The Fastest & Most Reliable Web Hosting Trending in 2020

A study of the fastest web hosting companies compared by their speed, uptime, and cost. Improve your website's performance and page load speeds.

Fastest web hosting

When it comes to web hosting, performance is very important. A fast web host can greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of your website. Although there are a variety of factors that affect website speed (we'll get to them later), switching your site over to a faster web hosting service can give your website a significant speed boost.

A speedy website is not only good for your visitors, but also good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Search engines, like Google & Bing, prefer websites that load quickly and will generally rank them higher in the SERPS than slower performing websites. A fast website also correlates to better conversions. Studies show that for every 1 second your customers spend waiting on your website to load, 20% will drop out. That’s a huge loss of many potential sales!

While web hosting isn't everything to a speedy website, it's the essential foundation to one. If you're web host is slowing you down, it's time to switch to a better one.

The fastest web hosts at a glance

Let's get right to the point because we know you're short on time! Below are our top choices for the fastest web hosting services:

Web Host Price*: Average Speed**: Monthly Avg. Downtime***: Signup
InMotion Hosting $3.99/mo 135 ms 4-6 min Visit site
A2 Hosting $3.92/mo 176 ms 7-9 min Visit site
GreenGeeks $2.95/mo 312 ms 10-15 min Visit site
HostGator $2.78/mo 190 ms 5-8 min Visit site
SiteGround $3.95/mo 192 ms 8-10 min Visit site
  • * Pricing is reported at introductory rates. Standard pricing after renewal was also accounted for in our study, but we'll show the introductory rates
  • ** This is the average server response time measured in milliseconds for any given month via our independent benchmark testing
  • *** This is the average website downtime time measured in minutes for any given month via our independent benchmark testing

Our study of the fastest web hosting – What makes a fast web host?

We analyzed comparable shared web hosting plans from 20 of the most popular web hosts trending on the market. Determining what truly is the fastest web hosting is a difficult task, because there's so many factors and outside circumstances that can arise. Therefore, we broke it down into 3 main criteria:

  1. Server speed
  2. Uptime
  3. Cost

Server Speed

The first thing we want to look at is the actual speed of the web server. Server speed is measured by testing its response time, or more specifically, the amount of time it takes for the server to respond to a request from a client. This is known as Time To First Byte (TTFB).

TTFB is a measurement of the amount of time that a crawler takes to receive the first byte after a response from a server. It is measured in milliseconds (ms), and a lower number is better. The TTFB is dependent on a few factors but is essentially a combination of the speed of the server combined with the speed of the network.

Speed test results of popular web hosts

According to an in-depth study by Moz, there is a direct correlation between ranking in search results and the TTFB. Note: correlation and causality are often independent factors, it can be difficult to determine if this result is because the sites themselves were faster in general, resulting in a higher ranking by Google.

QUICK TIP: Google recommends aiming for a response time of less than 200 ms.

Uptime

Speed is fantastic, but without uptime, your web hosting has nothing. Typically reported as a percentage, uptime is a measurement of the amount of time that a web server is “up and running” versus time that it is unavailable or “down”. Essentially, uptime is a measurement of the amount of time that a server is accessible.

Most modern web hosts today typically boast a 99.9% uptime, which sounds impressive. However, that's still plenty of time for downtime. Shown below is the average monthly downtime of our test sites, calculated in minutes.

Downtime test results of popular web hosts

QUICK FACT: A web host that claims to have a 99.9% uptime means that your website can have an average downtime of 30 minutes each month.

Cost

For those truly concerned about performance, cost might not be a factor. However, to keep things fair, we need to consider the cost of each host. Nobody likes to spend more for hosting than they have too. There's a general consensus that you get what you pay for. All things being equal, a less expensive web host should run a bit slower than one that is more expensive. Or is that actually true? Shown below, we compared the cost of each web host, and you can see, that it doesn't necessarily correlate to a faster speed.

Price comparison of popular web hosts

You'll see that some of these web hosts may charge significantly more for their hosting, but it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be significantly faster.

Various factors that affect the speed of web hosting

There are many things which can affect the speed of your web host, which we'll get more into detail below. While some of these things are the responsibility of your web host, others may be on the responsibility of you. First, let's focus on the web host's aspect:

Server hardware/network infrastructure

The nature of the hardware and infrastructure of a web host can play a major role in its performance. Important questions to ask include whether the server uses SSDs? What type of RAM and CPU configuration are they using? Extremely important is whether they have a Tier 1 backbone network connection to the internet; anything less will have a significant negative impact to the overall speed.

Server software stack

What software is running on the server? It is extremely important to understand what versions they are using. For instance, PHP7 runs considerably faster than PHP5. For many fast websites these days, developers expect to be able to use JavaScript frameworks such as REACT, Vue.js, or Angular. Are they prepared to run node.js?

It is also important to pay attention to what sort of web servers they run. Do they use NGINX or Apache? Can they support Fast CGI? Knowing whether they can support next generation NoSQL databases such as MongoDB for handling Big Data can be important as well.

Frameworks and libraries

The language you choose to write your software in can make a difference in speed. If you are using a framework or a series of libraries to enable much of your processing, each call to those libraries will slow down the processing speed. It’s also important to pay attention to which version of a language you are using. Many websites run on WordPress, which in turn runs on top of PHP. It’s generally a good idea to run on the most recent version of a language, as later versions tend to be designed to run faster.

