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123 Reg promises a lot with its WordPress hosting plans, but is it really as good as it claims to be? Unfortunately, my tests uncovered some bothersome issues concerning reliability and domain name setup. To find out more about what happened when I put 123 Reg to the test, keep reading.
123 Reg offers a whole host (no pun intended!) of different business solutions, including email hosting, a website builder, Microsoft 365, and marketing tools. What I’m really interested in, though, is its web hosting services – particularly its WordPress hosting plans. Though 123 Reg is better known for its domain name registration resources, its web hosting services supposedly rival other UK-based providers.
Does 123 Reg live up to expectations? The short answer has to be a simple “not really.” Its features are okay, but when I put it to the test, I found some disappointing performance results and issues with the free domain that’s included in the WordPress hosting plans. It’s not the worst host I’ve tested, but it’s not one of my recommendations, either. 123Reg isn’t a match for a brand like Hostinger, which offers excellent performance, and has servers in the UK.
123 Reg does tick the boxes I’m looking for from a WordPress hosting plan, though, so it’s not all bad news. It throws in some of the features you’re likely to find with managed WordPress hosting plans, such as automatic updates and backup and restore. It’s generous with storage, but its plans are more expensive than those available from its competitors.
Although it’s a UK-based company, there’s no clear information about where exactly its data centres are located. I called to ask and was given the vague answer of “in the UK,” which makes me a little dubious. Since I discovered that some other UK hosts I’ve reviewed don’t actually have UK-based servers, I find 123 Reg’s reticence about its data centres rather suspicious.
To find out how 123 Reg compares to other industry competitors, I signed up for their Business WordPress hosting plan – testing out everything from page loading speeds to customer support.
123 Reg doesn’t have any groundbreaking features, but it does offer most of the features you should be looking for in a web host. There are only two WordPress plans – one that’s perfect for smaller websites or if you’re just getting started, and one that’s better if you get a lot of traffic and need better performance.
You can host multiple websites from one account with 123 Reg (up to five on the Business Plan and unlimited on the Premium Plan), and both plans include 100GB of SSD storage space. Since I’ve seen some hosts offering a measly 5GB of storage space on their basic WordPress plans, 123 Reg seems very generous.
There are some downsides, though. 123 Reg doesn’t support outside SSL certificates like Let’s Encrypt or Comodo, and only offers one free SSL certificate for the first year on their most expensive Premium Plan.
Essentially, that means that if you’re on the Business plan, you’ll have to buy an SSL certificate for each site you want to host. If you’re on the Premium plan, you’ll only get an SSL certificate for your first site. If you plan on hosting more than one site, this can quickly add up to a high annual bill.
Free Domain and Email
All of 123 Reg’s hosting plans come with at least one free domain name and unlimited email for the first year.. A word of warning with this, however – only certain domain extensions (co.uk, org.uk, me.uk, .uk or .com) are offered free.
Strangely, there are two free domains included with the Business Plan and only one with the Premium Plan, which doesn’t make much sense as the Premium Plan is almost twice as expensive as the Business Plan! This isn’t a typo on the website, either.
123 Reg automatically keeps your WordPress installation up to date, which is great, because it’s easy to forget to keep up with WordPress updates. Actually, according to Sucuri, almost 50% of hacked WordPress websites have outdated installations. Since the updates usually include essential security patches, this means your website will be less vulnerable to hackers and malware.
Backup and Restore
Although most web hosts offer some kind of backup feature, not all offer a full backup and restore tool (at least not without asking you to pay extra). 123 Reg has a simple-to-use tool that enables you to keep regular backups of your website(s) and easily roll your website back to an earlier version if you make changes that “break” your site.
Solid Security Features
With its WordPress plans, 123 Reg implements high-level security features to help prevent malicious attacks against your website. These include web application firewalls (WAF), database firewalls, and round-the-clock monitoring to respond to threats immediately.
123 Reg is not the easiest web host to use. During the process of setting up my account, I ran into far more problems than I should have (more detail below). Figuring I may have made a mistake, I signed up again using a different email address, but I still encountered exactly the same issues. That makes 123 Reg a poor choice if you’re a beginner to web hosting, I’m afraid!
