Image Screenshot from Hostbaby.com
If you've never had to look for a reliable, trustworthy web host, consider yourself lucky. It isn't easy to determine which of the multitude of web hosting companies out there is the best for your needs. Whether you're looking for a web host for a personal website, or you are looking for a platform that can handle the needs of your small business, bowling league, band, or collection of hilarious cat memes, it's likely that there's a web hosting company that caters to your niche. In this article, we take a look at one such specialist web hosting platform: Hostbaby, which is geared toward musicians and bands.
What Is Hostbaby?
Hostbaby is a specialized web hosting provider that grew out of the website CD Baby, which is an online music platform serving independent musicians. CD Baby sells the digital rights to the music their customers make, and can
also print and publish CDs and vinyl records, which almost seems quaint in this day of Spotify, Pandora, and a slew of other digital streaming services. Hostbaby naturally grew out of the needs of the musicians and bands which had signed up for CD Baby's services, and as such, it's got the hopeful indie rock stars of tomorrow square in its sights. So, does Hostbaby rock on, or is it open mic night?
What They Offer
Hostbaby presents itself as a one-stop-shop for aspiring musicians. They appear to be running a platform similar to or based on WordPress, the popular open source, free, and modular content management system used primarily by bloggers or for personal websites. Similar to WordPress, Hostbaby offers templates and plugins which automate many of the tasks involved in running a website effectively.
They offer blogging, image hosting, YouTube and Instagram automation, and a collection of other tools that, like their CD and vinyl business, seem a little quaint. We realize not everyone is an expert in the ways of PHP and MySQL (if that alphabet soup is meaningless to you, you're who we're talking about), but to offer such "features" as share buttons and integrated social media icons is decidedly a little yesteryear.
Hostbaby no doubt knows their target demographic, and maybe the social media savvy independent musicians we know are the exception to the rule. That said, even musicians who have day jobs in IT would probably prefer just to make music and leave the hours of painstaking website configuration to the experts or, in this case, to a bunch of automated scripts and plug-ins.
Hostbaby must know their demographic better than we at first assumed because their pricing is steep. For $20 a month (which apparently includes $245 of CD Baby music distribution coupons—five a year, as their website points out), you get access to the suite of Hostbaby software and templates which make it easy enough to create a website from scratch or from one of their "designer templates."
Naturally enough, they offer the ability to publish music, video, and images online, but it's not clear how much space that $20 per month buys. There's a different kind of gig that the hopeful musician who wants to host a website with Hostbaby should be concerned with: gigabytes, as in how much storage or bandwidth you get.
We could find no mention of storage or bandwidth limitations on their site, but we know they used to limit storage to 10 gigabytes. That's enough for a basic website and a good collection of music, but if you have a bunch of videos you want to make available to your fan base, you might find 10 gigabytes to be a little restrictive after adding all your tracks and headshots and fan club information. Maybe not, but for around $20 a month (prices are always subject to change, but this is around what they're charging at the moment) is really a bit out of line, and the monthly fee isn't the only inflated price we found.
They also offer domain name registration—like yourband.rocks—for between $12.99 and $28.99, depending on the extension (.com, .org, .net, and .rocks and .band) For instance, you can pay Hostbaby something like $29 to register YourAmazingIndie.band … or you can go to a domain name registrar like GoDaddy.com and pay something more like $5—no kidding, this is the actual range of prices as of this writing.
We expect Hostbaby is banking—literally—on the naivete that some musicians may have regarding all things internet. While it's not illegal to take advantage of folks who aren't exactly up on all this stuff, it's not the best business practice, because word spreads through reviews like this one and via the mouths of disgruntled customers.
We suspect this may be a known factor inside Hostbaby, because though we couldn't find a single reference to storage or bandwidth allowances in their Frequently Asked Questions, we found information on how to download all of your content prior to canceling your account. That's a little telling.
How It Compares
It's not our intent to trash Hostbaby like the archetypical hotel room, but with prices like these and a lack of salient information on their website, they're kind of asking for us to throw the flat screen into the motel pool. As we see below, they're not the only hosting provider who appears to be gambling on the fact that their customers won't find out how overpriced they are (at least not before making a tidy profit on some starving musical artists out there). We look at three other web hosting providers to compare and contrast. They are:
Around $20 per month, with no real clear information regarding storage space, bandwidth allotment, and other technical specifications you really need to know before entering into a hosting agreement with someone, even if it's just month-to-month.
Ease of Use
As overpriced as they may be, Hostbaby does offer templates and plugins geared toward those who aren't familiar with that sort of thing, so while they may take advantage of a lack of expertise, they also cater to it.
Again, we could find no mention of uptime in their official online documentation, which surprised us, as that used to be the gold standard by which web hosting platforms were judged. Hosting has gotten a lot more reliable than it used to be, and most hosting companies claim to have 99% (or better) uptime these days, which is about what we could verify for Hostbaby through third-party research tools. We're docking them one star for not making that information available, however, and 99% uptime still means seven hours and twelve minutes of downtime per month.
Again, as Hostbaby is geared toward musicians, the features here are pretty robust. While non-musicians probably don't host on Hostbaby, for musicians with deep pockets (and no geek friends), they do offer a pretty robust set of tools for promotion.
