Category Archives: Review Signal News

Dirty, Slimy, Shady Secrets of the Web Hosting Review (Under)World – Episode 1

It's been approximately three and a half years since Review Signal launched.

The mission was simple: provide honest web hosting reviews.

(Almost) Everyone wants that. Consumers would love to not get screwed over by fake reviews/recommendations. Tech savvy consumers have all but given up on honest web hosting reviews even existing.

So why has it been so difficult to spread the word about what Review Signal does and why it's different? How come nobody else is really making a strong effort to do the same?

The easiest explanation is money. Money corrupts everything is a pretty common belief and in the web hosting world it's practically the law of the land.

Many web hosting companies are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for you to sign up new customers with them. And it's generally not the ones you would in good faith recommend to a friend. And these companies hire many people with the sole goal of convincing reviewers, bloggers, anyone with a voice that they should sell out.

And it's worked.

From some of the largest players like Drupal and WordPress down to the small, anonymous review sites that plague Google's search results for web hosting reviews. They have sold consumers out; for millions of dollars into their pocket.

How Are Web Hosting Companies Paying Hundreds of Dollars for a $5/month plan?

Let's look at underlying numbers that make this whole business possible before we continue. It seems crazy that companies could offer hundreds of dollars per sale for such small purchases.

The basic goal is Lifetime Value of Customer (LTV) > Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC is the hundreds of dollars they pay someone to send them a new customer. So the value they are getting from a referred sale must be greater than the X hundred dollars they pay.

So how are they getting hundreds of dollars per customer? Lockins and cross/up-sells are the primary ones. They generally only give the super discounted rates for customers who commit to long-term contracts (1-3 years generally) and often require you to pay for it entirely up-front. So that $5/month hosting deal, may cost $180 up front ( $5/month * 36 months = $180). That's before they have attempted to sell you any extra services such as backups, domains, security, premium features, etc. They don't have to make more on any specific customer, but they know in aggregate how much extras they are going to sell.

If you're really curious, I dug into the financials of some of the publicly traded companies (EIG, GoDaddy, Web.com) to see what some of those numbers looked like. They were getting between $100-180 per subscriber per year. I'm also fairly sure that most customers stay for longer than a year.

So if companies are extracting $180/year/subscriber, paying a $200 commission for a new subscriber is a no brainer if the new subscriber stays over 14 months. Suddenly, the economics of these incredibly high payouts should make sense.

Back to the Corruption

Corruption doesn't happen in a bubble. Someone has to be corrupted. In many cases, it would seem the pure motivation of making a lot of money is enough. Most people create a site dedicated to pimping their visitors to the highest paying companies.

In other cases, there is blatant astro-turfing going on.

hostgator self promo on TC

Perfect example from the techcrunch article about reviews being a cesspool, now deleted of course.

But the most hidden corruption happens behind the scenes. It's the people with titles like Affiliate Program Manager and Partner Marketing Specialist. For many of these companies, their job is to try to convince people to use their brand/authority to sell the company's product for a commission.

What Happens Behind The Scenes of Operating a Web Hosting Review Site?

I'm going to show you exactly what kind of offers I get regularly here at Review Signal.

rs_sample_review

 

 

rs_top5

 

rs_rankings_for_salers_affiliate_no_thanks

This is just a tiny sample of the 'offers' I get regularly. Most look like the email from dedicatedsolutions, trying to convince me to sign up for their affiliate program. Some, like Eli Saad from domain.com straight up tell me that my rankings are for sale (really classy). Alec from tdwebservices won't stop spamming me and refuses to remove me from his list, while literally offering to provide reviews of his own company for me to publish (vomit). Scroll to the bottom for bonus Alec Mwali material. And I've redacted someone from InMotionHosting's name because they were extremely apologetic, but they asked to be placed in the top 5 (sorry, they are based on actual reviews, not paid for).

A lot of companies just ask to be listed and mention their affiliate program as the reason why it should happen. They don't even think twice about what they are implying, it's become so ingrained in the culture of web hosting reviews that they are all for sale that nobody even takes a moment to realize how f***ed up that is.

Consider this me putting up notice, I will be periodically publishing the slimy emails and offers I get here at Review Signal. You may be named and shamed. So don't do it.

BONUS ALEC MWALI MATERIAL

Alec has contacted me on behalf of TDWebServices, Unihost and Codeguard. He has sent me full word docs with fake reviews to publish. He repeatedly uses the fake 'Re:' topic to get people to open and read his emails. When called out about it, he claims it 'was not meant to happen' and it 'keyboard error' or an 'issue with my email platform'. I think you better invest in a better keyboard and email platform, because your current one seems to be stuck in spam mode.

alec_mwali_2 alec_mwali_1alec_mwali_email_1 alec_mwali_email_2

 

Update: CodeGuard no longer works with Alec. (Source)

Review Signal Ranking Algorithm Update

In a recent article, The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange, it became quite apparent that our ranking algorithm here at Review Signal needed an update. Review Signal launched on September 25, 2012 which was almost 3.5 years ago. At launch, we had data from as early as 2011, which means this site's data is up to 5 years old today. It wasn't an issue back then because the oldest data would be at most, two years old and still relevant.

Today, our older data isn't really as relevant as it once was. A Small Orange exposed that weakness. It was an issue I knew I would have to deal with eventually, but nobody has really made the system fail until now. Since writing about The Rise and Fall of A Small Orange, I've been working hard to figure out a good way to update the ranking algorithm.

The solution I have come up with is a decay function. Older reviews will be worth a fraction of their more recent counterparts.

(1/(ABS(TIMESTAMPDIFF(YEAR, NOW(), max(timestamp)))+1))

This is the mathematical formula that Review Signal will now be using to calculate the value of a review.

An English explanation would be that for every year old the review is, it becomes worth one divided by years old. A one year or less old review would be worth 1/1 or 1.00. A two year old review would be worth 1/2 or 0.5. A 3 year old review would be worth 1/3 or .33 and so on.

This allows old reviews to still be a part of a company's rankings, but with a strong bias towards more recent reviews so that if a company starts performing poorly, it will decline faster in the rankings.

Checkout the full chart of how these changes affect the rankings and ratings of every published company.

Perhaps the most interesting column is how the Overall Ranking changed because of this algorithm update which I have included below. A Small Orange has the biggest change by a wide margin. HostWay lost a lot as well, but it was already at the bottom and the difference between 36% (old) and 27% (new) isn't very meaningful when you only fall two ranking spots.

HostMonster, Arvixe, HostGator, JustHost, BlueHost and some other EIG brands falling a bit more isn't surprising. It does highlight how old reviews were keeping them slightly higher than they should be, but none were ranked particularly well.

WebSynthesis dropping was a bit of a surprise. Still a decent rating at 62%, but a pretty substantial of 7 ranking places which dropped it from 10th to 17th.

On the other end, there is a lot less change upwards. However, Pagely got a nice little boost which jumped it 8 places upwards to 12th.

Then there's MochaHost, which has the dubious honor of jumping up one slot, to not be the absolute worst company we track, which is now Arvixe.

