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Reviews

UKHost4U

Written by 260Blog

You may not have heard of UKHost4U, but the company has been offering web hosting services in the UK since 2000. It launched in Australia in 2009, and both operations run on UKHost4U's own network, with no reselling or leasing products from anyone else.

The company has a wide range of hosting products, starting with a £2.50 ($3.15) Budget plan. This gives you only 1GB disk space and five email accounts, but you also get cPanel and 1-click WordPress setup, enough to run simple personal sites or blogs.

A Shared Hosting range is mostly about lifting those limits. A Basic plan has 10GB disk space and 20 websites for £3.33 ($4.15) a month. The Advanced plan gives you 50GB disk space, 30 databases, and hosts up to five websites for £7 ($8.25) a month. And finally, the £10 ($12.50) a month Business plan supports hosting up to 10 sites, and drops the disk space and database limits.

These prices are a little above average. HostGator's Baby plan, for instance, gives you unlimited everything for an initial £4.80 ($6) a month, £8 ($10) on renewal. But the Shared Hosting range doesn't have any annoying restrictions on email accounts or subdomains, and there's a not-so-common option in the ability to host your account on Linux or Windows servers at no extra cost.

Elsewhere, Enterprise SSD plans give you more and faster hardware resources from £20 ($25) a month. Cloud servers are £15 ($18.75) a month for six months, £30 ($52.50) after that. Dedicated servers start at £25 ($31.25) a month for six months, £50 ($62.50) after that – and there's an unusual extra in a range of 3CX-based VoIP plans.

The company claims to offer a 14-day trial of its hosting plans. Sounds good, although the website only says it covers ‘most’ products, and there's no guidance on what's covered. 

There's some confusion regarding the money-back guarantee period, too. The website talks about a 30-day period, but the way it's phrased makes it sound like that could mean ‘you'll get your money back within 30 days of asking’. Meanwhile the terms and conditions page says the refund period is a horribly short 24 hours, which isn't reassuring at all.

Account setup

UKHost4U's website displays only the bare essential details about its hosting plans: domains supported, disk space, bandwidth, databases and so on. If you're looking for low-level information about ‘Cron jobs’ or ‘AWStats’, you'll be disappointed.

We clicked Order Now for the Basic Web Hosting plan, but the confusion continued. The site listed the Budget, Basic, Advanced and Business ranges, with even less details and no way to compare the plans.

We continued with the Basic plan, and were prompted to enter the name of the domain we'd like to use. This could be a new domain, or you're able to use a domain you have already.

A Configure page displayed various add-ons we could buy, including a dedicated IP for £2 ($2.50) a month, and a backup service, also for £2 ($2.50) a month. What level of backup protection was provided? The website didn't say. 

The site also offered multiple service level agreements, although again there was absolutely no information on what these gave you. We tried out the live chat, and an agent gave us the full details within seconds. The £2 ($2.50) a month Bronze guarantee gets you one month credit for every 24 hours of outage after raising a support ticket. The £4 ($5) a month Silver guarantee cuts the fix time to 12 hours, and the £6 ($7.50) a month Gold guarantee drops it further to six hours.

There's more flexibility on the billing side than we expected. The one-year price costs you an effective £3.33 ($4.15) a month; this can drop as low as £2.22 ($2.80) if you buy three years upfront. Monthly billing is also available at a very reasonable £4 ($5), and while we were testing a special coupon cut this to only £1 ($1.25) a month plus tax for the first three months.

The remainder of the setup process worked as usual. We entered our contact details, chose a payment method (cards and PayPal are supported), and handed over our details as normal. And despite UKHost4U's website boast that we could "try their services for free" with a "14-day free trial", payment was required immediately.

UKHost4U finished by displaying an invoice page, which oddly had a large red ‘UNPAID’ emblazoned across the top, and a ‘your payment was successful’ message underneath. But an email arrived seconds later with a receipt, so we assumed all was probably well, and a website link took us to UKHost4U's client area.

