Despite all the fancy promises, “not bad” is a good description for Hostwinds. Its hosting services are decent, and that’s about it. There’s nothing special about the service; no amazing feature or ability. While it works fine, many other hosting companies I tested provided better performance and more interesting features.
Hostwinds Makes Some Rather Impressive Boasts…
Specifically, Hostwinds promises fast servers, low prices, 99.9999% server uptime, and something called a “friendliness guarantee.” But can it live up to those promises?
Well, Hostwinds is a relatively cheap hosting company (more like average for the services it provides), with shared hosting, reseller and white-labeled hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers. It has data centers in Seattle, Dallas, and Amsterdam, and so is targeted at the North American and European markets.
The questions we want to answer here are twofold: First, is this the right host for you? Can it do what you need, at a price you like?
Second, what makes Hostwinds better (or worse) than any other host? How does it stand out from the rest? Is it the Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman of hosting? Or is it like the rest of the Justice League? (Translation for the non-nerds: is it Beyoncé or is it like the rest of Destiny’s Child?)
As part of Website Planet’s global web host comparison project, I set up a test website on one of Hostwinds’ shared hosting plans, and ran it for a few months to find out just what Hostwinds can (and can’t) do.
Fairly Decent Hosting with Fairly Standard Features
Hostwinds offers three shared hosting plans: Basic, Advanced, and Ultimate. The only difference between them is the number of domains (e.g. isellpartyhats.com) you’re allowed to connect to your hosting: one, four, or unlimited. Please note that you can make unlimited subdomains (e.g. animalhats.isellpartyhats.com), so you can host a dozen sub-websites on the Basic plan if you want.
Other than that, the plans pretty much have the same features all around. All sites are hosted on servers with SSDs, and are managed via cPanel. You get unlimited email accounts, and unlimited databases, too.
If you want to use up a bunch of those databases, the Softaculous installer is included to help you set up WordPress and other platforms with a couple of clicks. If you’d rather take a more hands-on approach, the Weebly site builder is included as well.
If you have an existing website on a different hosting service, you’ll be glad to know Hostwinds offers free website transfers.
Every hosting package includes one free domain for the first year (if you pay for a yearly plan), and free SSL certificates. That last one is especially important, as SSL helps keep your visitors’ data (and your site) safe by encrypting the information going to and from your website. Google also ranks sites with SSL higher, so, you know… that’s good.
Lastly, there’s easy integration with the Cloudflare content delivery network (CDN). A CDN essentially makes copies of your website and distributes them to servers all over the globe, making your site load faster everywhere. If you want to target users outside of Europe and North America and you don’t want them to have to wait forever for your site to load, you’ll need this.
Hostwinds offers a few optional add-ons, such as 24/7 site monitoring. Basically, you can pay extra to have the service check on your site regularly and email you if there’s a problem. Honestly? It’s not that great. You can sign up to UptimeRobot for free, and get pretty much the same results.
Now, let’s have a look at the more interesting stuff:
There’s Unlimited Disk Space and Bandwidth on All Plans
So, this is not your personal cloud. If you put your entire polka music library here, you’re going to get some annoyed-sounding emails. You may then have some trouble with your account disappearing, and maybe hear some snide remarks if you didn’t have any Weird Al in your polka library.
As long as you’re using your hosting for actual websites, however, you can host about as much as you want, even on the basic plan. The only bottleneck you might run into is a lack of server processing power, which is common for cheap shared hosting.
Use the LiteSpeed Business Hosting for Actual Business Sites
If you want to avoid the aforementioned server hardware limitations, then the Business hosting plans are for you. It’s still shared hosting, but it’s on more powerful servers, and uses LiteSpeed server technology.
For the non-techies, LiteSpeed is basically just newer server tech. It’s built from the ground up to be faster than other kinds of servers out there, particularly making use of speed-boosting features like caching. It’s generally considered to be better, and that’s why Hostwinds charges more for it.
