What is Hostwinds?
Hostwinds is a web hosting company that offers different types of hosting solutions that include shared hosting, cloud hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated servers. They are moderately cheap. They offer SSD servers and cPanel for managing the sites. The cPanel comes with Softaculous installer that will allow you to install various web applications (including WordPress) using one-click installation. In case you don’t want to install a web application like WordPress, they thrown in the Weebly site builder to give you a drag-and-drop website building experience.
Hostwinds Promises a Few Things
This web hosting company promises a few things that include 99.9999% uptime guarantee, low prices, fast servers, and what they called friendliness guarantee. I didn’t understand what they mean by friendliness guarantee because their shared hosting experience is just as normal as any other shared host that I have tested so far.
Talking of prices, no Hostwinds is not the cheapest option out there. Yes, they are relatively cheap, but there are hosting companies that offer cheaper prices. The company has data centers in Amsterdam, Dallas, and Seattle. This means that if your website’s visitors (or target visitors) are from Europe or North America, your website will perform better because the data centers are located in those places.
In this review, I am going to find whether this hosting company is really that good as it promises or is it making tall claims like most of the other shared web hosting companies I have seen so far. If you are interested in purchasing a Hostwinds subscription, you better read this review first.
Features of Hostwinds
Since I will be focusing on shared hosting only, this segment will tell you about the features available with Hostwinds’ shared hosting plans. There are three plans available – Basic, Advanced, and Ultimate.
A Lot of Freebies
The features offered by each plan are nearly identical except that the Basic plan allows connecting only one domain while the Advanced and Ultimate plans allow connecting four domains and unlimited domains respectively.
If you want to create subdomains, you are allowed to create unlimited subdomains irrespective of the plan you select. That’s cool but usually you will not need more that three or four subdomains. Of course, if you are going to make a multilingual site and put the site for each language on a different subdomain, you use as many subdomains as you want.
Other features include:
- Unlimited email accounts
- Unlimited databases
- SSD storage
- cPanel management
The latest cPanel will include the famous Softaculous app installer that will allow you to install dozens of applications with a single click. WordPress is one of those applications that you can install.
In case you are not interested in WordPress, the hosting plan that you purchase will include the Weebly site builder that will allow you to create a website using a drag-and-drop interface.
The company will also throw in a free domain for the first year if you are purchasing a yearly plan. You will also get free site migration and a free SSL certificate. The SSL certificate is an important thing because it will help to protect the information of your readers whenever data travels to and from your website. In fact, an SSL certificate is so important that Google considers it as a ranking factor.
Finally, they will also throw in Cloudflare CDN. Cloudflare CDN is anyway free but if you are activating it through Hostwinds control panel, you don’t have to worry about the set up. It will be done automatically.
The reason why a CDN is important is that it helps to improve website speed by serving cached files of your websites static resources from servers those are close to your website visitors. Cloudflare servers are distributed across the world and they are one of the finest CDN providers in the world. As an added advantage, they also offer protection from DDoS attacks.
Hostwinds also offers a few add-on services. You can pay for those services if you want. For instance, you can get 24×7 site monitoring against a fee. It will check for problems on your website and if it finds something, you will get an email notification.
But I will suggest not to opt for that option because you can get pretty much the same result if you register a free account with UptimeRobot.
Unlimited Stuff – Really?
The unlimited stuff includes unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited email accounts, unlimited subdomains, etc. But try and understand one thing clearly – unlimited is not truly unlimited.
As long as you are hosting normal websites, you should be good to go. If you someday decide to store your collection of a thousand movies and over a million songs on the server, be sure that you will receive a few emails – annoyed-sounding emails.
They will warn you or in the worst-case scenario, you may just find your account disappearing! Now, even if you are hosting normal website files, I will never ask you to go overboard because shared hostings don’t have the hardware to deal with increased traffic. There will be a lack of processing power. This means that when your website gets popular and you start getting a lot of traffic, you will be in trouble!
These limitations are pretty common in the case of shared hosting accounts because each shared server hosts thousands of websites and all of them share the same resources.
In case you want to avoid the problems of traditional shared hosting, Hostwinds offers business hosting solutions. Now, don’t think of business hosting as something amazing. Business hosting is nothing more than shared hosting but with the following features:
- Fewer number of websites per server, which in turn gives more processing power to each individual website.
- They also use LiteSpeed web server instead of traditional Apache or Nginx web server. LiteSpeed web server uses the latest technologies to give amazing speed compared to what Apache and Nginx can offer.
However, do remember that business hosting solutions from Hostwinds will cost you more compared to their traditional shared hosting solutions.
Some shared hosting companies will not allow free backups and Hostwinds is one of them. If you want backups, you can purchase their add-on service for nightly cloud backups in which, the company will take a complete backup of your website every night and store it on the cloud.
Since your website will be backed every day (or night), you will always have a very recent copy of your website available in case something goes downhill and you need to restore your website to a previous state.
This is one add-on service that I will always recommend you to purchase because it provides that protection that your hard work deserves.
Hostwinds Ease of Use
Hostwinds keeps the same old tools to ensure that your experience remains as smooth as possible. Yes, they use the famous cPanel for controlling your website. cPanel is a tried and tested tool and millions of websites across the world depend on it.
