123 Reg started life as a domain registrar way back in 2000, but these days it has packages for all web needs: personal or business hosting, web design, e-commerce, virtual or dedicated servers, SSL certificates, SEO, marketing and more.
The ‘Essentials’ Plan currently costs £3.49 ($4.55) per month for the first year. The usual price is £4.99 ($6.50) per month. These prices exclude VAT. It includes one domain, one website, 10GB web space, unlimited bandwidth, 500MB MySQL database, FTP account, 10 sub domains, 1 external domain and 5GB mailbox.
The ‘Business’ plan weighs in at £5.49 ($7.16) per month when paid annually. It includes all the ‘Essentials’ package has to offer plus 2 domains, 100GB web space, 5 websites and 5x1GB MySQL databases. It also offers support for WordPress, Joomla, Drupl, MediaWiki and osCommerce. Neither of these plans include SSL. For this, you need to upgrade to the Unlimited or Premium+ packages.
The ‘Unlimited’ tier is £8.99 ($11.74) per month when paid annually. This includes three domains, 10 websites, unlimited web space, unlimited 1GB MySQL databases and a free SSL. Opting for this plan gets you a far better product. The plan still ‘only’ supports up to 10 websites when 1&1 Ionos has no limits at all, but this is still a capable package for demanding business and personal users.
Users who opt for the lower tier plans can choose to purchase SSL separately through the site. Although this will end up being more expensive than if you opted for a higher end package.
Whatever you're doing, 123 Reg offers you a 14-day money-back guarantee for your hosting fees (as usual, domain costs aren't covered). This isn't automatic – you must call to get it – but the website says you're covered "if you decide that the package you’ve bought isn’t right for you for any reason", so it seems unlikely that you'll have any problems.
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123 Reg offers a bewildering array of plans and products, but the website does a reasonable job of organising them all, and helping you find the one you need. The ‘Buy’ section of the Hosting page lists all four products side-by-side, for instance, and the complete set of features and costs are only ever a click or two away.
Payment terms vary according to the plan. The Essentials plan can be purchased on a monthly basis. The Business and Unlimited plans are chargeable per quarter or year, both based on the same monthly price (no discount for paying per year). The Premium+ plan can be purchased on a monthly plan for £14.99 ($19.58).
We opted for the Business plan, but the shopping cart still allowed us to review and directly change both the plan and payment term (no need to delete one option and start again). Unusually, we were also able to select either Linux or Windows hosting from the cart. We like the choice, but hosting novices might like more guidance on making this decision upfront, rather than burying it inside the order process.
Once everything was decided, we were presented with the usual PayPal or card payment options. There is also an option for direct debit. Once we'd handed over our cash the website asked us to wait, and around five minutes later an email arrived with a link to the 123 Reg Control Panel.
We expected a standard page with our hosting package displayed upfront, but 123 Reg forced us to scroll through most of its other services first: Domains, Email, Create your website (that's the website builder, not hosting), Marketing, Security, and – oh yes, here we are – Web hosting.
Finally, you must associate your hosting account with a domain (there's no option to continue without doing that). And that's it, you're done. Bookmark the control panel directly to avoid future navigation hassles and you're ready to go.
Creating a website
123 Reg shared Linux hosting accounts are managed by the company's own custom frontend. This isn't particularly beginner-friendly, but experienced users will notice some familiar names – Webalizer, AWStats, phpMyAdmin – and everyone else will find their way around quickly enough.
The tools available for creating a site are bit basic. Although users who opt for the ‘Business’ plan will be able to install WordPress. You can choose to purchase the ‘Website Builder’ from 123Reg. At the moment it is free to try, includes a free domain and offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you do decide to purchase. It is a template-based utility where you can drag and drop pictures, widgets and text to your website.
You can access free software, domains, account information and other products available to purchase from your Control Panel.
The CGI Scripts section allows for speedy installation of WordPress, phpBB, MediaWiki, SugarCRM, Drupal and more. The installation of WordPress did not go as smoothly as we would have liked but after several tries, we managed to get it up and running. This could be off-putting to less experienced users.
The level of support comes as a bit of a mixed. 123Reg offer calls, live chat, a knowledgebase and a ticket system. While 123Reg do support ‘Live Chat’, you need to register with them before you can use this service. This is particularly problematic if you have some questions when it comes to purchasing a product. You can choose to call them but this is not as convenient as chatting with a live agent online. However, once we did register we managed to get an agent online in less than 4 minutes. We asked them ‘If a website builder came with all packages’ and they easily answered the query in a matter of seconds.
The ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section displayed a variety of helpful categories laid out on one page. These range from support for your domain to email marketing to cloud backup. We entered the ‘Web Hosting’ section and were greeted with a host of articles which were divided into ‘Setup & Configuration’, ‘the Basics’, ‘Troubleshooting’ & ‘Your Account’. In total there are 114 articles available under ‘Web Hosting’ with a handy search bar to help you with your query.
The support agents were more than able to help us with our queries but it did take some time to elicit a response when we submitted a ticket. We raised a support ticket (much more convenient than the phone-only support offered by some other hosts), asking what software they would recommend we use to edit their HTML templates. That's an easy question with the response being ‘You can edit them with NotePad++, but it would be much easier to use WordPress, and there are some tutorials you can look at here...’ However, it did take more than 30 minutes to get this response.
Our final performance tests were more mixed, with Bitcatcha in particular giving us a wide range of results, but overall our test server showed above-average speeds – a fair result for a standard shared hosting account.
Creating site can be a bit confusing but once you get past the initial learning curve, 123 Reg is a solid contender. The 24/7 support which includes live chat as well as phone and ticket support is a serious plus.
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