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Top Web Hosting Hostinger web hosting review: Good support and a killer entry-level price


If you’re looking for a web hosting provider, you have a tremendous number of choices. In The best web hosting providers for 2019, I looked at 15 providers who offer a wide range of plans.

To get a better feel for each individual provider, I set up the most basic account possible and performed a series of tests. In this article, we’re going to dive into Hostinger’s offerings.Hostinger at a glance

Because there’s such variability among plans and offerings among hosting providers, it’s hard to get a good comparison. I’ve found that one of the best ways to see how a provider performs is to look at the least expensive plan they offer. You can expect the least quality, the least attention to detail, and the least performance from such a plan.

If the vendor provides good service for the bottom-shelf plans, you can generally assume the better plans will also benefit from similar quality. In the case of Hostinger, the quality was quite reasonable with good value for the price.How pricing really works

For this series of hosting reviews, I’m testing the most basic, most entry-level plan a vendor is offering. In the case of Hostinger, it’s their Single Shared Hosting plan. To get pricing, I simply went to the company’s main site at Hostinger.com.

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As with most every hosting provider, Hostinger’s published pricing is somewhat misleading. There is no option to just get billed 80 cents per month.

While it looks like you can get the Single Shared Hosting plan for $0.80 per month, that’s only if you prepay for four full years, which means you’re actually paying $38.40. Now, to be fair, thirty five bucks for four years of hosting is a very good deal, but it is confusing. If you want only one year, you’re charging $23.40 to your card (which is $1.95 per month). Still not bad, at least for the first year.

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There’s a gotcha though. When you renew, you’re going to pay more. This, too, is not uncommon for hosting plans and is a practice I strongly wish the hosting industry would stop. When you renew your plan, you’re going to jump to $7.99/month or $95.88/year. Of course, we have no idea what the pricing will be in four years, but you get the idea. 

While $7.99 itself isn’t a bad price for basic hosting, the fact is, your price will jump by ten times what you paid when you signed up. That’s a thousand percent more. Now, Hostinger does note that they offer promotions for existing users, so your renewal price won’t necessarily increase to the full price. But again, we have no idea what promotions will be in effect in four years.

On the other hand, if you do sign up for the base Hostinger plan, you pay one shot of $38.40 and — assuming you don’t need more capacity — you’ve locked in a solution that you don’t need to worry about for an entire four years.

I focus on these pricing gimmicks in my reviews because it can be really unpleasant to suddenly get a bill that’s hundreds or even thousands of dollars (depending on the plan) more than you expected. Second, switching from one hosting provider to another hosting provider can be a very time-consuming and possibly expensive job, fraught with hassles and potential points of failure.

At least half of the hosting vendors I’ve looked at over the years do these promo deals, with big jumps in renewal fees.What the base plan includes

Most bottom-end plans are for one website, and Hostinger is no different.

Before we move into the details, let’s spend a moment talking about what a base plan really is. All websites are not created equal. While you might be able to pay under a buck a month to run your website, I pay about a hundred bucks each month to run my small fleet of sites. And, of course, CBS Interactive (parent company of ZDNet) spends enterprise-level amounts of money and employs a vast staff to run some of the world’s most popular sites.

A base site is designed for a business or individual who wants a basic online presence. That’s a bunch of pages, some product or service shots, and a lot of text. If you want to run complex web applications, or you expect a lot of traffic, a basic site is not for you.

If you’re just trying to get started with an online presence, starting simply is a good way to go. In this series, we’re reviewing the least expensive program each hosting provider offers. That’s going to be what the majority of buyers will want, and it will give us good insight into the company.

Unlike most hosting vendors these days, Hostinger does not claim unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited email, at least for their entry-level plan. The Single Shared Hosting plan comes with 10GB SSD space, up to 100GB bandwidth and one email account.

They start promoting “unlimited” for their next tier up, Premium, which is $2.15 per month for four years and, regardless of which period you take at the start, winds up costing $11.95 per month thereafter.

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Be careful, though. In practice, these unlimited values are limited in the terms of service. You can’t use your unlimited storage as a giant backup tank where you dump gigabits of video, for example. They also state, amusingly, that  “All Web Hosting plans, including the unlimited plans, are subject to a limit…” Read their terms of service for the actual limits on their unlimited accounts. In other words, if your site suddenly becomes some sort of viral hit (you lucky thing!), you’re probably going to have to pay more to keep your site running.

There are some wins, most notably that even the basic plan is hosted on SSDs. Even if a site is using caching (which reduces the load on a server), having fast drives is always a plus.

