WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store

WooCommerce Pros Cons Alternatives for Online Store

WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, which is the Internet’s most popular content management software.

Explore WooCommerce’s Feature Set

Explore my WooCommerce Setup Guide

WooCommerce was originally developed by a small theme / web design firm in 2011. It grew rapidly among the WordPress community due to its feature set, but also due to its business model.

Same as now, you could download & use the full WooCommerce plugin for free from the start. WooThemes made money by selling compatible designs, support, and from specific extensions (e.g. to connect to a credit card processor).

1 WooCommerce Install

In 2015, Automattic bought WooCommerce from WooThemes. Automattic is the software company run by Matt Mullenweg, the original author of WordPress software.

Ever since, the development of WooCommerce has been tightly coordinated with the development of both self-hosted WordPress and Automattic’s hosted WordPress.com software.

So that’s enough introduction. The point is that WooCommerce is legit, WooCommerce is growing, and WooCommerce can be a great fit for many storeowners…but not all.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What is WooCommerce?

To run an ecommerce website, you only need a few additional features. You need a product listing, a shopping cart, a payment processor, and order functionality that will merge & manage all the order information within a database. That’s it.

Because of that, ecommerce platforms are very similar to general website software…with just a bit of added functionality.

And like general website software, your choice of software depends on your personal desire for control / customization vs. convenience.

It’s a bit like real estate. A house provides maximum control. But you have to deal with maintenance, contractors, and random issues. A hotel offers zero control or customization, but they take care of *everything*.

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

WooCommerce lives on the more control / customization end of the spectrum. If Etsy & Amazon are hotels, then WooCommerce is a house.

WooCommerce is a software plugin that adds ecommerce functionality to WordPress, which is general website software (aka “CMS”).

And WordPress is part of a 3 part bundle that “makes a website” –

  • domain (your address on the Internet)
  • hosting (where your website files live)
  • software (what generates the files & pages that make up your website)

In other words, WooCommerce can help WordPress build a stand-alone store instead of a single-family home.

Now, this leads to the first overarching choice with WooCommerce.

Your choice is that WooCommerce is *part* of that 3 part bundle. It directly competes with other WordPress ecommerce plugins.

But…it also competes with other big bundled ecommerce solutions. And many big competitors deliberately bundle domain, hosting, software & ecommerce into a single, simple monthly price.

That’s great – and there are plenty of upsides & downsides to that bundling. But it’s important to be aware of since exploring the pros & cons of WooCommerce is a bit like comparing apples & oranges with other ecommerce solutions.

But – we’ll do it anyway. I love WooCommerce for what it is, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a few pros & cons of WooCommerce both in comparison to direct & indirect competitors.

Pros of WooCommerce

Most ecommerce platforms have a series of strong advantages, and WooCommerce is no different. Here are a few reasons to use WooCommerce, not only instead of other WordPress plugins, but also instead of other ecommerce solutions.

Long-term Cost & Value

WooCommerce is free to download & free to use. If you have WordPress installed on your hosting account, you can navigate to Plugins –> Add New and add it to your website right now.

Explore my WordPress Ecommerce Setup Guide here.

WooCommerce is also fully functional with no add-ons or extensions.

That means that your annual website costs could be as low as ~$120/yr, depending on what hosting plan you have.

For contrast, the average low-tier ecommerce bundle with a hosted service like Shopify (review), BigCommerce (review) or Wix (review) will run around $360/yr for a single website.

But it gets even better for WooCommerce.

Since your main annual cost will be for a hosting plan, you can maximize the value of your hosting account with multiple websites.

If you had 4 small WooCommerce powered websites on your hosting account, then your annual per website costs would be $30/yr.

To run 4 small ecommerce websites with Shopify or Wix, your annual per website costs would be at least $1,440/yr.

For example, one of my earliest clients had a personal website, a home decor blog, a cat collar store, and an embroidery store – all on her same hosting account.

All 4 sites used WordPress, and the 2 store used WooCommerce. It helped her defray the costs and keep her 2 stores profitable – since they were side-hobbies anyway.

But it gets even better for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce comes fully-featured and fully supported with no transaction fees of any kind. There’s no “premium tier” to move to. Your long-term per-feature costs will always be lower with WooCommerce.

Also, almost all of WooCommerce extensions are flat-fee and under $100. You have access to a huge and rapidly expanding library of advanced, complex ecommerce features for flat-fee optional cost.

WooCommerce Extensions

And, lastly, since WooCommerce works within WordPress, you get a double cost benefit for any free or premium plugins that you already want to use with your website.

For example, the most popular Redirection plugin for WordPress is free. And it’s free for WooCommerce too, since WooCommerce is integrated with your website.

If you are already paying for speed, security, and anti-spam for your existing WordPress website (with something like JetPack), then you can simply extend that subscription to cover your store as well.

And, you can piece together any 3rd party software based on cost, need, compatibility, etc.

If we stick with the housing analogy with WooCommerce, you can sub-lease rooms to help with the rent, your home office can benefit from your general security bill, and you can add-on *exactly* as your budget allows.

Now…all these massive cost benefits for WooCommerce comes with a few massive caveats, which I’ll cover in the cons. But on face value, WooCommerce is an incredible short-term and long-term value for any storeowner.

Integration with WordPress

WordPress software powers more than 1/3rd of the entire Internet. And it’s popular for a reason – it works well, it’s incredibly versatile as software, and it has a huge community (both for-profit and non-profit) supporting it.

And WooCommerce benefits from all three reasons as well, since it’s been a part of the broader WordPress community for years now.

This seamless integration with WordPress is important because WooCommerce can pull features in from an entire universe of plugins, themes, tutorials, and values that simply does not exist anywhere else.

For example, Yoast SEO has long been a hugely popular plugin with lots of international translations, advanced SEO feature support, and good usability.

There is no hosted platform with anything like it (or like any of Yoast’s excellent competitors). But since WooCommerce is integrated with WordPress…Yoast is integrated with WooCommerce as well.

The same goes with popular themes. Themes will support the same PHP structure as WooCommerce. In fact, developers will often go ahead and add bonus features to WordPress themes to make it extra appealing to WooCommerce users.

Plus, WordPress has long upheld the values of the Open Web with full RSS support, nice permalinks, W3 valid code, cross-browser compatibility, and full control over your code, content & data.

Themes for WooCommerce

f you want to leave WooCommerce, it’s easy and well-supported. Your data is only accessible to you – and anyone you grant permission to (not the other way around).

Lastly, if you have an existing WordPress powered website and want to add ecommerce, WooCommerce makes it as seamless as any other plugin so that you don’t have to style & support a store on a completely different platform.

Support from Automattic

Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who is also the author of WordPress software.

WordPress software is free, open-source and community supported. But Automattic is the for-profit company that makes & sells tools for WordPress software.

They run WordPress.com, a bundled hosted service for WordPress software in addition to JetPack, a speed / security / utility kit for WordPress websites, and WooCommerce.

Now, there’s a whole universe of for-profit companies offering WordPress plugins, themes, support, etc. They all do great work, and I recommend many of them.

But for longevity, consistency, and building more 3rd party integrations, I think it’s in WooCommerce’s advantage to be owned by Automattic.

There are plenty of WordPress software companies, and plenty of good ecommerce plugins. In fact, some have features and setups that I like a bit better than WooCommerce (mainly for digital goods only).

But the bottom-line when comparing WooCommerce not only to other plugins, but also to Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc – is that you need a large company that will be around and have an financial interest in keeping the software cutting-edge.

Additionally, since Automattic is still private and venture-funded – they are still in “growth” mode, which only means more investment in features & customer service.

WooCommerce’s ownership is a huge advantage for choosing WooCommerce over other ecommerce plugins, and put it at parity with other ecommerce solutions offered by large, stable companies.

Versatility & Compatibility

A few fun facts about WooCommerce –

  • You can use it to sell memberships
  • You can use it to sell recurring licenses
  • You can use it to sell digital goods
  • You can use it to sell apppointments
  • You can use it to sell affiliate, drop-ship, or even Amazon products
  • You can “hack” it and combine to sell really anything you can imagine

The actual plugin is incredibly versatile and compatible with a huge range of uses. Like WordPress, your imagination is likely more limited than the tool is.

WooCommerce Extensions

The plugin automatically creates & manages a range of page types including products, product categories, orders, confirmations, etc

It’s compatible not only with most single-use WordPress plugins but also with large site-type plugins like the BuddyPress social network plugin and bbPress forum plugin.

In other words, you can create a niche social network with forum and online store all with the same WordPress install.

3rd Party Integrations

WooCommerce has a large & growing Apps & Extensions store. It’s a library of premium extensions that allow you to harness powerful 3rd party software for things like payments, shipping, cross-product listings, inventory management, marketing, bookkeeping, and more.

If you are an offline merchant who loves a 3rd party processor (like Square), then you can use an extension to add it to WooCommerce.

If you love your 3rd party shipping or inventory software, it will probably integrate with WooCommerce.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

This pro has a caveat – I’m assuming that you have worked with WordPress before. If not, this will actually appear in the cons section.

But, if you have, WooCommerce’s onboarding is amazing. They’ve upgraded the process to the point where my WordPress Ecommerce Setup guide isn’t nearly as useful as it used to be.

Woocommerce Wizard

When you add the WooCommerce plugin, you are instantly moved into a setup sequence that will help you list your first product, set up your page types, and get all your basic settings ready to roll.

You really can be set up to sell in minutes. And unlike some plugins that create a dedicated section for use, WooCommerce automatically folds pages, media and options within the existing WordPress install so that everything appears where you think it should be (e.g., media settings, categories, etc).

Control & Customizations

Since WooCommerce is a PHP-based plugins that integrates with your WordPress install, you have direct access to the code via browser and FTP.

You can add, remove, edit scripts and bits of code to your heart’s content. If you want to edit your checkout flow or your error codes or your analytics script or your CSS – then you just do it.

WooCommerce Permalinks

You are not limited by a platform’s plan or code access or script limitations. If you want to hire a designer or developer or marketer, you can hire from a huge pool rather than a narrow field.

There are even custom extension developers who will create whatever extension for WooCommerce that you want.

Do you run a store than needs to accept Dogecoin? Or a very specific shipping option? You’ll need to use WooCommerce – because no major ecommerce platform will be building that anytime soon.

Cons of WooCommerce

Every ecommerce platform has natural disadvantages since there is an inherent tradeoff between control & convenience. You’ll likely find a lot of WooCommerce complaints and issues around the Internet.

Here’s a few of the key disadvantages you’ll find with WooCommerce – and using WordPress as an online store in general.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

WooCommerce & WordPress both try to make ease of use & onboarding (i.e., moving a new user to an active user) simple, straightforward and intuitive.

There are plenty of guides around the Internet, along with prompts, Q&As, support, and more.

But the bottom line is that there is still a basic tradeoff between control and convenience.

