Shopping for a web host often means spending an age scrolling lengthy comparison tables, packed with technical jargon about 'custom cron jobs' and ModSecurity, and wondering why you should care.
IPage bypasses all of that with its one-stop, do everything shared hosting plan. There's no need to compare features or weigh up pricing, at least in theory: iPage is hoping its 'Go Plan - Foundation' – $1.99 a month initially over 3 years, $7.99 on renewal – will satisfy just about everyone.
The firm might have a point, too. Not only does the plan have unmetered web space and bandwidth, it also supports unlimited email addresses, and can host as many websites as you need, a premium feature with almost every other host.
Website building features include 1-click installation of WordPress and other apps, a simple drag-and-drop website builder (limited to 6 pages per site) and a separate builder optimized for mobile sites.
Extras include free SiteLock security scans, $200 of Google and Bing ad credits and a free domain. There's 24/7 support via phone and chat, and a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee.
Browse the fine detail and you'll find some small potential issues. There's no monthly billing, for instance - the shortest plan is a year. The Website Builder adds a branding link to your pages, unless you pay to upgrade. And IPage uses the obscure vDeck control panel, rather than the more popular, straightforward and capable cPanel.
If you need all these features, iPage looks like great value, though, even compared to the big-name competition. HostGator's similar Baby plan is almost twice the price for the first three years at $3.95, and renews at $9.95.
If you're happy with a more basic plan, though, keep in mind that when you get to renewal time, iPage isn't that cheap. GreenGeeks Lite plan gives you unlimited storage and bandwidth for $2.95 a month over three years, and that's the standard price - it's not going to quadruple when you get your next bill.
WordPress, servers and more
IPage' WordPress plans - priced from $3.75 a month over three years, $7.49 on renewal - improve on its shared hosting by preinstalling WordPress, a collection of themes and plugins, and a custom WordPress control panel. The company says its WordPress platform 'has been designed to increase load speeds by up to 2.5 times', and the premium plan ($6.95 a month initially, $10.49 on renewal) throws in specialist WordPress support, SiteLock-based security and automatic malware removal.
This is seriously cheap - you can sometimes pay more for standard shared hosting - but the feature list is a little short.
As an alternative, SiteGround's GrowBig shared hosting plan (from $5.95 a month renewing at $11.95) has a performance-boosting Nginx and Memcached-based SuperCacher setup, and includes WordPress staging, a convenient way to edit your project offline without affecting the production site.
IONOS 'One' WordPress plan has very basic specs (10GB storage and supports just one website) but it includes staging, daily cloud backups and smart WordPress plugin updates, and it's priced at $15 billed monthly (no long-term contract required.)
IPage' VPS plans are relatively ordinary: there are just three, they're Linux only, and even the starter product (1 core, 1GB RAM, 40GB storage and 1TB bandwidth) is priced at a mid-range $19.99 for the first term, renewing at $24.99.
These are managed plans (iPage looks after the technical management of the VPS for you), so the prices aren't bad, but you'll get more options and control elsewhere. Hostwinds has ten core plans, in managed and unmanaged, Windows and Linux, and if you know what you're doing, you can get a basic unmanaged VPS from as little as $5 a month.
It's a similar story with iPage dedicated servers. They're perhaps a little underpowered - the $119.99 Startup plan ($149.99 on renewal) gets you a 2 core CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB disk space and 5TB bandwidth - but they don't really stand out in any way, and you'll find cheaper, more powerful and configurable servers elsewhere.
Creating a site
IPage shared hosting is seriously cheap, so we probably shouldn't be surprised that the company tries to bump up your fees with assorted optional extras. Daily automatic backups and SiteLock scanning are checked by default, there's WordPress optimization, G Suite hosting, a Website Builder upgrade (unlimited pages, no brand link, but a costly $10.99 a month billed annually) and more.
We opted for hosting only, entered our contact details and paid via PayPal (card payments are supported, too.)
Some hosts keep you waiting while they activate an account, but not iPage. A post-payment web page told us to wait for a moment, and less than a minute later, our account was activated and we were ready to go.
iPage uses the vDeck control panel. This looks a little like cPanel - icons for various site management tasks on the left, key server settings and details on the left - but it doesn't have as many features, and it can be more awkward to use.
