Very affordable! • 1&1 App Center makes it easy to install a content management system
Uptime is spotty • No website builder included • Shared-hosting plan isn’t ‘unlimited’ • Confusing control panel
With a big name like 1&1, you’d probably expect an excellent web-hosting experience, but the base package will leave most novice users frustrated.
Building a website in 2018 isn’t rocket science. You just need to find a web hosting provider within your budget that’s reliable. However, with confusing package names and services, how do you pick the right one?
1&1 web hosting tries to best its competition by offering a ton of options at low rates. It’s good to have choice, since one of its plans will likely fit your needs. You just might go a little crazy trying to find it.
1&1 offers a whole bunch of services, ranging from enhanced cloud hosting to servers to commerce packages.
For the purposes of this review, I tested the base package of shared hosting from 1&1. On this plan your site lives alongside many others on a shared sever, but 1&1 strays from traditional shared-hosting plans by ditching the notion of “unlimited” storage and performance.
Let’s see how 1&1 web hosting stacks up in a market filled with alternatives.
Picking a plan
1&1 web hosting offers a ton of practical shared hosting plans. Most of the plans allow your site to live alongside others on a communal server. That means the traffic for your site and all others goes through the same connection. This can result in slightly slower load times, but for a personal website that’s not getting much traffic, it should be just fine. Web Hosting Basic is $7.99 a month (although it’s regularly on sale for $0.99 a month for the first year).
Unlike other providers, 1&1 doesn’t offer unlimited storage. The Basic plan gives you 100GB of storage and scalable performance of up to 2.5GB of RAM. From the get-go, 1&1 puts a limit on your traffic and the number of visitors your site can handle at once.
While I wouldn’t call it an up-sell, 1&1 gives you the ability to upgrade your performance on a tiered scale, for an added monthly cost.
The Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Pro tiers give you as much storage as you need, along with some speed improvements. However, the performance still isn’t the best 1&1 has to offer. It would have been nice to see Unlimited Pro get the highest level of performance, instead those customers are stuck with what 1&1 considers “level 3,” with up to 9GB of RAM (you can go up to level 5, which offers 19GB of RAM, for a higher fee).
Managed Cloud Hosting is the next step up from shared hosting; you’ll still be sharing the server with other customers, but this plan partitions off your own section, and you can pick the dedicated storage, processors, and RAM you need. The base plan starts at $14.99 a month for a single-core server, 1GB of RAM, and a 50GB solid-state drive. That should give users a speed improvement over shared hosting, but gets pretty pricey as you move up the ladder for servers with better specs. Those craving an even faster experience should look for a dedicated server.
Another option is going with a Virtual Private Server. This gives you more control over the hardware. You choose the storage, processor, and RAM, and there are more choices than Managed Cloud Hosting. However, it’s not a single physical server. Multiple resources are combined to deliver the performance and tools you customize.
No site builder included
You would think that the service provider would include a way to build a site quickly in the base plan like Wix or SquareSpace does, but it doesn’t. Instead you have to pay an extra $6.99 a month for 1&1’s MyWebsite Personal builder, which allows users with no coding experience to make a website through a drag-and-drop interface.
If you don’t want to pay for a builder, it’s up to you to install a content management system (CMS) like WordPress. WordPress isn’t the easiest CMS to learn, but it’s far from the most difficult. In my opinion, it’s a massive oversight from the hosting provider not to give the base plan an easy way to set up the site.
Making matters worse is 1&1’s incredibly confusing control panel — it’s just a jumbled mess. Unlike other providers that use CPanel or a simple custom back end, 1&1 throws too much at the user. Much of the interface is focused on upgrades, reading through contracts, and stuff that isn’t important for the day-to-day operation of a site. Most users will find the websites section to be the most useful. This is where you can manually upload files, see the 1&1 app center, or upgrade to a builder.
The saving grace: an app store
Not including a website builder is misguided, but at least it’s easy to install a third-party app or service. The list of apps is long but includes the main players such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and Moodle.
Once you find the app you want, it’s just a one-click installation. For WordPress, you need to name your site and set up the administrator account. 1&1 does give you the option of upgrading to a Managed WordPress experience that has automatic updates, a selection of premium themes, and enhanced support. But at $2.99 a month, it’s just another up-sell. While the general speed of navigating the back end is slow, WordPress installed in just 37 seconds.
Uptime is not a guarantee
Within 24 hours of setting up my site, 1&1 was recommending that I upgrade the performance level. I previously used 1&1 to host a blog and there were often times when the site would go down, with the company citing broader server issues since it was on a shared hosting plan. Presumably, upgrading my service would have alleviated these woes.
Sure, sites sometimes go down (ranging from seconds to minutes), but these instances shouldn’t be the norm with any hosting provider in 2018. A web hosting company has one job: keep its customers’ websites up and running. Many other services offer an uptime guarantee, and most of them stick to it. 1&1 promises “nearly” 100% uptime, which can mean anything. Based on my experiences with the service and feedback from users, it’s clear there’s a significant difference between what 1&1 delivers and true 100% uptime.
For the record, I didn’t experience any downtime with Fatcow web hosting.
Customer support is hit or miss
Being able to reach a hosting company when the site is offline or just being able to ask general questions is crucial. 1&1 offers support via phone or email, but provides no chat support. It’s easy enough to reach someone by phone, though for email reply times vary.
For urgency, it’s best to call and speak with someone. In my testing, I was able to reach a representative within 15 minutes, even at peak hours. When calling, be sure to have your customer ID and PIN ready to verify the account.
It’s cheap, but it has tradeoffs
I can’t argue with the fact that 1&1 is pretty cheap at $7.99 a month for shared hosting. However, you get what you pay for — 1&1’s basic plans don’t have features that other providers will give you standard.
Downtime issues, an extra fee for a website builder, and a confusing back end combine to make 1&1 a hard sell. If this is your first foray into making a website, I’d recommend looking for another host.
However, if you have previous experience with web hosting providers, 1&1’s base plan will work for a personal site or a small project. Just be wary of spotty uptime and what feels like a constant push to upgrade.