Hostwinds is an award winning web hosting company founded in 2010 that specializes in a broad range of services from shared hosting to VPS, dedicated and even some extra services not normally offered by other hosting companies such as VPN, Shoutcast (Audio streaming – live podcasts or internet radio) and enterprise email. Is this review we're going to look at whether or not this host is going to be good for your fledgling internet based business. In my case, I run an affiliate marketing business, so that's mostly what I have in mind.
When you want to dig deep into the company, they seem quite transparent by showing you a list of websites (under the awards section) that contain hundreds of reviews and the average is nearly 5 stars, so kudos to them for working hard to be a great host plus they have added awards they have won from third party sites – Inc 500, PC Mag and FindMyHost to name a few.
They only have one datacenter location in Dallas, which is fine, especially since their connectivity is very wide by having access to over 16 carriers for bandwidth. Additionally, because they have access to so many carriers, they are able to handle just about anything that might be thrown at them such as a failure of some sort. These networks are fully redundant so if one line goes down, another line will pick it up and you as the user may never even know something went wrong.
Lets go through the plans first and I'll fill you in on the rest later. There are also 3 similar packages and 3 software (App)-Specific packages that need to be covered.
First thing, be wary of the marketing. Many hosting companies do this by showing the lowest price possible, but you can only get that price if you prepay a minimum of 12 months. The cheapest shared hosting package comes in at an industry low of $3.74/month and comes with, what I call, the “unlimited factor”. This is just a marketing ploy to get you attracted to the product when you should be looking for value in other places like other features, support, wordpress (or other software) and things that will help you run your website. For example, this package allows you a single domain to be hosted and not more, whereas the other packages offer 4 domains and unlimited domains respectively.
From experience and taking a look at what Shared Hosting has to offer over at HostWinds, I can see right away that it's best for simple websites or bloggers to pick the Advanced or Ultimate plan, so you can add your other domains under the same hosting account and administer everything with one control panel. Chances are, if you got bit by the online business bug, you'll start more than one website. You'll very likely end up with a couple domains by the end of the year. However, if you are running a business, I'd recommend you skip shared hosting altogether. I was very unhappy with it for many years. My recommendation? Cloud Hosting or VPS.
Business Web Hosting Plans
Prices for the Business packages start at $7.49/month, but remember, you only get that price by prepaying 12 months in advanced or you're stuck paying $9.99/month. It's showing that the initial Business Package only allows for a single domain to be hosted with 4 and unlimited domains for the next two packages. The price between packages isn't by a large amount, so you could upgrade to the Ultimate Business plan by adding an extra $4 or $11.24/month/year or go month to month and pay a rate of $14.99/month (double the price of the Basic plan).
Ok, that sounds great, but what if you needed something more? This is why you will find Business Web Hosting services will give you what you need to go that extra mile. How do you offer more than unlimited? That's a bit simplified, however, there are value added services that are part of the Business plans which are not included in the Shared Web Hosting Packages.
Lets break it down:
- LiteSpeed webserver – This is a stripped down version of the Apache Webserver that requires less resources, so your websites come up faster for your visitors.
- Softaculous Installer – One click install for software like WordPress, MySQL, Joomla etc.
- Latest cPanel – This is your control panel and the most updated stable versions are the best to use.
- Unlimited MySQL Databases – Word of advice. They don't really care about how many Databases you want to have because databases are notorious for using a lot of resources, which means you will eventually have to upgrade as well. Notice how they don't say how much ram or CPU you have access to? Eventually, you will get a call and they will ask you to upgrade.
- Performance Optimized MySQL – Special performance tweaks in the hosts operating system will enhance your database experience.
- Instant Set Up – All this means is that things are automated, so as soon as you sign up or create something in your account, the wheels are in motion on the backend where you don't have to wait for someone to do it manually.
- Unlimited subdomains – The image below can explain better and I thought I'd give you an idea of how well their knowledge-base is put together.
Unlimited FTP Accounts – This is like any other unlimited because it doesn't really affect the hosting company anyway so for marketing reasons ONLY, they give you unlimited FTP accounts. How many are you really going to need?
Solid State Drives (SSD) – As technology improves and life gets more complicated, everyone is looking for performance and this is probably one of the best features about this plan.
Free Website Transfers – Everyone knows how these things can mess up and it's really great to know Hostwinds does this work for you.
Unlimited Email Accounts – This is also just marketing and them trying to get your business by steering you to the wrong information.
