Buying a service like web hosting on price alone is usually a very bad idea. We know that, you do too, but the headline prices on the One.com website caught our eye anyway.
The bottom-of-the-range Starter package is available at a one-off £10.80 ($13.50) setup fee for the first year, £1.90 ($2.40) a month (including VAT) after that. There's 25GB storage space, 512MB RAM, one domain, one database, easy WordPress installation and unlimited emails.
You even get some features that are listed as premium elsewhere, including a basic Website Builder and SSL.
Professional and Professional Plus accounts add SSH support, allocated CPU time and site backup and restore. Even the top-of-the-range Business account – priced at £10.80 ($13.50) for a setup fee plus £4.64 ($5.80) including VAT per month year one, £9.29 ($11.60) afterwards – seems to deliver a lot for the money. You get 500GB storage, 4GB RAM, multiple databases, multiple domains, 8 CPUs and more.
A webshop package also provides good value, getting you online for an additional £8.29 including VAT ($10.35) per month. Fasthosts gives you a more capable package, but it also costs around three times the price.
However, all this isn't quite as good as it first seems. Opt for the ‘£1.94’ a month Professional account, for instance, and you'll find that One.com adds a £10.80 ($13.50) setup fee and insists on the first year's payment upfront. That totals an initial £34.13 ($42.60), much closer to the starting price of other budget hosts, who might also allow monthly or quarterly payments.
Fortunately, there's also a 15-day money-back guarantee which seems to cover far more than most of the competition. Hosts typically allow one refund per customer, and exclude domain costs. One.com refunds your full costs for the first cancelled order, but also covers you for everything but domain charges in further orders.
One.com's website is carefully designed to make it as easy as possible to explore the company's products, and that's just fine with us. Plans are summarised on the front page – with no separate ‘compare’ table required – and you can start the purchase process with a click.
You're first asked to specify the domain you need, and can choose to register it now, or transfer it – but that's all. If you own the domain already, there's no way to leave it with the current manager and just update your DNS, a real annoyance for experienced users.
One.com asks for more information than usual while creating an account: your name, email address, physical address, mobile phone number and even birth date are required.
Payment methods supported include credit and debit cards, PayPal and bank transfer.
You're asked to check the terms and conditions before you sign up. We did, and noticed One.com makes several references to a fair usage-type policy. "Traffic is basically unlimited", the company explains, but must also be "normal in nature and not disrupt that of other customers." If they decide it's not they reserve the right to close your account without any refund, or even bill you for the excess traffic.
We continued anyway, completed our purchase and were presented with a unique referral link. Every friend you get to sign up using that link will earn a £5 ($6.25) bonus for them, and a £7 ($8.75) bonus for you.
Creating a website
Setting up our One.com site was initially a little confusing. We clicked a link in one email to ‘activate our webspace’, and were told it would be available in 5 minutes. 30 minutes later, still nothing. There was another link asking to enter our Domain Authorization Identification ID to enable the transfer, and for some reason an entirely separate email asking us to register the domain, even though we owned it already.
Just to test the process we agreed to register the domain. One.com didn't seem to recognise that we'd only paid to transfer an existing domain, and we received an email allowing access to our control panel.
Life gets easier once you've resolved any domain issues. One.com uses its own management console rather than a standard like cPanel or Plesk, but although this is basic it's also very beginner-friendly.
The WebSite Builder is right at the top of the page, for instance. This enables creating simple sites of up to five pages only, but there are some reasonable templates, and if your needs are basic you could have something available in just a few minutes.
One.com also provides a 1-click WordPress setup which is as easy and fast as we've ever seen. There are separate tools for setting up a basic blog and a photo gallery. A simple file manager, SSH and FTP support enable manual management of a site by anyone who knows what they're doing.
We're always interested to see what level of support a host provides, and the One.com answer is ‘not very much’. There's no telephone support and no support ticket system, just 24/7 live chat and email support which promises a reply within 24 hours.
Could users rely on One.com's support tutorials and guides, instead? Not if they're doing anything complicated. The documents available are clear, but they're very much oriented towards beginners carrying out basic tasks. We couldn't even see a search option; the best we could do was browse topics by category.
The best option for speedy replies is probably going to be the live chat. We called this up, entered a slightly technical question about how to import an existing WordPress site into a 1-click WordPress installation, and were told there were 11 visitors waiting to be served. Would this mean a lengthy delay?
No, surprisingly – we had an agent talking to us within six minutes. The initial reply didn't offer much guidance: "There is no need to use the 1click WordPress Installation, you only need to upload the files you have wordpress, and import the database." Does that sound beginner-friendly to you? But the support people do at least seem to have some idea of how hosting works, even if they're not always so good at explaining that, and that puts One.com ahead of some of its competition.
We completed our tests by looking at One.com's performance and found it scored an average C in the Bitcatcha speed test. That's more than acceptable for a budget site, but you might see different results depending on the web technology you're using, and the location of you and your visitors.
One.com's low prices and easy site management tools make it a reasonable choice for beginners with simple needs, but if you're after anything more we'd look elsewhere.