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1&1 IONOS review

Lots of features, low prices – but how does 1&1 IONOS perform?

(Image: © 1&1 IONOS)

Our Verdict

Low prices and lots of features, but tech support is sometimes lacking.

For

  • Good value
  • Clear and simple pricing
  • Good server response times during testing
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Against

  • Awkward non-standard control panel
  • Some support issues

Founded in Germany way back in 1988, 1&1 IONOS is now Europe's largest web hosting provider, hosting more than 12 million domains in its data centers around the world.

The company has a vast range of products covering just about every possible need: regular shared hosting, website builder plans, simple and managed WordPress products, professional ecommerce platforms and some very capable VPS, cloud and dedicated servers.

There's real depth here, too. The 1&1 IONOS ecommerce Website Builder plan isn't just the company's regular shared hosting with PrestaShop pre-installed, for instance, as you'll see with many providers. It's a full-featured service which works for everyone from web store newbies to big established businesses, with catalogues of up to a million products, and the ability to sell on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram and more.

At the budget end of the range, 1&1 IONOS shared hosting scores for some unusual but capable features, available in even the low-end $4-a-month Essential plan.

This limits you to 10GB storage space, but supports 10 email addresses with up to 2GB storage each, includes unlimited traffic, auto-installation of WordPress and 70+ other top web apps, and throws in a free domain for the lifetime of the plan (not just the first year). Daily backups, often a premium extra, are available as standard. And all shared hosting plans come with a free wildcard SSL certificate, allowing you to secure all the subdomains for your site (login.mydomain.com, download.mydomain.com, anythingelse.mydomain.com), a very unusual touch.

The $8 a month Business shared hosting plan ramps up performance and expands these limits with 100GB storage, 25 email addresses and support for hosting up to 5 sites.

The top-of-the-range $14-a-month Expert plan includes 500GB storage, 500 email addresses and can host up to 50 websites. Valuable extras include SiteLock malware protection and a performance-boosting integrated Content Delivery Network.

Pricing is refreshingly simple. There are no lengthy contracts, no complicated introductory discounts, so you won't find your costs doubling on renewal. 1&1 IONOS only offers monthly billing for shared hosting (there are more options for some other products), so you just pay your $4, $8 and $14 every month and cancel whenever you like.

(Beware, this isn't the case in all countries. In the UK, the Business hosting plan costs £1 a month for the first twelve months on the annual plan, but £6 a month billed monthly. Check the small print before you sign up.)

(Image credit: 1&1 IONOS)

WordPress hosting

If you're looking for WordPress hosting then any of these plans will get your started, but 1&1 IONOS also offers capable managed WordPress packages. These get you easier setup, preinstalled and recommended plugins, automatic security updates and improved support, and are priced from $1 a month for the first year, $9 a month on renewal.

Still not enough? 1&1 IONOS WordPress Pro plans take the technology to the next level with low-level technical optimizations (Varnish-based caching, CDN), intelligent automatic updates, staging environments to test updates without changing the live site, and much more. Prices range from $15-$100 a month.

The simple managed plans are great value and trample all over many competitors, at least on the fundamentals. GoDaddy's managed WordPress plans score for including daily backups and malware scans with even the cheapest products, for instance, but you get less storage for a higher price. (There's a significant extra cost to pay on renewal, too, because unlike 1&1 IONOS, SSL certificates and the domain are only free for year one.)

WordPress Pro comparisons are more difficult, as professional users will have very specific requirements. Bluehost's WordPress Pro plans support unlimited websites and storage, for instance, come with an integrated marketing center and include valuable extras including Jetpack Premium/ Pro and (in the high-end Scale plan) unlimited video compression. Who wins? Hard to say - check them both out.

(Image credit: 1&1 IONOS)

VPS hosting

1&1 IONOS has a decent range of five VPS plans, not very configurable, but with one surprising bonus: they all support unlimited traffic.

The low-end VPS S plan is horribly underpowered with just 1vCore CPU and 512MB, but it's hard to complain when it costs only $2 a month. (That's not an introductory discount and you don't have to sign up for years to get the deal. It's just $2, billed monthly, and you can cancel whenever you like.)

