Hostpapa Review (or Hostpapa’s Scam, and what you should know about all “low-cost” web hosting providers)

July 8, 2019
in Category: Blog, Economics, Technology Privacy Surveillance
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Hostpapa Review (or Hostpapa’s Scam, and what you should know about all “low-cost” web hosting providers)

 

Many providers of “low-cost” shared web hosting like Hostpapa advertise “unlimited bandwidth” — but it’s a scam, and you could end up with your website shut down and back-up functions blocked unless you pay higher fees. Don’t get burned. Learn from my experience.

In 2018-19, the web hosting provider Hostpapa started slowing down (“throttling”) my website, and then suddenly without notice shut my site down completely until I paid higher fees. This seemed like a scam. I investigated and discovered that’s exactly what it was – and I was far from Hostpapa’s only victim. In this post, I summarize what I learned about this profitable scam aspect of Hostpapa’s regular business operations. I do it in a way that is understandable for non-technical people, and I then suggest key questions to ask before signing up with any “cheap” web hosting provider like Hostpapa.

Hostpapa gets generally good reviews. Learning #1: You cannot trust most reviews of web hosting providers. Search engines return “Reviews of…”, “Top ten…” and “Best…” lists very high in search results, so there are massive profits in posting such lists and reviews. Most reviews of the “best web hosting providers” are put together by a person or company that’s typically getting paid by the web hosting companies every time a visitor clicks through to the companies’ websites, and is paid more if the visitor signs up. So if a top-ten list gives a very bad review, it’s usually just because that particular company has no such “affiliate programs” with scam reviewers. (Reviews done by established, independent tech magazines are a better bet.)

I signed up for Hostpapa’s medium, “unlimited bandwidth,” shared web hosting plan that said they would “never charge higher usage fees” – so what could go wrong?

One day out of the blue I received an automated message from Hostpapa telling me that my website had been using up so much server resources that Hostpapa had shut my website down. I could not even access my website to manage it. The email said that I could regain access to my site if I started paying monthly fees that were ten times more than what I was currently paying.

Most people without technical knowledge probably just pay the higher fees. What choice do you have? But I had a little technical knowledge and a lot of suspicion. My WordPress blog on Hostpapa was small, and the traffic was very light. I contacted Hostpapa and explained this and reminded them I was on an “unlimited bandwidth” plan that said I’d “never be charged higher usage fees”.

Hostpapa staff said my “unlimited” plan wasn’t actually unlimited. They said the “bandwidth” was unlimited but not the “server usage”. Learning #2: The commonly advertised feature of “unlimited bandwidth” for shared web hosting plans is misleading.

For non-technical users, “bandwidth” can be understood as the width of a pipe, while “server usage”, is the amount of liquid your website sends back and forth through the pipe. Hostpapa sent me a link to their policy that described extremely tight, strict limits on “server usage” – the number of monthly drops my website was allowed to send through the pipe to web users. But this policy was never mentioned in Hostpapa’s ads or Terms of Service.

I persuaded Hostpapa to let me back into my website, and I tried to ensure that I had a backup of the content. However, Hostpapa was still throttling my website so heavily that, no matter what back-up tool I used, it would time out.

Hostpapa then sent me a list of technical tips to “correct the problems” that were causing my “excessive server usage.” I had to spend many hours researching to figure out how to implement them. I finally managed to implement them all — and it made absolutely no difference. Hostpapa shut my website down again.

Hostpapa then admitted to me that it was often the case that implementing their technical tips did not actually solve the problems. The real problem, their staff explained, was that WordPress has become so popular that it’s now a frequent target of hackers and malicious web-bots. These hackers and web-bots were overloading my website. And even running WordPress firewalls and plugins like “Stop Bad Bots” doesn’t help a lot — they help secure your site, to be sure, but they do not actually block the bad traffic from ever arriving. Bad traffic can only be blocked at the server level, by the web hosting provider.

So why can’t Hostpapa just block these malicious web-bots? Well, they could. If they wanted to. And that’s exactly what responsible web hosting providers do, I soon discovered. But Hostpapa doesn’t. Instead, Hostpapa lets many web-bots through, and then throttles their clients’ websites and shuts them down and sends out demands for higher fees. And then Hostpapa has set up an entire division of its staff dedicated to moving people with small WordPress sites off low-cost hosting plans onto higher-priced plans – this scam is a major part of their profit model.

