Short Answer (10 Seconds)
For those short on time, I would recommend looking into WordPress.com hosting for simple, fast, secure, economical hosting. For more versatile and advanced hosting needs, consider DreamHost.
If you want to go into depth on this subject, please continue reading.
I’ve been working with website development since the 1990s. I’ve helped hundreds of individuals and businesses launch sites or improve existing ones. This has given me an opportunity to experience many hosting companies. Because I’m launching sites and fixing broken ones, I get a chance to work intensively with the services and support offered by hosting companies. I experience first-time interactions with the user portal. Some are very intuitive, but others are very complicated and confusing. Over the years, I’ve seen various changes and improvements with different hosting companies. Despite having decades of experience, I can only draw from my own personal interactions. I’ve not conducted surveys with large numbers of customers or employees.
This website is hosted with DreamHost. I make no money referring people to DreamHost unless a person chooses to use my affiliate link [Click Here] in which case I would earn a one-time referral of $100 if you sign-up for the Shared Unlimited Hosting. I’d appreciate that. It helps cover my expenses, but you’re obviously not obligated to use my link, so I have no specific incentive to recommend any particular hosting service.
Nobody Ever Got Fired for Recommending IBM
In the early days when computers were becoming mainstream, smaller, more affordable, and available to businesses, a frequently used adage was, “Nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM.” The point being that IBM was an established, reliable, reputable company with really solid equipment. It was expensive, but at least wouldn’t result in a system failure negatively impacting a business, resulting in someone getting fired. It was a safe choice.
The same can be said about top-tier hosting companies. They may be slightly more expensive, but hopefully the dependable service and responsive customer support can ensure a reliable website. If you choose from a list of top-tier hosting companies, you probably won’t be disappointed. Digging deeper into each company’s services, costs, and reputation can help guide your choice.
Two Possible Review Sources
If you search the Internet for reviews of the best website hosting companies, what you’ll find are reviews that fall into two categories:
- ACCURATE. Reputable reviews from trusted independent industry sources.
- MISLEADING. Biased fake reviews where the author was paid to skew the results in favor and/or against certain hosts. Some reviews have paid affiliate links, so no matter what host link you click, the person gets commissions when you sign up. Some of the information may be correct, but the review is generally intended to mislead. The list may include all the expected established hosting companies, and then an unfamiliar one that has paid the reviewer to be positioned in the review with the other well-known companies. These reviews typically lack the FTC legally required disclaimers for advertising.
Top Hosting Company Reviews
Here are some current lists of top hosting companies.
- CNET – “The best web hosting for 2021” 6 Aug 2021. [View]
- PC Magazine – “The Best Web Hosting Services for 2021” 12 Aug 2021. [View]
- Tech Radar – “Best web hosting services of 2021: Top host providers for your website” 23 Aug 2021. [View]
- Tom’s Guide – “Best web hosting services in 2021” 26 Aug 2021. [View]
Even with the most reputable reviews of hosting companies, these reviews are written, and rewritten, and posted again, with better crafted SEO-focused titles, so as to drive traffic and readers to the sites where those lists can be found. It’s a common search term, and companies with seemingly fresh reports can expect lots of extra site visitors, thus boosting ad revenue and referral income. Some of these reports have no date in the URL, so the date is regularly changed to mislead search engines and readers into thinking the review is ‘current’ content.
The best review from those listed above is probably the CNET report which includes this statement:
“It’s important to note that we didn’t explicitly ‘test’ the web hosting provider options on this list. Instead, we compiled a competitive overview based on a variety of factors, including third-party ratings and features offered by each web hosting company and shared hosting provider. We’ve also weighted the rankings of each hosting solution by the Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot. With that data in hand, we split them into three tiers.”
Understanding the Trusted Reviews
In order for hosting companies to make it to the top ten lists year after year, they must meet certain criteria. These are likely the hosting companies you’ve already heard of. They have been around for a long time and have millions of customers. For example, GoDaddy hosts 5 million websites on 35,000 servers around the world.