Creating a website

UKHost4U’s client portal is powered by WHMCS, the same system used by PlanetHippo and many others. It's a likeable product which clearly highlights the services you've purchased and the various hosting features available, with none of the clutter you'll often get elsewhere.

The portal's best feature is probably its Quick Shortcuts area, where beginners can directly access important hosting management tools without having to navigate the full cPanel. The File Manager opens an Explorer-type window for viewing and uploading files to your website, for instance. And a Quick Create Email Account enables creating new email addresses in three steps: type an address, then a password, and click Create.

More experienced users can log in directly to cPanel from a sidebar. It's a full-strength installation, as far as we could see, and provides all the tools you need to manually set up or manage a website.

UKHost4U doesn't include a WYSIWYG website builder with its shared accounts. The closest you get is cPanel's standard Site Publisher, but that's only intended to produce single-page ‘coming soon’ websites (or sites merely listing basic contact details).

The real site building power here comes in the shape of Softaculous, one of the best frameworks for easily discovering, installing and managing blogs, forums, e-commerce packages and so on. It supports hundreds of apps, including WordPress, Magento, PrestaShop, MyBB and more, and although there's a lot to learn, even beginners will soon start to find their way around.

Performance

Support is an important element of every hosting package, but the quality of service you'll get can vary considerably. That's why we spend a large proportion of our review time checking out the various services to find out how they perform.

The knowledgebase was an instant disappointment. Running an ‘import WordPress’ search returned articles like ‘how to set up an email account on Microsoft Outlook 2003’. Searching for ‘transfer WordPress’ was even worse – and a simple ‘WordPress’ alone gave us no hits at all.

Other single keyword searches were almost as bad. Searching for PHP, for example, returned only three results. And just one of these was vaguely relevant. You could try entering a more specific search – ‘PHP version’ – but the engine then returns pages which include the word version, but not PHP, which means the results are even more irrelevant.

We explored the articles which are included in the database. Some had useful details, but most were brief, and often at least two or three years out-of-date.

Maybe the support agents would do better. To find out, we opened a live chat window to ask a product query: "Does the 14-day trial mean you can try the service for 14 days before you pay? Which plans have the trial?" We also raised a ticket on a more technical issue: if we installed WordPress on our UKHost4U account, would it be possible to import an existing site?

Sales-related queries normally get very speedy results as agents either know the answer immediately, or can look it up in seconds. Unfortunately, our question on the 14-day trial sat waiting in the chat window for more than an hour before it disappeared all on its own. An expired session? We don't know.

The trial question was important, so we sent an email instead. 75 minutes later a reply arrived, saying the company offered a "14-day money-back guarantee", and "if you cancel the service within 14 days we issue a full refund." 

Presumably this means the main website is wrong on the front page, when it states: "Try our services for free with our 14-day free trial … and stay covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee". And also the terms of service page, which says: "No full refunds or pro rata refunds will be made after the first 24 hours of service should You decide to cancel the Services." But your guess is as good as ours.

The support ticket about importing WordPress got us a reply within 37 minutes, not bad at all for something flagged as ‘low’ priority. The agent said that we could import an existing site as "Softaculous only automates the installation process and backups. Everything else works as any other WordPress installation."

That's correct, but it's not the most helpful or detailed answer. Other web host support agents have gone much further, including describing the basic process, pointing us to helpful web links, and even offering to assist us with the migration.

We rounded off our tests by using Bitcatcha and other tools to assess our server's performance. The server appeared to be allocated in the UK, and was registered to UKHost4U, just as the company stated (the firm doesn’t use other people's hardware). Connections times from the UK were excellent, plus connections from the US were also better than usual, and the server had above average speeds overall.

Final verdict

UKHost4U has a speedy network, but support is weak, and the confusing, contradictory website doesn't inspire confidence.

Source: TechRadar

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