The Thrive Themes Recommendation for High-Performance Hosting
Note: there has been a rebranding/name change. Traffic Planet Hosting is now called WPX Hosting. Same awesome service as before, though!
How Good is it Really? Before & After Test Results
Will switching your site to WPX Hosting really make a noticeable difference? To answer this question, we switched a site from a mid- to high-end hosting service to WPX and measured the performance difference. Note that the 'before' parts of these results don't come from a bargain-priced rinky-dink shared host. We're not comparing the worst possible scenario against WPX. We're comparing a good, SSD-based, high-tech server against WPX Hosting.
It would have been easy to make a comparison with a really cheap hosting service that has awful performance and makes any alternative look good by comparison, but that's not what we're doing here.
With that said, let's move on to the data:
Comparison 1: GTmetrix
GTmetrix is a great website speed testing service and here's the performance summary we got for the homepage of our test site, before and after moving it to WPX Hosting.
Note that we're testing a long homepage with many images and as you can see, the scores aren't bad to begin with. The total loading time of under 4 seconds in the first test is already a decent result.
After the switch to WPX, the total loading time for the page dropped to less than 3 seconds, which is excellent.
Comparison 2: Pingdom
The measured loading time is already under 3 seconds in this case, so you can see that we're really testing a fast hosting solution against WPX Hosting. Here's the result after the switch:
Note that not only did the loading time drop by 30% to barely over 2 seconds, but the page also went from being faster than 55% of pages tested in Pingdom to faster than 70% of pages tested in Pingdom.
For a page like the one we're testing, containing many images and a lot of data, achieving a loading time as low as this is a spectacular result. To show you what I mean, here's the result from the same testing tool and also for a site hosted on WPX, but testing a much simpler page with fewer images:
You're probably starting to see why I'm so excited about WPX Hosting. There's no other hosting solution I've ever tested that can load a page like this in half a second. And that's coming from someone who's paid upwards of $400/month for high-end hosting.
Google's Own Verdict
The main reason we pursue fast loading times at Thrive Themes is for conversion. A secondary reason to care about speed is because Google cares about it as well and if you want your site to rank highly in Google's search results, it helps if that site is fast.
For anyone who cares about Google rankings and SEO, here's the most definitive reason why you should use WPX Hosting:
This is the website speed report from Google Webmaster Tools. It reports how fast your site loads for your visitors and I've always found that this is a really difficult test to do well at. Even if you get great results from testing tools like GTmetrix and Pingdom, you'll still often see slow loading times reported here.
In this graph, you can very clearly see the point in time when the site was switched from the previous hosting solution to WPX Hosting. If SEO is an important factor for your website and business, a difference like this will almost certainly translate into more traffic and more business for you.
For the average consumer, the above is reason enough to choose a new web host. However, we went much deeper than that, before making a recommendation. Enter Paul, who has a background working in the hosting industry:
The 80/20 Guide to Choosing a Web Host
At Thrive Themes, we're all about speed and conversions and we are obsessive at making sure our software is as lightweight as possible for fast load times, lower bounce rates and increased search engine rankings.
However, there are some things we simply can't control that have the potential to destroy the speed of your site. Choosing a bad web host is one of them. It's also one of the most important.
I used to be a partner in a web hosting company for a few years and I know what goes on in the industry. In the same way that some banks often get carried away with leveraging debt in a bet that customers won't withdraw their money at the same time, some hosting companies often overload their servers many times the amount they sell to you, the consumer, in the bet that most sites won't use up their full allocation.
Of course, this often leads to overcrowded, sluggish servers that can wreak havoc on a web site's performance. Not to mention the downtime when more traffic is received than anticipated. It's a race to the bottom in search of profitability and it's something you definitely don't want to be on the end of.
The frustrating thing is that some of the most popular and successful web hosting companies are terrible. They are able to get away with being so bad because the wider public don’t have the understanding of what’s really happening behind the scenes or how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
We've put this guide together to help you avoid the pitfalls of partnering with a bad hosting company and to help you understand the important aspects of a solid hosting company.
Of course, we've already done this research already and off the back of our research have partnered up with WPX Hosting. If you'd rather not listen to the details, but want to have the peace of mind that you're with a decent host, then just sign up with one of their plans.
