Established in 2001, Webhosting UK (which refers to itself as WHUK for short) is an experienced hosting company with a wide and keenly-priced product range.
Shared hosting starts at £2.49 ($3.10) a month, for instance, with cPanel, Windows, managed WordPress and Magento options, and a Website Builder.
The plan specification is mostly very impressive, with a 99.95% uptime SLA, unlimited bandwidth, emails and databases, support for hosting two websites (most budget plans restrict you to one) and a free domain with the annual plan.
The only real issue is a 5GB storage limit which seems low, although it's important to keep in mind that this figure is always for your website only – the web pages, data and any application code (WordPress or anything else you might use). Unless you're planning to host a couple of huge WordPress blogs that are going to get many thousands of visitors a day, it's unlikely to be a problem.
Support is well specified, especially if you're also in the UK. There's 24/7 telephone support on a free 0800 number, you can set up a call-back to avoid waiting, and there's live chat available whenever you need it.
Power users can opt for managed VPS servers from £13 ($16.25) a month, cloud servers from £36 ($45) and dedicated servers from £70 ($88) for 10TB of monthly bandwidth. These aren't the cheapest prices we've seen, but they're competitive, the specs aren't bad, and the range could be appealing, especially if you're a UK-based user and looking for a host closer to home.
The WHUK website doesn't do a very good job of presenting and organising its shared hosting plans. Details are vague, so for example we're told the plans offer ‘unlimited emails’ but there's no other mail-related information. It's the same with pricing, where there's no indication how that monthly price will translate into billable amounts and plan lengths. It's also easy to forget that options like Windows or managed WordPress hosting even exist, unless you browse the menus.
Fortunately, WHUK doesn't seem to be trying to hide anything dubious, in fact quite the opposite. The baseline £2.49 ($3.10) shared hosting plan doesn't require signing up for three years or pull other tricks like tripling the price on renewal – it's the standard price, and gives you a bill of £8.97 ($11.20) to be paid every quarter. That's so much better than the competition, we're surprised that the company isn't boasting about it on the front page.
Decide to buy and as usual, you're asked to provide your personal details to create an account: email address, physical address, phone number and more. WHUK oversteps the mark a little by asking for your date of birth, but if you look closely you can see that's optional and the box can safely be ignored.
On the plus side, the company has an explicit option to ‘Disable Automatic CC Processing’, which is welcome if you'd prefer to keep absolute control of account renewals.
Don't want to pay by credit card at all? No problem, as this firm offers many more payment options than most hosts, with additional support for PayPal, bank transfer or direct debit.
We worked our way through the pages and were finally left at a post-payment copy of our invoice. This had a large ‘unpaid’ heading, confusingly, but fortunately emails soon arrived from WHUK and PayPal – six, in total – to explain that we had paid, and could now log in to our hosting panel.
Creating a site
Logging on to WHUK initially took us to a cluttered and largely pointless customer portal. We were hoping to see our hosting product listed up front with a Manage button – instead there was a silhouette, a button to upload an ‘avatar’, and an email icon showing 18 messages, including such gems as a two-year-old notification of a change in bank account details, and a ‘Happy Christmas 2015’ message.
We skipped all that and logged on to WHUK's familiar X3-themed cPanel. Experienced users will know where everything is immediately, but hosting newbies can switch to the Paper Lantern theme for a more up-to-date, less intimidating and better organised view.
Scrolling to the bottom of the screen reveals the Softaculous one-click installer. Icons for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, PrestaShop, Magento and others are displayed upfront, and clicking any of these displays its details in the excellent Softaculous interface. This organises hundreds of apps into multiple categories, displays overviews, feature lists and screenshots, links to a demo, and user reviews.
Once you've found what you need, Softaculous enables installing it with a minimum of hassle. It's not quite ‘one-click’ – you should enter a strong password, a blog title and a few other basic details – but there are no database or other complications and even hosting newbies will get it done in a couple of minutes.
If a simple one-page site is enough for now, cPanel's Site Publisher handles the basics. It's very limited, offering just 12 templates – and mostly all you do is customise your contact data and an image – but it'll give you a quick and easy placeholder until you can come up with something else.
WHUK doesn't include its own site builder with standard shared hosting plans. Its ‘amazing.website’ product is available separately, and although the low-end plans are unimpressive – £5 ($6.25) a month with a five-page limit – the others are more interesting. Amazing Business has PayPal integration and enables selling up to 10 products for £10 ($12.50) a month (that's standalone, not an add-on), and £15 ($18.75) a month gets you support for an unlimited number of products.
If you just need to upload a site you've created already, WHUK gives you speedy access to File Manager, FTP setup and other key features. These aren't quite as newbie-friendly as some custom host manager consoles, but there's more functionality, and because cPanel is such a standard there's a vast amount of help available online. Enter something like ‘cPanel File Manager’ in Google to see what's available.
We began our WHUK tests by checking out its web support system, and it didn't take long to spot a problem. "You can raise a new helpdesk ticket for our Support, Sales or Billing departments from https://support.webhosting.uk.com", the welcome email said; we clicked the link and were told ‘there is no website configured at this address’. That's not good.
We found our own way to the WHUK knowledgebase, and weren't impressed. Although the Sales FAQ section had 224 articles, Shared Hosting had only 102, which maybe says something about the company's priorities. And it's hard to believe that the top-listed article titles really represented what users most want to know: "Using MySQLdump to Backup Single Table in MySQL Db"; "What Is The Procedure To Change The Mail Server IP Address In Plesk?"; "Error: ColdFusion support is switched off for this website."
We ran assorted searches covering common tasks (‘Import WordPress’) and single keyword checks on key technologies (MySQL, PHP, Apache and so on). There were very few useful matches, and a large amount of very dated content ("How To Install Magento On Windows 2008"), including articles with broken images because they're linking to ancient company blog posts which no longer exist.
There are other support resources, but they're no better. The customer portal had a separate knowledgebase, but this had a broken search feature and even worse content: the web forum's Shared Hosting section had only a single thread after 2015; a Tutorials link redirected us back to the first feeble knowledgebase; a Status page told us it was ‘hosted in the India’, where it's not exactly going to have its finger on the pulse of the UK network.
Would real-life support agents be better? We opened a live chat session. The system told us we were second in the queue, an agent appeared in less than a minute, and we asked a very simple question: "Which name servers should we use to point our domain to Webhosting UK?" The agent dithered a little, asking us an irrelevant question and keeping us waiting for a few minutes, making us wonder if he was asking someone else. But we did then get an accurate answer which also pointed out that our welcome email had this and other useful information.
We tried the 0800 number and it was a similar story: it was also answered in under a minute, with no great signs of technical expertise from the agent, but they did accurately answer our simple question. We're less sure how they would cope with complex issues, but the typical shared hosting customer probably won't run into these very often, and overall the agents do a lot to make up for the feeble support website.
To complete our checks we ran Bitcatcha and other performance benchmarks on our allocated server. UK response times were slower than we expected for a local data centre, but relatively speedy US connections helped to compensate, and overall WHUK speeds were acceptable for most purposes.
Webhosting UK's basic plan seems good value if you can live with the 5GB storage limit, but the terrible support website doesn't inspire confidence. Test the service in-depth if you buy.
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