PressHarbor: WordPress For The Rest Of Us

Filed as Reviews on September 17, 2010 10:46 pm

A long, long time ago, in a place not so far away a company emerged from the shadows offering WP fans an alternative to Automattic’s WordPress.com.

Launched in 2007 by the folks behind RackShare, PressHarbor provides a safe haven for WP fans looking for a WordPress centric hosting company without the limitations of Automattic (the latter who created WordPress).

Probably considered one of the first WP centric hosts to emerge online, PressHarbor prides itself on offering users features that they will need instead of presenting options that they will probably never use.

The folks behind PressHarbor were kind enough to let me test out their hosting service, which presented a few surprises “under the hood.”

The Need For Speed!

Unlike most rivals who boast on bandwidth or data transfer, PressHarbor concentrates on ensuring that each WordPress blog loads quickly.

This is due in part to PressHarbor’s utilizing a service called LiteSpeed which “magically” (to borrow a word from Steve Jobs) delivers your content quickly and without delay.

The company also seems to place a greater emphasis on improving CPU cycles, which they (via email) pointed out as the true culprit of blogs loading very slowly.

PressHarbor’s loading times are (from my estimates) second to none save HostCo, with the only difference between the two being the former is overall much less expensive.

A Spammer And Hackers Worst Friend?

Another feature PressHarbor masters in is security. Unlike your average hosting company (who’s only concerned about keeping the server up), PressHarbor automatically updates your blog and monitors your site in order to keep the bad guys out.

For those of you who loathe spam, you’ll be glad to know that PressHarbor also provides clients with free access to Akismet Pro (a service that costs $5/month or about $60/year).

While this news will probably disappoint human spammers everywhere, it should help reduce the amount of time one devotes to monitoring the comment section.

Do you want Control Panel, Email And Calendar With That?

Just like a traditional host, PressHarbor also provides users with access to FTP, email and Control Panel (via Parallel’s Plesk), the latter which was quite advanced compared to rivals like BlogOnCloud9 (who just provides the basics).

Through it bloggers can create (and manage) email addresses, and even allocate how much space they should each receive.

While the inclusion of email might please some bloggers, truth be told using the default service was underwhelming, mainly due to the fact that the user interface was an eyesore (despite being highly functional).

Update: PressHarbor just emailed me saying that many of their clients do not use the default email interface, and instead through PressHarbor’s DNS controls outsource to Google Apps.

The calendar interface was a slight improvement (visually speaking), and in some ways is comparable to Google Calendar (although not as beautiful of course).

Premium On The Cheap?

Aside from speed and security, PressHarbor prices are much more competitive compared to their rivals, as their goal is to give you premium hosting without breaking the bank.

Currently PressHarbor provides limited space and bandwidth for bloggers (as their Gold plan offers 5GB of space and 250 GB of bandwidth for about $25/month) which truth be told is very meager when compared against rivals.

However during our conversations, PressHarbor did mention that they are considering increasing their limits in order to remain competitive (which I’ll update below once those changes are live).

PressHarbor also offers custom plans for bloggers who do not fit within the 3 standard plans, and is also willing to help bloggers migrate their blogs from their current hosts free of charge.

For those of you with blogs on multiple domains, PressHarbor doesn’t offer any bundling features (in order to help keep costs down), although they do offer discounts for those who manage multiple sites.

The Ugly Duckling?

While my experience of using WordPress on PressHarbor’s servers was for the most part pleasant, when it comes to creating an account (whether registering a domain or hosting) the overall experience was more or less an eyesore.

Even though you shouldn’t judge a site/service by its appearance, I do know that most of my WordPress lovin’ non-geek friends would choose a more expensive (and inferior) rival over PressHarbor, as the layout doesn’t look too professional.

Although PressHarbor’s dedication to provide the needed speed and security are a testament to where their focus is at (as I would personally vouch for the company), they need to hire a designer in order to make the site more aesthetically pleasing.

Is PressHarbor Right For Me?

PressHarbor overall is suited towards personal WordPress bloggers, as well as medium sized probloggers and small businesses.

The fact that the company has been around for almost three years should alone be a testament of their success, as most WordPress only hosting companies have yet to reach their first year of existence (let alone their third).

While PressHarbor overall may not suited towards those with multiple blogs, those with one or two blogs will find PressHarbor’s prices similar to most (semi-decent) hosting companies, with the extra bonus that they actually care about the success of your blog (and not just keeping the server alive).

Image Credits: Norebbo

Update: Post updated for clarity, as well as correcting a few minor errors (Control Panel & LiteSpeed)

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