The company does have 24/7/365 live chat support, which — based on my own use of their service — is quite responsive. You are allowed two subdomains. You can park an unlimited number of domain names on the account. FTP over SSL is available, which is important for keeping your site secure while transferring files in and out.

Hostinger offers a 30-day money back guarantee. It’s not as long as some of their competitors, but it is a fair amount of time for you to get a simple site up and running and see how things work.Dashboard access

The first thing I like to do when looking at a new hosting provider is explore their dashboard. Is an old friend, like cPanel? Is it some sort of janky, barely configured open source or home grown mess? Or is it a carefully crafted custom dashboard? These are often the ones that worry me the most, because they almost always hide restrictions that I’m going to have to work around somehow.

When you first log into Hostinger’s dashboard, you’re greeted with a very well-designed getting started screen. You have five clear options:

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I like this a lot. With most hosting plans, it’s pretty simple to do a WordPress install using Softaculous, but you need to know enough to find the panel and find the install tool. With Hostinger, it’s just one click of the big yellow box (or purple or green box) and you’re on your way.

Of course, I went with “Skip this” because I wanted to see what would happen. I’m like that.

With that, I was dropped into cPanel, using a clean and modern skin. If you’re comfortable around web hosting, this is an old friend.

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While cPanel can be frustrating at times, it’s a very capable interface that lets you manage all aspects of your site. Hostinger seems to have enabled most of cPanel’s main capabilities, so even with a basic account, I didn’t feel myself restricted.Installing WordPress

There are certainly other content management and blogging applications you can use besides WordPress. That said, since 32 percent of the entire Web uses WordPress, it’s a good place to start. WordPress sites can be moved from hosting provider to hosting provider, so there’s no lock-in. And by testing a site built with WordPress, we can get some consistency in our testing between hosting providers.

I did expect to see Softaculous as the installer, but instead found Auto Installer. cPanel allows hosts to choose from an app catalog of installers, and this is the one Hostinger is using. It gets big points by being fully integrated into the cPanel interface. Since newbies might not know the name Softaculous leads to more apps, it’s actually a clean, simple way to go.

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I went ahead and clicked WordPress, answered some basic configuration questions, and after a minor snag (my mistake) that I’ll describe in my discussion of support, was presented with an installed WordPress site:

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I like this installer. With many cPanel installers, you have to create your own MariaDB or MySQL database and link it into WordPress. This Auto Installer automatically generated the database and properly linked it into WordPress so all I had to do was hit the WP Admin button and log in.

Overall, adding an app using Hostinger’s cPanel went very smoothly.Quick security checks

Security is one of the biggest issues when it comes to operating a website. You want to make sure your site is safe from hackers, doesn’t flag Google, and can connect securely to payment engines if you’re running an ecommerce site of any kind.

While the scope of this article doesn’t allow for exhaustive security testing, there are a few quick checks that can help indicate whether Hostinger’s most inexpensive platform is starting with a secure foundation.

The first of these is multifactor authentication (MFA). It’s way too easy for hackers to just bang away at a website’s login screen and bruteforce a password. One of my sites has been pounded on for weeks by some hacker or another, but because I have some relatively strong protections in place, the bad actor hasn’t been able to get in.

Unfortunately, I have to ding Hostinger for what I consider to be a pretty serious security flaw. Hostinger does not offer any form of MFA for their dashboard. You, of course, can add a plugin to your WordPress site to put MFA on there, but if the dashboard is open, protecting the site itself is only a weak partial solution.

While Hostinger does not offer SSL with their basic account, you can buy an SSL certificate from them for a one-time fee of $11.95. Activating SSL was quite simple, once the certificate was assigned to the account. All I had to do was click Activate SSL on the dashboard for it to be enabled (and working for my previously-built WordPress site):

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As my last quick security check, I like to look at the versions of some of the main system components that run web applications. To make things easy, I chose four components necessary to safe WordPress operation. While other apps may use other components, I’ve found that if components are up-to-date for one set of needs, they’re usually up to date across the board.

Here are my findings (using the Health Check & Troubleshooting plugin), as of the day I tested, for Hostinger’s Single Shared plan:

Component

Version Provided

Current Version

How Old

PHP

7.032

7.2.14

Five months

MySQL/MariaDB

MariaDB 10.2.17

MariaDB 10.3.12

Five months

cURL

7.62.0

7.64.0

Three months

OpenSSL

1.0.2k

1.0.2q (and 1.1.1a)

23 months

In general, these results aren’t bad. You kind of need to know the component to know how to read these results. For example, WordPress prefers PHP 7.2, so even though PHP is only a few months old, it’s due for an upgrade. On the other hand, the cURL library is surprisingly current. A lot of hosting providers are running ancient (and dangerous) versions of cURL, while Hostinger is pretty much up to date.