Choosing a Plan and Creating a New Account
123 Reg has only two WordPress hosting plans – one if you’re getting started and the other if you need more powerful hosting. Creating your account starts as soon as you select your plan and add it to your basket.
This is where you may run into a problem. You need to add your domain name to your basket before you continue with checkout. You will, of course, be prompted to search for the domain you want, but there’s also a Continue without Domain button. In my opinion, this shouldn’t be there without a warning that you can’t claim your free domain name later if you don’t add it now.
When I clicked through and then found that there was no way to claim my free domain, I reached out to support. I expected to receive a coupon or something so that I could painlessly add the free domain name to my account. But that, apparently, was not possible. The only way I could get my free domain name was to cancel my hosting package, request a refund (which takes five working days to receive) and add the domain name when I signed up again.
This was incredibly frustrating and felt totally unnecessary. Surely it creates more work for 123 Reg to have such a complex process? Just be warned – do not click that Continue without Domain button!
Managing Your Account and Using cPanel/Plesk
123 Reg has its own account management dashboard as well as a customized version of cPanel for managing your hosting space. It’s designed to be user-friendly, with bold, bright icons. Though it’s not as cluttered as some account dashboards, it still isn’t particularly easy to use!
It took me a while to figure out how to manage my hosting space, largely because it took several hours for the product to actually show up in the Manage Products list. After consulting the support knowledge base, I was finally able to find the link to the control panel. From there, it got easier because I’m familiar with the WordPress installation process. If you’re not familiar with it, though, you may struggle with 123 Reg.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
As long as you choose your domain name during the checkout process, it will already be connected to your hosting plan. However, installing WordPress is not quite the “1-click” process that 123 Reg advertises. In fact, when you check out the installation guide in the support section, there are actually 12 steps involved!
After scrolling through the cPanel icons, I eventually found the CGI Scripts section with the WordPress installer. 123 Reg’s 1-click installer is not as user friendly as others I’ve used. After choosing my installation directory on the next page, I was taken to this (somewhat confusing) screen:
Notice how it says “Installation Complete” at the top of the screen? Well, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s it. In a moment, you’ll see what I mean. But first, make sure you click on the URL beginning www. in the list of locations, because changing the default URL later in WordPress can cause issues.
Next came the actual WordPress setup process, including setting the site title, username and password, entering my email address and choosing the privacy options. Then there was another Install WordPress button. This had me confused for a moment.
After checking with 123 Reg, that first installation process was just to install the script that would allow the actual installer to run. The second installation process was necessary to actually install WordPress. Ultimately, the whole installation took half an hour instead of a few minutes. Not the end of the world – but then I found I couldn’t log in to WordPress because my domain name hadn’t yet resolved on the server. I wasn’t worried though, as this can take up to 24 hours with any web host.
Two days later, I still couldn’t log in, so I contacted support. They told me it can take “a few days” for the domain name to resolve and to try again tomorrow. I’ve never encountered such long delays in being able to build my website, so I was really not impressed with 123 Reg at this point. This was supposed to be WordPress hosting, after all, at twice the cost of regular shared hosting.
With WordPress hosting, I’d usually expect to find optimized servers. However, since they weren’t on the feature list on 123 Reg’s website, I wasn’t really surprised to find that my test website’s performance wasn’t particularly great.The page loading speeds weren’t the worst I’ve seen, but I was shocked to see the poor uptime rate.
In terms of page loading speeds, 123 Reg achieved an average of 1.2 seconds (which several other UK hosts also achieved, so it’s a mid-range score). With another testing tool, however, speeds became sluggish, at over three seconds – more than Google’s recommendation for maximum page loading times. 123 Reg failed here.
It also failed to meet the minimum of 99.9% uptime (the monthly average was 99.75%), meaning that not only is 123 Reg fairly slow, but it’s also unreliable.
