Tag Archives: Digital Ocean

Review Signal’s Best Web Hosting Companies in 2016

2016 Year in Review

I like to take this opportunity to look back at the year and see how Review Signal has changed. This past year we added ~36,000 new reviews. Added one new company: WebFaction. 49.6% of reviews were positive overall. 52.1% of unique reviews were positive. What is interesting about the difference is that people with negative things to say were more likely to send multiple negative messages, but as a whole more individual people said positive things than negative.

This year was also full of interesting articles that took advantage of our unique position in the web hosting review space. The WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks (2016) was the biggest hit as usual. It grew massively in size/scope and tested companies across multiple price tiers up to Enterprise WordPress Hosting.

I also wrote about the Dirty, Slimy Secrets of the Web Hosting Review Underworld. I also tracked some major changes with The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange and The Sinking of Site 5 which tracked Endurance International Group acquisitions and how their ratings fell post-acquisition. A Small Orange's fall from grace even caused the first ranking algorithm update on Review Signal's history.

Best Shared Hosting 2016 – SiteGround [Reviews] (74.2%)

Best Specialty Hosting 2016 – FlyWheel [Reviews] (83.7%)

Best Managed VPS Hosting 2016 – KnownHost [Reviews] (80.9%)

Best Unmanaged VPS Hosting 2016 – Digital Ocean [Reviews] (71.3%)

Best Support 2016 – SiteGround [Reviews]  (80.81%). KnownHost [Reviews], LiquidWeb [Reviews], WiredTree [Reviews] all tied for second at 80% (WiredTree was acquired by LiquidWeb in 2016).

A big congratulations goes out to all of this years winners.

$25-50/Month WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks (2016)

LoadStormLogo

Sponsored by LoadStorm. The easy and cost effective load testing tool for web and mobile applications.

The full company list, product list, methodology, and notes can be found here

This post focuses only on the results of the testing in the $25-50/month price bracket for WordPress Hosting.

$25-50/Month WordPress Hosting Products

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$25-50/Month WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks Results

1. Load Storm

Test 500-2000 Concurrent Users over 30 Minutes, 10 Minutes at Peak

Company Total Requests Total Errors Peak RPS Average RPS Peak Response Time(ms) Average Response Time(ms) Total Data Transferred (GB) Peak Throughput (MB/s) Average Throughput (MB/s)
A2 193764 68658 148.28 107.65 17563 6541 7.647 11.37 4.248
CloudWays DO 196963 54589 148.48 109.42 15809 5841 8.474 7.384 4.708
CloudWays Vultr 207994 50049 144.13 115.55 16187 5339 9.439 8.398 5.244
Conetix 169625 116960 134.43 94.24 18510 8578 2.635 3.898 1.464
LightningBase 315348 1 238.4 175.19 3567 272 16.34 13.47 9.077
Pantheon 268164 866 205.5 148.98 14422 315 6466 4927 3592
Pressable 394405 26 294.6 219.11 15101 226 16.4 13.32 9.111
Pressjitsu 300931 3913 228.47 167.18 11121 502 16.86 14.29 9.365
SiteGround 300999 0 232.75 167.22 10926 462 15.83 14.35 8.972
WP Land 294459 14976 235.63 163.59 15422 864 15.15 14.04 8.417
WPEngine 348796 26572 270.23 193.78 15091 311 14.95 11.38 8.307
WPOven 288369 0 217.85 160.21 5815 283 16.64 13.63 9.245

 

Discussion of Load Storm Test Results

Many companies handled this test without any sort of struggle: LightningBasePantheon [Reviews], PressableSiteGround [Reviews], and WPOven.com. In fact, SiteGround and WPOven managed to have zero errors, while LightningBase had 1. Truly impressive performances put on by these companies.

Pressjitsu struggled a little bit. There were some errors and increased response times at the start of the test. It managed to stabilize for the last 22 minutes as load increased though.

WPEngine [Reviews] and WP.land struggled a bit more than Pressjitsu, but didn't completely fall apart. Both seemed to be having issues with the wp-login page, possibly security related.

A2 Hosting [Reviews], CloudWays [Reviews] (Digital Ocean & Vultr), and Conetix did not do well during this test. High error rates and slow response times show they were not equipped to handle this type of load.

 

2. Blitz.io

Test 1-1000 Concurrent Users over 60 seconds

Blitz Test Quick Results Table

Company Hits Errors Timeouts Average Hits/Second Average Response Time Fastest Response Slowest Response
A2 51 14265 7339 1 800 411 1047
CloudWays DO 28328 13 16 472 32 25 91
CloudWays Vultr 28763 3 0 479 24 24 25
Conetix 2359 1097 6070 39 1412 763 2410
LightningBase 27460 0 0 458 72 71 72
Pantheon 27755 0 0 463 61 60 67
Pressable 25914 0 2 432 134 134 136
Pressjitsu 23902 481 0 398 205 205 206
SiteGround 26623 1 26 444 86 71 255
WP Land 28352 0 1 473 39 38 40
WPEngine 26281 69 0 438 117 114 127
WPOven 26687 0 0 445 103 101 104

Discussion of Blitz Test 1 Results

This test is just testing whether the company is caching the front page and how well whatever caching system they have setup is performing (generally this hits something like Varnish or Nginx).

Who performed without any major issues?

CloudWays (Digital Ocean & Vultr), LightningBasePantheonPressableSiteGround [Reviews], WPEngine [Reviews], WP.land, and WPOven.com all handled the blitz test without any significant issues.

Who had some minor issues?

Pressjitsu again had what seems to be security related issues. A perfect flat response time but some timeouts at the end of the test.

Who had some major issues?

A2 Hosting and Conetix both failed the Blitz test.

3. Uptime Monitoring

Both uptime monitoring solutions were third party providers that offer free services. UptimeRobot was paid for and monitoring on a 1 minute interval. All the companies were monitored over approximately two months (May-June 2016).

Uptime Robot & StatusCake

Company StatusCake UptimeRobot
A2 97.91 99.35
CloudWays DO 100 100
CloudWays Vultr 99.95 99.87
Conetix 99.92 99.93
LightningBase 100 100
Pantheon 100 100
Pressable 99.91 99.92
Pressjitsu 99.78 99.65
SiteGround 99.99 100
WP Land 99.92 100
WPEngine 100 99.99
WPOven 100 100

A2 had significant downtime issues with StatusCake recording 97.91% and UptimeRobot recording 99.35% uptime. The CloudWays Vultr server had some issues with UptimeRobot recording 99.87%. Pressjitsu also had some uptime problems with StatusCake recording 99.78% and UptimeRobot 99.65%.

Everyone else was above 99.9% on both monitors including CloudWays Digital Ocean, LightningBase, Pantheon, WPOven all recording perfect 100%/100% scores.

4. WebPageTest.org

Every test was run with the settings: Chrome Browser, 9 Runs, native connection (no traffic shaping), first view only.