For a beginner, WooCommerce has a learning curve that is even steeper than WordPress’ learning curve. When you install WooCommerce, you not only have to learn the basic jargon of an ecommerce store (listings, checkout flow, payment tokens), but you also have to learn the basic jargon of WordPress (permalinks, posts, pages, plugins, etc) and the basic jargon of any self-hosted website (difference between HTML & CSS, page load speed, etc).

WooCommerce Menu Settings

For a beginner with zero experience with WordPress or running a website, WooCommerce will require a steep learning curve. Now, it might be worth it if you have the time & patience to learn everything.

But compared to drag & drop basic online store builders like Weebly or Wix or even comprehensive ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce’s onboarding & setup is a huge downside.

Technical Maintenance

Sticking with the house / apartment analogy, you know how you can just call the landlord when something goes wrong?

Yeah, you can’t do that with WooCommerce. There is some semblance of support via your hosting company and Automattic (if you are a premium JetPack subscriber) and the WooCommerce community. But there’s no single place to just call and get something fixed.

In fact, like a landlord, there’s no one who will come by and just check on the HVAC filter, the roofing, and basic structure.

Running WooCommerce is really like owning a house. There are plenty of people who will help you maintain it. In fact, many are quite reasonable and even quicker than a landlord.

But…when it comes down to it, *you* and *you* alone are in charge of keeping your website maintained, available, and operating.

Plugins will notify you of security updates, but you will need to install them and manage any new conflicts. Your hosting company will give you support, but you need to know what questions to even ask. You’ll need to know how to troubleshoot.

This downside comes directly from the benefit of maximum control. With maximum control & freedom comes maximum responsibility.

Again, you can get customer support for WooCommerce. In fact, some hosting companies offer “WooCommerce Hosting” with management included.

But compared to online store builders like Wix & Weebly or ecommerce platforms like Shopify & BigCommerce, WooCommerce is lacking in simple technical maintenance.*

Shopify Backend

*The one caveat here is the WordPress.com option – they are a hosted version of WordPress run by Automattic. Since they bundle hosting, software, support & more – you can get many of the benefits of WooCommerce without this downside. They’ll take care of all the maintenance…at an extra price.

Speed & Security

With the continued growth of mobile and the profitability of hacking, website speed & security are more important than ever.

Like the situation with technical maintenance, WooCommerce leaves you basically in charge of speed & security – even though there are plenty of native & 3rd party options to help you.

WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently secure when installed with a good hosting company, maintained, and used with basic security best practices.

Additionally, WordPress & WooCommerce are inherently fast when installed with a good hosting company, maintained and used with basic speed best practices.

But your weakest link is the toughest part with both speed & security.

For hosted platforms like Weebly, Wix, Shopify or BigCommerce (and the WordPress.com option) – this is an area where they truly shine. Your website lives on their infrastructure with their team of professionals watching constantly for issues and keeping software cutting edge.

In fact, several have bounty programs where they pay hackers to deliberately seek vulnerabilities in their systems. They will also have direct partnerships with payment processors for real-time fraud alerts.

Overall, speed & security should not be an issue for WooCommerce storeowners – including beginners. But, like with owning a house, you are still the one responsible for any issues.

It remains a key downside of WooCommerce, especially if you store starts growing rapidly from hundreds of visitors to hundreds of thousands of users – which brings us to the next downside.

Growth & Scaling

Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, it has to work within WordPress’ basic functionality.

And WordPress’ basic functionality is not built specifically for ecommerce, it’s built for versatility.

This issue means that the way WooCommerce works starts to break down when you get above a certain threshold of “queries” – ie, requests of the database.

And unlike browsing content, or really any other type of functionality, ecommerce can generate *a lot* of queries, very quickly, and in a short space of time.

Imagine WooCommerce is a single dude standing between a group of customers and a library. Imagine they all need to request books and return books before paying you, getting change, and then leaving. Now, if they go one at a time, it’s fine. In fact, you can probably push the guy to handling several returns and new books at once.

But imagine they all show up at once, say, on Thanksgiving, and start shouting out lots of book orders. And they start giving books to put back…and they all want to pay all at once.

Well, the dude is going to get really confused, tired, and crash. Not because he’s not good but because it’s a not-ideal system.

That’s WooCommerce’s core problem – handing *lots* of add to cart and checkout events all at once.

Ecommerce platforms that are built from scratch for ecommerce like Shopify and BigCommerce do not have this issue. They use a completely different set of technologies to avoid WooCommerce’s inherent issues.

Now, before a bunch of WordPress folks’ start sending me emails, WooCommerce can absolutely scale to hundreds of thousands of orders. WooCommerce says that the issues is a myth and has examples to prove it.

All true. But it take a lot of work & expertise to make that type of scaling happen. Here’s an interview with a top WordPress expert on making WooCommerce scale…and even he discusses it like a huge project, not something built-into the product.

If you have a small, growing store, this is a non-issue. You can solve problems as they come.

But if you are starting what will be a large ecommerce site very quickly, it’s a critical disadvantage to be aware of – especially when looking at other Enterprise ecommerce options.

Potential Long-term Costs

WooCommerce’s price (free!) and potential long-term value are amazing for beginners and anyone on a budget.

However, you may have noted the potential need for 3rd party help, WooCommerce can become quite expensive.

One of my earliest clients back paid me $1200 to fix several emergency issues that she simply could not figure out before her sales deadline.

She had chosen WooCommerce specifically to control costs (rather than integrate with an existing content site). But it will take several years of no issues to recoup those costs compared to a Shopify plan.

Shopify Pricing

Since WooCommerce is not bundled with hosting and other software, it’s also easy to let regular costs get out of control. Once you start paying for automated backups, security scanning, managed hosting, CDN, premium plugin extensions, and more – your monthly costs may be much higher than anticipated (again, just like homeownership vs. renting).

Now, all these costs are *potential* costs. And if you have the time and patience, many storeowners would rather than potential costs that they choose rather than an high guaranteed cost. But it’s a potential downside to be aware of.

Future of Ecommerce

Ecommerce is changing rapidly. And the speed of change is happening faster everyday.

Apps like Poshmark, Depop, Pinterest, and Instagram are moving more ecommerce to happen seamlessly within apps via “headless” ecommerce backends.

In other words, some ecommerce platforms are simply inventory & order tracking systems where the actual shopping, cart, and payments happens within a 3rd party app.

In some ways, WooCommerce’s open structure should be an advantage. And yet, cutting edge ecommerce relies increasingly on APIs and direct integrations, which are not WooCommerce’s specialty.

Shopify is able to leverage its size, infrastructure, and tech team to create cutting edge integrations. Same with MailChimp, Square, and a whole universe of similar marketing tools.

And all that does not even start to discuss Amazon.

All that to say, WooCommerce does have a current disadvantage with ecommerce as it is currently evolving.

However, it could have a huge advantage as content becomes more important. And it will forever have an advantage as somewhere that you truly own & control. It’s this bet that Automattic has their money on.

It’s a potential downside to consider. There’s no right answer, it all depends on your goals, expertise, and view of the future. There’s a reason why so many website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, WordPress.com, and GoDaddy GoCentral are adding basic ecommerce functionality.

All of which leads us to a few direct comparisons.

WooCommerce Alternatives

There is a whole universe of ecommerce solutions on the Internet. Compared to 2003, this is a really good problem to have. But as an online storeowner, navigating choices is still an issue. Here’s a quick rundown of the main alternatives to WooCommerce, along with links to further posts.

WooCommerce vs. Other WordPress Ecommerce Plugins

There are lots of ecommerce plugins, but most are pretty terrible. WooCommerce’s main direct competitors are –

  • Easy Digital Downloads – a focus on simple digital goods.
  • WP Easy Cart – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.
  • WP Ecommerce – a non-Automattic comprehensive option. Meant for developers due to limited support options & simple extensions.
  • NinjaShop – a focus on simplicity but limited add-ons.

WooCommerce can also run on WordPress.com as part of a hosted bundle. This option removes a lot of WooCommerce’s negatives, but also increases WooCommerce’s costs & removes some of the self-hosted freedoms.

WooCommerce vs. Shopify

I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and Shopify here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with Shopify.

WooCommerce vs. BigCommerce

I wrote a full comparison of WooCommerce and BigCommerce here. The short version is that unless you have a specific reason to use WooCommerce and plan on running a growing ecommerce store, then you’ll probably do better with BigCommerce.

WooCommerce vs. Wix

Wix is much more user-friendly compared to WooCommerce. However, Wix also constrains your options more than even WordPress.com and hosted ecommerce platforms like Shopify. If you have a small store and want drag & drop convenience, then use Wix.

WooCommerce vs. Magento

Magento used to be a much tougher competitor to WooCommerce until Magento’s sale. Now, self-hosted Magento is going away. If you run an enterprise site, then scalability will likely make your choice for you. You’ll want Magento (or other Enterprise options). If you have a small ecommerce shop, then WooCommerce will be a better option.

WooCommerce vs. OpenCart

OpenCart is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then OpenCart is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use OpenCart, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.

WooCommerce vs. Ecwid

Ecwid is less an ecommerce solution and more of an “anywhere shopping cart”. You can quickly add it to an existing website (ie, a plain WordPress website) and provide an ecommerce experience of a sort. However, it does not integrate with your backend. You also will have trouble competing for inbound marketing. It’s a good option to quickly add ecommerce functionality to your website without going through the WooCommerce setup process.

WooCommerce vs. Prestashop

PrestaShop is well-respected open-source ecommerce software. If you are building a ecommerce store from scratch and you want to host it yourself, then PrestaShop is a solid option. However, it is declining in use (and with that, apps & extensions & developers). Unless you have a reason to use PrestaShop, WooCommerce will give you access to a larger open-source community.

WooCommerce Review Conclusion

WooCommerce is the best ecommerce solution for 3 types of storeowners –

  • Storeowners with technical resources who want to heavily customize their store or use unique functionality.
  • Website owners who have a content-driven website and want to add-on a complementary, but seamless store.
  • Storeowners who are highly cost-conscious and feel comfortable investing time rather than money into running their own website.

If you fit those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out the main WooCommerce website and using my guide to setting up your WooCommerce-driven ecommerce store.

If you don’t fit in those buckets, I’d highly recommend checking out a hosted solution. Explore my ecommerce platform quiz here. Or if you are building a small store (a dozen products), explore my online store builder quiz here.

Lastly, be sure to explore my guide to marketing your ecommerce store. So many stores fail, *not* because of platform…but because of a bad marketing plan. Spend as much time planning your marketing as you spend researching your store software.

The post WooCommerce Review: Pros & Cons of Using WooCommerce for an Online Store appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Zoho Website Builder

Zoho is a software company that has a suite of products designed to help business owners get their businesses up and running online. Their website builder, Zoho Sites, is an all-inclusive website builder, which means it includes everything you need to create your site (from the builder itself to the hosting).

