The host has four main product ranges: Shared Hosting, Value VPS, SSD VPS and Dedicated Servers. There’s a focus on value, although there’s real power available here, too. Dedicated servers start at £54.99 ($65.99) a month on the annual plan, for instance, but you can opt for a 2 x Xeon E5, 40 CPU core, 256GB RAM monster for £389.99 ($467.99) a month, if you can use it.
The baseline Shared Hosting 4UK-10 plan looks like great value, with unlimited bandwidth and 12 months for free. A one-year free trial, really? There must be a catch, we thought. And there was.
Drilling down to the details, the plan is relatively basic, with just 1GB disk space, one email account and no MySQL databases. And although it’s advertised on the site as £0.00 a month, the comparison table shows it has a £14.99 ($17.99) setup fee. That’s equivalent to £1.25 ($1.50) a month.
There’s better news further up the range. The 4UK-30 plan gives you 15GB disk space, unlimited bandwidth, a free domain name, 10 databases, unlimited emails and FTP accounts, and support for hosting up to three websites. Prices range from £4.99 ($5.99) billed monthly, to a more competitive £3.54 ($4.25) a month billed three-yearly.
Support is available via live chat, 24/7. There’s also telephone support, albeit for limited and slightly odd hours (7am-4pm).
Although the website doesn’t make a big deal of any ‘money-back guarantee’, the small print makes it clear that’s exactly what you get. ‘If you are not satisfied within your first 30 days we would be happy to provide you with a full refund’ (subject to the usual exclusions, like domain name registrations).
While these prices aren’t bad, there are better deals around. Hostinger’s shared hosting has fewer limits and can be 20% or more cheaper, or you could opt for a VPS and still save money (prices start at $3.95.) But beware, you’ll have to subscribe for up to four years to get the headline prices.
Signing up with 4 UK Host starts by choosing your hosting plan, then entering whatever domain name you’d like to use. The latter can be something you register now, for free with some plans, or a domain you own already.
All plans may be billed monthly, or every one, two or three years. You’ll need to pay yearly or longer to get a free domain name, and longer subscriptions get a 10-15% discount.
There aren’t a lot of extras, especially for the more basic plans. Our 4UK-20 Shared Hosting plan came with free local backups, for instance, but 4 UK Host offered us remote weekly backups from £3 ($3.60) a month. Backups are important, but that’s more than you might be paying for your main hosting account, which isn’t going to appeal to bargain hunters.
The 4 UK Host registration form asks for a lot of personal data, including an email address, name, physical address and telephone number.
The form also asked for our ‘Organization number / Personal number’, but didn’t offer any hints to what this was, or why the company needed it. We just entered a memorable number, assuming it would be treated as a second password, and the website accepted it.
Payment options were card or PayPal. We tried PayPal, but ran into a problem: the website hung for minutes, but no PayPal window appeared. Eventually we gave up, restarted the process, and went to pay via card. As we were about to do that, an invoice for the first aborted payment appeared. We gave up on our second payment, without entering any details, but, too late: an email invoice for that payment arrived, too.
Issues like this can happen with anyone, and we’re not attaching any blame to 4 UK Host. But it did give us an opportunity to test how the company’s systems could cope with unexpected events.
There were no obvious ways to help us solve this problem. The emails and invoices didn’t explain what to do if we had problems. The web console displayed our two invoices, but had no way to cancel or delete them. An ‘Open Ticket’ option pointed us to a near useless web knowledgebase, where searching for ‘invoice’ gave us only two irrelevant hits: ‘Passing Values to Offer URLs‘ and ‘How those the price model work‘ (not a typo, that’s the real title).
While that’s bad news, 4 UK Host regained our respect with the quality of its live chat support. We opened a session, explained what had happened and asked for the company to activate our first order, and cancel the second invoice, and gave our two invoice numbers.
We expected to wait for an age, and possibly then be forced to answer an avalanche of questions (what’s your name, your order number, your email address, your PayPal transaction ID, and so on). But instead, after two minutes an agent responded; after nine minutes, they told us they were checking; two minutes after that, they told us they’d activated one account and deleted the other invoice.
We didn’t have to answer a single further question, the agent just did as we’d asked, and all in under a quarter of an hour. That’s great support performance, especially for a very basic shared hosting package.
Creating a website
The 4 UK Host account management system is based on the industry standard WHCMS platform. That’s generally good news, as it’s a capable system, and if you’ve used it with another host you’ll immediately feel at home.
Choose your hosting package, and WHCMS provides various shortcuts to help you get started. A link to the File Manager enables uploading an existing site to your web space, for instance. Experienced users get shortcuts to the MySQL Databases and phpMyAdmin modules, and you can create email accounts for your new domain by filling in a couple of boxes (email account name and password).
One further click takes you to a standard cPanel console, where you’ll find the full set of site creation and management tools.
4 UK Host’s Site Builder is a simple BaseKit-powered template-based website creator. It doesn’t have the power of the high-end competition, and the bundled version is limited to just three pages, but that could be enough for simple tasks. Your three pages can at least have some rich content, with support for image galleries, custom forms, videos and SoundCloud clips, file links (Dropbox, PDF), basic social media integration and more.
4 UK Host shared hosting includes Softaculous, too, for automated installation of WordPress, PrestaShop, Joomla, and hundreds of other popular apps. It’s one of the best user-friendly installers around, and not something you’ll always get with the most basic shared hosting. (Some providers use simpler installers with fewer features, maybe supporting just a handful of applications.)
Once your site is up and running, you have access to all the usual cPanel site management tools, covering everything from FTP accounts, subdomains and aliases, to email forwarders, autoresponders and in-depth site metrics (Webalizer, AWStats and more).
We did have an issue with the web knowledgebase, which was short on content and poorly organized. Articles are in multiple languages, for instance, and if you search on a technical term which is identical in both (‘DNS’) then you’ll get multi-lingual results.
Knowledgebase issues are much less important when you have decent live chat support, though, and overall, 4 UK Host provides a capable set of features with everything you need to build and run a quality website.
It’s tricky to measure the performance of any web host. The results you’ll see will depend on the type of site you’re running, the resources it uses (CPU, storage, database), where your visitors are, when they visit, and other factors besides.
We attempted to get a baseline idea of a server’s performance by measuring it over time with Uptime.com. Average response times were fractionally below average, though by so little you’re unlikely to notice (50ms).
4 UK Host response times were relatively consistent, too, with no downtime, and no major spikes which might indicate an overloaded server.
Dotcom-tools website speed test measured the load time of our test site from 16 locations across the US and Europe. This second test broadly matched the results of the first. 4 UK Host achieved mid-range speeds only, but the difference wasn’t significant, and our results showed consistent speeds over time.
Put it all together and 4 UK Host delivered the performance we’d expect from decent shared hosting; not outstanding, but good enough, and reliable throughout the duration of our review.
4 UK Host wasn’t outstanding at any point during our review, but its products are generally well-specified, live chat support was good and we saw consistent and reliable speeds. Worth a look – check it out and see if the company has a plan which suits your needs.