WordPress Hosting Review 2014: The Results

WPShout hosting survey results

We’re super-excited to present the results of the 2014 WPShout Hosting Review!

If you’re just joining us: the Hosting Review is an annual survey we conduct that gathers honest, unbiased thoughts from hundreds of real WordPress site owners about the hosting they’re using for their WordPress sites. We’ve collected this year’s results and analyzed them, and the results are below.

Last year’s hosting review gave a picture of a churning market with a lot of new entrants, and we’re really excited to update those results a year later.

P.S. This hosting review is now really really out of date. It offers an interesting snapshot of the hosting industry a couple of years ago, but should only be read as historical data. Our current host and recommendation is SiteGround – you can read our frequently-updated SiteGround review for more.

 Methodology

This year’s survey collects data in seven areas:

  1. Average satisfaction
  2. Value
  3. Reliability
  4. Speed
  5. Support
  6. Median site count
  7. Usability
  8. WordPress compatibility

In each area, we asked for an overall 1-10 impression, as well as text comments. We also collected information on each plan’s monthly cost, the number of sites being hosted on the plan, and monthly traffic to the hosted sites.

You can view the full survey form here. (You can still take the survey if you’d like to try it out, but results are no longer being collected.)

We put out this year’s survey in September, and promoted it on our social media channels and through WordPress friends (like WPTavern and WPShout founder Alex Denning) who were generous enough to share the survey. Results were collected during approximately a one-month period.

Data Trends

General Satisfaction

The table below presents summary statistics on all 159 responses.

CostSatisfactionValueReliabilitySpeedSupportUsabilityWordPress Compatibility
Median:
1599989810
Average:
58.208.08.18.57.98.18.18.8

Most survey respondents were quite satisfied with their hosting overall.

Most survey respondents were quite satisfied with their hosting overall. Average satisfaction across all measures hovered around 8, with 9 or 10 median scores for each.

The median overall cost for hosting was $15 per month.

Results By Pricing Tier

We analyzed overall survey results, broken down into four pricing tiers:

  1. $0 to $5 per month: Generally the cheapest shared hosting.
  2. $6 to $15 per month: Slightly more expensive shared hosting.
  3. $16 to $49 per month: Price range for much managed WordPress hosting.
  4. $50+ per month: Expensive managed and VPS hosting plans.
WPShout hosting survey graph: Customer experience by monthly cost

Click to view full-sized graph

Customers in the cheapest pricing tier were the least satisfied overall, but customers in the third pricing tier felt that they were getting the least value for their money.

Overall, respondents most satisfied in the first and third pricing tiers. Customers in the cheapest shared hosting were the least satisfied overall, but customers in the third pricing tier perceived that they were getting the least value for their money.

As one would hope, site speed increased consistently through the four categories. However, usability, reliability, and support actually declined from the second to the third category. (Usability continued to decline in the fourth category, as well, as server administration is more often through command-line VPS configuration.)

Pattern: Too Big for Their Own Good?

NameHostGatorGoDaddyDreamHostBluehost
Count7497
Median cost15.017.011.05.0
Median traffic<10,000<10,000<10,000<10,000
Satisfaction5.76.56.76.9
Value7.16.36.97.0
Reliability7.97.86.86.1
Speed5.36.06.05.7
Support6.77.06.36.7
How many sites?2256
Usability8.15.87.67.6
WordPress compatibility8.28.58.27.9

Many of the lowest-rated hosts were also among the most commonly used.

Many of the lowest-rated hosts were also among the most commonly used. Hosting giants HostGator, GoDaddy, DreamHost, and Bluehost all significantly underperformed the other hosts reviewed.

Immense scale and a cram-everyone-through-the-door marketing strategy may not be kind for these hosts’ ability to deliver quality WordPress hosting. (Of the four, only DreamHost is not affiliated with hosting giants Endurance International or GoDaddy.) Large bureaucracies, profit-hungry shareholders, and the difficulty of training and coordinating huge tech support teams are also likely contributors to these hosts’ poor results.

One glimmer of hope to point out comes from an unlikely place: Two respondents seemed to like GoDaddy’s new managed WordPress offering fairly well.

