That’s going to be one of the first things you stumble across after landing on the Hostwinds homepage. It’s certainly a big statement! In this review, we’ll break everything down in detail. From the in-your-face stuff – to the nitty gritty aspects of what, as a hosting provider, Hostwinds offer.
Founded in 2010, Hostwinds aim to change the face of the hosting industry with a new set of standards. As they say: ‘We want to make a personal promise to each and every one of you that we’ll always treat you as if you were family’. That’s one more bold claim! Let’s find out if they can deliver on such statements, shall we? It’s time for the Hostwinds review.
Hostwinds Hosting Services
Hosting – Shared / Business / Reseller / White Label
A pretty varied selection! Nothing completely out of the ordinary here, but still a decent number of options available. In this article we’ll be talking about shared web hosting, so let’s get down to it.
What’s Included In The Hostwinds Hosting Packages?
Well, they’re not giving much away up-front, are they? However, if we scroll down a little further, we’ll see what features are actually offered.
That’s more like it! Some pretty cool stuff here, huh? Instant setup and free website transfers look pretty tempting!
In terms of pricing, let’s use a handy little table to break things down for you.
The prices aren’t actually too different. If we look at the pricing up until and including the 6 months package, you’ll only be paying $16 more for the Ultimate package over the Basic one. So it’s $16 more for unlimited domains. Worth it? If you want to make several projects, a case could easily be made.
Talking about payments, we should take a brief look at the payment options available to us!
Mostly standard options, but it’s really nice to see another company accepting Cryptocurrencies!
June 2018 update: Hostwinds is now accepting Alipay payments from customers in China.
There are actually over 500 million registered Alipay users at the time of writing. With so many Chinese consumers gravitating towards Alipay, it’s no surprise that so many companies worldwide are adapting and starting to accept it as a formal payment option.Hostwinds Blog
Plans in detail
Now let’s do a real in-depth comparison of all 3 plans:
Disk Space Limit
How Many Domains Allowed
SSD or HDD
‘Technicians working 24/7 to keep it from happening’
‘Technicians working 24/7 to keep it from happening’
‘Technicians working 24/7 to keep it from happening’
Assisted Website Transfer
Money Back Guarantee
24/7 Chat, Phone support, Tickets
24/7 Chat, Phone support, Tickets
24/7 Chat, Phone support, Tickets
Choice Of Server Location
Dallas / Seattle
Dallas / Seattle
Dallas / Seattle
Free Automated Backups
Let’s discuss these in more detail, below.
You will notice above, that literally the only difference between the Basic, Advanced and Ultimate plans, is the number of domains included. 1 for the Basic plan, 4 for the Advanced, and unlimited for the Ultimate. It’s slightly odd for a company to offer something like this. Usually, there are several differences between plans, which would allow you to scale as needed, but I suppose Hostwinds decided that everyone deserves all they can offer, except domains. That’s pretty cool.
Speaking of pretty cool, there are some great features offered by Hostwinds on the shared hosting plans, including unlimited bandwidth/disk space/emails/FTP accounts and subdomains. This is awesome to see!
And now, onto the not so good in this Hostwinds review. They do not offer free backups and there is no website builder/templates included in the plans. Of course, you can use one of the many auto-installer scripts available to build a site, but it would have been nice for Hostwinds to at least offer some templates. Using HDD’s instead of SSD’s is also slightly disappointing.
These aren’t the things that bother me most, though. That distinction goes to: No server level protection for DDoS or Malware attacks.
Sure, Hostwinds perform bi-monthly malware scans, but quite frankly this just isn’t enough to ensure complete protection.
Technicians working 24/7 to keep it from happening
That’s what Hostwinds replied when I enquired about their lack of anti-DDoS prevention. You can have as many technicians as you want, working constantly, but it’s not going to match the reliability of a built-in preventative measure, such as a piece of anti-DDoS software. Luckily, however, there are enough free tools you can use in order to avoid problems. So it may not be a complete dealbreaker.
This section is an interesting one. There have been some real ups and downs with Hostwinds’ customer service since we signed up to test their hosting.
