Hey guys, Now I know a lot of you guys who watch my post have been looking forward to this comparison for a very long time. If you're new to the post, I wanna quickly clarify and say that this comparison post includes hosts that I was genuinely interested in, or hosts that I personally use and recommend.
I did a comparison post last year where I compared what I felt were the most popular web hosts out there, names like HostGator and Bluehost. But this year I wanted to try something different. I wanted to strip away the hype and included a company not just because they rank highly on Google, but because they have something unique to offer.
So with that said, let's jump into the post. This post is gonna be divided into three categories: budget, standard and premium. So first, we're diving in with budget hosts.
There's no better host to lead off with than Namecheap. I've used Namecheap for all of my domain names for years and when it comes to domains, I can't recommend them enough. I've also had the pleasure of using Namecheap for web hosting for many WordPress sites, and it's one of the best values you can buy.
Now there's a reason I didn't say it's the best quality you can buy, but Namecheap is hands down my favorite web host if you're just looking to get your website started at an affordable cost. Namecheap offers two possible hosting solutions for WordPress. There's the Shared Hosting Plans, and then there's the EasyWP Managed WordPress Plans.
Now these offer drastically different experiences and I have the most experience running WordPress on the Shared Hosting Plans, so let me start out with those. For $2.88 per month, you can get a shared hosting account that hosts up to three websites and gives you 20 gigabytes of storage. Namecheap shared hosting gives you a fairly standard cPanel hosting experience.
cPanel is an industry standard control panel that a lot of web hosts use, and while it may look a bit busy and cluttered at first, it's not hard to figure out and it's smooth and well thought out. While you could get started with your website for $2.88 per month, I would highly recommend purchasing the middle plan called Stellar Plus, for one reason and one reason only, daily automated backups.
You'll learn in this comparison that a daily automated backup solution is extremely important to me at any web host. If you're hosting a WordPress website, you want to have it backed up regularly.
That's because you never know when a plugin might decide to go rogue and corrupt the entire WordPress installation, or a WordPress update might fail and having that daily backup always ready for you to restore with one click is very important to save you a huge headache.
Trust me, I've been there. For $4.88 per month, Namecheap's Stellar Plus plan features automated daily backups, easy one-click restore and support for unlimited websites. The only downside, which is a rather big downside, is that the backups are on an account level, not a website level.
So when Namecheap says that you can host unlimited websites, let's say you've got three or four WordPress sites hosted on your account, if you use the one-click restore, you'll be rolling back all the websites on your account, not just the affected one.
The only way around this is to download the backup file, then you have to dig through this huge zip file, find the correct website folder and upload it back to the server, and that's not gonna be fun at all. Now, earlier I mentioned that Namecheap has another hosting product for WordPress. I won't spend much time talking about it but their EasyWP Hosting plan is a cool offering for WordPress websites.
If you want the absolute easiest way to get started with WordPress. I mean, they make it dead simple. You just click a few buttons on the setup screen and your WordPress site is installed for you.
Now I personally would only recommend Namecheap EasyWP if you absolutely need the easiest WordPress install experience, because EasyWP doesn't offer any sort of automated backup solution, so you'll have to find a WordPress plugin to do that for you, and that's just gonna add to the cost and complexity of your site.
I can assure you that it's not hard to install WordPress on the Standard Shared Hosting plans. It takes just a little bit more digging around, but it's still totally automated, and the Namecheap support team can walk you through it if you need any help.
Speaking of getting help, you definitely get what you paid for with Namecheap. They do offer 24/7 live chat support, which is nice, but don't expect amazing quality support.
Chat representative often take 15 to 20 minutes to get back to you on stuff, and while they do get around to helping you and fixing the issue, it's definitely not speedy. The uptime and reliability also isn't great.
I haven't had issues in a few months, but last year, I had some serious uptime issues with Namecheap that actually caused me to switch my sites away from them entirely.
My site would regularly go down for 15 minutes here or there, which I can't have happening on a regular basis. This is why I wanna stress that Namecheap is a budget web host.
You get what you pay for, and if you need hosting to get the job done and launch your blog or company site, Namecheap is totally fine to do that.
The next budget host I'd recommend is Dreamhost. Now, if I had to quickly describe Dreamhost versus Namecheap, I would say that Dreamhost is slightly more polished and the support is higher quality. Dreamhost offers basic shared hosting for $4.95 a month, and you can also get three years of basic hosting for $93.24.
Dreamhost uses their own proprietary management panel that is crazy simple, a bit too simple for my preferences. I find that things are so watered down and basic that I have a hard time finding what I'm looking for.
But I think it's just because I've spent years working with cPanel, and I'm used to seeing a lot of icons and options. So the Dreamhost performance is pretty great, but what about backups? Dreamhost's backup solution is not great.