Company WPT Dulles WPT Denver WPT LA WPT London WPT Frankfurt WPT South Africa
A2 0.879 0.747 1.237 1.61 2.029 5.657
CloudWays DO 0.836 0.58 1.031 1.221 1.668 7.08
CloudWays Vultr 0.713 0.676 1.087 1.109 1.636 7.643
Conetix 2.328 2.078 2.242 3.845 3.497 8.69
LightningBase 0.567 0.563 1.054 1.067 1.511 4.199
Pantheon 0.86 0.583 1.024 1.259 1.649 7.625
Pressable 0.945 0.715 1.162 1.533 2.013 9.377
Pressjitsu 0.94 0.549 0.93 1.33 1.912 6.288
SiteGround 0.838 0.655 1.043 1.063 1.693 6.927
WP Land 0.816 0.622 1.002 1.189 1.693 3.307
WPEngine 0.872 0.523 0.939 1.199 1.796 4.434
WPOven 0.85 0.534 1.093 1.452 1.79 4.844
Company WPT Singapore WPT Shanghai WPT Japan WPT Sydney WPT Brazil
A2 2.956 22.788 2.231 2.609 2.342
CloudWays DO 2.123 22.42 1.898 1.713 1.755
CloudWays Vultr 2.223 22.573 1.832 1.7 1.797
Conetix 2.027 23.425 2.63 1.308 3.56
LightningBase 2.041 23.977 1.717 1.848 1.667
Pantheon 2.194 22.605 1.769 1.661 1.784
Pressable 2.451 22.258 2.194 3.079 2.049
Pressjitsu 2.046 22.352 1.73 1.416 2.055
SiteGround 2.245 23.087 1.806 2.27 1.855
WP Land 2.157 22.428 1.872 1.658 1.784
WPEngine 2.121 24.584 1.87 2.051 1.863
WPOven 2.089 2.82 1.796 1.712 1.859

What I learned was getting traffic into China is terrible. Nobody really did well on the Shanghai location except WPOven which somehow didn't get the delay that every other company experienced. South Africa is also really slow. Most servers were US based but were delivering content to most corners of the world in about 2 seconds or less which is impressive.

Conetix is an Australian focused company and they delivered to Sydney faster than anyone which is a relief that the geographic advantage is real. Beyond the Australian market the connectivity seemed slower to just about every other location. Australia has notoriously bad connectivity though, so I can see the advantage of having a company specializing in the local market.

I wish I could compare averages against last year except they removed one of the testing locations (Miami) and I did a global test instead because that was something people wanted to see.

The US connectivity is very fast though, with everyone delivering to Dulles(VA) and Denver (CO) in under a second (minus the Australian server) with LA at about one second exactly for everyone.

5. WPPerformanceTester

Company PHP Bench [Seconds] (lower=faster) WP Bench [Queries Per Second](higher=faster)
A2 18.456 592.77
CloudWays DO 15.028 353.98
CloudWays Vultr 13.145 392.62
Conetix 12.833 410.51
LightningBase 10.795 1353.18
Pantheon 12.292 189.54
Pressable 11.062 525.21
Pressjitsu 12.771 648.09
SiteGround 11.414 1109.88
WP Land 13.491 1094.09
WPEngine 13.494 406.17
WPOven 9.412 690.61

In this tier, there was a lot more normalized spread on the PHP Bench with most people being within the 10-14 second range we saw last year. WPOven lead the pack at 9.4. A2 was the slowest at 18.456.

The WP Bench scores varied a lot, again. LightningBase had another blazingly fast score of 1353.18. Siteground and WPLand also broke the 1000 barrier, whereas last year's fastest was 889. At the bottom of the pack was Pantheon with 189.54, which I am sure they would say infrastructure plays a large role in. Anyone with a distributed/non-local SQL database will be slower by a lot. They would probably argue that's one of the trade-offs of scalability and based on their load testing performance, it would be hard to argue against.

Conclusion

A very crowded bracket with lots of competition. This range is still pretty entry level, not the cheapest stuff like the <$25/month plans I compared. But with increased price came better performances. Although two of the top tier companies in this bracket make up two of the three top tier performers in the cheapest bracket. But it is nice to see some loose price to performance correlation in the market. Many of these plans are the entry level for their respective companies.

One of the interesting things to watch was the VPSs in this range (A2, CloudWays, Pressjitsu). They were outperformed by the Shared/Cloud providers who can presumably burst more shared resources for any given site. So for spikey sites that expect to get a Reddit/Slashdot effect, there may be some advantage in being in that sort of environment (if you cant easily scale the VPS, which some providers make quite easy). But since these are dummy sites not really tested heavily over the two months, there is the potential for bad neighbors negatively impacting you too during such a spike, and then you might want your own isolated VPS. I can see arguments for for both sides.

Without further ado, I will tell you who had the best performance, who deserved an honorable mention and then analyze each host individually. I still don't believe in ranking in any particular order, only grouping companies by how well they performed.

Top Tier WordPress Hosting Performance

review_signal_2016_trophy_50

LightningBasePantheonPressableSiteGround [Reviews] and WPOven.com.

Honorable Mentions

Unfortunately, no company deserves honorable mention status which I give to companies that came close but weren't quite perfect or they looked like they were good but something external (generally security measures) interfered with the tests but from all other indications they seemed to be doing well.

The closest in this bracket would have been Pressjitsu, except they had uptime issues which I give no leeway for being under 99.9%.

Individual Host Analysis

A2 Hosting [Reviews]

I try to find bright spots in a company's performance, but A2 really didn't have one in this test. If you buy a VPS there is also no default way to install WordPress beyond the old fashioned DIY. You have to pay extra for Softaculous installer from the admin panel.

CloudWays [Reviews] Digital Ocean / Vultr

The most interesting part of CloudWays is being able to see the same stack tested on multiple providers. It's a small sample, but it looks like Vultr marginally outperforms Digital Ocean in performance. Although, Digital Ocean was more stable (again, small sample size to compare head to head). It was nice to see CloudWays do well with the Blitz tests and keep very good uptime, especially the Digital Ocean machine which was perfect.

Conetix

Conetix had good uptime and connection to Australia, their target market. They strongly using W3TC but it didn't come fully installed and I don't test anything beyond the default configuration because it gets into too much minutia and conflict with hosts about what could be done to improve scores. I also believe most people just stick with the default based on all the user testing I've seen across various fields. So the unfortunate results were the load test performances didn't look very good for them.

(9/19/2019 Update) Conetix have issued their own statement regarding Review Signal's test and why they believe this methodology doesn't accurately represent their performance and why a unique Australian perspective is required when evaluating them. I recommend reading the full details.

LightningBase

LightningBase put on basically a perfect performance. 100% uptime on both monitors. 0 errors on blitz, 1 error on loadstorm. Unequivocally, a top tier performance.

Pantheon [Reviews]

Pantheon showed up again, in a good way. They earned themselves a top tier performance accolade. They had a few errors at the start of the LoadStorm test, but beyond that aced everything.

