HostMonster Review – Difficult to Recommend Over Most of Its Sister Companies
HostMonster often takes a backseat to other hosting providers like SiteGround and DreamHost, at least in terms of popularity. The company has been around since 1996 so it clearly doesn’t lack experience, but while others are constantly seeking to innovate, HostMonster seems content with sticking to what they know. We’ve seen many users complain about HostMonster’s lack of innovation in the past so we finally took it upon ourselves to test the company’s various services to see if they’re as outdated as some people claim. We definitively learned a lot about the provider during the experience and we want to share our thoughts with you via this review.
One of the first things that stood out about HostMonster is that the company doesn’t offer any managed WordPress plans. That’s pretty unusual in this day and age. WordPress is by far the most popular CMS on the market and almost every other provider we’ve reviewed in the past had hosting plans designed especially for working with the platform. The company does offer a quick one-click installer for WordPress, so there is some support for the platform. But we would have liked to also see some specialized features like staging environments and pre-installed plugins.
While you won’t find managed WordPress plans at HostMonster, you will find most types of hosting you would expect, including shared, VPS and dedicated. Cloud and reseller hosting are missing but we can’t be too harsh on HostMonster because there are many other providers that don’t offer them. The company chose to focus mainly on shared hosting and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. But let’s take a quick look at the ease of use features before we talk more about plans and pricing.
Navigation and Ease of Use
HostMonster’s current website is certainly not doing the company any favors. A lot of providers go with a minimalistic style when designing they’re websites but that’s not what’s going on here. The site simply looks and feels old. As far as we can tell, HostMonster’s website has stayed more or less the same since late 2013. While it may have looked decent back then, today it feels outdated. All the relevant information is presented neatly on the home page so there’s not much to complain about in terms of actual navigation. However, looks are important and the company doesn’t make a good first impression because of its website.
Signing up for the service is just as simple as you would expect. Choose a hosting package, register a new domain if you don’t already have one, fill in a form with some personal information, and that’s about it. One thing that stands out here is that HostMonster adds a bunch of optional tools by default to your cart, so you’ll need to pay close attention during the check out process. Otherwise, you might end up paying more than you bargained for. As we already mentioned in our iPage review, we’re not big fans of these types of practices. Especially in this case where you’re looking at over $100 worth of optional tools.
If you don’t want to fill out the long-form with your personal information, you can sign up with Google to make the account creation process a bit easier. But be careful because once you’re logged into your Google account you can’t log out again. At least we haven’t been able to find a log out button anywhere. Even strangely, you will remain logged in even if you refresh the page or leave the site. In other words, once you link your Google account to HostMonster, it’s linked for good.
Every now and again we come across hosting providers that work with custom control panels, like iPage and DreamHost, to name just two well-known examples. Most companies, however, play it safe and use the tried and true cPanel. HostMonster decided to be part of this second category and we can’t say we blame them. cPanel is an excellent control panel that lets you manage everything related to your account, including domain names, emails, databases, SSL certificates, DNS, and more.
One of the biggest advantages of working with this type of control panel is that you can transfer your cPanel settings along with your website if you decide to switch to a new hosting provider at some point. Naturally, this will only work if your new hosting provider also supports cPanel. If you want to learn more about transfers, make sure to check out our article on how to migrate a WordPress website in 8 easy steps. Meanwhile, if you want to take cPanel for a spin without signing up for a hosting plan, you can check out the demo version right here.
Before we proceed to the next section we have to point out that HostMonster includes the free version of Weebly with all hosting plans. Weebly is a drag-and-drop website builder that greatly simplifies the process of designing and launching your own site. Even though we consider WordPress to be the superior content management platform, there’s no doubt that Weebly is more user-friendly and a better fit for beginners. Having said that, you can only make simple websites with the free version of the builder. If you’re looking to build a robust website, you’ll either need to upgrade to a paid Weebly package or use a more powerful platform like WordPress.