For their basic shared hosting plan, they say they keep up to two weeks of daily backups, but the panel to restore backups doesn't give you much flexibility, letting you pick from three options: restore the most recent backup, restore a mid-range backup, or restore the oldest backup.
One thing I really like about Dreamhost's backup system is that backups are made per domain name. So unlike Namecheap, it is possible to restore the backup for just one site but not all of the sites on your hosting account at once.
However, perhaps the most worrying thing is the big notice at the top, saying, "We make no guarantees about keeping backups of your data". So you'll either be relying on them for backups, or you'll need to get your own third party solution, such as a WordPress plugin.
Dreamhost support is pretty good. In my experience, it's a bit speedier and more friendly than Namecheap, but it's not 24/7. Their live chat operates seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Pacific time, which I think is pretty reasonable for shared hosting. So who is Dreamhost for? Well, I'd say Dreamhost is for anyone who's on a tight budget but support is important to you.
If you want a speedy site on the cheap with a support team ready to help you, I think you'll be happy with Dreamhost.
All right, onto the final budget host, and that is Hostinger. I'll try to make this one quick. I've had a mixed experience with Hostinger. You can get some really cheap hosting from Hostinger if you look for a good sale to pop up, but don't be fooled when you go to the Hostinger site and see that they have a timer counting down. That's not a sale, that's just the timer on their website that resets every time to try and pressure you to buy now.
I don't like that. You'll know it's a decent sale when you can buy 12 months of the cheapest plan for around $22 to $25 per year. If your goal is to be as cheap as humanly possible, you can get web hosting for as low as $0.92 a month if you purchase four years of hosting.
So that breaks down to $44.19 for four years of hosting. If you're looking for the cheapest possible web hosting out there, Hostinger's for you.
If you're just working on a tinkering project or maybe a basic website that you wanna throw up and leave up long term, but you don't need beefy hosting, this is perfect for you. Hostinger does have decent support for the price.
It's not great because oftentimes you're waiting a bit before you talk to someone, but it is a 24/7 live chat and once someone picks up, they actually do reply pretty darn fast.
Keep in mind that Hostinger charges $0.95 per month if you want daily backups, so it's not included in the hosting but it is there as an option if it's something you're interested in. Hostinger runs a heavily skinned version of cPanel with a huge core.
Their file management system is awful, it's terrible. If you ever need to mess with the files of your website for whatever reason, I would get an FTP Client, because their online system is atrocious.
So who is Hostinger for? Well, I'd recommend Hostinger if you're the extreme couponer type person who truly wants the cheapest acceptable web hosting possible.
If you don't mind paying for four years of web hosting upfront and you realize that you're getting okay budget hosting but nothing that's gonna knock your socks off, Hostinger's for you.
When researching a new host to switch to a few months back, I came across A2 Hosting. So for my testing on A2 Hosting, I tested two plans within their Shared hosting: the basic plan, which is now called Startup, and the premium tier shared hosting, now called Turbo Boost.
A2 Hosting did change the name of their plans after I signed up, but it appears that the features and what they offer are unchanged from the plans that I'm using.
Both plans are that classic cPanel hosting experience you first saw at Namecheap, so you know exactly what you're getting into from a management panel perspective.
I can say right away that I wouldn't recommend A2 Starter web hosting. I'll talk more about the premium Turbo tier in a second, but when it comes to the entry level offering, I would stay away from it. This is mainly because I don't see enough value for the price.
The starter plan is $11 per month if paid month to month and as mentioned earlier, it's a fairly vanilla cPanel setup with nothing special. It's decent quality hosting, although I am particularly bothered that I only experienced a 98.88% uptime over my eight weeks of constant uptime monitoring.
I prefer to see hosts with at least a 99.99% uptime, so that was definitely a bit disappointing. The backup system works similarly to Dreamhost.
A2 does daily backups with their server rewind feature and while they do let you restore it on your own in cPanel, they say that backups are provided on a best effort basis and they encourage you to keep your own backups.
When it comes to A2's support, the quality when you actually reach a rep is fantastic. The reps are knowledgeable and they really care about your needs.
Out of all the hosts I've mentioned in this comparison so far, A2 has the best chat reps. My issue with A2 support is that their ETAs are wildly inaccurate. I typically see an ETA between 25 and 70 minutes to talk to someone, when in reality, I'm typically connected to an agent in 10 minutes every time, even when it told me there's a 70 minute wait.
Since the actual wait time is reasonable, I may be able to recommend them from a support standpoint, but it's not a good feeling as a customer to be told you need to wait 70 minutes to talk to someone, even if you know it's not accurate.
