Tired of unprofessional web hosts who have no idea what they're doing? The Endurance International Group-owned Site5 claims to be very, very different. This is 'hosting for serious developers', the website says, 'built for designers and developers.' Impressive.
Site5's hostBasic shared hosting plan isn't cheap at $6.95 over two years, $8.95 annually (there's no monthly option).
This claims to offer unmetered storage and bandwidth, but Site5 also suggests it's only suitable for around 10,000 visitors a month. Namecheap's EasyWP Starter WordPress plan only includes 10GB storage, but claims to handle 50,000 visitors, and is priced from $1.86 a month on the annual plan, $2.49 on renewal.
Elsewhere, hostBasic has a plus with its bundled backup service (a $1-$2 a month extra with many hosts), but there's no free domain, no live chat support (it's ticket only for this plan), and you can host one domain only. Site5 will migrate an existing site for free, there's cPanel site management and - the website claims - Softaculous-powered one-click installs for WordPress and hundreds of other apps.
(Softaculous turned out not to be available with our plan, but more on that later.)
The $10.95 a month hostPro plan supports up to 25,000 monthly visits and can host unlimited websites, and the $13.95 hostPro+Turbo gets you better performance, the power to handle 100,000 visitors a month, and - finally - 24/7 support via live chat (both prices are for the two year plan, but are also available billed monthly at $12.95 and $19.95.)
Apart from having backups as standard, these plans look very ordinary, and you can get much more, from very capable companies, for very similar money.
For example, HostGator's Baby plan includes unmetered storage and bandwidth, and unlimited domains, and live chat support, for $3.95 a month over three years, $6.95 on renewal.
Although it doesn't begin to justify the price, Site5 does have one standout feature: a 45-day money-back guarantee for its shared hosting, 'no advanced notification required, no paperwork, no red tape, no catches whatsoever.' You'll get 90 days from InMotion Hosting, but in a world where most hosts stop at 30 days, and some (hello, GoDaddy) drop to 48 hours on monthly billed plans, GoDaddy's hassle-free 45-day guarantee is a welcome touch.
Site5 doesn't have any managed WordPress or dedicated server products, but there is a small range of VPS plans.
As with the shared hosting, these look a little expensive. The baseline 2 core, 2GB RAM, 50GB storage and 1TB bandwidth product costs $64.80 a month billed annually, for instance, a serious chunk of cash.
The plan specs aren't bad. This is a managed VPS, which means Site5 looks after the low-level technical management of the server, and a bundled cPanel license means it's almost as easy to run as a shared hosting product.
If you're happy to manage your server from the command line, though, there are huge savings to be made.
For instance, Namecheap's unmanaged, no-cPanel Pulsar package - 2 core, 2GB RAM, 40GB storage and 1TB bandwidth - is only a monthly $11.74. And even if you add cPanel and server management, it's still only $47.74.
HostWinds has a wider range of VPS plans, far more configurable and with support for Windows hosting, but it also offers great value. Its cheapest unmanaged VPS starts at $4.83 billed monthly (no long-term contracts required), while a 4 core, 8GB RAM, 150GB storage setup, fully managed and with cPanel thrown in, is $90.
It looks like Site5's VPS range has a significant price premium, then. Is there something about the service that justifies any extra costs? Maybe signing up would help us find out.
Creating a website
The Site5 purchase process is simple, straightforward, and works precisely as we expected. We chose a plan, provided all the usual contact details, and paid via PayPal (there's support for cards, too.) An email arrived moments later with login details and some useful advice on getting started, and our account was ready to use immediately.
Site5's web account management system is powered by WHMCS, a hugely powerful platform used by many web hosts. It's far from perfect, but if your previous host used the same system, you'll immediately know how to find your way around the interface.
As we looked around, we noticed that the Site5 account pages are distinctly short on annoying ads and all the other upselling efforts that plague some hosting provider dashboards. That's not the biggest of deals, but it's an approach we prefer. Sure, hosts can push products all they like on the main site, but paying customers should get a functional interface designed to benefit them, not a virtual marketplace aimed at selling them even more stuff.
Site5's major site building and management tools are tucked away in a full-featured cPanel setup, just a click away from the web dashboard.
Although Site5's website claims Softaculous is available with all shared hosting plans, it wasn't included in our HostPro account. Advertising a major feature like that, and not delivering it, has to be a major black mark.
Fortunately, you're still able to set up WordPress via a 'Site Software' option or a Mojo Marketplace-powered QuickInstall feature.
QuickInstall can set up a bunch of other apps, too: Drupal, Joomla, Magento, PrestaShop, ZenCart and many more.
Site5 doesn't include any website builder, but as this is apparently 'hosting for serious developers', maybe that's not necessary.
If you do need to put something simple online right away, you can always turn to cPanel's own Site Publisher. This only has a handful of extremely basic one-page sites, but it does allow you to get some text and a background graphic online within minutes.
CPanel's other modules cover all the setup and maintenance features you're likely to need: domains, databases, email accounts, FTP and SSH, backups, and when your site is up-and-running, detailed stats on your visitors, where they came from, and exactly what they're looking at.
This is a reasonable set of tools, but it doesn't live up to Site5's claim of 'hosting for serious developers.' If anything, it's less capable than some consumer hosting.
Site5's shared hosting doesn't include the excellent Softaculous auto-installer, for instance, but that is available in Namecheap's ultra-budget starter plan ($1.44 a month in year one, $2.44 on renewal.)
Site5's support begins on its website, where features include a knowledgebase and a Q&A page where you can post public questions, and browse questions and answers from other views.
The knowledgebase has plenty of content, with 560 articles organized into 73 categories.
There's some depth here, too. The cPanel section links to more than 50 articles covering all the major aspects of managing your site.
Unfortunately, a lot of this content was written some time ago, often around 2011-2015. This might explain why the top article in the Email Software section is 'Setup an email account on a Windows Phone 8' (released in 2012), for instance. And although the main points in the more relevant articles are still valid, you might have to work your way around any interface or other changes.
It was a similar story in the Q&A section, where the latest question was dated March 30th, 2016. And we noticed a few broken links, again suggesting Site5 hasn't been paying close attention to its website for a while.
Live chat was better, at least for simple queries. We've seen complaints that it's rarely available, but an agent responded to us in around 30 seconds. We posted a product question and he answered it immediately, with none of the 'give me your email address, and your support PIN, and your domain, and your account number, and...' hassles you'll sometimes get elsewhere.
Getting your site online is just the start of a web host's task; keeping it there, ensuring it doesn't go down, is the real challenge.
To measure reliability, we use Uptime.com to monitor a test site over a seven-day period. Every five minutes, Uptime attempts to download a page from our site, logging its success or failure and the server response time.
Site5 passed our week of testing without a single outage, a perfect 100% uptime.
Average response time was 301ms. The best hosts average 150-200ms, most are somewhere in the 200-350ms range, putting Site5 very marginally towards the rear of the pack (though not so much that you're likely to notice.)
Times ranged from 259-698ms across the test week. We've seen better - PowWeb managed 177-265ms in a recent review - but it's not bad for a shared hosting account, and shouldn't be an issue for most purposes.
(Be careful how you interpret these figures. Our test account was based on Site5's cheapest shared hosting plan, and they can't tell us anything about the speeds you'll get from VPS, dedicated or other more advanced plans.)
Site5 isn't a terrible web host, it's just distinctly short on reasons to sign up. Whether you're interested in price, product range, features, speed or support, Site5 lags behind most of the competition.
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