PowWeb dubs itself as the “perfect hosting solution.” Its homepage features marketing terminology like “unique reliability,” “unmatched web hosting,” and a host of other marketing buzzwords common to the industry. The most important question is whether or not PowWeb lives up to the reputation it claims for itself.
The company’s entry level shared hosting plan offers unlimited space and unlimited bandwidth, as well as all of the other basic technologies offered with modern hosting accounts including PHP5, MySQL databases, email accounts, and more.
PowWeb has relatively restrictive and expensive pricing terms. There is no month-to-month option and the shortest contract length is three months. Their hosting packages promote “Load Balanced Hosting,” which means that sites are distributed among a number of servers to increase reliability. This way, if one server goes down, your site is unlikely to be affected.
The PowWeb Web hosting Terms of Service is straightforward, but full of unfavorable terms. Canceling requires 30 days written notice and can result in a $35.00 “early cancellation fee.” The 30 day money back guarantee does not include setup fees (which are more than half the cost of the three month plan) or any of the upgrades that PowWeb sells. The company will only provide a pro-rated refund for completely unused months and will deduct all fees from the refund, essentially eliminating any chance at a refund beyond the 30 day money back guarantee period.
PowWeb’s charges fees for late payments ($15.00, plus 1.5% interest per month), returned checks ($25), reinstating suspended accounts ($50), wire transfers ($35), and credit card chargebacks ($35). PowWeb customers even waive their rights to a trial by jury in the event of a legal disagreement with PowWeb.
Once paid and logged in, PowWeb’s actual control panel is very standard. It is a list of icons, divided into sections by function. There are multiple partner offers, upgrade offers, and other sales links within the control panel, but the overall functionality is pretty much as expected for a web hosting control panel.
Installing WordPress using PowWeb’s “InstallCentral” software was very straightforward. InstallCentral offers more options than the typical automatic installer and lets users specify which database they use. Alternatively, users can choose to let InstallCentral decide which database to use and take care of the process automatically. InstallCentral did install an out-dated version of WordPress, though. At the time of installation, the most recent stable version of WordPress was 2.8.1. InstallCentral installed WordPress 2.7. Many other installation helper applications also install outdated versions as well, yet it is important to consider the release date of an install for optimal security and functionality.
Other software was also out of date. A very old version of phpBB was installed. Joomla was installed with old version instead of the most recent release. Drupal was installed with an old version instead of the current. Outdated software can present serious security risks.
I called the PowWeb customer support line on a Sunday afternoon to ask what my name servers should be (none were specified in any of the emails that PowWeb sent). After choosing the option for technical support, my call was directed and there was no noise whatsoever for five minutes. After calling back, I was connected to a human within about 35 seconds.
PowWeb support gave me the feeling it was outsourced (the support representative was difficult to understand), but was friendly enough. The support itself turned out to be horrible. I called and asked “what are the name servers for my account?” and the representative provided me with the name servers my domain was currently set to (at my old host). Not until he started telling me to contact another hosting company to get my issue resolved did I realize he hadn’t understood my question fully. After that, he was able to provide me with PowWeb’s correct name servers and I was able to get them changed at my domain registrar. A 30 second issue turned into a 10 minute phone call, which was completely unnecessarily.
Live chat was slightly easier. It took about 30 seconds to be connected to a representative. I asked the exact same question and got the correct (usable) answer almost immediately. A response to the same question via email took an hour and included the right answer.