Finding a good host for an app can be difficult, and focusing on infrastructure is time-consuming — time you could be developing the app. Many web hosts have a strong focus on making their programs easy-to-use, with a lot of limitations and little freedom for scripting. The constant hovering and hand-holding might leave you feeling a bit irked.
WebFaction was tired of this too and wanted to give programmers a tool that they could have total control over, while still providing great hosting for applications. And that’s how the company brought us its no-nonsense hosting with a versatile API, custom control panel, and support for dozens of programs and scripting languages.
At a first glance, WebFaction seems surprisingly simple. Its home page offers a free trial with a sign-up and a short feature list, and beyond digging into the documentation, that’s all you’re going to get.
But beneath the service, there’s a lot more complexity. This host offers support for Python, Ruby, Git, PHP, and more. If you can think of a scripting or programming language, web framework, or database management system, it probably supports it. And, of course, it offers full shell access.
It’s all fully managed with a weekly backup, an API to automate tasks (rather than using the control panel), and hosting for all the extras like email and DNS. Also, all servers run CentOS 7. While there’s no cPanel, WebFaction developed its own control panel that’s easy to figure out and isn’t missing any features.
What about the plans? Though they come at a flat rate, they’re not the cheapest, but also not unaffordable. The lowest-ranked plan runs on a shared server with just 1 GB RAM. With every plan, the amount of GBs double, as does the price. But everything after that first plan is a cloud server.
While bandwidth will almost never be a concern, even the shared plan coming with a whole terabyte, there might be some issues with RAM or CPU, especially if you choose to host a low-traffic website (such as a WordPress blog) rather than an app.
In short, if you have barely an idea how to program and a lot of the terminology flies over your head, this is not the host for you. There’s little assistance for people who don’t know what they’re doing. This is advanced hosting for developers and programmers, not the average Joe.
However, if you love scripting and automation, and are tired of hand-holding from other web hosts, this is certainly something to take a closer look at.
One way WebFaction shines is in its support. There’s no live chat, just a standard ticket system. But the customer support team seems to respond quickly with helpful answers.
This is a platform built for knowledgeable developers, and the company is staffed with the same.
There’s also a helpful Q&A community. And don’t forget the extensive documentation. The knowledgebase contains hundreds of pages of useful information.
You may find yourself missing live chat, but the options you’re provided with are quick, efficient, and serviceable, and that’s the most important thing.
Why Stay Away?
While there are a ton of great things about WebFaction, for devs in particular, it’s a very specialized kind of host. And as with all niche hosts, there are a few drawbacks, especially if you don’t fall into the target demographic.
It really can’t be stressed enough: this host is for coders — people who are comfortable with a complex environment. CPanel is populated with big buttons that have user-friendly labels. WebFaction’s control panel is plain-text boxes. It’s organized but still very to-the-point.
In other words, there are no helpful tooltips or hand-holding. Just you, a control panel, and a lot of documentation to read through if you get stuck. Plus, even if you could work your way through it, all of the coding languages and other tools that are supported will be entirely lost on you.
If you’re a bit knowledgeable in code but unsure if this is right for you, there is a free trial, and a 60-day money-back guarantee. And if it doesn’t work out, there are plenty of hosts out there without the developer focus.
When it comes to shared hosting, pricing always seems to be low, and WebFaction offers plans priced at higher than the average. And sure, you really can’t whine about a few bucks a month, but when the price doubles with every new tier, that can get costly. Once you start getting into the 8 GB territory, you’re gonna be shelling out some hard cash.
Now, this isn’t unusual for such a niche, targeted host. And for all the programming support it offers, the free backups and the freedom of scripting and automating, it’s certainly no rip-off. Still, for a moderately-intensive website or app, or one that’s growing quickly, things might get expensive — and fast.
Why Stick Around?
For its few faults, WebFaction makes up for it with all the cool features it provides, from how emphatically it sells its tech-based focus, to the great support, to the nice list of extras, it all comes together to form a solid choice in hosting.
Techies Will be Pleased
Just as WebFaction’s strong niche makes it unfit for non-programmers, it does make it perfect for the technically-inclined. Coders who love automation will geek out over the API, and no matter what programming languages you know, they are likely supported here.
The lower-end RAM and CPU specs make it unsuitable for some types of websites, so even if you love everything about this host, it may not be perfect for all projects. For most small websites and apps, however, the first three tiers should cover you quite nicely.
You may be happier with an unmanaged server, but few to no options are taken away from you because of this. It seems that the company takes care of everything that’s needed, but when you want the reins, it hands them over happily.
You might not get a free domain or a CDN, but the addons WebFaction does offer are pretty nice. Along with the dev-tailored ones like shell access and support for lots of tools and languages, you also get free weekly backups and a one-click installer for the likes of Django, WordPress, and so on.
There’s also hosting for email, database, and DNS servers, so that’s never a concern.
You won’t drown in the feature list, but what the company does offer is robust.
Advanced Hosting for Developers
Blogs, businesses, apps, and more. Whatever your project, if you love a complex program, you’re going to love WebFaction even more. The number of tools, programming languages, databases, supported is impressive. And it’s extensively documented API is super versatile.
For a host that doesn’t over-simplify and always gives technical freedom, WebFaction is the go-to. Perfect for developers and wonderful for programmers, and with some reliable and fast hosting in the mix, it makes for a compelling service that deserves a lot more attention.