Building a website is one thing, but hosting it is a whole other can of worms. Say you’ve settled on WordPress, for instance, you’ll need to find a hosting provider that offers a good speed and is reliable, so that your site is not constantly offline because the servers are overloaded.
What’s the cheapest web hosting provider? The fastest? And the most reliable? And does it even matter?
Yes. Yes it does. That’s because hosting your site with a poor provider could really damage:
- Your UX (user experience): Have you ever closed a tab in frustration because the page wouldn’t load fast enough? You’re not alone. Google calculated that 53% of mobile users leave a page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- Your SEO: Google and other search engines favor fast-loading websites. That means the more reliable it is, the more chances it has of climbing in their search results (and hopefully reaching the first page).
Now, to measure “reliability” there are really two metrics to focus on: uptime and speed.
Understanding Website Speed
But it also depends a lot on your hosting providers’ servers. Those with more resources will allow data to move faster. Dedicated hosting providers (where there is one server per website) will also be faster than shared hosting (but also a lot more expensive, and usually for enterprise web owners).
However, it’s not always easy to get a good idea of speed simply by testing the website yourself. You need to account for where visitors are coming from, at what time of the day, and from what device. It’s also useful to benchmark the speed of your hosting provider with that of other hosting services.
What about Uptime?
You can replace “uptime” with another word: availability. It might come as a surprise, but even if you pay for your website hosting, there could be some downtime. Yes, that means seconds, minutes, or worse, entire hours when users can’t access it.
It could be due to glitches, maintenance and fixes or spikes in traffic that choke your bandwidth. Regardless, it’s important to have as much uptime as possible, for obvious reasons.
In fact, Google could penalize your SEO, which is why most providers will claim a 99.9% uptime per year (that’s still around 1.44 minutes of downtime per day, or 8.8 hours downtime per year).
And if you want to calculate uptime yourself, here’s the formula:
uptime divided by total time = availability percent
How We Ran Our Tests
The good news is that there are already several reliable services that calculate website speed and availability.
The bad news is that running one speed test isn’t enough. So I put in the work and ran 5 rounds of testing with 3 different tools over a 6-week period. These are the tools I used: GTMetrix, Pingdom, WebPageTest.org and Google PageSpeed Tools. In fact, I run these tests every couple of months, so what you’ll find here are the latest, updated results.
My first step, though, was to create dummy sites with each of the following providers: A2 Hosting, Bluehost, DreamHost, GoDaddy, HostGator, InMotion, iPage, Hostinger, GreenGeeks, Kinsta, Cloudways, WP Engine, IONOS, Namecheap and SiteGround.
I then tested different locations around the world, including Vancouver, São Paulo, San Francisco, Tokyo and New York. Later, I collated all the results to find the averages for each of the 15 providers.
After 6 weeks of speed tests, I was finally able to start monitoring the uptime. I monitored the site availability over a period of 12 months.
If you want to pore over the data yourself, here’s the Google Sheet where I logged all the info. For the conclusions, just read on below.
The Results: Who Was the Fastest?
The first thing to note is that all the providers cleared the 3-second mark recommended by Google. SiteGround was the fastest, followed closely by GreenGeeks and Namecheap.
It may come as a surprise that hosts as renowned as Bluehost and HostGator underperformed. InMotion and iPage underperformed too, both of which we were expecting more from.
|Provider||Gtmetrix||Pingdom||Webpage test||PageSpeed Insights||Total|
Results in seconds
Considering you’ll have to drop below 99.95% for it to be problematic, I’m happy to report that every host but iPage, Hostinger and IONOS did fairly well when it comes to uptime, as they dangerously went under the lowest recommended threshold (99.95%). InMotion could have been a bit better.
And since this is the third year that I’ve run these tests, it’s also interesting to see that the results are fairly consistent.
|Provider||2019 Uptime||2020 Uptime||2021 Uptime||Starts at|
|Namecheap * – Uptime test 2 months||No data||No data||100%||$2.40/month|
|WP Engine||No data||99.99%||99.99%||$25/month|
|IONOS * – Uptime test 2 months||No data||No data||99.93%||$4/month|
* Please note that for a couple of the providers we don’t have data for a 12-month period as it’s the first time we’ve tested them, so the uptime could change slightly when we have more data.
Before I answer that, let me also add another factor: the quality of the support.
You see, if your website is down or slow, I think it’s also important to be able to get a clear answer from the platform.
Note that your experience may vary, but I found that generally, SiteGround, InMotion, WP Engine, Kinsta and DreamHost had fantastic support. The answers came fast, and they made complete sense.
A2 Hosting and GreenGeeks also did a fine job, even if they sometimes took a little longer to get back to me.
Finally, I was quite frustrated by GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost and iPage’s support teams. They often left some of my questions unanswered or took way too long to get back to me.
The number one thing to note? At this stage, I would clearly stay clear of iPage, Hostinger and Bluehost. Their uptime was poor, speed below par, and it’s not helped by an unreliable support team.
The average loading speed or bad uptime for websites hosted on IONOS, InMotion and HostGator could also make me think twice, but it’s probably OK for most small projects like personal blogs or business sites that don’t depend on their website.
On the other hand, the two WordPress hosting specialists, WP Engine and Kinsta had solid results. But remember that you get what you pay for, and these are at the pricier end of the spectrum, starting at around $35 a month for 1 website.
And the winner? SiteGround consistently passed all our tests with flying colors, which is also why it’s one of our top-rated solutions for website hosting. However, it’s not the most affordable one either as it starts at $14.99 a month for 1 installation, but much cheaper than Kinsta or WP Engine.
Of course, if price is the most important factor for you, we tested a whole bunch of providers to find the best cheap web hosting and best cheap WordPress hosting options. For a side by side website hosting comparison, check this page. Although the very cheapest hosts tend to be the least reliable, there are some bargains here that do provide a decent level of reliability!
Were there any details about the test that were unclear? Let me know in the comments below.
23 Aug 2021 – New tests and general update
16 Feb 2021 – Information about the test setup
01 Oct 2020 – Second performance tests. Kinsta, Hostinger, WP Engine and Cloudways added
04 Jul 2019 – First performance tests