These are the four support options that Hostwinds offer:
Email / Tickets
You’ll notice they label all four as ’24/7′. This isn’t exactly accurate though, as to talk with a billing representative I was told they are only available from 8:00 AM PST – 6:00 PM PST. So, not entirely 24/7.
In regards to the live chat support, on one hand, it’s great, response times are super quick and agents are polite and knowledgeable, for the most part.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, there are some really big issues.
The main one is this: Lack of clear communication. One agent will say one thing, and the next agent will say something entirely different. This is a theme that seems to recur when looking at this Hostwinds review: lack of cohesion and a real vision.
Phone support with Hostwinds is something that I was looking forward to testing, as speaking with someone over the phone always gives us the chance to be more personable, and get a real feel of the support, as opposed to with live chats and tickets which can feel pretty, well, sterile.
I wasn’t disappointed by Hostwinds performance here. The fella (Michael) I spoke to was professional, polite and understanding of what was a very difficult issue to provide support for (more about that later!).
Ticket support is where Hostwinds begins its downfall. Response times are slow and the responses are often confusing to the point that you have to open a live chat to understand what the ticket even means.
Here is a little spoiler of what is to come, and you’ll see what I am talking about when I say “confusing”:
We will talk in more detail about the support in the next section, but for now, I will sum things up by saying it’s decent but could be much better.
First Impressions During And After Purchase
This my friends is where things get spicy. After completing your purchase you should land here, on the dashboard.
Well, unfortunately for me, I didn’t land there. Apparently, my purchase didn’t go through fully. Here is what I was greeted with:
Hmm, I thought. This was not something completely out of the ordinary, as many hosting providers seem to believe this is necessary. What is odd, is the lengths you have to go and the hoops you must jump through to just purchase one month of hosting for not even $10.
So I went ahead and opened a live chat to find out why this was required. Oh did I mention yet? My card has already been charged by Hostwinds at this point!
Since I paid using a mobile banking system, I don’t have a physical card for this. Everything is digital since it’s 2018 and that’s the way of the modern world! So how was I to scan and upload a copy of a physical card that doesn’t exist? I connected with Ryan and asked, here is how things went:
*I am going to be showing you the entire chat here, apologies for the number of images, but I feel it’s important you see exactly what the process was and how it went.
Well, that was a long story! It took around 37 minutes from start to finish. Not ideal, but not too bad either to be perfectly honest. I thought, okay, that’s it done and we’re out of the woods, let’s get into reviewing!
And I did. The rest of the content in this review will be showing what I managed to do and see during the 1 day of hosting I had.
Only 1 day? How come? I hear some of you ask. Well, after that amount of time, I woke up to this:
That is supposed to be the site I made. Why was it down? How long had it been down? All the information that I needed was easily available for me – because, of course, I put a tracker on the website that I made.
15 hours! I was perplexed! This would be a major outage, surely Hostwinds must have suffered a severe server issue.
Well, turns out, not really. They just took my site offline. With no warning whatsoever, it was just taken off. Hostwinds have my phone number as well as my email address, they could have easily contacted me if they had an issue that needed resolving. But no, this is how they chose to do it. I had to log in to the Hostwinds dashboard and find my tickets to see if there was any form of explanation, and here is what I found. Take it away, Gus!
Oh, is that it? No apology, no “oopsie we’ve vewy sowwy”? That’s all the explanation a paying customer gets for their site being taken offline!
Hey, remember how I explicitly mentioned that I don’t possess a physical card? And how clearing everything up with the company was enough?
Well, apparently Hostwinds didn’t quite get the message they themselves have issued. It’s absolutely unacceptable to just take a website offline with no explanation, only to send this little message 5 minutes after the site goes offline. It’s not only disrespecting your client. It’s also disrespecting yourselves.
Naturally, I opened a chat for an explanation.
As you can see, I wasn’t a particularly happy bunny! I understand it’s not Shawn’s fault – hey, they’re only in the front lines to deal with angry idiots like myself. Yet again, it’s a good test to see if the customer support reps keep their cool under some grilling!
Anyway, the chat has finished, Shawn has weathered the storm and I had to return to planning. What other choice did I have but update the ticket? I wrote one and asked why, 2 days after verifying and paying, my account is not ‘secure’ and they need a scan of a physical card that doesn’t exist?