A2 offers 24/7 live chat support, which is especially awesome since the reps are so knowledgeable and know what they're doing. When I asked A2 about this, they said they're serious about their 24/7 live support.
You can even chat with a rep on Christmas Day. So I said I wouldn't recommend the Starter plan from a value standpoint, but what about the other plan I mentioned? The Turbo plan felt speedier in my testing, and my StatusCake test confirms that the load time is definitely faster, and the uptime is much more acceptable at 99.99%.
So the Turbo plan is noticeably higher quality than the Starter plan, but is it worth the $21 a month price tag?
No, it's not worth the asking price when I tell you about the next host, which is the host that I personally use for all of my websites. But before we move on, I just wanna say that A2 is a solid quality web host that you can trust.
If you really like the features and value proposition of A2, I can absolutely recommend them from a quality standpoint. It's not for me, I just don't see enough value there for the price, but if they really look good to you, I would say go for it.
So now it's time to talk about my personal favorite web host and that's Cloudways. Cloudways is hands down the most unique web host in this comparison. To put it simply, Cloudways allows you to rent a VPS, or Virtual Private Server, from one of five cloud platforms and gives you a simple, intuitive management panel to host your websites.
If that sounds intimidating, let me break it down for you. With conventional shared web hosting, a hosting company is putting, let's say, 100 websites on a server. You're sharing your hosting with other customers.
If another customer's website gets a surge in traffic, guess what? The performance of your website can be affected. It could also be that someone's website on the same server is targeted with an attack, and this could once again affect the performance of your website.
A VPS is a way to isolate this, and while it's not a dedicated server, it's a way to get close while not breaking the bank. A dedicated server, which is actually the physical server you picture in your head at a data center, might have 20 VPSs running on it, and each VPS is fully isolated, meaning if someone else's VPS gets hacked or receives a surge in traffic, it can't affect your VPS because the damage can never escape their VPS.So that's where Cloudways come in.
They'll sell you a VPS from DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Amazon Web Sevices or Google Cloud platform, but they manage it for you so you never have to feel intimidated, and you never have to feel like you have the weight of managing a VPS.
It feels like any other type of web hosting. You pick the account you want, sign up, click a button to install WordPress and you're up and running.
But here's the insane thing, Cloudways doesn't limit the amount of websites you can put on a server and it's truly your server, so you can do whatever you want with it.
I have a two gigabyte DigitalOcean server with Cloudways that hosts all 10 of my websites, and let me tell you, the performance is nuts for the price. Sure, I am paying $22 a month for this server, but let me explain why it's so great.
I'm running 10 websites on it without a problem and some of the sites are particularly high traffic. I recently had to scale my server up from the initial one gigabyte DigitalOcean server to two gigabytes, because the traffic had increased enough to require more power, and that's really the beauty of Cloudways.
You are in control of your server. You can scale it up or down when needed and let's say that DigitalOcean has a meltdown and starts having problems, I can clone my server to one of the other four cloud platforms that Cloudways offers, and I've essentially switched web hosts entirely with no hassle, and I've kept the same great management panel.
Speaking of the management panel, why is it so great? Well remember how I keep talking about backups? Cloudways backs up your website daily automatically. It's built into the price and each site is backed up independently, so you can restore the backup of each website when you want without having to have all the websites restored if you have a problem with one. Another killer feature of Cloudways is the staging environment for WordPress websites.
A staging environment allows you to conveniently clone your WordPress website to a temporary sub-domain, where you can install new plugins, configure a new theme or make changes that may take you some time to work out without doing it to your live website.
You can take your time with it, make the changes you need and with the click of one button, you can immediately push the new changes up to your live website. What if you're a freelancer and you wanna host all of your client websites on a Cloudways server?
Well, with Cloudways' permissions, you can actually give your client a Cloudways login where they can log in and access just their own website without seeing the other sites on your server.
If you need to migrate one or many WordPress websites from another host to Cloudways, they have a fantastic, free WordPress plugin that automatically migrates your website in a snap.
It truly is the best migration system I've ever used because it's free to use, you can do it in your own time, and you don't have to wait several days for a support rep to manually move your website over, like you see at other hosts.
It's these premium features, paired with the fact that you have your own server all to yourself that make Cloudways worth every penny. The only two shortcomings to Cloudways would be their support and frequent glitches with the panel.
While they do offer 24/7 live chat support, the representative do not speak very clear English and they seem to lack courtesy and social skills.
I've had representative just end the chat on me without asking if there was anything else they could do to help, or one time, the representative has just fixed an issue but didn't feel the need to send me a message telling me it was resolved, so I'm just scratching my head, assuming that the representative was still working on the problem, but it was actually fixed.
