounts.
This leaves you to manage multiple passwords, which can easily be forgotten or lost in the shuffle of all the information they blast you with.
Onboarding could definitely be a more user-friendly experience with help, guidance, and step-by-step instructions on how to move forward.
A2 doesn’t check off a single box in our ease of use criteria, so it scored a zero out of five.
Uptime: 3/5 – Staying available to your visitors is something A2 Hosting does very well. They make sure that when your site is up and running, it stays that way.
Our uptime research uncovered a 99.96% availability for visitors, with 15 minutes and 41 seconds of total downtime over 30 days.
Here’s the screenshot for 30 days of uptime testing:
There were two incidents that caused the site to be unavailable, displayed by the two little red boxes on the bottom of the image.
One very short connection timeout occurred. That happens when your website is trying to pull more resources from the server than are available. It results in your browser not being able to load the site at all, a common problem with shared web hosting. This lasted 41 seconds.
The second, a 15-minute HTTP 500 internal server error, is a catchall for server-side errors. That’s an unfortunately long period of sustained downtime.
The average downtime across all the hosts we tested was 23 minutes and 55 seconds, which places A2 Hosting slightly better than average.
Speed: 1/5 – Speed is A2 Hosting’s claim to fame. It’s proudly displayed, front and center, on their website.
So, we were excited to do our testing over 30 days and reveal the facts about their entry-level plan’s performance.
Our results show the average response time was 895 milliseconds. Just under one second, but keep in mind we have no data, media, or plugins on our site.
Not the norm for most users. And that’s a rather high average anyway, implying some serious spikes in load time.
The screenshot of the speed test results is below.
A2 Hosting definitely prides itself on being fast and offers numerous speed enhancement features to combat slower load times, all included without any extra effort on your part:
100 GB of SSD storage space comes standard on A2 Hosting’s entry-level plan, which is massive compared to others. You likely won’t run out or get close to the limit for a long time, which can help keep your site’s performance steady.
A2 Hosting’s unlimited bandwidth is another plus. Most web hosts limit how much data you can transfer to your users over a given period of time. When you exceed that limit, they normally slow your site speed down. But you don’t have to worry about excessive bandwidth usage with A2 Hosting. However, they do have a fair usage policy which states you’re only allowed to use a standard amount of bandwidth and can’t abuse the system. But most users just getting started don’t have to worry about this.
A2’s optimized software offers pre-configured installs for tons of different CMS systems, WordPress included. All of your optimization settings are set up for you out of the box, including image, file, and code compression to keep your website lean and running fast. You also get basic cache control, so your site doesn’t need to be fetched every time a user needs to access it.
There are four server locations to choose from: Michigan, Arizona, Amsterdam, and Singapore. This keeps your overseas visitors happy and offers smooth and quick access to your web content.
All said, because A2 Hosting speaks so highly of their speed we expected mind-blowing speed test results that absolutely demolished the competition.
But there is no real difference on the entry-level plan with no upgrades.
Price: 3/5 – When you compare the pricing of other shared web hosts on this list, the cost for A2 is average.
For the first year of hosting, you pay $6.99 per month for a total of $83.88. A domain name costs $14.95 per year if you aren’t’ transferring one over.
If you need domain privacy, tack on another $9.95. Email is free, though, so your first-year total is $108.78 with everything you need to get started.
For renewal, the hosting goes up to $8.99 per month for your second 12 months, equaling $107.88.
The domain price remains at $14.95 per year, as does the $9.95 fee for privacy. Email is still free, so the total second-year cost is $132.78.
The renewal rate is 29% higher than promo pricing, which is the lowest increase we’ve seen.
You’re looking at $241.56 in total for two years of hosting.
The average price across all the hosts on our list is $246 for two years of hosting, email, domain registration, and domain privacy, making A2 Hosting slightly higher than average.
If you want more value for your money, signing up for three years in advance at $1.99 per month runs you $71.64 for three years of hosting.
You’ll still have to pay for your domain name and domain privacy, which makes the total for three years $146.34.
That’s a savings of $100.
But after the first three years, your monthly rate goes up to $10.99 per month, which is quite a big jump.
Customer Support: 4/5 – A2 Hosting scored above average in customer support.
In our first interaction, it took six minutes to get a response.
The first thing they sent us in response to our question about site security was a paid product, and they were pretty salesy about it.
We also didn’t like that they sent over a support article with info on how to secure WordPress sites. But didn’t go into further detail on how to use the article. They didn’t try walking us through how to secure our website.