After a couple of hours surpassed with no response on the ticket, I opened up yet another live chat to find out what is taking so long. Here is what I got:
So, 24/7 support huh? Apparently not if billing is needed. Amazing.
Remember earlier on in this Hostwinds review, when I told you I would elaborate on the phone support a little later on? Well, we reached it! This is the time I decided to give them a call and try to speak to someone, maybe not billing, since they were still happily sleeping, but at least someone.
Michael picked up the phone and basically said this:
I don’t know how to help, I’m sorry but you’ll have to wait for billing
Well, it wasn’t ideal, but I suppose there is only so much customer support can do, sometimes these things have to go to specialist teams. I liked Michael, though. Nice guy, perplexed by the situation as much we were. He’s told us to wait, and so we did. Half an hour before the official start of the working hours, my ticket had been updated!
And at this point, I was ready to throw my laptop out of the window.
You have to be kidding me, Gus. Here is where I realized I was fighting a losing battle. I have told Hostwinds several times that there is no physical card. They just don’t seem to understand that.
The strangest thing in all of this is that this isn’t an old company, it only formed in 2010. This is not someone like 1&1, established in the days where even credit cards were rare. It’s a modern-age company which doesn’t act like one. Very strange and incredibly frustrating.
How the Hostwinds review process should go
If we pretend all of the above didn’t happen, let’s look at how my experience was in the time I had access to Hostwinds full options.
Pretty standard! You have some quick options for email accounts, file managers etc. Above there is a link to option cPanel, and from there the options are quite extensive!
See what I mean? Extensive. Thank cPanel for that, not Hostwinds, by the way.
Something really cool is in the file manager. I’m still not 100% sure if this is cPanel’s doing or Hostwinds’, but either way, it’s awesome.
I went into the file manager of the subdomain I created, to make a simple index.html page in order to test the sever speeds on a simple page, something we’ll look at in more detail in the next section. This is what I found:
A pretty detailed and deep code editor! Not only HTML code, either. It’s really nice to see this included, as it negates the need for a separate code editor, everything can be done from right there in cPanel.
Next up I took a look at the WordPress installer, to see how easy it would be to get a site up and running. Turns out, pretty easy!
One click, and it installs. Job done!
As always in the performance section, we’ll be looking at three things:
Host’s speed during low upkeep
Host’s speed with a website created using cPanel site publisher
Server’s overall uptime
Host Speed During Low Upkeep
These tests are all relatively light and easy. However, this one is by far the easiest. It’s barely 20 lines of code! We used Bitcatcha, as always, to test the speed of the server response. Here is the simple site I coded, and below that, how it performed.
Honestly, pretty great! Things could be improved for the Bangalore and London servers, but all in all, not bad at all.
Host Speed With A Website Created Using cPanel Site Publisher
This next test is a bit more challenging, but again, nothing too heavy or difficult to manage as long as the host has well-optimised servers. Here is how it looks:
Beautiful, isn’t it? And here is how it performed with Bitcatcha:
Once again, really quite good! Sadly London and Bangalore seem to be the neglected servers once more, but all in all a decent performance from Hostwinds here.
Server Overall Uptime
For the third test, we set up a simple WordPress blog under our domain that was being hosted by Hostwinds. We popped that address into Uptime Robot and set the program to start looking for a keyword on that page. This allows us to see how often the keyword is found and how quickly, and this shows the response time of the server being used, as well as any downtimes. Downtimes are simply found out if the keyword is not found.
To preface this, let’s just say I’m really glad I managed to get a good screenshot of the server response time before the proverbial shit hit the fan. Here is how Hostwinds was performing before we were taken offline.
Well, well, well, it’s not ideal, is it? And to be honest that’s probably not quite harsh enough, but since I’ve been pretty tough on Hostwinds already (not undeservedly, I might add), I’ll try my best to cut them some slack here.
A response time on average of 6456ms is quite frankly terrible, but these numbers are sometimes misleading. There are two sides to each coin. Looking at a provider like Arvixe, you might see some bad response times from Uptime Robot, but when actually loading the site the response times are absolutely fine. On the other side, a provider like GoDaddy may get fast times on Uptime Robot, but when loading the site is there a noticeable difference compared with Arvixe? It’s the same case here with Hostwinds. Sure, the times you see above are terrible, but they don’t paint a full picture.
