Arizona-based StableHost is an interesting web hosting provider, now owned by Miss Group, the power behind 4 UK Host, nameISP, http.se and assorted other hosting-related brands.
StableHost may be small (the website says it’s based around a team of 15), but it’s ambitious. Products range from simple shared hosting to VPS and dedicated plans, with reseller accounts, domain name registration and SSL certificates, and data centers in the US, Europe and Asia.
Even the baseline shared hosting plan has more than you might expect: unmetered disk space (subject to a 250,000 file limit), unlimited bandwidth, 25 simultaneous MySQL connections, automated installation of 100+ apps and more.
While that sounds familiar, StableHost says it’s much more than yet another identikit ‘me too’ web host. The service uses custom versions of LiteSpeed, PHP and MySQL to ramp up speeds, has a 200Gbps network capable of handling unexpected spikes in demand, and a support team that will take on tasks like troubleshooting scripts for even the cheapest of plans. Support is available 24/7 via email, chat and phone, incidentally.
All this can be yours for anything from $2.48 billed monthly, to $1.75 a month over three years. There’s a 50% discount on the first term, so you’ll pay twice that on renewal.
Other options include VPS plans starting from $9.12 a month, priority shared hosting (more resources, 10% as many sites on your server) from $28.50, and dedicated hosting priced from $145.
StableHost’s cancellation and refund policy is more generous than most, giving you a 45-day money-back guarantee on managed shared hosting and reseller plans (it’s 7-days for dedicated VPS servers).
While browsing the small print, we spotted a few other interesting clauses. Your hosting plan may support up to 250,000 files, for instance, but if you’re using more than 100,000, the company says your account ‘will automatically be removed from our backup system to avoid over-usage.’
Whether that’s going to affect you or not, it’s a good example of a really important rule which you could very easily miss. Always scan through the small print before you buy.
Signing up for StableHost begins by choosing a plan, and specifying the domain you’d like to use. You’re able to register a new domain, transfer an existing domain to StableHost, or just point a domain you own already to StableHost web space.
There’s a wide range of hosting locations available, too: US (Phoenix and Chicago), Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain and Sweden.
We chose the monthly billing plan, but found the price was a little higher than advertised. Checking the invoice, StableHost had added a one-off $2.50 for ‘SSH access.’ It’s hard to see why that couldn’t be included as a standard feature of the account, but at least you only pay it once, ever. (And if you’re sure you don’t need it, clear the item from your shopping cart and you won’t pay it at all.)
StableHost requires a lot of personal information when you sign up, even by web hosting standards: email address, name, physical address, phone number, company registration number and more.
We submitted the form, then watched, and waited, as the website displayed ‘Loading, please wait…’ for some 10 minutes. Eventually, boredom set in, we aborted the process, tried again, but with the same result.
Puzzled, we emailed support. There was a speedy reply, and although StableHost couldn’t directly resolve our problem, after an hour it pointed us to another payment route via its billing system. And this one worked as expected.
We’re not used to hosting problems which start before we’ve even signed up. Anyone can have technical difficulties occasionally, though, and what really matters is how they are handled.
StableHost support responded quickly, was friendly and helpful, and sorted us out with an alternative signup solution rather than forcing us to wait for too long. Although we’d prefer not to have needed support so soon, it couldn’t have done much more to help.
Creating a website
Shortly after we’d signed up, StableHost sent us a welcome email with all the key hosting details we needed: control panel URL and credentials, server name, nameservers, FTP information, email servers and logins, and more.
Following the Control Panel link took us to a standard cPanel setup. Old hands at web hosting will feel at home right away, and everyone else will figure out the basics with very little hassle.
Softaculous is available to handle your auto-installation needs. Whether you’re building your website around WordPress, PrestaShop, Joomla, Drupal or many other top apps, Softaculous will install and set it up with just a few clicks.
Website builder duties are handled by a simple BaseKit setup. Choose a template, customize the content, and the free version enables creating a site with up to three pages. Yes, just three – that’s what we thought, too. But it’s easy to use, and could come in handy, even if only for a brief period of time (creating a holding site until you’ve built something with WordPress, say).
A standard file manager enables uploading a static website you have already, as well as editing and reorganizing an existing site.
There are all the usual tools you’d expect to help manage various aspects of your site: subdomains, DNS, databases, email, metrics and more.
StableHost offers some valuable extras, too, including Let’s Encrypt support to create a free SSL certificate for your site, and Cloudflare integration to improve its speed. It’s a solid set of tools with more than enough to build and manage most sites.
Whatever your level of website management experience, you’ll run into problems at some point, and a quality host should provide plenty of tools to help you out.
StableHost’s web knowledgebase has some useful information, but not enough to deal with anything advanced or unusual. For example, there are only four articles in the Email section, and three covering WordPress. When we searched using the keyword IMAP, the only reason we got any hits at all is the search engine also returned matches for ‘image’.
You could always contact support direct with any problems (and they did a decent job helping out with our signup problem), but that will take longer; maybe much longer. Quality live support is important, but it’s not a substitute for an informative knowledgebase where you can find answers (and learn the key hosting technicalities) for yourself.
StableHost claims its speedy network and optimized software will accelerate your website speeds, but does this make any measurable difference? We ran a couple of checks to find out.
Uptime.com monitored our test site over time from five locations (three US, two in Europe). The results were positive: response times were faster than average, more consistent than most (fewer spikes indicating an overloaded server) and with no downtime.
Dotcom-tools website speed test accessed our test site from 16 servers located around Europe and the US. There was good news here, too, with StableHost consistently returning above average results.
That’s a good start, but these are simple tests which mostly measure network speeds, and there are many other issues to consider (available CPU time and database performance if you’re running a large WordPress site, for instance). To fully understand how a web host performs, there’s no substitute for setting up a test site of your own.
A small but likeable web host with a decent range of products, data centers in three continents, and helpful support. If you’re interested, a generous 45-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of time to test the service before you commit.