I’ve seen people asking for hosting recommendations several times on Reddit, Quara and numerous other forums and they’re frequently asking which host is better between one or more of the large hosting companies GoDaddy, HostGator, BlueHost and DreamHost.
If you’re in that same position trying to figure out which one of the above mentioned companies will offer you the best deal and performance for your websites I hope that this post will shed a bit of light on the murky world of web hosting and hopefully help you make a more informed decision.
Stop using shared hosting, it sucks!
I know, it’s harsh to say that and that there may be a few exceptions somewhere out there on the internet, but as a general rule, shared hosting should be avoided. GoDaddy, HostGator, BlueHost and DreamHost are all primarily shared hosting companies and the only reason anyone ever used shared hosting to begin with was because it was so much less expensive than a dedicated server. Now that virtual private servers (VPS) have become so prevalent and inexpensive there really isn’t any reason for anyone to use shared hosting any longer. Selecting hosting based solely on the lowest possible price is how you end up with really unreliable hosting and horrible support. If support and reliability are important stop making price your sole consideration when comparing web hosts.
Shared hosting is unreliable
The typical setup with shared hosting will have up to several thousand websites hosted on one server. Any one of those sites could have a poorly written script or a large spike in traffic that could potentially consume the majority of the servers resources resulting in poor performance or downtime for the other thousand plus hosting customers located on the same server. Many websites on shared hosting will see a few minutes of downtime and extremely slow page load times several times daily.
Shared hosting is deceptively marketed
Shared hosting is often sold to via deceptive claims, half truths and omissions.
Here are a few common examples:
When a shared hosting service claims unlimited bandwidth the reality is that once you use some predetermined amount of bandwidth the hosting company will either throttle the bandwidth to your sites so that they become so slow that your websites become unusable or they will suspend your account for violating their terms of service. Think about it for a moment why would Google, Yahoo or Amazon spend billions on bandwidth if they could get unlimited bandwidth for $10 a month. If any hosting company actually provided unlimited bandwidth they would be bankrupt very quickly.
Unlimited disk space
Disk space is actually very inexpensive. Even thought it’s cheap the shared hosting companies that offer unlimited disk space know that the vast majority of their customers will never use less than 100 megabytes of disk space and fewer than 1% will use more than 10 gigabytes. When they market unlimited disk space they’re selling something that they have no intention of actually providing. Think for a moment how long it would take you to upload even one terabyte (1028 gigabytes) of data using your internet connection. The majority of internet connection in the United States offer asymmetrical bandwidth. That means that your download speeds are much faster than your upload speeds. For most people it would take several days or even weeks to upload even one terabyte of data. Much like with unlimited bandwidth unlimited disk space will become very difficult to actually use if your intention is to actually use a significant amount of storage.
The reason that you see so many recommendations for these companies is because the people writing the reviews are getting paid to write them. Each of these companies offers an affiliate program that pays 20% or more of what ever you end up spending on hosting to the person that got you to click on their affiliate link that takes you to the web hosts site. Affiliate links, banner adds and paid reviews is how the majority of bloggers, myself included make money and I’m no exception. However on my blog I only recommend products and services that I actually use for myself or for my clients.
Shared hosting is not a very good deal
Share hosting can be incredibly profitable for the companies that provide it and unfortunately good marketing does a lot better job at selling hosting than providing good hosting. The actual cost involved for the typical overloaded shared hosting package is minimal. Typical costs per customer per month are well under $1 monthly. Here’s a very realistic cost estimate you have a server, bandwidth electricity and infrastructure and employees to look over thing all of these costs added up are usually less that $200 monthly. Now on that $200 a month server many shared hosting companies will pack 1000 – 1500 customers each paying $5 – $15 monthly. That $4800 – $22,300 in net profit per server. I have no problem with people working to make money but that same $5 – $15 could be buying you a low end managed virtual server where you would be 1 of 100 customers with a much greater degree of isolation from having a server crash and your website becoming inaccessible than 1 of 1000 with no isolation at all. If you’re paying more than $1 a month for shared hosting you’re not getting good value for the money you’ve spent.
Why you should avoid GoDaddy
Deceptive and manipulate up selling.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of using GoDaddy you know exactly what I’m talking about. In order to make even the simplest purchase via GoDaddy you will be forced to wade though several pages of deceptively titled additional products and “services” which provide little value. Many people complain about services they never intentionally purchased being added to their bill.
GoDaddy could steal your domain name.
If you somehow forget to renew your domain name and it expires Godaddy will buy your domain name the moment it expired and then attempt to charge you $400 to get it back. If you don’t pay they will auction your domain name off to the highest bidder. They claim that this is a “service” but it seems a lot more like extortion to me.
Support for anti-consumer laws.
GoDaddy has previously supported numerous anti-consumer and pro-censorship laws such as :
- The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)
- PROTECT IP Act (PIPA)
- The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).
After a consumer boycott and a lot of bad press GoDaddy backed away from it’s support of these laws but the fact that they ever supported them is enough to keep me from ever recommending that anyone do business with them.
They’re so big that they won’t care if you need support.
GoDaddy is a huge company with a huge marketing budget that has demonstrated very little interest in actually supporting it’s customers. If you have an issue and need support there’s a very good chance that you’re going to end up extremely disappointed if you’re relying on GoDaddy.
If you’ve read everything I’ve said about GoDaddy and you’re still considering using their services perhaps some reviews from actual customers of theirs can persuade you to reconsider.