Name Overall Change
A Small Orange -10.57
Hostway -8.55
Host Monster -6.89
WebSynthesis -6.13
Arvixe -6.02
Linode -5.35
HostGator -5.24
LunarPages -5.15
ServInt -4.99
JustHost -3.52
BlueHost -3.09
NetFirms -3.01
IX Web Hosting -2.53
Flywheel -2.49
West Host -2.29
SingleHop -1.73
Verio -1.36
iPage -1.32
RackSpace -1.06
Hetzner -1
MediaTemple -0.97
1 and 1 -0.95
SiteGround -0.83
LiquidWeb -0.49
WPEngine -0.38
Heroku -0.24
Digital Ocean -0.24
Godaddy -0.2
Site5 0.2
Azure 0.48
SliceHost 0.81
AN Hosting 0.93
InMotion 0.96
Amazon 1.35
GoGrid 1.42
MidPhase 1.5
SoftLayer 2.12
Dream Host 2.13
WiredTree 2.4
KnownHost 2.65
HostDime 2.67
MochaHost 3.34
Pagely 4.9

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 Rise and Fall of A Small Orange

If you're an unhappy A Small Orange customer looking to find a better web host and don't want to read why the quality went down, simply head over to our Web Hosting Reviews and find a better hosting company. 

How did a small web hosting company have such a huge impact on Review Signal?

The Early Days

This story begins in October 2011, a year before Review Signal launched. Review Signal had been collecting data for months and early ratings data was starting to become meaningful. A tiny company was at the top of the rankings. A Small Orange.

The most worrisome part of this revelation was that A Small Orange did not have an affiliate program. Which isn't a requirement at all for a listing on Review Signal.

However, after investing years of work, if the top rated company ended up not having an affiliate program, the business was likely sunk before it even started. So I inquired early and heard back from the CEO at the time, “we don't have an affiliate program and at the moment, we have no plans for one.” This was a potential death knell because the entire business model relies on making at least some money, even though I assumed it would be much lower than my competitors who simply sell their rankings to the highest bidder. But as any entrepreneur knows, almost everything is negotiable if you understand what the other person really wants and why. After talking further with the CEO, he explained his issue with web hosting review websites, “they typically have a pay for ranking sort of model and do it either through set rates or affiliate payouts. It varies. The economics at ASO don't really work out for a standard affiliate program.” A Small Orange didn't want to play the game that every other review site out there did. Pay to play, quality be damned.

This CEO hated the games being played as much as I did.

That was all the opportunity I needed. Review Signal's mission has been to fight against that very same model and I knew I had an early ally who could make this work. We ended up working out a deal to pay three months of whatever plan someone purchased and he put a cap on my potential earnings at $250 before he would review the performance. Considering the most popular plans were $25/year and $5/month, this wasn't going to earn a lot, but at least it might start covering some of the very basic costs. The first month I earned $52.38 on 6 sales for an average of $8.73 per sale with A Small Orange.
At least it was something. And a foot in the door was all I needed to prove this crazy idea called Review Signal might have some legs. A Small Orange opened that door and for that our histories will forever be intertwined.

The Good Times

The next few years were very good. I was their first affiliate. I was their biggest affiliate for many years, bringing in over a thousand new customers. I got to know many of the staff and would consider some of them friends. And A Small Orange continued to be the best rated shared hosting company through 2014. Everyone was happy - their customers, the company and Review Signal. I was happy to recommend them based on the data showing they had incredibly satisfied customers. I had people tell me personally they were very happy with them after signing up because of the data I publish here at Review Signal.

2014-01-20 13.34.07

Free Swag and Annual Thank You Card from ASO

The EIG Acquisition

A Small Orange was quietly acquired in 2012. They were acquired by a behemoth in the hosting industry called Endurance International Group (NASDAQ: EIGI) which owns dozens of brands including some of the largest and most well known hosting companies: Blue Host, Host Gator, Host Monster, Just Host, Site5, iPage, Arvixe and more.

EIG has a very bad reputation in the web hosting world. If you ask most industry veterans they will tell you to run to the hills when it comes to EIG. The oft-repeated story is EIG acquires a hosting company, migrates them to their platform and the quality of service falls off a cliff. The best example of this is perhaps their migration to their Provo, UT data-center which had a catastrophic outage in 2013. This outage was huge. The impact dropped four of EIG's largest brands many percentage points in the Review Signal rankings in a single day.  But these major outages continue to happen as recently as November 2015.

In a recent earnings call with share holders, EIG CEO Hari Ravichandran talked about two recent acquisitions and their plans for them. “We expect to manage these businesses at breakeven to marginally profitable for the rest of the year as we migrate their subscriber bases onto our back-end platform. Once on platform, we expect to reach favorable economics and adjusted EBITDA contribution consistent with our previous framework for realizing synergies from acquisitions.”

The EIG Playbook

EIG's playbook has been to acquire web hosting brands, migrate them to their platform and 'reach favorable economics.' They've been doing it for years and it seems to be working well enough for investors to continue to put money into the company. M&A to grow subscriber bases and economies of scale to lower costs. It's a very simple and straightforward business plan. It doesn't speak to anything beyond spreadsheet math though, such as brand value and customer loyalty. And those are certainly lowered and lost post-EIG acquisition according to all the data we've collected over years and multiple acquired brands. It's calloused business accounting, but it makes perfect sense in the race to the bottom industry that is commodity shared hosting.

Review Signal Rating Calculated Pos/(Pos+Neg), without duplicate filtering

Review Signal Rating Calculated Pos/(Pos+Neg), without duplicate filtering

You can see all the EIG brands tracked here on Review Signal in the chart above and their acquisition dates below:

iPage - 2009. BlueHost/HostMonster - 2010. JustHost - Feb 2011. NetFirms - March 2011. HostGator - June 2012. A Small Orange  - July 2012. Arvixe - November 2014. Site5 - August 2015.

You'll notice their ratings, in general, are not very good with Site5 (their most recent acquisition) being the exception. iPage was acquired before I started tracking data. BlueHost/HostMonster also had a decline, although the data doesn't start pre-acquisition. JustHost collapses post acquisition. NetFirms has remained consistently mediocre. HostGator collapses with a major outage a year after acquisition. Arvixe collapses a year after being acquired. Site5 is still very recent and hasn't shown any signs of decline yet.

The Expected Decline of A Small Orange

So nearly every industry veteran I talked to expected A Small Orange to collapse. Immediately after acquisition. Except me. I was, am and will continue to be willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a company until I am shown evidence.

For years, post acquisition people were saying ASO's demise was right around the corner. For years, I still waited for that evidence and the prophecy to become true. But it didn't happen.

It often took EIG less than a year to ruin a brand. We don't have to look further than Arvixe for an example of this, which was acquired in November 2014. Today, Arvixe has one of the lowest ratings of any company on Review Signal at a shockingly low 27%.

But A Small Orange continued to chug along. It didn't hear the naysayers or believe itself to be a victim of the EIG curse. Instead, ASO was the best shared host for years post-acquisition. It seemed to have a fair level of autonomy from the EIG conglomerate. The staff I knew there, remained there, and all indications showed they were still the same company.

Until it wasn't.

The Fall of A Small Orange

A Small Orange Historical Rating

A Small Orange Historical Rating

The chart above shows Review Signal's rating of A Small Orange. The Blue line is the rating as calculated by [Positive Reviews / (Positive Reviews + Negative Reviews)]. The Red line only calculates the rating from the past 12 months of data. It's slightly different than Review Signal's actual calculation because I am not filtering out duplicates for quick analysis. The difference for A Small Orange is that when you remove the duplicates, the year 2015 had a 43% rating indicating there was quite a few people writing multiple negative things about A Small Orange.

Sometime in 2015, the A Small Orange that thousands of people trusted and raved about became another EIG brand. I tried to get the inside story. I reached out to the former CEO who sold the company to EIG and became an executive there for a couple years post acquisition. He reached out on my behalf to EIG's PR team to see if they would participate in this story. Both declined to participate.

