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How we test website hosting


Website hosting is complex and requires careful testing and evaluation that takes into account everything, from performance and features to customer support. We at Cybernews aim to provide you, the user, with the most accurate and unbiased information so you can make informed purchase decisions and choose a hosting type and provider that’s best for your needs.

In the website hosting testing process outlined below, we combine technical tests, methodological research, and personal expert insights to deliver comprehensive and all-rounded analysis, reviews, and recommendations.

Why you should trust our reviews

You might wonder why Cybernews is a trustworthy source of information and why you should pick to read our reviews over other online publications. We aim to provide you with fact-checked, evidence-based information and reviews that follow clear and transparent testing methodology. Here’s more on why Cybernews should be your number one choice for unbiased and trustworthy website hosting reviews:

  • Independent research. We conduct most of our product testing in-house with self-built tools or rely on industry-approved testing tools and techniques to achieve independent, unbiased, evidence-based evaluations.
  • Expertise. The Cybernews research team and writers are experts in their fields and use the latest available technology and knowledge to conduct product testing, research, and evaluation.
  • Credibility of testing methodology. Our testing methodology follows strict evidence-based testing protocols and methods, designed to provide the most accurate and comprehensive assessments of products. We also source information from industry experts, official product resources, and user feedback.
  • Up-to-date insights. The Cybernews research and writer teams continuously keep up with the latest industry trends, news, and overall developments to help you make decisions based on the latest available information.
  • User-centric approach. We value our readers and product users’ feedback and continuously seek to provide information and testing that aligns with real-world, real-user requirements.

How we start the web hosting research process

Every testing process begins with market and user needs research. We want to provide you with the best choices for every scenario. Whether you want to host a simple blog site or a complex business page with big computational power requirements, we seek to offer you only the best options.

That’s why before conducting any testing, we first select the hosts – based on what is currently available and at the top of the web hosting market, and on your unique needs as the user.

As soon as we have a primary list of web hosting providers suitable for specific use cases – for example, web hosting for Minecraft or the best hosts for large-scale businesses – we move to the testing and evaluation. During this process, the primary rankings may change and the final recommendations will be determined.

Introduction to what we evaluate in website hosting

Web hosting is generally complex and multifaceted, and requires extensive testing and evaluation of various parts of the product. The web host’s performance and ease of use are the most important factors we test and review, followed by the security, features, and customer support. After thorough reviews of each of these sections, we consider the price-to-value ratio and calculate the overall rank. Here's a quick breakdown of what specific areas we test:

Types of web hosting

One of the first steps in testing website hosting for specific use cases is determining what type of web hosting is the most suitable. Most hosts offer shared hosting, which we choose to test for smaller and medium websites or projects that are on a tight budget. For bigger projects, such as large business sites, we recommend VPS or Dedicated hosting, and for eCommerce or WordPress sites, we select hosting providers that offer these specialized plans.

No matter what type of hosting we test, the next step after signing up for a plan is building or migrating an already fully-built site (of varying sizes, depending on the type of hosting) for testing.

Ease of use

Ease of use in web hosting encompasses everything from sign-up to launching or migrating your site. An impressive array of additional tools, features, and plugins might as well mean nothing if you cannot easily deploy them – that’s why the walk-through part of our web hosting and evaluation process is so crucial.

Some of what we look at when evaluating ease of use include the availability and usability of control panels. Some hosts offer the classic cPanel for shared hosting, and some offer native, proprietary options that require closer inspection. With other plans, such as VPS or dedicated hosting, we evaluate the available pre-installed control panel options and what you can install yourself.

Hostinger control panel hPanel interface new 2022

The walk-through of the host’s interface also allows seeing whether the basic set-up process is well designed and streamlined. We like guidance every step of the way for beginners and value more freedom of choice for experienced users. A good hosting provider should balance both.

Another important point to review and evaluate is the migration process. If you have an already-built site and are just switching your hosting providers, a comprehensive and relatively simple migration that leaves nothing out is what we value the most. If the process is complicated, we want guidance, proper support, or even live migration assistance from the host’s support team.

Performance

For performance testing, we use both empty and fully built sites to emulate real-world and real website hosting conditions to get the most accurate results. That way, we can provide you with the most relevant and actionable advice and recommendations.