Comments:

Bluehost: “Frequent down time recently.” “The most helpful support has come through social media (ie, ‘@BlueHost: We are experiencing some outages. Our engineers are investigating…’) while emails to support have gone unanswered.”

GoDaddy: “Surprisingly, GoDaddy has created a killer product with their Managed WordPress stuff.” “The worst file manager I’ve ever seen.” “Usability is pretty bad.”

HostGator: “Response very slow at times. Customer service has declined over time.” “Hosting is slow at times. WordPress sites are extremely slow at times, even with speed optimization. Support is not consistent.” “At the price this is ‘cheap’ hosting, and shows it.”

Dreamhost: See full profile below.

Pattern: Host With the Cool Kids

NameA Small OrangeDigital OceanA2 HostingFlywheel
Count3333
Median cost7.010.08.015.0
Median traffic<10,00010,000-20,000<10,00010,000-20,000
Satisfaction9.09.09.710.0
Value9.39.79.39.0
Reliability9.79.79.79.7
Speed9.09.39.09.0
Support9.39.08.59.0
How many sites?3823
Usability9.08.79.310.0
WordPress compatibility9.78.310.010.0

There was a distinct middle tier of slightly less popular but very well-loved hosts.

Many of the hosts reviewed were relatively-to-very obscure, and received one or two results. At the other end of the spectrum, a few very large hosts (like the shared hosts above and WP Engine) dominate both the survey and the hosting space generally.

However, there was a distinct middle tier of slightly less popular but very well-loved hosts: much smaller than the biggest players, but of outstanding quality. Two of these hosts—A Small Orange (EIG-owned but still doing great) and Flywheel—took honors in last year’s survey, as well.

If you’re tired of your host feeling like an insurance company, it may be very worth your while to check out one of these off-the-beaten-path hosts.

Comments:

Digital Ocean: “Nearly 100% uptime. All downtime has been satisfactorily explained and, where possible, notice was given.” “I like the service a lot, and host many of my clients there.”

A2 Hosting: “Overall I’ve been very happy with A2 and I’d recommend them to other WordPress admins without reservation.” “I did not rate their support system as I have not had to use it. Everything else went as smooth as butter, so I’m thinking their support will be the same.” “Their support here is awesome. It feels like they are still a small company, but it was really the tech support phone calls that won me over.”

Flywheel: “Excellent customer service, and great speeds.” “If it breaks they are fix it. The Flywheel team is very responsive.”

A Small Orange: (No text comments.)

Pattern: The Best Premium Hosting for the Truly Fancy Sir or Madame

NameHeart InternetRackspaceWP EngineWiredtreeKinstaLightning Base
Count2416373
Median cost69.5135.0102.055.097.050.0
Median traffic10,000-20,00020,000100,00020,000-50,00010,000-20,000<10,000
Satisfaction8.08.08.58.79.39.7
Value8.57.37.98.38.79.3
Reliability9.09.39.69.79.49.7
Speed8.57.38.77.710.010.0
Support9.08.08.89.39.710.0
How many sites?65177227
Usability6.08.09.29.06.89.3
WordPress compatibility5.59.09.69.39.99.7

Many of the survey’s very well-reviewed hosts aim at higher-tier customers.

Many of the survey’s very well-reviewed hosts aim at higher-tier customers—people spending $50 to hundreds or thousands per month for hosting. Some of these hosts (Lightning Base and WP Engine) are in managed WordPress hosting, and some simply provide dedicated hardware.

With these hosts, as the cost per month ramps up, the speed and quality of customer service really takes off. If you have money to spend and want the best experience possible, check these hosts out.

Comments:

Heart Internet: “Hosting is pretty fast and reliable and tech support is generally very good indeed, but communication with customers, especially in a crisis, is lacking.” “Very quick to get back to me, day or not. Helpful, knowledgeable and friendly staff.”

Rackspace: “It is not the fastest I have used and at that price I would like to see it a bit faster. But it is far more reliable in speed than most. When other shared servers are fast they are fast, but when they are slow they are unbearable, there is none of that.” “Easy to deploy sites, the control panel is the easiest I have used to date. They have removed all the clutter.” “Fantastic support.”

Wiredtree: “$55 for managed VPS is probably about as good as it gets.” “Good shadow backup.”

