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Hostwinds review

An affordable well-featured web host

21:9 Hero
(Image: © Hostwinds)

Our Verdict

Hostwinds isn't perfect – broken links on the website aren't acceptable, and is it really so difficult to display full pricing details? – but the company scores where it matters with great products, solid performance and quality support.

For

  • Huge range of products
  • Good value (and Bitcoin accepted)
  • Consistent performance
  • Support website is stuffed with helpful articles

Against

  • Finding full pricing details can be tricky
  • No managed WordPress hosting
  • Support site might intimidate beginners
  • Very short two-day refund period for subscriptions under 12 months

When you're shopping for a web host, it often pays to choose a provider with a range of products, as you'll have more scope for upgrading later. Hostwinds understands this, and does its best to help by offering you almost every possible hosting option: shared, business, cloud, reseller, VPS, dedicated, budget Linux, premium Linux, Windows and more.

Its Basic shared hosting plan starts at $3.29 a month on an annual subscription ($6.99 on renewal), $2.35 over three years ($4.99 on renewal) and comes with a surprising number of features. These include unlimited bandwidth, disk space, email accounts, databases and subdomains. There's also cPanel access, Weebly site builder, Softaculous one-click installs, nightly backups, a free domain for a year and a free dedicated IP address. Phew.

(Hostwinds' email attachment limit is higher than most at 50MB, too – and while email isn't always the best way to share large files, it's good to have the option available.)

The only limit we could see is that Basic accounts are limited to one domain each, but that's the same for just about every starter hosting account, and it won't be an issue for the majority of customers.

With such a powerful starter plan, the rest of the shared hosting range can't do much more than add support for hosting more sites. The Advanced package handles up to 4 domains for $4.23 a month paid annually ($8.99 on renewal), while the Ultimate plan supports hosting unlimited domains for $5.17 ($10.99 when you renew) and places you on a server with fewer accounts, hopefully improving performance.

Hostwinds doesn't offer managed WordPress hosting, unfortunately. Softaculous makes it easy to install and begin using WordPress on any hosting package, but specialist WordPress plans from providers like Ionos and Bluehost give you more (speed optimizations, easy multi-site management, staging, development tools).

If you need more resources, Hostwinds' flexible VPS hosting range gives you everything from 1 vCPU and 1GB starter products to power-packed 16 vCPU 96GB RAM 9TB bandwidth setups. You're able to choose from multiple Linux hosting distros or opt for Windows hosting, there are managed and unmanaged options, and prices start from a lowly $4.49 a month ($4.99 on renewal, whatever the term.)

Dedicated server support is a little more basic, with only four base server types. They're reasonably configurable, with the ability to choose your preferred storage setup, operating system and version, allocated bandwidth and IPs . Once again, prices are fair, starting at only $67.50 for the initial term, $90 on renewal.

Hostwinds used to offer a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, twice what you'll see with most hosts, but unfortunately that's now been replaced by a complicated refund policy.

The new rules reduce Hostwinds' refund period to 30 days for products purchased with a one year or longer subscription, and just 48 hours for products with one, three or six-month billing.

Refunds are now prorated, too. That is, if you use 20 of your 30 days before you ask for a refund, Hostwinds deducts their value from its payment.

That's really not so generous, but Hostwinds has at least kept its wide support of payment methods, with options including cards, PayPal, Skrill and Bitcoin.

Plans

Hostwinds offers loads of plans and options (Image credit: Hostwinds)

Account setup

The Hostwinds website doesn't do a great job of explaining its plans. There's little in the way of technical detail on what you get, and users are left to guess on the pricing of some products.

Head off to the Shared Hosting page, for instance, and you'll find the Basic plan is $3.29 a month, discounted from $8.99. You're not told how long you must sign up to get this deal, though, and you can't even view your options in a shopping cart until you've created a Hostwinds account.

That's really not good enough, and Hostwinds should be more transparent with its pricing. If the company doesn't want to clutter its product page with a bulky comparison table, fine – add it to another page, and give users a clear link. It's not difficult.

If you do decide to create an account (which means handing over your name, email, physical address and phone number) you'll generally find the headline price is for an annual plan.

Options include a daily cloud backup plan for an above average $3 a month. Hostwinds added this to our cart without us asking, too, but it was easy to spot, and we removed it with a click.

Signup form completed, we paid up, the website confirmed our order and explained that an activation email would arrive shortly.

'Shortly' was right, too. Some hosts keep us waiting for hours, but a Hostwinds email with our account details arrived even before our PayPal receipt. That's fast.

cPanel

Create and manage your site with cPanel (Image credit: Hostwinds)

Creating a site

Hostwinds uses the WHMCS platform for its account dashboard, much like many other providers. Though not exactly stylish, it's generally easy to use, with areas to change your contact details, manage domains, open a support ticket and more.