They offered no advice or additional help. We asked how much the security upgrade costs and all they could tell us was that it depends.
They then offered to switch us over to the sales team. We declined and ended the chat.
This chat lost points for pushing a paid product first and for not offering any help beyond sending us support articles.
In our second chat, we were connected with a rep immediately.
This rep was really helpful and typed out step-by-step instructions on how to create an email account for our domain.
They also offered screenshots of where to click, which was nice. We asked how to forward emails to Gmail and they provided instructions on how to do that. They also offered a detailed support article that covers more of the process if we needed it.
This was a thorough interaction. Even for a simple question, the rep was friendly and helpful the entire time.
This chat ticked every box we test for in excellent customer support.
For our third and final interaction, we again were connected with a rep immediately.
We asked how to optimize our site to load as fast as possible.
The rep did a speed test for our site and said it was loading fast already. We told them we hadn’t started building it yet and were just looking for help on how to keep it optimized going forward.
They said we can enable Cloudflare and offered an article on how to do so.
They also sent over a detailed article with lots of info on how to optimize WordPress sites. We definitely appreciated that they took the time to test the site to offer personalized advice.
Again, this interaction met all of our customer support testing criteria.
A2 really did a great job here. They were more reliable than some of the other hosts on our list. We were connected with a rep almost immediately every time we reached out to them.
Aside from the first interaction, they were very knowledgeable and friendly. They gave us advice and clear instructions beyond leaving us to figure things out on our own.
If that’s something you prefer or come across a complex issue that’s easier to resolve over the phone, A2 also offers phone support.
Cater to your international visitors with A2 Hosting and enjoy the added bonus of really good customer support so you can maximize their hosting services.
How To Choose The Best Web Hosting Service
Our team compiled 105 pages of research, gathered over one month, giving us crystal clear proof to back up our best hosting recommendations.
Because we don’t want you wasting your time or money on what could be best.
Only on what is best.
So, for every host that we evaluated, we went through our definitive testing procedure:
- We created brand new accounts for each web hosting plan
- Purchased domain names for each host and then onboarded through the signup process
- Built brand new sites with zero images,plugins, or pages. Only a blank WordPress install
- For each website, we selected the same WordPress settings and theme
- Monitored uptime and site speed closely for a full month
- We Submitted three customer support tickets. Testing how helpful every web host will be
After running our tests, we rated each provider on a scale of one to five in five categories, weighted by their importance in your buying decision:
- Ease Of Use (25%)
- Speed (10%)
- Uptime (10%)
- Pricing (35%)
- Customer Support (20%)
We then combined all those ratings into a single overall score for each web hosting provider.
These five categories are the main areas to focus on. We found that understanding these influences the quality of a web host, pulling you toward a better buying decision.
Pricing is the most important factor, so it has the biggest impact on a host’s overall score.
Ease of use and customer support make up almost half of the overall score, since getting started and getting help when you need it are keys to having a quality hosting experience (especially if you’re building your first website).
It makes sense, getting started without pulling your hair out and having a support team behind you are the most important things to look for.
Our full review and guide will help you figure out what provider is best for you. By showing you how well they did in ease of use, availability, speed, price, and customer support.
We have all these categories listed below because they are what top web hosts excel at. And what people really want to know about.
Our research found they are what’s most important to you in having a successful website.
So Easy You Can Deploy Your Site In One Day (25%)
No one likes feeling like they can’t do something.
Wouldn’t you like a quick and easy-to-follow setup? One with no fuss and no headaches?
Of course, you would.
That’s why it counts for a quarter of each provider’s overall score.
When we started our definitive research on web hosts, we wanted to make sure using a provider was easier than popping the top on a ketchup bottle.
So we looked at every aspect of our experience—testing and documenting how easy or hard things were during the signup process. We also examined the difficulty of setting websites up on each host.
We include tips on navigating pesky upsells— what they mean and if you need them.
We graded ease of use on a one through five-point system. Based on five specific outcomes.
Let’s look at the rules we followed for calculating the ease of use score.
- Minimal upsells or trickery during the signup process
- A clean, clutter-free, and easy to use dashboard
- Straightforward, step-by-step instructions on how to get started (you’re never left guessing what to do next).
- A CMS installation wizard that walks through configuring your site
- Clear instructions on how to connect a domain name
When a host does well in one of these five categories they score one point. The best score is five out of five.
Some providers send you a ton of emails that have links and instructions that are hard to understand lowering the score for ease of use.
