The company’s iPage Essentials unlimited shared hosting plan has been a game-changer in the shared hosting market, and it’s this plan that we’ll be looking at in closer detail throughout our iPage review.
Though they may not necessarily boast the kind of household name reputation enjoyed by the likes of GoDaddy and HostGator have none the less carved out a name for themselves as industry leaders by forgoing the heavy advertising campaigns of the former and the cute marketing gimmicks of the latter in favour of powerful, affordable unlimited shared hosting.
Pricing and Key Features
Often imitated, rarely duplicated, iPage were one of the first major hosting providers to abandon the traditional multi-tiered approach to selling shared hosting and focus on one all-inclusive shared hosting solution which comes without restrictions on the following key resources:
– Storage space
– MySQL databases
– FTP accounts
– Email addresses
With the latter, every email account you create comes with 500MB of storage space, access via web mail and POP3/IMAP, and its own autoresponder, spam filter, and virus checker.
iPage Essentials comes with a free domain name for the first year, after which the regular renewal fee comes in at £16.99 per year.
The good news, is that if you want to create multiple websites with your plan, you can do that without any problems. Essentials supports unlimited add-on domains, domain forwarding and even has an option to park domains and generate income on those you’re not currently using.
Ease of Use
On the whole, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about iPage when it comes to their user-friendliness. From sign-up to being ready to launch your first website takes no more than a couple of minutes following a straight-forward process that involves nothing more complicated than choosing a domain name, entering some personal information and paying via either credit/debit card, PayPal or a number of other options.
Meanwhile, I found the user-interface to be highly intuitive, with everything neatly categorised in a series of drop-down menus from your dashboard, and the majority of tools and features easily accessible through icons on the vDeck control panel.
Since everything is well laid out, it doesn’t take long to get to grips with managing your account, launching applications and developing your website, and I’d certainly have no problems recommending iPage Essentials for those of you new to web hosting.
Performance and Reliability
I’ve mentioned elsewhere in that one of the main reasons I rate iPage Essentials so highly is the consistently high levels of uptime and lighting fast sever speeds.
Over the six months that I tracked all of the companies featured on UK Web Host Review, iPage regularly outperformed most of their competitors, with monthly uptime averages dropping below 99.9% on only two occasions. Even then, this was so miniscule that it didn’t seem to affect the over all performance of my websites.
Meanwhile, the severs -which are fueled by 100% renewable energy sources- loaded pages at speeds well above the average rate, making them one of my top picks for high performance, reliable hosting.
Building a Website
Now we get to the really fun stuff; actually using your unlimited hosting plan to build and launch a website.
It’s that this point where I think iPage really start to come into their own thanks to the sheer wealth of options you’ll have at your disposal. Let’s look at three of the main methods you can use to build your website:
Upload files from your computer
For serious developers or those using offline website building tools like the popular Adobe Dreamweaver and Visual Studio, iPage offers the option of either an online file-uploader or unlimited FTP accounts that work with software such as the free FileZilla FTP client.
Honestly, if you’re going down this route, I’d recommend the latter of these two. Whilst the file uploader is fine if you only have one or two quick additions you need to make, the fact that you can only upload one file at a time makes it both cumbersome and impractical for larger files.
Meanwhile, the FTP accounts are simple to set up and allow you simply drag your entire website from a folder on your computer hard drive to your iPage Essentials shared hosting server.
CMS Platforms and Other Tools
My preferred choice for building a website is to use the one-click installation apps found in your vDeck to launch Content Management System (CMS) platforms like WordPress, Joomla, or the eCommerce focused Magento.
Initial setup for these applications is no more complicated than selecting the appropriate icon from the ‘Website’ panel in your dashboard, entering some basic information about your site (normally the title, and user-login details) then getting to work.
I’d recommend this option mainly for intermediate users, as getting to grips with WordPress and its alternatives, though not exactly difficult, does require a slightly steeper learning curve than using a drag-and-drop website builder.
Drag and Drop Website Builders
Speaking of which, iPage even offers multiple options if you’re looking to use a simple website builder rather than a CMS. In my opinion, this puts them ahead of many of their competitors who only offer the one option, and certain miles ahead of those who offer no website builder at all.
Though Impress.ly Websuite Builder and the creator by C4Mall are both decent enough in their own right, I strongly suggest that if you’re looking for a combination of simplicity and professional design, you choose the Weebly web editor.
