|Hostwinds standout features|
|Email included||Yes. Web hosting plans include email hosting|
|Average load time||Approximately 700ms|
|Average response||Approximately 450ms|
|Free domain name||Domain name registration is a separate purchase|
|Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) included||No, SSL is an additional purchase|
|Support||24/7 support via email and live chat|
What Are the Pros and Cons of Hostwinds?
Hostwinds’ primary focus is small-scale hosting, and that shows in the plans and pricing structures offered. While Hostwinds does not offer phone support, free domain name system (DNS), or free SSL, both options can be purchased directly from Hostwinds, so you won’t need to go elsewhere. Most other hosting providers only offer these for “free” for the first year and then charge you on renewal.
Hostwinds, in contrast, is very upfront about what is or isn’t included in every plan.
Pros of Hostwinds
- Depth and breadth of options: Multiple plans with numerous sizing options and add-ons means you can find the right hosting for you.
- Mostly upfront and straightforward pricing: Many providers offer an introductory price and obscure the true cost of a service, but I was pleased to find out that while Hostwinds offers introductory pricing, the true cost (after the introductory period) is readily visible.
- Free migration: Every plan — surprisingly, even the dedicated and VPS plans — comes with free migration.
- Application-specific hosting available: It’s a little hidden on Hostwinds’ front page, but when you create a cloud server on your account, there’s a myriad of pre-configured server packages available, including Minecraft. This menu of options is more available after you create an account.
Cons of Hostwinds
- Pricier DNS registration: A .com domain is $16.80 per year at Hostwinds, but these domains can be found cheaper elsewhere.
- Some plan options can be confusing: Each hosting plan only has three size options, and the only thing they vary in is the number of sites supported. But across plans, different features aren’t well-surfaced.
- No phone support: 24/7/year-round email and live chat support are included, but no phone support is provided at any plan level.
- Backups are not included: Hostwinds has a backup feature available but at an extra charge.
1. Depth of hosting plan customization
I was pleased to see all of Hostwinds’ website hosting plans (shared, business, and reseller) offer unlimited bandwidth and storage at their base levels. Each plan has three price points: one, four, and unlimited domains. Having unlimited storage and bandwidth is great because these figures are often difficult to guess when starting, and most (other) hosting providers use these factors to create different pricing tiers.
The business plan adds to the shared plan by including solid-state drive (SSD) disks, CloudFlare, constant monitoring, and the LiteSpeed HTTP server (a highly customized version of Apache).
For VPS hosting and dedicated, choices are similarly precise: Do you want managed or unmanaged, Linux or Windows, and how much server do you want? It’s all laid out very clearly, and selecting an option takes you to a customization page with your option filled in for you.
Cloud hosting provides a menu of central processing unit (CPU) and memory combinations, and dedicated hosting allows you to create a fully customized server with a server builder tool.
2. Many value-added features available
After you create an account, the customer portal reveals several more services and features that you can add onto your plan that aren’t displayed on Hostwinds’ front pages. These include:
- SSD cloud server
- Unmanaged SSD cloud
- Software licenses for virtual private cloud (VPC)
- cPanel licensing
- Monitoring services
- SSL certificates
- DNS name registration and hosting
It’s great to see that if you want one of these services, it’s as easy as adding it to your plan.
Shoutcast, Enterprise Email, and VPN services don’t have any products that Hostwinds sells, but the other categories listed here are full of products and options to add on.
3. 99.9999% uptime with mostly reasonable restrictions
This is a big guarantee of uptime on Hostwinds’ SLA, beating out many competitors. And unlike some other hosting providers that advertise 100% uptime, the restrictions on this 99.9999% (called “six nines” in the industry) uptime are mostly reasonable, quoted below:
- Any scheduled or emergency maintenance
- Any internet service provider (ISP) or other third parties blocking connectivity in any way
- Configurations as set by default or the account owner on a given service
- Actions taken or requested by an account owner
- Suspensions/terminations as resulting from a lack of payment, violations of HostwindsTerms of Service, or possible fraud
Of these conditions, the only two that seem a bit weaselly to me are “… or emergency maintenance” and “third parties blocking connectivity.” I could envision these potentially being used to get out of compensating you in the event of an incident such as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) ) attack, depending on how honest Hostwinds is regarding when to uphold these terms.
The rest of these terms are quite normal and expected, and in my opinion, basically boil down to scheduled maintenance or anything that may be self-inflicted, for instance, if you accidentally delete some key files on your server. Test results suggest a 99.96% true uptime rating over the past 30 days, which doesn’t account for these exclusions, so this number isn’t that much of a surprise.
4. Application-specific cloud hosting
Hostwinds also offers application-specific hosting within its cloud offering. This isn’t the most advertised feature on the homepage, but when selecting a cloud server, you also have the option of several pre-configured server images set up for a specific application. The full list is available within Hostwinds’ cloud control panel after you set up an account.
5. Fast and knowledgeable live chat
While Hostwinds does not offer phone support, it does have live chat and email (ticket-based) support. I asked for a phone number over live chat and couldn’t get one.
But the live chat was very helpful. I got a quick response time (under a minute in every instance) and a solution or answer without being shuffled around to multiple support staff. Most individuals probably won’t miss the lack of phone support.
What Are Some Good Alternatives to Hostwinds?
When comparing Hostwinds to other providers, I selected hosts that offer at least one — if not more — services comparable to those Hostwinds offers in the following priority order:
- Website /shared hosting, including managed WordPress
- VPS and dedicated hosting
- Application-specific hosting
I then considered each provider’s plans, uptime guarantee (if any), and how these compared to Hostwinds’ offerings.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hostwinds
Who owns Hostwinds?
What kind of support does Hostwinds offer?
Where are the Hostwinds servers located?
- Seattle, Washington, U.S.
- Dallas, Texas, U.S.
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
What are the best alternatives to Hostwinds?
How I Rated Hostwinds
Hostwinds is one of those hosting providers offering a bit of everything, but what struck me the most is it doesn’t have a lot of fluff among its plans. While other hosting providers have multiple breakdown levels between plan sizes and quantities, Hostwinds has a fairly flat list of plans and then allows you to add on extra features as you need them.
I was a bit disappointed with the performance primarily, and I had some minor issues with how security is handled with Hostwinds. But I feel like it earned high marks in every other category. Some competitors outperform Hostwinds in some categories, but I’d struggle to say that any hosting providers in the same space as Hostwinds beat the company in every category.
Considering all of this, I feel that Hostwinds has handily earned its 4/5.