Pressable

Pressable is back for the first time since my first testing in 2013, with new ownership (WordPress.com). They had had some good tech back then but it wasn't perfect and had some minor issues. I can happily say that has changed as they delivered a top tier performance this year with no issues in any test.

Pressjitsu

Pressjitsu felt like 2013 Pressable, the foundations of a really good company but just didn't get it all put together. The biggest problem was the sub 99.9% uptime. They had what appeared to be security measures mar the blitz test and had some errors at the start of the LoadStorm test but managed to stabilize for the duration and put on a good showing.

SiteGround [Reviews]

SiteGround got even better this year. They jumped up from honorable mention to top tier status. Their Blitz and LoadStorm tests both improved while everything else remained at a high level. An all around fantastic performance which deserved top tier status.

WPEngine [Reviews]

WPEngine fell slightly this year, it could have been a security issue with wp-login during the LoadStorm test, but there were too many errors to give it honorable mention status for this plan which it earned last year. Everything else looked good though.

WP.land

WP Land like WPEngine had too many problems during the LoadStorm test that it didn't earn honorable mention status. Everything else looked very good for them and it's great to see a strong new entrant.

WPOven.com

The knock on WPOven last year was their LoadStorm test. Everything else was perfect. I'm glad they maintained everything else, but this time they managed a perfect LoadStorm test to boot. A huge improvement and a very well deserved entry in the top tier of WordPress Hosts in the $25-50 range.

LiquidWeb and HostDime no longer providing Shared Hosting

I've updated the site today to reflect that LiquidWeb and HostDime no longer provide shared hosting.

It leaves quite a large gap between SiteGround (72%) and pretty much everyone else still in the shared hosting space (<60%).

I do wonder if this is a bellwether for shared hosting becoming a thing of the past. There are still millions of people on it and in all likelihood will continue to be. But we've seen the rise of all sorts of specialty hosting which is likely eating up a lot of the market. The rise of developer oriented providers like Amazon, Azure, Digital Ocean have opened up the floodgates for building services on top of them. We've seen numerous companies built on top of these companies and targeting niches, especially WordPress like FlyWheel, Pagely. We've even seen configurable providers like CloudWays which lets you select the cloud provider of your choice and install and manage your websites on them.

These new hosting providers are charging more and giving different experiences to users. Developers have flocked to them and are building the next generation of web hosting services. High quality companies seem to be moving up market, charging more and providing more where I'm guessing the margins are substantially better than in the shared hosting space unless you're trying to upsell everything.

It will be interesting to to follow, will we continue to see more consolidation ala EIG and GoDaddy? Is there room for another great shared hosting provider that grows very large? Or will shared hosting slowly fade away as superior technologies (VPS) and specialized companies eat away at it providing the specific services people really want. We've also seen non-webhosts like SquareSpace, Wix and Weebly gain large market shares. On the BuiltWith estimates ranging from 880,000-1.6m websites for each of them.

The one trend I am not a fan of is that there are fewer and fewer really good choices in the shared hosting space that are of significant scale.

Free & Discount Web Hosting for Students

There are a handful of very good offers for students. The very best package for student developers is easily the GitHub Student Pack. It includes offers from Amazon, Digital Ocean and Microsoft Azure along with a number of other free tools and services.

There are also a handful of companies that offer discounts and credits for students which may be better suited for non developers. Some of them (e.g. BlueHost) offer cheaper pricing publicly than their student offering regularly during sales and promotions. The student deals may not be as good as they seem.

Company Offer Requirement
GitHub Bonus Amazon AWS Credits ($15), $50 DigitalOcean Credit, Microsoft Azure Credit If you're a student aged 13+ and enrolled in a degree or diploma granting course of study, the GitHub Student Developer Pack is for you. All you need is a school-issued email address, valid student identification card, or other official proof of enrollment
SiteGround $1.99/month .edu address
BlueHost $4.95 .edu address
InMotionHosting 50% off .edu address
Microsoft Azure $200 Credit None
Kickassd 6 Months Hosting School Email + ID

Bonus Offer

NameCheap for Education - Free .ME Domain for US, UK, CAN, AUS universities.

 

Free & Discount Web Hosting for Educators, Teachers and Institutions

 

If you know of any deals that are missing, please comment or contact us to add it to this list.

Header image credit:  Icon made by http://www.flaticon.com/authors/freepik from www.flaticon.com 

Review Signal’s Best Web Hosting Companies in 2015

Another year, another mountain of data added to the largest web hosting review site. This year we added over 49,000 new reviews (a slight increase from the 45,000 last year). We added two new companies in Arvixe and Site5, both of which are now owned by EIG. We published our first WordPress Plugin WPPerformanceTester. WPPerformanceTester was built for our WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks which we performed yet again with our largest batch of companies ever. We even got some outside validation from LiquidWeb which published its internal NPS benchmarks which matched very closely to their Review Signal Rating.

But the year ended on a somewhat sour note with The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange. It tells the story of ASO and how they've played such a huge role on this site. Including winning at least one of these awards every year since inception. But not anymore. So without further ado...

Best Shared Web Host: LiquidWeb [Reviews]

2015-best-shared-hosting-liquidweb

 

Best Web Hosting Support: SiteGround [Reviews]

2015-best-hosting-support-siteground

 

Best Specialty Web Hosting: FlyWheel [Reviews]

2014-best-specialty-flywheel

Best Unmanaged VPS: Digital Ocean [Reviews]

2014-best-unmanaged-vps-digitalocean

Best Managed VPS: LiquidWeb [Reviews]

2015-best-managed-vps-liquidweb

 

For the second year in a row FlyWheel [Reviews] has set the bar in terms of how high a company's rating can be. They won the best specialty web hosting award with their managed WordPress hosting.

For the first time ever someone besides A Small Orange [Reviews] has won the best shared web hosting. A huge congratulations to LiquidWeb [Reviews]! They also managed to pickup the Best Managed VPS hosting award.

Digital Ocean [Reviews] continues its massive growth and popularity, they have won the Best Unmanaged VPS provider for the third year in a row.

Finally, SiteGround [Reviews] returned to our awards and won Best Web Hosting Support, an honor they last received in 2013.

The Best Web Hosting Companies in 2014

It's always interesting to look back at a year and analyze what happened. 2014 was the second full year of operation for Review Signal. Four new companies were published on Review Signal: Azure, FlyWheel, Pagely, WebSynthesis. We added roughly 45,000 new reviews (oddly enough about half as many as last year). We ran two massive performance testing reviews of managed WordPress hosting companies (1, 2).

So I finally got around to slicing and dicing the data exclusively looking at data collected in 2014 and here are the awards:

 

Best Shared Web Host: A Small Orange [Reviews]

2014-best-shared-asmallorange

Best Web Hosting Support: FlyWheel [Reviews]

2014-best-support-flywheel

Best Specialty Web Hosting: FlyWheel [Reviews]

2014-best-specialty-flywheel

Best Unmanaged VPS: Digital Ocean [Reviews]

2014-best-unmanaged-vps-digitalocean

Best Managed VPS: KnownHost [Reviews]

2014-best-managed-vps-knownhost

New comer FlyWheel [Reviews] has set the bar in terms of how high a company can fly (I'm sorry!). When I introduced FlyWheel they had the absolute highest numbers I've ever seen and continue to be in a tier of their own. They do WordPress hosting and that is it, so maybe there is some advantage to specialization. They took the best specialty hosting and support awards this year.

