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Before I begin, let me just warn you that features and prices listed on this page can change at any time. They were correct at the time of writing, but to get the latest details, you should visit the websites.
Why Use Separate Host & Registrar?
It is possible to use your web host as domain registrar, but I recommend you keep these separate for a number of reasons:
- If you have a problem with your webhost and they close down your site (temporarily or permanently), it is difficult to get the site moved to a new host and will certainly take several days or even weeks. If you have the domain registered with a different company (registrar), you simply get new hosting somewhere else and change the Name Servers at your registrar. Your site can be back up in 24 hours or less.
- If your host goes out of business, you could have trouble getting your site back. With a separate registrar, you’d just get new hosting, upload your site backup and change the name servers in your registrar control panel. You’ll be back in business in 24 hours or less. Of course, this point is also true if your domain registrar goes out of business, which is why you need to choose one of the high profile domain registrars who have been in business for several years. That brings me onto my nomination for best Domain Registrar.
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.
While I could look at expensive hosting solutions, VPN servers, or reseller accounts, I decided instead to limit this article to the type of hosting most people want when starting out. I have chosen a hugely popular shared host and will be comparing it to a host that I have used for several years, yet fewer people will have heard of.
I originally published this article in 2013, and back then I had been using Hostgator. That's another one you may have heard of. You can read my original comparison article here if you are interested. What you will see on that page is the reason I stopped using Hostgator – very poor server performance. Hostgator and Bluehost are actually owned (at the time of writing) by the same company, so I would expect both to perform in a similar manner. Bluehost has certainly improved since I last tested several years ago, but how does it compare to my current host, Stablehost?
How I compared the two hosts
I wanted to make the comparison as accurate and as fair as possible. I published the same website on both hosts for around a week, and monitored uptime and server response times. The website was text based, without any images. I used the same level of hosting on each web host. The basic, shared hosting plan that most people start off with. To monitor uptime and server response time, I used Pingdom.
I think a picture tells a thousand words, so let me show you the graphs and data returned by my tests.
The site hosted on Stablehost
As you can see there was a little bit of turbulence at the beginning of the test, but server was up 100% of the time, and server response time was 427ms (less than 0.5 seconds). Server repsonse time is a good number to know, because it is the time it takes for the server to respond to a web page request, before the page starts to download.
When I was looking at the data towards the end of my experiment, I decided to repeat the experiment on a different server on Stablehost (basic shared hosting). I couldn't repeat with the same website as I was still running tests, so this is a different website (though this one has images, unlike the original test site).
Again, this site had a great response time and 100% uptime during the test.
Moving the Test Site to Bluehost
Moving the test site was as easy as backing up the original WordPress site using WP-Twin, deploying the test site on the Bluehost account, and switching the DNS at my registrar (Namecheap) to point the domain to the Bluehost servers. The site had zero downtime using this method of moving a site, and it gives us a great opportunity to see any change in server response times or uptime. Here is the graph showing the switch:
As you can see, the switch to Bluehost is accompanied by an increase in server response time. Remember that is the time it takes for a web host to respond to a request to download a web page. This value does not include downloading the web page itself.
Over the next week or so, I monitored the site on Bluehost. Here is that graph:
As you can see from the graph, the average server response time has jumped to around 1.5 seconds. That means the server is taking an extra second (compared to Stablehost), BEFORE the website starts to download.
Bluehost also had 10 minutes of downtime during the week. That isn't a huge deal, but in comparison, Stablehost was up for 100% of the time during the test. Stablehost's 100% uptime is something I have gotten used to over the years.
At the end of the Bluehost trial, I switched the site back to Stablehost. This was done in the same way as the switch to Stablehost, so there was no downtime for the site.
Here is the switch-over graph.
The graph showed the server response time drop back down to around 0.5 seconds on Stablehost, compared to the 1.5 seconds on Bluehost.
Page Speed Insights
During the tests, I ran the site through Google's Page Speed Insights to see how the page performed on both hosts. I won't go into details here as I will leave it up to you to interpret these results.
Here is the page speed insights on Bluehost:
Here is the page speed insights on Stablehost:
Although this experiment could be improved in a number of ways, I think the results are pretty clear.
That leads me on to my recommendations for both host and registrar. As I recommend you use a separate registrar and host, I will also show you how to set them both up so that they work together.
My Recommended Domain Registrar Is...
Namecheap. The main reason I recommend NameCheap as a domain registrar is that I have used them for several years and never had a problem. I’ve moved domains in, moved them out, bought and cancelled domains. Everything worked as it should. In an online world where web hosts and registrars come and go, I wouldn’t trust my valuable domain names with anyone else.
