HOSTING RECOMMENDATIONS – MAJOR UPDATE JANUARY 2014
For nearly four years on this page, I’ve personally recommended Bluehost as an affordable and reliable hosting service. Over the last year, however, technical reliability and customer service at Bluehost has seemed to decline. Given a long track record of reliable hosting for us and many Photocrati users, we’ve been reluctant to change course. But the issues have become sufficiently persistent that we’ve reached the conclusion that we need to re-evaluate our hosting recommendation.
While we’re still evaluating how to adjust our hosting recommendations, we feel it’s right that you know we’ve developed reservations. Once we’ve run though our evaluation, we’ll update this page as appropriate.
CURRENT RECOMMENDATIONS. For now, I can say that out of all the available hosting companies, we are considering the following as replacements for our primary Bluehost recommendation. I’ve added some notes so you know where we are in the evaluation process:
1) Dreamhost. This has long been our second recommendation after Bluehost. The main drawback to Dreamhost is the absence of free, included phone-based support. You’ll need to use chat / email / tickets for support. Other than that, Dreamhost has been one of the most reliable hosts for us (we’ve had some sites with Dreamhost for years) and other WordPress users for a long time. They are also one of the few top recommended hosts by WordPress itself. So for now, they would be at the top of our list.
2) A Small Orange. This is a hosting company that we are just beginning to experiment with based on other industry recommendations. Our initial experiences, now just a few months old, have been very positive and problem free. They have a wide arrange of plans for different prices and needs, and they do have 24/7 phone support. The main limitation here is that we just don’t have the duration or breadth of experience yet that are needed to draw strong conclusions.
3) For advanced users, we could strongly recommend both Rackspace and WPEngine (for WordPress sites only). We manage our major sites, including Photocrati.com and NextGEN-Gallery.com on Rackspace, and while there are periodic bumps, the experience is mostly a positive one. Support is espcially first rate. WPEngine, for those willing to run only WordPress and operate within the limits they require (ie, they limit which WordPress plugins you can use), is exceptionally fast and reliable with outstanding support.
MY PREVIOUS BLUEHOST RECOMMENDATION
We’ve received a lot of questions lately about web hosting for websites, mostly from people interested in our photography WordPress themes. I’ve explained to a lot of people why I think Bluehost is the best option, and I’ve realized I feel strongly enough about it that I’d like to put my thoughts out there.
Why I Like Bluehost
Through my work on Photocrati, my personal photography sites, and a number of other websites I own and operate, I’ve personally tried at least 10 different hosting companies, big and small, including HostGator, GoDaddy, HostNexus, Rochen, Rackspace, Mosso, NameCheap and Media Temple.
We could easily choose to partner with any these companies, and all offer various kinds of strategic partnerships and financial incentives. We’ve chosen to partner with Bluehost. Many of the links from this site to Bluehost are affiliate links, which means if you follow them and ultimately decide to host with Bluehost, we receive a commission. That’s one of the ways in which we support this site. We don’t make such a recommendation lightly. We (and I personally) believe Bluehost offers the best hosting service available today.
Bluehost was the first hosting company I ever used and it’s the one I come back to time and time again. In fact, at this point, I don’t even try other hosting companies any more. All my personal sites, as well as sites I’ve created for clients, are on Bluehost. Photocrati is NOT on Bluehost, but that’s only because our traffic and bandwidth are too large (hundreds of thousands of page views) and so it demands a dedicated virtual server or some other large and costly solution. Bluehost doesn’t offer this kind of solution, so we host on Rackspace. I’ve repeatedly told Bluehost that if they ever did decide to offer large solutions, we would move. And although we pay 15 times more for Rackspace than for Bluehost, I think the reliability, service quality, ease-of-use, and just about everything else are actually better at Bluehost. I wish we could move Photocrati to Bluehost.
Seven Good Reasons
So here are the reasons you should stop looking and just host your site with Bluehost (or move your site to Bluehost if it’s already hosted elsewhere):
1) No down time. I’ve experienced less down time or other hosting problems on Bluehost than any other hosting company I’ve worked with, including large solution providers like Rackspace that charge way more and offer, but don’t actually meet, “no down time” guarantees.
2) Service. When I have a question or issue, I can pick up the phone and call the number on Bluehost’s homepage. I’ve called that number at least two dozen times. A real person has answered the phone every time within four rings. Never a message, automated voice, or holding period. Bluehost’s representatives stay on the line with me until the question is answered or the issue is resolved. Most web companies have live chat or support forums, which are fine, but there’s nothing like being able to grab the phone and talk to someone anytime, 24 hours a day.
3) Ease of Use. Bluehost has the simplest and most trouble free interface of any hosting company I’ve used. There are not a lot of distracting bells and whistles. There aren’t efforts to upsell me on new hosting plans. It’s the easiest hosting service to use, hands down.
4) WordPress-friendly. This is important if you have a WordPress-based site. And if you don’t, you should consider it. WordPress is the fastest growing web platform in the world today, and the standard for blogs, both big and small. Photocrati is based on WordPress, as are the the website templates we sell. One of the greatest things about Bluehost is its simple ONE CLICK INSTALLATION OF WORDPRESS. Many hosting companies do not offer this, and others offer a glitchy version that installs an out-of-date version of WordPress or installs it only in certain directories. Bluehost’s WordPress installation is fast, easy, up-to-date, and glitch-free. That’s why we recommend Bluehost to anyone purchasing our WordPress themes.
5) Unlimited domains, website, and space. I have one account on Bluehost for erickdanzer.com. But I actually host at least a dozen websites from that account. Bluehost allows you to add unlimited numbers of new domains. And they offer unlimited storage space. Now, I have no doubt that Bluehost would protest a truly massive website and that’s reasonable. It just wouldn’t work to host Photocrati, much less something like Engadget, on Bluehost, which keeps costs down by using a shared hosting environment. But within reason, their storage is unlimited. This is important for photographers who store a lot of images. At various times, I’ve had more than 3,000 images hosted on my website and on client sites that I host from the same account. Never a problem.
6) Popularity. Bluehost now hosts over 1,000,000 websites. One reason the company can keep prices low is that it serves so many customers. This also means that have the large-scale personnel and resources to keep things running smoothly.
7) Price. I don’t think price is the most important thing in choosing a hosting company. I’m much more concerned about quality, service, and ease of use. That said, Bluehost’s standard $6.95 hosting plan is equal to or less than almost anything else out there. Anything cheaper is scary. And as I’ve mentioned above, Bluehost provides more quality and service for that $6.95 than other hosting companies charging ten times that amount.
So in sum, there is just no way to make this an easier choice. I’m happy to be associated with Bluehost, and feel 100% comfortable standing behind their services. That’s why we’ve partnered with Bluehost. Whether you get there via our links or some other way, do yourself a favor and save yourself some trouble and just go with Bluehost.
Thanks and best wishes,
UPDATE: I need to add one caveat to this recommendation. Bluehost has a strong policy against explicit images. If you are a photographer who does artistic nude or similar photography, you should consider an alternative hosting company. My next recommendation would be Dreamhost – they’re also easy to use, friendly for WordPress, and cost effective. For those who do Boudoir photography, my understanding is that it’s fine as long as subjects are not nude. But if your boudoir work is extremely provocative, this may be a consideration for you.
UPDATE: For photographers with extremely high traffic needing a more advanced hosting service, we recommend looking at advanced web hosting for photographers like WP Engine or Synthesis