I've tried a number of different hosts to power this blog over the years, both managed and non-managed, and it's been an educational experience, to be sure. I'd found myself at wit's end each time I changed host for the promise of something better and more reliable, but each time I was catastrophically let down. That was until I switched to Performance Foundry. Perhaps you've never heard of them, but I think you soon will.
I've gone from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site on Bluehost, WP Engine, Siteground and now Performance Foundry. Here is my story with each. If you'd prefer to just hear about the benefits of switching to Performance Foundry, scroll down to ‘How Performance Foundry blows other hosts out of the water,' and don't forget to check out the exclusive Notes of Nomads discount code for sign-ups to their annual Foundation package before 1 November 2017.
OK, let's dive right in.
1st drama: Bluehost
When most new bloggers start out on a self-hosted site, they usually end up with a hosting company like Bluehost, Hostgator or GoDaddy. I understand the draw. They are cheap and get your site up and running, especially when you're in the very initial stages of your business and may not be making any money at all from your website. Bluehost was listed as a recommended host on WordPress so I decided to go with them. It soon became apparent that with cheap hosting, you're getting even cheaper service. Our site was slow, there was lots of downtime, and their customer service was some of the worst I have ever encountered. I was abruptly hung up on more times than I can count. We were in the middle of a round the world trip, probably the worst time to try to switch hosts, but I was so fed up with Bluehost, a company that was damaging our prospects of work more than helping it, that I decided to contact WP Engine.
2nd drama: WP Engine + WP Valet
WP Engine is a big step up price-wise, but I'm willing to invest in our blog and business. I took the Bluehost experience as a lesson in “you get what you pay for” and was excited to have the blog moving in the right direction again. I did a considerable amount of research to plan my next move and the consensus from most seemed to be that although WP Engine was more expensive, it was a fantastic host with great customer service. Essentially, exactly what I was looking for. I'd switched from WordPress.com to WordPress.org with Bluehost on my own, but I was happy to pay a professional to switch the blog from Bluehost to WP Engine while we were travelling. I had spent far too much of my travel time trying to sort this out as it was. WP Engine lists a service called WP Valet as their recommended company for switches to their service. I spoke to them, explained that I was on Bluehost and would like them to switch me to WP Engine, and to also switch my email from Bluehost to a custom Gmail address. They seemed to know what they were talking about. I was added to their job queue and waited out the time.
The process took weeks longer than expected but I stayed positive and thought that the wait would be worth it. When they showed me the transferred site, I pointed out to them that a large number of images had not been transferred successfully. I understand that things can get messy during the transfer process, so I waited for them patiently to assist me with this. I even went through each post one by one and told them which images were missing, a task I had to do again later on to check everything was there. Eventually when everything appeared to be working on the blog side of things, I asked whether I could now cancel my Bluehost account. They said technically, yes, but they always recommend to leave it up for a couple of weeks during the transition. So I waited before cancelling my Bluehost account.
Then a month or so later, I went to login to the blog to find the site completely inaccessible. Perhaps the site was down for maintenance, I thought, so I waited. But then when it wasn't up after several hours, I contacted WP Engine to enquire. It was then that I was informed that even though it appears that we're on WP Engine – the blog and all our files are listed and accessible from within our WP account and WP Engine appears on our dashboards when we login to WordPress – that we were actually not being hosted by WP Engine at all. Our files had been moved but our site was still being hosted by Bluehost!
I explained the whole situation to WP Engine, including that we had paid WP Valet, the company listed on their website, to do the transfer. The customer service representative was sympathetic but essentially said there was nothing they could do. They said that Bluehost makes it nearly impossible to move from them so actually it's not possible to move from Bluehost to WP Engine. I'm not sure how accurate that statement is, but what I do know is that people move from Bluehost to other hosts all the time, and WP Valet knew from the beginning that we wanted to move from Bluehost to WP Engine, so if there were any issues with that, I would have expected them to be honest about it.
So essentially our site appeared to be on WP Engine (and we were already paying for WP Engine) but we were being powered by Bluehost. So naturally when my account finally lapsed after I cancelled with Bluehost, our blog essentially wasn't being powered by anyone. I was back and forth between the WP Engine and Bluehost chatting windows. As the Bluehost customer service representative put it directly, “If they're not actually hosting you, then what are you paying them for exactly?” Our site's contents had already been set up with WP Engine so it wasn't as simple as just canceling with them. In order to get our site back up in the immediate interim, I had no choice but to restart and pay for my Bluehost hosting plan again. I had no recourse with WP Valet since they state that after 7 days, they are not responsible for any issues that may come up. It suddenly became clear why they were eager for me not to cancel my Bluehost account immediately.
