WordPress Hosting Review 2014: The 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P.S. This hosting review is now really really out of date.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.
This year’s survey collects data in seven areas:
- Average satisfaction
- Median site count
- 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.
The table below presents summary statistics on all 159 responses.
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:
- $0 to $5 per month: Generally the cheapest shared hosting.
- $6 to $15 per month: Slightly more expensive shared hosting.
- $16 to $49 per month: Price range for much managed WordPress hosting.
- $50+ per month: Expensive managed and VPS hosting plans.
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?
|How many sites?||2||2||5||6|
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.
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
|Name||A Small Orange||Digital Ocean||A2 Hosting||Flywheel|
|How many sites?||3||8||2||3|
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.
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
|Name||Heart Internet||Rackspace||WP Engine||Wiredtree||Kinsta||Lightning Base|
|How many sites?||65||17||7||2||2||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.
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.
This section summarizes results for the most commonly reviewed hosts in the survey.
|Median cost per month||$102|
|Median traffic||100,000 visits per month|
|Median site count||7|
Pricey, but worth it
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).
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.
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.
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.
|Median traffic||<10,000 visits per month|
|Median site count||4|
Good value, but prices jump after renewal
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.
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
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.
|Median cost per month||$11|
|Median traffic||<10,000 visits per month|
|Median site count||5|
On a downward trajectory?
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.
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.
|Median cost per month||$22|
|Median traffic||10,000-20,000 visits per month|
|Median site count||7|
Trouble with Support
Great response times for service requests.
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.
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.
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:
|Median cost per month||$27|
|Median traffic||10,000-20,000 visits per month|
|Median site count||1|
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 email@example.com.
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!