HostMonster is a web hosting brand owned by Newfold Digital. They offer shared Linux hosting (what nearly all starter website owners need) in three plans in addition to VPS and Managed servers. Like most hosting companies, HostMonster also provides email, a website builder, and various complementary services to web hosting.
One of my oldest clients uses HostMonster, but until now I’ve never written anything about them. Here’s my HostMonster Hosting review – structured with pros & cons based on my experience both as a customer and consultant to a customer.
Pros of HostMonster Hosting
There are a lot of HostMonster reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. As I’ve said in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering HostMonster.
HostMonster’s actual plans and pricing are a disadvantage (which I’ll cover in the cons section). However, I will say that they do deep discounting for the first year across all their products.
If you are trying to get started and save a good bit of money for the first year, HostMonster will often discount their Basic plan down to $4.95/mo and their Plus plan down to $6.95/mo.
Both those numbers have a lot of context to them (ie, what you’re actually getting). However, if you are starting one small website for a year, then their deep discounts are an advantage.
Setting up a website can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. The process should be simple, straightforward and guided. Settings, billing, server and account information should be straightforward to access.
And even if you have run websites/email/scripts before, you still want a simple way to do what you need to do.
HostMonster uses cPanel as the backend of its hosting accounts. cPanel is industry-standard, so there’s plenty of help and guides on the Internet. It’s also very simple and (though fairly ugly). HostMonster also helps by integrating their billing and profile settings directly into cPanel – and not cluttering it up (too much) with upsells and ads. Here’s what the backend looks like –
**though I will not attempt to defend the hideous shade of green. I think it’s supposed to be “Monster Green?”
Their backend is the first thing you see after signing up, so you can dive right into your project without any intermediate screens. The most common options (like WordPress auto-install) are front and center with server information on the side. You’ll also receive a confirmation email after signing up with account info.
Apps & Install Process
Related to HostMonster’s simple, clean (though hideously green) backend is their app install process. They use an installation process by MOJO marketplace – a theme and template provider owned by Newfold Digital.
The one-click WordPress install process has a few ads and upsells, but is simple and useful.
Since they use MOJO marketplace (a premium theme and template marketplace owned by Newfold), HostMonster has a solid selection of apps and scripts available. Again, all with MOJO ads, but otherwise straightforward to use and install.
Not a huge advantage, but solid pro anyway compared to other industry providers.
Cons of HostMonster Hosting
Like any web host, HostMonster has disadvantages. There are plenty of HostMonster complaints online – some are valid and some are anecdotal. Either way, here are the cons that I found while using HostMonster for hosting.
Pricing & Plan Structure
HostMonster’s primary disadvantage is their pricing. No matter how you look at it – short-term, long-term, total value or simplicity – HostMonster is expensive for what they are selling.
Either way, comparing pricing among various hosting companies is notoriously difficult. Companies have different plans with different caps, different bonuses and different renewal prices. Figuring out what you will be paying every year / every month around can be maddening.
When I look at shared hosting pricing plan, I break things down into Core hosting features and Bonus hosting features – that way you can see exactly what you are paying for and how it compares to other providers.
Core hosting features are the “3 D’s” – domains, databases and disk space. They all relate to the core purpose of a hosting server, which is to serve website files when someone types in your domain name.
- Domains are how many domain names you can point to your hosting account. If you want multiple websites, you’ll want to have multiple domains allowed. You’ll also need to look at email addresses per domain – sometimes those are capped as well.
- Databases are how many pieces of website software you can run on your hosting server. A WordPress install requires one database. If you have any apps, Listservs, etc – you’ll need more.
- Disk space is how many files you can put on your server – images, text, PDFs, etc.
- Other Bonus features are things like website builder software, advertising credits, backend software, etc.
When you break it down – that’s when you can at least compare apples to apples and get a sense of value based on what you need.
HostMonster has three shared hosting plans – Basic ($9.49/mo), Plus ($12.49/mo) and Choice Plus ($14.99/mo). Although prices are listed as monthly – you have to pay on 1 year, 2 year or 3 year contracts.
*Aside – “unlimited” in HostMonster’s case means “unmetered” – ie, they don’t actively track your website’s activity, except in relation to your server’s total resources. Every hosting company has limited resources (even Amazon has crashed before), so it’s all about managing server resources. Either way, HostMonster does not pre-emptively cap your usage. Instead, they reserve the right to throttle your site if you start to do too much with your server.
On the Basic plan, HostMonster heavily caps domains, disk space, databases and email addresses. But even for basic use, it’s more expensive than sister brands like HostGator, Bluehost (review), and independent starter brands like Web Hosting Hub (review).
The Plus and Pro plans try to fluff out their value with Bonus features. Most features are either of questionable value (“1 SpamExpert” and “$200 in marketing offers”), more complex than they sell (GlobalCDN and free SSL), or devalue the Basic and Plus plans (“High-Performance” and “Site Backups” = so…the other plans are bad performance with no backups?).
Either way, if you need a single website with no email or anything like that – HostMonster’s pricing is ok, but really you’d get a better product for your money elsewhere.
