Last updated: July 19, 2019
Compare WebDAV Hosting
What You'll Learn
Ever wondered how the web is so intuitive and mouldable for human use? Well, this is due to its interactivity. On this page, you'll learn about the best hosting plans to pick from, when prioritizing WebDAV functionality.
While WebDAV is a key ingredient of interactivity, it isn't the only one. I will further teach you about its history and other positives (and negatives).
Furthermore, you'll also learn about why a server supporting WebDAV modules can be useful as a webmaster.
What Is WebDAV?
Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) is one of the technologies that make the web interactive. Developed starting in the late '90s and finalized in 2007, the technology was created to extend HTTP and make the web "writeable," meaning the people viewing the pages could also create content for them.
That includes sharing files - a key technology for online collaboration.
What Does WebDav Get Used For?
WebDAV isn't responsible for all interactive content, but it was certainly the first step in that direction. Technically, WebDAV is an extension of the HTTP protocol that we use to browse web pages, and it's also an open standard.
An Alternative to FTP
WebDAV is also considered a sturdy alternative for file transfer and handling. If you work with files and file access frequently, you will be aware of some limitations of FTP. Well, WebDAV offers a few perks which will make it a viable alternative.
There are a number of reasons why this is often mentioned by existing users - here are some, to give you an idea:
- Bypassing Firewalls
- Faster File Transfers
- GZIP Handling
- Partial Transfers and Uploads
WebDAV operates on a Transmission Control Protocol connection, in other words, TCP. Due to this TCP connection, it's simpler to configure to bypass a firewall, along with proxies and NATs.
While using FTP, the data channel is known to frequently cause problems during a setup.
Faster File Transfers
Similarly to the perk above due to TCP, smaller file transfer is faster with WebDAV. Files do not need to have data connection individually, making the process faster and simpler.
GNU Zip is a popular file format. The compression of GZIP is considered standard for HTTP, however not for FTP. Therefore anyone struggling with GZIP matters will be glad to know that WebDAV indeed supports it.
Many authentication methods in HTTP are in-fact not supported or defined in FTP, which is a shame. Since it's difficult to get support for some of these popular authentication methods like Kerberos, WebDAV eliminates a further step for us.
Partial Transfers and Uploads
WebDAV fully supports partial transfers. In FTP, partial file uploads are not possible at all. In other words, when you are transferring a set of data, overwriting cannot be done in the middle of the transfer.
Brief History of WebDAV
WebDAV was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium - the organization that grew the concept of the web itself. WebDAV was designed to make the internet a "read/write" medium, so readers could change content on web servers as well as consume it.
Beginning of WebDav
The project was started in 1996, and development took well over a decade. Both Linux and Microsoft servers adopted it; Linux with Apache, and Microsoft through IIS. It was started by Jim Whitehead, a now well-known PhD graduate from UC Irvine.
Apple is keen on WebDAV and uses it to prop up much of its file-sharing technology. WebDAV is the technology that lets you open iWork documents on your iPad, for example.
How WebDAV Works
All implementations are based on the use of a virtual disk, giving you a convenient way of storing files remotely. You can connect to the disk at boot, or mount the drive once your computer has started.
How WebDav Works With Different Operating Systems
Each operating system works with WebDAV a little differently.
- On Linux, users can mount a WebDAV share as though it was a local disk. Many shared hosting providers offer this feature.
- On Windows, you can use WebDAV to map a network drive to your computer.
- On Mac, WebDAV lets users share files across the web and on their own home or office network. WebDAV is behind network file sharing in iWork, for example. It also supports iCal calendar sharing.
You can also store files through drag-and-drop in your web browser, depending on the tools your host provides.
Technical Advantages of WebDAV
WebDAV offers a few key features that make web content interactive, much like a regular file system. These advantages are why WebDav remains popular with some users.
What are Top Features of WebDAV?
