Network Solutions Web Hosting review
Network Solutions provides plenty of tools to get started with a snazzy website and flexible Web hosting where you can add on lots of advanced features, but the interface is harder to use than it needs to be.
The typical web hosting service can overwhelm novice users with its many options. Do you go with dedicated, shared, VPS, or WordPress hosting? Linux- or Windows-based servers? Network Solutions simplifies the decision-making process by taking most of those considerations off the table. The web host focuses on streamlined options and domain registration so that you can quickly build a shared, cloud-based website. Unfortunately, Network Solutions lacks the feature-rich offerings seen in HostGator, Hostwinds, and other Editors’ Choice award winners.
Shared Web Hosting
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on web hosting, shared hosting is the way to go. This cheap web hosting places your website on a server with other websites, and the group shares server resources. This means that it’s far from the most powerful web hosting type. Still, Network Solutions offers several wallet-friendly, shared hosting options—at least at the start.
Starter ($5.99 per month) is the entry-level tier, a plan that features one website, five email accounts, 15GB of disk space, and unlimited data transfers. Next up the ladder is Essential ($15.95 per month), a package containing support for three websites, 1,000 email mailboxes, 300GB of disk space, and unlimited data transfers. The Professional Hosting ($22.94 per month) tier supports 10 websites, unlimited storage, email, and monthly data transfers, and comes with SiteLock Premium. Finally, the Premium tier ($32.93 per month) adds an SSL certificate to the Professional service. These prices reflect the monthly cost, though you can get discounts for signing up for one- or multi-year commitments.
Network Solutions has odd pricing. The Essential, Professional, and Premium plans all cost $15.95 per month ($9.96 for annual commitment), despite Essential offering fewer email accounts and disk space than the other tiers. The difference between the three tiers comes down to the add-ons: Professional adds SiteLock for $6.99 per month, and Premium adds SSL on top of that for $9.99 per month. If you sign up for an annual commitment with the Essential, Professional, or Premium tiers, Network Solutions waives the domain registration fee. There’s also an additional $1.99 per month charge if you want to go for private registration.
HostGator, the Editors’ Choice pick for shared hosting, tops Network Solutions by offering more features for a similar price point. Its Hatchling plan starts at $10.95 per month, but an annual commitment drops the cost to $3.95 per month. Plus, the plan comes with free one-year domain registration, the excellent Gator Website Builder, unmetered disk space and bandwidth, and a free SSL certificate.
WordPress Web Hosting
Like many other web hosts, Network Solutions has WordPress hosting. WordPress is the content management system that powers roughly a third of all websites. It’s easy to use, and has a thriving theme and plug-in ecosystem for expanding your site’s functionality. If you’re looking to create a basic, WordPress-powered website, check out Network Solution’s three tiers: Entrepreneurs, A Growing Business, and Professionals.
The Entrepreneur plan costs $7.99 per month, with support for one website, 50GB of storage, 10 email boxes, and a cloud-backup solution. A Growing Business ($13.98 per month) builds upon Entrepreneur offering three websites, 100GB of storage, 25 email boxes, and an SSL certificate. Finally, the Professional tier ($18.98 per month) supports five websites, 200GB of storage, and 50 email boxes. Bluehost and WP Engine, the co-Editors’ Choice picks for WordPress hosting, have superior WordPress plans. The former offers unlimited site hosting, monthly data transfers, domains, subdomains, and storage with each tier; the latter offers excellent specs and features (such as site staging and enterprise-friendly custom plans).
E-Commerce Web Hosting
If you’re looking to launch an online store, Network Solutions has you covered with its e-commerce plans. Starter is $7.95 per month (renewing at $29.95 per month), and includes five email accounts and the ability to sell 25 different products. Standard is $9.95 per month (renewing at $54.95 per month), and comes with 50 email accounts and a 300-product catalog. The $19.95-per-month Premium plan ($99.95 per month after renewal) lets you create 100 email accounts, store 100,000 products, and organize everything with product management tools. In contrast, the excellent InMotion Hosting has e-commerce plans that start at $6.99 per month (renewing at only $11.99 per month), and offer a free domain, two websites, no product limit, unlimited bandwidth, and a free SSL certificate.