Also, the company supports OpenSSL 1.0.2k, where the absolutely most current version is 1.1.1a. The gotcha is that when OpenSSL went to 1.1, it broke a lot of code. As a result, the OpenSSL project is updating both the 1.0.2 branch and the 1.1 branch. I know, it’s enough to give you a headache. The bottom line is that Hostinger is pretty much where it should be in terms of the system components they’re offering on their platform.Performance testing

Next, I wanted to see how the site performed using some online performance testing tools. It’s important not to take these tests too seriously. We’re purposely looking at the most low-end offerings of hosting vendors, so the sites they produce are expected to be relatively slow.

That said, it’s nice to have an idea what to expect. The way I test is to use the fresh install of WordPress with the standard theme TwentySeventeen. I then performance test the “Hello, world” page, which is mostly text, with just an image header. That way, we’re able to focus on the responsiveness of a basic page without being too concerned about media overhead.

First, I ran two Pingdom Tools tests, one hitting the site from San Francisco and the second from Germany. Here’s the San Francisco test rating:

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And here’s the same site from Germany:

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Oddly enough, the German test did not include an image capture of the page being tested. I ran it three times just to be sure it wasn’t a glitch. I’m not too concerned, since the test results from Germany are reporting the same page size as the test from America, so I’ll just chalk it up to an anomaly at Pingdom.

Next, I ran a similar test using the Bitchatcha service:

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Finally, I hit the site with Load Impact, which sends 25 virtual users over the course of three minutes to the site, and then measures the responsiveness.

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The Load Impact surprised me a bit. As more users are concurrently hitting the site, you’d expect the responsiveness to become more irregular. In this test, response time began at about 71ms, hovered between that and about 131ms, and ended at 83ms. But there was that spike, which pushed that one request out to 2.57 seconds. Even as requests grew from roughly six requests a second to ten times that, response time stayed generally stable.

This is not normally a characteristic of a lower-cost hosting plan. One of the reasons you pay more for a hosting plan is if your business model can’t sustain a reduction of responsiveness, but as we’ve seen, as the number of users increased, responsiveness stayed pretty steady.

None of the tests showed spectacular performance, and I found the responsiveness of the WordPress dashboard to be sluggish, but I wouldn’t expect more from a low-end plan. As you can see, the different tests reported substantially different results, ranging from a B rating to a D+ rating.

I say this a lot in my reviews, but take advantage of the money-back time period to fully test out results for yourself. You have 30 days with Hostinger. Make sure to use them.Support responsiveness

During testing, I had four different reasons to reach out and ask for help — most related to information gathering I was doing for this article. All of my contacts were through the chat interface on the Web site.

I initially had difficulty setting up my account. This is a bit of insider baseball, but hosting vendors set up time-limited accounts for me to do my testing on. The settings for the test account were wrong, and I needed to have it reset.

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On the Hostinger site, I reached out and after just four minutes, was greeted by Andrius.  Apparently, it was 2:27am in Lithuania where Andrius was helping me. He helped me reset my account, and I was able to set it up using one of my own domain names, which I pointed to the Hostinger name servers. Making that fix, including my discussion with Andrius, took less than a half hour.

Next, I wanted to clarify the lack of multifactor authentication, so I reached out again. This time, it was Arnas at 12:25am (it was the middle of a Sunday afternoon here in Oregon). He responded within two minutes and answered my question. He also had a delightful Neil Patrick Harris animated sign-off GIF which made me chuckle out loud.

Finally, I spoke to Gytis twice about a few other service plan questions. He jumped onto the chat in about three minutes and answered my questions.

Although I haven’t exhaustively tested the support service (I tried on a Wednesday and a Sunday afternoon), each time someone responded in four minutes or less.

I thought support was quite good, especially for the very basic plan provided by Hostinger.Overall conclusion

You never want to get your expectations too high for a bottom-end plan. The economics of running such a super-cheap offering is that the provider has to make it up on volume. Professional and enterprise hosting plans with lots of traffic and performance must, out of necessity, cost more.

The renewal pricing of about a hundred bucks a year after the initial four year promotion ends is a bit of a shocker. On the other hand, the fact that you can get four years of hosting for less than $35 total is a solid offer for a set-it-and-forget-it solution for low-end or starter sites.