So, let's take a look at why WebDAV is often a preferred method of file handling by users across the web:
- Allow content to be copied and moved to a web server;
- Facilitate the storage of large files;
- Automatically save version information to a file;
- Set access permissions on a file;
- Let users lock files for editing, which prevents multiple users from editing the same content;
- Auto unlock feature to prevent users from leaving active locks behind;
- Interact and search XML metadata for any given file;
- Edit content collectively such as HTML, image files, media, and scripts;
- Connect to data through a firewall without the complexity needed to use FTP.
Some of these 'advantages' may not even be a decision influencer for you. Take your time and consult your inner thoughts (or developer) if they are. Furthermore, check for any frictive lack of features which could impact your choice of a hosting plan.
Finding a Host With WebDAV Support
WebDAV is provided with many web hosting accounts, and your operating system will natively support it, so it's really easy to use. However, there are a few features you should specifically look for when trying to find the best host for WebDav.
Which Host Offers the Best Features for WebDAV?
Let's compare the 3 top hosts we recommend with WebDAV, in the form of basic factors. Further down the page, we do extensively cover each provider.
|Host Features for WebDAV||A2 Hosting||WebFaction||LiquidWeb|
|Support documents||Yes||Yes, very good||Limited|
Should you wish to jump straight to the hosting provider analysis, it's worth scrolling down to the bottom of the page now. Before you do that though, you may want to carry on sucking up the useful tips I've assembled.
Queries to Consider
Moreover, here are a few things to consider about a prospective host:
- Does the host offer WebDAV support?
- Does it meet your storage needs?
- Is it affordable for what you need?
- Does the host offer 1-click installation?
- Do they have a solid knowledge base where you can find information?
When you feel like you've found a host or set of hosts which could work, ask the above questions. Realizing you've encountered a preventable road-block is not only frustrating but time-wasting and at times expensive.
cPanel & WebDAV
In cPanel hosting accounts, WebDAV is called Web Disk, and it's been available for over a decade through the control panel. Not all hosts support it, but many offer it as standard on even the most basic shared hosting plan.
Running via cPanel
When you log into cPanel and head to Web Disk, you can choose your operating system. cPanel automatically generates a setup file that you can download to your computer. Double-click this file and a WebDAV share will be automatically created on your machine.
You can then drag files straight into that share, and they'll be copied to your web hosting space immediately. Note that your files are not publicly visible, as WebDAV stores file separately to your website.
Does Your Host Support WebDAV?
As mentioned, WebDAV is most often referred to as Web Disk in your control panel. Sometimes you can't find any mention of WebDAV or Web Disk on a host's sales website, but more often than not it's advertised on some sort of landing page.
Searching for WebDAV Support
Therefore, we recommend searching 'host name + web disk' or 'host name + WebDAV' on any host's site you might be interested in. This method works for almost anything due to Google's ever-improving algorithm, but in support query cases it's even more useful.
Google users can use site search to look for mentions of WebDAV. For example, searching: "www.a2hosting.com WebDAV" will quickly turn up mentions of WebDAV.
WebDAV Storage Needs
WebDAV shares use up valuable hosting resources, so keep an eye on the amount you're uploading, since very large files will hog storage and bandwidth. For best security, look for a host that will back up the contents of your WebDAV folder.
Consider the Ease of Creating WebDAV Access
As for creating WebDAV access and going through the authentication process, you'll create a WebDAV application, then move onto the user creation step.
WebFaction has detailed documentation to grant and remove access for certain users, but it's a little more complicated than the basic application button we've seen from the likes of LiquidWeb.
Support Quality from WebDAV Hosting Companies
Considering WebDAV serves a purpose for many types of organizations, both beginners, and advanced users will want to give it a try. Solving issues with something like WebDAV can turn into a real burden, which you want to avoid.
How Does The Host Offer Support?
Regardless of your skill level, it's essential to find a hosting company that not only offers WebDAV tools but also knows how to solve problems in that realm. A great support team is golden in any case when selecting a hosting plan, but in this case, it's paramount.
It's best when you can speak with someone who's knowledgeable is available at all times. To solve the problem immediately instead of telling you a list of instructions is much more valuable.
Pros and Cons of WebDAV
As with any technology, there are pros and cons to using WebDAV. For example, when compared to FTP or SMB, WebDAV tends to run a little slower. However, WebDAV does offer additional abilities outside of just transferring files.