Consider a comparison: About 90% of emails circulating on the internet are spam. Imagine if an internet service provider refused to run spam-blockers and instead let all spam emails through to its clients and then charged its clients higher fees for all the extra email server space they were using each day. This is basically Hostpapa’s policy and practice in relation to malicious web-bots – and they can get away with it because most of their individual and small-business clients on low-cost plans don’t have the technical knowledge to understand what’s going on.

I repeatedly asked to be allowed to talk to a supervisor or manager at Hostpapa, but my requests were refused.

I persuaded the Advertising Standards Council to investigate and they eventually concluded that Hostpapa was indeed engaged in false and misleading advertising.

In response to the findings of the Advertising Standards Council and another complaint I made through the Better Business Bureau, Hostpapa finally changed their advertising and Terms of Service to clarify that they will under certain conditions throttle websites, shut them down and charge higher fees (see their new ad below). However, the wording in their ad and Terms of Service “Disruptive Uses” section still make it sound like this will only ever happen if “you” engage in “abusive” activities or if “you” use “unusual” amounts of server space. Hostpapa has refused to clarify that, in fact, your site could be throttled and shut down when you’re simply a victim of common web-bots that Hostpapa itself could be blocking.

I will never do business with Hostpapa again — I’ve found other web hosting providers that are nearly as low-cost and I’ve had no problems. So here are some key questions to ask a provider if you are considering signing up for a shared web hosting plan:

  • Do they block most web-bots that attack WordPress sites, or is that left to the client to do?
  • What are their ACTUAL server usage limits?
  • Do they throttle client websites?
  • Do they shut down client websites without notice?
  • Do they demand higher fees if a site crosses the server usage limits?

I’ve posted this just to be helpful to other people, not to make money. If you’ve found this post helpful, please post a link to it somewhere so that others are more likely to find it when they do searches. (And/or please leave a comment — if you don’t see my “Comments” section below, click on the title of this post and it should appear.)

UPDATE July 2020: Since I originally wrote this post I have not continued to research other web hosting providers, and for various unrelated reasons my “list” of recommended, alternative, better providers has slowly whittled down to just one provider. I’m happy to email this recommendation to you if you ask in a comment. However, my main recommendation is to contact providers with the questions I’ve identified above — that way, you let them know that people are wising up to this kind of scam and looking for alternatives, and you get providers’ policies in writing. When you find a good one, feel free to let me know via email (I don’t want to turn the comments thread into a long list of “ads” for providers) and perhaps we can crowdsource a longer list again. Also, I encourage everyone having problems with Hostpapa to post a complaint to the Better Business Bureau summarizing this scam. If there are a lot of public complaints about this, others will hear about it — and who knows, Hostpapa might even change… You can go through a formal complaint process with the BBB, or simply post a comment here: https://www.bbb.org/ca/on/oakville/profile/web-hosting/hostpapa-inc-0107-1241393/customer-reviews

 

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25 comments on “Hostpapa Review (or Hostpapa’s Scam, and what you should know about all “low-cost” web hosting providers)”

  1. Bobbi Lusic says:

    Hi Rob,
    We are experiencing same problem right now. We are running a member-funded, non-profit with no money to waste. We chose Hostpapa as the #1 ranked host in Canada and with the intention to support local business. What we got in return is exactly what you described so eloquently.

    When you say “I’ve found other web hosting providers that are nearly as low-cost and I’ve had no problems.” Can you share some recommendations for hosting? If you prefer to share privately, you can email me at the address in this post.

    Thank you so much for the validation.

  2. Rob Wipond says:

    I’m sorry to hear that, Bobbi — but thank you for putting up a comment about your experience! You’re not the first person to contact me.

    I will email you privately. I don’t want to post the names of web hosts here only because I don’t want it to seem like this article is about promoting other companies. Also, over time things might change at a company, and I also did not research them all. However, Hostpapa’s refusals to allow users to ever communicate with higher-level staff no matter how legitimate and serious a concern or complaint is seem particularly unusual and egregious in this industry.