Network Solutions provides email marketing tools ($20 per month) as an add-on, but you can sample the goods with a lengthy, 60-day free trial. The add-on provides over 400 ready-made email templates to use in newsletters and email blasts, and real-time tracking and reporting on who clicked links and opened messages. The other options include the $49-per-month Simple SEO add-on that improves search engine optimization, and the $9.95-per-month Business Directory service that tracks what people are saying about your business across social media channels.
The e-ommerce plans come with a control panel to manage the catalog, customers, orders, and shipping options. You can also create a merchant account with Bank Card Services Worldwide to accept payment cards, or use PayPal, Google Checkout, or other options. There is also a separate site builder to design the storefront, but it doesn’t offer many customization options other than a Facebook marketing tool, an SEO optimization add-on, and a customer relationship management platform.
Reseller Web Hosting
If you’re looking to get into the web hosting business, but don’t want to deal with infrastructure matters, check out Network Solutions’ reseller hosting packages via the company’s SRSPlus site. There are no annual fees, paper contracts, or volume requirements, and the plans come with email, e-commerce tools, and other expected features.
Setting Up a Website
Network Solutions lets you install more than two dozen open-source applications, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Owl, SugarCRM, Magento, phpBB, WebCalendar, PHPWiki, and Tikiwiki. Setting up WordPress (or any other application) is a fairly simple affair. You click the application’s Add button, and walk through the setup wizard to define the blog URL, and the administrator username and password. It’s simple, but the option to create the blog is buried in the interface.
We have one complaint with our website. Even though we registered our URL during the signup process, the website we created didn’t point to our domain. Network Solutions didn’t ask what our website’s address should be, and it defaulted to a sub-domain under netsolhost.com. This wasn’t a big deal, since we simply switched to My Domain Name and used the drop-down menu to point the URL to the website directory. People who aren’t used to website administration need better instructions.
Network Solutions offers 256-bit, secure-socket layer (SSL) protection starting at $59.99 per year (with a two-year term). You can also add nsProtect Assured trusted site seal ($69 per year), SiteLock Premium (starting at $9.99 per month), and Small Business Cyber Security Protection (starting at $4.16 per month, with an annual plan).
Website uptime is a vital element of the web hosting experience. If your site goes down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
We use a website monitoring tool to track uptime at a test sites over a 14-day period. Every 15 minutes, the tool pings our website and sends an alert if the site is dark for at least a minute. Our testing revealed that Network Solutions went down once for a few minutes, but otherwise demonstrated dependable uptime.
Helpful Customer Service
If you encounter a hosting problem, you can search Network Solutions’ FAQs for answers (though we stumbled across a few 404 pages, which is not a good sign). The web host offers 24/7 email and telephone support, too. That said, the e-commerce technical support is only available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. We tested customer service by placing an 8:30 p.m. Eastern weeknight call to find out the difference between regular web hosting and WordPress hosting. We held for five minutes before a customer service rep fielded my call.
The representative explained we couldn’t install other applications on the WordPress hosting plan, but assured us that we could always switch plans if we wanted to. We spent about three minutes discussing updates—Network Solutions would download, but not install them—and storage requirements. We thought we saw the option for live customer support web chat at one point, but couldn’t find it again later. It was also tricky to find an email form to submit a question. We asked how to import a WordPress blog into our account around 9:30 p.m. on a weeknight, and received a detailed answer the next morning. Overall, Network Solutions has respectable customer service offerings, and a solid, 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Is This Your Solution?
Network Solutions is a mixed bag. Hosting starts out cheap, but its upsells quickly add up. Domain management is easy, but it’s not well-integrated with the web hosting. Streamlined offering make it easier to select a hosting type, but the interface may confuse novices. If you want a more feature-rich web hosting service, check out Bluehost, DreamHost, HostGator, or any of our other Editors’ Choice picks.