Below is a quick break down of reasons you may or may not want to consider using WebDAV.
- You're interested in a more secure method for transferring files since FTP is not secure.
- WebDAV doesn't require you to open multiple ports for the file transfer.
- File locking is common with WebDAV, whereas other methods don't have this feature.
- You'd like to map your storage as a network drive by using systems like Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- You want your users to collaborate by editing and managing files on the server.
- You're looking for the most efficient method for transferring files. This would be done by using FTP.
- Some hosts don't support WebDAV at all.
- WebDAV has been known to be rather slow compared to other alternatives. It's also not the best when it comes to memory usage.
Further Considerations of WebDAV
Microsoft was involved with the development of the WebDAV standard, but its Windows operating system has weak support for the protocol. For the few users still using Vista, there's a patch you can install but upgrading to a newer version is a better option.
On Windows 7, you're best off using a third-party application, rather than Windows Explorer.
Some users report that saving to a WebDAV drive isn't always reliable on Windows. For that reason, it's best to save locally and then copy final versions over to your WebDAV share.
Top 3 Hosts for WebDAV
Although hosts like 1&1, 123-reg, and StartLogic all have WebDAV support. We've landed on three superior hosts because of their customer support, specific WebDAV documentation, pricing, and the ease of use for WebDAV customers.
A2 Hosting creates the most user-friendly environment for establishing a WebDAV directory through its WebDAV module right on the control panel. This web hosting option does most of the work when it comes to creating a system for file shares and uploads.
It is also extremely inexpensive for the value you receive. For example, the customer support is strong and the control panel stands out. Furthermore, the VPS hosting provides solid speed, security, and a developer-friendly environment.
Hosting Plan Pricing
A2 Hosting provides a WebDAV landing page with pricing for those hosting accounts and some valuable information on how to get started with your own WebDAV server. The WebDAV solution is packaged in as a separate feature, so you can have it for shared hosting, or anything more powerful than that (like a VPS or dedicated server).
After the installation, you can access your web disks from the operating system you're currently using. For instance, A2 Hosting supports web disks through Linux, Microsoft, Apple, and more. It even allows you to publish calendars for all users to have access.
A2 Hosting is one of our favorite hosts for WebDAV hosting because its documentation for the topic is more than one or two pages. In addition, customer support is provided 24/7 through phone, email, and a hefty knowledgebase where the user can search for keywords like 'Web Disk' and 'WebDAV.'
Although it's nice to see a blog on most of these host's sites, we can't imagine they talk much about Web Disks, since it's more of an afterthought for people when they signup for hosting.
WebDAV Installation on A2 Hosting
As for installation, A2 Hosting offers a one-click solution, which is exactly what you're looking for. All you need to do is find the Web Disk icon in the control panel and walk through the steps for installation
WebFaction is our second hosting choice, mainly because it initiates secure access to your WebDAV folders without the hassle of calling into the support team. Sure, the support team knows what it's talking about, but their step-by-step documentation online is the best I've seen.
Pricing & Value
The web hosting pricing plans start a bit higher than the average, but it's still considered a low-cost provider.
And you receive far more in those packages, such as configured servers, advanced security, backups, and developer-friendly control panels.
Web faction provides the majority of its customer support through a ticketing system. The reps are reliable, but you shouldn't expect to speak with anyone on the phone or on a live chat system. There is an active community Q&A/forum area, so that could help you with your WebDAV questions.
However, the most detailed information published about WebFaction's WebDAV application is located in the documentation center. All you have to do is type a relevant keyword to land on the proper documents.
Implementing WebDAV on WebFaction
Users have been known to configure cloud calendars, along with other media sharing operations with a simple WebDAV implementation.
The WebDAV protocol is executed through a WebDAV application on the WebFaction control panel. You can choose between two options: one that runs as a standard application and another that's considered a symlink application.
The main difference is that the standard application creates its own directory while the symlink option requires you to select the directory location. The first one is far easier for most people, but advanced webmasters might want to choose where the directory is placed. In short, is more about flexibility when it comes to WebDAV.