Slow database queries

If databases are not accessed in a correct fashion, any calls to the DB can slow down a site. Some of this is the responsibility of the web host (are the DBs clustered effectively, how many resources are allocated to databases, etc.) but some are the responsibility of the developer, such as writing good queries, good indexing, creating enough DB instances for the traffic.

Memory

Is enough memory being allocated to your server? If you are using a virtual host, it could be that you are sharing traffic with a very busy site; there’s a limited amount of memory available, and if much of it is being taken up by someone else, this can affect the speed of your site. Similarly, if you are running too many things at once, that can slow you down.

Resource CPU starvation

Like memory, the CPU on your server can only work so hard. If there are too many resources trying to access the Central Processing Unit, much like on your computer, you’ll find that items must queue up and wait their turn to run, resulting in a sluggish experience.

Server caching

A server could have a high uptime, but it could be running slowly; we’ve all experienced something similar on a home computer. It could be that your laptop has been running for a very long time, but as a result it has ended up with many artifacts lingering in the memory, resulting in a slow experience. This is why, particularly on Windows machines it’s recommended to periodically reboot them; they may be effectively up and running, they are not necessarily running efficiently.

That said, for web servers, uptime is a decent measurement. There are, however, several other factors you may wish to look at on a web server, such as whether or not they provide caching. Caching is storing copies of a website in active memory to prevent the need of loading the entire thing each time someone calls it up.

Of course, if your website is heavily dynamic, and the content that a user needs to access cannot be “old” (as in 20 minutes or so) you may want to make less use of caching, or you can speed up the amount of time between cache refreshes. It’s a matter of give and take; depending on the nature of the content you are delivering. If your content remains relatively static and does not change very often, caching can be a good feature for speed.

Distance/geolocation

The physical location of web servers can make a huge impact on the speed experienced by your users. As access to a website typically bounces between multiple locations before it gets to the end user, the closer they are to a node, the faster their experience will be. If a significant portion of your users are in Europe, it’s important to ensure that the host uses CDNs in that part of the globe. The more CDNs offered, the better likely the experience of your users. You will also want to pick a datacenter for your hosting to be in the closest location to the majority of your users.

Traffic volume

If your site is receiving a lot of traffic, this can affect the speed of your website, particularly if you are using a virtual host and sharing a server with other websites. Bursts of traffic can have a direct impact to the experience of your users, particularly if you have not provisioned enough resources to handle growth. If you are sharing your server with other sites, any boosts in their traffic can affect the availability of your own site. If your site experiences slowdowns for this reason, you may wish to look at different types of hosting plans.

Type of web hosting

Most web hosts offer different tiers of hosting. On the less expensive end, you can choose shared hosting, which means that you are sharing a server with other sites. While this may be more affordable for those starting out, it’s important to understand that you may experience slowdowns due to bursts of traffic described above. If you choose a dedicated server hosting plan, your site will almost always be faster than the shared plans. In our study, we did not want to compare apples to oranges, so we only benchmarked comparable shared hosting plans as previously mentioned.

So now that I have the right web host, will my website be fast?

While a fast web host is necessary for a fast website, it is not everything. Web hosting speed is not the same as website speed.

So, what makes a website fast?

  • Your server: The quality of the speed delivered by your web host. This is where you have chosen to host your site.
  • Your website: All of the factors that you put into your site design, including JavaScript, theme, plugins, database optimization, clean site code, ads, etc. These are the responsibility of the web developer.

Ultimately, the speed of a website is limited by the slowest factor on the site. So you could have a lightning fast web host, with no latency, good geolocation, etc., but if you are loading a ton of external scripts on your page, or you are attempting to load a dozen 1MB+ images on your site, it will still run very slow.

QUICK FACT: Your website and the various factors that can slow it down (like image compression, browser caching, JavaScript, theme, plugins, etc) are all on you, as the website owner, and not the responsibility of the web host. The web host’s responsibility is on the server and network infrastructure that we mentioned above.

For this reason, you need to focus heavily on factors which may get in the way of your speed. Starting simple is a good approach, however this may not solve your speed problem. To tackle the problem of a slow website requires a meticulous process.

Many web hosts run quickly and provide solid services. Most will have T1 connections to the internet and will be well optimized to provide you with solid services. The factor that affects the speed of your website is often largely due to what you are running on your site, more than what your site is running on.

Study Conclusion

It’s important to note that most speed test studies are not 100% accurate. You’ll find many online studies with speed tests on web hosts, but there's too many outside factors that can interfere with the tests.

While our study may show specific benchmark data for each host, it is possible that you could find different data with the same company and same hosting plan. For example, perhaps we signed up for a Bluehost shared hosting plan and got assigned to a brand new server while the next customer will get assigned to an older server reaching its end of life. Or perhaps a specific server is having an issue and causing an outage for customers on that server, while all other customers are perfectly fine. If you’ve been hosting your site with the same company long enough, you may have noticed getting an email about your site being migrated to a newer server with the promise of improved speeds. Each individual physical server can be different, for factors that we cannot measure here without direct access to the company itself. For these reasons, all speed test studies should be used as a rough gauge and you should choose a web host based upon its technology stack and features.

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