So, I'm left to speculate on what happened at A Small Orange based on what's been publicly stated by their CEO and watching their strategy unfold for years across many companies/brands. My best guess is EIG finally got involved with A Small Orange. They used to be a distributed/remote team, now all positions they are hiring for are listed as in Texas (their headquarters). I saw a HostGator representative get moved over to ASO's team, so the internal staff was changing and people were being moved from brands with less than stellar reputations to ASO. The former CEO left mid-2014, which likely left a leadership and responsibility gap. ASO could probably run on auto pilot through the end of 2014, but over time having no champion for your brand in upper management eventually will come back to hurt the brand when decisions get made based on simple economics.

Once 2015 rolled around, the service had noticeably declined. The overall rating for A Small Orange in 2015 was 43% (only using 2015 data). For years, they had been in the 70's. It also ended the year with a massive outage for most, if not all, of their VPS customers which has been going on since Christmas. I personally received multiple messages from users of this site asking about what was happening and alerting me to this decline in service quality.

ASO was also responsible for the Arvixe migration that went very poorly and caused the Arvixe brand to tank. I'm not sure why EIG doesn't have a dedicated migration team to handle these type of moves considering how many acquisitions they go through and how large a role it plays in their growth strategy. But that's a whole separate issue.
It's with great disappointment that I have to admit, the A Small Orange that played such a huge role in the founding and success of Review Signal and provided a great service to many thousands of customers is dead. It's become another hollow EIG brand where the quality has gone down to mediocre levels. And that seems perfectly ok to them, because it's probably more profitable for their bottom line.

Going Forward

This story has had a profound impact on Review Signal. One thing that it made painfully obvious is that the ranking algorithm needs its first update since inception. The current ranking treats every review equally. Which was great when this site launched, because time didn't have any opportunity to be a factor yet. But as this site continues to move forward, I need to acknowledge that a significant amount of time has passed since launch and today. A review from the beginning of Review Signal isn't as relevant as one from this past week in determining the current quality of a web hosting company. A Small Orange right now shows up around 64% which is artificially high because of their long history of good service and it hasn't been brought down yet by the marginally small (by time scale) decline of the past year. But it's painfully clear that it's not a 64% rating company anymore.

Another thing to note is the graphs here all used a simpler calculation [Pos / (Pos + Neg)] to calculate rating without duplicate filtering. What this means is the difference between the rating here and the actual rating on the live site is a measure of the degree people are being positive or negative about a company. If the rating here is higher than the published, it means people are saying on average, more than one good thing about the same company. If the rating is below (as is in most if not all cases here), it means people are are saying more than one negative thing about the company. I'm not sure if this will factor into a new algorithm, but it is something to consider. My intuition says you would see it hinge around 50%, those companies above would likely have more positive supporters, and those below would have detractors.

In the coming months I will try to figure out a better way to generate the ranking number that more fairly represents the current state of a company. My initial thought is to use some sort of time discounting, so that the older the review, the less weight it would carry in the rankings. If anyone has experience working with this or wants to propose/discuss ideas, please reach out - comment here, email me, or tweet @ReviewSignal.

LiquidWeb NPS Scores vs LiquidWeb Review Signal Rating

Yesterday (August 18, 2015), LiquidWeb [Reviews] sent out a press release announcing its NPS Score:

"...its [LiquidWeb] Net Promoter Score reached an all-time high of 74 at the end of Q2 2015. This represents a "best-in-class" rating in the consumer-driven metric. Liquid Web's score is particularly noteworthy as scores above 60 are extremely rare in the Web Hosting industry, where average scores historically hover in the single-digit realm. Regardless of industry, a score of 74 - on top of Liquid Web's confirmed 12-month rolling average of 67 - is strongly indicative of excellent customer satisfaction."

The further explain how NPS is measured:

"Net Promoter Score (or NPS®) is the result of a 3rd party study on customers' direct feedback and gauges their likelihood to recommend a business's products or services. The results calculated the percentage of Liquid Web's customers who qualify as "promoters" (rating the company 9 or 10 on a 0-to-10 point scale) minus the percentage who are "detractors" (rating 6 or lower). Scores can range from -100 to +100 with scores of +50 and higher considered a "best-in-class" customer service level."

NPS is fairly well known in the marketing and branding world as a way to measure how a company is doing. In fact, it's something I was studying while working on the technology that powers Review Signal in graduate school. The boiled down version of it is, the greater the percentage of people who speak your praises versus the percentage of people who say negative things about your company is a measurement of how well your service is perceived.

What's interesting about a company publishing their NPS score is that I can compare it to the data of people saying good and bad things publicly that I track here at Review Signal. There are some differences in how NPS is measured versus how I measure at Review Signal. Some of the bigger differences being a 1-10 scale in NPS versus the binary (Good/Bad) on Review Signal and what type of messages are being looked at. Review Signal looks at all kinds of messages people publicly post while NPS would generally be done in a survey of customers. [If you're curious how/what Review Signal measures, it's all publicly explained at https://reviewsignal.com/howitworks]

So without further ado, the numbers. LiquidWeb's all time high is 74 and their 12 month average is a 67. On Review Signal, LiquidWeb have a lifetime 70% rating. Putting them squarely within their publicly disclosed NPS rating.

liquidweb_stats_box

A lot of people question web hosting reviews and I constantly have to question what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. It's a very rare event when I'm given an external metric that I can compare Review Signal against. So when it matches up so cleanly, it's a great validation that what I'm doing here is working.

 

WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks (2015)

LoadStormLogo

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

This is the third round of managed WordPress web hosting performance testing. You can see the original here, and the November 2014 version here.

New (9/14/2016) The 2016 WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks are live.

New (8/20/2015) This post is also available as an Infographic.

Companies Tested

A Small Orange [Reviews]
BlueHost [Reviews]
CloudWays [Reviews]
DreamHost [Reviews]
FlyWheel [Reviews]
GoDaddy [Reviews]
Kinsta
LightningBase
MediaTemple [Reviews]
Nexcess
Pagely [Reviews]
Pantheon [Reviews]
Pressidium
PressLabs
SiteGround† [Reviews]
WebHostingBuzz
WPEngine* [Reviews]
WPOven.com
WPPronto

Note:  Pressable and WebSynthesis [Reviews] were not interested in being tested this round and were excluded. WordPress.com dropped out due to technical difficulties in testing their platform (a large multi-site install).

Every company donated an account to test on. All were the WordPress specific plans (e.g. GoDaddy's WordPress option). I checked to make sure I was on what appeared to be a normal server. The exception is WPEngine*. They wrote that I was "moved over to isolated hardware (so your tests don’t cause any issues for other customers) that is in-line with what other $29/month folks use." From my understanding, all testing was done on a shared plan environment with no actual users on the server to share. So this is almost certainly the best case scenario performance wise, so I suspect the results look better than what most users would actually get.

†Tests were performed with SiteGround's proprietary SuperCacher module turned on fully with memcached.

The Products (Click for Full-Size Image)

wordpress_hosting_2015_product_chart

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. I've also included a new and experimental compute and database benchmark. Since it is brand new, it has no bearing on the results but is included for posterity and in the hope that it will lead to another meaningful benchmark in the future.

All tests were performed on an identical WordPress dummy website with the same plugins except in cases where hosts added extra plugins. Each site was monitored for over a month for consistency.

1. LoadStorm

LoadStorm was kind enough to give me unlimited resources to perform load testing on their platform and multiple staff members were involved in designing and testing these WordPress hosts. I created identical scripts for each host to load a site, login to the site and browse the site.  I tested every company up to 2000 concurrent users. Logged in users were designed to break some of the caching and better simulate real user load.

