Tuesday, March 9, 2021

HostMetro

HostMetro is quite a novel player in the web hosting market. Although the founders of the company had a significant amount of prior experience in this business, HostMetro was launched in 2012 in the US. Not surprisingly, their main office is situated there, in Chicago specifically. Curiously, they specialized in shared hosting solutions only. Their main aim (as they claim) is to provide affordable, easy to create, manage and maintain websites and hosting accounts. Apart from the US, HostMetro has managed to develop a considerable customer base in the UK, India and Taiwan.

Their one-and-only data center is deployed in Elk Grove Village (near Chicago) and, according to them, it offers network connectivity, redundancy in power and day-and-night security monitoring. To provide all of its users with a consistency of high speed, HostMetro’s network infrastructure features 10GB per second connections, which is always good to see. In addition, to further guarantee reliability and speed, their servers are run by dual quad-core Intel processors that possess 96GB of RAM and support RAID-protected storage and SSD drivers on their MySQL database servers.

HostMetro’s main website feels modern, refreshingly original in its visual design and (as you'd expect) user-friendly. All information about the company and their products are presented in a clear manner, and while it doesn’t go into details at times, it does provide a decent amount of information on everything required.

Even though HostMetro lacks an official blog, their social network accounts (Facebook and Twitter) seem to be doing well, creating new content on a day-to-day basis.

Pricing

HostMetro keeps things simple with just two shared hosting plans (Image credit: HostMetro)

Plans and pricing

When HostMetro declared it will provide affordable pricing, it seems they weren’t exaggerating, since their hosting plans start at quite attractive $2.95 per month. Additionally, the prices are fixed from the moment of sign up, so there are no additional (nor hidden) fees nor price hikes upon renewal to shake you up. In addition to the basic shared hosting plan labeled as “Mega Max”, there is an advanced one called “Super Max',' as well as one for those who want to try out email hosting.

All of these plans share a number of common features including: unlimited email hosting and email accounts; a plentiful of disk space and bandwidth; a domain registration and website builder, both of which are charge-free.

The billing cycle is somewhat flexible and users can choose to be charged on an annual, biennial or triennial basis, and they can do it by using all major credit cards or PayPal.

If HostMetro’s services don’t meet your expectations, there is a money-back guarantee which can be granted upon request within 30 days from the original purchase.

Ease of use

Users moving from another host should know that HostMetro provides charge-free website migration services, but with certain limitations. First, the size of the website mustn’t exceed 3GB, which is needlessly inflexible although it is above the average website size. Second, all site transfers need to be requested within 30 days from creating an account with HostMetro, which is another thing you should bear in mind.

Creating an account with HostMetro is rather refreshingly uncomplicated in terms of one’s user experience. The first decision you’ll have to make is related to your domain: do you want to register a new one (which is free of charge for new users), transfer an old one (given that you have it) or update your nameservers while leaving it with your current manager. After this, you’ll be asked to choose a billing cycle and, if you didn’t intend to commit for a year at least, you might be bummed out by the lack of option for monthly billing. On the bright side, whatever you decide, the price will be locked (due to price lock guarantee), so you won’t have to worry about unpleasant cost-related surprises.

Two additional features you can choose while on this page are Anytime backup (which will cost you $19.95 annually) and an SSL certificate. This might be a letdown if you, like many of us, are used (i.e. being spoiled rotten by other providers) to getting this completely free of charge even with the cheapest plans. With HostMetro it will take $20 for each year, which is good to have in mind in advance. However, ID Protection is cost-free, for a year at least.

To finish creating your account you’ll be required to provide a considerable number of personal information, create a password and select a method of payment, after which you’ll proceed to apply it.

cPanel

HostMetro allows you to manage your site using the industry standard cPanel (Image credit: cPanel)

Since industry standard cPanel is provided with all (and when we say “all”, we mean “both of”) HostMetro’s shared hosting plans, you won’t have much choice in the matter. Nevertheless, because there is a consensus that cPanel is one of (if not the one) most user-friendly option out there, this is a bright spot. From there, WordPress is one-click away, as well as other helpful applications. Alternatively, HostMetro includes a website builder with all of its plans.