See Zoho’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Zoho’s website builder a try for a full Zoho Sites Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is Zoho Sites?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Zoho Sites lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using Zoho is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Zoho, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Zoho Sites competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, Strikingly, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and integration with their plethora of Zoho products. Zoho offers several website templates you can customize with no coding or design experience required, and also gives you the opportunity to integrate with their marketing and optimization tools.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Zoho Sites Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using the Zoho Sites website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Easy Sign Up Process, Onboarding, + Free Trial

One of the biggest pros of using Zoho Sites is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s a few basic steps of entering your information, picking a theme, and then you’re in.

Zoho also makes it incredibly easy once you’re inside the platform. Their onboarding process (AKA the information they give you to get you up and running and actually using the software) is very straightforward.

They walk you through a step-by-step tutorial of how to customize your website as soon as you choose a theme.

The entire process makes it easy to get your website up and customized in a matter of minutes, even if you have no online experience.

Zoho also offers a 15-day free trial when you sign up, and they don’t require a credit card to use it. Most software providers offer a “test run” of their products, but it comes with caveats. You either have to choose a plan upfront and enter your card info to be automatically charged when the trail is over, or have limitations on your features, or both. 

Zoho allows you to truly test out their platform for 15 days before you make a decision — no strings attached.*

*Note – so technically, you’d have to sign up for some of their product integrations if you want to implement them in the free plan. I still consider it no strings attached, because you get all of the basic functionality / inclusions in the free trial.

Template Design / Functionality

When I’m looking at all inclusive website builders, I want to be sure I look at both the templates’ design and functionality to get an accurate picture of what the builder can do.

Zoho also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). They have a lot of variable designs that you can use as the foundation of your website.

Once you choose a template, you can customize it to your brand. Zoho is what’s known as a “drag and drop” editor, where you can “drag” premade sections and “drop” them on your page. It makes customizing your site simple, straightforward, and fast.

With Zoho, can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), as well as the individual sections, and you can add new elements to a section layout. However, you can’t create a new section from scratch using the drag and drop editor.

You can, however, customize your template using the CSS and HTML editor, which is a big benefit if you have coding experience but want to use a template as a starting point.

All in all, Zoho’s Website Builder has a great balance of convenience and control in terms of template design, which is a big plus for an all-inclusive website builder.

Some Product Integration

Another thing that makes Zoho’s Website Builder unique is their product integrations. Zoho has their own CRM, Marketing, and Analytics products, and these integrations are easily accessible in the site builder.

Zoho-Integration-CRM

One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are all part of paid plans (more on that in a bit).

This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders (particularly if you went the self-hosted WordPress route).

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Zoho Sites as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Zoho is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and business owners, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with some sort of limitation, whether it be pages, storage, or even the number of forms you can have on a site.

zoho pricing and limits

It’s also worth noting that Zoho doesn’t offer a free plan. There’s a free trial, which lasts for 15 days, but if you want to continue on with their service, you have to choose from one of the paid plans.

Again, this isn’t necessarily a “con”, but if you’re looking for a website builder for a short-term project, you can probably find a builder with similar features who offers a standard free plan (ie, Wix or Weebly).

Limited Feature Set – Technical

Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

Now, as I mentioned above, Zoho does include some product integration that’s built-in (like their CRM) or can be added on (like their MarketingHub). But when it comes to outside integrations, Zoho is fairly limited.

For example, let’s take a look at their apps:

There isn’t much to built-in from an integration perspective outside of what Zoho offers in their product suite, and even then, there’s not a ton of clarity around what these features actually are or do.

Now, you could add your own integrations through code snippets. However, if you want something that you can easily “plug in” to your site and have it just work without you messing with code, then Zoho leaves a lot to be desired.

Zoho Review Conclusion

Zoho makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, and they also offer substantial customization options for more experienced website builders through their HTML and CSS editing.

See Zoho’s current pricing plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Zoho’s pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Zoho fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Zoho Sites Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

1&1 MyWebsite is an all-inclusive website builder from German web hosting company IONOS. Their website builder is geared toward helping small businesses get up and running online with pre-made templates that include images and text based on your niche. Their platform requires zero code or design skills, meaning even those with no website experience can create a good-looking site in minutes.

See 1&1 MyWebsite’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave 1&1 MyWebsite a try for a full 1&1 MyWebsite review (I have previously reviewed their hosting services). But before I get into the pros and cons of this website builder review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.

In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.

What Is the 1&1 MyWebsite Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, 1&1 MyWebsite lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.

Using 1&1 MyWebsite is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like 1&1 MyWebsite, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, 1&1 MyWebsite competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com  (and Shopify for online stores).

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ecommerce functionality (they have three separate ecommerce plans — but more on that in a bit!). 1&1 MyWebsite offers several website templates organized by niche (i.e. fitness, consulting, business services, etc).

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using 1&1 MyWebsite Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using the 1&1 MyWebsite builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Template Design / Customization

1&1 MyWebsite offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer) and are premade with images, layouts, and text that are chosen specifically for your selected niche.

Not only to the templates look good — they’re also incredibly easy to customize. The whole set up is intuitive. You can add new sections, drag and drop different elements like photos, buttons, text, etc. on custom pages, and even dive into developer mode to edit the code of the template.

custom page 1 and 1 builder
Developer-Mode-IONOS-Website-Builder

As far as all-inclusive website builders go, 1&1 MyWebsite gives users a ton of flexibility in customization. Typically, there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control (and there still is here — which we’ll get to in a bit), but again, when compared to competitors, 1&1 MyWebsite’s Builder gives DIYers more control than most!

$1 Trial + No obligation

Another benefit 1&1 MyWebsite is their $1 trial for their baseline plan, and the fact that all plans allow users to cancel at any time.

1&1 MyWebsite allows you to use their Online plan for $1 for the first month, which is great for DIYers who want to give the platform a test drive before committing for the long-term (as long as you don’t need ecommerce features!).

They also offer a “no risk, anytime cancellation”, which means you can cancel your plan at any time and aren’t locked in for the long haul. This is a big pro for those who want the advanced functionality of the ecommerce plans, but perhaps have a short-term project or don’t want to be stuck in a long-term commitment before giving the platform a test drive for a few months.

Functionality + Integrations

Another pro of 1&1 MyWebsite’s Builder is their functionality and additional product integrations, such as ecommerce, domains, email, social media widgets, and more.

Even their basic Online Plan (which is just $5/month) offers extensive app functionality, such as Yelp Reviews, Live Chat functionality, PayPal integration, OpenTable integration, MailChimp, etc.

They also make it easy to upgrade to a higher plan for advanced functionality while maintaining your current content.

Again, there’s always going to be some sort of trade-off between convenience and control, but when it comes to all-inclusive website builders, 1&1 MyWebsite gives users A LOT of control in addition to convenience.

Pricing

Another pro of 1&1 MyWebsite is that their pricing is very competitive not only compared to other all-inclusive website builders but also with buying your own hosting.

Their Starter plan starts around $5/mo (with a $1 trial for the first month) and you can cancel at any time. You are limited to one domain and 5 email accounts, but even this is more than some all-inclusive competitors offer.

There also doesn’t seem to be any caps on storage space, which is amazing given the pricing – though I do wish they’d be clearer with the feature set. In fact, this feature transparency is a bit of a con for 1&1. It’s not that they don’t have the feature / storage – it’s that so many builders do overpromise, that they need to be much clearer on what you are getting.

Even their ecommerce pricing, while more expensive than doing the same thing on your own hosting, is much cheaper than comparable plans with direct competitors.

Compared to building your own website on your host and especially with other website builders, 1&1 MyWebsite’s pricing is very competitive. Price isn’t everything, but I really like how they structure it.

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using 1&1 MyWebsite as your website builder.

Setup Clarity

While 1&1 MyWebsite is fairly easy to use and convenient for DIYers who want to build a website fast (or even create something more custom), there was some confusion when I signed up — which is the biggest con with the platform.

For starters, I named my website and registered my free domain… so I thought. After I chose my theme and published my site, I came back to find my website was unnamed and had a subdomain.

Now, there’s always a chance of user error… but it was confusing nonetheless.

I also couldn’t seem to find information on storage caps. Most all-inclusive website builders cap storage and/or pages. But IONOS didn’t say anything about storage on their plans at all.

In fact, the only place I did see mention of storage was in an upsell on the checkout page.

1&1 MyWebsite Review Conclusion

1&1 MyWebsite makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, and they include advanced customization options and functionality integrations for those who want to take their site to the next level. This, combined with their pricing, makes them a great choice for those looking to bundle their hosting, domain, and website builder.

Check out 1&1 MyWebsite plans here.

However, like all website software, there’s no such thing as “perfect”. The lack of clarity and transparency tainted what would have been a smooth experience with 1&1 MyWebsite, and made me concerned about what else I was missing when using the platform.

Not sure 1&1 MyWebsite fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post 1&1 IONOS MyWebsite Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Namesilo Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Namesilo Review

Namesilo is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar who boasts cheap, easy, and secure domain registration and management. They have been around since 2009.

See Namesilo’s Current Plans & Pricing.

Does Namesilo hold up to their mission of being a cheap and easy-to-use domain registrar? We recently tried them out. Here’s our full Namesilo review with pros, cons, and alternatives.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Namesilo

Here are some of the advantages that I found using Namesilo over their direct competitors in the domain registration industry.

Variety of TLDs

Now that ICANN allows more top level domains (TLDs) outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all of the variations they need (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Namesilo offers a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains.

NameSilo TLDs

Transparent Pricing

There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a domain registrar and having to hunt for pricing information. Namesilo is 100% transparent with their pricing. Their domain page as an extensive list of pricing for all of their available top level domains (TLDs), and has it broken down by discount levels (you save when buying in bulk).

NameSilo Pricing

Namesilo also stands behind its promise of no hidden fees, service upsells (features like WHOIS Privacy are included), and no renewal upcharges.

In a space where pricing policies can be, well, less straightforward than website owners may want, Namesilo’s clarity and transparency is refreshing.

Namesilo also competes well with other registrars in terms of value. Their domains are on the slightly more expensive end across most TLDs, but their renewals are on par with most providers like NameCheap or Hover.

Upsells

Upsells aren’t inherently annoying or bad. But so many domain registrars make the mistake of bombarding customers with direct sales tactics that they do become annoying.

Namesilo is not one of these domain registrars. They do have some complementary products available, such as hosting, but they’re kept in the background. You can add them from your account homepage, but at no point are you bombarded with pop-ups or forced to navigate through upsells while trying to buy a domain.

Cons of Namesilo

There are a lot of Namesilo reviews online. Most are either super-negative or super-sunny and wonderful. I try to balance and find the actual disadvantages of a company… and who those disadvantages would apply to.

Everyone has different needs & goals. Your goal as a customer is to be aware of those and find a company that matches your goals. Here’s some of Namesilo’s downsides.

Design & Branding

Trust is a huge factor when buying a domain (or any other website product). You want to know that whoever you’re doing business with (and giving your credit card to) is a legitimate company who is going to stand by their offer.

Trust comes in many forms — word of mouth, reviews, years of existence, etc. — but it also comes via design and branding. If a business doesn’t look particularly trustworthy based on their website design, it leaves you wondering.

