HostPlay follows a fairly conventional path for a web hosting company. They offer three of the Big Five hosting packages: VPS, Semi-Dedicated and Dedicated (the missing two are Shared and Reseller, although they permit you to use your regular account as a reseller), and they do so at surprisingly competitive prices, given the company's relatively small size. Their use of offshore hosting does set them apart a bit from the herd, especially if you live in a less free country.
In the United States, it mostly means that you can more safely run sites that feature quasi-prohibited activities like online gambling. Less brazen but still very important is HostPlay's swell customer support. Their staff is ridiculously friendly, and if you are already thinking about hosting a site with HostPlay I highly encourage you to reach out to their staff via their 24/7 chat support and ask them directly about features or functionality you might be interested in.
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What Makes This Hosting Company Unique?
When I think of HostPlay, three positive things instantly pop up in my head: offshore, pricing, and support. Perhaps unique is not precisely the right word, because those features can all be find in various degrees somewhere else. But HostPlay does all three well enough to distinguish them from their peers by a large margin. And the combination is stellar; HostPlay is the only major player out there offering offshore hosting with 24/7 chat and phone support at stellar prices.
Something else that is unique to HostPlay (although less dramatically so) is their flexible and libertine approach to resellers. Unlike other companies, most notably Hostwinds, who hold resellers hostage by charging exorbitant markups to resell hosting, HostPlay basically lets you do whatever you want as a white label reseller. Just buy a normal account of any of their tiers and you are free to resell to your hearts content.
This is way outside of the norm – almost all hosting companies charge extra for the privilege of operating as a reseller on their platforms. HostPlay doesn't even discriminate between conventional and reseller accounts, which is a huge boon for any resellers out there. If you want to offshore your reseller hosting service, HostPlay is a nearly unbeatable choice.
Well, there is one more little thing that could be construed as “unique.” about HostPlay. If you have done some research on your own to look into HostPlay (outside of this article, of course), you have no doubt been barraged with an avalanche of forums, non-hosting related reviews, and YouTube videos not far off from the following:
What are these? These are compilations of CounterStrike: Go players doing amusing things in the game. Why are you being shown them? Because apparently one of the largest gaming-oriented web hosts in Poland is also known as HostPlay, and the most popular Polish CounterStrike players all host with them. Thus, if you try to search for HostPlay, you get this. Lots and lots of this. To sift through this you can apply a little bit of Google foo and exclude the words “Poland” and “.pl” (Poland's top-level domain name) from your search, like so:
And voila! As of January 23rd, 2018, we are bestowed with the fruits of our research: quality videos of users documenting various aspects of HostPlay for us! As a side note, hostplay.pl (the Polish web hosting company you'll keep running into as you try to research HostPlay online) actually seems like a pretty awesome gaming oriented hosting company. But that is a matter for another review! Moving on.
Hostplay's Online Reputation
Online reviews of HostPlay are all pretty mediocre, which is genuinely quite a surprise for me because they are a generally charming, easy to like company. So I decided to dig deeper into the source and nature of the reviews and found something kind of sad that explained the sorry state of HostPlay's not-quite-perfect ratings. It turns out one user who had a negative experience several years ago has gone to every major web hosting review website and spammed HostPlay with negative reviews.
The issue itself seems to have been a conflict regarding having to submit a ticket over a technical problem (a fairly standard procedure, by the way). This client apparently did not want to do that, and decided to spam the internet with bile instead. Well, you can't win over everyone.
HostPlay also makes quite a fuss about their uptime, a boast with which the online community seems to largely concur. On the other hand, HostPlay does not have their own data center and is therefore not in control at all of the uptime of sites hosted with them.
For what it is worth, if you took my advice on the custom video search I built in the previous section, you would have run into this candid tutorial from a HostPlay user that I think really nicely captures the essence and character of the company. It's just a lady setting up a tool through the service, but what makes it so lovely for our purposes is that she documents how HostPlay support guided her through doing all of this.
How can you not appreciate this company? No fancy, glossy marketing video; just this candid, kitschy upload from someone who wanted the world to know all about the cool stuff HostPlay helped her do. I can't help but love it!
A small side note: I have said mostly positive remarks regarding HostPlay's support, and I would stand by the remarks for the most part. However, I have contacted their support a few times since beginning this review, and you should be aware that your results can be hit or miss.
