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Lightning Base review

Managed WordPress hosting at a bargain price

Lightning Base 21:9 Hero
(Image: © Lightning Base)

Our Verdict

Lightning Base is a US-based web hosting provider with managed WordPress hosting solutions as its area of expertise. With its well-balanced feature-packed and pocket-friendly products, this host is well worth your time.

For

  • Affordable managed hosting packages
  • Data centers all over the world
  • Free automatic backups included
  • Knowledgeable customer support staff
  • One-month money-back guarantee

Against

  • No Windows hosting
  • Not many support channels
  • Official blog feels abandoned

Launched in 2011, Lightning Base was brainstormed by Chris Piepho, who has since kept a constant presence in all business areas at his company. Providing new articles on Lightning Base’s official blog, handling customers and doing “whatever else needs to be done” is just part of his day-to-day routine. You (and everyone else) can reach him personally by filling the contract form and addressing your message to Chris. This is a curiosity in these times, as well as the fact that the Lightning Base is not a part of Endurance Group, both of which are part of its appeal. They specialize in fully managed WordPress hosting solutions in hope of making them accessible and affordable to all who are interested.

Their main office is situated in Minneapolis (the USA) and it offers a truly global content delivery network (CDN) featuring more than a few locations in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Lightning Base’s main website has taken simplicity to a whole new level, both in a good and in a bad way. There is an “About” section and some additional data about the technical aspects of Lightning Base’s hosting solutions, much of which was written by Chris himself. Deciding to “Take a Tour” will take you to a page with detailed (and somewhat text-heavy) description of the most significant components of their services. In addition to this, there is an official (and a decent-looking yet dated) blog which is run by (guess who) the aforementioned Chris Piepho.

Both Twitter and Facebook accounts seemed relatively active at least until 2018, after which they silently fell into oblivion.

Pricing

You'll have to go with a more advanced plan if you want to hose more than one WordPress site (Image credit: Lightning Base)

Plans and pricing

As mentioned, since Lightning Base is dedicated to managed WordPress and managed WordPress only, don’t expect to find a myriad of different hosting products in their catalogue. Nevertheless, there are four plans to choose from, different in size and their intention. The most affordable one starts at $9.95 per month, which makes it one of the most budget-friendly solutions of its kind on the market.

The smallest WordPress plan will get you an ability to host one website (with bigger plans you can host up to 25 WordPress sites), to have up to 10,000 views per month, 1GB of storage (SSD), 10 GB of bandwidth and 20GB of global CND per one month. All plans come with a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate, which is a major selling point.

Although this option is easy to miss, all dissatisfied users are entitled to a refund which will cover their first month’s charges with no questions asked. However, the site doesn’t make it particularly clear whether this functions as a standard 30-day money-back guarantee or you can request a refund for one month of hosting at any point in time. In either case, it doesn’t change much, so it is safest to treat it like a standard one.

As for payment methods, Lightning Base accepts all major credit cards, PayPal and ACH (if customers hail from the US).

Signup

At signup you'll be able to choose the location of your site's servers (Image credit: Lightning Base)

Ease of use

Lightning Base doesn’t spoil its users with life’s little luxuries such as free domain registration, although if you already own one, the transfer is (as expected) without charge. Those who already have a website can transfer it for free, and those who want to launch a new one won’t have to worry about any setup fees.

If you are concerned about the safety of your website (or websites, since Lightning Base supports up to 25 of them), you may rest assured, since Lightning Base (in addition to SSL certificate) provides site backups on multiple levels. In addition to servers being backed up on a day-to-day basis (data backups that is; the full ones are done weekly), they provide backup for their users’ WordPress installation itself, which is important for data recovery in case of an unforeseeable disaster. On top of all that, users are welcome to determine the frequency of these backups, making them more or less frequent upon request.

Picking out a hosting plan with Lightning Base is suitably simple, in part since there are just four of them, and all are managed WordPress hosting solutions. After selecting a plan, you’ll be asked what to do with a domain name: register a new one (it will cost from $14.95 up to $44.95), use an old one as it is, or transfer it to Lightning Base. Then you’ll have to choose whether you want a monthly or an annual billing cycle, where opting to go for a year will save you about $1.50 for each month of hosting. The locations of servers you can choose from include: USA (Central), Europe (the Netherlands), Australia (Sydney) and Asia (Singapore).