For account management, the company uses platform known as WHMCS. This platform is also a tried and tested platform. Things cannot really go wrong with this platform.
However, the signup process is a pit weird. They will ask for verification with ID and documents. This can take up to two days for completion and that is quite annoying. However, I will say that it is better to stay safe, don’t you think so?
Once your account is created and verified successfully, you can log into find the information you need. You can get the nameservers with ease and the options for accessing cPanel, webmail, etc. neatly arranged.
Once you access the cPanel, you can easily locate Softaculous that you can use for installing hundreds of web applications with ease. Yes, it gives you the one-click installation process. Here is a quick look at how it will look like when you try to install WordPress using Softaculous:
All you need to do is click on the Install Now button and it should be done within a few minutes. Once you click the Install Now button, you will see the next page where you need to provide certain details. Here is what you will find:
Once you provide all the information, click on the Install button at the bottom of the screen and the installation will take place by itself. Once the website is installed and ready, you can access it.
Overall, Hostwinds is pretty easy to use and if you have used a shared hosting service before, dealing with Hostwinds will be a child’s play.
How fast is your website loading? If it loads slowly, you are going to face troubles. Google doesn’t like slow-loading websites. So, the first logical step to check how good a hosting service is, is to test how fast the servers respond. One easy way to find this is to run Google PageSpeed Insights test.
Here is my result for mobile:
That’s disturbing! Look at the initial server response time. It stands at 1.65 seconds! Yes, the server takes 1.65 seconds to respond!
While some of the factors like First Contentful Paint, Speed Intex, Largest Contentful Paint and Cumulative Layout Shift can be fixed with proper optimization, you really cannot fix the server response time and that matters!
Here is my test result for desktop:
The results are not satisfying at all. In fact, there are other hosting companies without SSD drives that give better performance.
Putting up a CDN and using lightweight themes and plugins can improve the overall performance of the website but that’s not going to fix the server response time. If your server is responding slow, your website will be slow. There cannot be an iota of doubt about this.
I didn’t even care to put this thing on GTmetrix test or Pingdom test, because it eventually doesn’t matter. What matters is what Google thinks and says. Using Lighthouse (the tool behind Google PageSpeed Insights) is becoming the standard for testing website performance. It is so important that GTmetrix has included Lighthouse in its tool.
So, you can trust what Google PageSpeed Insights has to say and suggest.
Looking at the server response time I have started wondering what type of SSD storage drives are they using. It cannot be NVMe SSDs because they are the latest and most expensive SSD drives. But even SATA SSD drives are fast and the servers should respond faster!
Do they even use SSD storage? May be not! Or, maybe they do. If they are using SSD drives then there is something seriously wrong with their other server hardware.
Hostwinds left me unhappy with the overall website performance.
Talking of uptime, Hostwinds offered only 99.982% uptime over a period of three months (according to UptimeRobot). That’s pretty decent for shared hosting company but that doesn’t explain their failure to deliver 99.9999% uptime guarantee.
The company offers 24/7 support through live chat, emails, tickets and phone. The support staff appear to be humans and well-mannered.
I did have one encounter with the front-line support (chat support) and the person seemed to be knowledgeable enough. The response time was good as well. Almost every query was answered within a couple of minutes.
Here is a screenshot of the chat transcript:
Honestly, this isn’t a true reflection of the support quality. It was more of a pre-sales chat. With the ticket system, the experience was not really satisfactory. I did ask them for some help with website optimization. Unfortunately, all they stated was that I need to optimize the images to improve website speed. The support member later went on to enable browser caching. Not really a massive help but yes, browser caching helps.
Unfortunately, that was the maximum help I received. Compare this with the guys from GreenGeeks who gave me a step-by-step guide to optimize the site and even suggested some cache plugins and CDNs to improve the website speed even further.
Hostwinds support system is decent but they could have done better. You may have a different opinion on this.
I like the flexibility that comes with Hostwinds pricing structure. No, I am not happy with the price tag because you can get better hosting companies at that price range. However, I need to say that the flexibility of choosing the plan duration is something you don’t find every day.
You can select to get a monthly plan, a quarterly plan, a half-yearly plan, or a yearly plan. You can even opt for a 2-year or a 3-year plan. That’s your choice. If you want a free domain, you have to choose at least the yearly plan.
You can make payments using credit cards or PayPal. If you have Bitcoins or other crypto currencies, you can use them too!
The Basic plan will cost you $3.29 a month if you go for their yearly plan. Similarly, the Advanced and Ultimate plans will cost you $4.23 and $5.17 per month if you are selecting a yearly plan.
Conclusion – I Don’t Recommend Hostwinds
Honestly, no matter how many freebies a web hosting company provides, nothing eventually matters if your website loads slowly. That’s the problem with Hostwinds. They claim to provide SSD storage but the server response time is disturbingly slow. That’s not what I expected.
It really doesn’t matter how easily you can handle Hostwinds or how good its support is! If your website is slow, Google is going to take a note of that. Once Google takes a note, you are screwed unless you fix it. But with a terrible server response time, you can’t fix it so easily.
Instead of Hostwinds, you should go for GreenGeeks. They are amazing when it comes to both performance and support. Yet another great option is SiteGround. Paying extra for stellar services is acceptable. Yes, GreenGeeks and SiteGround are both expensive, but they make up for that with their stellar performance and support.