VDeck hasn't been upgraded in a while, either, and as the vdeck.com website is now dead, we suspect it's not going to see much development in the future, either.
Prompts like 'Configuring Outlook 2011' in the MailCentral panel left us wondering how often iPage updated the service. And there's a strong focus on upselling, too, with many icons redirecting us to other websites which recommend we buy more stuff.
A Weebly-powered Website Builder is included with the package. It's very basic, featuring just the core essentials and limited to six pages, but the templates are okay, and we had a starter site online within minutes.
1-click installations of WordPress and other applications are handled by Mojo Marketplace, which means there's some pushy marketing to navigate. Just opening the Mojo Marketplace window generated a ‘welcome’ email a few moments later, and after setting up an application Mojo does its best to try and persuade you to buy something. It generally does a good job of installing whatever you need, though, and once your app is up and running you don't have to use the marketplace again.
If you're setting up your site manually, a sidebar gives you handy account information: IP, name servers and mail servers. Icons like FTP, File Manager and MySQL Databases point you at the key creation tools, and although these are relatively limited they're easy to pick up and learn.
Website management can get complicated, no matter how experienced you are, but iPage' knowledgebase is only a click away from the control panel.
You're able to browse articles by a range of topics - Account, Domains, Email, Security, WebsiteBuilder, more - or enter keywords in a search box to find any matches.
As you type, the site displays any relevant articles. We typed 'WordPress', and a dropdown list presented articles on moving sites to WordPress, backing up your site, fixing common problems and more.
There's plenty of useful content here, but it seems poorly sorted. The article 'how to install WordPress via FTP' came top of our list, for instance, and we suspect that whether you're a beginner or an expert, that's not a topic you'll want to read first.
The site appears to have some bugs, too. Dissatisfied by the WordPress matches, we tapped 'See all results' at the bottom of the list, and a new browser tab opened at a different knowledgebase URL, but with no matches. We typed WordPress again, and a keyword match list appeared; we chose WordPress, and a full list of articles appeared, and this time we were able to browse them directly.
Article quality is mixed. Some tutorials are helpful, but others are very brief, poorly formatted, and look like they've not been updated in a while (we found one screenshot dated 2014.)
Often, articles will cover only the bare minimum necessary to help you. The best providers might give you step by step instructions covering how to change your domain name servers at GoDaddy, Tucows, FastDomain and others, for instance; iPage just links you to godaddy.com, tucows.com and so on, and leaves you to figure the rest out for yourself.
There's not always a lot of help from the website, then, and that could be a problem when you're trying to figure out some complex, step-by-step task. There's no substitute for a quality web tutorial which you can browse and follow in your own time.
IPage has decent 24/7 live chat and telephone support, though. We opened a live chat window, an agent appeared within a couple of minutes and quickly gave us an accurate response to our WordPress setup question. 24/7 telephone support is only available from a US number, but if that's not an issue, we've found calls answered quickly, and the agents do a fair job of solving most common problems.
You can spend all the money you like on a web host, build a great-looking site with the best possible web technology, but it won't mean anything if your website is always down, or its performance is poor.
We use Uptime.com to monitor website availability and response times over a seven-day period. Every five minutes, Uptime.com attempts to download the main page of a simple test website, logging the results and how long the server takes to respond.
The average response time was an excellent 148ms, amongst the best we've seen. Most hosts average around 200-300ms, so iPage isn't giving you a huge performance advantage, but it's still very welcome. Especially as these were the results from the company's most basic shared hosting, and upgrading might get you even better speeds.
The results were amazingly consistent, too, as the chart shows. Apart from a couple of very brief slowdowns - which peaked at a not-too-bad 450ms, and we can't even be sure were an iPage problem - responses generally varied by no more than 30-40ms each day.
This kind of reliability suggests iPage is restricting the number of websites on each server to a reasonable figure, reducing the need to fight for resources, and ensuring each site has the bandwidth it needs.
iPage has a lot of issues, but its shared hosting is a highlight, with loads of features, excellent performance, and the ability to host multiple sites for a very low price. It's a smart choice if you need all those features, but if you're only looking to host a single domain, there could be better deals elsewhere.
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