For the third consecutive year in a row, A Small Orange [Reviews] has the best shared web hosting.

Digital Ocean [Reviews] has become the fourth largest web hosting company in under two years according to netcraft. It's easy to understand why when they take home the best unmanaged VPS provider for a second year in a row.

Finally, a new-comer into our awards list, Known Host [Reviews] managed to take the Best Managed VPS award this year beating out last year's winner, A Small Orange.

 

Introducing Pagely and FlyWheel

I am happy to announce two new hosts on Review Signal today.

One of them was a long time in coming, Pagely. The original managed WordPress hosting company. In my original managed WordPress hosting performance benchmarks, Pagely came out at the top - having no trouble with any of the tests I threw at their services.

Pagely_october_2014

 

It's a bit disappointing to see that their reviews don't quite match their performance. From what I can tell, it looks like they've struggled with some major outages in the past. However, there is an upward trend in opinions about them. Their performance is top notch, it would be great to see the rest of the service catch up.

Our second addition to Review Signal is FlyWheel which has an astounding 95% Overall Rating. FlyWheel is another managed WordPress hosting service built on top of Digital Ocean. I don't think I've ever seen a company have such positive reviews. It's a struggle to find anyone saying something negative about them. It's wonderful see such positive reviews for a new company.

Flywheel_october_2014

I hope they can keep it up, but my past experience says all the companies which start out so remarkably strong generally tend to come down to more 'normal' levels in the 70%ish range. Their competitors WPEngine (82% -> 73%) and WebSynthesis (83% -> 76%) both did. Also the company they were built on top of, Digital Ocean, went from 81% to 76%. Great service seems like the hardest problem to scale for a web hosting company. I hope FlyWheel can break the rules and continue it's streak of excellence.

40 Million hits a day on WordPress using a $10 VPS

I recently tested many of the biggest names in managed WordPress hosting in my article Managed WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks. (Update: 2016 WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks) I am preparing to do a second round of testing with double the number of companies on board. Some of us like to setup servers ourselves (or are cheap).

Given a reasonable VPS, what sort of performance can we get out of it?

10 million hits as measured by Blitz.io was the benchmark to beat based on a previous iteration of this question.

I decided to test this from the ground up, let's start with the most basic configuration and gradually try to improve it.

All tests were performed on a $10/Month 1GB Ram Digital Ocean VPS running Ubuntu 14.04x64. All code and documentation are also available on GitHub.

LAMP Stack

Based on my previous experience benchmarking WordPress, I didn't have high hopes for this test. Last time I crashed MySql almost instantly. This time I ran Blitz a lot slower, from 1-50 users. The performance wasn't impressive, it started slowing down almost immediately and continued to get worse. No surprises.

default-lamp

The LAMP stack setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LAMP Stack (PDF).

LAMP + PHP5-FPM

The next thing I tried was PHP-FPM(FastCGI Process Manager). It got slightly better performance with just under 200ms faster response times at 50 users. But the graph looks pretty similar, we're seeing quickly increasing response times as the number of users goes up. Not a great improvement.

lamp-php-fpm

The LAMP+ PHP5-FPM setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LAMP+PHP5-FPM (PDF).

Nginx + PHP-FPM (aka LEMP Stack)

Maybe the problem is Apache? I tried Nginx next. What happened? I got a worse performance than the default LAMP stack (wtf?). Everyone said Nginx was faster. Turns out, it's not magically faster than Apache (and appears worse out of the box).

lemp-php-fpm

The LEMP + PHP-FPM setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LEMP+PHP-FPM (PDF).

Microcaching

I've written about creating a reverse proxy and cache in nginx before. But I've already setup Nginx as my web server, I don't need to reverse proxy this time. Nginx has fastcgi_cache which allows us to cache results from fastcgi processes (PHP). So I applied the same technique here and the results were staggering. The response time dropped to 20ms (+/- 2ms) and it scaled from 1 to 1000 concurrent users.

"This rush generated 28,924 successful hits in 60 seconds and we transferred 218.86 MB of data in and out of your app. The average hit rate of 482/second translates to about 41,650,560 hits/day."

All that with only 2 errors (connection timeouts).

lemp-microcache

The LEMP + PHP-FPM + microcaching setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LEMP+PHP-FPM + microcaching (PDF).

Mircocaching Config Walkthrough

We do the standard

apt-get update
apt-get -y install nginx
sudo apt-get -y install mysql-server mysql-client
apt-get install -y php5-mysql php5-fpm php5-gd php5-cli

This gets us Nginx, MySql and PHP-FPM.

Next we need to tweak some PHP-FPM settings. I am using some one liners to edit /etc/php5/fpm/php.ini and /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf to uncomment and change some settings [turning cgi.fix_pathinfo=0 and uncommenting the listen.(owner|group|mode) settings].

sed -i "s/^;cgi.fix_pathinfo=1/cgi.fix_pathinfo=0/" /etc/php5/fpm/php.ini
sed -i "s/^;listen.owner = www-data/listen.owner = www-data/" /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf
sed -i "s/^;listen.group = www-data/listen.group = www-data/" /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf
sed -i "s/^;listen.mode = 0660/listen.mode = 0660/" /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf

Now make sure we create a folder for our cache

mkdir /usr/share/nginx/cache

Which will we need in our Nginx configs. In our /etc/nginx/sites-available/default config we add this into our server {} settings. We also make sure to add index.php to our index command and set our server_name to a domain or IP.

location ~ \.php$ {
		try_files $uri =404;
		fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
		fastcgi_cache  microcache;
		fastcgi_cache_key $scheme$host$request_uri$request_method;
		fastcgi_cache_valid 200 301 302 30s;
		fastcgi_cache_use_stale updating error timeout invalid_header http_500;
		fastcgi_pass_header Set-Cookie;
		fastcgi_pass_header Cookie;
		fastcgi_ignore_headers Cache-Control Expires Set-Cookie;
		fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
		fastcgi_index index.php;
		include fastcgi_params;
}

Then we move on to our /etc/nginx/nginx.conf and make a few changes. Like increasing our worker_connections. We also add this line in our http{} before including our other configs:

fastcgi_cache_path /usr/share/nginx/cache/fcgi levels=1:2 keys_zone=microcache:10m max_size=1024m inactive=1h;

This creates our fastcgi_cache.

All of these are done in somewhat ugly one-liners in the script (if someone has a cleaner way of doing this, please share!), I've cleaned them up and provided the full files for comparison.

Go Big or Go Home

Since Nginx didn't seem to blink when I hit it with 1000 users, I wondered how high it would really go. So I tried from 1-3000 users and guess what?

