I’ve had a dedicated server for over 10 years and have migrated my websites a number of times over the years as hosting companies are sometimes like relationships. They start off great and eventually neglect by tech support followed by an eventual bitter disappointment.
Each hosting company has its pros and cons other in terms of platforms, perks, prices and features. I decided to write this blog to provide a hosting review based on my personal experience for those searching for a reliable hosting company to make a more informed decision.
I’ve come up with the following list that I believe are crucial points to consider when choosing a hosting company. I know that price can be tempting but beware that most cases you get what you pay for.
In no particular order of importance here are some points I recommend you look into before making a final decision. This article is not meant to slander any company but to provide my honest experiences and opinions.
1) Support – This is probably the most important point. Make sure they offer phone support, in fact I would go as far as testing the response time by calling their toll free number.
2) Software – Check what hosting software they offer. I’m a big fan of CPanel which is the most common hosting software. However if you’re comfortable with Plesk than that’s probably something you should ask for.
3) Backups – This is probably something all hosting companies offer and it’s typically a surcharge of $10/month. If it’s available BUY IT! I know that Site5.com offers backups for just $10 and getting them to restore a website can take around 24 hours. Hostgator on the other hand charges for individual backups and their response time actually complete the recovery can take days.
4) Cost – Of course we all have a budget but don’t be cheap. As I’ve said before you get what you pay for. You’re not going to get very far on $2 hosting if you are planning on growing your site.
5) Scalability – Be sure that whatever hosting plan you’re on allows for growth. If you’re hosting a large site then choosing a $5 hosting package is probably a bad choice since they won’t accommodate the memory usage, bandwidth and disk usage. Disk usage is probably the most overlooked feature. Hosting companies will lure you in with Unlimited bandwidth and disk space which sounds appealing but RAM counts even more. Not enough RAM will cause your site(s) to run slower and even force you into more expensive hosting packages you weren’t hoping to be on.
6) Read Reviews – You need to really spend time doing your research. While there is a lot of fake reviews online you need to cross-check all your hosting prospects. I would go as far as calling their sales department and asking questions before making your purchase. Never buy online before doing your research.
My personal experience with the following hosting companies:
Canaca (Based in Canada)
I hosted with Canaca for over 6 years. They were a big company when I joined and even rivaled the other Canadian hosting giant Netfirms. I had 10 websites at the time which barely had any traffic and I was paying roughly $200 US/month for a dedicated server. This was both stupid and necessary of me. In retrospect I probably could have just hosted my sites on a VPS at most and had less headaches and a yearly vacation from my savings.
At first they offered phone support who were quick to pickup when I called. Eventually the company got rid of it’s staff to outsource to Iran. They only offered email support and my sites got hacked regularly. More than once my site was attacked by Turkish hackers leaving me with a defaced homepage. I remember even driving to their office a few times in early morning just to bang on their door to get someone to help me with my unanswered tickets. Eventually I had enough and had to jump ship.
Based on their current site I’m assuming hosting is not a priority as they offer internet now under the name Acanac (get it, it’s Canaca backwards). I tried their Internet service too since it was cheaper than Bell and Rogers but eventually gave up on that service too for TekSavvy.
InMotion Hosting (Based in US)
This company was a godsend compared to Canaca. I hosted with InMotion Hosting for about 4 years. The service was great as it was refreshing to be able to pick up the phone and speak with someone to resolve whatever issue I had. I was in love again. They migrated all my sites from Canaca for FREE. Unfortunately price started to become an issue and a few bad incidents forced me to start looking at other hosting companies. After doing my research and reading pages of hosting reviews online I decided to give Hostgator a chance. Hostgator seemed to have consistent positive reviews on multiple sites.
Hostgator started off great. I was able to save about $40 US per month on their dedicated hosting package compared to InMotion Hosting. They also migrated all my websites from InMotion Hosting for free. I hosted with them for over 6 years. Over the years the quality of service dropped incredibly. I’m not really sure what had happened over the years but they really don’t seem to give a shit how long you’ve been a customer. I left them to go to Site5 for two months only to be pulled back due to their unbeatable hosting prices. I was told that they had changed but one bad incident left me with blacklisted IP which took them two weeks to resolve. Since then I’ve had no issues.
Site5 (Based in Canada & US)
I actually signed up with Site5 when they were starting out a long time ago and eventually asked for a refund when I found out they only offered email support. Things have since changed and their customer service might be the most responsive I’ve ever seen. Over the years they have definitely grown into a quality hosting company. Their support is so patient and nice you can’t even get mad at them when things go wrong. It’s almost like they’re all experts in psychology because however angry I was due to an issue they were able to diffuse me. I guess when they say “kill them with kindness” it actually works. I would still recommend Site5 to anyone looking for a reliable hosting company however if you’re hosting a large website that uses up a lot of memory and don’t want to spend too much then I’d suggest going with Hostgator who’s prices and hosting packages provide so much more.
Earlier this year I thought I could run all my sites on a reseller plan until Site5 alerted me that I had to get upgrade to a VPS4. This took my monthly cost from $55/month to $120/month. Since they don’t offer dedicated hosting I went back to Hostgator. I know they tried their best at accommodating me but in the end Hostgator’s offers were way more affordable and offered better hosting options. Just to make a comparison you can order a VPS4 from site5 for $120/month and get the equivelent package at Hostgator for $30 less. In fact Hostgator will provide the package at $58/month for the first year.
Netfirms (Based in Canada)
I’ve hosted some individual sites with Netfirms. If you have a small website they are a decent company. Since I want to keep all my sites with 1 hosting company they aren’t even an option. Unlike the previous hosting companies they don’t offer CPanel which is my favorite hosting platform. They have phone support which from what I could remember was frustrating to try and get someone on the phone.
Godaddy (Based in US)
Godaddy is probably the most well known hosting companies in North America. They are definitely head and shoulders ahead of their competition in terms of marketing starting with one of their early superbowl commercials which featured a busty woman wearing a super tight white shirt. That’s literally all I remember.
I’m a big fan of Godaddy when it comes to service however I’m a bit biased since I prefer hosting that includes CPanel software which is probably the biggest reason I don’t use them. Compared to Hostgator they cost a bit more and offer less. However they most likely make up for it in terms of service.
Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net