Like I’ve said in other hosting reviews, judging customer service on an individual level is tough. You simply don’t know the full story from reading other people’s anecdotes. You never know the context of someone else’s help session. You don’t know if they got the one worst employee or the one best employee.
Instead, I think it’s best to try to figure out if the company views support as a cost, an upsell opportunity or an investment.
So here’s how I look at customer support –
- How many support channels do they have (accessibility)?
- How much do they invest in DIY support?
At first, HostMonster seems to be fine with customer support. They have support across email (24/7), chat (24/7), support tickets, phone, a knowledgebase – even a user forum and video tutorials.
That said, their user forum fails to load regularly. Their knowledge base is not as updated or as extensive as other knowledge bases that I’ve seen. It’s also littered with broken links and poor design choices. It looks like they used to invest in support resources years ago – but have since stopped.
Again, their customer service is generally fine. And normally, I’d make it a hesitant pro. But combined with the next disadvantage and the problems I pointed out, I’ll place it in the cons column.
Branding & Design
Nobody wants to buy the product that a big company has forgotten about or is not fully invested in – even if the product itself is fine.
Think about the apartment complex that the landlord ignores & doesn’t do upkeep instead of remodeling or upgrading. Or that car that still works, but the owner isn’t putting money into valuable upgrades.
HostMonster feels like a brand that Newfold is starting to forget. Their big sister brands like Bluehost and HostGator are getting splashy new designs and new services. Even iPage has gotten a design refresh.
But like FatCow and JustHost, HostMonster is sitting around with cheap stock imagery, circa 2006 design, and broken links.
And it’s not that stock imagery or basic design is bad or affects how good their servers are. But it is an indicator of how much the management and owners care about the company and provides a window into the company culture.
Compared to their sister brands and especially independent competitors such as:
HostMonster’s brand and business look outdated and a big disadvantage.
In addition to paying a hosting company for a place for your website to live, you are also expecting them to “deliver” your website quickly to any visitor that types in your domain.
There are a lot of factors that go into how fast your website loads. Everything from what type of website you have to how many images you use to where your visitor lives (and 100+ other factors) to into website speed.
However, no one ever won a Formula One car race with a 1988 Honda Civic. And no matter how well you optimize your website, you won’t be winning any speed contests with a slow hosting server.
It’s hard to truly judge server speed without behind the scenes access, however, you can look at the Time To First Byte (TTFB) as a ballpark estimate of how well a hosting company’s servers operate.
Time To First Byte is how quickly the server sends the first byte of information back to a browser after the browser asks for it.
When I tested HostMonster with my website, they did not do too well.
Granted, TTFB is best looked at as a trend. However, since they share a datacenter with Bluehost, it’s may be a one-off issue (or a misconfiguration if it’s a separate section).
For comparison, here’s how a similar site on Web Hosting Hub (a competitor starter website hosting company) did –
Although HostMonster would be fine for a very small site, they simply don’t have strong performance, and especially not compared to direct competitors.
Out of the most well-known web hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how HostMonster compares directly to each. Or skip to the conclusion .
HostMonster vs. GoDaddy
Thanks to their TV ads, other offline ads, and long history, GoDaddy is the brand name in the hosting industry. Despite much improvement since 2013, GoDaddy still shares many of the same pros & cons of HostMonster. Neither is an amazing choice, but HostMonster has an edge overall in my opinion. Though if you are comfortable with GoDaddy, go with them.
HostMonster vs. Bluehost
HostMonster and Bluehost are sister brands owned by Newfold Digital. They share the same data center. They even have the same plans. Between the two – I’d go with Bluehost. They are one of Newfold’s marquee brands and are apparently getting a lot more attention than HostMonster. Check out Bluehost here…
HostMonster vs. HostGator
Like Bluehost, HostGator is a very well-known brand in the hosting industry. They are also owned by Newfold Digital, which makes them another sister brand to HostMonster – also the names are eerily similar.
However, HostGator operates out of Houston, has a different pricing structure and different brand focus. They focus more on starter websites and offer more affordable plans with better features. They also have monthly billing options. I’d choose HostGator between the two.
HostMonster vs. iPage
HostMonster’s last sister brand that I’ll mention is iPage. I reviewed them here. Like HostMonster, they seem to be a brand that Newfold forgot about. iPage does much deeper discounting than HostMonster. However, HostMonster seems to have a slightly better backend. I’d probably choose iPage, though neither is a very attractive choice.
HostMonster vs. InMotion Hosting
InMotion Hosting is one of the largest and fastest-growing independent (ie, owned by employees, not a large corporate holding company) hosting companies. This site uses a VPS server with InMotion. They have better pricing, better support and better performance than HostMonster. You can check out InMotion here or InMotion’s starter brand Web Hosting Hub here…
Conclusion & Next Steps
Overall, I found HostMonster hosting to be a “meh” option for what they are selling. If you have a small website and like them already, they’ll do just fine – though you can really do much better for your money.
If you are looking for an independent shared hosting company with almost as good pricing, better performance, and customer support, and don’t mind paying annually then I’d recommend checking out InMotion Hosting.
If you want a bigger brand with more affordable pricing and the option to pay monthly, you can also check out Bluehost instead.