2. Blitz.io

I used Blitz again to compare against previous results. Since the 1000 user test wasn't meaningful anymore, I did a single test for 60 seconds, scaling from 1-2000 users.

3. Uptime (UptimeRobot and StatusCake)

Consistency matters. I wanted to see how well these companies performed over a longer period of time. I used two separate uptime monitoring services over the course of a month to test consistency.

4. 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.

5. WPPerformanceTester

I created a WordPress plugin to benchmark CPU, MySql and WordPress DB performance. It is based on a PHP benchmark script I forked (available on GitHub) and adapted to WordPress. The CPU/MySql benchmarks are testing the compute power. The WordPress component tests actually calling $wpdb and executing insert, select, update and delete queries. This plugin will be open sourced once I clean it up and make it usable for someone beyond myself.

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. I had to ask a lot of companies to disable some security features to perform accurate load tests. Those companies were: DreamHost, Kinsta, LightningBase, Nexcess, Pagely, Pressidium, PressLabs, SiteGround, and WPEngine.

Every company that uses a VPS based platform were standardized around 2GB of memory for their plan (or equivalent) in an effort to make those results more comparable. The exception is DreamHost which uses a VPS platform but uses multiple scaling VPSs.

CloudWays's platform that lets you deploy your WordPress stack to multiple providers: Digital Ocean, Amazon (AWS)'s EC2 servers or Google Compute Engine. I was given a server on each platform of near comparable specs (EC2 Small 1.7GB vs Digital Ocean 2GB vs GCE 1.7GB g1 Small). So CloudWays is listed as CloudWays AWS, CloudWays DO, CloudWays GCE to indicate which provider the stack was running on.

SiteGround contributed a shared and VPS account designated by the Shared or VPS after it.

Results

Load Storm

Since last round didn't have any real issues until 1000 users I skipped all the little tests and began with 100-1000 users. I also did the 500-2000 user test on every company instead of simply disqualifying companies. I ran these tests with an immense amount of help from Phillip Odom at LoadStorm. He spent hours with me, teaching me how to use LoadStorm more effectively, build tests and offering guidance/feedback on the tests themselves.

 Test 1. 100-1000 Concurrent Users over 30 minutes

Name of Test Total Requests Peak RPS Average RPS Peak Response Time(ms) Average Response Time(ms) Total Data Transferred(GB) Peak Throughput(kB/s) Average Throughput(kB/s) Total Errors
A Small Orange 114997 90.27 61.83 1785 259 2.41 1878.14 1295.82 0
BlueHost 117569 93.62 63.21 15271 2522 5.41 4680.6 2909.16 23350
CloudWays AWS 138176 109.1 74.29 15086 397 7.15 6016.88 3844.49 44
CloudWays DO 139355 109.88 74.92 2666 321 7.21 5863.82 3876.3 0
CloudWays GCE 95114 76.22 52.84 15220 7138 3.63 3247.38 2014.92 23629
DreamHost 143259 113.57 77.02 15098 314 7.1 6136.75 3815.73 60
FlyWheel 128672 101.98 69.18 9782 571 7 6197.92 3764.6 333
GoDaddy 134827 104.6 72.49 15084 352 7.49 6368.32 4028.45 511
Kinsta 132011 102.98 70.97 3359 229 7.35 6078.95 3951.75 0
LightningBase 123522 100.73 68.62 4959 308 6.53 5883.15 3626.2 4
MediaTemple 134278 105.72 74.6 15096 363 7.45 6397.68 4140.7 640
Nexcess 131422 104.47 70.66 7430 307 7.17 6256.08 3854.27 0
Pagely 87669 70.8 47.13 7386 334 5.75 5090.11 3091.06 3
Pantheon 135560 106.42 72.88 7811 297 7.24 5908.27 3890.83 0
Pressidium 131234 103.03 70.56 7533 352 7.23 6092.36 3889.64 0
PressLabs 132931 107.43 71.47 10326 306 3.66 3264.02 1968.98 0
SiteGround Shared 137659 111.35 74.01 7480 843 6.85 5565.02 3683.04 111
SiteGround VPS 130993 103.45 70.43 15074 310 7.17 6061.82 3855.86 19
WebHostingBuzz
WPEngine 148744 117.15 79.97 15085 206 7.32 6224.06 3935.35 4
WPOven.com 112285 96.58 60.37 15199 2153 5.78 5680.23 3108.94 5594
WPPronto 120148 99.08 64.6 15098 681 5.61 4698.51 3018.33 19295

Discussion of Load Storm Test 1 Results

Most companies were ok with this test, but a few didn't do well: BlueHost, CloudWays GCE, WPOven and WPPronto. FlyWheel, GoDaddy and Media Temple had a couple spikes but nothing too concerning. I was actually able to work with someone at DreamHost this time and bypass their security features and their results look better than last time. I am also excited that we got PressLabs working this time around after the difficulties last round.

In general, the 1000 user test isn't terribly exciting, 7/21 companies got perfect scores with no errors. Another 6 didn't have more than 100 errors. Again, this test pointed out some weak candidates but really didn't do much for the upper end of the field.

Test 2. 500 - 2000 Concurrent Users over 30 Minutes

Note: Click the company name to see full test results.

Total Requests Peak RPS Average RPS Peak Response Time(ms) Average Response Time(ms) Total Data Transferred(GB) Peak Throughput(kB/s) Average Throughput(kB/s) Total Errors
A Small Orange 242965 181.62 130.63 15078 411 5.09 3844.54 2737 1
BlueHost 201556 166.83 111.98 15438 8186 5.32 5229.07 2953.17 93781
CloudWays AWS 261050 195.23 145.03 15245 2076 13.13 9685.95 7296.4 11346
CloudWays DO 290470 218.17 161.37 15105 532 14.87 12003.3 8262.77 1189
CloudWays GCE 193024 147.22 107.24 15168 8291 4.72 4583.86 2622.85 93821
DreamHost 303536 232.27 163.19 15100 442 14.95 12619.67 8039.54 210
FlyWheel 253801 202.15 136.45 15218 1530 11.26 9939.17 6052.49 56387
GoDaddy 283904 221.12 152.64 15025 356 15.74 13731.97 8460.12 1432
Kinsta 276547 214.93 148.68 15025 573 15.16 13444.75 8151.37 1811
LightningBase 263967 211.12 141.92 7250 330 13.82 13061.01 7429.91 18
MediaTemple 286087 223.93 153.81 15093 355 15.83 14532.42 8512.11 1641
Nexcess 277111 207.73 148.98 15087 548 15 12313.29 8066.37 359
Pagely 181740 148.18 97.71 11824 791 11.82 10592.21 6355.09 1
Pantheon 287909 223.02 154.79 15039 276 15.28 13831.45 8217.49 3
Pressidium 278226 208.55 149.58 15044 439 15.28 12453.66 8213.63 12
PressLabs 280495 214.07 150.8 8042 328 7.66 6267.46 4118.34 0
SiteGround Shared 301291 231.93 161.98 15052 557 14.76 12799.09 7934.03 1837
SiteGround VPS 279109 209.67 150.06 12777 374 15.21 12506.79 8178.5 20
WebHostingBuzz
WPEngine 316924 241.67 170.39 7235 285 15.52 12989.23 8341.47 3
WPOven.com 213809 169.97 118.78 15268 4442 8.81 7153.5 4894.98 35292
WPPronto 258092 206.53 143.38 15246 539 10.85 9483.74 6026.26 76276

Discussion of Load Storm Test 2 Results 

The previous companies that struggled ( BlueHost, CloudWays GCE, WPOven and WPPronto) didn't improve, which is to be expected. FlyWheel which had a few spikes ran into more serious difficulties and wasn't able to withstand the load. CloudWays AWS ended up failing, but their Digital Ocean machine spiked but was able to handle the load.