While we didn’t have any issues with Namesilo in terms of purchasing a domain, their website design and branding does leave something to be desired. They haven’t quite kept up with the times, which makes the company almost look fake.

There’s also no About Page, which makes actually learning about the company difficult. We dug around a good bit, but couldn’t find information on how they were founded / where they’re based without doing additional research online. If someone is going to be holding the online keys to my business – I want to know that they are legit.

Additionally, not only does the design look outdated (which inherently gives the website an untrustworthy feeling), but it also makes the site difficult to use.

The information is cluttered, which makes it hard to find exactly what you’re looking for and navigate to a best next step.

Namesilo calls to action

Again, the design doesn’t need to be full of bells and whistles. It does need to be up-to-date and useable, however. And in these two areas, Namesilo leaves much to be desired.

Onboarding / Domain Management

With all software, there comes a part in the registration process where you wonder what’s next. How the provider guides you through that set up process is called “onboarding” — and it’s something Namesilo is lacking.

There’s no real outline of how to set up your domain or website. During the checkout process, you’re given configuration options… but if you don’t know what those are / how to set that up… it’s confusing.

NameSilo Checkout

This confusion is only further exacerbated when you actually log in to manage your domain. Check out the account homepage:

NameSilo Domain Manager

There’s so much clutter that it’s difficult to tell where to go to actually manage your domain. How do I actually set it up? Where do I go to find that information?

If you’re experience in buying and setting up domains, this probably doesn’t matter to you too much. You can poke around enough to figure it out. However, if you have no domain management experience and are looking for more guidance or even a platform that’s more intuitive, Namesilo doesn’t deliver.

Complementary Products

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email or any other service. It’s merely your address online. It helps people locate where your property is by telling browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).

If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

While Namesilo offers some complementary products (like hosting), they do not take an all-in-one approach like other domain registrars who include hosting, website builders, ecommerce, etc.

And while I personally prefer to separate my hosting and domains to provide an extra layer of control & reliability in addition to cost savings, many website owners prefer to have them bundled for convenience.

If you’re looking to have everything in one place, Namesilo might not be for you.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want discounted domains for bulk registration
  • Don’t need a ton guidance on how to set up / manage your domain or can manage it yourself with an intuitive platform
  • Want to save on domain registration renewals

…. NameSilo could be a good choice for you. Go sign up for NameSilo here.

However, if you’re…

  • Have no experience getting online
  • Need detailed steps on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to keep your hosting separate from your domain
  • Want a smoother domain regsitration proess

… there are better options out there for you (I use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

The post Namesilo Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Porkbun Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Porkbun Review

Porkbun is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar based out of Portland, Oregon. Their primary pitch is making the domain registration process easy, enjoyable, and affordable.

See Porkbun’s Current Plans & Pricing.

They are one of the myriad smaller domain registrars that have a dedicated but smaller following than the big brands like GoDaddy.

Does Porkbun hold up to their mission of being an “amazingly awesome” domain registrar? We recently tried them out. Here’s our full PorkBun review with pros, cons, and alternatives.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Porkbun

Here are some of the advantages that I found using Porkbun over their direct competitors in the domain registration industry.

Straightforward Search + Bulk Search Process

Porkbun makes good on its promise of a satisfying experience, especially when it comes to their domain search functionality.

Their interface is clean, easy to navigate, and straightforward. Even with their extra bit of branding flair (like the Oink! in the search bar), their function and usability aren’t compromised — which is excellent.

Porkbun Interface

They also make it incredibly easy to search for domains in bulk, which is helpful if you’re looking for several domains at once. You can search for up to 1000 domains at once, and automatically add the available ones to your cart.

Porkbun Bulk Search

While Porkbun does offer complementary products (such as websites and hosting — more on that in a bit), their design has no upsells, cross-sells, or visual clutter. There’s no distraction form the main action, which is to search and register for a domain, and the checkout process is quick and easy to complete.

Porkbun Checkout Process

Pricing (Transparency and Value)

There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a domain registrar and having to hunt for pricing information. Porkbun is 100% transparent with their pricing. Their domain page as an extensive list of pricing for all of their available top level domains (TLDs), and even has it broken out into registration, renewal, and transfer pricing.

Porkbun Pricing

There are no hidden fees, unexpected add-ons, or any surprises. In a space where pricing policies can be, well, less straightforward than website owners may want, Porkbun’s clarity and transparency is refreshing.

Porkbun also competes well with other registrars in terms of value. Their domains are on the cheaper end across most TLDs, and their renewals also tend to be less expensive than most providers.

Variety of TLDs

Now that ICANN allows more TLDs outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all of the variations they need (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Porkbun offers a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains, from country-specific domains for international use to category-specific, like technology, real estate, etc.

Porkbun TLDs

Upsells

Upsells aren’t inherently annoying or bad. But so many domain registrars make the mistake of bombarding customers with direct sales tactics that they do become annoying.

Porkbun is not one of these domain registrars. They position themselves as a small team who cares about making the domain purchasing experience enjoyable — and they deliver.

While they do offer complementary products such as websites and hosting, they keep them in the background. You can add them from the main navigation (which is accessible from the homepage and from your account), but at no point are you bombarded with pop-ups or forced to navigate through upsells while trying to buy a domain.

Easy Domain Management

Another pro of Porkbun is how easy it is to manage your domain once you register it. Check out how simple their domain management interface is.

Porkbun Domain Management

Again, there aren’t any bells or whistles… and that’s fine. They’re not needed. The interface is easy to navigate, even if you have no domain management experience. It breaks down everything you need in one place, and gives you the opportunity to add on complementary products from a convenience place.

Complementary Products

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email or any other service. It’s merely your address online. It helps people locate where your property is by telling browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).

If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

Porkbun provides an all-in-one approach with complementary products. You can bundle your domain, website builder, hosting, and email and do it all from their platform.

And while I personally prefer to separate my hosting and domains to provide an extra layer of control & reliability in addition to cost savings, many website owners prefer to have them bundled for convenience.

Porkbun products

Another element we liked about Porkbun’s complementary products: their transparency in how they work. Check out this note they have on their shared hosting packages:

Shared Hosting Porkbun

This disclaimer applies to ALL shared hosting providers (even the best ones, because you’re “sharing” a hosting environment), but not many call it out so explicitly. It’s refreshing to see Porkbun be so clear, especially with something that isn’t even their main product.

Cons of Porkbun

There are a lot of Porkbun reviews online. Most are either super-negative or super-sunny and wonderful. I try to balance and find the actual disadvantages of a company…and who those disadvantages would apply to. Everyone has different needs & goals. Your goal as a customer is to be aware of those and find a company that matches your goals. Here’s some of Porkbun’s downsides.

Lack of Onboarding

Through and through, Porkbun is a solid domain registrar. There wasn’t much we could find that we would consider a solid “con”. If there’s one thing that stood out to us as something that could be better, it’s their onboarding.

With all software, there comes a point where you wonder, “What’s next?” Porkbun is lacking in providing that guidance and direction.

While the domain registration and management interface is simple, if you have no experience setting up your domain, Porkbun doesn’t exactly give you the next steps on how to do it.

They do have an extensive knowledge base that covers domain connection, but you have to seek out the information yourself.

If you have domain management experience, this probably doesn’t matter to you. But if you need a step-by-step process to follow, Porkbun leaves something to be desired.

Deep Discounting & Bundling

Now, on the flip side of Porkbun’s “consistently cheap” approach is that they don’t really do deep discounting at purchase like GoDaddy or other large registrars. For those who like to bulk purchase domains or grab “just in case” 99c domains…Porkbun won’t make a lot of sense.

Additionally, since domain registration is their main focus, they have a hard time competing with the convenience of hosting companies / website builders who will often bundle a free domain with a purchase of a subscription.

Since a domain name doesn’t do a whole lot on its own, Porkbun does have to make an extra case as to why you should keep your domain separate from your preferred website builder / hosting. I prefer to keep my domains separate because I own a lot and I like to have the just-in-case option to quickly migrate my site. But that approach doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a single domain owner who prefers the convenience and simplicity of using a free domain from a good hosting company or website builder.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want a very simple domain purchasing process
  • Don’t need a ton guidance on how to set up / manage your domain or can manage it yourself with an intuitive platform
  • Want to save on domain registration renewals
  • Are looking for complementary products you can customize to your own needs

…. Porkbun could be a good choice for you. Go sign up for Porkbun here.

However, if you’re…

  • Have no experience getting online
  • Need detailed steps on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to keep your hosting / website separate from your domain

… there are better options out there for you (I use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

The post Porkbun Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Cloudways Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Cloudways Hosting Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

So you’re looking into using Cloudways as your hosting provider, and you’re wondering how they stack up against the competition.

But hold on one second.

I tested out Cloudways for a client project because they have gotten really good press for creating a truly unique product in a pretty staid industry.

As with any unique product, they’ll need a bit of background on the web hosting spectrum.

Let’s talk about the difference between cloud hosting and traditional shared hosting.

Usually your website files live on a part of a server that you rent from a hosting company (hence “shared” hosting). A cloud is an entire network of data centers that host website files in a distributed & decentralized fashion. Your files are deployed “everywhere” in a way of speaking. You just rent the resources on the network needed to host & deliver your files.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Traditional hosting is like buying a house, townhouse or condominium. You buy it and you can do whatever you want. It’s cheap and predictable. But if your entire extended family shows up one day – you might have some issues hosting everyone. Cloud hosting is like having access to any house anywhere in the world whenever and wherever – you just have to pay per night for whatever house you use. It’s more expensive day to day, but when your entire extended family shows up one day – it’s a pretty simple, quick fix. You just get the 12 bedroom house for the night and no one is the wiser.

The actual cloud is built by the biggest tech companies in the world. There are not that many. Amazon is the biggest. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM along with a few smaller ones like Digital Ocean.

With cloud hosting, you have more access to guaranteed resources than on shared hosting.

On shared hosting, you have a set amount of resources on a specific server that also has a set amount of resources. For example, you might have 1GB of Memory dedicated to you on a server that has 10GB of memory in total.

But suppose there are 10 customers on that shared server, each with 1GB of memory. 9 of those customers start using a full 1GB of their allocation – sometimes a little bit over. Well, now, you can’t actually use your 1GB of memory without bringing the server done. In that case, you might get throttled or one customer’s site might get taken down. Now, a good shared hosting will have network engineers who have built out ways of balancing, but it’s the core tradeoff with the setup.

On cloud hosting, you pay per use of resources on a distributed network of servers that has basically infinite resources. Your data doesn’t live on a single server. Instead, it’s copied on a whole network all around the world. If a single server gets overloaded, another server starts returning the the data.

This is the reason why NetFlix runs on Amazon’s cloud and why Twitter runs on Google’s Cloud. Those are extreme but illustrative examples. They see huge spikes at random times during the day that only a cloud can handle.

This makes cloud hosting a great option for websites that have spiky traffic (like viral news sites or a site that goes through regular launches) and doesn’t want to commit to a set amount of resources that may or may not be guaranteed.