Experts in the industry regularly rank this at the top of the charts when it comes to top drag-and-drop website builders, and for good reason. Not only is it as easy to use as dragging your mouse around the screen and slotting elements into place, the wealth of professionally pre-designed templates which come with your Weebly site are a cut above many alternative web builders.
Scripts and Programming
Last but not least, another one for the developers among you:
iPage Essentials also provides comprehensive support for Perl, Python, Ruby, and several versions of PHP, up to and including the latest release.
With so many tools, scripts, and options on offer here, I hope you can see why I think iPage stands out from the crowd when it comes to supporting users to build and launch powerful, professional-looking websites.
Though iPage boast a £50 marketing package on their homepage, a closer look at the complete list of features on offer makes me question whether this is actually the case.
These days, you’ll find that the majority of hosting companies bundle a reasonable (and often welcome) amount of free advertising vouchers into their packages. These can be used to promote your website via Pay Per Click ad campaigns on Bing, Yahoo! and Google. In most cases, these range from £50 to £100 per site or their US Dollar equivalent.
US only features
At first glance, iPage looks to be keeping up with their rivals by offering a $100 Google Adwords voucher and a further $100 in credits for Yahoo/Bing. Then I realised that these are only actually available to customers in the United States, as is their offer a toll-free phone number which you can promote on your website instead of publishing your personal phone number.
Other marketing tools
So far then, that’s three of the five marketing features in the iPage Essentials plan that those of us here in the UK can’t access. So what about the rest of them?
Well, there’s only two; online marketing guides and a free listing on the Yellow Pages website. The latter of these two is somewhat misleading, since you can just as easily go to Yellow Pages and create a free listing yourself, regardless as to whether or not you sign up with iPage.
This just leaves the marketing guides which, though somewhat basic, do provide a clear, well-written and easy-to-follow introduction to concepts like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), social media marketing and Pay Per Click.
So far, only the like-for-like marketing bundle offered by iPage’s peers at FatCow has been so underwhelming, though given that the Essentials plan does offer so much more, I’m not going to let this cloud my overall judgement of the service.
One of the key reasons I rate iPage so highly is that they come automatically equipped to cater for small and medium-sized eCommerce stores.
Whereas the majority of shared hosts offer up just a few basic essentials and charge extra for tools like SSL certificates, iPage goes the extra mile of including that in the price of your plan.
SSL is a vital component of a successful online store. At the front end, this is the tool responsible for changing the HTTP in front of your website address into a HTTPS with the green padlock icon, but there’s an awful lot more to it than that.
Behind the scenes, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology provides a secure, encrypted link between a user’s web browser and the server hosting your website. This means that when private customer data such as their financial information is collected on your website, it passes to the server in such a way that it can only be read by the intended recipient, and isn’t susceptible to hacking attacks or other security vulnerabilities.
IF you take the safety of your customers seriously (and I really hope you do!) then SSL should be critical to your online store, so for eCommerce alone, I’d recommend iPage over another unlimited shared hosting plan like that offered by eHost, who charge you up to £100 fora year’s SSl registration.
Other eCommerce tools
Beyond that, all the basics are here too. PayPal integration, eCommerce website builders, and support for all the leading payment gateways and shopping cart tools like ZenCart and the WordPress plugin WooCommerce are all accounted for too, which again I think goes a long way to making this a good choice for mid-sized online stores with at small to medium levels of web traffic.
With a lot of web hosting companies that I review, I tend to find that the level of customer service is no more than satisfactory. That is, the company and its support staff typically get everything right but don’t really stand out as being anything worth raving about.
iPage are one of the very rare exceptions to that rule. On the whole, my personal experiences in dealing with the company via live chat, email and telephone support have been far above average.
Not only did the customer support reps at both the tech and billing support ends respond quicker than their contemporaries at other hosting companies, but they were friendly, helpful, and struck just the right balance between tech talk and keeping things simple.
Meanwhile, the comprehensive bank of how-to guides, tutorials and advice articles were more than sufficient in tackling common iPage Essentials and website problems, often eliminating the need to contact support at all.
A personal favourite of mine, iPage are often one of my own go-to hosting providers for many of my small and medium sized website needs.
Though I can absolutely understand why some users would be put off by the premium level cost of the regular hosting fees, the excellent customer service, wealth of website building options and general user friendliness all keep me coming back for more.