The signs of load were much more apparent this round with a lot more spikes from many more companies. GoDaddy and Media Temple who also had spikes in the first test, had spikes again but seemed to be able to withstand the load.  Kinsta spiked early but was stable for the duration of the test. SiteGround Shared had a steady set of small spikes but didn't fail.

Nobody had the same level of perfection as last time with no spike in response times. Only one company managed an error-less run this time (PressLabs) but many achieved similar results, like A Small Orange went from 0 errors to 1, Pantheon went from 0 to 3 and Pagely had only 1 error, again.

The biggest change that occurred was WPEngine. It went from failing on the 1000 user test to having one of the better runs in the 2000 user test. I have to emphasize it was a shared plan on isolated hardware though with no competition for resources.

Blitz.io

 Test 1. 1-2000 Concurrent Users over 60 seconds

Blitz Test 1. Quick Results Table

Note: Click the company name to see full test results.

Company Hits Errors Timeouts Average Hits/Second Average Response Time Fastest Response Slowest Response
A Small Orange 51023 56 280 850 115 72 285
BlueHost 37373 475 2102 623 338 124 979
CloudWays AWS 56946 737 74 949 13 3 73
CloudWays DO 52124 1565 1499 869 35 23 87
CloudWays GCE 50463 1797 782 841 96 92 138
DreamHost 58584 1 0 978 4 4 4
FlyWheel 49960 3596 2022 833 30 24 140
GoDaddy 29611 26024 18 494 165 103 622
Kinsta 57723 1 0 962 20 20 21
LightningBase 54448 1 4 907 81 81 81
MediaTemple 29649 25356 126 494 162 104 1103
Nexcess 38616 4924 2200 644 221 70 414
Pagely 58722 1 0 979 3 2 5
Pantheon 55814 112 9 930 52 52 54
Pressidium 47567 1 9 793 233 233 234
PressLabs 58626 0 0 977 5 4 6
SiteGround Shared 49127 1123 1 819 172 171 178
SiteGround VPS 35721 75 4371 595 238 82 491
WebHostingBuzz
WPEngine 56277 827 1 938 27 21 70
WPOven.com 55027 10 2 917 69 68 71
WPPronto 54921 99 29 915 69 68 72

blitz_summary_graph

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?

DreamHost, Kinsta, LightningBase, Pagely, Pantheon, Pressidium, PressLabs, WPOven, WPPronto all performed near perfect. There's nothing more to say for these companies other than they did excellent.

Who had some minor issues?

A Small Orange started showing signs of load towards the end. CloudWays AWS had a spike and started to show signs of load towards the end. SiteGround Shared had a spike at the end that ruined a very beautiful looking run otherwise. WPEngine started to show signs of load towards the end of the test.

Who had some major issues?

BlueHost, CloudWays DO, CloudWays GCE, FlyWheel, GoDaddy, MediaTemple, Nexcess, and SiteGround VPS had some major issues. The CloudWays platform pushed a ton of requests (the only companies over 50,000) but also had a lot of errors and timeouts. The rest were below 50,000 (although FlyWheel was only a hair behind) and also had a lot of errors and timeouts. SiteGround VPS might be an example of how shared resources can get better performance versus dedicated resources. GoDaddy and Media Temple have near identical performance (again, it's the same technology I believe). Both look perfect until near the end where they crash and start erroring out. Nexcess just shows load taking its toll.

Uptime Monitoring

Both uptime monitoring solutions were third party providers that offer free services. All the companies were monitored over an entire month+ (May-June 2015).

Uptime Robot

Uptime (30 Day)
A Small Orange 100
BlueHost 100
CloudWays AWS 100
CloudWays DO 100
CloudWays GCE 100
DreamHost 94.06
FlyWheel 100
GoDaddy 100
Kinsta 100
LightningBase 100
MediaTemple 100
Nexcess 100
Pagely 100
Pantheon 99.94
Pressidium 100
PressLabs 100
SiteGround Shared 100
SiteGround VPS 100
WebHostingBuzz 42.9
WPEngine 100
WPOven.com 100
WPPronto 100

At this point, I will finally address the odd elephant in the blog post. WebHostingBuzz has empty lines for all the previous tests. Why? Because their service went down and never came back online. I was told that I put an incorrect IP address for the DNS. However, that IP worked when I started and was the IP address I was originally given (hence the 42% uptime, it was online when I started testing). It took weeks to even get a response and once I corrected the IP, all it ever got was a configuration error page from the server. I've not received a response yet about this issue and have written them off as untestable.

The only other company that had any major issue was DreamHost. I'm not sure what happened, but they experienced some severe downtime while I was testing the system and returned an internal server error for 42 hours.

Every other company had 99.9% uptime or better.

StatusCake

StatusCake had a slightly longer window available from their reporting interface, so the percentages are a little bit different and noticeable on companies like DreamHost.

StatusCake Availability (%) Response Time (ms)
A Small Orange 99.96 0.21
BlueHost 99.99 0.93
CloudWays AWS 100 0.76
CloudWays DO 100 0.47
CloudWays GCE 100 0.69
DreamHost 97.14 1.11
FlyWheel 100 1.25
GoDaddy 100 0.65
Kinsta 100 0.71
LightningBase 99.99 0.61
MediaTemple 100 1.38
Nexcess 100 0.61
Pagely 99.99 0.47
Pantheon 99.98 0.56
Pressidium 99.99 0.94
PressLabs 100 0.65
SiteGround Shared 100 0.54
SiteGround VPS 100 0.9
WebHostingBuzz 58.1 0.67
WPEngine 100 0.71
WPOven.com 100 0.73
WPPronto 100 1.19

The results mirror UptimeRobot pretty closely. WebHostingBuzz and DreamHost had issues. Everyone else is 99.9% or better.

StatusCake uses a real browser to track response time as well. Compared to last year, everything looks faster. Only two companies were sub one second average response time last year. This year, almost every company maintained sub one second response time, even the company that had servers in Europe (Pressidium).

WebPageTest.org

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

Company Dulles,VA Miami, FL Denver, CO Los Angeles, CA Average
A Small Orange 0.624 0.709 0.391 0.8 0.631
BlueHost 0.909 1.092 0.527 0.748 0.819
CloudWays AWS 0.627 0.748 0.694 1.031 0.775
CloudWays DO 0.605 0.751 0.635 1.075 0.7665
CloudWays GCE 0.787 0.858 0.588 1.019 0.813
DreamHost 0.415 0.648 0.522 0.919 0.626
FlyWheel 0.509 0.547 0.594 0.856 0.6265
GoDaddy 0.816 1.247 0.917 0.672 0.913
Kinsta 0.574 0.559 0.587 0.903 0.65575
LightningBase 0.544 0.656 0.5 0.616 0.579
MediaTemple 0.822 0.975 0.983 0.584 0.841
Nexcess 0.712 0.871 0.593 0.795 0.74275
Pagely 0.547 0.553 0.665 0.601 0.5915
Pantheon 0.627 0.567 0.474 0.67 0.5845
Pressidium 0.777 0.945 0.898 1.05 0.9175
PressLabs 0.542 1.257 0.723 0.732 0.8135
SiteGround Shared 0.721 0.85 0.478 0.808 0.71425
SiteGround VPS 0.667 0.651 0.515 0.657 0.6225
WebHostingBuzz 0
WPEngine 0.648 0.554 0.588 0.816 0.6515
WPOven.com 0.624 0.574 0.556 0.595 0.58725
WPPronto 0.698 0.809 0.443 0.721 0.66775

In line with the StatusCake results, the WebPageTest results were shockingly fast. The first time I did this testing, only one company had a sub one second average response time. Last year about half the companies were over one second average response time. The fastest last year was LightningBase at 0.7455 seconds. This year that would be in the slower half of the results. The fastest this year was LightningBase again at 0.579 seconds. The good news for consumers appears to be that everyone is getting faster and your content will get to consumers faster than ever no matter who you choose.