Free Dedicated IP Address – This is a feature very important for your website, especially when you need better security or you have an eCommerce shop. You need a dedicated IP for SSL certificates and SEO works a lot better as opposed to a shared IP which is the industry norm.
Great, now we can clearly see the differences between the Shared Plans and the Business Plans, but wait, there are also Cloud Plans, which I believe needs a bit more explanation. Cloud hosting plans are the same as shared and business with one particular difference, they use cloud technology on the backend to drive your website. It's the same hardware, just different management software to make it a true cloud experience.
What does cloud mean to you? Have you ever experienced your host losing your data in some way like a major hard drive crash or your website going down because of some other failure from the host's side? Then you have to wait for hours or in some cases days (or more) to hear anything back about the problem and the resolution (sometimes there isn't one).
Well, cloud hosting is for you if you're more than just a blogger. Do you make money from your blog? Is your WordPress-based website valuable to you and what I mean by that is, are you affected by it if it stops working for a short or longer period of time? Is it important enough that you don't want to lose data? I ask because I've had websites in the past that I really didn't much care about. They were just hobby websites and were pretty static with hardly any changes. I also had backups of the data and didn't really mind if my site went down here and there.
Cloud Hosting will keep your websites up because it's configured in such as way that if there is a failure, other resources will pick up the slack. Without getting too complicated, your ram, hard drive (storage), CPU and networks are redundant and the system auto-checks the hosts resources for any problems and when one arises, new resources are assigned and what wasn't working is automatically taken down for service. Pretty cool, huh?
As I had explained earlier, there are quite a lot of services offered and you'll notice Unmanaged and Managed VPS services. I want to quickly go over these as this is the logical upgrade path of your busy website. You will notice that instead of unlimited, they start offering CPU and RAM which aren't part of the shared hosting packages. This is why unlimited becomes limited! The quality is much better and you'll notice the difference immediately.
Lastly, you will notice they have some specialized packages for WordPress, vBulletin and CPVLab, but it's just marketing as they are pretty much the same as any of the other packages. Really, they are exactly the same.
If you are going to go with Hostwinds for your hosting needs, I'd recommend going with WordPress hosting or VPS, depending on what you can afford. Personally? I use VPS.
First off, on the homepage, Hostwinds lists several unrelated sites that offer, what seems to be, unbiased reviews from existing customers and to be honest, the reviews don't look too shabby. For me, I don't always believe what I read and due to all the slightly off marketing tactics they've used on their site, it doesn't give me confidence that they are showing who they really are.
I dug a bit deeper into Google searches to find out how their hosting really is. My criteria is to find the most recent bad reviews to give me the scope of their ability to offer solid hosting.
You know what? I spent the better part of half an hour trying to find bad reviews and I gotta say, there aren't many and the ones that did come up were for the dedicated server product or billing which is completely unrelated to their other hosting services.
As a proper hosting company they offer 24/7 support which is reassuring and their knowledge-base is pretty thorough, which is a good sign. You can tell how good a company is by the information that they provide to their customers. Not only does HostWinds offer 'round the clock Support tickets and live chat, but their phone support is 24/7 too.
Five Lessons To Consider When Choosing A Host
In closing, I wanted readers to walk away learning how to shop better and to be able to read between the lines in order to choose the best service. I've put together lessons that will help you along the way as reference material for the future.
Lesson 1. Sometimes the cheapest package isn't always the best and if you can afford it, go cloud. You and your WordPress website will have less headaches and it's always nice to feel that you won't lose much of anything due to downtime.
Lesson 2. When you shop for a host, completely ignore the unlimited features and look for what else they offer.
Lesson 3. It's best to choose a hosting company that allows you to grow by offering multiple levels of service. You will appreciate the ease of upgrading with one company, instead of having to migrate your site once it grows out of the current hosting service.
Lesson 4. If your website needs high performance, then avoid shared hosting and jump straight to a VPS solution
Lesson 5. Before deciding to go with any host, look for the most recent reviews and make sure the majority (over 70% are good reviews – 4-5 stars)
Should You Choose Hostwinds?
Honestly, Hostwinds didn't move me either way. It's a decent hosting company with pretty standard hosting packages and pricing, plenty of upward plans to grow your business into, and very few complaints online. They are not my current hosting company, but they are good enough for me to recommend as a potential host for your online business. See the bottom of this post for more direct recommendations based on what type of business you are running.