  3. Simon V C Olley says:

    Just had the very same experience. As of the 3rd of February I started getting spikes in my usage log. Curiously the .ftpquota file had been modified minutes before the usage spikes occured. I know my site is not a busy site and I suspect most of the issues are directly connected to bots rather than genuine visitors. All this happened 3 days after my client had bought into a new Protection Plan Hostpapa were selling. I will be moving the site away from Hostpapa as soon as possible.

  4. Rob Wipond says:

    Thanks for posting about your experience, Simon. I’ve heard from a number of others via email this month, so there seems to be growing awareness of the scam, hopefully.

  5. Tarek says:

    Hi
    I was considering them after reading an article. I contacted them to know more migrating from wix but they asked for my passwords!! It did ring a bell. Can you please email me where i can find better service?
    Thanks

  6. I too have experienced these problems with HostPapa. Last November (2019) when I received the first email alerting me to this “problem” with my bandwidth usage (on a private website that contains nothing more than a shared WordPress family tree) I took it seriously at first and responded. I was put in touch with a support agent with a Russian name, which set off alarm bells right away. The things she was telling me needed to corrected made no sense. My bandwidth, storage and throughput were all negligible. It was clear they just wanted to bamboozle me and get me to upgrade my account. I told them I was on to them and warned them not to bother contacting me again about this non-problem. I even complained to the Better Business Bureau in their area and of course that led nowhere, despite a couple of dozen similar complaints previously lodged with them.

    Now again today (May 4, 2020) with two months left on my contract term, another agent with a Russian name has picked up the thread with the exact same content in the message about my slowing down their shared servers with my website (“your account has been utilizing more server resources than allocated to your current hosting plan”). I need to change services but cannot find any company that comes highly recommended, except for much more expensive business services. Can you please give me the names of companies you believe may be more ethical?

  7. Rob Wipond says:

    Thanks for posting, Christopher. As frustrating as it is to know Hostpapa is still up to these shenanigans, I derive some satisfaction that more people seem to be finding this article. Russian, hm? I was getting someone from El Salvador, I believe it was. So they’re also heavily outsourcing their support to countries with cheaper labour, which is of course often frustrating because it just is not that easy for someone to know English well enough to effectively converse about technical matters. Argh!

    I am still happy with my providers — I will email their names to you privately.

  8. Further to my earlier posting on this topic, I have now seamlessly switched web hosting providers to one of the companies Robe recommended. It took all of about an hour to move my website and change domain registry services. I only wish I had taken this step sooner. Many thanks for your advice and assistance Rob.

    Just to add to this, here is the text of a second email I had today from “Reneta Dimitrova” who I suspect is a freelance who gets paid according to how many suckers fall for this fraudulent ploy and subscribe to a more expensive service. Apparently she has not even noticed that I now have zero files on their server, let alone a website!

    HostPapa Inc. | 115 George St., Suite 511, Oakville, ON, L6J 0A2, Canada | Contact Us
    Client ID: 168149 | Primary domain: avalonia-hibernia.ca

    Hello Christopher,
    We recently informed you that your website performance is being negatively impacted because you are consuming server resources beyond what is allocated to your current shared web hosting plan.

    As indicated in our previous email, there could be several possible root causes that may be impacting your account’s performance. You can view detailed information about your account’s resource usage at the bottom of the main page in your cPanel dashboard.

    We will need to go over your usage requirements and discuss your plan allotments. We do value your business and we would gladly propose alternative solutions to ensure your current and future requirements are satisfied.

    Please reply to this email and let me know when it will be most convenient for us to reach you so we can discuss the best way to help you solve this issue.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind Regards,

    Reneta Dimitrova
    Account Manager
    HostPapa Inc.

    ? reneta.dimitrova@hostpapa.com
    ? CA&US 1-888-959-PAPA [7272] ext 7509

  9. Wow great (sort of) to find out that this is a scam to up sell.
    I too need to migrate fro HP so when you have the time the host you are referencing would be great

  10. Trena Zacharias says:

    Hi, Can you please email your recommended providers?
    Thank you!