Features of NameCheap:
- Namecheap is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar and technology company founded in 2000.
- It is one of the fastest-growing American companies according to the 2018 Inc. 5000.
- Free Whois guard protection for life.
- Namecheap manage over 10 million domains for its customers.
- Registrar lock prevents someone from stealing your domain.
- Intuitive control panel for managing multiple domains making it very easy to use.
You can find a full list of features on the Namecheap website.
My Recommended Web Host Is..
Stablehost remain my recommended web host. They are not perfect by any means, but the quality of the hosting speaks for itself.
OK, what do I mean they are not perfect?
Well, I have been using Stablehost for a long time. I remember when customer support was easy, quick and personal. As with any company that grows large, customer support can suffer a little. This is my only real gripe with Stablehost. They used to use a support ticket system which I liked. It felt more personal, and support was excellent when needed. Today, that has gone. Its been replaced by a chat box on the website. It means you can speak to a real person in real time, but the quality of the replies is not always great. Fortunately I rarely need support, but this is one aspect that Stablehost needs to work on. I preferred the previous system.
So what do you get with a basic shared hosting account?
Stablehost features on Starter Hosting package
- Starts at $3.50 per month.
- Unlimited disk space.
- SSD drives for super fast web page load times.
- Litespeed servers.
- Unlimited bandwidth.
- 1 Website (upgrade hosting when you need to add another site).
- 24/7/365 support through the chat system (and email).
- Unlimited MySQL databases.
- Web stats.
- Softaculous 1-click installer for WordPress and other scripts.
- R1 daily backups.
- Unlimited email accounts.
- Unlimited autoresponders and mailing lists.
- Virus & spam filtering.
- IMAP, POP3 & online webmail access.
Stablehost offer different hosting packages. For those of you starting out, I'd recommend the Starter Shared Hosting. As you add more sites, you can upgrade to the Pro version (unlimited websites) at $7.50 per month, or the Platinum version for $28.50 per month.
Find out more about Stablehost here.
UP to 60% Discount Coupon - Stablehost
How would you like to get up to 60% off the cost of your web hosting on Stablehost? As a long time customer (and affiliate) of Stablehost, I have a discount coupon that will get you up to 60% off your first bill. The usual discount is 40% but occasionally Stablehost offer a 50% coupon on their site. During those promotions, my coupon will get you 60% off, so is always a better discount than the one offered by Stablehost.
The longer you initially sign up for, the more you will save. Not only will you pay less per month for a longer contract, but you'll save on a larger amount, therefore saving more money.
Using 40% discount as an example.
Sign up for 1 year, you'll pay $4.45 per month, or $53.40. With the coupon, that reduces the cost to $32.04, saving you $21.36.
Sign up for 2 years, you'll pay $3.95 per month, or $94.80. With the coupon, that reduces the cost to $56.88, saving you $37.62.
Sign up for 3 years, you'll pay $3.50 per month, or $126.00. With the coupon, that reduces the cost to $75.60, saving you $50.40.
To use the coupon and save on your web hosting, click this link to Stablehost, and enter the following coupon at the checkout:
At the Checkout
Linking NameCheap (Registrar) With Your Web Hosting Company
This is very easy. Here are the steps to follow:
- Buy your domain name at NameCheap.
- Order your web hosting at Stablehost. When you order, select option three, “I want to use an already existing domain“, and enter the domain you bought on Namecheap in the space provided. Click Next:
3. On the right, select the number of months you want to sign up for. Remember that if you are using my discount coupon for up to 60% off, the discount is applied to the total of this bill, so the more months you sign up for, the more you save.
Follow the instructions and complete your hosting purchase.
Once your hosting has been set up on Stablehost, proceed to the next step.
4. Now login to your control panel at Name Cheap. Click on Domain List in the left menu:
5. You’ll see a list of your domains. Click on the Manage button to the right of the one you want to host at Stablehost.
6. One the Domain Details screen, make sure you are on the Domain tab. Under Nameservers, select Custom DNS and then enter the two DNS given to you by Stablehost. They may be the same as mine in this screenshot:
Once you’ve added these, you will need to click the check mark to save your settings:
OK, that will now take up to 24 hours (usually a lot less) to propagate, which means you have a few hours before you can work on your site.
Periodically, check your domain in a browser and you’ll see a message from your hosting company when it’s ready.
You can then go in and install WordPress.