Sometimes going with the biggest most reputable company can result in less personalized service. So, the top ten hosting companies may have varying degrees of responsiveness when it comes to customer service.
Most reviews of hosting companies overemphasize short-term special offer pricing. What one really needs to examine would be the reliability of hosting companies, speed of sites, and responsive customer service. These are the day-to-day factors that will determine the overall quality of service.
Poorly Written Reviews
The people who write website reviews are sometimes hurried content creators, under a deadline or otherwise pressured to write something (anything) to satisfy a submission request. The writer may arbitrarily pick random phrases to describe the pros and cons of a company.
I’m looking at a review now, where under the “reasons to avoid” heading for each hosting company one fines statements like:
- “average response times” – Presumably, many companies are average, and some are above or below average. The reviewer doesn’t provide any source for the statement or specifics about how many minutes, hours, or days one might expect for a response.
- “baseline shared accounts are limited” – Most hosting companies offer basic shared hosting, and those accounts are limited in storage or bandwidth. It’s an economical choice for someone with a simple website and not a reason to entirely avoid a hosting company.
- “email costs extra with a starter plan” – Many hosting companies don’t include email with their basic hosting plans. This makes the hosting more economical for people who already have an email address. This should not be considered a significant factor in what hosting company to choose. The email accounts included with hosting are usually limited in space or features. Customers need to pay more for email upgrades.
- “no free trial” – This is not a deal-breaker. Most hosting companies do not offer free trials. They do offer refunds during an introductory period which is effectively the same thing.
- “extensive features could overwhelm beginners” – Most hosting companies have many extensive features that one could explore and dig into or avoid. Consider that Microsoft Word has thousands of features, but for basic typing, one can simply create a new document and start typing. Hosting companies are like this. They usually offer a simple 1-2-3 step process to get started, with more advanced features available.
- “few advanced extras” – This is an arbitrary, vague comment without any source or explanation. There are some hosting companies that strive to provide a simple interface and experience for new users. Others have more advanced hosting options. But choosing one out of ten to criticize doesn’t seem reasonable.
- “no monthly billing on some plans” – Most companies offer an option to pay monthly or yearly. There are usually some plans that are only available if paid annually. This isn’t a deal-breaker and shouldn’t be considered as a significant factor when choosing a host. Actually, you’ll want to get the lower rates available with annual plans.
- “plans aren’t the cheapest” – There will typically be only one company in a list of 10 with the cheapest plans. For the other nine companies, it could be said that their plans aren’t the cheapest. A difference of 1 or 2 dollars per month should not be a deciding factor in who to choose as a host. An overemphasis on price distracts consumers from the more important criteria.
- “support site could intimidate beginners” – Beginning users will be confused by every support site because they are beginners. Probably the best support option is when text chat is available and you are instantly connected with a competent, well-trained person. WordPress.com offers this kind of support.
In summary, people are writing reviews of hosting companies who really don’t know about the companies or hosting in general. They are looking at other top ten lists and writing up a review based on what’s already out there. Most consumers don’t have a lot of time to research deeply, so they will just pick whatever familiar company seems to show up frequently on reviews.
Alphabetical Listing of Some Popular Hosting Companies
Every year, the top recognized and reputable industry journals will offer a review of the top hosting companies. From year to year, the list doesn’t change much.
Below is a list of hosting companies worthy of your time to review and consider, as well as some you may want to avoid. As mentioned in the introduction, as top-tier providers, these will all offer a good range of services, relatively good customer support, and reliability.
