Cheap web hosting that gives you a choice between Unix and Windows.
Aplus.net provides web hosting services, among various other web solutions. The industry veteran, established in 1992, currently has more than 250 employees worldwide and more than 100,000 customers. While its goal is to be a one-stop shop for web services, in this review we will examine how Aplus.net’s web hosting service compares to that of competitors.
Features and Pricing
Aplus.net offers four different web hosting plans:
Several features are not available on the Personal plan, but for some this might not be a deal-breaker. The Business, Professional, and ecommerce hosting plans more or less offer the same features, but vary in the amounts provided.
Either the Personal or Business plan should work well for most individuals, and both are priced fairly competitively at $5.95 and $9.95 per month, respectively. Some may find the 15 GB of disk space and 250 GB of bandwidth limiting with the Personal plan, but for many individuals this may very well be sufficient.
Unlike some hosts, Aplus.net offers a choice between Unix and Windows hosting. While most web applications are Unix-based, there are some that are dependent on Windows. The average customer is probably safe picking the Unix operating system, but those who specifically know that a script they wish to use requires Windows (those programmed in ASP for example), will definitely want to select Windows.
Aplus.net hosting guarantees 99.9% uptime on their shared hosting plans. They state that “if your shared hosting website is ever down for more than one hour due to our network failure we will refund up to 100% of your next month’s bill” (subject to any restrictions within the Service Level Agreement). This is a very competitive guarantee.
For this review, we are testing the Personal plan. This plan includes 50 email addresses and 10 MySQL databases, which are plenty for most customers. The plan is limited to one domain and some features, such as easy installations of WordPress, are not offered. These features are offered with the more expensive Business plan, but not with the least expensive Personal plan.
Terms of Service
Aplus.net has a “Legal” section that includes an Acceptable Use policy, as well as separate agreements of Shared Hosting and other services. Each of the policies is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.
The Acceptable Use Policy that Aplus.net has in place is fairly standard, but note that it does forbid adult content and even content that my not strictly be considered “adult” by other hosts (such as profanity).
The company’s Shared Hosting Agreement is also standard, but does give Aplus.net the right to charge a “heavy traffic fee” and/or an “excessive space fee.” The Shared Hosting Agreement also states that there are no refunds (pro-rated or otherwise) offered to customers. Aplus.net also imposes a $10 plus 6% late fee per month for delayed payments and a bizarre clause about non-solicitation of Aplus.net’s employees. If a customer were to hire an Aplus.net employee, they’d be responsible for paying three years salary for that employee to Aplus.net or $200,000 (whichever is greater).
Aplus.net uses a custom control panel that seems to get the job done without any problems. It includes standard features such as a file manager, database administration tool, email management tools, and more. The control panel was quick and easy to navigate. While there were a few ads in the control panel for other Aplus.net services, they were not distracting and were not in the way of actual features.
After signing up, I did not receive a traditional welcome email from Aplus.net. My first email correspondence from them was a billing statement that did not include enough information to login to my account. To figure out what information I needed, I had to try logging in and then find a link to the forgot password icon. I also had to figure out that a registration number is the same as an account number. The information I was emailed did not seem to work, so I called Aplus.net to try and figure out how to login to my account. They were able to help and I was able to get logged into my account (see Customer Support section below).
Once I was logged in, I had no trouble using my website and getting things to work. The application installer that Aplus.net uses is not as straightforward as other installers like Fantastico because it requires that users create databases before using the installer. However, it did seem to work once a database was created and a proper installation location was chosen.
Aplus.net offers a variety of Windows services that you would not otherwise get to use with a standard shared web hosting account at most hosts. Aplus.net supports ASP.NET, as well as Standard ASP, both of which can be enabled from the control panel. Once those are enabled, customers can use IIS applications within their regular web hosting account. Aplus.net also has a nice tool for managing PHP settings right from the control panel, as well as a tool that lets customers restore certain files from regular backups.
Since I was unable to login to my account, I had to contact support for help. I chose to contact live support via live chat. I was connected to a representative within 15 seconds after starting a chat session.
The representative’s answers were short and borderline rude. When I said that I was unable to login, I was told to “use fire fox browser” (I was). After a minute or two, the representative was able to help me (apparently the information that Aplus.net emails is not enough to login).
I then did another live chat to ask if my hosting was Windows or Linux. The representative quickly provided me with a seemingly canned, but still useful response letting me know that Aplus.net uses a hybrid system that routes requests based on file extensions.
When I decided to test the company’s phone support, my experience was similar. I called the company’s 800 number, went through a few phone menus, and waited about 30 seconds before being connected to a representative. The representative I spoke to was friendly and helpful, but in the end, was unable to help me install WordPess on my account. The representative told me that my account was supposed to have a WordPress installer within the control panel, but the company’s plan page said WordPress was not included on my Personal package. To remedy that situation, I had to talk to the sales team, which was closed after 10 PM. I asked if there were other ways to install WordPress and he said I could do a manual installation, but that would require “custom coding” (not technically true) and was therefore outside of the company’s scope of support.
Aplus.net provides a solid service at a low price and is relatively unique in that it provides inexpensive shared hosting that is relatively powerful on flexible billing terms. Unlike many hosts, Aplus.net does not force its customers into a contract.