Leaseweb is an experienced provider of cloud hosting to business customers.
The company offers something for everyone from small traders and freelancers to big multinationals, with products ranging from simple website hosting to enterprise-level private clouds, CDNs and object storage.
Leaseweb's basic hosting plans have some significant limits. The starter plan looks cheap at €2.99 a month (£2.64, $3.50), but it's easy to see why: there's a tiny 250MB storage, only 25GB monthly traffic and a single database.
Upgrading to the Medium plan for a monthly €4.99 (£4.41, $5.84) gets you 1GB disk space and 5 databases, and even the €11.99 (£10.69, $14.04) Extra Large plan still has some limits (10GB disk space, no Cron jobs) and doesn't give you a domain or an SSL certificate.
Worryingly, some limits aren't correctly explained on the website. At the time of writing, the comparison table says all plans get 250 email accounts – the knowledgebase (and our experience, later) shows the four plans variously support 25, 100, 500 and 1000 accounts. As this undersells the top two accounts, it seems to be more a simple mistake than an attempt to mislead, but that's no help if you've purchased a plan for a promised resource which then isn't delivered.
Fortunately, other products seem to offer much better value and be more clearly described. Leaseweb's virtual private servers start at €4.95 (£4.38, $5.80) a month for a single CPU core, 1GB RAM, 40GB storage and a chunky 4TB traffic, and all plans give you more resources for less money than the normally cheap 1&1.
The dedicated server range is another major plus, with prices ranging from €30.99 a month (£27.40, $36.28) for a basic model to more than €500 (£442, $585) for high-end hardware, data centers in Europe, USA and Asia, and some products ready for use within an hour.
Leaseweb probably isn't a great choice for low-end budget shared hosting, then, but there are plenty of appealing products for more demanding users, and the company is certainly worth a closer look.
Leaseweb's shared hosting may be limited, but we opted to try it anyway, and placed an order from the website. There's no monthly payment option, so we were signed up to a 12-month contract by default.
The website asked us to create an account by registering with all the usual personal information: name, email, phone number, address, and so on.
Payment methods supported include credit card, PayPal and bank transfer. We chose PayPal and completed the transaction as normal.
After paying, Leaseweb explained that our account may not be activated until it had contacted us by phone to verify our identity. That's inconvenient, especially as the company isn't specific about times, saying only that it might phone 'within the next 24 hours.'
Leaseweb didn't call us, but instead sent an email asking for "a copy of your ID, passport, or another proof of legal identification", and business registration documents showing the name of our company. Clearly it makes sense for a provider to look out for fraudulent applications, but expecting customers to hand over all this for what could be a simple hosting product charged at under a fiver per month, is maybe going too far.
We responded to the emails anyway, sent a copy of a driving license, and after some discussion our order was accepted.
A little later, an email arrived, absolutely stuffed with essential details on our account: login URL and credentials, FTP login, the IP address of our server, email servers, nameservers for DNS, MX records for webmail, and links to documentation. Even if you don't need all this low-level data right now, it's good to have it as a quick reference for later.
Creating a site
Leaseweb web space is managed from the popular hosting panel, Plesk. We have a personal preference for cPanel, but many disagree, there's little functional difference between the two, and Plesk generally makes it easy to create your website and manage it over the longer term.
A clean and straightforward opening screen points you to the key features you need. These start with the Applications section, which although it doesn't support nearly as many apps as Softaculous, still includes some very big names: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Prestashop, MediaWiki, Magento and more. Experts will also find an unusual option to install previous versions of your CMS, perhaps handy for testing and troubleshooting.
If you have your website already, a capable file manager enables uploading the files and folders and managing your content afterwards, including creating and working with databases.
Experienced users can also set up an account to allow access via FTP, SSH, or RDP on Windows, and there are bonus tools to add subdomains, create more user accounts and view details stats on bandwidth usage and who is viewing which pages on your site.
The only small complication is email, as new accounts are set up from Leaseweb's customer account portal, rather than from within Plesk, and even when you figure that out, it's a little difficult to find. But once you've tracked it down, creating your accounts is as easy as usual, and you can equip your email with spam filters and antivirus protection with a click.
Every web hosting customer needs support occasionally, and so it's important to check out the resources a provider has to offer. Even if you think you'll rarely need help, browsing a support site can tell you a lot about a hosting provider and how dedicated it is to helping its customers.
The Leaseweb knowledgebase creates a great first impression with its highly professional interface. A left-hand tree organizes its subject areas into sensible categories (Products, Services, Users and Accounts, Customer Portal), shortcut links point you to the most commonly-accessed areas, a Recently Updated list highlights new information and a tag cloud enables filtering articles with a click. It's as good a frontend to a hosting knowledgebase as we've seen.
The Search system is equally straightforward. Start typing a keyword and matches appear immediately. You only see the top five results at first, but intelligent sorting means these usually contain the most relevant information.
Leaseweb articles aren't the most detailed we've seen, but they're generally well presented, typically covering several areas related to your chosen topic. For example, the Managing Email page explains how you can add, view, edit and manage your mailboxes, email aliases and auto-responders. This doesn't make any concessions to beginners, so for instance there's no attempt to explain what an auto-responder is, but everyone else will get a clear and simple description of where to find the features they need.
If you need more help, support is available via live chat during business hours on weekdays, as well as via email and tickets. This failed immediately when we found clicking the Tickets link gave us a Server Error 500 warning, but it did give us an opportunity to see how support would respond to the problem.
We sent an email, and within minutes had an initial response suggesting we try another browser or clear our history. We did this, confirmed the problem and sent support a screenshot of Chrome's Developer Tools view of our connections, showing where the error 500 was occurring. Another reply arrived within 10 minutes saying they were looking into it, and only five minutes after that, there was a sort of explanation:
"We inform you that the problem you are experiencing is because of the lack of ERP, it will take 2 or 3 days to be added to your accounts. It should be added by Monday."
So, it seems our account wasn't set up with the features necessary to raise tickets; support didn't realize this and so gave a misleading initial response. And maybe this would have dragged on for some time if we hadn't sent the technical details of our connection issue.
None of that reflects well on Leaseweb, but what saves the company is its very rapid response times. We may have had to send more messages than we expected, but Leaseweb still provided an answer and a fix time in under an hour, and that's what really matters.
As usual, we rounded off the review with some performance checks, and our Leaseweb server delivered sparkling results, with above-average speeds from most locations. That's good news, especially as we only signed up for the most basic shared hosting plan, and we expect Leaseweb's virtual and dedicated server plans will deliver even more.
Leaseweb has a wide range of fairly priced, powerful plans, and generally offers a very professional system, but issues like a misleading product description and broken ticket system suggest there's still work to do.
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