Here I’m going to make a number of assumptions about your business or the business of your clients:-
- The site in question is built on WordPress
- The site has the potential to grow
- The owner of the site is not technical
- The owner of the site doesn't want to learn about the technical side of hosting
Your hosting provider should therefore offer the following benefits:-
- The fastest possible response and download times
- Security such that your site is safe and can be restored at any time
- Control over the most important aspects of the account through an easy to use control panel
- An excellent, responsive and helpful support team
- The ability to grow with your business
- Protection from malicious attacks such as DDoS (an attack whereby the server is flooded with incoming traffic in an attempt to bring a site down)
- Maximum WordPress performance form a tailored hosting package
With this in mind, here is a checklist of points for you to take into account when choosing a web host:
1. The Data Centre
"Data centre" is the name given to a place where many servers are held. As the name suggests, this is where your data will be stored and served from.
Most web hosting companies won't own their own data centres, instead they will co locate servers that they've either bought, or rented, inside one of the many data centres that exist around the world.
Ideally, the data centre that serves your web site should:-
- be located as near as possible to your main target demographic to reduce ping and content delivery times. If you're selling to UK customers, then it's preferable to have a UK hosting company with servers in a UK data centre
- have multiple layers of connectivity so that if one network goes down, then there is a redundant back up layer of protection
- have standalone diesel generators to protect against downtime from power cuts
- have strong security protocols to ensure on-site physical security
The above points are commonplace with most data centres around the globe, but you should still enquire about the data centre with any potential web host that you're thinking of signing up with.
The WPX Hosting team house their servers in the world's biggest data centre.
Three of the largest stock and mercantile exchanges, two of the five largest pharmaceutical companies and tens of thousands of retail outlets use the same datacentre.
The 1.1 million square foot facility in Chicago is home to the servers of huge companies like GoGrid, NetAPP and ARM, has over 50(!) backup diesel generators in place as a redundant power source.
Needless to say, with the kind of business that host there, connectivity and redundancy are both extremely well catered for.
2. High Grade Enterprise Hardware
A server is simply a computer that is designed primarily to communicate with remote hosts all day. Just like the range of computers at a hardware store, there are many different types of server. Some are cheap and cheerful, while others are more powerful, reliable and can take more load.
For the fastest performance, you should look out for a server that has SSD caching enabled. Solid State Drives are the new "breed" of disk drives that serve data at a faster rate than the older Hard Disk Drives that were the mainstay for years. They are more expensive, but the performance upgrade is definitely noticeable.
Another thing to look out for is RAM and processor speed. Especially for high traffic sites, the bottleneck may not necessarily be the hard drive, but rather the input / output capacity of the server in question.
WPX Hosting already have high performance hardware in their data centre. Their current set up consists of:-
Intel Xeon CPU E3-1270 v3 @ 3.50GHz, 8 cores (4 cores with Hyperthreading) and 32Gb RAM
However, the even better news is that going forward they want to purchase even more power servers. These will be 64Gb RAM machines with 12 cores (6 cores with Hyperthreading)
Edit:- Since writing this, Terry has informed me that all Thrive customers will be put on the newly purchased , more powerful, 64 GB servers
3. Regular Backup Schedule
While there are dedicated backup solutions available, most hosts will allow you to configure a backup schedule and the ability to quickly perform restores should something go wrong.
It would be recommended to have a dedicated backup service running alongside this, but having that extra layer of backup protection is great for peace of mind.
WPX Hosting give a full two weeks worth of daily backups along with all hosting packages they offer.
An equally nice benefit is that they do not charge for any backup retrieval that customers need. Plenty of hosting companies that advertise "free" backups neglect to mention that they charge a hefty fee to restore the backups.
4. Dedicated WordPress Hosting
Due to its flexibility and extensive API, WordPress is quite slow out of the box. This problem gets worse if you overload the site with poorly coded themes and plugins.
However, WordPress can be optimised in a number of ways that can significantly improve the performance of the site. Specialised and dedicated WordPress hosting companies are able to fine tune the server configuration to get as much performance out of WordPress as possible in ways that generic hosting companies aren’t.
I was initially sceptical about the performance benefit of hosting with such companies, however after thorough testing I can say that the benefit is substantial (as is evidenced by towards the top of this page)
WPX Hosting is tailored 100% for the WordPress platform. In fact, their whole business model is providing "superfast WordPress Optimised Hosting"
This allows them to add their own layer of software optimisation for WordPress that other generic hosts aren't able to provide, leading to faster downtimes.