This is another area where web hosts are (rightfully) judged. If you have a problem or an outage and you can't reach anybody quickly enough to remedy the problem—especially during evening or weekend hours, which is when you can predict band and musician sites may see the most traffic—that's a problem. Hostbaby is apparently tone deaf when it comes to the importance of customer service, as their phone support is limited to business hours, nine to five, Pacific time. Outside of that window, you're relying on a trouble ticket system and email support. That's not sufficient, especially for the price.
Hostinger offers web hosting for a general user base and doesn't feature a lot of bells and whistles for folks who really aren't familiar with the technical back-end of this sort of thing and even navigating their offerings may be a little tricky for the uninitiated. That said, there are so many options out there—like the aforementioned WordPress—that take a lot of the heavy lifting out of this stuff, and in what you save on hosting (when compared to Hostbaby), you could afford to hire an IT person who can tune and tweak initial setup for you.
It's difficult to give a rundown of all of Hostinger's different plans, but they offer a 10 gigabyte, 100 gig-per-month bandwidth account for less than a dollar per month. It's not going to be the fastest website, or the most robust… but it's less than a buck every thirty days. They do offer robust, enterprise-level cloud hosting for around $28 per month, but that's for a fire-breather of a web server (it's going to be fast and rock solid), 160 gigabytes of hard drive storage, and unlimited bandwidth.
For less than a dollar per month, you can get right around the same level of service that Hostbaby offers. That's a great deal, as long as you don't need the training wheels and the musician-specific add-ons. And it bears mentioning that for plans starting around $3 per month and up, they'll throw a domain name into the bargain. So why two dollar signs? Because their high-end hosting is hundreds of dollars a month.
Ease of Use
This is where Hostinger takes a bit of hit. You have to know what you're looking for in terms of the technical specifications—or have someone who can explain it to you—to even choose which hosting package to go for. That said, they have excellent support documentation that can walk even a technical novice through most aspects of what they'll need to do.
Clearly stated 99% uptime on one of the first pages a customer is likely to see. As we stated above, however, 99% uptime is still just over seven hours of downtime a month. We suspect they're "promising less and delivering more," as the saying goes, but we'll rate them on their claims.
What they lack in out-of-the-gate novice friendliness, they make up for in technically robust offerings. With standard features like unlimited storage and bandwidth for non-cloud hosted (meaning sites that aren't likely to get a ton of traffic), SSL certificates (which enable you to conduct e-commerce on your own website), access to powerful back-end databases (if you don't know if you need it, you don't, but it will be there when you do), and weekly backups, Hostinger provides a lot of bang for the buck.
Hostinger loses points here for not offering any kind of telephone support, but they do claim to have a team of dedicated technical support people working around the clock, year round. They have offices in several countries, and over twenty-nine million customers, so ... chances are they're not lying.
The Austin, Texas-based WP Engine is all about WordPress, and plans start at a much more robust—and expensive—level than those of Hostinger (or, for that matter, Hostbaby). This is hosting for folks who know what things like automated SSL certificates and Geo Target are, and who have fat wallets. Therefore, probably not for everybody.
Plan start at around a staggering $35 per month and go up from there. Though they do have a lot of tech on the back-end, it is much more than the average user is ever going to need, and though there's added value there, it would be slightly crazy to pay this much for hosting based on the disk storage and bandwidth allowances, which aren't that much better than Hostbaby's on the low end.
Ease of Use
This is where they really fall down. If you don't know a lot about web hosting and the technical side of things and don't need to know, this isn't the host for you. They don't make it easy, simple, or frankly very understandable
We really felt like deducting more points here, but after deliberation agreed it wouldn't be fair. Like most other hosting providers, they claim "99% +" uptime, but address the situation with a long (though to be fair, complete and accurate) article that's easily findable when you search for "uptime" on the search bar at the top of their site. So why did we want to deduct more stars? Because the article was written in 2013.
While they do offer pretty robust tech, they're stingy with the bandwidth and disk space, which (for these prices) really isn't fair. They may be geared more toward high-traffic websites that need fast processing and all of the other back-end high tech stuff, but most people aren't going to need that stuff, and the ones who do can find it cheaper.
For what you're paying, the customer support better be good, and it is. You can connect via live chat with a technical support or sales representative twenty-four hours a day.
Offering web hosting that's like the newbie-friendly, plenty-of-plugins, semi-automated packages Hostbaby promises, but at a much more reasonable price. They advertise only having one plan, and it's intended to "scale up" as you need it, which means they really have just as many plans with added cost down the line as any other hosting provider, but you'll only need that when you have a lot of traffic—and that's a good problem to have.
As of this writing, they're offering a special sale that's nearly 80% off of their regular hosting, but these kinds of sales are pretty common on their site so we'll say you can expect to pay right around $5 per month, on average, for basic website hosting.
Ease of Use
Offering things like "one-click WordPress installation," iPage is novice-friendly and simple enough to understand that most people would feel comfortable using it.
They claim—you guessed it—99% uptime.
WordPress heavy offerings, but robust enough to handle e-commerce and higher bandwidth needs—at extra cost.
Twenty-four-hour live chat and phone support twelve hours a day. Pros
The answer to the question, "What kind of hosting should I get?" is probably going to be a lot like "Whatever kind you need." If you're looking for basic hosting at really affordable prices, Hostinger or iPage are going to be hard to beat, but we'd recommend iPage for novices and Hostinger for those who expect a lot of traffic right from the start. Frankly, the other two hosting providers are ones we would avoid unless you need the perks and musician-centric appeal of Hostbaby. How did Hostbaby stack up against the competition? We'll give them three stars out of five. Buyer beware.