What Is Square And How Does It Work?

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The Complete Guide To Bobtail Insurance

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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!

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

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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.

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

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What Is A Fidelity Bond?

The post What Is A Fidelity Bond? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Donations Online

The post How To Accept Donations Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Merchant’s Guide To CVV2 And CVV Checks

The post The Merchant’s Guide To CVV2 And CVV Checks appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Can Merchants Set Minimum Amounts On Card Transactions?

The post Can Merchants Set Minimum Amounts On Card Transactions? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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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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