Which Is the Best Web Hosting Company?

No Place like 127.0.01 bumper sticker

Update May 2010: Be sure to checkout the new Who Is Hosting This for hosting reviews & more..

Update Feb 2012: One day I’ll update this post; in the mean time, my current hosting setup four years on is Memset and Servint for critical sites, plus HostGator & DreamHost for non-critical stuff..

Every week, I get asked the same question: “Which is the best web hosting company?”

My answer: “I’ve no idea”. Helpful, huh? Case closed, Columbo. See, that’s how I justify my consultancy fees.

Alas, that question is like asking “Who’s the best Beatle?”. Ask 100 people and you’ll get four, er, 100 different answers. But what I do know is that, like a hollow husk of a marriage, web hosting is all about compromise. So I always suggest that people do their own research at Web Hosting Talk as soon as they’ve worked out what’s most important to them:

  • Cheapo weak dollar pricing Vs UK IP address
  • 24/7 telephone support Vs Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • Cpanel & WHM Vs Some old tosh the intern knocked out in his lunchbreak
  • “No one got sacked for buying Microsoft” Vs “Most Open Source stuff runs on LAMP”

You get the picture. So now’s the time to work out what matters to you, or forever hold your peace. Small gripes can blossom into full blown resentment, with your webhost’s low expectations smothering your own hopes and fears in a heartbeat. Leaving your web host can be expensive, painful and time-consuming, just like, er, divorce. See, my torturous relationship analogy really does have legs.

Sometimes, however, I keep my terse, unhelpful yet beautifully crafted answers to myself. Second date material, if you like. Because there are a couple of shared web hosting companies that I *do* recommend, like DreamHost. And not because they offer generous kickbacks for referring new users (waiting for me to drop my referral link? I’ll be with you in *just a moment*).

Are DreamHost the world’s best web host? Not by conventional metrics (eg, speed, SLAs, bulletproof uptime). Yet I use DreamHost for this blog, a staging server and a number of static HTML sites. They’re almost perfect for my purposes for no end of reasons, like:

  • Unlimited site & domain hosting
  • Way more disk space/bandwidth than I ever use
  • One-click installs for WordPress, Joomla & more
  • Different IP address for each site you host (er, no reason, move along please)
  • One click upgrade to a VPS if your site hits the Digg homepage
  • Super-simple control panel
  • HUGE customer support Wiki
  • Rock bottom pricing (from $5.95/mo).

Dreamhost are by no means suitable for every site: anything database/CPU intensive is off, as is anything with critical uptime. Lucky for me, neither of my blog’s readers visit at the same time. They also make the odd mistake (see the recent $7.5m over-billing fiasco). But they are at least brutally honest when things go wrong.

Existing customers can offer DreamHost promo codes to refer new users. Perhaps you’ve seen them plastered on message boards alongside an unconvincing sales pitch (“OMG! DreamHost like totally rules! Sign up with my l33t DreamHost promo code h4x0rs!”).

Brace yourself…

OMG! DreamHost like totally rules! Sign up with my l33t DreamHost promo code h4x0rs! The coupon code is 50BUCKSDEAL and gets you $50 off your first year’s hosting. Unfortunately for you, DreamHost have recently capped their promo codes at $50, so it also puts $47 in the pocket of the evil Quality Nonsense empire, unlike the golden olden days of $97 DreamHost promo codes.

On the up side, my cut indirectly funds socialised medicine, the welfare state and the fight to eradicate TB, all via the British tax system. Think of it as a gift to all of mankind, channeled through yours truly.

Where was I again? Right. I don’t usually recommend web hosting companies. That is all.

PS. “No Place Like 127.0.0.1″ T-shirts & bumper stickers are available at the fabulous Think Geek.

PPS. SEO Gadget have done a similar roundup of best WordPress hosting..

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