Shared Web Host Ranking Methodology

In order to provide consumers with accurate and unbiased reviews, NCM Online purchases and tests all web hosting services reviewed. Eight of the ten criteria utilized to rank shared hosts are data-based and exclude reviewer opinion. This page last revised on November 26, 2014.

 

The Process

Ten low-cost hosts are selected for testing and review. The cheapest shared hosting plan is then purchased from each. Ten identical, single-page websites are uploaded to the respective hosts and randomly assigned a domain name (ncmtest01.com thru ncmtest10.com). Utilizing the third-party testing services of Dotcom-Monitor.com, page-load speeds and uptime are checked and recorded every 15 minutes for ten consecutive days. Click for sample test site.

After ten days, recorded data is compiled and test result charts for each host are produced. Reviews are then written and published.

 

Rankings

Hosts are awarded a star rating for each of ten criteria. Star ratings based on a 0.5 minimum to 5 star maximum scale. Rankings are determined by averaging the ten star ratings for each host. The entire process is then repeated using ten different hosts. As of September 1, 2014, NCM Online has reviewed and produced ratings for 30 shared hosts. The fourth group of ten hosting services will undergo speed and reliability testing during September 2014.

 

Ranking Criteria

1. PRICE
The vast majority of web hosting services provide introductory and/or coupon code discounts. Almost invariably, these discounts expire after the first hosting term. Hosting plans then become subject to the renewal rates. NCM Online believes that the true price of hosting is best determined by the long-term cost. Therefore renewal rates are used for price comparison and are exclusive of coupon code and/or introductory discounts. Five-star scale price ratings are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

One-year Plan Renewal Rate
Expressed as Monthly Cost
Star Rating
Free – $2.99 5
$3.00 – $4.49 4.5
$4.50 – $5.99 4
$6.00 – $7.49 3.5
$7.50 – $8.99 3
$9.00 – $10.49 2.5
$10.50 – $11.99 2
$12.00 – $13.49 1.5
$13.50 – $14.99 1
$15.00+ 0.5

2. EASE OF USE
One of only two subjective ranking criteria utilized by NCM Online, ease-of-use ratings are determined by careful consideration of the following criteria:

  • Speed and simplicity of purchase process
  • Type and number of payment options offered
  • Accessibility of renewal rates
  • Hosting set-up information provided in ‘welcome’ e-mail
  • Usability of site administration interface
  • Usability of control panel
  • Usability of applications installer
  • Availability of free popular content management systems and applications
  • Availability of free drag-and-drop/WYSIWYG site builders

Note that ease-of-use ratings are negatively impacted if the hosting company’s shopping cart automatically pre-selects additional cost options without the consumer’s active consent. Hosts are likewise penalized for any practice or policy inconsistent with FTC rules and decisions.

3. DISK SPACE
Five-star scale disk space ratings are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

Disk Space Star Rating
100 GB – Unlimited 5
1.0 – 99.9 GB 4.5
.99 – .9 GB 4
89 – .8 GB 3.5
.79 – .7 GB 3
.69 – .6 GB 2.5
.59 – 5 GB 2
.49 – .4 GB 1.5
.39 – .3 GB 1
.29 – 0 GB 0.5

Note that while we acknowledge that “unlimited” disk space is not without certain limitations, it is generally indicative of hosts that do not actively monitor and enforce reasonable shared hosting disk usage.

4. BANDWIDTH
Five-star scale bandwidth ratings are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

Bandwidth Star Rating
640 GB – Unlimited 5
320 – 639.9 GB 4.5
.160 – 319.9 GB 4
80 – 159.9 GB 3.5
40 – 79.9 GB 3
20 – 39.9 GB 2.5
10 – 19.9 GB 2
5 – 9.99 GB 1.5
2.5 – 4.99 GB 1
0 – 2.49 GB 0.5

Note that while we acknowledge that “unlimited” bandwidth is not without certain limitations, it is generally indicative of hosts that do not actively monitor and enforce reasonable shared hosting bandwidth usage.