  11. Hi I also have been dealing with this problem.
    It first happened last year starring my back up was too full, which was odd seeing as I was still in the middle building the website. I contacted them enquiring about this backup problem with screenshots of my Awstats which was essentially a flatline except for this massive spike on the 20th. I got it reinstated with a very rude email from an Eduardo Hernandez essentially saying that it’s my fault for not stopping any bot attacks.
    I later forgot about it and continued to work on my site but LO and BEHOLD the exact same issue on the exact same day one year later. That immediately made me suspicious, so I cautiously messaged them again politely asking “what the heck” and a get another response from Eduardo saying that a massive spike in traffic was the reason for the accounts suspension and “bla bla bla it’s all my fault spend more money”
    So I checked the traffic myself and they did indeed matched the 32,786 page views stated in the mail but I also looked at who was visiting the site, I expected most to be from Australia (my country) but almost a 3rd is from the US and 90% of which were from one IP address in particular I looked it up and surprisingly found it belongs to hostpapa themselves – the IP in question is 69.90.162.40 if you want to look it up yourself. And now I am currently looking another provider any recommendations would be appreciated.

    TL:DR hostpapa is purposely spiking traffic to put stress on thier hosted server to make it look like you need a bigger plan

  12. Rob Wipond says:

    Very interesting — Eduardo was one of the people I connected with, too.

    I encourage everyone to send the questions from the end of my post to hosting providers to let them know people are becoming aware, and also to help identify which providers have different practices. I did my research some time ago and was not very thorough, so now I’m down to only one provider that I know has a different practice. But there may be more if people ask around now.

    I’d also encourage everyone to file complaints against Hostpapa with the Better Business Bureau at this link:
    https://www.bbb.org/ca/on/oakville/profile/web-hosting/hostpapa-inc-0107-1241393/customer-reviews

    Don’t go through the formal complaint process with BBB — it’s a total joke, and they even in the end declare you satisfied against your will, it’s really ridiculous. And then they don’t allow you to leave a public comment if you’ve used the complaint process — a perfect way to prevent the most serious complaints from ever becoming public. So just post your comments on their profile with BBB so others can see them. Hostpapa may care if their BBB rating ultimately goes down.

    Rob

  13. maia says:

    Hi,

    Having the exact same problem with Hostpapa, right from the first year (bought a 3 yr package to get the advertised low price, but they don’t refund or prorate after the first month.)
    Have been plagued by problem after problem, with me jumping through hoops and yet getting cpu overuse notices, io use notices, suspensions for excessive inodes, and one because I didn’t reply immediately to an email!!
    Flooded by badbots, which I monitor myself and despite security got malware infections. Can you suggest another reliable webhost in roughly the same budget category? Much appreciate it.

  14. Dear Rob
    thank you for this review
    i have the same problem with Hostpapa and they start to send me e-mail that they are going to shut down my website
    could you please inform me with your suggestion of other companies

  15. Bruce Cook says:

    Dear Mr. Christopher Morry,

    I have also experienced the mysterious bandwidth problem…as you did and I also wondered about the Russian bots that were sending me referral messages through my website hosted by Hostpapa….They also made the bandwidth claims as well….I also noted that some upper echelon members of Hostpapa appear to have Russian heritage names….I wonder if there is a connection….My main beef is in trying to cancel services with them…I verbally did so on the phone after my personal security questions were somehow incorrect…such as the middle name of my oldest child, favourite sports team and name of first pet….As if I wouldn’t know the name of my oldest child by 2 minutes since I am the father of twin girls….Anyway, I have never in my 58 years of life experienced something so frustrating and impossible to leave such as Hostpapa, and they still insist on putting it on me….when I know there are no other correct answers…Has anyone else had problems with trying to leave Hostpapa…In fact, I thought I was gone and 3 months later they contact my marketing guy who forwarded me the notion that somehow even after canceling on the phone my account was still active….Contrived and absurd!!!

  16. Rob Wipond says:

    Thanks for the post, Bruce. I’m intrigued and disturbed by this notion emerging from your and others’ experiences that the bots themselves might ultimately be driven deliberately in collaboration with Hostpapa or as an integral part of Hostpapa’s business operations. In light of how intractable, incommunicado, and irresponsible Hostpapa senior management/ownership have been about our complaints, it starts to seem very plausible.

    There’s been a big uptick over the last few weeks in the number of people finding this discussion thread, so that’s great. And by the way, if you or anyone want to take the time to post a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, then see if they allow you to include a link to this article and discussion thread as part of your evidence! That could have an impact, – impact in numbers.