WPPerformanceTester

Company PHP Ver MySql Ver PHP Bench WP Bench MySql
A Small Orange 5.5.24 5.5.42-MariaDB 13.441 406.67 LOCALHOST
BlueHost 5.4.28 5.5.42 12.217 738.01 LOCALHOST
CloudWays AWS 5.5.26 5.5.43 10.808 220.12 LOCALHOST
CloudWays DO 5.5.26 5.5.43 11.888 146.76 LOCALHOST
CloudWays GCE 5.5.26 5.5.43 10.617 192.2 LOCALHOST
DreamHost 5.5.26 5.1.39 27.144 298.6 REMOTE
FlyWheel 5.5.26 5.5.43 12.082 105.76 LOCALHOST
GoDaddy 5.4.16 5.5.40 11.846 365.76 REMOTE
Kinsta 5.6.7 10.0.17-MariaDB 11.198 619.58 LOCALHOST
LightningBase 5.5.24 5.5.42 12.369 768.64 LOCALHOST
MediaTemple 5.4.16 5.5.37 12.578 333.33 REMOTE
Nexcess 5.3.24 5.6.23 12.276 421.76 LOCALHOST
Pagely 5.5.22 5.6.19 10.791 79.79 REMOTE
Pantheon 5.5.24 5.5.337-MariaDB 12.669 194.86 REMOTE
Pressidium 5.5.23 5.6.22 11.551 327.76 LOCALHOST
PressLabs 5.6.1 5.5.43 8.918 527.7 REMOTE
SiteGround Shared 5.5.25 5.5.40 14.171 788.02 LOCALHOST
SiteGround VPS 5.6.99 5.5.31 11.156 350.51 LOCALHOST
WebHostingBuzz
WPEngine 5.5.9 5.6.24 10.97 597.37 LOCALHOST
WPOven.com 5.3.1 5.5.43 11.6 570.13 LOCALHOST
WPPronto 5.5.25 5.5.42 11.485 889.68 LOCALHOST

This test is of my own creation. I created a plugin designed to test a few aspects of performance and get information about the system it was running on. The results here have no bearing on how I am evaluating these companies because I don't have enough details to make these meaningful. My goal is to publish the plugin and get people to submit their own benchmarks though. This would allow me to get a better picture of the real performance people are experiencing from companies and track changes over time. The server details it extracted may be of some interest to many people. Most companies were running PHP 5.5 or later but a few aren't. Most companies seem to be running normal MySql, but ASO, Kinsta and Pantheon all are running MariaDB which many people think has better performance. Considering where all three of those companies ended up performing on these tests, it's not hard to believe. There seems to be an even split between running MySql localhost (BlueHost, LightningBase, Nexcess, SiteGround, WPEngine, WPPronto) or having a remote MySql server (DreamHost, GoDaddy, MediaTemple, Pagely, Pantheon, PressLabs).

The PHP Bench was fascinating because most companies were pretty close with the exception of DreamHost which took nearly twice as long to execute.

The WP Bench was all over the place. Pagely had by far the slowest result but on every load test and speed test they went through, they performed with near perfect scores. The test simulates 1000 $wpdb calls doing the primary mysql functions (insert, select, update, delete). Other companies had outrageously fast scores like WPPronto or BlueHost but didn't perform anywhere near as well as Pagely on more established tests.

For those reasons, I don't think this benchmark is usable yet. But I would love feedback and thoughts on it from the community and the hosting companies themselves.

Attempting VPS Parity in Testing

One substantial change to the testing methodology this round was that all VPS providers were tested with the same amount of memory (2 GB Ram). Since the most interesting tests were the load tests I have only graphed them below:

2gb-vps-loadstorm2gb-vps-blitz

The LoadStorm test had a huge spread in terms of performance. The Google Compute Engine server from CloudWays was by far the worst (an issue we touched on before that it's not a true VPS with dedicated resources). FlyWheel and WPOven also struggled to keep up with the LoadStorm test. Others like ASO, CloudWays DO, Kinsta, and SiteGround handled the test with minimal issues. On the other hand, it's very interesting to see how fairly consistent most of the VPSs perform in the Blitz test between 50,000 and roughly 55,000 hits. The error rates are a bit interesting though because this hardware should be about as close to the same as possible.

The easier result to explain is the Blitz performance. It is testing the ability of these companies to spit back a single page from cache (most likely Varnish or Nginx). So that level of caching seems to be pretty close to parity.

The LoadStorm test shows a wide difference in performance. The LoadStorm test is far more comprehensive and designed to bust through some caching and hit other parts of the stack. It really elucidates the difference in company's ability to tune and optimize their servers from both software and hardware perspectives.

Conclusion

Every service seems to have their issues somewhere if you look hard enough. I try to avoid injecting my personal opinion and bias as much as possible. As I've added more companies to the testing, drawing a line between which companies performed in the top tier and which did not has become blurrier. The closest test was the LoadStorm 2000 test where multiple companies (CloudWays DO, GoDaddy, Kinsta, Media Temple, SiteGround Shared) were on the absolute edge of being top tier providers. Last time I picked an arbitrary 0.5% error rate and these companies were all around the 0.5-0.7% mark. Last year the difference was quite large after that point. I openly admit to having personal connections with people at nearly all these companies and my ability to draw the line in this instance could be considered questionable. So this year I deferred the judgment to an independent party, Phillip Odom at LoadStorm, to determine what he thought of the performances. Phillip is the Director of Performance Engineering at LoadStorm and he has more experience with load testing and the LoadStorm product than almost anyone I know. His job was to determine if the performance could be considered top tier or not. He said a couple spikes early but a stable performance otherwise seemed top tier. The difference in 1/100 of a percent didn't seem like a big deal, especially over a 30 minute test where the issues were at the start as it ramped up to 2000 concurrent users. So the companies on the edge that exhibited that behavior were considered top tier for the LoadStorm test.

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 is claimed only 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 tested mostly entry level plans OR 2GB RAM plans for VPS providers). I will also provide a short summary and discussion of the results for each provider.

Top Tier WordPress Hosting Performance

IMG_24072015_210625

A Small Orange,  Kinsta, LightningBasePagely, Pantheon, PressidiumPressLabs

Each of these companies performed with little to no failures in all tests and exhibited best in class performance for WordPress hosting.

Honorable Mentions

CloudWays gets an honorable mention because it's Digital Ocean (DO) instance performed quite well overall. It had some issue with the Blitz test at the end but still managed to push through over 52,000 successful hits. It's Amazon stack performed better on the Blitz test but not as well on LoadStorm. I'm not sure why the performance of identical stacks is differing across tests so much between AWS/DO but they improved dramatically since the last test and are on the cusp of becoming a top tier provider.