Kinsta: “Extremely fast hosting. The control panel and some of the functionality are not 100% finished just yet, though.” “They truly work hard to ensure that the site is up and running, that it’s running fast and that I can get help with any issues related to hosting.” “The support is very responsive which largely makes up for the poor admin area.” “Fastest I’ve experienced, especially in the admin areas of two heavily modified WP sites.” “Blazing.”

Lightning Base: “The sites are fantastically fast, and they provide stellar support. In fact, they provide the best customer support I’ve ever experienced.” “So fast and smart at support it’s almost annoying.” “Seamless, easy, and powerful!”

WP Engine: See full profile below.

Individual Results

This section summarizes results for the most commonly reviewed hosts in the survey.

WP Engine

WP Engine
Responses16
Median cost per month$102
Median traffic100,000 visits per month
Satisfaction8.5
Value7.9
Reliability9.6
Speed8.7
Support8.8
Median site count7
Usability9.2
WordPress compatibility9.6

Selected Comments

Pricey, but worth it

The good…

Even though I’m paying $250/month which may seem expensive – to me, constantly worrying about servers (which is old school unless you run a hosting company or an IT dept) is expensive.

It’s good although I do exceed the number of visits under my plan so I am charged a bit more, which varies from month to month. But overall the value is there.

Expensive, but worth the money. Just missing the CDN (available for more money).

The bad…

A tad expensive compared to other providers.

Would be nice if they added a larger number of visitors for each of the tiers, especially when the cost of cloud is consistently dropping.

Charging per visitor and counting spam bots as “visitors” is unforgivable.

Support slipping?

The good…

I have never once walked away from a support question with them that hasn’t been resolved. in fact, several times they have gone the extra mile for me.

Super fast – always amazed at how quick and authoritative the support is.

The bad…

A year ago, WP Engine’s support was second to none. Today, the first-tier support is nearly worthless; nearly every ticket I open has to be escalated to higher-tier support folks, and it can take days to get a resolution.

Basic support, excellent. Advanced support, slow and, at times, incompetent.

Their support is getting pretty bad.

SiteGround

SiteGround
Responses9
Median cost15
Median traffic<10,000 visits per month
Satisfaction8.7
Value8.7
Reliability9.2
Speed8.9
Support8.7
Median site count4
Usability8.3
WordPress compatibility8.8

Selected Comments

Good value, but prices jump after renewal

The good…

I think SiteGround is very good value, because you get many of the benefits of managed hosting for about half the cost, plus the benefits of traditional shared hosting on a cPanel account.

The bad…

Definitely worth the price bump. It renews at $30 though and that’s a lot of money.

Price is a little bit more than I’d like, but then again the GoGeek package provides a lot of features/benefits. Price seems to go up after first year, but in fact the first year is heavily discounted. No discount for renewal.

Support team on point

The good…

Stellar. Live chat, politeness, effeciency.

Tech support has been quick to respond to inquiries, even late at night. Have to go through support to update MX records for hosted domains.

Almost all my support experiences have been very positive… The SiteGround support staff has helped me find errors in my own code. They are generally both knowledgeable and patient. Support is by ticket only, but response time is amazingly quick.

DreamHost

DreamHost
Responses9
Median cost per month$11
Median traffic<10,000 visits per month
Satisfaction6.7
Value6.9
Reliability6.8
Speed6.0
Support6.3
Median site count5
Usability7.6
WordPress compatibility8.2

Selected Comments

On a downward trajectory?

The good…

100% uptime so far (4 months).

The best speeds I have experienced in 10 years with WordPress.

I love DreamHost and their attitude. I also love that they give free hosting to non-profits. That’s cool.

The bad…

I’ve liked Dreamhost in the past, but it seems the speed becomes slower each year, the servers become less reliable, and the support less helpful.

Sites have been down, support was not available. No updates were posted on their site. I had to move almost all my accounts away from DreamHost about 3 years ago.

Tech support was very poor. Unable to contact anyone via the phone and the ticket system was not useful with response times in the days rather than hours, like other hosting companies used.

Their interface is not user friendly. The changes they have made in the past have only made it less so.