"This rush generated 95,116 successful hits in 60 seconds and we transferred 808.68 MB of data in and out of your app. The average hit rate of 1,585/second translates to about 136,967,040 hits/day."

The problem was I started getting errors: "4.74% of the users during this rush experienced timeouts or errors!" But it amazingly peaked at an astonishing 2,642 users per second. I watched my processes while the test was running and saw all 4 nginx workers fully maxing out the CPU (25% each) while the test was running. I think I hit the limit a 1GB, 1 Core VPS can handle. This setup was a champ though, I'm not sure what caused the big spike (perhaps a cache refresh), but if you wanted to roll your own WordPress VPS and serve a lot of static content, this template should be a pretty good starting point.
lemp-microcache-3000

Download full results of 3000 users blitz test (PDF)

Conclusion

There are definitely a lot of improvements that can be made on this config. It doesn't optimize anything that doesn't hit the cache (which will be any dynamic content, most often logged in users). It doesn't talk about security at all. It doesn't do a lot of things. If you aren't comfortable editing php, nginx and other linux configs/settings and are running an important website, you probably should go with a managed wordpress company. If you really need performance and can't manage it yourself, you need to look at our Managed WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks. If you just want a good web hosting company, take a look at our web hosting reviews and comparison table.

All code and documentation is available on GitHub

Thanks and Credits:

The title was inspired by Ewan Leith's post 10 Million hits a day on WordPress using a $15 server. Ewan built a server that handled 250 users/second without issue using Varnish, Nginx, PHP-APC, and W3 Total Cache.

A special thanks goes to A Small Orange who have let me test up multiple iterations of their LEMP stack and especially Ryan MacDonald at ASO who spent a lot of time talking WordPress performance with me.

Managed WordPress Hosting Showdown – Performance Benchmarks Comparison

UPDATE: Round 2 of Testing (November 2014) is now available.

WordPress as a platform has become the most popular CMS around, claiming to power almost 19% of the web. As a result, Managed WordPress hosting has become a very popular niche. Many companies in the managed WordPress space are charging a very high premium over the traditional shared web hosting providers. So beyond the marketing speak, what are you really getting? Most promise to make your life easier with features like automatic updates, backups, and security. They also claim to have great performance. It's hard to test objectively the ease-of-use features. But we can measure performance. There weren't many performance benchmarks that I could find, and the ones I could were not very thorough. So I began by designing my own set of testing.

Companies Tested

A Small Orange* [Reviews]
Digital Ocean [Reviews]
GoDaddy* [Reviews]
Pagely
Pressable*
SiteGround*† [Reviews]
WebSynthesis* [Reviews]
WPEngine [Reviews]

*Company donated an account to test on. I checked to make sure I was on what appeared to be a normal server. GoDaddy had over 3000 domains on the same IP. SiteGround had 887 domains. A Small Orange was a VPS, so it should be isolated. Pressable and WebSynthesis didn't have any accounts on the same IP. I am not sure how isolated they are in their environments.

†Tests were performed with SiteGround's proprietary SuperCacher module turned on fully unless otherwise specified.

The Products

I created a comparison chart of all the companies and the product used in this test. It was mostly the basic/cheapest offer with the exception of SiteGround, because their cheapest hosting plan didn't have full WordPress caching built in, but it was still very much within the price range of other offers.

(Click to see full table)

comparison_chart_web

Methodology

The question I tried to answer is how well do these WordPress hosting services perform? I tested each company on two distinct measures of performance: peak performance and consistency.

1. Blitz.io

Load testing from the most well known load testing service. First test was 60 seconds, from 8 locations each scaling from 1-125 concurrent users (total 1000 users). For this test each one was tested with identical theme (twenty fourteen) and the out of the box configuration. The second test was 60 seconds, from 2 locations (Virginia/California) scaling from 1-1000 (total 2000 users). The configuration of each site was identical with Customizr theme and plugins.

2. Uptime (UptimeRobot and Uptime - a node.js/mongo project)

Consistency matters. I wanted to see how well these companies performed over a longer period of time. I used two separate uptime monitoring services: one existing third party service and one open source project.

3. WebPageTest.org

"WebPagetest is an open source project that is primarily being developed and supported by Google as part of our efforts to make the web faster." WebPageTest grades performance and allows you to run tests from multiple locations simulating real users. I tested from Dulles, VA, Miami, FL, Denver, CO, and Los Angeles, CA.

4. Unnamed Load Testing Service*

This service asked to remain nameless in this article. They do natural load testing and are in beta. I tested each WordPress host with the same theme (twenty fourteen) and the out of the box configuration for this test. I ran into some issues with this service which I will discuss later.

Background Information

Before I go over the results I wanted to explain and discuss a few things. Every provider I tested had the latest version of WordPress installed. Every plugin that came with it was also up to date with the exception of GoDaddy which had an older version of JetPack included (17 days out of date when I first setup).

I had some trouble getting set up on A Small Orange, the signup email was stuck in gmail's spam filter. I also found a potentially minor security issue in their customer system which they promptly responded to and fixed. I also had to specifically ask for the customized WordPress LEMP stack to be installed on my VPS.

GoDaddy stores SFTP and other critical details on a separate area away from your main GoDaddy account and WordPress admin (gateway.godaddy.com for anyone stuck looking).

I ran into issues with Pressable's CNAME redirect. It seemed to cache a coming soon page and didn't resolve itself by clearing any cache I could find. It resolved itself over a day or so, but being stuck with a coming soon page wasn't a pleasant first experience.

SiteGround includes CloudFlare but I never got it working, it failed to configure on www. So I couldn't conduct the test with it enabled.

Pagely charges you extra for SFTP access (which I didn't pay for and made my own life a living hell while trying to do this test).

WebSynthesis came pre-installed with two themes that were out of date.

Results

Blitz.io

 Test 1. 1-125 Concurrent Users from 8 Locations over 60 seconds (Gallery)

 Discussion of Blitz Test 1 Results

The first thing I must note here is that two companies got absolutely destroyed by this test: Digital Ocean and A Small Orange.

My Digital Ocean VPS just died repeatedly. MySql died and needed to be manually restarted. I thought it was a bad instance, so I spun up another and got the same result. I even tried installing a caching plugin to see if I could get any performance out of their WordPress stack. I had absolutely no luck. Given this result, I eliminated Digital Ocean from the rest of my testing. You can run high performance WordPress sites on Digital Ocean (Review Signal's blog is running on one currently), but it requires knowing what you're doing and isn't recommended for people looking for managed WordPress hosting. Digital Ocean is a self-managed VPS provider; it's not for beginners or those who need managed support of their WordPress site. I included Digital Ocean to see how their offer would fare against specialized companies. The short answer is, it doesn't compare, at all.

Another out-of-the-box install with A Small Orange got crushed by this test too. After dconsulting with A Small Orange support, it became apparent I wasn't on their customized WordPress setup. I asked for it to be installed and all further tests were on this much more performant setup. You will see two sets of results for ASO, the normal and the LEMP stack, which is their high performance setup. One thing to note is that ASO offers less management on their customized WordPress setup because it no longer uses cPanel.