The best choice is probably the VPS L plan. Its 2 vCore, 4GB RAM and 120GB storage costs $2 for the first month, $20 afterwards.

The top of the range, VPS XXL, offers 6 vCores, 12GB RAM and 240GB RAM for $40 a month.

Configuration options are limited, but include a choice of operating system (CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu or Windows) and data center (US, UK, Germany, Spain.)

Again, these packages are great value, and the monthly billing in particular enables trying them out for minimal cost.

The lack of an introductory discount means there might be better deals to be found, though, especially if you're willing to sign up for long periods. For example, Hostinger can give you a 3 vCPU, 3GB RAM, 60GB storage and 3TB traffic plan for an initial $12.95 a month over four years. 

(Image credit: 1&1 IONOS)

Dedicated servers

1&1 IONOS offers four dedicated server plans, ranging from a budget Intel Atom C2750 8GB RAM 240GB storage model ($45 a month for 6 months, $65 a month afterwards) to a much more capable Intel Xeon E3-1270 system with 64GB RAM and 800GB SSD ($50 setup fee and $140 a month for 3GB, $160GB afterwards.)

As with most 1&1 IONOS plans, these are very low prices. The baseline dedicated server is actually cheaper than some VPS plans from other providers, for instance, even though it has some significant advantages.

1&1 IONOS dedicated products can't match the configurability of the best of the competition, though. InMotion Hosting enables choosing your preferred setup, add secondary or backup drives, add a hardware firewall, remote KVM management and more.

Most competitors also charge considerably higher prices, though, and if you're just looking to dip your toe in the dedicated server waters, 1&1 IONOS looks like a sensible place to start.

Signing up

Choose your preferred 1&1 IONOS hosting plan and you're prompted to register your free domain. (Own it already? You can skip this step with a click.)

1&1 IONOS next offered us a handful of optional extras. Most were familiar - SiteLock malware scanning for $2 a month - but there's a more unusual feature in HiDrive Basic, essentially an extra 100GB of cloud storage for $1 a month. If you've outgrown free cloud storage plans, or you've found they're unreliable, that's not bad value (OneDrive's 100GB plan is $1.99 a month, for instance.)

Payment options include card and PayPal, and after handing over our cash, the website activated our account, redirected us to our control panel, and sent us a Welcome email, all in under 60 seconds. 

Web control panel

(Image credit: 1&1 IONOS)

Creating a website

1&1 IONOS web dashboard is a simple task-oriented front end to your account, with large tiles pointing to key functions areas: Domains, Email, Websites, Hosting and more.

With no cPanel on the shared hosting packages, your options are limited. The Hosting area includes a file manager, FTP support, phpMyAdmin for database management, an option to change your domain PHP version, and - that's it.

These aren't the most capable of tools, either. When we dragged and dropped our website files onto the file manager, for instance, it warned that we could only transfer one file at a time. 

1&1 IONOS does make it easy to install WordPress. Enter your site name, choose an admin login and password, and the company sets everything up within a couple of minutes.

If you're looking for something else, 1&1 IONOS Installatron-powered App Center enables installing 75 other top apps, including Joomla!, Drupal, PrestaShop, MediaWiki, Magento and more.

This isn't the best auto installer we've seen. Many hosts give you access to Softaculous, an excellent platform which supports installing more than 400 apps. GoDaddy's standard Installatron setup supports 125+ apps. Bluehost's specialist WordPress installer is supremely easy to use, but includes some useful extra functions, including the ability to choose your website theme during the install.

Still, you'll only need to install WordPress once - well, hopefully - and 1&1 IONOS gives you enough setup basics to get by.

The company follows that 'enough to get by' approach for its other shared hosting management tools, too. If you're just looking to upload a static site, or maybe create a WordPress blog, you shouldn't have any major problems. But old hosting hands are likely to miss the capable file manager, detailed site metrics and other more advanced options you get with cPanel management.

