We work with a lot of photographers, and as a result we deal with a lot of web hosting services. Read on for our experiences and thoughts on the best and worst web hosting providers.
Here are our thoughts on web hosts. We’ve used many hosts over the years, and we’re always finding new ones. We’ll try to keep this list up to date as we work with new hosts over time.
I guess we should start with the web host we use, HostGator. We’ve used HostGator for more than 5 years and our experiences have been generally positive. In the early years their service was stellar, very quick and effective, friendly and helpful. Recently however we’ve found their response times have dropped from minutes to usually many days, sometimes they don’t reply at all, and in one case we had to escalate our problem to the head of customer service who we found on LinkedIn to get the issue resolved. It wasn’t even a complex issue, just a small but critical fault with the DNS editor in their hosting control panel. During this process their communication was at times verging on insulting and unprofessional, my customer called them and found them difficult. I understand they were sold not that long ago, which has probably contributed to the problem. They use the industry standard cpanel, so it’s easy to control. Their server performance is good, but their servers aren’t great for email – I find email through them unreliable at times. Update Nov 2015 – their customer service continues to deteriorate, both in response time and quality of response, so I’ve changed my opinion to “do not use”. I’ll likely be migrating all of my websites away from HostGator when I next have sufficient time to move all my sites.
DreamHost was our top pick, but they’ve recently been a big let-down, so they’re still worth considering but aren’t our top pick any more. We’ve been dealing with their technical support for a customer quite a bit recently and they’re unfailingly polite, they usually reply as quickly as is required (ie quickly for high priority questions, slowly for low priority), and their server performance is good. Their technical support team is very capable, doing some things for us that were probably outside the limits of strict technical support, I rate them very highly They don’t use cpanel, they have a custom control panel which works quite well. Recently though a customer of ours submitted a high priority “my website is down” ticket, it took them two days to reply, and when they did the answer was incorrect. Fortunately we were able to fix the website for our customer.
BlueHost – unfortunately another dud, I’m not even going to link to them. Their traditional hosting control panel is the worst we’ve seen, giving you little control of your main domain and almost no control of add on domains. Their customer service is slow and often surly – I had one customer service agent tell me something on chat then contradict themselves 2 minutes later, then talk down to me because they didn’t remember what they’d said. I actively encourage my customers to leave BlueHost, and I don’t enjoy working on their servers.
Arvixe – I really like this company! Their servers work well, using the standard cpanel, so it’s easy to control your hosting package. Their support is fast and friendly. Server performance is good. I haven’t used email on their servers, as we mostly put our customers onto Gmail/Google Apps so I can’t comment on that. Overall though they’re recommended!
HostForWeb – I’ve had one customer using a HostForWeb VPS (virtual private server). I found their support super fast, friendly, and effective. They use the standard cpanel software, so controlling the hosting package is easy, though I suspect it’s a slightly cut down version but it does everything I needed. If you want a VPS or shared hosting I’d definitely consider them.
NameCheap hosting. NameCheap has been my domain registrar for a few years, I moved to them from Godaddy – see my thoughts on them below. I recently did a full website creation for a customer, I chose to use NameCheap for their hosting. They have a great first year price, which is a nice bonus. So far I’ve found their servers to perform well, their support is fast, friendly, and effective, and they use the standard cpanel, so it’s easy to control your hosting package. All in all I like NameCheap and I recommend them.
GoDaddy – unfortunately I’m not a big fan of GoDaddy. They sell both hosting and domain registration services, and they’re a pretty large company. My main problem with them is the super complex interface – getting anything done on the GoDaddy website can be a mission. They have constant unnecessary upsells, and they try to trick you into spending more money than you need to. Support used to be fairly awful, but seems to have gotten better in the past couple of years. All in all they’re not recommended and I wouldn’t use them myself, but for basic needs they’re probably not the worst option.
West Host – I’ve used West Host for a couple of customers. They have a strange non-standard control panel with limited functionality, though they do have cpanel hosting they’re not always willing to move customers over. Support seemed adequate, probably industry average, which isn’t great. Because of the strange control panel I wouldn’t recommend them, but I wouldn’t move existing customers away from them without good reason either.
Hopefully you found these reviews helpful!
Please note: some links in this post are affiliate links. If you click these links then buy hosting from them we get a one time payment, usually around $50. Please note that our reviews are unaffected by affiliate programs – we call things as we see them!