The lesson here is that WordPress, out-of-the-box with a LAMP stack, performs pretty badly. For a personal blog with low traffic, it probably won't matter, but for a site with any substantial amount of traffic, it will most likely crumble.

Who performed without any major issues?

A Small Orange (from now on, anytime I talk about ASO, it's about the specialized WordPress setup), Pagely, and SiteGround. Each of these companies had stable response times and few to no errors.

Who had some issues?

GoDaddy had an issue with errors in the middle of the test around 400 users but seemed to gracefully scale upwards without any difficulty and maintained steady load times and stopped erroring. Pressable's response times were a bit varied. Pressable didn't seem to have much trouble with the traffic because it had zero errors and minimal timeouts. WPEngine seemed to have a weird connection timeout issue around 600 users that resolved itself fairly quickly. WebSynthesis seemed to cap out at around 400 users/second with a few bursts. The response time remained steady and it was erroring (connection reset) instead of timing out. WebSynthesis support told me "We analyzed the logs on the server and some of your requests are not being cached as your tests are throwing over 14K symbols in a single URL. This is not realistic for normal use cases of WordPress." Nevertheless, they made a tweak to the nginx (webserver) config, and I tested it again in test 2.

Test 1. Quick Results Table

Success Errors Timeouts Avg Hits/second Avg Response (ms)
ASO 23788 18 2 396 241
GoDaddy 23962 165 0 399 227
Pagely 20132 1 0 336 459
Pressable 21033 0 19 351 412
SiteGround 19672 0 0 328 495
WebSynthesis 19995 4224 5 333 246
WPEngine 20512 192 196 342 395

GoDaddy, despite their small hiccups, managed to have the best average response time to 8 servers distributed across 5 continents (Virginia, Oregon, California, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Ireland). Furthermore, they also managed to serve the most hits.

SiteGround had the slowest average response and lowest hits/second but also didn't have a single error or timeout and the response was consistent throughout the test.

A Small Orange's performance was stunningly consistent. The fastest response was 238ms and the slowest was 244ms, a difference of 6ms over nearly 24,000 requests. They were just barely behind GoDaddy in hits and average response.

Overall, other than WebSynthesis, no host seemed to have serious difficulty with this test.

 

 Test 2. 1-1000 Concurrent Users from 2 Locations over 60 seconds (Gallery)

Discussion of Blitz Test 2 Results

This test was designed to see just how much traffic these web hosts can handle. Blitz increased their pricing for multiple server locations while I was running this test. I had to reduce server locations from 8 down to 2 locations with higher user counts instead. The response times may be less meaningful, but I picked Virginia and California so that the test locations were on opposite sides of the US. I believe every server tested was in the US, so hopefully that was somewhat balanced, but the average response time may mean less than the stability of the response time.

Who performed without any major issues?

Pagely.

Who had some issues?

A Small Orange's setup definitely couldn't scale all the way up. Response times started increasing with increased users as did errors/timeouts. GoDaddy had some bizarre spikes that look similar to the one I saw in test 1, except three of them this time. Despite this, they pushed the most successful hits again and had the best ping of hosts that didn't completely error out. Pressable had some spikey performance similar to GoDaddy. Pressable pushed a lot of successful requests and did recover from the spikes. SiteGround hit a major spike but then seemed to kick into high gear and performed even better and finished out the test exceptionally strong and stable. WebSynthesis seemed to cap out at around 400 users/second with a few bursts again. The response time remained fairly steady and it was erroring (connection reset) instead of timing out again. WPEngine's response times got worse as the load increased and timeouts started to increase as well.

I included a screenshot from my uptime monitoring system. It's checking each host every 5 seconds, and I highlighted the hour in which all the tests took place. You can see some large spikes for companies that seemed to have latency struggles.

 

Test 2. Quick Results Table

Success Errors Timeouts Hits/second Avg Response (ms) Max Hit Rate (per second)
ASO 27057 777 518 451 739 597
GoDaddy 49711 685 1 829 148 1750
Pagely 48228 0 1 804 216 1580
Pressable 43815 503 9 730 271 1466
SiteGround 48735 12 19 812 263 1708
WebSynthesis 20855 35773 0 348 120 763
WPEngine 39784 25 1008 663 304 1149

GoDaddy seemed to have the best peak performance again. SiteGround and Pagely seemed to handle the load fantastically and didn't show any signs of performance issues (again). With the exception of A Small Orange, every host saw an improvement in average response time. As I wrote earlier, this may be because they were tested only from US locations. That caveat aside, the response times are a lot closer together and look pretty good for US based visitors. Still, this test also started to raise questions about many web hosts' ability to handle a heavy traffic load.

WebSynthesis Response to ECONNRESET Errors

WebSynthesis ran into the same issue in both tests, a strange ECONNRESET error. Suspecting something may be blocking the test requests' as a security measure, I asked them to investigate. They made a change to their nginx config after the initial set of testing and wrote back "we made adjustments to handle the types of URLs you were hitting us with.  We did review our logs and do not see these in production thus will not put these kinds of changes in production as we feel they are unrealistic." Here are the results:

WebSynthesis2-blitz WebSynthesis2 (Download Full Report WebSynthesis2.pdf)

The new WebSynthesis results were pretty impressive. Average ping of 123ms (3ms slower than initial test), 871 hits/second average, 1704 hits/second and with only 94 errors (ECONNRESET again). The original tests did not suggest that either the hardware or software was starting to buckle. But the configuration change does indicate that they were probably blocking some of the requests. Load testing tools can't fully emulate users (they generally come from only a couple of machines) and it's conceivable that some security measures are triggered by their unusual behavior. Since I am testing these companies out of the box, I am leaving this result separate where support got involved and changed configuration settings.

Uptime

What is often more important than peak performance is how well a service does on average. To test this, I used two services: UptimeRobot and a NodeJS project called Uptime.

UptimeRobot Results

Monitored HTTP and Ping every 5 minutes. This was over a 10 day span.

HTTP Ping
ASO 1 1
GoDaddy 0.9979 -
Pagely 0.9862 -
Pressable 0.9995 1
SiteGround 0.9993 1
WebSynthesis 1 1
WPEngine 1 1

A Small Orange, WebSynthesis and WPEngine showed no downtime. Every server responded to pings 100% of the time with the exception of GoDaddy and Pagely which seemed to be blocking pings to the server (at least from UptimeRobot).

Pagely's downtime was mostly my own doing (3 hours), when I was editing a template  to use some of these testing services. Only 5 minutes of the downtime was unrelated to that incident.

GoDaddy had 28 minutes of downtime. SiteGround had 9 minutes. Pressable had 5 minutes.

When you account for my screwup, only GoDaddy shows up under the 99.9% uptime threshold.

