WWW FAQs: Web hosting reviews: What web hosting company should I choose?

2009-12-03: the following is a short list of web hosting companies with good reputations, many of which I have used personally. The right choice for you depends on your needs. All of these are professional companies for people who really want their web site to work well, and their services are very affordable but not free. If you are just looking for free hosting, in spite of its many problems and limitations, see can I host my website for free. But don't complain when it doesn't work very well!


pair.com offers affordable shared hosting and high-end dedicated hosting. Both are offered at fair prices. pair.com is not the cheapest but their customer service is remarkable. I have had many positive experiences with them.

Unfortunately pair.com does not offer virtual machine hosting, a middle ground between shared hosting (in which other users may potentially be able to see your files in some cases) and dedicated hosting (in which a physically separate computer hosts your websites and your websites only). As a result it is fairly expensive to host your website on pair.com in a truly secure way.


rackspace.com represents the high end of the market, with hosting solutions scaling all the way up to the needs of very large companies. They offer "managed hosting" (dedicated server hosting) and "cloud hosting" (in which you have a virtual computer that can be scaled up and moved to different hardware as needed without any labor on your part). If you are arranging hosting for a large company rackspace.com is likely to be a good choice for you.


mediatemple.net has a good reputation among web designers for virtual machine hosting (which they call "dedicated virtual" hosting) at reasonable prices. They also offer "grid hosting," a type of hosting in the cloud that also has attributes of shared hosting. I've received mixed impressions of their grid hosting service from acquaintances who have used it.


ServerGrove offers "Virtual Private Server" hosting, in which you have a rebootable virtual Linux system of your own. However, unlike many hosts that offer VPS service, ServerGrove's systems are already well-configured for the needs of most PHP-driven websites.

If you are doing PHP development, and especially if you are using the Symfony framework (which I love and recommend), ServerGrove is an excellent choice.

Starting at $20/month they'll give you a virtual private server. That means security without jumping through extra hoops: no dangerous "shared hosting" with files potentially visible to others.

(ServerGrove also offers shared hosting at even lower prices which might be right for your hobby sites.)

ServerGrove's VPSes are already set up with modern versions of PHP, with APC enabled for much better PHP performance. GD and other not-really-optional options are all present. And they roll in domain registration, DNS hosting and email hosting (including webmail) in that price. This is why I regularly direct clients to them.


Slicehost is perhaps the best solution for those who would otherwise be tempted to set up their own Linux server at home, but understand all the reasons why that's a bad idea from any professional perspective.

Slicehost offers a simple proposition: pick a Linux distribution and they'll fire up a virtual machine for you (virtual machine hosting) and give you root access. Then you're off to the races, installing the packages you want via the package manager of that Linux distribution. They default to Ubuntu Linux, which offers a very up-to-date set of packages, notably including PHP 5.2.x which is suitable for use with Symfony, and modern versions of Apache, MySQL and Ruby on Rails as well.

For the most part you are on your own with Slicehost (because you like it that way). This is not hosting for beginners who don't like administering Linux systems! However they do offer a simple, useful control panel for DNS.

Slicehost offers very reasonable prices at any given scale of system. You may be tempted by the smallest "slices" but bear in mind that operations like resizing images with PHP's gd functions will tend to exceed the available memory. Of course, you can upgrade your slice.

Since I am saying so many nice things about Slicehost, I should mention that I do not have a business relationship with them except as a paying customer (boutell.com is not currently hosted there, but other projects I am involved with are).

Slicehost is a subsidiary of rackspace.


dreamhost.com is one of the best-known web hosting companies, in part due to their extremely affordable prices. Today, for instance, they are offering "unlimited bandwidth and unlimited disk space" hosting at a special price of $9.24 for the entire year (a special which will undoubtedly be over by the time you read this). Their "what's included" page currently says you get "unlimited + 50gb" disk space.

They currently offer hosting at $5.95 a month... if you pay ten years in advance. But if you want to go month to month there's a $49.95 setup fee. You get the idea.

So what's the story? Well, dreamhost doesn't make guarantees about performance. So your site may not prove as reliable as a site hosted by one of the more "conservative" web hosting companies. And they offer shared hosting, not virtual machine or dedicated server hosting. So be careful to consider the security implications. But for your personal and hobby-company sites, dreamhost may be a good place to start out.


godaddy.com is a domain registrar that also offers web hosting as an "upsell" to people who are registering domains. Their hope is that you will decide to get all of your services in one place (and click on lots of other "opt in" checkboxes too).

That said, godaddy isn't a terrible web hosting company. They are large and stable, and they do offer standard PHP hosting with the usual web-based control panels and ssh shell access available. Their web hosting prices are a bit higher than some, perhaps because they are hoping you won't bother to look elsewhere when registering your domain. And their customer service, possibly due to their sheer size, is not very personal.

Tom's Favorites

At $20/month for a rebootable virtual Linux server with no other customers to interfere with your site's security, it's tough to beat ServerGrove VPS hosting.

Want shared hosting? OK with the security implications? Go with pair.com or ServerGrove shared hosting.

Want total control of "your own" server, without the serious problems that go with physically hosting it at home or at work? Eager to do your own system administration (I'm not kidding about this part)? Go with slicehost.

Want the sort of control that slicehost offers, but with the support of professionals who understand it better than you do? ServerGrove is the best solution if you are working with PHP. For other scenarios, and for very high-traffic sites, it's probably time to talk to rackspace or pair about dedicated server hosting.

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