Some don’t send you instructions via email at all. We go over a detailed experience for each provider set up. So you know who does this well and who doesn’t.
We dug deep into it all, so you don’t get lost later on.
We loved that many of them make the onboarding process automatic, and don’t challenge you in any way.
You don’t have to be an expert, and it’s easier than ever to end up with a complete and functional website in minutes. They make it virtually impossible to do anything wrong, never leaving us asking “what next?”.
On the other hand, we feel some are trying to win an award for “most frustrating”.
They send you multiple emails with zero instruction regarding server security, email security, and more. They’ve designed web hosting dashboards that are clunky and monotone and left us with incomplete websites, confusion, and a mountain of questions.
Our onboarding experience with a few providers was filled with twists and treacherous turns of confusion. If we had to sum it up, it was simply dreadful.
But it serves as a clear roadmap so you avoid the same experience.
Never Lose a Visitor Because of Slow Site Speed Again (10%)
Got a slow website? Kiss your visitors and rankings goodbye.
We know this for a fact because we’ve done the research time and time again.
Our team spent 30 days methodically watching the performance for every provider on this list. We added all the sites into FreshPing and monitored the speed response.
That way, we could give you the truth about which providers have real, reliable speed and which ones are all talk.
And our discovery shows raw data on how they all performed. No fluff, just results.
The only difference between our test sites was the host. We made our testing environment sterile in the sense there were zero variables.
No images, comments, or any other content was included. All plugins were stripped as well. The website is completely bare.
Why would we do it this way?
Because we wanted a clear baseline for performance with unquestionable accuracy.
Your website will be different, and have media and other assets. So your averages will vary.
But our goal isn’t simply finding out who’s faster. We also want to prove which provider is all talk and who actually keeps your website running when others can’t.
So, we wanted an environment with no variables or limitations to see who has the best results possible for speed.
When the 30 days were up, we looked at the data. Then, we assigned a score to each of the web hosts with the grading scale below:
- 5 points for less than 550 ms
- 4 points for 551 ms to 650 ms
- 3 points for 651 ms to 750 ms
- 2 points for 751 ms to 850 ms
- 1 points for more than 851 ms
We couldn’t believe our eyes, and were blown away by the results we found.
We discovered that most hosts hover right around average, with a few standing out from the pack for good (and bad) reasons.
The image below shows a provider that performed significantly worse than we expected.
The image above shows an average response time of 1107 ms in 30 days. That’s the worst performance we saw, and with initial responses taking more than a second, there’s not much hope for speedy load times.
In shared hosting speed and traffic spikes are closely related. Shared hosting can be slower than other types of hosting plans.
The speed of your site depends on other websites’ behavior that are on the same server.
That’s because shared hosting plans stuff as many websites as they can fit on one server. Slowing down your site when they have traffic spikes, also called surges.
A good shared web host will combat slow response times by using cloud servers, speed related features and improved management of their servers.
An example of a speed related feature is a content delivery network (CDN).
It allows your data to be easily accessed by people around the world from the data centers closest to them. One more is a caching plugin that stores different parts of your website to serve up pre-loaded, instead of reloading it every time someone requests it.
When we ran our speed tests, they were done on the base plan for each provider. To keep things equally fair.
The truth is, a creepy crawling site will have hideous consequences. That’s why it’s 10% of the web host score.
Our recommendation, keep your site speed fast. Under two second response time. This will improve your rankings and keep your visitors happy at the same time.
Ignore Uptime Guarantees—Look at Real-World Data Instead (10%)
The hosting industry is full of terrible support, broken promises, and spotty uptime rates.
Often turning good websites into ghost towns because of poor availability.
Do all of them really deliver 99.99% uptime, all the time?
Some hosts like to say that because they don’t want to tell you the truth about not meeting this guarantee.
They rather offer you misdirection from transparency about real performance.
They do this by offering you compensation if the guarantee isn’t met. Paying you is much better than telling you they can’t reach this coveted number of 99.99%.
So we cut out the fluff and test them ourselves, so we can tell you the truth.
But you’ll start with the entry-level plan. Most do. And many hosts fall short here.
So that’s where we started.
You don’t have to wonder if the host is telling the truth or not. because we’ve done the research for you. We’ve cleared away all the hype, making it simple to see what’s really going on.
We make it incredibly easy for you to see in a matter of minutes which host you can trust and who to avoid.
Here’s how we do it.
We started fresh, just like with speed testing.
The same websites we created and used for all of our other testing, we also used for uptime research.
For a full 30 days we poked and prodded each host.