Uptime (nodejs) Results

Uptime was configured to perform an HTTP check every 5 seconds on each host with a 1500ms slow threshold. This was executed from a Digital Ocean VPS in NYC.

Responsiveness is defined as the percentage of pings above slow threshold over the period. Availability is the uptime percentage.

Availability (%) Downtime (m) Response Time (ms) Responsiveness (%)
ASO 99.998 1 204 99.97
GoDaddy 99.963 17 309 99.679
Pagely 99.998 1 237 99.974
Pressable 99.914 39 727 90.87
SiteGround 99.997 1 206 99.616
WebSynthesis 99.994 3 97 99.727
WPEngine 99.965 16 209 99.819

Nobody had a perfect record although four companies (A Small Orange, Pagely, SiteGround and WebSynthesis) were above the 99.99% uptime marker. The rest were still all above 99.9%. The most worrisome result was Pressable because they had the most downtime and a very high average response time. This might be caused by the monitoring server being far away from their server. Below is a detailed graph of the response times:

pressable_response_time

The lowest ping I saw was around 172ms and the relatively consistent bottom line of pings at around 300ms is reasonable. However, inconsistent performance with high spikes results in a very high average. Every other company had a fairly smooth graph in comparison. They show an occasional spike and/or some small variance (<100ms) between response at the base line, but nobody came close to a graph like Pressable's. The next most interesting is A Small Orange's graph:

aso_response_time

Though within reasonable response times, it has a spike and a weird pattern bouncing between around 170ms and 270ms.

Giving Pressable the benefit of the doubt, I signed up for Pingdom and monitored what their service saw. This was done with 1 minute resolution.pressable_pingdom_uptime

pressable_pingdom

 

The pings varied pretty wildly, the highest being 2680ms and lowest 2150, a 530ms difference. And that was based on hourly averages; the variance within each hour may have been much greater. It would seem to corroborate the results from the Uptime script I was running, i.e. performance fluctuates a lot.

 

WebPageTest.org

Every test was run with the settings: Chrome Browser, 9 Runs, native connection (no traffic shaping), first view only. This was tested against the default install from every company. I also tested SiteGround's multiple levels of their SuperCache technology from one location to see how much it improved performance. SuperCache was left on for all the other tests performed. You will also notice the original A Small Orange and the WordPress optimized LEMP stack. Digital Ocean hadn't completely failed out at this point yet either.

Company Dulles,VA (s) Miami, FL (s) Denver, CO (s) Los Angeles, CA (s) Average Load (s)
A Small Orange 1.894 2.035 2.381 1.648 1.9895
ASO Lemp 0.85 0.961 1.056 0.665 0.883
Digital Ocean 1.245 0.95 1.419 0.924 1.1345
GoDaddy 0.94 1.208 1.229 0.671 1.012
Pressable 0.642 1.174 1.721 0.981 1.1295
SiteGround 1.073 1.327 1.682 1.353 1.35875
SiteGround (Varnish Dynamic Cache) 0.732
SiteGround (Varnish Dynamic Cache, Memcached) 0.725
SiteGround (PageSpeed, Memcached) 1.216
WPEngine 0.812 1.235 1.06 1.08 1.04675
Pagely 0.924 1.083 1.46 0.748 1.05375
WebSynthesis 0.616 1.021 1.516 1.116 1.06725

You can see a huge performance difference in A Small Orange's default cPanel install and their optimized LEMP stack. Load times were reduced by more than half from every location. That should convince you that optimizing WordPress can dramatically improve performance. To a lesser degree, you can see it happen when SiteGround's various SuperCache options are turned on.

A Small Orange's LEMP stack leads the pack here. However, it's amazing how close the performance of most of these companies was on this test.

 

Conclusion

Every service seems to have their issues somewhere. I try to avoid injecting my personal opinion and bias as much as possible. So I won't be ranking or outright saying any single company is the best. Some providers did exceptionally well and tended to clump together performance-wise, I will call those the top tier providers. This top tier designation is related to performance only and from the results of these tests. What each of these companies is offering is different and may best suit different audiences depending on a variety of factors beyond performance, such as features, price, support, and scale (I only tested entry level plans). But I will provide a short summary and discussion of the results for each provider.

A Small Orange

Once I moved away from the stock WordPress install on a normal VPS to their specialized LEMP WordPress VPS, it was a much better experience. Their uptime was near perfect on both services (1 minute of downtime total measured between them). The first load test it performed incredibly well and was 2nd by only a few requests per second. However, ASO did buckle under the heavier load test but it didn't fail out and managed to respond to most requests (including uptime monitoring) during the whole event. While their performance didn't scale as well as most of the competitors, I did receive a lot of support from them and it was quite responsive, in-line with what I would expect from a company that has one of the highest support ratings.

Digital Ocean

They are not in the same business as the rest of these companies. I added them because I wanted to see how well a stock install of WordPress would compete with pretty good hardware that's low cost (SSD backed VPS). The results here aren't a knock on their service at all. As I said earlier, this blog is running on a Digital Ocean VPS. The difference is I have spent many hours configuring it myself to be somewhat high performance. Digital Ocean is designed for people who can administrate their own servers. If you need managed WordPress hosting, stick to companies that are managing WordPress for you. If you're comfortable and want to do it yourself, these guys have one of the highest rated companies that we track.

GoDaddy

This whole test started from a statement made by Jeff King, a senior vice president at GoDaddy and GM of their hosting division. He wrote to me, "The new products are top of the market (really, you can’t get faster WordPress anywhere now) and we’re just beginning."  Challenge accepted.

GoDaddy surprised me, and in a good way. They have a pretty bad reputation in the web community and it shows on this site where their overall score is below 50%. Yet, their WordPress hosting kept up or led the pack in some of the performance tests. In both Blitz.io load tests, out-of-the-box, GoDaddy had the highest number of successful requests, the highest number of concurrent users, and either 1st or 2nd in average response time.  (WebSynthesis's performance did beat them when their support investigated connection resets) There were some weird performance bumps during the load tests, but nothing major. The biggest blot in terms of performance was on their uptime. They had the most downtime (28 minutes) of any of the companies tracked in UptimeRobot's monitoring (which ran longer than my second Uptime monitoring setup). But it was still 99.8% uptime, not a huge knock.

Overall, I would say GoDaddy delivered on their claim, performance wise. They appear to be in the top tier of specialized WordPress hosting companies. Given their price, I think they have the potential to push down pricing on most of their competitors who charge 3-4 times what GoDaddy charges. If we take a more holistic view, beyond performance, they still don't have all the tools to cater to the different niches that the specialized companies are competing for (although there were some hints dropped that things like Git, Staging Environments and more were coming soon). And then there is a branding problem they are trying to overcome. But GoDaddy is definitely doing some things very right and should make the managed WordPress hosting space very interesting.

Pagely

Pagely's performance didn't ever seem to get affected by any tests. They had a mere 5 minutes of downtime. The load testing services never seemed to cause any stress on their system. It was an impressively consistent performance. They didn't have the highest peak performance on the load tests, but they had a flat response time and only a single error or timeout in each blitz load test. One thing that irritated me about their offer was charging extra for SFTP access. Every other company included this for free and it's generally a given with a web hosting service. Still, a very impressive performance by Pagely, they are definitely in the top tier.