    Rob

  17. steve says:

    host papa is terrible. used to be great when they were lunarpages (11 years very little trouble) …hardly knew that they were there. Then they split into two companies, dismantled our email set up, messed it up when putting it back, after they got our emails for both of our companies hobbled together, less than 6 months later they screw it all up again. They told me four times that the work is complete and fully functional. Yet no calendar migration on two domains, no email folders, two weeks later and we lost countless leads and revenue fr our engineering company and flood specialist company. no where near cheap after all the add-ons just for a simple set-up. They are the worst.

  18. dan says:

    I just received the first email from Hostpapa from one of their account managers about this very same “issue” of “utilizing more server resources than allocated to your current hosting plan.” I looked at my usage and it’s low to almost non-existent. I will look at other options so that I have an exit strategy, if required.

    Would you please share (via email, of course) your recommendations on other web host providers? Thanks!

  19. Shannon says:

    I’ve had ongoing issues with Hostpapa, same story as everyone else here. So glad I found this post, now I know Im not going crazy! They try to bamboozle with tech talk and little graphs. Time and time again I find my website has been shut down by Hostpapa with no communication that its happened. Ive just spent money improving the security on my website. But still I get the same old line “The issue is that your website has been experiencing a lack of resources recently, which has let to faults being generated on our server. Faults are generated when the website demands more resources than the hosting plan has a capacity for, thus getting restricted and not being able to complete the required action properly, which results in slow loading times, content not showing up as intended or even error pages.”
    Thank you so much for your post.

  20. Nicholas says:

    Howdy, was going to go through HostPapa, might not now – could you please email me your hosts Rob?

  21. Patrick says:

    We began searching a E.Hernandez of Host papa after getting emails a week ago, exactly the same as poster above ( Koora). There is not so much as a blip on our cpu usage and processes etc . No resource issues at all.
    We are currently looking into all traffic ips to our site.
    Concurrently looking to move away from Hostpapa. The emails from Hostpapa are ridiculous and a blatant hunt to make you upgrade to a much more expensive solution with them.
    Goodbye Hostpapa – it’s been a very below average experience.
    I cannot recommend Hostpapa at all. I can recommend fantastic host providers but I won’t as it isn’t fair to select just a couple – there are plenty out there. Google 10 top hosting providers – I’m sure you will find a good one and I am also pretty sure you will not find Hostpapa on that list.

  22. Joe Murphy says:

    I, too, received one of these E-mails the night before last. It’s not a new story. A friend of mine also had a website with Hostpapa, and some months back she received the same message. Now, I’m a techie with many, many years’ experience, and I questioned Hostpapa on this. Needless, to say, they couldn’t answer me, and just said that my friend need to upgrade. I remained very silent and just moved the website to a separate provider, and my friend closed her account.

    So, when I received the E-mail from Hostpapa the other night, I wasn’t entirely surprised. I had been expecting to receive one. Again, without saying a word, I backed up all my sites and they are ready to be redeployed somewhere else.

    Hostpapa, I’m afraid, are a crowed of scamsters. People without any technical knowledge fall for it all and have no other option but to pay more money. This is just plain wrong.

    Rob, I would be very grateful indeed if you could send me the list of providers as you mention above, and many, many thanks for this website.

    Kind regards

    J

  23. Sean Dillman says:

    I read through all of the above posts. I am unfortunately in the same boat. When I started receiving unusual emails from HostPapa, I thought that I was missing something or that they had perhaps made a mistake on their end. Based on all of the above comments, and how similar my experience has been, it seems clear that there is no mistake and it is exactly the scam that it feels like. I am currently in the middle of the problem and backing up my work. I am developing a website for a client and it is not even live to the public. There is no traffic aside from me and my development work so far would be using few server resources. Still, HostPapa sent me the same kind of emails that are being described above. Thank goodness for reputable hosts, reputable backup tools, and this post.

    Rob, Thank you very much for this post. I very much appreciate it. Could you please send me the names of your recommended hosting providers?

  24. Nay Lin says:

    Hi Rob,

    I am in the same situation. I need to move out from HostPapa. Could you please send me the names of your recommended hosting providers? Thanks.

  25. Stephanie says:

    Hi,
    I, too, have had the same email telling me my very small web press site is using too much of the shared server usage. I had just signed up with Google Ad sense and thought that was the problem. thank you for this article and I would appreciate the list of recommended web hosts too.
    Thank you so very much!

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