In the middle of all of this was the issue with the email transfer. WP Valet had also made it look like our transferred emails were working, but in actual fact they hadn't set up the emails correctly at all. Here I was on a rooftop in Paris when I should have been enjoying a city that I had dreamed of visiting, trying to make it so people could reach us and we could reach them. When you work online, not having a working email address is a huge problem. After many hours of troubleshooting, I worked it out myself. But it was another service I had paid WP Valet for that I ended up having to work out on my own.
So essentially here I was having paid for a site/email transfer that never happened and I was now paying double hosting for the same crappy hosting I had in the beginning. It may sound silly, but I just left it that way for a while. I was just completely over it and didn't have the time nor the energy to try to work something else out while on the road. Then the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, was the ridiculous overage charges at WP Engine. If you go over your page view limit for the month, they start charging you for going over what your package allows, even if by just a little bit. I was having to pay $50 extra a month, then $100. This was on top of the monthly hosting charge. And keep in mind they were actually not providing us with any hosting service at all! It was all such a waste of money and our site was no better off for it.
3rd drama: Siteground
That's when I did a whole lot of research again to try to sort this out once and for all. This time I decided to go with Siteground. They would do the site transfer for free and had really great reviews. You can imagine by this time, I was very cautious about trusting hosting providers. I asked lots of questions. The customer service representative was very responsive and assured me that my hosting woes were a thing of the past. I decided to go with the 3 year package as that would mean a better deal and that I wouldn't have to worry about renewing for a while. I made sure to ask that if for any reason I decided to stop hosting with them, though, that I could do so and get a full refund on the remaining amount. The customer service representative confirmed and I was totally ready to just put all of this hosting drama behind me. Siteground were able to do the site transfer successfully. I cancelled WP Engine and Bluehost and I no longer had to pay for double hosting or overage charges. Everything was now officially all in one place. I felt so much better.
The thing was, even though the customer service was very good with Siteground, their service didn't improve our site. Our site speed didn't improve and so much was still outside their scope. Our site technically remained as it was with Bluehost, only the customer service reps were way nicer about it and were able to help me with a few things here or there. I really wanted more for our site. Our content could be great, but that really doesn't matter if people just leave before they have the chance to see it because it takes so long to load. The sad part was that when I went to cancel my account, Siteground flat out refused to refund me the remainder, even though I had clarified this from the very beginning. I had a number of conversations with customer service about it, explaining the whole situation, and on at least two occasions they said they would escalate it and get back to me but no one ever did. They have basically just stopped responding to me altogether, and I lost two years' worth of hosting in the process.
Making the switch to Performance Foundry
That's when I decided to make the switch to Performance Foundry. I'd met PF co-owners Craig and Linda Martin as fellow online content creators – Linda in Ireland and Craig in Sri Lanka at two different blogging conferences. Craig was the President of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association at the time and over the past couple of years he's been active in the PTBA and Travel Blog Success Facebook groups, among others, that I'm also a part of. Craig is always so giving and helpful in these groups, answering technical questions for beginner bloggers right up to those who have been at it for years. I loved that he was never “sales-y” and only offered Performance Foundry's services when he thought that it was best for the blogger. He understood that it's a big commitment for bloggers just getting started to make and was very thoughtful about when and how to help people. I'd watched others making the switch, colleagues of mine and people I've met in person, who raved about Performance Foundry and how it had completely revolutionized their sites – in site speed, especially, which often led to an uptick in traffic, among other benefits. I reached out to Craig and he was so generous with his time – taking the time to screen record him looking through our site, doing speed tests and locating points they could assist with. I could probably be forgiven for feeling jaded by this point, but I trusted Craig, Linda and their team to do this for us, and I'm so glad I did.
Here's how Performance Foundry blows other hosts out of the water
All the other hosts promised it, but Performance Foundry were the only ones to actually do it. We had site load times of more than 20 seconds in some regions. Now it's under 2 seconds! This in turn did give us a nice little uptick in traffic as those visiting our site didn't leave frustrated and stuck around to peruse other pages.
What they offer
I used to get extremely frustrated when almost every question I had with other hosts, bar when it came to payments, was, ‘please speak to your developer.' I understand that you pay for a hosting service and that not all things are within their scope, but when you get zero assistance, even when your question pertains directly to their hosting/services, it was all rather disheartening. Performance Foundry not only transfers your site from your previous host for free, but they do a free speed report (usually worth $490) to identify ways you can further improve your site on top of the improvements you'll no doubt see simply from moving to them. This is a completely tailored report with actionable recommendations for your specific site and situation, and if there are things they can help out with, they'll just go ahead and fix them for you!