Plans and Pricing
HostMonster isn’t the most affordable hosting provider out there but its prices aren’t too outrageous either. A basic hosting plan will set you back $4.95 per month on a 3-year contract and $6.95 per month on a 1-year contract. The company doesn’t support monthly payments with its shared hosting packages so you’ll need to make a sizeable upfront investment when signing up. In exchange, you get 50 GB of storage, unmetered data, a free SSL certificate, free domain name, 5 email accounts, and support for a single website, among other things.
Just to give you an idea of what rival companies are charging for shared hosting, SiteGround’s standard fee is $3.95 per month while Bluehost charges only $2.95 per month. The average price across the industry is a little over $3/mo so HostMonster can be considered a bit expensive. Naturally, there are many other factors to consider in addition to the price but if you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck, check out our list of the top 10 cheapest hosting providers of 2020.
Basic plan aside, HostMonster offers three additional shared hosting plans to choose from. Interestingly enough, two of them – Plus and Choice Plus – will cost you the same amount. Namely, $6.95 per month. The gist here is that Choice Plus renews at $14.99 per month while Plus renews at just $12.49 per month once the first term expires. This pricing model may seem a bit odd but it’s actually identical to the one used by Bluehost. The only difference is that Bluehost only charges $5.45/mo for its two equivalent plans. In terms of features, you can expect everything included with the basic package along with unlimited storage, email accounts, support for an unlimited number of websites, and a few other bits and baubles. Choice Plus also comes with privacy protection and a backup & restore tool. Aside from that, Plus and Choice Plus are pretty much identical.
The final shared hosting plan goes by the name of Pro and will set you back $14.95 per month on a 3-year contract. This plan improves upon Choice Plus by including a dedicated IP and a more reliable SSL certificate. In addition, users who opt for the Pro package can expect their websites to be hosted on high-performance servers. Is it worth spending nearly $15 per month just for that? We don’t think so. That’s a bit too much for a shared hosting plan in our opinion. If you’re worried about performance but not about the money we recommend looking into a VPS or dedicated servers instead.
With a virtual private server (VPS) plan you’re still sharing the server with other users but you get exclusive access to a set amount of resources on said server. The cheapest VPS plan at HostMonster will set you back $19.99 per month, which isn’t that expensive compared to the Pro shared hosting plan we talked about earlier. However, it is a lot more expensive than the market average. DreamHost, for example, only charges $10 per month for a VPS while A2 Hosting’s prices start as low as $5 per month. HostMonster supports monthly billing cycles for this type of hosting but paying on a month-by-month basis will cost you $29.99 per month. Not exactly a bargain.
Despite the high prices, there’s not much to complain about in terms of resources. The basic package will give you a dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 30 GB of storage, and 1 TB/mo of traffic to work with. In addition, you also get a free domain name, a dedicated IP address, instant provisioning, multi-account management along with cPanel and root access. That last bit is particularly important as it makes HostMonster’s VPS plans suitable for both novice and veteran users.
If you need additional resources than what’s included in the basic plan, you can get a lot more by upgrading to the Enhanced, Premium or Ultimate packages. Doing so will set you back anywhere between $29.99 and $59.99 per month. The features will remain identical regardless of which plan you choose but you’ll get access to 2 dedicated IPs and up to 3 TB/mo of traffic, a quad-core CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and 120 GB of storage. Even though they’re pretty expensive, we think HostMonster’s VPS packages offer a better value proposition when compared to the shared hosting plans.
A dedicated server is similar to a VPS in concept but instead of getting exclusive access to a block of resources, you get the entire server all to yourself with this type of hosting. Dedicated servers offer the best performance but, as you might expect, they’re also more expensive than any other type of hosting. In the case of HostMonster, a dedicated server will set you back at least $79.99 per month. Once again, you can choose to sign up for a yearly or multi-annual plan or settle for monthly payments if you don’t mind getting charged extra.
$79.99 per month is quite a bit of money but this price is actually fairly standard for a dedicated server. Bluehost, for example, charges the exact same amount while many other providers charge quite a bit more. Granted, you do get more resources from other companies but HostMonster is certainly not doing terrible in this department. A standard dedicated server comes with a quad-core Intel Xenon CPU, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB RAID 1 HDD, and 5 TB/mo of traffic. Just like with the other types of hosting, you get a free domain name (not available with monthly plans, though) along with 3 dedicated IPs.