LiquidWeb is still worth looking into for WebDAV, but the documentation online is severely lacking. That said, the customer support is some of the best out there, and you can choose from dedicated servers, cloud VPS hosting managed WordPress or more advanced hosting solutions.
Value & Pricing
As with most hosts, LiquidWeb pricing varies based on your needs. Hosting packages range between $60 or so per a month for cloud hosting and up to a few hundred dollars per month for high-performance WooCommerce hosting.
However, the high level of support they offer makes their pricing a great value, even if it isn't the cheapest option.
Support & Implementation
Implementing WebDAV on LiquidWeb is a little more complicated since the hosting company doesn't post much documentation on how to utilize WebDAV. However, LiquidWeb specifies that users typically take advantage of WebDAV for backup purposes.
As an example, a webmaster might decide to store website backups in a separate location, just in case something happens to the site files.
The LiquidWeb user could choose a remote server via WebDAV, FTP, or an S3 compatible object storage. Overall, LiquidWeb does support WebDAV, but you might have to talk to a support rep to get up and running.
LiquidWeb Knowledge Base
LiquidWeb only has one or two support documents outlining information about these Web Disks, but the company does support setting up a client and a WebDAV directory.
Therefore, it's good to know that LiquidWeb has phone support, a ticketing system, email, and a live chat module.
This route will point you in the right direction, as the customer support reps are known to be knowledgeable, and they can most likely get you set up with WebDAV. The knowledge base from LiquidWeb is quite impressive, but like stated before, you don't get many results pertaining to Web Disks.
Other features in Tools
WebDAV Frequently Asked Questions
- What is WebDAV?
WebDAV was designed to make websites more interactive. It allows users to upload files to a website, edit the content of pages, and edit data.
- Do all hosts include WebDAV?
No. Some hosts have copyright and resource usage concerns. Check your control panel to see if WebDAV or Web Disk is mentioned.
- Should I use WebDAV to store files online?
If your host allows you to use WebDAV, it can provide a handy storage location for large files. But if you are a heavy user, cloud storage is probably a safer bet. Excessive WebDAV usage could violate your host's Terms of Service, which could result in your website being taken offline. Additionally, some methods of connecting to WebDAV expose your cPanel username and password, which is a security risk.
- How can I incorporate WebDAV into a website or app?
WebDAV is an extension of HTTP, so you can use any HTTP API to add WebDAV support for your website or app. There are WebDAV APIs for other protocols too.
- How do I create a WebDAV share?
In your hosting control panel, look for your WebDAV or Web Disk settings. You can drag and drop files directly into this area to upload them.
If you prefer to mount a virtual drive, you can use the Connect to Server dialog in the Mac OS X finder. On a Windows computer, visit your cPanel control panel and use the script provided to set up the connection.
- How does WebDAV compare to cloud storage services?
WebDAV is more versatile than cloud storage. It can be used to sync data, for example. Cloud storage services also tend to have higher resource limits, although this depends on your host's policies.
- How do I view files on a WebDAV server?
You can use your hosting control panel, various command line tools, your computer's Finder or file explorer, or a desktop application.
- How could a business use WebDAV?
WebDAV lets people upload, edit, and collaborate on files from anywhere, which is the most common use case. However, it's wise to evaluate the features and risks of WebDAV alongside a proprietary cloud collaboration tool.
- Can I convert a non-WebDAV application into a WebDAV app?
Yes. An application can be programmed to utilize it.
- Are there alternatives to WebDAV?
Yes. The main alternatives are FTP and AtomPub.
- Is WebDAV still being developed?
The WebDEV protocol is no longer being developed, but some variation and extensions are.
- Does WebDAV provide document management?
No, WebDAV is essentially a remote file system with some extra features. To increase the feature set, it needs to be part of a bigger application.
- How does WebDAV compare to FTP?
WebDAV works over HTTP, so it provides a number of benefits compared to FTP. These include authentication, encryption, proxy support, caching, and partial file transfers.
- What is RFC 4917?
RFC 4917 is the official protocol. It was completed in 2007.