I’ve tried to optimize my sites in every way I can, but over time, the speed of sites on Dreamhost continues to drop. It has become unsustainable.

Media Temple

Media Temple
Responses7
Median cost per month$22
Median traffic10,000-20,000 visits per month
Satisfaction7.1
Value7.4
Reliability8.0
Speed8.0
Support6.7
Median site count7
Usability8.0
WordPress compatibility7.4

Selected Comments

Trouble with Support

The good…

Great response times for service requests.

The bad…

The Media Temple tech support is terrible. I needed to install an SSL certificate and was given the run around by 6 different people. After buying two separate SSL certs, and speaking with 6 people over the course of a week and a half I was finally able to get it installed. No one knew where or what kind of cert I needed, so it was really a nightmare.

Vast majority of support staff don’t understand WordPress. They messed up domain transfer (they kept telling me I needed to contact GoDaddy for reasons they didn’t understand either; I only late found out GoDaddy owns them – worrying that their staff don’t seem to realise that) and staging sites (for days). No apology or explanation.

Concluding Thoughts

If I could summarize the survey’s results into two axioms, they’d be:

1. Bet on Slightly Smaller, Leaner, More Agile Hosts.

Hosts with a “boutique” feel are often much better-positioned to deliver value.

Hosts with a “boutique” feel are often much better-positioned to deliver value in things like speed, technical precision, and customer service.

If you interact with too many big hosts, you’ll sometimes swear you can feel the drag on every part of the company as it starts to struggle under its own size—and the result is too often crowded servers, busy phone lines, and disoriented techs. This is even true of WordPress hosting’s biggest success story, WP Engine, which is still a great host but is suffering pronounced growing pains this year.

Of course, you don’t want to host on the spare iMac in someone’s basement—the trick is the right balance between lean-and-mean and built-by-experts.

2. Stretch Your Budget Just a Bit.

Be willing to spend a bit more to get out of the pricing doldrums.

The graph at the top shows two price-tier doldrums: the cheapest hosting ($5 or less per month), and the second most expensive ($16-49).

If you care about your site, be willing to spend a bit more to get out of these valleys. If you’re on $2 hosting and you’re tearing your hair out because your site’s down all the time, try throwing another $4 a month (that’s about two-thirds of a sandwich) at the problem—perhaps with a host with a better quality reputation—and see if it improves.

Likewise, if your successful site is on $29 managed WordPress hosting and you’re getting hit with slowdowns, 502 errors, and overage fees, see what a small additional investment in boutique managed WordPress—or even a VPS—will get you. It may be an investment that pays for itself right away in hours not wasted and headaches not suffered.

Other Notes

Survey Responses

Our goal this year was 500 respondents. We fell far short of that goal, taking in 159, slightly fewer than last year. We recognize that surveys can be hard to enjoy taking (in fact, I can often barely bring myself to fill out Doodle polls), so we’ve got some ideas that we hope will really help create a surge in participation next year. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, thank you so much to everyone who contributed!

Final Methodological Note

One hosting company, Havenswift, sent a survey link to its customers. As a result, Havenswift received 13 responses despite being quite a bit smaller than other respondents with similar numbers of responses like WP Engine and Dreamhost. These responses should be valid for Havenswift itself, as the link was sent to all customers, not just to “happy” ones. However, we have removed Havenswift responses from our summary statistics—the section at the top capturing how satisfied people are with their hosting overall—so as not to skew them. Here are the Havenswift results:

Havenswift
Responses13
Median cost per month$27
Median traffic10,000-20,000 visits per month
Average satisfaction9.3
Value9.0
Reliability9.6
Speed9.3
Support9.8
Median site count1
Usability9.5
WordPress compatibility9.5

On a personal note, we urge you to check Havenswift out if you’re in the market for good hosting with a human face—Ian, who runs Havenswift, is great, and was extremely helpful when I was trying to figure out how to host a wiki last year.

Want the Raw Data?

We’re happy to make the raw survey data available if you’d like to run your own analyses. Please request it at contact@wpshout.com.

And Finally…

Thanks so much for reading! If we’ve helped you, please share on social media, and join our mailing list for more WordPress thoughtfulness. And if you have any thoughts or questions about the survey, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!