Looking for every flaw and crack in their story about uptime.
Our websites were connected to FreshPing—recording every piece of data they could find about uptime and the reasons behind the slightest decrease.
Then we carefully took the data we collected, and graded it against our simple and easy to follow grading system.
- 5 points for less than one minute of downtime
- 4 points for one to 15 minutes of downtime
- 3 points for 15 to 30 minutes of downtime
- 2 points for 30 to 45 minutes of downtime
- 1 point for more than 45 minutes of downtime
Once we had our final scores, there was no hiding from the truth.
The percentage of availability for each host was crystal clear. Making your job much easier when it’s your turn to decide what provider offers better uptime availability.
You might be thinking “That’s great, but are there any other details about uptime I should know about?”
Emphatically, we say yes.
Here are six of the most common reasons for downtime.
- Network Outages
- Human Error
- Server Failures
- Usage Spikes/Surges
- Unknown Issues
- Power outages
These reasons cause the highest percentage of websites being unavailable. And every web host uses their own data and engineers to improve uptime as best they can.
A lower percentage of uptime means there are moments where visitors don’t have access to your website. That can cause you to lose money or credibility and ruin your reputation with Google, affecting your search rankings— something no website owner can afford.
Here’s an example of terrible uptime percentage:
In this image you can see the availability percentage (99.68%) in the far upper left corner. Doesn’t sound bad right?
But it’s deceiving. Look directly to the right at the total downtime that accompanies it.
The total downtime of two hours and 22 minutes is massive over a 30-day period. That’s over two hours your website isn’t working; over two hours during which your visitors can’t come to your website. They wanted your content, they wanted to visit, but you weren’t home.
Even worse, the next statistic over—the longest single, sustained period of downtime—was a full 30 minutes.
So, at one time during this month, our website was inaccessible for a full half-hour.
And there was nothing we could do about it. When visitors land on your domain, it’s likely they won’t come back if you have this same problem.
We expected to find that the majority of web hosting providers would have reliable servers.
The average downtime was 23 minutes and 55 seconds. So it’s not all bad.
But, the main thing you want to remember is to pay attention to how often incidents happen.
The same common reasons we went over just above the uptime image in this section.
The incident statistic is in the upper right corner of the image above.
The more these occur the more flimsy the uptime performance will be.
What’s an incident? It is when something, anything, causes your website to become unavailable.
Sometimes it’s scheduled maintenance by the provider, other times it’s pure server errors and platform weakness.
But now you won’t be surprised when downtime happens. You’ll also have a good idea on how your website’s affected. And even some idea of what’s causing it.
The True Cost of Hosting Your Site for the Long Term (35%)
Do you like spending hard earned money on something you don’t know is going to work?
So when we did our research on pricing we made it the most important score in our grading system.
Because we know you don’t want to get burned if things don’t work out.
That’s why we carefully reviewed every detail of the price for each provider in this review. We mapped out every cent you need to pay so there won’t be any surprises for you.
And we spent all of our time on the entry-level plans so pricing would be equally compared across the board for every provider. Most of our readers will begin here anyway.
Here’s the breakdown:
First we started with the monthly promotional pricing, using that to calculate what the upfront cost would be for a full year of hosting.
Then we searched which providers charge for domain names. If there was a price we added that to the yearly total.
We did the same for domain privacy and email services. Then added those to the yearly total as well.
After the first year. You have renewal costs to deal with. Which commonly puts a larger dent in your wallet.
Web hosts are notorious for jacking up the price on renewals.
Once we calculated the renewal costs and all the fees for a second year of hosting, we combined that with the first year pricing to give you a clear idea of the total expense for every single provider we reviewed.
After this meticulous review process on pricing, we created a grading scale on total cost for two years of hosting:
- 5 points for less than $150
- 4 points for $151 – $210
- 3 points for $211 – $270
- 2 points for $271 – $330
- 1 point for more than $331
The average price across all the hosts on our list is $246.71 for two years of hosting, email, domain registration, and domain privacy.
One provider on the list is the runaway winner with a two-year cost of only $136.74, while the most expensive options ranged between just under $300 to a bit over $400.
The reviews above offer specific details about renewal pricing and other fees to be aware of specific to each provider.
We noticed even if a provider comes in cheaper than average price for two years they can offer better service or uptime then a more expensive provider.
Giving you more than you would expect for less.
In comparison to a more expensive provider. Our experiences with some higher price web hosts didn’t provide a better overall experience. Proving higher rates did not mean better quality.