The special features included with dedicated servers are similar to what you get with a VPS, but there are a couple of extras as well. The highlights include enhanced caching, mirrored storage, and dedicated customer support. You can add extra storage to your server on the fly for $50 extra per month for each block of 500 GB you add. Unfortunately, HostMonster doesn’t include fast SSD storage with any of its dedicated servers so you’re stuck with HDD even if you upgrade to one of the two higher-tier plans, which cost $99 and $119 per month, respectively.
Key Tools and Features
It’s already pretty easy to tell that HostMonster has a number of pros and cons just by looking at what’s included with each hosting plan. But there are other tools and features you’ll need to keep in mind before deciding if HostMonster is or isn’t for you. In this next section, we’ll give you a breakdown of the tools and features we think most webmasters would consider essential. You may find some of these to be more useful than others depending on your needs and experience level, but they are all very important in their own right.
Since you can’t create a website without a domain name, it’s a good idea to either buy one beforehand or register a domain when you sign up for a hosting plan with HostMonster. The company offers a free domain name for 1 year with any hosting plan and, in the case of VPS and dedicated hosting, you can get a free domain even if you opt for the monthly billing cycle. Once the first term expires, domains renew at $17.99 per year and there’s an extra $14.88 per year charge if you also want to add privacy protection to your domain.
The free domain you get with most hosting plans doesn’t come with privacy protection but you can add this feature during checkout. The only exceptions to this rule are the Choice Plus and Pro plans, which do include free protection.
Unlike HostGator or GoDaddy, HostMonster doesn’t allow users to register domains unless they also sign up for a hosting plan. While it’s very convenient to have everything in the same place, it is possible to register your domain with one company and let another one host your website. Doing so wouldn’t be such a bad idea in this particular case. Once your first term is up, HostMonster charges you close to $33 per year to renew a domain that has privacy protection. That’s more expensive than pretty much every other hosting provider we’ve reviewed so far.
Databases are particularly helpful when you’re working with WordPress but they can also come in handy even if you’re using a different content management platform. The most common types of databases are MySQL and PostgreSQL, both of which are supported by HostMonster. The company doesn’t mention this anywhere on its website but there are some limitations to how many databases you can create. Shared hosting plans can support up to 1,000 database tables and the databases can only take up a total of 3 GB of space. Many providers don’t impose these types of limitations but others are a lot more restrictive, so the database situation at HostMonster is pretty good all things considered.
Backup and Restore
HostMonster has a very unusual backup policy that honestly took us by surprise. According to the policy, “HostMonster does not offer redundant or mirrored backups. HostMonster will run courtesy backups at our discretion.” The policy also goes on to say that automatic account backups do not fall under the company’s terms of services. So what does this all mean? Well, to put it plainly, HostMonster may occasionally back up your account but you shouldn’t hold your breath for that to happen. Instead, you should make manual backups using the cPanel and then download them locally or store them on a third-party platform.
Alternatively, you can pay $2.99 per month for the Site Backup Pro tool. Just as its name suggests, this tool allows you to easily back up and restore website files, databases, emails, and more. The tool has quite a few advanced features, including automatic daily, weekly and monthly backups, one-click restore, and the ability to recover individual files. Although $2.99/mo doesn’t seem that expensive, it’s worth remembering that shared hosting plans don’t support monthly billing cycles, which means you’ll need to pay upfront for the tool for at least 1 full year.
Strangely enough, HostMonster offers an additional tool known as CodeGuard, which can perform more or less the same functions as Site Backup. You can purchase both of them but it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to do that. CodeGuard is included for free with Choice Plus and Pro plans so there’s no need to worry about backups if you decide to purchase one of those two hosting packages.
Having an email address that contains your domain name is a must not just for businesses but also for most private website owners these days. It’s not possible to create @domain emails using a traditional mail client but you can do it if you sign up with the right web hosting provider. HostMonster is one of many companies that allow you to create domain emails and you can create as many of them as you want with most of its hosting plans. The only exception is the basic shared hosting package, which only supports up to 5 email accounts and limits the available storage to 100 MB per account.