- BlueHost – Founded in 2002 and based in Orem, Utah. Over the past ten years, I’ve helped many of my customers who use BlueHost, and I personally haven’t been inspired to consider them for my own hosting needs. [Wikipedia]
- DreamHost – Founded in 1996 and based in Los Angeles. The service offers a simple dashboard where the customer can access and manage all the behind-the-scenes services for their website or sites. Pricing is economical. Unlimited hosting is about $120 per year and lets you have multiple websites hosted for that price (plus the cost of any additional domain names). The DreamHost user dashboard is a simple one-page portal to all the services. [Wikipedia]
- GoDaddy – Founded in 1997 and based in Tempe, Arizona. Approximately 7,000 employees and 20 million customers. GoDaddy has the benefits and challenges of a huge global organization. I’ve worked on sites hosted with GoDaddy on numerous occasions in supporting my customers who use their services. I’ve not been sufficiently inspired to choose them for my own needs. [Wikipedia]
- HostGator – Founded in 2002 and currently based in Houston, Texas. Known for offering inexpensive hosting plans. [Wikipedia]
- Network Solutions – Established in 1979 and primarily based in Virginia and Florida. I’ve been using their services continually since 1997. I’m currently not super enthusiastic about their pricing, interface, reliability, and customer service. [Wikipedia]
- SiteGround – I hosted with SiteGround for over a year and decided it didn’t fit my needs well.
These days it’s risky to post negative reviews about specific companies. It can attract negative attention and harassment from fanboys or lawyers. Here are some general considerations.
- Cost. Numerous hosting companies advertise hosting costs of $3 or less per month. This is to entice people into getting signed up for what ultimately is going to cost $150 to $200 per year or more.
- Customer Service. With some companies, it’s nearly impossible to get customer service. If you submit a support ticket, it could be days until you get a response, and most of the time the response will be, “For this problem, you need to talk to customer service.” Phone wait times can be excessive. Depending on which customer service person you work with, you could get someone very competent and friendly or someone who is rude and unhelpful. In some cases, customer service people may contradict each other. You may be told your site is ‘infected’ and that paying an extra $300 per year for the premium security package is the only solution. The support people are basically salespeople, telling lies to scare customers into paying more.
- Downtime and Slow Sites. Some hosting companies promise 99.9% uptime, but in reality, they have daily outages and outages that sometimes last many hours.
- When you call support, you’ll have trouble getting through. When you do get through, you’ll be told that your site outage is probably due to a plug-in problem or something else wrong with your site.
- If you submit a support ticket about an outage, the response will come back days later with a message stating, “The site seems to be working now. We don’t see anything wrong with it.” Basically, they get around to fixing outages at their leisure and never take responsibility or apologize.
- I have some customers using a certain hosting service, and for all their websites, I get numerous daily notifications of site outages. I’ve not seen that with any other hosting company. In other words, some hosting companies have regular outages. When site load times are slow, and the answer is almost always, “It’s something wrong with your site,” and you’ll be given a dozen things to fix it. So, individuals don’t realize these outages are impacting multiple people. They believe it’s just a problem with their own website.
- If you conduct a comparison test, you’ll find that the exact same simple HTML page loading from one hosting company takes less than a second, where it took a very long time on the ‘other’ hosting company. In other words, the slow hosting company just doesn’t want to invest in adequate servers and infrastructure. They will continue to use outdated, slow equipment and demand the highest dollar from their customers, then blame the customers when sites are slow. The dozens of suggestions to speed up a site are just a smokescreen. They are steps that should work but don’t because the hosting company is being negligent.
- One example of many is when a host won’t update the PHP system. Your WordPress site will show a notification stating that the site is slow and insecure because of an outdated PHP installation. The hosting company will tell you they don’t have the current PHP installed and don’t plan to install it for months. They are cutting corners and trying to keep their costs down.
- In some cases, the only explanation for service negligence is that hosting companies want to get people started with an inexpensive shared hosting plan on outdated, vulnerable, slow hardware. Then, when people get frustrated, they will be told that paying $20 to $30 per month for cloud hosting, managed hosting, or a dedicated server will solve their problems. Some hosting companies have fast, reliable, up-to-date shared hosting plans that work well. Others just use it as a gimmick to upsell customers.
- Email. It’s common for the “free email” accounts to have very limited storage, so you’re forced to pay a premium for email service attached to your domain. Setup of email is difficult and requires manual configuration. Some hosting companies give you hundreds of free email accounts. Others charge hundreds of dollars for just a dozen email accounts.