While the company has a major failing in not offering multi-factor authentication for their dashboard, the components used to drive websites are reasonably up-to-date and should offer a solid base for secure site operations. Plus, their dashboard implementation was well done and trouble free.

Obviously, you should spend your 30 day trial time testing your site out carefully, but for the price, Hostinger is providing compelling value. 

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn a commission on services featured on this page. Neither the author nor ZDNet were compensated by the vendor for this independent, unbiased review.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/Askandaweb on Instagram at Instagram.com/elitepoint, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/Cenema360.

Free Web Hosting Area review

If you prefer your web hosting provider to have a glossy and slick website, Free Web Hosting Area will be a disappointment. The company’s site is dated and text-heavy, with few details on what it has to offer. Look closer, though, and the service becomes much more interesting.

There’s a reason the site looks dated, for instance: the company has been around since 2005, and the design has barely changed. Okay, so maybe it could have found time for an update, but we’re more interested in the features the service has to offer.

And when you look at those features, there’s a lot to like. That includes unmetered traffic, 1.5GB disk space, daily backups, MySQL databases via MariaDB – and what the company calls ‘responsive support.’ If you’re thinking ‘shouldn’t support always be responsive?’, you’re quite right, but keep in mind that many free web hosts give you virtually no support at all.

More technical features include Apache 2.4 with mod_rewrite ‘and other important modules’ enabled, as well as .htaccess and .htpasswd support.

In May 2019, Free Web Hosting Area added free SSL certificates to its plan. This sounds like good news, but beware, these aren’t automatic – the company says it will only give them to users with ‘quality web content.’

There are other issues. Individual website files can’t be larger than 12MB. Users with free domains can’t create email accounts (even those using their own domain have to follow awkward workarounds). Forget about having an industry-standard tool like cPanel to manage your website: you get a very basic custom control panel, with barely any features at all.

Sign up anyway and your site can be hosted on one of an impressive sounding nine subdomains, though beware, you may not want to use any of them: orgfree.com, 6te.net, xp3.biz, ueuo.com, eu5.org, coolpage.biz, freeoda.com, freevar.com, freetzi.com. But if those options don’t appeal, you can also host the site on a custom domain of your own.

A premium account supports more databases, provides one-click database backups, enables php mail(), gives you extra DNS flexibility (you can use an A record with your own domain, instead of NS), allows direct access to your files and ensures your site won’t be deleted for inactivity. This isn’t the most essential of feature lists, but on the plus side, the paid plan is cheap, at just $12 per year.

Setup

The Free Web Hosting Area signup process starts by choosing your website subdomain, or entering a domain of your own. Enter your email address, choose a password and your account is enabled immediately. And we do mean immediately – the company doesn’t verify your email address or even send an introductory welcome email, instead redirecting you to a web page with more details.

Experienced users won’t have any problems picking out the information they need. You get logins for FTP and your control panel, MySQL and PHP guidance, phpMyAdmin setup, and more.

Beginners, though, are likely to be confused. The introductory page assumes readers have website experience (with instructions like ‘put your files directly on root’). It has plenty of advanced details that other providers tuck away in a FAQ somewhere (‘Take care with full permissions 777!’) There’s no simple ‘Getting Started’ overview to walk you through your first steps; Free Web Hosting Area assumes you’ll know about all this already.


Creating a website

Free Web Hosting Area doesn’t have any of the easy website creation tools of the top competition. Forget template-based site builders, automated installers for WordPress or other apps – there’s none of that here.

What you get instead is a simple file manager (net2ftp), essentially a web-based FTP client which allows you to upload a static website, reorganize and edit files. (You can opt to use a standalone FTP client, if you prefer).

Although the file manager isn’t difficult to use, it’s not fully integrated with the control panel. It requires FTP credentials, for instance, so even though you’ve logged into the control panel, when you launch the file manager, you must log in again with a second username and password.

Elsewhere, phpMyAdmin access enables directly manipulating MySQL databases, which is handy if you’re hoping to install WordPress or similar database-driven apps.

And that’s just about it. No, really, we’re not kidding. You can choose your PHP version or delete your website and start again, but the other few options you get are mostly about updating your details (providing an email address, changing passwords) or contacting the company.

There’s no web knowledgebase to help you out if you run into problems, but Free Web Hosting Area does offer email support. We tested this by sending a short message about SSL support, asking whether the company was using Let’s Encrypt certificates, and what was meant by the firm saying that certificates would only be given to sites with ‘quality web content.’