Pressable

Pressable had some issues during this test. I am not sure why but there was a very strange issue where performance seemed to repeatedly spike throughout my entire testing session. When it was good, it was performing at a level consistent with the top tier providers. The problem was, it wasn't always good. On the large Blitz load test there was consistent performance except for two spikes, which put it behind the front of the pack. It caused low responsiveness scores and potentially some downtime calculations as well. The foundation of a top tier provider is there, and generously open sourced on GitHub. They just need to sort out this weird performance spikiness issue.

SiteGround

Another very pleasant surprise in SiteGround. Not only are you getting cPanel hosting, you're getting top tier WordPress performance once you fully enable their SuperCacher plugin. They are one of the most well liked companies we track and have some of the best rated support. I honestly didn't know they were offering such high performance WordPress hosting. They didn't have the absolute fastest responses or push the highest concurrent users but they kept pace. They had one of the stranger graphs on the heavy load test, for some reason the performance got even better after a big spike. They had excellent uptime at above 99.9% measured by both services. Like GoDaddy, SiteGround looks like they could make this space interesting with a $7.95 plan performing on par with plans 3-4x its cost. While I didn't get to try some of the more developer-centric features like a staging environment and Git, they are available on a plan that's as little as 50% of the cost of the competitors at $14.95. Definitely in the top tier of managed WordPress providers.

WebSynthesis

These guys are harder to evaluate. Their uptime was excellent: either perfect or upwards of 99.9% as measured by the two services. The load testing ran into a weird ECONNRESET error. Their support was very helpful and made some configuration changes that seemed to allow the load testing service through. Once they did that, they outperformed every provider on almost every metric, highest average hits/second, fastest response and most successful hits with relatively flat response times. As I wrote in my discussion about them, load testing tools aren't a perfect emulation of real users. But it looked like it was running into a security rule rather than actual strain on the service. If that assumption is correct, these guys are truly a top tier provider.

WPEngine

WPEngine had some issues. Uptime was not one of them, they were perfect or upwards of 99.9% in that department. However, their performance shortcomings became apparent during the load tests. They had the most errors and timeouts, besides WebSynthesis, in the first test and seemed to buckle under the load in the second test with rising errors and timeouts and slower response times. When WPEngine was first listed here on Review Signal, they had the highest rating of any company. They've fallen a bit since then but WPEngine still remains near the front of the pack. They have a strong brand and seem to be doing some things right. They have some features that few other providers have, but this test was mostly about performance. In that department, they didn't quite match the level of performance that some of their competitors reached.

 

 

 Product Comparison Chart with Coupon Codes

 

 

Notes:

*Unnamed Load Testing Service

AVG Response Failures AVG Response Heavy
ASO 2031 No
GoDaddy 2120 No 5904
Pagely 2398 No
Pressable 1360 No 15570
SiteGround 22659 Yes 25712
WebSynthesis 1929 No 3740
WPEngine 1835 No

I didn't get to conduct a full test with this service because I may have caused the entire service to crash during testing. This table is showing 2 tests, on average response and whether failures occurred (any type of failures). The second test is what caused the service to crash and is incomplete. The first test was 500 users/second from 1 machine and the second was 8000 users/second from 40 machines. The response times were pretty slow all around, and SiteGround seemed to have some major issues with this test. I am unsure as to why, I re-ran the first test again later and it seemed to handle it without any failures (errors) on the second run. The testing system is in beta and it's really hard to know what happened. SiteGround seemed to handle Blitz's heavier test without issue and the second test here went fine. Hard to know if there was really an issue on SiteGround's end or the testing service. The heavy test was interesting, WebSynthesis ended up being the fastest which is a similar result to the Blitz.io test once they fixed the nginx config. Perhaps this load test wasn't triggering any of their security measures? I could not complete the testing because the system went down prematurely.

I am not sure if there are useful inferences to be drawn from these tests. I was asked not to name the service because of the issues encountered but I wanted to include the partial results here in case someone did find some value in looking at the numbers.

I actually tried a third load testing service that was also in beta and it never was able to fully run the tests either. I am starting to feel like load testing kryptonite.

Thank You

First off, I want to thank the companies that agreed to participate voluntarily. I had nothing but pleasant experiences dealing with the people at each company. A few even took it a step beyond and offered a lot of help and insight about how this test might be conducted. There was a surprising amount of consistency of views about what and how to measure performance offered. A few of the individuals who stood out the most:

David Koopman at GoDaddy for his insights on performance and testing.

Vid Luther at Pressable was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about performance. He's even written a great article here about performance. He also helped get at least one other company on board for testing and for that, I am thankful as well.

Tina Kesova at Siteground has always been helpful and this test was no exception. She had SiteGround on board almost instantly when I just mentioned the seed of the idea back in November 2013.

A few friends of mine also helped in figuring out how to perform these tests and dealing with some of the technical challenges in benchmarking. Dave Lo, Eric Silverberg and Samuel Reed all offered their advice and helped me make the design of the tests as fair as possible.

A special thanks goes to people who read drafts of this article and provided feedback including Andrey Tarantsov, JR Harrel and my dad.

Anyone else I missed, I am sorry, and thank you too.

 

The Best Web Hosts of 2013 – Reflections and Awards

2013 was the first full year of operation for Review Signal. It has been an exciting year and a successful year. We've added roughly 90,000 new reviews in 2013. We added two new companies this year. One was a company we struggled with to get listed because of their vast size and scope: Amazon. The other has been possibly the fastest growing new web hosting company of 2013: Digital Ocean. While proud that we added these two companies, it isn't enough. We're tracking over one hundred companies and there are a more that should be added soon. Adding a new company does take some extra work, but we need to find that time and make sure it gets done. Without further ado...

The Best Web Hosting Companies of 2013

Best Shared Web Host: A Small Orange

asmallorange best shared webhost

Best Web Hosting Support: SiteGround

siteground best hosting support

Best Unmanaged VPS Provider: Digital Ocean

digitalocean best unmanaged vps

Best Managed VPS Provider: A Small Orange

asmallorange best managed vps

A Small Orange continues to be the top web host that offers a broad range of hosting options. It was only beat out by newcomer, Digital Ocean, which provides very specific unmanaged SSD backed VPSes. And SiteGround is a new comer to our best of the year category. They eked out a less than 1% edge over A Small Orange in support rating. We would like to congratulate all of these companies on an excellent 2013 and hope that they continue their stellar performance in 2014.

I would also like to thank Cat Robinson for designing this year's awards. My favorite part of working with her was 'I don't know what a cute symbol is for VPS provider.' Me either. Thank you Cat.

*The way these scores were calculated were the same as last year. We only look at data collected in the 2013 calendar year, so there may be some differences in what you see on the site live, which keeps all data from all years versus this years rankings.