SiteGround's Shared hosting also gets an honorable mention. It was on that edge for both LoadStorm and Blitz. It had one spike at the end of the Blitz test which caused it's error rate to spike but the response times didn't move.

WPEngine gets an honorable mention because they performed well on most tests. They struggled and were showing signs of load on the Blitz test though that kept them out of the top tier of providers.

Individual Host Analysis

A Small Orange [Reviews]

Another top tier performance from ASO. They didn't really struggle much with any of the tests. Although their performances were slightly below their results last time, it's hard to beat things like having zero errors during LoadStorm's test. It's become easier to launch the LEMP VPS stack which is also nice. All in all, the experience was in-line with what I would expect from a company that has one of the highest support ratings on our site.

BlueHost [Reviews]

Improved against their last results but well below par in the performance department. The pricing and performance just don't match yet.

CloudWays [Reviews]

CloudWays is always a fun company to test. They added another provider since their last test: Google Compute Engine (GCE). Their Digital Ocean and Amazon performances both went up substantially which tells me they've made major improvements on their WordPress stack. We did run into some huge flaws in GCE though which aren't CloudWays's fault. We used the g1.small server on GCE and ran into huge performance walls that were repeatable and inexplicable from a software standpoint. Google was contacted and we learned that the "g1 family has "fractional" CPU, meaning that not a full virtual CPU is assigned to a server. This also means that the CPU is shared with other VMs and "capped" if usage exceeds a certain amount. This is exactly what happened during the load test. The VM runs out of CPU cycles and has to wait for new ones being assigned on the shared CPU to continue to server requests." Essentially, it's not a real VPS with dedicated resources and I was told a comparable would be N1.standard1 which is 2-3x the price of the AWS/DO comparables servers. It doesn't make GCE a very attractive platform to host on if you're looking for performance and cost efficiency. CloudWays did show major improvements this round and earned themselves that honorable mention. They were by far the most improved provider between tests.

DreamHost [Reviews]

DreamPress improved their performance a lot over last round. In fact they did fantastically well on every load test once I got the opportunity to actually work with their engineers to bypass the security measures. However, they failed pretty badly on the uptime metrics. I have no idea what happened but I experienced a huge amount of downtime and ran into some very strange errors. If it wasn't for the severe downtime issues, DreamPress could have been in the top tier.

FlyWheel [Reviews]

FlyWheel were excellent on every test except the final seconds of the Blitz test. Although they were just shy of the top tier, they are showing a lot of consistency in very good performance getting an honorable mention the last two times. Just some minor performance kinks to work out. Not bad at all for a company with the best reviews of any company Review Signal has ever tracked. FlyWheel is definitely worth a look.

GoDaddy [Reviews]

GoDaddy's performance declined this round. It struggled with the Blitz test this time around. I'm not sure what changed, but it handled Blitz far worse than before and LoadStorm slightly worse. The performance between GoDaddy and Media Temple again looked near identical with the same failure points on Blitz. At the retail $6.99 price though, it's still a lot of bang for your buck compared to most providers who are in the $20-30/month range.

Kinsta

Kinsta had another top tier performance. There was a slight decline in performance but that could be explained by the fact we tested different products. Kinsta's test last year was a Shared plan they no longer offer. This year it was a 2GB VPS that we tested. Dedicated resources are great but sometimes shared gives you a little bit extra with good neighbors which could explain the difference. Either way, Kinsta handled all of the tests exceptionally well and earned itself top tier status.

LightningBase

LightningBase is another consistent performer on our list. Another test, another top tier rank earned. It had ridiculous consistency with the Blitz test where the fastest and slowest response were both 81ms. A textbook performance at incredible value of $9.95/month.

Media Temple [Reviews]

Media Temple and GoDaddy are still running the same platform by all indications. Media Temple offers a more premium set of features like Git, WP-CLI, Staging but the performance was identical. It declined from last time and had the same bottlenecks as GoDaddy.

Nexcess

I feel like copy and paste is the right move for Nexcess. Nexcess's performance was excellent in the Load Storm testing. However, it collapsed during the Blitz load testing. This was the same behavior as last year. It handled the Blitz test better this year, but still not well enough. Nexcess ends up looking like a middle of the pack web host instead of a top tier one because of the Blitz test, again.

Pagely [Reviews]

Is the extra money worth it? Only if you value perfection. Pagely came through again with an amazing set of results. It handled more hits than anyone in the Blitz test at a staggering 58,722 hits in 60 seconds (979 hits/second). We're approaching the theoretical maximum at this point of 1000 hits/second. And Pagely did it with 1 error and a 3ms performance difference from the fastest to slowest responses. The original managed WordPress company continues to put on dominant performance results.

Pantheon [Reviews]

Another test, another top tier performance. Just another day being one of the most respected web hosts in the space. Everyone I talk to wants to compare their company to these guys. It's obvious why, they've built a very developer/agency friendly platform that looks nothing like anything else on the market. It also performs fantastically well. They didn't perform the absolute best on any particular test but they were right in the top echelon with minimal errors on everything.

Pressidium

Pressidium was a new entrant and it did exceptionally well. They are UK based and suffered slightly on some performance tests because of latency between the UK and the US testing locations used. For example, the Blitz testing showed fewer  responses, but their total of 10 errors shows pretty clearly that it was a throughput across the Atlantic ocean issue more than their service struggling because it had a 1 second spread from the fastest to slowest response. Incredibly consistent performance. Despite their geographic disadvantage in this testing they still managed to keep a sub-one second response from four US testing locations in the WebPageTest testing. Overall, a top tier performance from a competitor from across the pond.

PressLabs

We finally got PressLabs working with the LoadStorm testing software. And it was worth the wait. They were the only company to handle the 2000 logged in user test with zero errors. Combined with the second fastest Blitz test (again without a single error) puts PressLabs firmly in the top tier as you would expect from the most expensive offering tested this round.

SiteGround [Reviews]

It was nice that we finally worked out the security issues in testing with LoadStorm on SiteGround. SiteGround's Shared hosting platform bounced back after last years testing. Their Blitz performance went up substantially and put it back into the honorable mention category. The VPS performance was slightly worse on the Blitz test, but noticeably better on the much longer LoadStorm test. This could be a good example of when Shared hosting can outperform dedicated resources because Shared hosting generally has access to a lot more resources than smaller VPS plans. Depending on how they are setup and managed, you can often get more burst performance from Shared over a small VPS. But in the longer term, dedicated resources are generally more stable (and guaranteed). SiteGround's Shared hosting definitely helps keep the lower priced options with excellent performance a reality for many.

WebHostingBuzz

WebHostingBuzz asked to be included in this testing and then completely disintegrated to the point I couldn't even test them. I still never heard anything from them for months. I would like to know what happened, but until I actually get a response, this one will remain a bizarre mystery.

WPEngine [Reviews]

This is a difficult one to write about. There are definitely performance improvements that occurred. They jumped up to an honorable mention. Their engineers actually worked to resolve some security issues that hindered previous testing. My biggest concern is the isolated shared environment I was on. A shared environment has a lot more resources than many dedicated environments and I was isolated away to prevent the testing from affecting any customers (which is a reasonable explanation). But that means I was likely to be getting the absolute dream scenario in terms of resource allocation, so a normal user would see this in the very best case scenario. So WPEngine is certainly capable of delivering better performance than they did in the past, but I do have concerns about the reasonable expectation of a new user getting the same results.