HostMonster supports POP3 and IMAP and offers 3 different web-based email solutions. Email forwarding and mailing lists are both supported and you can easily log into your webmail account without having to go through the cPanel. At HostMonster you can log into your control panel and mailbox using a single convenient portal. A lot of companies make you visit a different website whenever you want to check your emails, which can be pretty annoying.
HostMonster’s eCommerce features are pretty standard. You have various shopping carts to choose from, such as Cube Cart, Zen Cart, Agora, and more. The company also supports a number of features that will make your online store more secure, including SSL, password protected directories, and OpenPGP/GPG encryption. Aside from that, though, there’s nothing really to write home about here.
If you’re looking to build a robust online store, we recommend going with a WordPress-based site and installing a plugin like WooCommerce on top. Alternatively, you could cut the middleman and go directly for a specialized eCommerce platform like Shopify instead. We can’t really recommend choosing HostMonster if your primary goal is to build an online store because there are cheaper options out there that offer the exact same set of features.
It’s always helpful to keep search engine optimization in mind regardless of whether you own a small blog or a large business website. If you know what you’re doing, you can optimize your website and content without needing to rely on specialized tools. If you’re new to SEO, however, having access to such tools can come in handy. Similar to a lot of other providers, HostMonster offers SEO tools in exchange for a monthly fee. Buying the optional SEO add-on will cost you $1.99 per month (billed annually at $23.88/year).
Unlike other add-ons offered by the company, SEO Tools Start isn’t available for free with the higher tier plans like Choice Plus or Pro. The SEO tools are pretty useful but you can achieve similar results without paying anything by simply installing a plugin like Yoast. That particular plugin only works with WordPress-based websites but that are similar options for other content management systems.
Transferring a website to a different hosting provider isn’t exactly rocket science but it can be pretty challenging if you’re not a tech-savvy user. The good news is that most companies offer website migration services and a lot of the time they don’t even charge users for it. But that’s not always the case. If you want HostMonster to take care of the transfer for you, it will cost you a whopping $150. Granted, the company will transfer a total of five websites for that sum, so it’s technically only $30 per website. But since the price of the service is fixed, you’ll need to pay $150 even if you’re only transferring a single website.
HostMonster’s migration service is very expensive in our opinion and would actually cost you more than an entire year of hosting in many cases. Not a great deal, especially when you consider that many other providers don’t charge for this type of service. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, we recommend reading the guide we mentioned earlier on how to transfer a WordPress website in 8 easy steps. Among other things, the guide also covers domain, database, and email transfers.
Location coverage is clearly not a big selling point here because HostMonster only has a single data center located in Provo, Utah. Most of the big hosting companies tend to have at least two data centers and the top ones have data centers on multiple continents. Needless to say, there’s no backup plan when all your servers are located in the same place. If something were to happen to the Utah data center, which did experience outages in the past, all websites hosted on HostMonster would become unavailable at the same time. It’s worth noting that the same data center is also home to servers owned by sister companies Bluehost and HostGator, among others, but at least those two companies have additional data centers so they’re not putting all their eggs into one basket.
Performance and Reliability
Given that HostMonster works with a single data center it should come as no surprise that the company doesn’t shine in this particular department. But while HostMonster doesn’t have the best speeds and uptimes we’ve ever seen, they’re definitely not the worst ones either. The provider sits somewhere in the middle of the pack when compared to rival companies. It’s not necessarily a terrible choice for users who value performance but you can find plenty of better options out there for a similar price or even cheaper.
Page Loading Speed
We tested HostMonster over a period of several months using a simple website hosted on a shared plan. Even though there wasn’t a whole lot of content on the website, it usually took a surprisingly long time to load. We’re talking around 930 ms on average, which isn’t great. Now, a lot of people would consider anything lower than 1 second to be a decent page loading speed but that’s quickly becoming an outdated notion as websites are getting faster and faster with each passing year.