42 Responses

Comments

  • I’m new to WP but learning quickly. Milt

  • Great post guys. It’s really nice to see other people doing analysis and surveys of the industry. I think for the most part this lines up with the data I’m seeing too which is always a nice confirmation. Great job!

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Thanks a ton, Kevin!

      Since Kevin didn’t mention it: He just published an absolutely fantastic look at WordPress performance across most of the hosts we reviewed in this article. Check it out here.

  • Ian says:

    Whilst I appreciate the specific mention about our hosting services and company (which as you say you have had direct experience with yourself), I am not sure I understand your reasoning for the exclusion of our business simply on the basis that we encouraged people to respond, especially as it seems we had the second highest number of responses for a business.

    We are, as you say, a small UK based hosting company but make no apologies for that and neither do we want to be anything else although it should also be noted that we have a number of customers from around the world including USA, Australia and New Zealand.

    The form of the encouragement to participate was by means of a couple of tweets telling followers about the survey and also an email to all customers registered (so included active and non active hosting customers) to receive newsletter updates. I don’t know specifically about this survey, but other hosting companies regularly encourage happy customers to tweet this fact and I dont think we, or they, should be ashamed of that

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Hi world, Ian and I just getting off a Skype chat that resolved this, which I’ll quickly summarize. Basically, the concern is that the large number of Havenswift responses relative to the company’s size in the industry would tend to skew the summary statistics at the top. Everything else is as laid out in the “Methodological note” at the bottom, and the results for Havenswift itself (also presented in that section) are quite worth a look. We will have to develop a clearer approach to host promotion in future years, as it has the potential to change survey results significantly.

  • Leo says:

    I was considering between A Small Orange and SiteGround. However, running an ecommerce site with a host of plugins for both an advanced shopping cart and a multi feature blog, I find ASO (A Small Orange) much better value for money compared to Siteground.

    For $30, the price of monthly fees after renewal for Siteground, I’m able to get a 2x Core (2.5Ghz Xeon processor), 4GB RAM, 2 TB bandwidth and 30GB SSD on ASO’s fully managed Cloud VPS plans instead. In comparison, it’ll be at least $88.95/mo on Siteground to get something comparable.

  • Is it fair to judge top players like Media Temple and WPEngine on just 10 or 15 responses? Who’s to say the type of people who respond to your survey give a fair representation and aren’t mainly just the disgruntled customers?

    • Ian says:

      >>Is it fair to judge top players like Media Temple and WPEngine on just 10 or 15 responses?

      Depends on your definition of “top players” of course and of course it would be statistically more sound to have a much larger sample size – the aim of the survey is good and it had been publicised quite widely but you cannot force people to respond

      >>Who’s to say the type of people who respond to your survey give a fair representation and aren’t mainly just the disgruntled customers?

      That is often the case – people are much more likely to respond to a negative situation than they are to a positive situation but all companies should be in the same situation.

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Hi Brin,

      I think there are two parts to your question. For the first one, we’d love a bigger sample size for sure. Despite that, I think the data (particularly the comments) are actually pretty consistent in the picture they paint of each host who has more than a couple of reviews. We’ve also heard (from e.g. Kevin Ohashi in the comments above) that they closely resemble hosting results captured through other means.

      For the second piece, I don’t think there’s any indication that disgruntled folks were more likely to fill out the survey—unless their hosting itself is making them disgruntled. The (generally quite thoughtful) comments again are one piece of evidence of that, and the high overall satisfaction marks in the summary data are another.

      Let me know if you’d like to look around in the data itself, and thanks for the thoughts!

      Fred

  • Jim Walker says:

    HIgh cost does not necessarily equal good service. So while you can pay 25 or more a month for the latest trendy host, there remain quite a few smaller nimble hosts who will totally blow your mind customer service wise.

    Sadly, customer service is hard to promote for the smaller hosts (because if you’ve never experienced good service you’ll think all hosts must be the same). Suffice it to say you do have to do some research in finding the gems.

    Buy a month or three of service at the smallest hosts and prepare to be amazed.

    • Ian says:

      Totally agree about high cost not necessarily equating to good service but it is also often the case that smaller specialised hosting companies do provide excellent customer service which isnt publicised or promoted due to smaller marketing budgets

  • Many of the lowest-rated hosts were also among the most commonly used.