They do always fix my issue in the end, so I wouldn't worry about the support not taking care of your problem, but it could definitely be a smoother experience.
The next con is that the panel does have bugs and quirks. Sometimes you click on something and it doesn't work or it gets stuck and you have to refresh the page and try again.
Overall though, Cloudways offers the best quality service you can get for the price, and with plans starting at $10 a month, there's something for everyone.
WP Hosting Engine
Now we're moving onto the premium tier, and we're taking a look at WP Engine. There's a reason WP Engine is considered a premium host and that becomes obvious as soon as you look at their pricing page.
Their cheapest plan is $30 a month, and unlike Cloudways where you have an entire server to yourself and can host as many websites as you'd like, WP Engine comes with some strict limits. $30 a month gets you 10 gigabytes of storage, 25000 visits per month to your website, and you're allowed to host one website.
Yes that's right, one website for $30 a month. It gets even more strange when you look at the next plan up. It goes from $30 a month to $115 a month? I mean, is this a joke?
So if you outgrow 25000 visits per month, you suddenly need to pay $115 a month to keep your website up? All right but seriously, who's WP Engine for? What's the point of it? Well, WP Engine is for anyone wanting the absolute best WordPress hosting experience you can get.
If you want to just give a company your money, have amazing, fast, 24/7 support there whenever you need it, and have your site hosted by a company who knows WordPress well and is committed to the stability and uptime of your website, WP Engine is for you.
Think of it this way. Where Cloudways and a lot of other hosts function on a power system, meaning if your site requires more guts to function reliably, you need to upgrade the server or jump to the next plan with better processing speeds, that's how hosting typically works.
WP Engine takes a totally different approach. You pay them for up to x amount of visits to your websites per month, and as long as you're under the visit cap, it's their job to make your WordPress website run fast and reliably.
It doesn't matter if you do ecommerce or have a membership site or a WordPress site that's more taxing and demanding of a server. As long as you're under the monthly visit limit, WP Engine will take care of it.
The WP Engine panel is smooth and well thought out and it's hands down the best hosting experience I've ever had. They take daily automatic backups with one-click easy restore and they take the concept of a staging environment to the next level by offering a development environment as well.
By having two staging environments available, you can use one slot to work on a major website redesign that may take several weeks, and you can use the other slot to work on more minor changes to your live WordPress website.
Just like Cloudways, you can add a user to your account with different permissions and access rights. WP Engine is truly the iPhone of web hosting. It just works. It works well, and if you have any questions whatsoever, there's the best support team ever there to help you 24/7.
The only issue I could find with WP Engine is the massive price gap in their plans. I really don't like that you have to jump from $30 a month to $115 a month if you require more than 25000 views per month on your website.
But in the end, who is WP Engine for? Well, WP Engine is for business owners and bloggers who value a quality hosting experience above everything else. If price is no factor for you and you're simply searching for the best of the best, WP Engine is the way to go.
And finally, we're closing out the comparison with Flywheel. When you visit Flywheel's website, you might think you accidentally just went to WP Engine's website because the pricing and plan structure is exactly the same as WP Engine.
That's because Flywheel was acquired by WP Engine, so there are definitely some similarities between the two options. But after speaking to the WP Engine team, they told me that Flywheel is still operating as an independent company, and while they vouch for Flywheel being WP Engine quality, it will be a slightly different experience and there are differences.
Flywheel offers a cheaper plan for $15 a month that gives you just enough power to start your WordPress website. So if this luxury hosting experience sounds like it's for you but you're just getting started, Flywheel is a no brainer.
Flywheel is nearly identical to WP Engine in every other way. The powerful hosting and highly responsive support team is the same, and you get access to the same automated daily backup system, additional users with permissions and intuitive panel.
I will say that Flywheel is more focused on upsells than WP Engine. They have this stats tab that they charge you $25 a month to access, and I think that's a bit lame when Google Analytics can provide you all the stats you could ever need absolutely free.
Flywheel also has a new white label add on for $99 a month, which gives you access to a bulk plan that's cheaper per website, and access to a full billing suite so you can automatically charge your clients each month, and you can set the price that they pay.
That's not something that I can see paying for as a seasoned freelancer, but I guess if you manage a lot of WordPress clients, that might make sense to pay $99 a month for the convenience. As long as you can break even or maybe turn a profit, that might be something cool to mess around with.
Now I will say that Flywheel feels a little bit behind the curve on some features when it comes to the panel. They only have a single staging environment, and not the additional development environment that WP Engine offers.
So I'd say if you're just starting off but you want a web host who will treat you like royalty, go with the $15 a month plan from Flywheel. If you're a freelancer and you wanna take advantage of the new white label feature, go with Flywheel.