Webfaction hosting gives you lots of flexibility and power, if you can live without cPanel

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Webfaction is an unpretentious, down-to-earth web host that gives you great performance and value. Cool hipsters types may not host their sites here (they’re on Media Temple) but in my 9 months using Webfaction I’ve been well and truly impressed. Webfaction has provided the greatest performance and value for any web host I’ve ever used, and I happily recommend them.

Fantastic performance

Shortly after switching one of my customers to Webfaction, they had a post go viral. As a result, they received 24k pageviews over a period of 3 days. Webfaction held up like a champ.

24,000 pageviews in 27 hours - no problems

24,000 pageviews in 27 hours – no problems

There were no hiccups, database errors or even slow pages. Of course, I had W3 Total Cache installed and configured but the credit has to go to the web server. Webfaction can also serve your site from multiple servers with automatic load balancing if you need it.

Just 2 weeks ago, a customer of mine who was on Media Temple complained that her site was struggling and that the WordPress dashboard was taking almost 30 seconds to load on average. I switched her to Webfaction and her site immediately started loading quicker and her performance issues have largely been solved.

Not your regular shared hosting

Webfaction is unlike other shared hosting companies you may be familiar with. For starters, Webfaction separates your hosting into domains, applications and websites. A standard “website” is made up of an application (e.g. WordPress) and a domain (www.example.com). This gives you a lot of flexibility to serve your applications through different domains and websites. More details can be found in their documentation with an example advanced website configuration.

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Lots of apps in Webfaction’s installer

Webfaction bills itself as “hosting for developers” and offers a heap of one-click installers for popular frameworks and applications on top of their solid performance. If you’re a developer, I imagine being able to install these frameworks through the control panel will skip the time required to install and configure them yourself, speeding up your deployments. However, if a framework you want isn’t available from the installer, you can install it yourself. For example, if you don’t like Apache, install Nginx on Webfaction yourself.

The flexibility of a VPS without the hassle

The flexibility provided by Webfaction is almost like having your own VPS instance. A big difference is that you don’t have root access so what you can do is limited – including the damage you may inflict on your account.

I experimented with VPS before but it didn’t turn out well. I spent hours setting up a Apache, MySQL and PHP before I could finally install WordPress. A few days later, the site crashed.. because I had neglected to delete the old server logs till the server ran out of space. Who knew you had to do that?! Other times I used a VPS I had to hire sysadmins to setup and manage my server.

So if you need more than your typical cPanel hosting, but aren’t quite ready for a VPS, Webfaction may be perfect for you.

Is Webfaction for you?

As hinted above, Webfaction is aimed at developers and power users. If you’re used to hosting 20+ sites on your cPanel hosting account, Webfaction is going to feel like unfamiliar territory.

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To get the most out of Webfaction, you should be familiar with the terminal

To get the most out of Webfaction, you’ll need to be familiar with the filesystem – if you can’t install a PHP application like phpBB manually, you’ll be out of your depth. You should also be familiar with the terminal if you want to take full advantage of your hosting account.

That being said, if all you need is a simple WordPress site, you can get by with the one-click installer. The support team is quick, knowledgeable and helpful, and will help you get setup too.

On the other hand, if you want to manage everything about your server, you’re probably better off with Linode or Digital Ocean.

Webfaction is also a “safe learning environment”. Because of the aforementioned limits on the damage you can do to your account, you’ll never mess up beyond recovery. I’ve learnt a lot about UNIX and shell scripts because of this.

In conclusion, I’m so glad I found Webfaction. As I mentioned at the beginning, I think Webfaction offers great performance and value and I highly recommend them.

Sidenote: What about Site5?

Three years ago I disgustedly left Media Temple for Site5. I’ve had a great experience with Site5 and I still continue to use them. The main reason I don’t use Site5 as my primary web host any more is because their shared hosting has resource limits that are too low for me. I still maintain a reseller hosting plan on Site5. If you have a high traffic blog or an online store, you’ll probably bump up against the resource limits soon. Otherwise I feel that Site5 is a fantastic shared hosting company and continue to recommend them too.

If you found my review helpful, please signup for Webfaction through the links above and I’ll earn a small commission. 

5 Comments on "Webfaction hosting gives you lots of flexibility and power, if you can live without cPanel"

  • COD says

    I moved to Webfaction partly because of the lack of a CPanel. I wanted to force myself to learn to do stuff on the command line. I’ve been with them about a year and I’ve been completely happy.

    • Hi neighbor! Yeah it’s been a fun learning experience for me too. But I never felt too much out of my depth like when I was on the VPS

  • Matt says

    Nice recommendation. Thanks. I’ll check it out when I can. Apparently I’m currently on a cool hipster-type hosting :p

    • Get off my lawn yer hipster!

      • Matt says

        No longer a hippie. Tried Webfaction and the speed blows the silly MT Grid away. Will migrate my sites off the Grid and *cough* Exabytes.

        Thanks for the recommendation! This is awesome!