Shopping for a web hosting service 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab)' – $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.
- Want to try iPage? Check out the website here (opens in new tab)
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 details 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 can live with that, iPage looks like great value, even compared to the big-name competition. HostGator's similar Baby plan (opens in new tab) is almost twice the price for the first three years at $3.95, and renews at $9.95.
WordPress, servers and more
IPage's WordPress hosting (opens in new tab) 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 fair value - you can sometimes pay more for standard shared hosting - but the feature list is a little short.
As an alternative, IONOS' 'One' WordPress plan (opens in new tab) 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 $18 billed monthly (no long-term contract required.)
And if you don't really need these more advanced features, after all, IONOS WordPress Essential plan supports one WordPress site, 25GB storage and 10 email accounts, and includes a free domain and wildcard SSL certificate, all for just $3 billed monthly. (Again, that's the standard deal, so you won't see a drastic price hike once the first term is up.)
IPage's VPS hosting (opens in new tab) 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 main plans, in managed and unmanaged, Windows and Linux flavors, and if you know what you're doing, you can get an unmanaged 2 core, 1GB RAM, 30GB storage and 2TB bandwidth plan from as little as $8.99 a month.
It's a similar story with iPage small range of dedicated servers (opens in new tab) (just three plans.) They're 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. Someone like InterServer has a wider choice of servers, more configuration options, and you can find more powerful setups priced from $80 a month billed monthly.
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 and G Suite hosting too.
We opted for hosting only, but found the signup form's Pay button was disabled. We closed the browser, started again with no change; tried three other browsers with the same result.
Eventually we figured out the apparent cause. We were trying to create the account using a test ourname.cyou domain we owned already, but whenever we tried that, the signup form refused to display the correct total, and we couldn't pay. If we entered a name with a more common TLD, like ourname.com, the problem disappeared.
Buggy purchase processes are rare, but at least they gave us a chance to test support. We opened a chat window, an agent quickly arrived, and we explained our problem. He didn't seem at all concerned about the website problem, but perhaps that's because he handled pre-sales queries, and his main task was to get us to sign up. Whatever the cause, he manually set up the account from his system using our details, sent us a 'password reset' email to create our own credentials, and within a few minutes we were in.
IPage scored for quickly helping us to overcome a significant problem, then, but it's hard to give the company much credit when that problem should never have existed in the first place. Hopefully, it'll address these issues soon.
Creating a site
The iPage web dashboard opens with status information on your domain, but also gives you access to multiple website tools in a sidebar and a separate Hosting tab.
A WordPress option enables easy installation of WordPress, for instance. That's good news, but there's no more general platform, like Softaculous or Installatron, to help you install other apps.
An Email area includes the ability to set up unlimited 500MB inboxes. You can add autoresponders and change mail delivery settings (send a copy of incoming emails to one or more other addresses.)
The Hosting area included a web-based File Manager, an easy way to upload an existing static website or other files. There's also an option to use FTP, if you prefer.
A MySQL Management tool allows you to create and work with databases, and vDeck's Advanced Tools area includes a handful of other modules: visitor stats, webmail, archiving, scripting settings and more.
While this works and covers the basics, it can't begin to match the features and functionality you'll see with cPanel. That's an issue if you're looking for power, because cPanel isn't some kind of premium extra; it's available with some of the cheapest hosting packages around.
There's a website knowledgebase (opens in new tab), but it's not a lot of use. Content is often out of date (the Email Setup guides cover Outlook 2003-2013) and missing on some very basic features. Searching for Install WordPress didn't show a single article clearly explaining how to do that, for instance, even though it's probably one of the most common questions a new user might have.
These aren't critical errors as you can always open a live chat window for speedy guidance. It shouldn't be necessary to do that for such simple questions, though, and these constant problems and issues left us with a poor overall impression of the service.
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 downloaded the main page of our simple test website, logging the results and how long the server took to respond.
The average response time was an excellent 227ms, 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 handful of very brief slowdowns - which peaked at a not-too-bad 429ms, and we can't even be sure were an iPage problem - responses generally remained under 250ms.
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 could still be worth a look for its shared hosting: it has loads of features, excellent performance, and the ability to host multiple sites for a very low price. Take a look