But cloud hosting is traditionally expensive and very technical to set up, which can make it not make sense for a lot of DIYers and small businesses. The time & money to get it configured *just* right is out of reach for most businesses.

And that’s where Cloudways comes in.

What is Cloudways?

Cloudways is what’s known as a “managed cloud hosting company” headquartered in Malta. They offer hosting via the big cloud companies, but they manage the process by providing custom setup software, support, and some price smoothing to make cloud hosting more accessible to small businesses and DIYers.

See Cloudways Current Plans & Pricing.

Cloudways competes directly with other hosting companies with managed cloud-based products, like HostGator Cloud, WP Engine, and SiteGround Cloud.

However, they also compete indirectly with the cloud companies themselves like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Digital Ocean, and Linode since anyone can buy directly from them.

But Cloudways also compete with traditional shared hosting companies like Bluehost, SiteGround, Hostwinds, Hostinger, Dreamhost, InMotion, etc. because of their pricing model & price point.

Confused yet? Yeah – me too, and I’m the one trying to write this review and explain it to my clients.

In some ways, this point is a pro for Cloudways. They are trying to do something truly unique in the hosting industry. Anything truly novel is hard to figure out. That doesn’t come along often, and it’s worth pointing that out.

Essentially Cloudways provides the guaranteed resources of cloud hosting with the guaranteed pricing of shared hosting. For a lot of businesses, this deal does not make sense — but if you know you’ll have really high highs and really low lows in your website traffic and don’t want to commit to (or deal with the technicalities of) direct cloud hosting with Google, Amazon, etc., it’s a fairly interesting set-up.

So with that said, let’s look at the Pros and Cons of Cloudways hosting.

Pros of Cloudways

There are a lot of Cloudways reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. As I’ve said in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Cloudways.

Simplified Pricing

One of the biggest advantages of using Cloudways as your cloud hosting provider is their simplified pricing packages. Traditionally, cloud hosting pricing is pretty complex. Because you pay for what you use, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re going to end up owing. Just look at Google Cloud’s pricing calculator:

Google Cloud Pricing Calculator

Cloudways has simple, monthly pay-as-you-go plans. There’s no calculating, no guessing — just straightforward monthly rates that you can choose based on your needs.

Cloudways monthly pricing

They also have a chat bot that will recommend a specific plan for you based on the number of websites you have, your traffic volume, and the purpose of your site (i.e. blog, digital agency, etc.).

Cloudways Pricing Suggestions

All in all, the pricing structure is straightforward and pretty hassle-free, which is a huge competitive advantage when comparing Cloudways to other cloud hosting providers.

Cloud Host Variety

Another interesting advantage of Cloudways is the ability to choose your Cloud Host. Cloudways offers hosting with several big cloud hosts, from DigitalOcean to Amazon to Google.

Cloudways Hosting Variety

Again, this makes Cloudways the middle man of sorts. You’re not actually hosting on their platform — they serve as the intermediary between you and the cloud hosting platforms.

Having the choice of cloud hosts in a more simplified pricing structure is definitely a pro… but again, it really only makes sense if you know you’ll have highs and lows in your website traffic and don’t want to commit to (or deal with the technicalities of) direct cloud hosting with Google, Amazon, etc.

Performance

In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.

There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.

One of the best measurements for approximating performance is TTFB or Time to First Byte. Again, I know that network engineers throw a lot of asterisks here and if you know *exactly* what type of website you are running – you can absolutely ask for detailed allocated specs. My goal with my hosting reviews is to provide a narrative of tradeoffs so that you can make the call for your website.

But here’s how DigitalOcean performed via Cloudways with my website when I first set it up on a clean WordPress install –

speed test for website on Cloudways

.0127s for TTFB is pretty speedy, especially when you compare it to the performance of budget shared hosts like Web Hosting Hub, Hostinger, iPage, or even GoDaddy. Actually, it’s really fast no matter who you compare it to.

Again, there are tradeoffs here. The more your use on Cloudways, the more you’re going to pay. But if you’re looking for a hosting platform that can handle spikes of traffic without throttling your performance, Cloudways gives you some great options.

Cons of Cloudways

Like any web host, Cloudways has disadvantages. There are plenty of Cloudways complaints to be found online. Plenty are valid, and some are simply anecdotal. Here are the cons that I found while using Cloudways for hosting.

Complex Set Up

Perhaps the biggest con of Cloudways is how complex it can be to get up and running.

As much as Cloudways positions themselves as the ones who take care of the complexities of cloud hosting, making it easy for business owners to get set up and focus on their actual business… the set up of hosting with Cloudways is far more complex than traditional hosting.

For starters, aside from a video on how to migrate your WordPress website and some articles, there isn’t much in the way of onboarding (AKA guiding you through getting set up on their platform). We did get a few emails from customer support, but if you wanted to dive in and get started yourself, it’s a bit like navigating a maze.

cloudways migration instructions

We also had some trouble getting our account up and running. The sign up process isn’t as simple as entering your information and diving in. Cloudways has to confirm your details, and it took a few different conversations with support to get access to our account.

Lastly, after the three day trial (more on that in a minute), we had to remigrate our account. Now – this could have been user error, but it was so complicated – even for someone who has written a ton of reviews of hosting companies. I couldn’t even tell if it had worked the first time.

Limited Trial Period

Despite their simplified pricing structure, Cloudways does have one main con in the pricing area… and that’s their limited trial period.

Usually hosting platforms will come with some sort of guarantee or trial period, so you can test them out before you commit. Cloudways offers three days — and if you’re having difficulty figuring out the migration and set up, those three days go pretty fast.

Again, if you’re committed to cloud hosting, this probably doesn’t matter to you. But if you’re testing it out, it’s a short period.

Custom Backend

At most hosting companies, you have an account area where you access to billing, account information, bonuses (ie, Google Ads credits), etc – it will also have links to your actual server backend/dashboard.

Most hosting companies use cPanel as the server backend/dashboard. cPanel is where you go to do anything with your hosting server – install any applications (ie, WordPress), set up email addresses, get your FTP information to upload files, etc. It’s simple, straightforward, and since most hosting companies use it, it’s sort of an industry standard that you can get help with anywhere online.

Cloudways does not use that setup. They use a proprietary backend for both your account administration and your server administration. It’s seamless for what they do…but it’s not really something you can Google or DIY troubleshoot.

Cloudways Database

On one hand, it is simplified and allows Cloudways to provide a truly customized experience. On the other hand, the set up is confusing and feels limiting. It’s difficult to sort through where things are, and everything feels overly technical (which really doesn’t help me “focus” on what I do best, AKA run my business).

It adds to the complexity of the platform, rather than making it more streamlined and simple.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Overall, I found Cloudways to be a unique solution for those who need the benefits of cloud hosting without the complete complexity of it. While Cloudways still isn’t as straightforward as traditional hosting companies, it does streamline the process of getting set up with a cloud host.

See Cloudways Current Plans & Pricing.

If you’re looking for the benefits of cloud hosting, but don’t want to deal with the overly technical set up, fluctuating payments, etc., go ahead and sign up for Cloudways here.

However, if you just need a solid hosting company that’s straight forward, easy to use, and can handle steady website traffic, you’re better of with a traditional hosting platform like InMotion Hosting. I’ve used them for years – and they fit most small business sites’ need for a balance between price, performance & support.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

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Domain.com Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Domain.com Review

Domain.com is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar founded in 2000 that also provides web hosting, email, website builders, SSL certificates, and other web solutions. They’re part of Endurance International Group, who owns some of the biggest names in web hosting like Bluehost, HostGator, and Constant Contact.

See Domain.com’s Current Plans & Pricing.

While their focus is on domains, Domain.com has started positioning themselves as more than just domains — but that the process starts with a great domain name.

I’ve gotten some questions about Domain.com as a domain registrar, so I decided to give them a try. Here’s our Domain.com review with pros and cons.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Domain.com

Here are some of the advantages that I found using Domain.com over their direct competitors in the domain registration industry.

Usability (Straightforward Search, Purchasing, and Control Panel)

Domain.com’s biggest pro is definitely how straightforward the platform is.

First and foremost, they make searching for and registering a domain simple. The interface is clean, easy to navigate, and straightforward. There aren’t many bells and whistles, which for a domain registrar is just fine — we don’t need them. What we need is function and usability, and Domain.com’s interface gives us both. It’s basic and directs you to where you need to go.

Domain.com Process

And once you’re signed up, they bring you right into your Control Panel. It’s a simple and seamless process that has absolutely zero confusion. Domain.com Next Steps

And once you’re inside the Control Panel, everything is easy to find and navigate through as well.

Domains.com CP

All in all, the entire process from search to sign up to domain management is simple, straightforward, and clear.

Transparency

There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a domain registrar and having to hunt for pricing information. Domain.com is 100% transparent with their pricing. From the moment you land on the homepage, you can see what .com domains are selling for, and they have a whole page dedicated to the Top Level Domains (TLDs) they offer and their pricing.

Domain.com Pricing

They’re also very clear on their pricing terms, auto renewal policy, as well as any add-on pricing during the checkout process (like WHOIS domain privacy).

Domain.com Renewal Policy

In a space where pricing policies can be, well, less straightforward than website owners may want (I’m looking at you – Network Solutions and GoDaddy…), Domain.com’s clarity and transparency is refreshing, especially for a big corporate name brand.

Variety of TLDs

Speaking of TLDs… now that ICANN allows more TLDs outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all of the variations they need (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Domain.com offers a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains.

TLDs Domain.com

That being said, Domain.com does not offer a wide variety of international TLDs. If you don’t have an international presence, this doesn’t matter for you. But if you do, there are other domain registrars that have more options for you.

Upsells

Upsells aren’t inherently annoying or bad. But so many domain registrars make the mistake of bombarding customers with direct sales tactics that they do become annoying.

Domain.com is not one of these domain registrars. While they do offer complementary products such as websites and hosting, they’re unobtrusive. You can add them during the checkout process or from the control panel, but you’re not bombarded with pop-ups and emails like some registrars.

Complementary Products

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email or any other service. It’s merely your address online. It helps people locate where your property is by telling browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).

If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

Domain.com provides an all-in-one approach with complementary products. You can bundle your domain, website builder, hosting, and email and do it all from their platform.

And while I personally prefer to separate my hosting and domains to provide an extra layer of control & reliability in addition to cost savings, many website owners prefer to have them bundled for convenience.

Domain.com Products

Domain.com has a variety of complementary products, from hosting packages to email management to site builders, and they’re all incredibly easy to access from both the homepage and the Control Panel.

If you’re looking to package everything together for convenience, Domain.com makes it easy to do so.

Cons of Domain.com

There are a lot of Domain.com reviews online. Most are either super-negative or super-sunny and wonderful. I try to balance and find the actual disadvantages of a company…and who those disadvantages would apply to. Everyone has different needs & goals. Your goal as a customer is to be aware of those and find a company that matches your goals. Here’s some of Domain.com’s downsides.