I decided to add our site to Bitcatcha, which is not something we usually do with WordPress blogs, normally it’s reserved for the builder and HTML sites. But what do we have to lose, a few extra data points can’t hurt!
As you see, we’re getting pretty great speeds across the board here. So what does this all say about the performance of Hostwinds and their servers? Well, it’s hard to give a definitive answer as things seem to contradict each other fairly frequently.
What I can say for certain, however, is that the IP Address you’re shown on the Hostwinds ‘Data centres’ page, is very cheeky and incredibly misleading. Why? Take a look:
So, what is misleading here? Nothing, so far. Hostwinds tell you a test IP so you can go ahead and use a tool, like Uptime Robot or something similar, to test out their server response time. Well, that’s what we did. We have been tracking this IP ping since just before purchasing hosting, let’s see how it does.
Amazing speeds right! But this right here is why it’s cheeky. Any potential customer may want to know the speeds they can expect before buying a package, and Hostwinds know this very well. That is exactly why they put these IP addresses up for people to test. What they don’t explain, however, is that you will not be getting these kinds of speeds on the shared hosting packages. Maybe on the Business hosting plans that start at $7.49 per month you could get speeds similar. But why would you bother when you could just buy Hostinger starting from $0.80 and get better performance than even what you see above?
The IP’s that Hostwinds allows you to ping for testing are on a closed server with no other sites and high quality optimized SSD’s, too, I can guarantee that.
Anti-Theft Protection Evaluation
For the final test, I will be trying to break into my own account. This will let us know how seriously Hostwinds takes account security. We already know they seem incredibly pedantic about ensuring we paid legitly, so I expect to see the same here.
Firstly, I attempted a brute-force attack. It’s super simple. I simply went ahead and entered the wrong password as many times as I could in as little time as possible, to emulate a script trying out all possible combinations to get in. For this, I changed my IP address and browser and started incorrectly guessing.
After 40 incorrect attempts, I entered the correct password and was straight away allowed in. No captcha, no verification, nothing. This is poor. I know for a fact many hosting providers have very interesting protection mechanisms so there is no reason Hostwinds shouldn’t be putting as much effort into this as they do with ensuring I have a scanned physical card. No, I won’t let it go!
In the second test, I simply tried to lure a customer service agent into giving me my account details without proving who I was. It didn’t go well, for me at least. I got nothing, not a tiny nugget of information. I was required to prove who I was by providing information about the card I paid with, address and ID number.
That’s more like it, at least there is one thing Hostwinds does pretty well in.
Hostwinds Review – Conclusion
Where to begin. A host of so much promise. I have to say, up until everything went wrong, I was enjoying using Hostwinds. The performance was adequate if not a little slow, but the dashboard and cPanel combination were easy to use and the customer support was attentive and helpful.
But what can you say about a host that acts in this way? To completely shut down a users website with zero warning, entirely because after 2 days of everything being fine they decided that the verification provided earlier (that was accepted as good enough), suddenly isn’t enough.
Why not give me a call? Explain the situation and say that this is their procedure, and perhaps my site will be suspended until a resolution is reached? Nope, that would be far too simple, apparently. It’s a big shame, but not an entirely surprising one.
Including Hostwinds, we’ve reviewed 29 hosting providers. It seems we are out of good ones. After reviewing Arvixe and Tsohost, both receiving sub-5 star scores, I didn’t believe it was possible to find something worse. Well, Hostwinds, you proved me wrong.
Ladies and gents, we have finally found a provider to take away that last place spot from Network Solutions.
‘Providing fast servers at guaranteed low prices’ – Well, the servers aren’t particularly fast, and they lack some reliability, too. Prices are quite fair though, I must admit. Sadly, that is exactly where the praise ends.
Hostwinds hosting. Avoid at all costs. Trust me.
Clean and easy to use control panel
Reliability is woeful
Bureaucratic nonsense slows everything down
99.999% Uptime 'guarantee'
Prices range from $3.74 to $6.74 on following 3 hosting plan offers
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