A reply arrived almost exactly eight hours later, a decent response time for any level of hosting. The agent didn’t tell us anything about the company’s SSL certificates, but explained that ‘sites with a page containing “TEST PAGE” are, of course, not quality content.’

Well, okay, but having to put your website through that type of subjective test is still a hassle. You’ll have to make sure your site is largely finished and viewable, for instance, before you ask. And what if your site is password-protected, so all any casual visitor sees is a login box? Will you have to hand over some credentials to Free Web Hosting Area, in order for it to assess the ‘quality’ of your content?

Performance

Speed is an important factor in choosing a web host, and although you can get better performance if you’re spending big money, free services often deliver more than you’d expect.

We had Uptime.com continuously monitor the performance of our website over time. The report showed a typical response time of 260ms, fractionally slower than average, though not enough to make a noticeable difference. This could rise to as much as 1.4 seconds, which is also slower than many competitors, but these issues were rare (two or three times a day, lasting a few minutes at most).

Dotcom-tools website speed test simulated loading our site from 16 locations across the US and Europe. This time, Free Web Hosting Area was 10-20% faster than usual, with page load times averaging 724ms for the first run, 694ms for the second.

Put it all together and speed doesn’t seem to be an issue for Free Web Hosting Area. Keep in mind that your results may vary considerably if you’re on a server with a stack of very busy websites, though, all competing for the same bandwidth. The only way to find out for sure is to create a test site and monitor its speed over time.Final verdict

A quirky web host which scores in some areas (unmetered traffic, backups), and bombs in others (feeble control panel, no auto-WordPress installer). Worth a look for experienced users who need its more technical features, but everyone else will be better off elsewhere.

Are free web hosting plans reliable?

Best answer: Most of the time, no. Of the free hosting options available today, the one most worth your time is WIX. But even then, you’re going to find the limitations are likely to cause problems eventually.Popular choice: Wix (Free at Wix)Worth a look: 50Webs.com (Free at 50webs.com)Common limitations with a free hosting plan

If you need a simple website to present to a few people, and you don’t expect it to be visited much, putting it on a hosting company’s free plan can work. It can also be a good way to practice setting up a website or to test your website design without having to spend money. And, of course, you could always upgrade to a paid plan later.

However, there are limitations; some you may be able to work around, but others are significant. These are the general things you should expect when using a free hosting plan:

Advertising: Expect the hosting company to put ads on your site. Either a banner ad at the top of your web page or a big advertisement that covers your entire web page for a few seconds.

No custom domain: Since it is a big moneymaker, most free plans won’t let you use your own domain. Typically, these plans only allow you to come up with a subdomain on the hosting company’s domain.

Limited bandwidth: The hosting company may limit the amount of bandwidth that your website can deliver, usually within a month. If you go over your allotment, your website will go down.

Limited web space: Even if you pay, the lowest-tier plan sold by a hosting company will have a limit on how many gigabytes you can store on their servers. Expect this storage space to be even smaller, perhaps just a few gigabytes.

File size limit: The maximum sizes of files you upload for your website may be restricted, maybe less than 1 MB per file. This can put a severe limit if the website you want to put up features, images, or graphics-heavy elements.

Shared hosting: With most free plans, your website shares bandwidth, webspace, and other server resources with other websites that are owned by other user accounts. If online traffic among them becomes heavy, this could slow the performance of your website.

No SSL certificate: An SSL certificate assures visitors of your website that the connection between their browser and the hosting company’s servers is secured with encryption. This is denoted with the padlock icon in their browser’s URL box. Instead, visitors will see “Not secure” by your website’s URL.

Minimal or no customer support: Most free hosting plans won’t give you customer support through email, online chat, or over the phone. You’ll have to consult your host company’s online help section or a user forum.What should I use instead?

Of course, in many instances, you can upgrade from a free hosting plan to a paid one if you need to later. Wix and 50Webs.com are also low-cost web hosting companies. After all, companies such as them hope to sell you a paid plan; their free plan is there to rope you in. Wix’s paid plans start at $13 per month, and 50Webs.com’s start at just $2 per month.Our pick

Wix

A popular choice w/ website builder

Wix’s free plan is an excellent way to quickly set up a website or teach yourself how to design one. This hosting company offers a wide selection of website templates to get you started building.Also recommended

50Webs.com

Less popular but worth a look

50Webs.com offers a free web hosting plan that lets you use your own domain. This hosting company is also one of the few that won’t put ads on your website.

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