Pricing

In terms of cons, pricing is perhaps the biggest with Domain.com. They’re not outrageously expensive — their first year discounted price for .com domains is $9.99. But you can get significantly cheaper first year rates with a discounter like GoDaddy who runs regular promo codes.

In terms of renewal pricing, Domain.com isn’t the worst ($13.99 for .com), but it’s also not the best. You can find cheaper renewal rates with a registrar like NameCheap.

But perhaps the biggest pricing disadvantage of Domain.com is their $8.99 for WHOIS Privacy. Several registrars include this for free with your domain registration, but Domain.com does not. This brings your cost to over $15 for your .com registration, which is definitely on the pricier side.

No Real Onboarding

With all software, there comes a part in the registration process where you wonder what’s next. How the provider guides you through that set up process is called “onboarding” — and it’s something Domain.com is lacking.

Aside from an email with some key information about setting up the account, there really wasn’t much information about how to actually use the new domain.

Onboarding Domain.com

If you’re experience in buying and setting up domains, this probably doesn’t matter to you. The platform is easy enough to navigate. However, if you have no domain management experience and are looking for more guidance, Domain.com doesn’t provide much of it.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want a very simple domain purchasing process
  • Don’t need guidance on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Are looking for complementary products you can customize to your own needs

…. Domain.com could be a good choice for you. See their current plans & pricing here.

However, if you’re…

  • Less experienced getting online
  • Need detailed steps on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to keep your hosting / website separate from your domain
  • Want to save on your domain purchases

… there are better options out there for you (I use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

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Hostwinds Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Hostwinds Review

Hostwinds is an independent, US-based web hosting company who’s been around since 2010. They boast inexpensive pricing and excellent customer service, and like most hosting companies, also provide email, website builders, and domain services in addition to basic web hosting.

You can check out Hostwinds plans and current pricing here.

I’ve had several readers email to ask my opinion about Hostwinds, so I decided to give them a shot for a small project.

Here’s my Hostwinds review — structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinion and data are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Hostwinds Hosting

There are a lot of Hostwinds reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. As I’ve said in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Hostwinds.

Simple Plan Structure

When it comes to choosing a hosting plan, things can get pretty muddy pretty quickly depending on the hosting company. Hostwinds’ biggest pro is that their plan structure is incredibly simple.

There are three levels: Basic, Advanced, and Ultimate

Hostwinds Pricing

The only difference among the three is the number of domains you get. All plans include unlimited bandwidth and disk space (a huge pro), in addition to a bunch of bonus features:

Hostwinds Features

Of course, there are some cons to this setup (which I’ll get to in a bit), but the simplicity is a really strong selling point for Hostwinds.

Support Channels

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, declaring that a company provides amazing or horrible customer service to every single customer is impossible. It’s hard to know as a single customer if you are dealing with the one amazing or the one horrible employee or if it’s the general culture of a company.

I have limited experience with customer service reps at Hostwinds. We reached out due to an issue getting WordPress installed on a transferred domain, and they were quick to reply and helpful.

Here’s something that’s non-anecdotal though: they are they are available 24/7 across multiple support channels – email, tickets, chat, and phone. They make all their support channels easy to find and simple to use.

Hostwinds Support Channels

Compared to budget market competitors like NameCheap, Hostinger, and iPage, that range of support channels is useful and a good way to stand out.

They also check in on you as soon as start looking at pricing plans — which is a nice bonus feature if you’re new to purchasing a hosting package and have questions about finding a best fit.

Cons of Hostwinds

Like any web host, Hostwinds has disadvantages. There are plenty of Hostwinds complaints to be found online. Plenty are valid, and some are simply anecdotal. Here are the cons that I found while using Hostwinds for hosting.

Credibility Gap

One of the biggest cons I found with Hostwinds is their credibility gap – the difference between what they say about themselves…and what is actually true.

The industry background is that there are a ton of “fly by night” hosting companies that put customers in a bad spot once things go south. Any hosting company that goes for the business market needs to have a track-record and some credibility from 3rd-parties. Usually this comes from press, events, awards, testimonials, a well-known company story, etc.

Hostwinds seems to be trying to establish credibility exclusively with a few badges from pay-to-play review websites.

Hostwinds Credibility

On its face, this is fine… but when you dig deeper, it becomes a bit odd.

Hostwinds really doesn’t have a lot of information about their company – anywhere…not even on well-known business databases or tech company write-ups or common industry forums.

Their About page is pretty generic, they have no real press or company story, there’s not much about the people behind the company, no events or behind-the-scenes tours… nothing. They even have conflicting addresses on their legal page vs. business registration.

It’s all a bit odd and makes you wonder how credible Hostwinds really is.

Because here’s the thing. I’m not questioning that they are or aren’t a real, stable company. They probably are. But it’s the seeming lack of effort that makes this a disadvantage. They are in a notorious industry, so the fact that they aren’t trying to differentiate themselves makes me curious about their internal culture and how that translates to support & performance.

Plan Differentiation + Pricing

As I mentioned earlier, Hostwinds plan simplicity is a major pro. At the time of writing this, there was a discount across all plans (TK Nate – is this typical and portraying current vs. renewals?), and you renew at the higher rate. Each price is associated with a package that comes with some set features.

And the only difference in the features? The number of domains you get.

Hostwinds Pricing Differences

Simple, right?

It’s easy to understand and is an obvious way to make people who want to use more resources… pay for more resources.

But then there’s this in the FAQs:

Hostwinds Business FAQs

This starts to send up red flags about what you’re really paying for, and how exactly they’re load balancing it (if at all). Every shared hosting company has to balance performance across all their accounts. The definition of shared hosting is that the server is…shared. The challenge is to give every account the resources that they need without limiting the other accounts…while also being forthright with what the limits truly are.

Most hosting companies will limit domains, databases or disk space to indirectly limit accounts. Hostwinds does that via domains…but they also seem to allocate resources in other ways and they seem to have two flavors of shared hosting. All of which is confusing. It’s not bad in and of itself…but it does go against their main advantage.

Then when you actually go to purchase a plan, things get a bit muddier. Check out what happens when we tried to sign up for the Basic plan:

Hostwinds Pricing Breakdown

Turns out the advertised pricing on the homepage is only applicable to the 12 month plan — and there doesn’t seem to be a trial period, so once you’re committed, you’re committed.

They also add on web hosting cloud backups automatically, which is a bit annoying (and is usually bundled for free by other companies like InMotion).

Hostinger Upsells

And there’s also not much out there about the domain only being available with the 12-month+ plans. We actually got through the whole sign up process before realizing that we couldn’t get a free domain because we didn’t join the 12-month plan. This could have been user error, but I didn’t see anything about it when I was signing up.

Hostwinds Domains

So again. The ruthless math of hosting returns. Hostwinds isn’t alone in this — but with their positioning of “remarkably low price”… they do leave something to be desired with their limitations.

That’s not to say that Hostwinds pricing is bad per se… it’s just that many other hosts offer money-back guarantees (like InMotion and DreamHost), and if you’re not concerned with having unlimited disk space, you can find a better deal on price elsewhere.

Limited Data Centers

In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.

There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.

One of the variables that can affect performance is server location. Having multiple server locations allows website owners to choose the closest location to their customers, so their website can load faster.

Now, if your customers are all in the US, this doesn’t matter for you.

But if you are in Africa, Asia, or Australia – this setup can be especially useful — and it’s a setup that Hostwinds is lacking in.

Hostwinds Server Locations

They have the US and Western Europe covered, but that’s it. Again, if you’re not ex-US, it doesn’t matter to you. But if you are, it can be a disadvantage.

Mediocre Performance

In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.

There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.

One of the best measurements for approximating performance is TTFB or Time to First Byte. Again, I know that network engineers throw a lot of asterisks here and if you know *exactly* what type of website you are running – you can absolutely ask for detailed allocated specs. My goal with my hosting reviews is to provide a narrative of tradeoffs so that you can make the call for your website.

But here’s how their data center performed with my website when I first set it up on a clean WordPress install –

0.9s for TTFB isn’t terrible, but also not in the top tier that I’ve seen. So Hostwinds is not the best performer, but it’s not the worst. If you’re looking for better performance and have a more complex website, you may want to look elsewhere.

Hostwinds Comparisons

Out of the most well-known web hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how Hostwinds compares directly to each. Or skip to the conclusion.

Hostwinds vs. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the industry brand name, even though they are primarily a domain registrar, not a hosting company. They’re much improved as a web host since 2013, but their only real selling point is their deeply discounted introductory pricing,. And on that point – GoDaddy definitely beats Hostwinds in terms of pricing. If you’re looking to save some money and get similar features with a hosting company that has an established reputation, GoDaddy is the choice. Between GoDaddy and Hostwinds, I would choose GoDaddy.

Hostwinds vs. HostGator

Hostwinds and HostGator have some key differences. HostGator is a much larger organization and operates out of Endurance’s Houston and Utah data centers. They have very affordable upfront pricing, and are on par with Hostwinds there.

But pricing aside, HostGator has a more established reputation. Most site owners would like HostGator better. I run most personal projects on HostGator.

Hostwinds vs. Bluehost

Like HostGator, Bluehost is another larger competitor. Behind GoDaddy, they are one of the biggest brands in hosting. They used to (pre-2015) have a very similar pricing setup to Hostwinds (TK Nate, I’m assuming yes again?). However, they’ve changed up their plans and moved “upmarket.” On raw pricing and basic features, Hostwinds is a better choice. However, Bluehost is good if you’re looking for higher quality, better options, and an established brand.

Hostwinds vs. Siteground

SiteGround is one of the fastest growing independent hosting providers. They operate out of Bulgaria with regional data centers, and have a better data center reach that Hostwinds. Hostwinds offers unlimited storage and cheaper pricing, so if you want to save money and store a lot of files, it’s the better choice for you. If you can pay a bit more, SiteGround is a much, more established company with better performance.

Hostwinds vs. InMotion

InMotion Hosting is one of the largest and fastest growing hosting providers. They offer the full-spectrum of hosting services. This website uses a VPS server from InMotion. They’re more expensive than Hostwinds’ pricing specials, but offer a much better product on every consideration. InMotion also has a brand called Web Hosting Hub that offers entry-level shared hosting plans. They are more expensive than Hostwinds, but provide a much better product and more options inside their plans. Check out Web Hosting Hub here (review here) and InMotion here(review here).

Conclusion & Next Steps

Overall, I found Hostwinds hosting to be so-so. Their plans are simple and offer good features, but the lack of credibility left me feeling uneasy. There were a few things about the whole process that were just… off.

If you want a simple plan structure that offers unlimited storage and bandwidth, you can check out Hostwinds features here.

If you are looking for an affordable shared hosting company similar intro pricing and a much better product, then go check out InMotion Hosting here. You can also check out HostGator here if you want the option to pay monthly.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my BuzzFeed style WordPress Hosting quiz here, the Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

The post Hostwinds Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Hostinger Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, & Alternatives

Hostinger Hosting Review_ Pros, Cons, & Alternatives

Hostinger is an independent, European web hosting company who has grown rapidly in just over a decade. They are also the parent company of the 000Webhost, Niagahoster and Weblink brands. In 2017, Hostinger reported 29 million users.