- PHP. An important component for WordPress websites and other advanced sites is PHP. If this is not updated, sites are slow and vulnerable to hacking. Numerous top-tier hosting companies have in recent history been very negligent in this regard. They do not have the latest PHP installed or available.
- Product Add-ons. One day you’ll get an email stating that a domain or service has been added to your account at no charge. These are free initial offers that eventually cost money. The assumption is that people and businesses are too busy to look closely at their hosting fees, and just pay whatever is due.
- Pushy Sales People. Some hosting companies apparently encourage their salespeople to push expensive products that customers don’t really need. I’ve met with people who have been sold numerous domain names similar to their own because they were convinced someone else might create a website with a similar name. I’ve met people who are paying hundreds of dollars for multiple hosting packages. The salesperson should have told them about shared hosting that would cost $150 per year instead of $1,500 per year.
- Security. You may get notified that your site is infected, but upon inspection, you realize that the supposedly infected files are not in a publicly accessible folder, and the files are text files. When asking customer service about this, you might be told you need the $300 per year security package to avoid problems like this. “It’s dangerous out there. You should have some ‘protection’ to make sure your nice website doesn’t get infected again.” This is similar to protection racketeering.
- Spam. I tried out one hosting company that had been highly recommended. Within 24 hours after launching my sites, each one started getting spam from Eastern European countries where the company was based. The spam came through the feedback forms on the sites. It was very odd. I’ve never had that happen in 20 years with any other hosting company.
- SSL. Some companies offer free SSL (HTTPS) services. Others have tried to charge $80, $150, and as much as $300 for what should be free.
These are just a few examples of why it’s important to consider starting out with a few non-critical hobby websites using different hosting companies and get first-hand experience with some companies before launching a big project.
Over the past ten years, I’ve not experienced any of the above problems with DreamHost or WordPress.com hosting.
Avoid Enticement of Sales
All hosting companies will compete with each other in offering enticing deals on the initial 1-year of hosting. It’s important not to let these initial short-term introductory offers influence your decision. You will see reviews based on which hosting company has the best deal during any given week. It’s best to ignore these. Companies that don’t clearly state their regular hosting rates should be avoided.
Rankings Change Daily
Attempts to precisely rank hosting companies from 1 to 10 are futile. Their features and costs change regularly. It wasn’t long ago that GoDaddy was charging $80, $150, and or as much as $300 for SSL services. This is something that other hosting companies offer for free. GoDaddy now offers SSL included ‘free’ with their Managed WordPress plans. This makes GoDaddy more competitive. This is an example of how many factors can cause a hosting company to move up in the rankings. Competition will cause hosting companies to adjust costs and package features based on what others are doing.
Premium Hosting Costs More
Hosting companies like SquareSpace, Weebly, WIX, or WordPress.com offer specialty managed hosting with templates and easy-to-use web design systems. So, site creation and editing can be done with visual drag-and-drop tools. Services are integrated for SEO, e-commerce, video, payment processing, and third-party services. The cost will likely be higher, but the hosting may be easier for those who don’t have a lot of web design skills. Even for advanced users, having a secure well-managed site can save hours of frustration. That might be worth an extra $10 per month.
Be Aware of Referral Revenue
As with many businesses, most hosting companies offer referral revenue. When someone signs up using your referral code or link, a credit is applied to your bill and in some cases cash will be paid out. This is a nice way to reward those who help promote awareness. However, it can also be a problem because many reviewers just provide a list of the hosting companies that pay out the biggest rewards and not those that genuinely earn a good rating.
Website Hosting is Like Buying a Car
Getting website hosting can be like buying a car. Some companies advertise very low prices, but they have pushy sales people who convince customers to get all the add ons such as security features, backups, domain protection, SSL, private domain registration, cloud delivery network, SEO, marketing, etc. What you want is a hosting company that has a reasonable price on a bundled package with all the needed features.
Conclusion (10 Seconds)
As stated at the top of this document, for those short on time, I would recommend looking into WordPress.com hosting for simple, fast, secure, economical hosting. For more versatile and advanced hosting needs, consider DreamHost.