HostGator and BlueHost are actually the same company.
That’s right Hostgator and BlueHost are actually both owned by Endurance International Group or EIG. EIG acquires smaller hosting companies with good reputations and then “streamline” them. They do this by moving the customers of the acquired companies onto servers in their own data centers and stuffing as many of them as possible onto overloaded server. They actually own and run over 50 different brands. By marketing over 50 different web hosting brands they’ve managed to create the illusion of competition. Their brands are usually heavily marketed and you’ll find numerous dubious positive reviews for their services. If you’re wondering why you see so many recommendations on blogs for both Hostgator and BlueHost it’s because they pay relatively high affiliate commissions. There’s a good chance that you’ve found this article by searching for a comparison between HostGator and BulueHost. The reality is that it doesn’t matter which one of these two you choose as they’re both actually the same sub-par service with a different brand name associated.
Other EIG companies to Avoid
Here’s a list that I pulled from the EIG wikipedia page of other companies that are owned and operated by EIG and I would recommend that you avoid them all.
- Arvixe LLC
- A Small Orange
- Berry Information Systems L.L.C.
- Escalate Internet
- Intuit Websites
- Networks Web Hosting
- SEO Hosting
- Southeast Web
- SuperGreen Hosting
- Webstrike Solutions
What about DreamHost?
Dreamhost is still primarily a shared hosting company and for that reason they’re not a company that I would normally recommend but they’re by far the best option of the four companies compared in this post. If you choose to use Dreamhost I would recommend their managed VPS hosting which is reasonably priced and much more reliable and with more consistent performance than shared hosting. If you’re determined to use shared hosting despite every reason that I’ve given you to avoid it DreamHost would be a much more reliable option with better support than either GoDaddy or any of the EIG brands.
Recommended hosting options
Now that we’ve covered why you should avoid GoDaddy, HostGator and BlueHost and how Dreamhost is the only hosting company of the four that this article is primary about that is worth doing business with I though that I would mention a few hosting companies that personally use and recommend. It’s important that the company that you choose fits your specific business requirements.
Managed WordPress hosting
If you’re site or sites use WordPress I would recommend using a hosting option that specializes in optimizing, securing and scaling WordPress sites. Currently the best available hosting for WordPress is from WPengine. WPengine utilizes several different cloud hosting providers and implements their own highly optimized software stack to provide the best available Performance and reliability for WordPress based web sites. WPengine is more expensive than low quality shared hosting but if your dependent upon your website to generate revenue or referrals then hopefully you understand how important performance and reliability are. Hosting A single site on WPengine will currently cost $29 a month with a $25 site business plan going for $249 monthly.
Managed Magento, Drupal, Joomla, PrestaShop, MediaWiki, or PHP hosting
For managed Magento, Drupal, Joomla, PrestaShop, MediaWiki, or PHP hosting CloudWays is currently my go-to recommendation. CloudWays offers managed cloud hosting on top of Amazon, Google, or DigitalOcean’s “cloud”. When you signup for CloudWays you are offered the option of choosing which cloud hosting service you would like your server to reside on, with Amazon and Google being similarly priced but more reliable and DigitalOcean being significantly less expensive but with slightly more downtime on average. Once you’ve selected your cloud and server you are offered a selection of applications to choose from and CloudWays will configure its managed and optimized software stack. A server with 1GB of RAM and 1 CPU on DigitalOcean with CloudWays will cost around $15 a month while a server with similar specifications on Amazon or Google’s cloud will cost about $40 monthly. CloudWays also offers a WordPress stack but if you can afford it I would recommend WPengine over CloudWays for WordPress specific hosting.
Self managed VPS for Development
Up until about six months ago I was using DigitalOcean for all of my development servers but Vultr seems to have copied their business model and surpassed them in every measurable way possible. By no means am I saying that DigitalOcean is a bad service, in fact I think that they’re great it’s just that Vultr is even better. Vultr offers hourly billing and the ability to clone existing servers which is great for testing out different configuration options before deployment. A VPS 728MB Ram and 1CPU will only cost you $5 a month while a slower VPS with 512MB ram will cost you the same on DigitalOcean which is why I’m using Vultr for my development servers now. I’ve written a fairly detailed comparison of Vultr and DigitalOcean if you you’re interested.
Self managed VPS for Deployment
RamNode lacks the hourly billing and the ability to quickly clone or upgrade your VPS that Vultr offers but the performance of RamNode’s servers and their support are both excellent. If you need a single VPS for deployment of a project and you don’t need the ability to clone an existing VPS which can dramatically reduce the work required in deploying and maintaining a VPS, RamNode is an excellent choice. RamNode consistently outperforms every other VPS hosting provider and their prices are competitive.
Choopa is actually the parent company of Vultr which is my recommendation for VPS development servers. Choopa offers great low cost dedicated servers. If you’re in need of a dedicated server I would recommend giving them a look.
Avoid GoDaddy or any brand owned by EIG. DreamHost is great when compared to GoDaddy or EIG but you should go with a VPS over shared hosting and There are most likely better hosting options that are tailored more closely to your specific needs.
That’s it for my comparison of GoDaddy, HostGator, BlueHost and DreamHost. I hope that you’ve found this post informative and helpful. If you’re an employee of GoDaddy or an EIG owned brand I’m not really interested in hearing from you but if you feel like leaving a comment I’m not doing to delete it. If you have any comments, suggestions or noticed one of the undoubtedly many spelling or grammatical errors please leave a comment and let me know.