One of the most difficult decisions to make when launching a website is which company to use to host it. If you look at online hosting reviews, you’ll see so many horror stories for even the most highly-rated shared hosting companies. Often these are due to user error or disgruntled customers who flame the company because they were treated badly when their credit card expired or they had no clue what they were doing. How many of these horror stories are actually represent important things like server reliability and speed? How do you separate the capable reviewers from the disgruntled clueless ones who blamed their own failures on the hosting company?
Since I am a web developer, I’ve had the opportunity to try a variety of hosting companies, and hopefully I know the difference between when I mess up and when it’s my hosting company’s fault. Here are my experiences with shared hosting on Go Daddy, Bluehost, and InMotion. Note that I’m talking about their shared hosting products (not VPS).
Let me start with the largest and most hated company there is in the web development space: Go Daddy. Developers tend to hate big corporations, but the reasons for the hatred of Go Daddy go well beyond that, with their misogynist advertising campaigns, support of SOPA (later withdrawn), and bad publicity like the photos of their CEO, Bob Parsons, shooting an elephant. So, there is a tremendous amount of hatred for Go Daddy online, but not always for reasons that have to do with their services.
I signed up for GoDaddy years ago, before I was a professional web developer, before I knew about these things. They were big, and I had heard of them, so I went with them. They were actually fine for a long time, with only say, one or two outages per year that I noticed. Then, in mid 2012 and early 2013, things went downhill fast. My sites started to become really slow. I’m talking, twenty-second load times or more at times. It seemed to be related to sites with MySQL databases (i.e., WordPress). My pure HTML sites were okay. Then, they lost one of my databases (completely their fault). They said they’d restore it in two days, but it took a week. At this point, I was shopping for a new host.
A few months went by, and then something miraculous happened. All of my GoDaddy sites sped up immensely, going from twenty second to four second load times! I don’t know what they did, but they got their act together. I have not noticed any downtime this year either! Their uptime has been impeccable. I don’t show a Pingdom chart, because it would be flat at 100%!!
Go Daddy’s customer service is actually not bad. I can actually get them on the phone when I need to.
But, in spite of their improvements, I can’t recommend them to some of my clients because they would not want to be associated with that company. I work with a lot of nonprofits, like an animal adoption organization. Can’t use Go Daddy for them. Churches? Not with Go Daddy’s advertising campaign. On top of that, their bad reputation will make any decision to go with them questionable if the slightest thing goes wrong.
So, here are my ratings for “the new” Go Daddy (after mid 2013), on a scale of 1-5 stars, 5 stars being best:
|Control Panel Ease of Use||★★★★|
Before mid 2013, my ratings for Go Daddy would have looked like this:
|Control Panel Ease of Use||★★★★|
With Go Daddy unusable for many of my clients for ethical reasons, I was hoping that InMotion would be my savior. They are based locally, have good reviews online, and have not done anything stupid to mess up their reputation. I signed up one of my clients with them and was impressed with the site load speed. Really fast! Then, crazy stuff started to happen. I had the site go down for about an hour the first week. Then again the next week. I called and they said they were working on it. I put it on Pingdom monitoring and noticed short periods of downtime here and there. I requested they move the site to a new server, which they did after a few days, but that has had the same uptime problems. I’d say the server is down for about an hour per month for me. Here is the my Pingdom log for 30 days for a site hosted on InMotion (this is typical in my experience):
Here is the next 30-day period on Pingdom, just to prove these outtages are chronic. Note the second outtage was scheduled maintenance to fix the problem. Obviously, it didn’t work, because I had over 100 minutes of downtime a week later:
I talked to one of the InMotion representatives at a WordCamp, and he claimed that their servers had been up for 100% of the time this year. Maybe there is some difference in how we define “up”, but I know for a fact that my InMotion site was down many times this year, and I have the logs to prove it.
Their customer service is okay. Someone in the U.S. is available to talk to 24 hours a day, which is great. My phone wait times have ranged from a few minutes to almost an hour, which is not so great.
I really really want to like InMotion, but their reliability isn’t good enough for me, as of the writing of this article. I really hope they improve, because their servers are the fastest of the three companies! Here are my ratings for InMotion:
|Control Panel Ease of Use||★★★★|
With InMotion’s uptime being unreliable, I tried Bluehost after getting a lot of personal recommendations. Of course I’ve seen their ads, and they have good online reviews, but I have heard more and more horror stories lately, and wondered if they were getting overwhelmed by new users signing on.
I signed on a client, and immediately I liked their website interface. Out of the three services I tested here, I’d say it was the easiest to use.
Unfortunately, my WordPress site on Bluehost was slow. Much slower than Go Daddy or InMotion, by far. Take a look at the next section to see my real-world test results.
After a few months, I discovered another problem. My Bluehost sites would go down a few times a month for up to an hour at a time, similar to Inmotion.
Bluehost has an easy-to-use email forwarding service, but that has been flaky as well, with some messages delayed or dropped, as reported by my client.
Overall, I was disappointed. I really wanted to like Bluehost. But, with these results, I can’t recommend them either. Maybe things will improve.
Here are my ratings for Bluehost:
|Control Panel Ease of Use||★★★★★|
Load Time Shootout
I used Pingdom to measure the load time of a WordPress site on each of the three hosts. Note that the sites are not the same, so we are not exactly comparing apples to apples, but I believe the general trend here is accurate. Higher numbers are bad. The last point on the chart is the average.
As you can see, Bluehost loses when it comes to load times. InMotion was best, with an amazing 1.91 second load time. Go Daddy wasn’t bad at 4.24 seconds. Bluehost was dismal with a 15.16 second load time average. If you remove the 40 second load time as an anomaly, then you still get an average load time of 8.8 seconds, nothing to be proud of.
So, with their reputation so terrible, you might be surprised and dismayed to hear that Go Daddy is the overall winner of this shootout. Hopefully they will clean up their image, because honestly their service is really good now and I use them for all of my personal sites (including this one).
I recently attended a WordPress meeting where some of the pros recommended the following companies for shared hosting:
For WordPress hosting, many of the pros recommend WP Engine.
What have your experiences with hosting companies been like? I’d really like to hear your experiences, even if, and especially, if they different from mine!!!! – Brian