What I mean is that while generally HostPlay's support has been top notch, there have also been a few minor occasions where they can be snippy or seem not…lucid. My suspicion is that they maintain their 24 hour support by selectively outsourcing, and the quality of your support ends up depending largely on what country you have been outsourced to on a given instance.
Types of Hosting Packages Offered
The closest thing HostPlay offers to conventional shared server hosting is their Semi-Dedicated set of plans. After that, they offer Virtual Private Servers and Dedicated Servers. For an extra fee they can manage your servers for you, as well as install SSL certs and do some basic web design (although I would be a bit skeptical of their web design aspirations to say the least, considering their own website is not particularly well designed).
That's pretty much all there is too it! For VPS's they at least let you choose between Linux and Windows. For dedicated and semi-dedicated you are stuck with Linux. The semi-dedicated servers all run CentOS, and you can choose your distro if you have your own dedicated server with them.
Features and Tools Offered
HostPlay let's you choose from a drop down menu what country you want your site to be hosted in. Take a look:
Few other offshore hosting companies make the process this simple and straightforward. On the other hand, there's a lot more neat functionality that could be done in terms of making it easy to switch your VPS from one country to another once you've got one. HostPlay seems to under utilize what they have. They have been around since 2004 and while a lot of what they did was pretty cutting edge for the time, the company is beginning to seem a little stuck in its ways and unwilling to innovate.
Other than that, HostPlay largely offers the standard retinue of services and features you'd find anywhere. cPanel, backups, Softaculous, Solid State Drives. Really their spiel is having a good offshore selection with a hands off attitude and a low price. For cutting edge features, HostPlay is not the ideal place.
Current Pricing Options For HostPlay
The pricing at HostPlay is extremely simple. This chart sums it up pretty nicely:
As you would expect, they have a scheme by which you can pay extra to get additional resources on a Dedicated or Virtual Private Server. The prices don't get much better as you increase spending, though, which is disappointing.
Also, if you are looking at those prices and noticing that the Windows VPS is slightly cheaper than the Linux VPS right next to it, it's because of the storage. Notice that the default Linux install includes 20 more gigabytes of hard drive space. When you account for the storage disparity, the Linux server is actually cheaper. Which makes a lot of sense when you consider that a Windows VPS includes a small fee for a license.
One important thing to note when it comes to HostPlay's Dedicated and VPS pricing is that the default packages all mention that same feature at the bottom – “Fully Managed Server”. My recommendation? If you are tech savvy, cut that noise out and save some money. If you are even moderate with Linux you can save money by only hiring a freelance systems administrator when things need fixing.
Who Is The Ideal Customer For HostPlay
I would say any medium to large sized client who needs offshore hosting would be a great match for HostPlay. If your site is not at least fairly high traffic then you will probably be put off by their insistence on not offering any service lower than semi-dedicated. I would also be worried about anyone who intends to make heavy use of HostPlay's technical support, web design, or server management deals.
If you like everything about HostPlay but do not need offshore hosting, you can get the exact same services in the United States at a fraction of the price HostPlay charges by signing up with HostRocket (plus a few other nifty features, like shared and reseller hosting). The only difference is that with HostRocket you will miss out on chat support and 24/7 support. So if you can go without those and are not in desperate need of offshore hosting, that is probably the way to go.
Ah yes, the moment of truth! I suppose would have to say that I decide in favor of HostPlay. The company offers a solid, reliable offshore hosting service with reasonable enough pricing, decent features, and an awesome policy on support (you can't beat 24/7)! Sure, it has it's flaws. If you don't need offshore then the prices can seem a bit much. And their website looks like the internet equivalent of the movie Space Jam (read: outdated).
But no company has everything, and in an industry that forces us to make all different kinds of subtle compromises, I would have to say that HostPlay is simply good enough. And most of the time that's about all you can ask for.
However, I must note that I would strongly recommend you never go anywhere near HostPlay's web design services. Seriously, look at their website. About 10% of it doesn't even work, and the other 90% looks like it was mocked up in Microsoft Paint. It's not a big deal at all if you want web hosting, but to think that this company would have the gall to advertise itself as being a professional web designer service is utterly astonishing. Trust me, if you need web design, go somewhere else. You don't have to get web design services from the same company that hosts you. In fact, it is usually better not to.