Like most hosting companies, Hostinger also provides email, a website builder, and various complementary services with 24-hour support and a 30-day money back guarantee.

You can check out Hostinger’s plans and current pricing here.

I’ve had several readers email to ask my opinion about Hostinger, so I decided to give them a shot for a small project.

Here’s my Hostinger review — structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.

Skip to direct comparisons or skip to the conclusion.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinion and data are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Hostinger Hosting

There are a lot of Hostinger reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. As I’ve said in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Hostinger.

Excellent Onboarding

When you’re using a piece of software, there’s always that point where you wonder, “Okay… what’s next?”

There’s a certain amount of education / how-to needed, especially if you’re a new user. This is known as onboarding – AKA the process of getting a new user set up and using the software they’ve just signed up for.

Hostinger has an amazing onboarding process. There was never a moment where we had to wonder what we were supposed to do next.

In fact, the entire process is laid out step-by-step.

Hostinger Onboarding

They even build in educational content for users who may be new to creating a website and are unsure of certain terms:

Hostinger Onboarding Education

For website owners who are new to hosting, this step-by-step process and additional information is extremely helpful throughout the sign up. It’s helpful without being overwhelming or “sales-y”, and helps ensure you actually finish the set-up process.

Competitive Pricing

At first glance, Hostinger’s pricing looks pretty hard to beat. Their pricing is their claim to fame in the hosting industry.

Hostinger pricing

Granted, this super-cheap pricing comes with some strings attached. When you look at the full pricing structure, you actually on lock in their advertised rates if you commit to a 48-month plan (and renewals are almost double).

Hostinger Pricing Breakdown

But still… less than $40 for two years of hosting is incredible. They also offer a full refund within your first 30-days, and there aren’t any hidden fees or surprises (like set-up fees, etc.)*.

*There are some missing essential extras though that I’ll cover in the cons.

While pricing definitely isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing your hosting company, if you’re looking for a company you can try out but ultimately want to commit to for the long-term, Hostinger isn’t a bad option.

Multiple Data Centers

Another pro of Hostinger is that they offer multiple server locations, allowing website owners to choose the closest location to their customers, so their website can load faster.

Hostinger is on par with other brand names (like SiteGround) that maintain data centers in these regions. If you have customers in Europe or Asia, this is a huge pro. If you’re just looking to serve those in the US, then it probably doesn’t matter much to you.

Cons of Hostinger

Like any web host, Hostinger has disadvantages. There are plenty of Hostinger complaints to be found online. Plenty are valid, and some are simply anecdotal. Here are the cons that I found while using Hostinger for hosting.

Mediocre / Inconsistent Performance

In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.

There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.

One of the best measurements for approximating performance is TTFB or Time to First Byte. Again, I know that network engineers throw a lot of asterisks here and if you know *exactly* what type of website you are running – you can absolutely ask for detailed allocated specs. My goal with my hosting reviews is to provide a narrative of tradeoffs so that you can make the call for your website.

But here’s how their data center performed with my website when I first set it up on a clean WordPress install –

Hostinger Speed Test

1.308s for TTFB isn’t horrendous…but it’s not good at all. In fact, I’d usually dismiss that score as a mis-test for a well-known hosting company.

But what I found was that more than anything, Hostinger’s tests simply varied wildly. I had to double-check stats with Pingdom Tools before pulling this test as the most representative (I got fast and slow speeds until getting this consistently). Their default memory allocations were fine. And if you are going to be serving lots of images directly from your website, then their SSD drives are plus – but they seem to have quite a few configurations that are off for brand new users.

So Hostinger is not the best performer, but it’s not the worst. If anything, I found them to be inconsistent, which can be risky.

Limited Disk Space

Web hosting companies are all selling the same thing – a physical home for your website connected to the Internet – but they all have different plans with different caps, different bonuses, and different renewal prices.

For most, figuring out their true value requires a breakdown into different parts.

To compare “apples to apples” among hosting companies, I break things down into Core hosting features and Bonus hosting features.

Core hosting features are the “3 D’s” – domains, databases and disk space. The core purpose of a hosting server is to serve website files when someone types in your domain name.

  • Domains are how many domain names you can point to your hosting account. If you want multiple websites, you’ll want to have multiple domains allowed. You’ll also need to look at email addresses per domain – sometimes those are capped as well.
  • Databases are how many pieces of website software you can run on your hosting server. A WordPress install requires one database. If you have any apps, Listservs, etc – you’ll need more.
  • Disk space is how many files you can put on your server – images, text, PDFs, etc.
  • Other features could include anything from website builder software to advertising credits to backend software, etc.

One of Hostinger’s cons is its plan limitations — specifically its caps across disk space.

With their Single Plan, you’re limited to one website and domain and 10GB of disk space. If you have one small website, this isn’t a huge problem. But if you want to scale (or if you are in an image heavy category like beauty or travel), it can be limiting.

Hostinger also limits disk space on their mid-tier and higher-tier plan, too.

Hostinger Plan LimitationsAgain, if you’re planning on creating a smaller site (AKA you won’t have much need for disk space to store images, files, etc.), then this isn’t a huge problem for you. But if you’re looking to add advanced functionality to your site — like PDF downloads on an educational website — or store a ton of images (like a beauty website) you’re going to want to make sure your hosting plan has the capacity to handle it.

Limited Support

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, declaring that a company provides amazing or horrible customer service to every single customer is impossible. It’s hard to know as a single customer if you are dealing with the one amazing or the one horrible employee or if it’s the general culture of a company.

I have limited experience with customer service at Hostinger, but here’s what I do know: they are they are available 24/7/365, but only via chat.

Hostinger Support Channels

There’s no email or phone support, and compared to competitors, those lack of channels hurt them. Even with their “Priority Support” add-on, you don’t have the ability to hop on the phone with a REAL, LIVE person.

Hostinger Priority SupportThis is one of those things that doesn’t matter until it does… and then it really matters (i.e. if your site were to go down and you needed immediate assistance). It’s not a deal breaker, but it is a pretty big con.

Limited Essential Extras

There are lots of extras in web hosting that while they are technically not necessary, are all but necessary to run a safe & secure website in a world of constant cyberattacks and automated hacking.

While most hosting companies are moving towards bundling basic security extras, Hostinger charges for them individually.

Backups are a paid feature and they oddly charge for a basic LetsEncrypt SSL that you can get for free on your own. The contrast is especially sharp against companies like InMotion Hosting that bundle brand-name Comodo SSLs and backups with plans.

As mentioned before, Hostinger charges for Priority Support. On its own, that’s not odd. But what is odd is that you don’t get any additional channels. And the price is 4x what you are paying for your actual hosting.

Hostinger Paid Extras

All in all, their upcharges are not a huge deal if you simply factor them in your your total price (which would still beat a lot of competitors). But it does remind me of those super-cheap budget airlines like RyanAir or Spirit Airlines who sell you a cheap ticket but then charge at the last minute for things like overhead bin space, tray tables, and other assumed basics.

Company History / Reputation

Every company has growth pains. And no company should be held to its past sins forever. Nobody hesitates to buy Tylenol or Ford cars. However, I do think that customers should be aware of past happenings to make an all-around decision.

While the Hostinger brand is pretty clean, the company Hostinger has quite a history of growth at any costs and corner-cutting. They had a massive customer hack in 2015.

That in and of itself isn’t super-noteworthy. But for a hosting company, the shortcuts that came to light were pretty eye-brow raising.

Across customer forums, the have had some notoriety for inconsistent performance.

And on a purely personal note, their marketing team ignored my requests for more than 18 months for them to stop regularly bulk emailing me.

I understand fast growth and they do seem to have professionalized their approach recently. But if you have an important, long-term project to commit to an established hosting provider, then Hostinger does not fit that bill.

Hostinger Comparisons

Out of the most well-known web hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how Hostinger compares directly to each.

Hostinger vs. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the industry brand name, even though they are primarily a domain registrar, not a hosting company. They’re much improved as a web host since 2013, but their only real selling point is their deeply discounted introductory pricing,. And on that point – Hostinger competes head-on with them – but GoDaddy provides more features. Between GoDaddy and Hostinger, I would choose GoDaddy.

Hostinger vs. HostGator

Hostinger and HostGator have some key differences. HostGator is a much larger organization and operates out of Endurance’s Houston and Utah data centers. They have very affordable upfront pricing, but Hostinger is cheaper.

But pricing aside, HostGator has more features and support channels. Most site owners would like HostGator better. I run most personal projects on HostGator.

Hostinger vs. Bluehost

Like HostGator, Bluehost is another larger competitor. Behind GoDaddy, they are one of the biggest brands in hosting. They used to (pre-2015) have a very similar pricing setup to Hostinger but with better support. However, they’ve changed up their plans and moved “upmarket.” On raw pricing and basic features, Hostinger is a better choice. However, Bluehost is good if you’re looking for higher quality, better options, and better branding.

Hostinger vs. Siteground

SiteGround is one of the fastest growing independent hosting providers. They operate out of Bulgaria with regional data centers, and have similar data center reach. If you want similar features at a very cheap price, Hostinger is for you. If you can pay a bit more, SiteGround is a much, more established company with better performance and more support channels.

Hostinger vs. InMotion

InMotion Hosting is one of the largest and fastest growing hosting providers. They offer the full-spectrum of hosting services. This website uses a VPS server from InMotion. They’re more expensive than Hostinger’s pricing specials, but offer a much better product on every consideration. InMotion also has a brand called Web Hosting Hub that offers entry-level shared hosting plans. They are more expensive than Hostinger, but provide a much better product and more options inside their plans. Check out Web Hosting Hub here (review here) and InMotion here (review here).

Conclusion & Next Steps

Overall, I found Hostinger hosting to be good for what they are. If you have a small website, they’ll do just fine and they’re inexpensive. And if you are ex-US, they’ll be a solid option with data centers closer to your audience.

If pricing is your main consideration (and you don’t mind the plan limitations), you can sign up for Hostinger here.

If you are looking for an affordable shared hosting company with almost as intro pricing, better long term pricing and a much better product, then go check out InMotion Hosting here. You can also check out HostGator here if you want the option to pay monthly or iPage if you want extreme discounts and a good brand name.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my BuzzFeed style WordPress Hosting quiz here, the Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

The post Hostinger Hosting Review: Pros, Cons, & Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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FastComet Hosting Review: Pros and Cons of Using FastComet

FastComet HostingCheck out FastComet’s current plans & pricing here.

FastComet has been in the hosting business for over 9 years, first providing professional services to private and business clients before launching their own public cloud hosting service in 2013. Their core offering is an SSD Cloud Hosting solution that is “one of the most accessible and affordable on the Web Hosting Market”, and are backed by a 24/7 support team of real people.

Due to their pricing and rapid growth, I’ve had a few readers asking what I thought of them, so while shopping for a new budget host for a side project, I decided to sign up and give them a try.

