Web hosting is an important decision that a client can make – it can define performance of a website. No amount of optimization can offset slow TTFB (time to first byte) or slow loading images. There are lots of hosting reviews out there, so I will focus on the four that I am intimately familiar with.
Hosting platforms change – often! – some for better and some for worse, thus I will try to update this post from time to time in an attempt to keep it current. The review should be viewed in the context of WordPress, which is our platform of choice.
MT offers a variety of products, including managed WordPress hosting. I remember when managed WordPress hosting was first announced a few years back – I was very excited, as there weren’t very many of them at that time. Unfortunately, after trying this product for a few months I ended up abandoning it – there were too many restrictions and the performance was not nearly as good as I hoped to justify the compromise. Still, I ended up using their DV Developer product, which is what hosts localwebhub.com for the last several years.
This isn’t a plan for everyone – it requires a strong background in Systems Administration in order to manage it. MT provides a VPS server with bare-bones OS (a few to choose from). Everything else is up to the customer, from installing and configuring the stack to security. As such, the support MT provides for this platform is very limited. They are very reluctant in assisting to troubleshoot problems. That said, the VPS they provide comes with an impressive amount of bandwidth and out-of-the-box performance, which, if configured properly, will be unmatched compared to any other shared hosting platform. For the money, one would be hard pressed to find anything that comes close, considering flexibility and performance.
Plan URL: Developer DV
Pros: Fast, extremely reliable, affordable, SSD storage
Cons: BYO Sys Admin skills – you’ll need them!
Verdict: MediaTemple’s DV Developer plan is something I would strongly recommend to experienced IT professionals as a powerful platform for developing as well as hosting high performance websites for your clients.
For the longest time I was opposed to all GoDaddy products. Given their name recognition, lots of our customers already had existing accounts with GoDaddy. Most were on their old one-size-fits-all shared hosting plan. Needless to say, we’ve gotten to know them pretty well. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I discovered their newer managed WordPress hosting plans. Immediately I was impressed with the front-end performance – the servers on which these plans are offered are configured quite well. Best part – this service costs close to nothing. All plans come with SSD storage and unlimited bandwidth (unique visits, however, are limited depending on plan). There are some restrictions, but they are well thought through and aren’t noticeable to an average user. Plans Deluxe and up even offer SSH access. There is no cPanel, but you do get access to phpMyAdmin, which is fair. Support is second to none, for the most part you’ll be speaking to a live person in about 5 minutes.
That said, I have one major bone to pick with GoDaddy, and that’s an issue that I haven’t been able to resolve to this day. As a developer, I need to be able to edit and upload files on a quite regular basis. Think quick CSS update for the client, for example. GoDaddy makes this close to impossible – make a couple of file writes to the same file and you’ll quickly notice that you are not only blocked from making changes, but the target file is now zero bytes in size with no way to recover it. I’ve experimented with it a lot and also spent a considerable amount of time with support, who by the way went above and beyond to try to help. All to no avail. What I’ve done to remedy this situation is either use the built-in WordPress editor or using “wget” to import the files from my own server. As a developer, I’d avoid this hosting at all costs, but I do recommend it often to my clients. They’ll most likely never need to be working with files directly.
Plan URL: WordPress Deluxe
Pros: Affordable, reliable, great performance for the money, email hosting (kind of)
Cons: Unfortunately not very friendly to web developers
Verdict: Get Deluxe it if you need an affordable plan with impressive performance for a site with moderate traffic. Avoid if you need frequent SFTP access to your files.
BlueHost too offers a managed WordPress solution, albeit at a considerably higher price. Of course, there is a good reason for that. Under their plan, you are getting a whole VPS server with dedicated RAM. It also offers quite a bit more unique visits per month. The performance is certainly impressive and it also comes with the familiar cPanel. It is on the pricey side, but well worth it. Built in Varhish cache stands in the way of web development, but is easily turned off in the server settings (don’t forget to turn back on when done!). It would be great if it could be accomplished from WP directly, as is the case with GoDaddy.
Plan URL: Managed WordPress
Pros: Fully managed VPS, performance, bandwidth, cPanel, email hosting
Cons: A bit pricey
Verdict: Get it as a step up from the shared hosting.
WP Engine isn’t cheap, but you do get a lot for your money and it seems to have been created with web developers in mind. For example, you can easily clone your production website (with one click!) to make a quick change without affecting the main site. And then magically sync it back up to production. And it works great! There are some limitations, some plugins are even banned, but overall, fantastic and excellently performing platform. Recently they started offering free – yes free! – SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt! Major kudos for that, hope other hosts will follow. Downtime is on par with any other host, so definitely very reliable. The accounts are easily transferable to your client once you’ve finished developing and you can still have your personal login to access your client’s site.
Plan URL: Professional
Pros: Performance, too many features to list, easy to use, excellent support
Cons: No email hosting(?!), price, rather limited amount of installs and monthly visits (depends on plan)
Verdict: If the price is right and support is important, this is a perfect host, albeit with minor limitations.