The main performance tests we perform are for uptime, page load time (fully built site load time), and stress testing. We also take into consideration how many server locations and where the host offers, since this could impact performance depending on how far away the server is from the end user.

Uptime

Uptime, or availability, refers to what amount of time during a given testing/operation period a site is up and available to users. Most hosts offer an uptime guarantee ranging from 99.9% to 100%. Server response time is another metric often monitored together with uptime. It refers to how long the host’s server takes to respond to a request from the user.

Hostinger cloud hosting uptime and response time monitoring

We test uptime and server response times in-house, over a one to a two-month monitoring period. To monitor uptime and draw an average result, we use the Pingodm tool developed by SolarWinds.

Page load time tests

Page load time, largest contentful paint, or a speed test, measures how fast a website loads when tested from different locations. It is one of the most important performance tests for many hosts, as Google also considers the page load time when ranking sites on the search results page. The Google benchmark for site load time is 2.5s, which we also take as the benchmark for the tests. For page load time tests, we use the GTmetrix tool.

Hostinger-page-loading-speed

Stress testing

Stress testing refers to how well the host’s servers can handle sudden traffic increases. If your site blows up overnight, you want to be sure that the site will still respond in time, won’t crash, and your host will keep it up and running.

To stress-test our fully built sites, we use the k6 tool developed by Grafana Labs. During the test, we simulate a high spike in traffic and monitor how well the host’s systems handle it.

Hostinger stress testing

Features

Features, together with performance metrics, may make or break a web hosting provider, depending on what you need. Portfolio sites need one kind of feature, and eCommerce websites will benefit from what may be irrelevant to blogs. Nevertheless, there are some key features that we look for in all cases:

  • Resources such as storage, number of websites you can host, and others
  • SEO and marketing tools
  • eCommerce and email
  • Analytics tools
  • Website builders

Notably, our Cybernews research team investigates most of the features that are readily available, such as email management. For other tools that require lengthy setups, we conduct a somewhat superficial but no less thorough examination. In terms of resources like memory and storage, we consider the amounts offered by the hosts and take them into account when evaluating the price-to-value ratio.

We additionally test the website builders that hosts offer, however, that of itself is a separate testing process we will not cover here.

Security

Website security is a crucial factor to consider for hosting providers. The most basic security packages ensure that the requests your browser and the host servers send each other are encrypted, that any denial of service attacks will be prevented and/or mitigated, and that no malicious traffic or generally bad actors can shut off or overtake your site.

We at Cybernews do not explicitly test website security but rather award the web hosting provider points for offering a basic or more advanced site security package with all or most of its plans. The features we always take into consideration include but are not limited to:

  • SSL certificates for traffic encryption and general site data security.
  • Firewall for monitoring outgoing and incoming network traffic that prevents malicious traffic from reaching your site.
  • DDoS protection that prevents and mitigates denial of service attacks
  • Automatic backups automatically save a copy of your current site, which helps to recover or reverse any previous version of your site in case issues occur.

Other security features for which we award hosting providers with points may include Web Application Firewall, malware scanning and repairing, security plugins, and domain privacy.

Customer support

Since web hosting is complex and could be rather difficult to navigate, especially for new users, customer support is another crucial aspect of these services. A knowledgeable and efficient customer support agent, an extensive knowledge base, and helpful tutorials or guides are essential for a successful hosting experience.

elementor customer support

This is what we evaluate when it comes to web hosting customer support:

  • Resource and communication options, that is, whether the hosting provider offers to reach agents via a live chat, or sticks to email and phone support. Additionally, extensive and helpful knowledge centers that include FAQs, guides, and tutorials are always considered an advantage.
  • Overall communication process, which we evaluate by reaching out to the host’s customer support via provided channels with questions that require concrete answers. We want to see how timely the support agents respond, and whether their answers are satisfactory.

Price-to-value ratio comparison

Price-to-value ratio comparison is designed to evaluate whether what you get with a given plan from a web hosting provider is worth the price they offer. This is usually the last step of our testing and review process and includes summing up the overall experience with a hosting provider.

The price-to-value evaluation differs for each use case, as different aspects are the most important. For example, if we are looking for the most secure hosts, then security measures will have more weight than additional features when evaluating whether the offered price is reasonable and offers good value.

To determine a host with the best price value for a given use case, we also look at the overall market average prices and compare what other providers offer for a similar price.

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