WPOven

WPOven was another new entrant to this testing and they performed well in a couple tests. They flew through the Blitz test without any issues. Their WebPageTest results were one of the absolute fastest in an already fast pack. Their uptime was perfect. They did struggle with the LoadStorm tests though both at the 1000 and 2000 user levels. It's nice to see more competitors enter the space, WPOven put on a good first show, but there is still some serious improvements to make to catch up to the front of the field.

WPPronto

Another new entrant who ran into a severe testing issue which caused me to re-do all the tests. The server was given more resources than the plan specified while debugging some security issues. The results on the extra resources were on par with some of the top in the field, but not representative of what the actual plan would be able to achieve. I didn't believe it was malicious (they were quite transparent about what happened), so I gave the benefit of the doubt and re-did all testing in a closely monitored condition. With the default resource allocation, WPPronto couldn't withstand LoadStorm's test. The results were pretty easy to see in the 508 errors it started to throw on the properly resourced plan. It ran out of processes to handle new connections as expected. As with all new entrants that don't leap to the forefront, I hope they continue to improve their service and do better next round.

 

Thank You

Thank you to all the companies for participating and helping make this testing a reality. Thanks to LoadStorm and specifically Phillip Odom for all his time and the tools to perform this testing. Thanks to Peter at Kinsta for offering his design support.

 

Updates

8/13/2015 : The wrong PDF was linked for DreamHost and its Blitz numbers were adjusted to reflect their actual performance. This change has no effect on how they were ranked since the issue was with downtime.

 

Arvixe Logo

Arvixe Web Hosting Reviews

I'm pleased to announce in our effort to maintain the best web hosting reviews, we've added yet another company to our database here at Review Signal. Introducing Arvixe Web Hosting Reviews. They are one of the few companies we track that offers Windows web hosting. They also offer nearly every type of hosting: Shared, Reseller, VPS, Cloud, and Dedicated.

Arvixe was purchased by Endurance International Group in October 2014. EIG is the parent company of many brands listed on Review Signal: A Small Orange, BlueHost, HostGator, HostMonster, iPage, JustHost, and NetFirms. EIG brands span the gamut in terms of ratings at Review Signal. A Small Orange is one of the top rated companies we track. Unfortunately, Arvixe joins the majority of the EIG brands on the lower half of our ratings.

See Arvixe's Overall Rating over the past year below:

Arvixe_march_2015

Check Out Arvixe Web Hosting Reviews

 

Site 5 Web Hosting Logo

Site5 Web Hosting Reviews

I'm pleased to announce we've added Site5 on Review Signal today.

Site5 currently has 707 reviews, with 431 positive ones giving it a 61% overall rating. That makes Site5 our 4th highest rated Shared Webhost. They also focus on Reseller and Managed VPS hosting.

You can see Site5's performance over the past year below:

Site5-trend2015-03-24

Read Site5 Reviews

 

Playing With Data for Fun and Profit (SlideShare Presentation)

Original post from my personal blog

I was asked to talk at Howard University to their digital business class, which focuses on the use of Social Media, Mobile Apps & Platforms, Data Analytics, and Cloud Computing as strategic assets to be utilized in business.

If anyone is curious to learn about the history of Review Signal and where the idea came:

I also built a demo to let the students learn about and play with sentiment analysis in real-time. It used the Movie Review corpus from Cornell. It's a very primitive keyword based system but I thought illustrated the concept well.

Sentiment Analysis Demo

The demo is the close to the first try I made at sentiment analysis. What is in use at Review Signal is infinitely more complex, but if you're curious to learn about sentiment analysis and prefer visual learning, I think it suits that purpose well.

Amazon Giveaway Marketing Results and Advice

Amazon Launched Amazon Giveaway platform one week ago. I immediately thought it would be interesting to try out as a marketing channel. I've never done a giveaway. Although multiple hosting companies have offered to give free plans if I advertise their services; which didn't seem ethical given what we do.

Here's what I learned.

What to Give Away?

The first question is what product would correlate well with the service I'm offering (web hosting reviews). I looked at web hosting books and that was about the only thing related on web hosting on Amazon. But they looked terrible and I wouldn't want one, so why would my audience? So I had to get creative. I decided the easiest thing for me would be flash drives, a very common promotional item. Maybe I could spin a message about backing up your data (I honestly don't think the product selection and message was that good). I think the more tailored the giveaway is to your company the better. If you can giveaway your own product that would be the best.

How Amazon Giveaway Works

Basically, you just browse around Amazon looking for a product that says

setup-amazon-giveaway

Then you choose how you want to run it. There are currently two options. One gives away X items to the first N people who click. The second option gives away X items to the Nth person to click. I think you would be crazy to use option 1 and I'm not sure why it's even an option. So I will pretend everyone is selecting to giveaway an item for every Nth person.

The second setting is whether it's free or you a visitor to follow you on Twitter. I think a Twitter follow should be the default setting. Otherwise you get nothing for your giveaway beyond people looking at the landing page. You have no idea who they are and have no means to contact them again otherwise.

Then you pay for the X items you are giving away (plus shipping).

The giveaway lasts for one week and you get a refund at the end of any unspent money.

The Marketing

How you market your giveaway probably has the biggest impact on how well it does. There's also probably a correlation with the quality of the giveaway and the targeting of it towards the audience you're after.

Our giveaway did the minimal marketing effort. It was posted on our Facebook page once. I also posted it on Twitter with the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag a few times. It was also posted to Reddit /r/AmazonGiveaways. I didn't use any targeted distribution for my audience, so it was the lowest common denominator of marketing.

However, I got really lucky and @Amazon retweeted me.

AmazonReviewSignal

Which caused this:

amazonRTeffect

And this:

amazonRTanalytics

So lots of followers, but definitely no conversions.

 

The Results

reviewsignal-giveaway

I configured my giveaway to be every 500 people wins and I was willing to give 20 of them away. I only gave away 3 and was refunded $244.76.

Amazon also emailed me some basic analytics (which I can't find on the dashboard)

giveaway-analytics

So the net result was I spent $40.24 to get 1854 followers. Of which, 444 unfollowed me within that week. I started with 357 followers, and now have 1767. So roughly 24% of the followers I bought were worthless and I only really got 1410 real new followers. So the total cost per new follower was 2.8 cents.

I was hoping to get in early on a new product and had to guess about a lot of things without anything to go on. Marketing basics still should apply if you're doing a giveaway. You need to market it towards your audience and giveaway something that they are most likely to care about. You also can't expect great results just by doing the bare minimum. I think I got lucky because Amazon retweeted me (which was one of the hopes of jumping in early, getting early press). But it's nothing to bank on.

If I were going to do it again, I would do it very differently. I wouldn't bother with #AmazonGiveaway hashtag and create a landing page specifically for the purpose. I would highlight what I am giving away and also highlight what Review Signal does. I would probably try to capture an email address before giving someone a link to the giveaway. It's more of a barrier, but also would hopefully filter people most interested in my giveaway (which hopefully would be very targeted towards my audience).

TL;DR Lessons:

  • Choose a product relevant to your company/business
  • Market the giveaway in places where your audience/customers are (not just tweeting #AmazonGiveaway)
  • Capturing Twitter followers is a mediocre reward, you should probably build some type of landing page to convert more users before they get the link to the giveaway

 

For the curious, some more analytics screenshots are below

The full analytics from the Tweet Amazon RT'd.

amazonRTfullanalytics

What the whole engagement/analytics looked like over the period from Twitter Analytics:reviewsignaltwitteranalytics

Amazon VS normal tweets with #AmazonGiveaway hashtagreviewsignaltwitteranalyticsamazontweet

What a normal non-giveaway tweet looked like:reviewsignaltwitteranalyticsnonamazon

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