They helped me with installing and configuring plugins, and a whole host of loose ends that I would have been left to deal with on my own with any other host. Included in their hosting package, is small fixes and changes every month. So all those niggling things that most hosts wouldn't even touch and that you'd end up spending hours of your time trying to work out, they do for you. Quickly and efficiently and the right way. Of course, there are some things that would be considered too large a job to fall under this service or outside your hosting service. But instead of telling you to simply find your own developer, they have a whole host of add-on services available to assist you in a range of areas – whether you'd like them to dive into your SEO or even do a complete site redesign.
Personal and genuine service
Performance Foundry actually contact you personally to check up on how things are going with your site. Linda has called me twice since we switched in February and we've had follow-up conversations via email, where she asked if there is anything that we were concerned about or wanted to improve on. The advice she gave was specific to our site and she took the time to look at our website and stats, and advised accordingly. Performance Foundry not only want success overall for their clients, but they want your site to be successful. I've never received this kind of personal attention, and genuine support, from any of the hosts I've been with, where every interaction started with confirming your identity with client numbers or passwords. With Performance Foundry, they know who I am and actively reach out to make sure everything is on track.
No overage charges
Performance Foundry don't believe in punishing their clients for their traffic success; they want to celebrate it and help your business grow. So if you have a post go viral and you go over your quota, they don't slap you with a bill or slow your site down. They want your site to remain up and fast so you can take advantage of all those new eyes on your site. Of course, if you start consistently going over, you may need to change your package to cover the extra resources you are consuming, but they reach out to you and talk to you about what might be the best solution going forward. Gone are the days where you have to worry about spikes in traffic affecting your uptime or paying crazy overage charges!
Incredible support team and proactive approach to issues and changes in the industry
I'm a part of many blogging groups and, oh, how do I feel lucky to be with Performance Foundry when I see many having difficulties with downtime or plugins or freaking out about changes in the industry. When I switched to Performance Foundry, Craig already recommended we change to secured https. He was already well aware that it would become vital for sites later this year, and I'm so glad I took him up on the offer to do that at the same time as the switch. Now everyone is racing to do it and many don't have the technical know-how to do it themselves, or their hosts are simply flicking a switch to achieve it instantaneously – which is actually not the most advisable way. When plugin updates break sites, PF is already on it. They put a note in their private Facebook community, they reach out to affected sites and even deactivate or roll back the plugin so that their clients do not have to deal with the fallout. PF don't consider such issues to be something their clients have to deal with on their own. They are always there to lend support and if they can fix it for you, they will!
For issues unique to our site, their support team has yet to not be able to do anything we have requested from them, and they are fast. When something comes up that I'd like them to look at for me, I send a message before going to bed, and more often than not when I wake up their support team has already completed the task for me. How many hosts are actively working on making your site better while you sleep?
Choosing Performance Foundry and special discount code
Performance Foundry are not the cheapest on the market, but they are by no means the most expensive either. And when I think about all the money I wasted dabbling with other hosts and paying overage charges, not to mention all the time I spent on hosting chats and then researching and trying to fix every small problem myself, I wish I'd just gone with them from the beginning. Even if you're a beginner blogger, if you can, I'd highly recommend just going with a reputable managed hosting service from the beginning, who can cut through that steep technical learning curve and get things done that other hosts will simply dismiss and leave you to work out on your own. Reclaim your time spent endlessly scrolling blog forums and Facebook groups for information, and concentrate on building your site content and interacting with your readers. I've been blogging for quite a while now, and I've felt like I've had to play catch-up with a lot of new trends in the industry, but now when I see other long-time bloggers, well-known bloggers who I have a lot of respect for, changing to Performance Foundry too, I feel like I am finally ahead of the curve on something.
I honestly cannot recommend Performance Foundry enough and if you have a blog or business and are looking for a reputable and reliable host, reach out to them to see what they can do for you. If you sign up for their annual payment package before 1 November 2017, you'll get 2 months free hosting. From then on it will be reduced to 1 month free, which is still a great bonus, but why not get that little extra if you can!
As a special added bonus, Notes of Nomads readers get an additional $50 if they sign up for the annual Foundation package before November 1 — that works out to just $100 a month, which is excellent value! Just use the code ‘nomad50' at checkout. Visit Performance Foundry here and be sure to tell them Notes of Nomads sent you!
If you're thinking about making the switch, you won't be disappointed. If you have any questions not covered here about our hosting experiences, feel free to post them below. For questions about how Performance Foundry can help your blog or business, please get in contact with them directly.
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