Here’s my FastComet Hosting review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience as a customer.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All opinion and data are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of FastComet Hosting

There are a lot of FastComet hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise.

Here are the pros (advantages) for considering FastComet.

Support Channels

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, declaring that a company provides amazing or horrible customer service to every single customer is impossible. It’s hard to know as a single customer if you are dealing with the one amazing or the one horrible employee or if it’s the general culture of a company.

I have limited experience with customer service reps at FastComet, but here’s what I do know: they are they are available 24/7 across multiple support channels – email, tickets, chat, and phone. They make all their support channels easy to find and simple to use.

Compared to direct budget market competitors like NameCheap and iPage, that range of support channels is useful and a good way to stand out.

They also check in on you as soon as start looking at pricing plans — which is a nice bonus feature if you’re new to purchasing a hosting package and have questions about finding a best fit.

Additionally, all of their support team is listed on their website.

FastComet Support Team

Usually, when I see “24/7” support and instant chat, I think bot… but from the looks of it, FastComet is actually using a live support team to handle requests, which is a solid pro. They are likely able to provide true 24/7 support because they have an unusually global customer base.

Their customers span every continent with data centers spread out from Chicago to Singapore. There’s always someone working and someone available to help.

Relevant Hosting Extras

FastComet is fairly young for a hosting company. And you can tell with how they’ve planned out their hosting extras. Instead of emphasizing things like ad credits, guestbooks, and dedicated IPs – they have things like free daily backups, free transfers, free (and convenient) CDN and SSL integration, diverse data centers, and free self-installers with no upsells / ads.

But their best “extra” that is most relevant is their plan structure with no contract and 45 day money-back guarantee.

There’s nothing worse than being locked into a long, pre-paid hosting package only to find out that you don’t like the host you’re using.

FastComet doesn’t require a 1 or 3 year commitment. It’s all month to month. And if you want to move, you get the previous 45 days payments back. It’s a bold move and shows FastComet is confident that they can deliver on their promise of reliable hosting with great customer service. One of the toughest parts of a host is predicting customer churn (losing future revenue) and balancing that with ongoing investment (buying ever more powerful servers).

In some ways, FastComet’s extras are a a bit of a yellow flag for long-term websites (see cons) but in other ways, it makes total sense. In a world of cloud computing and super-cheap storage, their “extras” should be what you have in 2019.

Fixed Pricing

One of the biggest frustrations in the hosting industry is the confusing pricing plans. Company plans rarely match plan-for-plan so it’s hard to make direct comparisons.

Some companies cap the number of websites on the lower end, others add a bunch of bonuses to their high-end pricing. The middle (aka “Best Value!!!”) is usually a mix meant to get you to make a decision.

There are pros and cons to FastComet’s pricing. In terms of pros, the biggest is their fixed pricing models.

Most hosting companies have standard pricing that they discount based on how long you sign up for. And most hosting companies also provide a discount for the first year, and then renew you for a higher price in the 2nd year. It provides a better deal for you upfront and provides better lifetime customer value for them if you are happy with the service.

FastComet offers an upfront price and renews for that same price. It’s simple and straightforward.*

FastComet Pricing Renewals

*Now…there’s always an asterisk 🙂

FastComet does offer steeper discounts for the longer you sign up for…but they also keep your renewal rate fixed, meaning you pay the same rate you signed up at when it’s time to renew.

There are a couple of catches that I’ll mention in the cons section, but regardless, the deep discounting for a long period of time without having to worry about confusing renewal rates is a pretty solid pro.

Cons of FastComet

Like any web host, FastComet has disadvantages. There are plenty of FastComet complaints to be found online. Plenty are valid, and some are simply anecdotal. Here are the cons that I found while using FastComet for hosting.

Mediocre Performance

In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.

There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.

One of the best measurements for approximating performance is TTFB or Time to First Byte. Again, I know that network engineers throw a lot of asterisks here and if you know *exactly* what type of website you are running – you can absolutely ask for detailed allocated specs. My goal with my hosting reviews is to provide a narrative of tradeoffs so that you can make the call for your website.

But here’s how their data center performed with my website when I first set it up on a clean WordPress install –

Web Page Performance Test FastComet

0.612s for TTFB is fairly good, but also not in the top tier that I’ve seen. Additionally, FastComet’s tests varied wildly. I had to double-check stats with Pingdom Tools before pulling this test as the most representative. Their default memory allocations were fine. And if you are going to be serving lots of images directly from your website, then their SSD drives are a huge plus.

So FastComet is not the best performer, but it’s not the worst.

Now – there is a FastComet offers multiple server locations, allowing website owners to choose the closest location to their customers, so their website can load faster.

This is absolutely a pro for FastComet. There are not a lot of name-brand hosts (others include SiteGround) that maintain this many datacenters. If you are in Africa, Asia, or Australia – this setup can be especially useful.

Data Centers

However, I am also very curious as to why they have so many, so close together. Data centers really only matter on the continent-scale. Having 3 centers east of the Rockies in the US is not the huge benefit that they want it to be. And also, their headquarters is nowhere near any of their datacenters.

On the face of it, none of this matters – in fact, it’s a plus. They have fine performance, and everything else is a bonus. But between the price structure, inconsistent TTFB, large number of data centers – I do have concerns about whether their current structure will last for the long-haul. The hosting industry has ruthless tradeoffs and fairly thin margins unless you have lots of value-add.

If you are looking for a truly long-term host that has consistent performance over the course of years into the future, I would be wary of FastComet. But if you are ex-US and like some of their other features, then I’d take their performance & features as is and use it for your advantage.

Plan Limitations

Web hosting companies are all selling the same thing – a physical home for your website connected to the Internet – but they all have different plans with different caps, different bonuses, and different renewal prices.

For most, figuring out their true value requires a breakdown into different parts.

To compare “apples to apples” among hosting companies, I break things down into Core hosting features and Bonus hosting features. We’ve talked about how FastComet does really well on Bonus hosting features.

Core hosting features are the “3 D’s” – domains, databases and disk space. The core purpose of a hosting server is to serve website files when someone types in your domain name.

  • Domains are how many domain names you can point to your hosting account. If you want multiple websites, you’ll want to have multiple domains allowed. You’ll also need to look at email addresses per domain – sometimes those are capped as well.
  • Databases are how many pieces of website software you can run on your hosting server. A WordPress install requires one database. If you have any apps, Listservs, etc – you’ll need more.
  • Disk space is how many files you can put on your server – images, text, PDFs, etc.
  • Other features could include anything from website builder software to advertising credits to backend software, etc.

One of FastComet’s biggest cons is its plan limitations — specifically its caps across domains and disk space.

With their Starter Plan, you’re limited to one website and domain and 15GB of disk space. If you have one small website, this isn’t a huge problem. But if you want to scale, it can be limiting.

FastComet also limits disk space on their mid-tier and higher-tier plan, too.

Plan Limitations FastComet

Again, if you’re planning on creating a smaller site (AKA you won’t have much need for disk space to store images, files, etc.), then this isn’t a huge problem for you. But if you’re looking to add advanced functionality to your site — like ecommerce — or store a ton of images (like a beauty website) you’re going to want to make sure your hosting plan has the capacity to handle it.

Pricing Confusion

At first glance, FastComet’s pricing seems pretty straightforward. The price you pay now is what you renew at, and each price is associated with a package that comes with some set features. Simple, right? In fact – I count that as a strong pro in their favor.

But when you actually go to purchase a plan, things get a bit muddier. Check out what happens when we tried to sign up for the StartSmart plan:

FastComet Fees

Suddenly there’s a setup fee and the monthly price is actually higher unless you sign up for a longer-term plan. It can be pretty confusing if you’re coming directly from the pricing plan page.

FastComet Fees

So again. The ruthless math of hosting returns. FastComet is trying to position their pricing so that it’s “No Contract” and transparent…while also finding tactical ways to prevent churn (committing to a year+) and reduce trial customers (the setup fee).

All that is fair…but also makes their pricing structure a bit less innovative. After all, many other hosts will stop charging you after cancellation. And plenty of others offer an even longer money-back guarantee (like InMotion and DreamHost). And others do multi-year discounts (SiteGround).

Anyway, it’s not a huge deal in and of itself. They still have excellent pricing. But like the peformance disadvantage, there’s all these small mini-flags that make me wonder whether they have truly figured out their positioning, business model and future.

FastComet Comparisons

Out of the most well-known web hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how FastComet compares directly to each. Or skip to the conclusion.

FastComet vs. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the industry brand name, even though they are primarily a domain registrar, not a hosting company. They’re much improved as a web host since 2013, but their only real selling point is their deeply discounted introductory pricing. And on that point – FastComet competes head-on with them – but GoDaddy provides more features. Between GoDaddy and FastComet, I would choose GoDaddy.

FastComet vs. HostGator

FastComet and HostGator have some key differences. HostGator is a much larger organization and operates out of Endurance’s Houston and Utah data centers. They have very affordable upfront pricing, but raise the renewal price so that FastComet would eventually be cheaper. FastComet has more international datacenters.

If pricing is your main consideration, HostGator has cheaper medium-term pricing and deep introductory prices with more features than FastComet. Most site owners would like HostGator better. I run most personal projects on HostGator. FastComet would be better for ex-US customers.

FastComet vs. Bluehost

Like HostGator, Bluehost is another larger competitor. Behind GoDaddy, they are one of the biggest brands in hosting. They used to (pre-2015) have a very similar pricing setup to FastComet but with a cleaner backend and better support. However, they’ve changed up their plans and moved “upmarket.” On raw pricing and basic features, FastComet is a better choice. However, Bluehost is good if you’re looking for higher quality and better options.

FastComet vs. Siteground

SiteGround is one of the fastest growing independent hosting providers. They operate out of Bulgaria with regional data centers, and have similar datacenter reach. If you want similar features at a very cheap price, FastComet is for you. If you can pay a bit more, SiteGround is a much, more established company with better performance.

FastComet vs. InMotion

InMotion Hosting is one of the largest and fastest growing hosting providers. They offer the full-spectrum of hosting services. This website uses a VPS server from InMotion. They’re more expensive than FastComet’s pricing specials, but offer a much better product on every consideration. InMotion also has a brand called Web Hosting Hub that offers entry-level shared hosting plans. They are competitive with FastComet on price (slightly more expensive), but provide a much better product and more options inside their plans. Check out Web Hosting Hub here (review here) and InMotion here(review here).

Conclusion & Next Steps

Overall, I found FastComet hosting to be good for what they are. If you have a small website, they’ll do just fine. And if you are ex-US, they’ll be a solid option with datacenters closer to your audience.

If that pricing is your main consideration (and you don’t mind the plan limitations), you can sign up for FastComet here.

If you are looking for an affordable shared hosting company with almost as intro pricing, better long term pricing and a much better product, then go check out InMotion Hosting here. You can also check out HostGator here if you want the option to pay monthly.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my BuzzFeed style WordPress Hosting quiz here, the Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

The post FastComet Hosting Review: Pros and Cons of Using FastComet appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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