(For the techies, a question: How does LiteSpeed use HTTP/3 when that’s not even technically out yet? Is it like a beta? Oh God, is it like a Google beta, that goes on for five years until the product gets canned? I really want to know.)
There’s Also a Nightly Cloud Backup Add-on Service
Free backups would be nice, but like many other budget hosts, Hostwinds charges extra for its backup service. The good news? These backups happen every day (or night), so you always have a fairly recent version of your site ready if things go wrong.
What’s more, this is a “cloud” backup service, meaning that even the backups have redundancies built-in. That kind of peace of mind just might be worth paying for.
EASE OF USE
Hostwinds Keeps It Simple by Keeping It Classic
Hostwinds has decided not to reinvent the wheel, and that’s a good thing in my book. The hosting itself is managed by our old favorite, cPanel, and account management is handled by a standardized platform called WHMCS.
All that to say, Hostwinds is using tried and true tools to keep your experience as simple and easy as possible. However, there’s almost always some bad with the good.
There Were Small Problems with the Signup Process
Some companies have over-zealous fraud prevention services, and Hostwinds is one of them. I signed up, and my account was immediately canceled.
I had to contact support myself, ask for verification, and then send them my personal information with documents and ID. After 2 days, I got verified and the account was activated. It’s annoying stuff, but not horrible, especially when compared to the crazy two weeks it took with Liquid Web.
Once you’re actually in, the account management is simple enough, and nameservers are easy to find in order to connect your domain. It’s all good stuff from there on in.
One-click Installations Are a Cinch
I mentioned the Softaculous app installer before, but here’s a quick explanation: it has dozens, if not hundreds of apps that you can install on your hosting account. Using WordPress as an example, you can literally get a whole blog site up and running in minutes.
Just click that blue Install Now button, type in a few bits of info (like what you want your site to be called), and go. It really is that simple.
Just one thing: remove that “wp” you see in the text field below. Otherwise, your site would be installed to something like isellpartyhats.com/wp/, instead of just isellpartyhats.com.
The Good, the Bad, and the Highly Inconsistent
In order to test Hostwinds properly, I ran several performance tests over a few months. I used GTmetrix to test complete page loading speeds, Sucuri to test international loading speeds, and UptimeRobot to test… you guessed it, website uptime.
Now I’m going to get a bit more specific about the tests I ran. If you, like me, get nice and excited about performance statistics, then please enjoy. Otherwise, you might want to head on down to the Support section of this article.
So again, complete page loading times were 0.9 seconds at their fastest, and 2.9s at their slowest. That’s an average of 1.82s. Generally speaking, you want to keep your site’s loading time under 2 seconds, because people start to leave after that point. The kids are yelling in the background, they have those animal party hats to buy, and no time to waste.
The fastest speed is amazing, but the slowest is pretty bad. There was no consistency here, which leads me to believe that Hostwinds’ shared servers are packed with users, and resources are available only if you’re lucky.
The performance of your website does have a direct impact on how people view your company and your brand, so that’s something to keep in mind. If you’re running a-business oriented site, you’ll either want to go with one of the Business plans, or choose a host with consistently better performance – such as Hostinger, which achieved the best score for a shared hosting service in our performance tests.
International loading times varied even more, with 0.697 seconds average at the fastest, 4.364s average at the slowest, and a 3.338s average average. (Man, saying “average average” makes me think of Jimmy Kimmel.)
It’s good stuff very close to the data center, and incredibly horrible everywhere else. There are only three data centers to choose from – Seattle, Dallas, and Amsterdam, so any location not in those areas is bound to have a bad time.
Here’s a look at one of those average average tests:
So… about that 99.9999% uptime guarantee… there are so very many things wrong with that. Those things could best be described with words that I’m not going to use here, because, well, think of the children.
Suffice it to say that keeping this particular promise is literally impossible. About the only thing a host can actually guarantee is electricity to the servers. Actual site availability is another thing. Over three months, UptimeRobot recorded 99.982% uptime, which isn’t too terrible, but definitely not what was promised by the marketing department.