Connect with a Real Human in Ten Minutes or Less (20%)
Do you remember the last time you got outstanding customer service?
For us, it was from a few providers on this list that really blew our socks off.
The best part, we documented it all. Every detail, screenshots and everything.
Because customer support is one of the most important features any web host can have. It is weighted as 20% of the overall score.
We spent hours researching all eight providers on this list, asking the tough questions most users need answers to.
Because we believe finding the gold standard for customer service shouldn’t be trial and error.
Based on our research, there are three questions that help every website perform better from the start:
- What security features and measures do you offer to keep my site secure?
- Can you walk me through how to set up an email account for my domain?
- How do I make my site load as fast as possible?
We contacted support via live chat three separate times of the day, with each interaction focusing on one of those three questions:
- In the morning, around 8 – 9 a.m. PST
- In the afternoon, around noon – 1 p.m. PST
- In the evening, around 7 – 8 p.m. PST
We felt it was important to find out for you if each provider’s support was consistent. Or if it was hit or miss.
Also, we wanted to gauge support response times at different times of the day. Because not everyone can chat at 10 a.m.
Doing it this way kept things consistent. And since there are a few providers on our list without phone support, live chat was the best way to compare each host.
We documented every interaction and graded each provider on specific critical areas, proven to be valuable to real users:
- Offered support that doesn’t feel salesy or pushed unnecessary paid products
- Phone support if you prefer getting on the phone with someone
- Offered advice beyond sending us directly to a support article
- Took 10 minutes or less to connect with a human via live chat
- We felt like the rep was knowledgeable and friendly
You see, we go beyond getting help on just answering a simple question.
Let’s look at one example, where we asked a hosting provider about security features:
The chat started at 8:07 am:
We got a response within 30 seconds and began chatting with Kiara. She thanked us for chatting with her today and said how happy she was to answer our questions.
She was very thorough and confirmed our call back number in case we got disconnected. Then she asked “may I have your domain name and email address?”
We responded “sure” and gave it to her. She then asked for the last four characters of our password so she could provide account-specific answers about security.
We felt this was so far so good. After that, we mentioned that we wanted to hear about security features that are available to secure our website.
Her first response was about paid packages we can buy. We know they offer free security features so we are not sure why she didn’t mention those at all and went straight for the upsell.
This response told us how much these extra packages cost per year and what features each one includes. Then, we asked if there’s anything we can do that doesn’t cost extra.
Kiara responded and said that there’s a free security feature but it isn’t very good and then recommended free plugins we can use that also won’t be very good.
We told her we’d think about it and then she said “I hope I’ve provided a five-star experience” and ended the chat.
The whole interaction took 22 minutes.
Here’s a screenshot of our conversation:
Above you can see how we broke down our conversation line by line and what steps the rep did to meet our criteria for grading.
For our support grading scale, we assigned one point for each of the following:
- Received advice/support that wasn’t overly pushy on upgrading/paying more money
- Offered advice/support beyond being immediately sent to a support article
- Ended the entire interaction in less than 15 minutes
- Initial response in less than 5 minutes
- The rep was knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to help
Simply put, if a provider does well in any area we listed above they score a point.
One trend we want you to be aware of are the providers that upsell you before trying to help you with your original concern.
We find this to be poor customer support and suggest you don’t tolerate it. This is a red flag and a clear sign you aren’t getting the help you need.
For us, a few providers glossed over our problem and instantly began pitching services that they believed were more helpful, instead of trying to solve the problem we reached out to them about.
This left a nasty taste in our mouth and, for that reason, any providers that had this happen lost a point.
But, in the end, you must test your customer support thoroughly within the first 30 days. No matter if you experience a problem or not.
Use them as a resource. It’s the only way to know if they’ll be effective for you and really help when your back is against the wall.
Fortunately, you normally get a 30-day money back guarantee with hosting providers. So you can put them to the test for yourself and, if they don’t perform well, move on without risk.
So sign up, go through the process of setting up your site, test them out, and see if our research stands up to your own experience.
Many users praised this approach and found it to save them countless headaches later on. Even if you think you’ll never need them.
Customer support that provides detailed and in-depth help, while walking you step by step with patience through any problem, is what we all want, isn’t it?
Web hosting is the backbone of your website’s performance. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to evaluate the best web hosting service for your needs.
We recommend Hostinger as our top overall pick for most users.
However, there isn’t an umbrella option that meets the needs of every website in every situation.
So, if you have unique needs and circumstances, use the criteria we talked about as you go through the process.