Basic website management options - create email accounts, launch the file manager, add subdomains - are only a click away.

Softaculous

Softaculous can install WordPress and other popular apps in seconds (Image credit: WordPress)

Launching cPanel gives you access to Softaculous, a popular platform which makes it easy to install WordPress and 400+ other big-name web applications.

Hostwinds' shared hosting plans include the Weebly website builder, an excellent template-based web designer with a stack of drag-and-drop widgets and UI elements.

There's a problem, though. What you're getting here is Weebly's very limited free plan, which includes Weebly branding on the footer and restricts your website to just 500MB.

You can upgrade to more capable plans from within Hostwinds, but from what we can see, you'll pay much the same price as if you went to Weebly direct. (And remember, this is an extra cost – you'll still be paying your regular Hostwinds fees.)

The service could still be useful in a few situations. If your plan supports multiple domains, for instance, the Site Builder might help less technical family members create their own small personal sites. But there's not a lot of value here for most users, and typically you'll get better results by installing WordPress.

If WordPress and Weebly don't interest you, there are all the usual tools to build and manage a website from scratch: FTP, SSH, a file manager, MySQL, phpMyAdmin and more.

Support

The support site has lots of content but one or two problems as well (Image credit: Hostwinds)

Support

Hostwinds' support begins at its Guides site, a knowledgebase with articles and tutorials for every aspect of the service.

The site doesn't make many concessions to beginners. There's no upfront list of the most commonly-read articles, the General Guides section most likely to help hosting newbies comes at the bottom of a list of four – and even when you click that link, the first categories you'll see have geek-oriented titles like 'Developer Guides', 'Apache .htaccess', 'DNS' and 'WHM (Web Host Manager).'

Worse, when we clicked a link to the Web Hosting section, thinking that should contain the most useful information, the site displayed a 'that page can't be found' error. This wasn't some one-off fluke; the White Label Reseller Program link was broken, too. Not exactly professional.

Fortunately, Hostwinds has an excellent search feature, and entering a keyword or two usually brings up all the articles you need.

When we ran a search for WordPress, for instance, Hostwinds' returned more than 140 matches, with many useful articles on the first page (a general WordPress introduction, installing WordPress using Softaculous, installing manually, installing a plugin, enabling HTTPS, enhancing security, and more).

It was much the same story with other searches. From common keywords ('subdomain', 'DNS') to more specific phrases ('import WordPress', 'file permission error'), Hostwinds unfailingly presented us with relevant and related content.

Articles are generally high quality, too. For instance, 'HTTP Error 403 - Forbidden' doesn't just tell you to check and fix your website link: it explains the most likely causes of the problem, points out that an error 403 is presented differently by some browsers ('the website declined to show this webpage'), and offers some genuinely useful suggestions (copy then delete .htaccess, check file permissions, deactivate any recently installed WordPress plugins). Although these are complicated topics, the article is written in a very accessible way, encouraging even the greenest of web hosting newbies to dig deeper.

Even the best knowledgebase can't handle all your likely queries, but Hostwinds' also has support available 24/7 via ticket and live chat.

We opened a chat window, and within a couple of minutes a support agent was providing a detailed and helpful response to our test question.

Opening a ticket sometimes makes more sense, perhaps if your issue is more complex and requires lengthy explanation. Response times will vary depending on the situation, but in our experience they're excellent, with helpful and detailed replies typically arriving in under an hour.

Performance

Hostwinds did fairly well in our uptime and performance tests (Image credit: Uptime.com)

Performance

To get a basic idea of Hostwinds performance, we installed a simple static website on a Hostwinds shared hosting account, then used Uptime.com to monitor its availability and response times over a week.

This generated 2,000+ data points with an average response time of 285ms, broadly in the range we would expect for basic shared hosting (most providers average 200-400ms.)

Hostwinds scored higher for consistency. While many providers have worst-case delays of a second or more, and regular spikes in response time, Hostwinds' slowest response time was just 524ms; in our last 30 reviews, only five providers have done better (Netfirms, Domain.com, Dotster, DreamHost, Accu Web.)

Uptime Guarantee

The 99.999 percent uptime guarantee is better than most (Image credit: Hostwinds)

That's good news, but be careful how you interpret these figures. They're a comparison of baseline shared hosting products only, and if you're opting for a cloud, VPS, dedicated or other high-end plan, you may see very different results.

Final verdict

Hostwinds may not always have the lowest headline prices, but its feature-packed plans are great value for what you get, performance is consistent, and the comprehensive web knowledgebase and speedy live chat support are always on hand if you run into problems.