5. Ability to Cope With Heavy Traffic Loads
There’s nothing worse than having the site become unresponsive or incredibly slow due to heavy traffic. Luckily, you can test the ability of your host to handle heavy traffic by running a load impact test.
The chart below shows how the load of a site can dramatically affect its performance. This particular chart shows how the response of a web site hosted by BlueHost sometimes gave a load time of up to 20 seconds with a consistent response delay of over 10 seconds from an incremental load test.
The chart above shows the load time on the left y-axis and the number of active users on the right y-axis.
Along the x-axis at the bottom, you can see the time of the request.
These are simply unacceptable loading times. With those kind of loading times, you’ll lose the attention of most visitors before they’ve even viewed the content.
If you’re collecting emails and running any kind of email promotion, the last thing you want is for your site response times to jeopardise your campaign.
This is where online site speed analyser tools such as Pingdom can be misleading - they only measure one request at any given time, rather than testing the performance of the server with concurrent requests.
Loadimpact.com is the best free load testing tool available. The test only takes a few minutes and it will log response times against concurrent users to better understand how the server performs under stress.
One of the key selling points with WPX Hosting is that they are able to keep server response times low even under heavy loads.
To be exact, the response time with 25 concurrent visitors was under 1.1 seconds. Furthermore, the slowest response time for the entire four minute duration of the test was still under 2 seconds. You can see a copy of the chart below:-
While you can expect these kind of response times for premium servers where you're paying in excess of $150/month, it's unheard of in the less than <$50/month range.
We obtained these results from the Premium WPX Hosting plan, which cost us a cent under $50 per month. That's exceptional performance for the cost.
6. Easy to Use Account and Control Panel Management
The trouble with most WordPress specific hosting companies is that they are unable to use third party control panels such as cPanel or Plesk. Often times, this means that basic account management things like those listed below are difficult to achieve without raising a support request:-
- Accessing the database
- Managing nameservers / DNS
- Email management
- One click WordPress installation
- Domain forwarding
The process of raising support tickets for basic account management controls is inefficient and frustratingly slow.
A task that would simply be a case of modifying a field and hitting “Save changes” becomes a far more mundane task of finding the support desk, explaining your requirements and waiting for a reply in the hope that everything you’ve asked for has been done.
Despite WPX Hosting being a dedicated WordPress hosting platform, they have a really easy to use control panel that covers the most important functions. Here are a few features we really like:-
1. Instantly add new top level domains (e.g yourdomain.com) or subdomains (e.g xxxxx.yourdomain.com) at the click of a button:
2. Install WordPress on any of your hosted sites, also at the click of a button:
3. Access PHPMyAdmin directly from the control panel (for more advanced users)
4. Email account creation and management (most other dedicated WordPress hosts don't manage your email aswell - this means you need to set up a separate solution just for e-mail!)
5. FTP account management from within the dashboard
6. DNS management - WPX Hosting is also a domain registrar, which means that you can purchase your domains through them. The advantage is that you can manage your domains, including nameserver changes, directly from the dashboard.
7. "Around the Clock" & Responsive Support Team
Don’t consider hosting with a company that i) doesn’t have 24/7 support hours and ii) doesn’t respond fast to my support requests.
Furthermore, you need a hosting support team that is focussed on solving problems in a non tech friendly way. If you’re anything like me, you just want problems solved rather than a page of tech jargon explaining why something is happening, without a resolution.
Obviously, you can test the support team by dealing with them first, before you even sign up.
WPX Hosting claim to have 24 hours support, however many hosts claim that. So we put their response times to the test. Here is a screenshot showing the result:-
We were quite surprised to see response 2 minutes and 25 seconds after our support ticket was raised. The quick fire service was consistent, with the ticket being resolved within the space of 22 minutes.
The Best High-End Hosting Solution
As you can see, we do not make a recommendation lightly. We have been asked about hosting solutions ever since we started Thrive Themes and it took us more than a year before we finally found a solution we feel comfortable recommending.
This is the one. WPX Hosting is the first (and so far the only) WordPress hosting solution that we can 100% get behind. Whether you are starting a brand new site or looking for a high-performance host for an existing, high-traffic site, this is the solution we recommend you choose.