We follow the same approach for every host we examine. It helps us stay thorough and objective, and gives us a structure that transpires throughout the reviews. The latter helps a lot with driving parallels between various companies and helps to compare their offerings.
1) We Study the Web Host
Before we sign up, we take our time to check the site of each new hosting company. Simple navigation, detailed information about the hosting services, and transparent terms of service are important factors.
We check the plans offered and what features they include.
Things like deceptive marketing language, unspecified server technology, convoluted terms of service, and poor navigation don’t go unmentioned in our reviews.
We also dig around to gauge the reputation of the hosting company.
2) We Sign Up
Once the preliminary research is done, we open up an account with the hosting company and purchase a plan (typically, the most advertised and popular plan offered).
We pay particular attention to:
- Speed and simplicity - Does it take minutes or hours or days to get your account running.
- Payment options - The more, the better.
- Hidden fees - Many hosts try to force long term commitment through discounts, but that’s fair; some try to shove in a bunch of additional features that inflate the price significantly.
- Hosting setup - Opening an account is only half the process; in most cases, the hosting environment is activated automatically once payments are cleared, but occasionally you have to deal with unexpected obstacles before actually getting to your hosting product.
3) We Evaluate the Control Panel
Typically, web hosting companies give you access to a client area and a hosting control panel. The former, however, it may be dubbed, is the place where you put your payment details, settle hosting fees, purchase new products and the likes.
The control panel refers to the place where you can manage your hosting services from, i.e. add domain names, set up new email addresses, access the files that compose your website, install CMSs, and so forth.
We evaluate both and include their respective setups in our reviews.
4) Create a Test Site and Monitor It
After we browse around to get a good taste of the host’s interface and functionality, we create a test site and hook it to StatusCake monitoring systems. We install a default WordPress site through the 1-click installer all modern hosting providers sport.
- We connect the site to real-time monitoring to measure its base response time and the uptime.
- Once a month we conduct three front-end speed tests to note down the TTFB and the load time; the published results are the average values from the three separate testing tools.
- Once a month we use LoadImpact to see how the test site handles traffic; arguably, this is the most valuable test as every webmaster wants visitors and wants to know how the server would react when under load.
5) Customer Service and Knowledge Base
We get in touch with the customer service team even before a hosting account is created. Getting a taste of how the company handles its business is always good.
Then we follow up with several technical questions, ranging from fairly simple ones to more obscure queries. The idea is to check response times and technical expertise.
We try to present the support agents with questions that are, theoretically, beyond their scope of support and knowledge. The way they approach things they don’t know is very telling about their work ethic and desire to help.
Once all is said and done, we write our reviews and ascribe our ratings. Initially, all new hosting reviews get rated solely by our experts.
The weigh each aspect carries is as follows:
- Uptime – 25%, undoubtedly one of the two most important factors; everyone wants to have a constantly accessible website.
- Speed – 25%, page loading time and how the server handles stress are hugely important factors that determine seamless end-user experience and site ranking.
- Support – 20%, if the site is quick and online all the time, support might not even be called into action; still, a quick, courteous and knowledgeable technical support, and good online resources for self-help are massive benefits.
- Price – 15%, hosting, after all, is an investment and the price matters; it is not ascribed higher value as there are many deals and discounts you can benefit from and because price alone is a meaningless metric; it only makes sense when juxtaposed to the performance you get, the support you receive, and the provided features.
- Features – 15%, the price you pay is, indeed, closely tied to the services you receive; the more and better functioning, the better.
These 6 factors form the final hosting rating you see in our reviews. Each one is graded 0-10 independently, then their average constitutes the final rating of the hosting provider.
Now, once a web hosting company accrues a certain number of user reviews, we add their value to the final grade. In the end, user reviews contribute 25% to the final rating.
You can check out website hosting reviews with or without factoring in user ratings, sort them by features, and according to the things that you consider important.