Performance

We used GTmetrix to measure the uptime and response time of our HostMetro site (Image credit: GTmetrix)

Speed and experience

Although HostMetro doesn’t promise much about the speed, GTmetrix, a test that monitored speed performance of their main website, has presented us with remarkably promising results. What is more, GTmetrix conclusively rated the performance with an A (97%), which is something we seldom see. The time it required to complete load the page, the requests, total blocking time, largest contentful paint and all other core web metrics were all above the average. Hence, the positive results we got were hardly surprising.

As for uptime, HostMetro offers a 99% guarantee (which is not much), and has a policy to grant one free month of hosting to every customer, provided that their annual uptime falls below the guaranteed percentage. However, after observing the uptime of HostMetro’s main website for a month, UptimeRobot failed to record any downtime at all, presenting us with a flawless performance. Fortunately, those with no such luck  can still get a free month as an apology.

Support

Looking for help on HostMetro’s website will introduce a couple of options and, more importantly, cartoonishly cute Mega Man’s long lost brother, which is (we assume) their incomprehensibly underutilized mascot. On the other hand, HostMetro’s support team is available round-the-clock and can be reached in a number of ways: by email, support ticket, live chat and telephone. The latter is, however, open during the working days only and from 8AM to 8PM (CST).

Support

You can find answers to common web hosting problems in HostMetro's knowledgebase (Image credit: HostMetro)

As an alternative, all are invited to visit HostMetro’s knowledgebase, which features more than 200 articles on various subjects divided into 18 different categories (cPanel, database questions, e-commerce, FTP, security and so on). Among these, there is a category entitled “Video Tutorials” and it provides more than a 100 step-by-step video guides covering many important issues related to cPanel and website management, which is quite commendable. Whether you are a complete beginner or a veteran webmaster, we are sure you’ll find HostMetro’s knowledgebase pretty handy.

The competition

Dedication to shared hosting is one of the traits that HostMetro shares with its fellow US-based host known as PowWeb. While HostMetro offers two plans of different sizes, PowWeb puts forward its one-and-only hosting plan. Although PowWeb includes an SSL certificate with the plan, the price hike after the initial phase might catch you off guard. No such problem should occur when dealing with HostMetro, since the prices are locked following the sign up process.

Like many of its competitors dedicated to shared hosting, One.com tries its best to provide everything to meet the needs of its customers. Despite that, when it comes to customer support One.com falls short in comparison to HostMetro. In addition, while One.com aims to be newbie-friendly, they don’t offer free domain registration, while HostMetro does.

In comparison to HostMetro, HostGator has much more to offer, both to individual bloggers and various sized businesses. Both hosts are beginner-friendly and offer several self-help options, but HostGator adds a free SSL certificate even with the cheapest plan and a 45-day money back guarantee to boot.

Bluehost is another US-based host and one that can offer the same and more in comparison with what HostMetro can. Both of them are beginner-friendly and entry-level shared hosting plans with both hosts being uncannily similar together with their available billing cycles. Even so, more ambitious users are more likely to find a permanent home for their websites with Bluehost, since it offers more hosting types and definitely more than two different-sized hosting plans.

Final verdict

HostMetro is among the very few web hosting providers that offer a price-lock guarantee, so their customers wouldn’t have to suffer an unpleasant surprise of facing a price spike after the initial period. Even popular hosts like Bluehost might strike you with the price spike that doubles the amount you originally paid, if you happen to forget about that fact. HostMetro’s hosting solutions are somewhat limited, but they are also feature-packed and can provide everything that is necessary for a simple website or a small business. Those who are trying to find something more ambitious will have to keep searching and (perhaps) take a look at hosts such as HostGator, Bluehost or Dreamhost.

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