In HostMonster’s defense, the company isn’t the only one lagging behind when it comes to speed. HostGator also took a little under 1 second to load during our tests while iPage, another sister site, took a lot longer. On the other end of the spectrum, SiteGround and DreamHost loaded in just 645 ms and 450 ms, respectively. There’s clearly a pattern here with EIG-owned hosting providers, many of which seem to be using the same data center and architecture and, as a result, yield similar performance.
HostMonster websites aren’t the fastest out there but at least there’s little reason to worry about the uptime, for the most part. While we did mention earlier that the company’s sole data center had issues in the past, they seem to be pretty rare these days. The average uptime we got while testing was around 99.96%. Given that the industry standard is 99.95%, these results are pretty good. Of course, there are companies that have close to 100% uptime but these are few and far between.
What we did find to be a bit strange is that HostMonster doesn’t offer an uptime guarantee, a very common practice in the industry. An uptime guarantee of 99.99%, of example, doesn’t actually mean that your website will be accessible for 99.99% of the time, but it does entitle you to some compensation in case you experience more than 0.01% downtime. The absence of such a policy shouldn’t be seen as a deal-breaker but it is another drawback worth keeping in mind.
The customer support offered by HostMonster is solid based on our personal experience. Unlike a lot of other hosting providers, HostMonster allows anyone to use the live chat system, not just paid customers. In addition, you can also reach out to agents via email or phone, and there’s even a toll-free number for US-based users. That said, existing customers do have priority and certain hosting plans include dedicated customer support as well. Also worth noting is that HostMonster agents only took a few minutes to get back to us and answer our questions, which is something we always appreciate.
As far as the help center is concerned, we found it to be very unimpressive. The help page looks very outdated and we constantly came across various glitches while trying to navigate it. When you access the help center you are greeted by only a handful of guides and you’ll need to use the search bar if you want to dig out additional articles. You can’t browse articles by category or anything like that so you’ll need to know exactly what you’re looking for when visiting the help center.
Why is HostMonster so Similar to Other Hosting Providers?
If you’re familiar with the likes of Bluehost or HostGator you’ll immediately notice plenty of similarities between them and HostMonster. All of these companies, along with many more, are owned by the same corporation – Endurance International Group. While some EIG-owned companies try to stand out from the crowd, most of them are nearly identical when it comes to prices, hosting plans, features, and performance.
Is HostMonster a Good Choice for Beginners?
There’s nothing wrong with picking HostMonster as your first hosting provider but there plenty of better options out there. Bluehost, for example, offers nearly identical hosting plans but charges less for them. But if you’re determined to stick with HostMonster, you’ll find that the company is indeed pretty easy to work with.
Is HostMonster Worth it Past the First Term?
While fairly expensive compared to other providers, HostMonster’s introductory prices can still be considered affordable. Once the first term expires, however, the prices become too high in our opinion. So no, we don’t think HostMonster is worth it past the first term.
Does HostMonster Support Cloud Hosting?
HostMonster does use cloud technology to support its virtual private servers, but the company doesn’t offer any actual cloud hosting plans. If you’re in the market for a good cloud hosting solution, we recommend you check out DigitalOcean or one of its alternatives.
What is HostMonster’s Refund Policy?
HostMonster offers a standard 30-day money-back guarantee on all its hosting plans. The policy doesn’t apply to monthly plans or non-hosting services like domain registrations and optional add-ons.
HostMonster is a company that’s hard to recommend to most users. The prices are above average, the performance is fairly mediocre, and the features are pretty standard. On the other hand, the company does have good uptimes and customer support, so it’s not all bad. Plus, you do get good value for your money if you can afford to sign up for a 3-year contract, although only during the first term. But while the company seems focused primarily on its shared hosting plans, we actually found the VPS packages to be much more appealing. HostMonster’s virtual private servers are a bargain if you don’t take into account the fact that they don’t include SSD storage.
At the end of the day, HostMonster isn’t a terrible option but there are many better-hosting providers out there. Sister companies like Bluehost, HostGator, and iPage are all cheaper and have more to offer. We suggest looking into some alternatives before you decide to sign up with HostMonster. If you need some help with your research, we just so happen to have plenty of hosting reviews that are certain to come in handy so don’t hesitate to check them out.