Over the years, I have used a lot of web hosts and none have been perfect. As website owners, the holy grail is to find an affordable host that will have little or no downtime, and fast server responses.
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I have more recently been using (and recommending) Hostgator for niche websites. Their prices are competitive, and I have always found their service to be on a par with any other that I have tried. However, in the last few months, Hostgator “upgraded” two of the shared servers I was using for some of my sites, and my sites suffered badly. The page load speed became unacceptable, as did the amount of server downtime. A post I made on the forum about my problems was never approved by the forum moderators.
Here is a screenshot showing the server on Hostgator just before I moved the site:
Incidentally, this data is monitored using Monitis. You can see 5 lines in each graph, two in Europe and three spread across the US.
The top graph shows server response times for the homepage of the site.
The lower graph shows the server response times for an internal page on the site.
When someone wanted to visit my homepage in their browser, the server was taking, on average, over 8 seconds just to respond. The page them had to load.
For the internal page, the server took nearly 2.5 seconds to respond before the page could load.
Also, notice all those red dots on the graph? These are times when the server was unavailable – in other words, my site was down. That was neatly an hour in the 24 hour period for the homepage, and over 2 hours for the internal page. This site was one server on Hostgator that I was using (the site has now been moved to a different host, and I’ll come back to that shortly). I also have another account on Hostgator, on a different server. Here is the graph for the last 24 hours on that server for a different website:
That server has better server response times of under 1.5 seconds (though this was a more expensive hosting package), but as is typical for this server, it has been down an unacceptably long time in the last 24 hours – 1.5 hours.
Fed up with Hostgator, I started to look for another host to move my sites to.
Stablehost came highly recommended from a few different websites, so I took the plunge and transferred one of my sites over there as a test.
Initially, things didn’t look a whole lot better than Hostgator. Here is a screenshot after the move:
The first red arrow marks the point where the initial server switch was made, and my site was now starting to be served from Stablehost’s servers instead of Hostgators. However, the complete switch from one server to another can take 24-48 hours, as DNS are propagated around the web. That is a possible reason that one or two of the locations were failing to load the site in the first 24 hours after the switch and I fully expected that to resolve itself quite quickly.
Despite the red dots on the graph, hopefully you can see a dramatic improvement in those server response spikes. Whereas on Hostgator, spikes were often 40-50 seconds (and that is just the time for the server to respond to a request, not to load my page), on Stablehost, the response time spikes were under 10 seconds. The next step was to activate CDN (Content Delivery Network) using Cloudflare, which comes integrated into the web hosting account at no extra cost. This essentially uses servers around the world to serve your content, making it faster to load, and more reliable.
NOTE: My hostgator account also has the option of installing Cloudflare, but their instructions were a little too scary, so I never tried it on Hostgator.
Activating this was a simple task of clicking a couple of buttons, seriously, no more than a minute. It’s just as easy to deactivate this too.
In the run up to activating CDN, there were fewer server failures, presumably as the DNS continued to populate, but after the CDN was activated, failures stopped:
The arrow marks the point where CDN was switched on. Notice the response times improving, with fewer, smaller spikes and no downtime.
After running the site on Stablehost for several weeks, here is a typical graph for the website:
That’s the homepage, with a response time of a little under 1.7 seconds and no downtime. I do have occasional downtime, but it is usually less than 5 minutes and not every day.
The internal page on the same site that I showed you with the Hostgator hosting looks a lot better on Stablehost as well:
The server response time for the internal page is 0.6 seconds, and 100% uptime again.
Overall I am a lot happier with Stablehost than with Hostgator. The type of hosting account I am using and reviewing here is Stablehost’s Enterprise hosting plan, at $19.95 a month. I do have a few friends though that are using the cheaper shared hosting option at $3.95 per month and they are very happy so far too.
Both the Shared and Enterprise hosting accounts allow you to host unlimited domains.
I have been with Stablehost for several weeks so far, and am planning to move all of my Hostgator sites over to them in the near future.
Check out the features of Stablehost here and use the coupon code ezseonews to get 40% off your first payment on shared hosting plans. Note that this discount is for your first payment, so if you pay for a year up-front, you make a bigger saving than if you just pay monthly or bi-annually.
I don’t use the basic shared hosting, I use the Basic Enterprise hosting. However, a number of people have asked me whether I recommend the basic shared hosting.
To test their shared hosting, I started monitoring a friends site. He hosts with Stablehost using their basic $3.95 hosting package. Here is the data for his site over the last 7 days:
First thing you will notice is that there are no red dots, so this site has been up 100% of the time in the last week.
Second thing you will notice is 5 lines on the graph. The “slower” lines (top two) are in Europe (UK & France) and the bottom three are in the US. Since this user is using the US hosting option at Stablehost (you can choose Europe hosting if you prefer), it makes sense that the server response times are a little slower from Europe. The actual average server response time (average of all 5 locations) for this site in the last 24 hours is 328ms. If you are just interested in response times from the US, that averages out as 248ms. The site in question is a WordPress site with Genesis theme installed.
One Year On..
I’ve now been with Stablehost for over a year now so I wanted to update you on exactly how satisfied I am with their services.
Firstly, here is a screenshot from Pingdom.com, which I now use to track my website performance:
The first thing I should say is that this account is tracking a WordPress site with 325 posts, over 900 comments and 25 pages, so it’s not a small site. The site runs Genesis 2.x Framework with Lifestyle Pro theme (by Studiopress).
From the graph, you can see that over the last year, the site has had 28 outages for a total downtime of 44 minutes for an uptime of 99.99% (for once a host actually delivers on their promised uptime). Most shared hosts that I have been with have more downtime than that most weeks.
The next thing I want to point out about the graph is the arrow I’ve drawn on it, showing the clear downward trend. This graph is showing server response time, ie, how long a server takes to respond to a request from a visitor to view a page, before the page starts to load. The downward trend shows that my server response time is getting shorter as the year progress. If that’s confusing to you, just know that this is a good thing. I shows my host is working hard to make their hosting even faster. If I take a screenshot from the last 6 months, you can clearly see a significant drop in server response time around August 1st.
That graph shows the last 6 months. The reduces server response time is not all down to my host, however, but me upgrading my theme from Genesis 1.x to Genesis 2.x and switching to a mobile responsive theme.
In the last month, my server response time has been fairly consistent:
.. with just one outage of 2 minutes, but an average server response time of 246ms (max = 308ms, min=201ms). Earlier in this post, I stated that when I swtiched to Stablehost, the server response time was 0.6 seconds – that’s 600 ms, so you can see the improvement over time.
OK, so server response time is one measurement. What about page load speed?
Here is a screenshot from the free tool I use for page load times – – GTMetrix
That is for the homepage of my site, which you can see is 494Kb in size and required 59 requests from the server to fully load. The load time was 1.47 seconds, which I am really happy about.
So, to summarize then, Stablehost has been getting better and better over the time I have been with them (since 2013), and I cannot recommend them highly enough to anyone that is disappointed with their own web host performance. Find out more by visiting Stablehost. And don’t forget to use my 40% discount coupon (ezseonews) at your checkout.