    And that’s why your survey results are so useful. Marketing seems to trump service in many cases and in particular with cheap shared hosting. It’s no coincidence that you found the least satisfied customers in that tier.

    You know I was eager to compare results with HostingReviews.io. I ranked only the hosts we both looked to see how things line up.

    WPShout

    1. Flywheel
    2. Kinsta
    3. A Small Orange
    3. DigitalOcean (tie)
    5. SiteGround
    5. WiredTree (tie)
    7. WP Engine
    8. Rackspace
    9. Media Temple
    10. Bluehost
    11. Dreamhost
    12. GoDaddy
    13. HostGator

    HostingReviews.io

    1. Flywheel
    2. Kinsta
    3. SiteGround
    4. WP Engine
    5. A Small Orange
    6. Wired Tree
    7. DigitalOcean
    8. DreamHost
    9. Rackspace
    10. Media Temple
    11. GoDaddy
    12. Bluehost
    13. HostGator

    Were there any reports for Pagely or Synthesis this year?

    Thank you for doing this.

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      There you have it, folks! :)

      Nope, no responses from Pagely or Synthesis in this year’s survey—which I found a bit surprising, particularly on the Pagely side.

  • Marty says:

    I had an emergency problem with WP Engine two days ago that was handled within 20 minutes using their ticket system. I’ve gotten much better support than portrayed by this study.

  • Rachel says:

    This article just helped me out a lot. Recently on one of my personal sites, the hosting is shutting down so I have to move it somewhere else, but since it’s not a business/revenue making site, I was unsure what fit my budget. This overview definitely gave me all the facts I needed including mentioning some hosting options I didn’t even know about! Thanks so much!

  • Daniel says:

    Hi guys great review thanks for putting this together, I can imagine how time consuming it was to do. Good to see that small companies can compete with the big boys.
    Just one question. Why don’t you link to these sites? I had to go to Google and search for a few companies I didn’t know. Not the best user experience.

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Hi Daniel, Thanks a lot for the kind words! I did try adding links, but I’m worried that visually they look like affiliate tie-ins, so I think I’ll leave as-is for now.

  • Ben says:

    Good round up. Offers some real insight into what’s available from a hosting point of view.

    I have been with Heart Internet for over 5 years which says something in itself, theres downtime sure but they are usually quite quick in fixing.

    However if a shared hosting server goes down it does take the odd call out on twitter to get it answered ASAP.

    This does annoy me. That being said any issues I have had have been rectified with friendly staff. Quick but could be quicker in terms of support.

    My 10 cents.

  • Oh Very nice. I vote stablehost

  • Jaki Levy says:

    Thanks for putting this together! I wasn’t clear how many respondents replied or whe they were. I’d be interested to see how many people (and who) are using shared hosting. I am guessing that agencies are steering their clients away from those companies.

    And I was indeed surprised not to see any pagely, pressable, or synthesis replies in here – seems like they’re doing a pretty stellar job as well and are pretty competitive with FlyWheel, WP Engine, and other managed hosts.

    In any case – if you have any insights into who the “site owners” are (meaning who’s managing the sites), I’d definitely love to hear!

    • Fred Meyer Fred Meyer says:

      Thanks for writing, Jaki! We didn’t collect personal information on respondents, but I’d venture most are developers or advanced site owners/administrators. (Lots of respondents, for example, have more than one site hosted, which seems to take “single-venture small businessperson” mostly off the table.)

      Email me if you’d like the raw data—would be happy to share and hear your take.

  • vivianjedi says:

    Thank you guys at WPShout again for such an insightful survey of WordPress hosts. I’d like to add here that we made an infographic version for your report here: http://goo.gl/XpWSrC

  • Walter Verdonck says:

    I have run several blogs and websites on wordpress, i’m using versio for a few years and i’m very happy with it. A wordpress hosting cost you 4.99 a month, that is nothing for the great service. Take a look at: http://bit.ly/1O9ucTh

  • I am using Lightning Base from about 1 year and the are amazing; terrific speed and support, no problems. Howeaver, I would like test some Kinsta, I heard great things on their service.

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