Support

(Image credit: 1&1 IONOS)

Support

As we've seen, 1&1 IONOS' website isn't always the most intuitive, and even experienced users are likely to need occasional help.

Fortunately, the company appears to realize this, and it's taken some smart measures to point puzzled users in the right direction.

If you can't find a particular feature, for instance, or you're unsure how something works, you don't have to head off to a separate support site to find the answers. Just type a keyword into the search box at the top of the control panel, and some generally well-chosen matches will point you in the right direction. (Usually, anyway.)

This works well as a simple way to access general help documents. Typing WordPress gave us links to articles on setting it up, enabling an SSL certificate, installing plugins and themes, using the Gutenberg editor, and more. All articles are neatly displayed in a sidebar, rather than a separate page, allowing you to see in-depth instructions alongside whatever part of the 1&1 IONOS interface you're trying to understand.

What's more unusual is that 1&1 IONOS site search can also help you navigate its features. If you can't find your FTP password, or you're looking for the 'restore backup' function, or you're wondering where to go to create a subdomain, just enter a keyword like 'FTP', 'backup' or 'subdomain' and you'll get matching links. Click one and you're taken direct to that area of the site.

This applies to account management functions, too. Ever struggled to find how to cancel a web hosting contract? It's not an issue here: just type 'cancel' in the search box, click 'Cancel Contract' and you're presented with the cancel form. Much easier.

If you prefer to browse a central support site, 1&1 IONOS enables that, too. There's a lot of worthwhile content here, but it's mostly about standard feature setup and configuration options. Searching for 'WordPress' gets you articles on installing WordPress, plugins and themes, for instance, but there's nothing on importing a site from another host, a major topic which the best hosts cover in-depth.

(1&1 IONOS does have a useful guide on WordPress migration but unfortunately it's a blog post, not a knowledgebase article, so doesn't appear in the search matches.)

Fortunately, 1&1 IONOS also offers multiple ways to contact its support team, including telephone and live chat.

We opened a chat window and were prompted to describe our problem. A 300-character-per-message limit might be a problem if your issue is complex, but we kept our query simple, asking if it was possible to import an existing WordPress site to our 1&1 IONOS account.

After a five-minute wait, an agent suggested we ask the other host for help in backing up our site, explaining 1&1 IONOS would then help upload it to our new web space.

While this isn't necessarily bad advice, it doesn't create the best impression. Redirecting a user to another support team feels like a brush off, when we would expect at least some attempt to take ownership of the problem. 

There were other options that the agent could at least have mentioned, too, including directing us to the manual WordPress migration guide. Experienced users could employ this to begin the migration process immediately, without waiting for the other host's support team.

(Of course, this is also a reminder that, unlike many competitors, 1&1 IONOS doesn't have a free site migration service. If you'd like to import a WordPress blog, or anything else, you'll largely have to do it yourself.)

(Image credit: Uptime.com)

Performance

Speed matters, even with budget shared hosting, so we were keen to find out how our 1&1 IONOS server performed.

After publishing a simple test site, we had Uptime.com constantly check its availability and response times over a seven-day period.

Average response time for our server was a faster-than-average 190ms. The best providers are just a little better at around 150ms, but the worst can be 500ms or longer. (As we write, GoDaddy's average response time is 633ms.)

1&1 IONOS response times were very consistent, too, with a range of 179-432ms. Many providers have at least occasional delays approaching a second, sometimes longer; 1&1 IONOS had only two peaks greater than 250ms over more than 2,000 checks. That's good news, especially for a low-end shared hosting product - VPS or dedicated servers should be even better.

Bitcatcha's Server Speed Test is a simpler benchmark, but the core approach is the same, checking the response time of our site from ten locations around the globe.

The results were equally positive, with Bitcatcha awarding us its 'A' rating (good, though the best is 'A+') and declaring our server 'exceptionally quick.' Sounds good to us.

Final verdict

1&1 IONOS has great value plans for first-time users and plenty of more powerful products for everyone else, but the shared hosting management console isn't a patch on cPanel, and support can't quite match the best of the competition.

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