Oh, This Could Have Gone a lot Better
True to all other aspects of the service, Hostwinds’ support is also extremely hit or miss. It’s not outsourced, and generally seems to be manned by good people, but they’re not always very capable.
On paper, you get 24/7 support through live chat, email, tickets, and phone. That actually seems to be the case, with responses on live chat never taking more than a few minutes. I’d say Hostwinds actually meets the “friendliness guarantee.”
Live Chat was Mostly Okay
The presales chat was very, very good. The salesperson was honest to a fault, never making a single promise or exaggeration. This is in stark contrast to many hosts who feel very free to lie, blabber, and exaggerate just to lure you in. Kudos to Hostwinds for not going that way.
My first chat interaction upon signing up was also very good. Evan helped me connect my domain, and was clear about installing WordPress. He was super helpful, and even a complete beginner would’ve been okay.
The second support interaction was with a super nice person, but he really didn’t know his stuff.
We chatted for a very long time, and even though I tried pointing him in the right direction, he managed to crash my website and could barely solve some basic requests, like redirecting my sites to HTTPS, or adding “www” to the URL. He did keep trying, which is really nice, but succeeding is a pretty important part, too.
The Ticket System Was Helpful, Eventually
Here at Website Planet, we like to ask hosts for help with website optimization, to let them make the best impression they can when we run our performance tests.
To do just that, I opened a ticket to ask for help with optimization. At first, the agent sent a response saying “Please optimize the images of the website. Optimizing images for the web can reduce your total page load size by up to 80%.” – basically telling me to go fish.
But then, she immediately sent other messages saying that she did implement some optimizations, such as browser caching. It was nothing major, although the help was appreciated. Competitors like Greengeeks, for comparison, did way, way… way more.
Hostwinds’ pricing is decidedly average for consumer-end hosts, and you’ll have to pay even more if you want add-ons like monitoring (which is, in my opinion, a useless cash grab) or backups (come on, people!). The long-term prices are an improvement; they’re on par with those of much better hosts like InterServer.
There’s a lot of flexibility in terms of payment terms – you can choose to pay for 1, 3, 6, 12, 24, or 36 months at a time. Another cool thing is that in addition to all major credit cards and PayPal, Hostwinds also accepts bitcoin and a lot of other cryptocurrencies. Hostinger is the only other host in our top 10 web hosting services that accepts crypto.
When I checked out, the backups add-on option was preselected, which counts as a hidden upsell in my book and as a very unfair sales tactic. There’s also no money-back guarantee of any kind, making Hostwinds the only service in our top 10 that traps you without any means of escaping doesn’t offer some sort of refund.
But hey, that free domain is available with yearly plans and longer, which is cool, I guess.
Is Hostwinds a good web host?
Hostwinds’ shared hosting plans are squarely in the middle of the road compared to other hosts. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really stand out either. Unfortunately, Hostwinds’ prices are higher than those of its strongest competition. If you’re looking for dirt-cheap, but still pretty awesome hosting, you should take a look at Hostinger’s latest deals.
Does Hostwinds offer shared hosting?
Yes. Hostwinds offers shared hosting, among many other services. This whole review is about the shared hosting, so if you want details, I strongly recommend that you jump back up. To reiterate my last point: It’s decent, but it could be better.
You can find quite a few better shared hosting services on our list of the top web hosts in 2023.
Is Hostwinds’ VPS hosting any good?
Well, it’s almost guaranteed to be better than the shared hosting, as VPS hosting usually is. One thing’s for sure: Hostwinds’ VPS plans are fairly inexpensive compared to those of many other companies. If you’re just starting out with your very first VPS, you might consider Hostwinds just for the price.
To make sure you’re getting the best deal on VPS hosting, don’t miss our frequently updated web hosting coupon page.
How do you reach Hostwinds’ support?
You can reach the Hostwinds support team 24/7 via phone, live chat, email, and the ticket system. You may want to jump back up to the support section, because my experience with the support team was iffy at best. That said, there are certainly enough ways to reach them