Web Faction Review: We Decided to Put This Developer-Friendly Hosting to The Test.

Want shared cloud hosting designed explicitly for developers? Looking for support for Ruby, Python, Node.js, PHP, mySQL PostgreSQL and more? Read our review of WebFaction to find out if it's right for you.

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Brenda Barron
Brenda is a freelance writer, business owner, and WordPress enthusiast. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

Last Updated on August 5, 2020

Finding a good hosting provider for an app can be difficult, and focusing on infrastructure is time-consuming — time you could be focused on 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.

Shared Cloud Hosting for Devs

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.

WebFaction hosting review
WebFaction web hosting was created to serve the needs of web developers.

Which Languages and Frameworks are Supported?

This host offers support for a variety of languages, frameworks, databases, and tools.

Here’s a short sample of what users are currently using on WebFaction:

  • Python, Flask, Django, Mezzanine, CherryPy
  • PHP, PEAR, Yii, CakePHP, Zend, CodeIgniter
  • Ruby, Sinatra
  • Perl and CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network)
  • Java, Spring
  • GCC, a C/C++ compiler and make
  • Tomcat/JBoss
  • Erlang
  • Haskell
  • Node.js
  • curl
  • SQLAlchemy
  • MongoDB
  • PostgreSQL, PostGIS
  • SQLite
  • Redis

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.

The Control Panel: Proprietary With a Minimalist Interface

While there’s no cPanel, WebFaction developed its own control panel that’s easy to figure out and isn’t missing any features. When you log in, you will notice the panel is very plain. It has just what you need and nothing more. Which is good, but can be a bit off-putting.

Luckily, their documentation offers plenty of walkthroughs on completing specific tasks.

Overview of Hosting Plans

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.

Each plan offers a range of CPU cores, from a shared multi-core CPU in their lowest plan to up to 8 CPU cores in their most expensive plan.

SSD Storage Plans

SSD (solid state drives) use integrated circuitry to read data, making them more reliable and faster than mechanical arm-based HDDs (hard disk drives).

If speed and reliability matter to you, then you’ll be happy to know WebFaction does offer SSD hosting plans.

Speedy Technical Support

One area where WebFaction shines is in its support. This is a platform built for knowledgeable developers, and the company is staffed with the same.

Expect a Standard Ticket System

There’s no live chat, just a standard ticket system. But the customer support team seems to respond quickly with helpful answers.

There is also an email contact form with the option to tell them what type of help you need, and they aim to answer questions in just a few minutes.

Forums, Q&A, Knowledgebase

They also have community forums, monitored by staff, which offer help on issues like installing and deploying a Flask app or questions about, say, a WSGI app.

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.

For small business owners with developer experience, this more DIY-style support allows you to solve problems on your own or reach out for help if you need it.

WebFaction review
WebFaction has a Twitter account, and it has some content worth checking out. There isn’t a lot of Q&A activity here. Most developers on the platform are likely skilled at finding their own answers to questions via the documentation.

WebFaction is Not Right for You if …

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.

You’re Not a Coder

In short, if you have barely any 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.

Non-Developers Beware

It really can’t be stressed enough: this host is for coders — people who are comfortable with a complex environment.

Love Reading Technical Documentation?

cPanel — a standard control panel offered by web hosts — is populated with big buttons that have user-friendly labels. WebFaction’s control panel is plain-text boxes. There are no pretty graphics. 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.

webfaction api
Excerpt from WebFaction API code: Does this look like your daily reading material? If not, head back to our reviews homepage and select another web host to check out.

If you’re a bit knowledgeable about 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.

See all WebFaction features

Plans and Prices

When it comes to shared hosting, pricing always seems to be low, and WebFaction offers plans priced at higher than the average.

As of August 2018, plans start at $10/month with the most expensive plan going for $240/month.

Comparison Table: What Hosting Plans Does WebFaction Offer?

Hosting Type → Shared Cloud Cloud Cloud Cloud Cloud
RAM: 1 GB 2 GB* 4 GB* 8 GB* 12 GB* 24 GB*
CPU: Shared multi-core CPU 1 CPU core 2 CPU cores 4 CPU cores 6 CPU cores 8 CPU cores
SSD storage: 100 GB 15 GB* 45 GB* 90 GB* 180 GB* 360 GB*
Bandwidth: 1 TB 1.5TB 2 TB 3 TB 4 TB 5 TB
Managed server?
Email hosting included?
Database hosting included?

Starred items in table: The host states that “RAM and storage allowances on cloud server plans are approximate and may vary due to resource utilization by the server operating system and hosting infrastructure.”

My Take on Prices

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 Choose WebFaction?

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.

RAM and CPU Considerations

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.

Customize and Control Your Web Hosting

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.

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Curated Options Developers Will Appreciate

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.

How Does WebFaction Compare to the Competition?

Above all, WebFaction is made for developers and techies. So, it really doesn’t compare to standard hosts like SiteGround or GoDaddy. If you are a small business and not a techie, you should choose them over WebFaction.

WordPress Hosting for Non-Techies

If you have a WordPress site and are a non-techie, look at managed WordPress hosting options like SiteGround and WP Engine.

Those hosts will keep all of your plugins updated and your core WordPress software. And they offer optimized technology tweaked to give your site peak performance. SiteGround is one of only 3 hosts worldwide recommended by WordPress.org because of this optimized architecture.

What About Media Temple?

Media Temple does offer similar hosting designed for developers. Overall, WebFaction is cheaper and offers full shell access. Media Temple does seem to offer more hosting plan options and possibly better support.

What About Bargain-Priced Hosts Like JustHost?

We received this question about  JustHost, which on the surface is much cheaper. They do offer live-chat support, which WebFaction does not. However, they are a simpler class of host with limited features and more suited to beginners.

WebFaction offers more access and more features. And hosts like SiteGround and Bluehost are quite affordable as well as suitable for non-techies.

Overall, WebFaction does what they do very well — they offer developers who want more control the access they need at affordable rates.

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.

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FAQ on WebFaction

Have an additional question about WebFaction? Send it to us and we’ll research it and add the answer below.

Does WebFaction have an affiliate program? If so, how does it work?

Yes, WebFaction has an affiliate program. To get started, sign up for a free trial. In the “Affiliates” section of the control panel, you’ll find your affiliate link. Place the link wherever you like in your web properties. Site visitors who click on your affiliate link and sign up will be identified automatically by WebFaction as a referral of yours. Every month, you’ll receive 10% of what your referrals spent with WebFaction.

What’s the process to set up an SSL? Do I need to get my own?

The default option is Webfaction’s shared certificate. This will require some tweaking. You can also acquire and your own SSL certificate. If you opt for the latter, you’ll add the certificate via the WebFaction control panel. This WebFaction page has details on generating a Certificate Signing Request (CSR).

Who owns WebFaction?

WebFaction is owned by Paragon Internet Group, Ltd., which operates as a subsidiary of Host Europe Group, Inc. (HEG). [WebFaction was acquired by Paragon in 2016. The year before, Paragon had been acquired by Host Europe Group (HEG).] GoDaddy EMEA acquired HEG in December 2016 for $1.79 billion. At the time of acquisition, HEG was owned by the international private equity firm Cinven, which acquired the business in August 2013.