Before proceeding to checkout and finalizing your payment, you’ll need to provide a decent amount of personal data, set a password and choose if you want to be part of Lightning Base’s mailing list. With the promise of instant setup, your website should appear within minutes and since all packages come with industry-standard cPanel, managing all areas of your website is going to be as painless as possible. From here, since their system supports HTTP/2 (which makes it easier to run fast websites unburdened by unnecessary complexity), you can install HTTPs in a matter of minutes.

Performance

We used GTmetrix to test the uptime and response time of our Lightning Base site (Image credit: GTmetrix)

Speed and experience

Lightning Base deploys servers based on Intel Xeon processors which are connected to “reliable and redundant infrastructure”. Since they are using 100% SSD-based storage, which is local to the servers and arranged in a Raid 10 configuration, the speed performance should be lightning fast.

After performing a speed test (provided by GTmetrix) on Lightning Base’s main website, we received good, although not great results. The page loading time lasted for 4.5 seconds, which looks great in comparison to the average of 8.1 second, but requests required to do so went above the average value. Other vital metrics related to speed were above-average, except for total blocking time which was 231 milliseconds (150 or less would be a sign of good performance). In summary, GTmetric rated the website's speed performance with a B (86%), which is still a better result than we find most of the time.

Although we couldn’t find a single trace of uptime guarantee, when put to the test, Lightning Base’s main website demonstrated outstanding performance. While (only) one month was monitored (courtesy of UptimeRobot), not one instance of downtime was recorded, promising a stable performance.

Support

Nothing is perfect in life, nor is it in the world of web hosting. Lightning Base’s support team, although friendly and helpful, is not easy enough to reach in the first place. If you’re accustomed to a “modern” luxury of having live chat as one of your support channels (as we were), you will probably feel bummed out (like we did). Also, if you are used to having your issues resolved immediately, since there is no telephone option supported, you may have to learn some patience.

To be fair, you can get in touch with Lightning Base’s support team by submitting a ticket or via e-mail and you are likely to get a response within 30 minutes. Not only that, but according to reviews from satisfied users (in line with our own experience) the support you get is top-notch.

Support

You can find answers to common hosting problems in Lighting Base's knowledgebase (Image credit: Lightning Base)

As for self-help options, Lightning Base offers a knowledgebase with everything you would usually expect from it, except that is available to registered users only.

The competition

Flywheel, same as Lightning Base, decided to dedicate itself to one type of hosting and that is managed WordPress. Both hosts are highly proficient in their area of expertise and offer well-structured hosting packages adaptable to most needs. However, with Lightning Base you can get two for the price of one “premium” package with Flywheel. While both offer competent customer support, with Flywheel you’ll get additional options such as 24/7 live chat and telephone (although the latter is reserved for “premium” customers).

Although managed WordPress hosting is Bluehost’s latest product, it promptly became popular and one of the more popular options of its kind. Both Lightning Base and Bluehost are beginner-friendly options and will do everything to make a challenging task of starting a new website as simple as possible. To conclude, if you are still considering other hosting types and options, we would recommend you to go with Bluehost. However, if you know WordPress is what you want, Lightning Base (which is specialized in just that) is a smart choice.

Hostgator’s cloud WordPress hosting packages will definitely give you a bang for your buck without making any compromise on the quality. The cheapest starts at mere $5.95 per month and will get you some nifty perks such as free domain, free SSL, 99.9% uptime guarantee, 45-day money-back guarantee and so on. Therefore, while Lightning Base is a good option, Hostgator is a great one.

Much like Lightning Base, SiteGround has an aim to make website management as easy as it gets, and all without robbing you blind. However, SiteGround’s solutions come a bit cheaper with an entry-level plan starting at a particularly pocket-friendly 5.99 € ($7.20) per month and include some amazing tools for all webmasters out there.

Final verdict

One of Lightning Base’s slogans is “Hosting designed for the software you love”, which is curious, since after trying out what they have to offer, we were left with a feeling that they were thinking of themselves as well, for all we’ve encountered so far feels like a labor of love. Lightning Base isn’t a flawless host, but with its dedication, courteous and capable support team, well-designed and competitively priced hosting solutions, it is close enough to being one.

If you are not interested in managed WordPress hosting in particular, or would rather put your trust in a more experienced host, feel free to try your luck with Bluehost or HostGator.

Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.