5. SPEED
Based upon Dotcom Monitor data generated by 15-minute interval, ten-consecutive day page-load speed testing, five-star scale ratings are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

Page-load Speed Star Rating
0 – 1.14 seconds 5
1.15 – 1.29 seconds 4.5
1.3 – 1.44 seconds 4
1.45 – 1.59 seconds 3.5
1.6 – 1.74 seconds 3
1.75 – 1.89 seconds 2.5
1.9 – 2.04 seconds 2
2.05 – 2.19 seconds 1.5
2.2 – 2.34 seconds 1
> 2.35 seconds 0.5

Note that published speed results are negatively impacted by downtime as 15-minute interval attempts to measure page-load speed continue even if the test site is down due to host error.

6. UPTIME
Based upon Dotcom Monitor data generated via 15-minute interval, ten-consecutive day uptime testing, five-star scale ratings are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

Uptime Star Rating
100% 5
99.9 – 99.99% 4.5
99.8 – 99.89% 4
99.7 – 99.79% 3.5
99.6 – 99.69% 3
99.5 – 99.59% 2.5
99.4 – 99.49% 2
99.3 – 99.39% 1.5
99.2 – 99.29% 1
< 99.19% 0.5

7. SUPPORT
Five-star scale technical support ratings are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

Technical Support Type(s) Provided Star Rating
24×7 phone, chat, e-mail/ticket 5
< 24×7 phone, 24×7 chat, e-mail/ticket 4.5
24×7 chat, e-mail/ticket 3.5
24×7 e-mail/ticket 2.5
< 24×7 e-mail/ticket 0.5

Note that 24/7 phone support availability is required for a five-star rating as it is generally indicative of the greatest number of customer support options and offered at considerable expense to the hosting company. Further, it represents the highest level of commitment to providing customers with the best possible service. While we understand that this method does not consider the quality of the technical support provided, NCM Online has determined such judgments to be largely anecdotal due to the natural differences in the experience and expertise of any hosting company’s technical support staff members.

8. BBB RATING
Five-star scale ratings are determined by applying compiled Better Business Bureau rating data to the following table:

BBB Rating Star Rating
A+ 5
A, A- 4.5
B+ 4
B, B- 3.5
C+, Unrated, Unlisted 3
C, C- 2.5
D+ 2
D, D- 1.5
F 1

Note that BBB ratings are not necessarily indicative of the technical quality of the hosting services provided. They are determined by a number of factors including the company’s “commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints.” For complete information on the Better Business Bureau’s rating criteria, please visit: http://www.bbb.org/council/overview-of-bbb-grade/

9. GUARANTEE
Five-star scale ratings of money-back guarantees are determined by applying compiled data to the following table:

Money-back Guarantee Star Rating
60 days/anytime 5
45 – 59 days 4.5
30 – 44 days 4
14 – 29 days 3.5
10 – 13 days 3
7 – 9 days 2.5
4 – 6 days 2
2 – 3 days 1.5
1 day 1
None – < 1 day 0.5

Note that while money-back guarantee policies and practices may vary from company to company, the length of such a guarantee is generally indicative of a hosting company’s commitment to providing customers with superior value and service.

10. SATISFACTION
The second of only two subjective ranking criteria utilized by NCM Online, satisfaction ratings are determined by careful consideration of the previously listed web hosting criteria, but do not necessarily afford each equal weight in making a final determination. For instance: despite offering a relatively brief, 7-day money back guarantee, a hosting company could be awarded a 5-star rating for satisfaction as the quality of the service may preclude the use of any such guarantee. Ultimately, the rating is expressive of a hosting company’s ability to provide value while meeting the reasonable expectations of the average consumer.

TOTAL
The ten ratings produced by the criteria defined above are averaged to produce a final ranking score. The numerical score is then rounded to the nearest half star to produce the Total star rating. Note that .25 and .75 are both rounded upward. For instance, if a host were to produce a 4.75 numerical rating for the Total average, that host would be awarded a five-star rating. If two or more hosting companies achieve identical numerical ratings (before rounding), the respective hosts are placed in alphabetical order.

FINALLY
As of this writing, no website hosting service tested and reviewed by NCM Online has earned a five-star TOTAL rating. A2 Hosting and Certified Hosting are presently the highest-rated hosts, both earning 4.7 numerical ratings rounded to 4.5 stars.

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