I use the same testing process with all of the web hosts that I review (and you can find full details of Website Planet’s approach to testing in our detailed guide to performance tests). I signed up for the Business WordPress hosting plan and built the test website using a customized SimpleShift one-page website theme.
I don’t believe there’s any benefit to testing a host based on a website with no content (which some review sites do), so the theme I use has text and non-optimized HD images (and all the things you’d expect to find on a landing page). You may wonder why I don’t use optimized images – that’s because I like to give web hosts the opportunity to give me optimization advice or perform backend optimization after I submit a support ticket. I only test after asking for optimization help.
I kept the test website online for three months. When I test hosting services, I take the site down later to ensure that the host I’m reviewing can’t make changes to artificially boost the site’s performance after the review is published. The website was available at autonomous-shoes-uk-n.co.uk.
I used three different tools to test the performance and reliability of 123 Reg, and the results are explained below.
I performed tests using GTmetrix at various times of day and on different days to get a full picture of the page loading times. The average fully loaded time was 1.2 seconds, with the website loading faster (0.8 seconds) only during off-peak periods, such as the middle of the night.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
My second set of tests were performed with Sucuri Load Time Tester. As you can see from the screenshot above, the page loading times for my site were not as good as those I got using GTmetrix. Some difference in page loading speeds between performance testing tools is to be expected, but these are some pretty big differences.
The screenshot above shows the worst result from my Sucuri tests. The best speed recorded over a series of tests was 2.1 seconds, with an average of 2.6 seconds. This is dangerously close to Google’s recommendation of a maximum of 3 seconds.
The fact that the results from test servers around the world were very similar to the page loading speed from the UK test server is unusual. I’d normally expect to see much longer page loading times the farther away the test server is from the host’s data centre, but this is not the case here.
My final test was an uptime test, which gauges the reliability of the host. I used UptimeRobot to monitor the test website over three months, and the results were really disappointing. Over the three-month period, uptime was only 99.757%. Downtime in February was particularly bad, with a monthly uptime of 99.634%. This equates to 158 minutes of downtime in one month (over 2.5 hours), which is simply unacceptable.
In theory, 123 Reg has a 99.99% uptime guarantee (or Service Level Agreement) which is advertised on every plan. When I contacted 123 Reg to ask about this, I was informed that the SLA only applies to Premium hosting plans. This does not include either of the WordPress plans, despite one of them being labeled Premium.
It’s misleading to suggest that there is some kind of compensation for excessive downtime when there isn’t. That said, the terms and conditions do make it clear that the SLA only applies to Premium hosting plans.
123 Reg’s support is reachable primarily via phone and support tickets, although you can (sometimes) use live chat to connect to a support agent. Support is not available 24/7 – its hours are 08:00-22:00 Monday-Friday and 09:00-17:00 on weekends.
I had a very mixed experience with 123 Reg’s support team. Initially, I was actually unable to submit a support ticket as I kept getting a “500 – Internal server error” page each time I clicked Submit.
When I was finally able to submit a support request about installing WordPress, I waited several days to get a response – despite 123 Reg’s claim that it aims to respond to requests within one hour during business hours.
By the time I got a response from 123 Reg, I’d already installed and configured WordPress. I’d also contacted 123 Reg twice via live chat while I waited for this response to my ticket. The agent’s claim that she had installed WordPress for me as a goodwill gesture was false, too!
My second encounter with 123 Reg via ticket support was better, and I received a response quickly. However, the support agent didn’t really give me any concrete optimization advice, rather I was directed to other resources. I tried using the link in the message to see this rather odd 0.6-second page loading time mentioned in the screenshot below, but I got a 404 error page instead.
Live chat support is supposed to be available Monday to Friday 09:00-19:00, but this isn’t always the case. Once, I had a chat window open for two hours before I got a message saying, “Sorry, all our support agents are busy, please submit a support ticket.” Another time, clicking the chat button just took me to the 123 Reg Support Centre. Out of ten times trying to contact 123 Reg via live chat, I was only successful on three occasions.
WordPress Hosting That’s More Costly than Most Hosts
One thing you need to know about 123 Reg is that it’s not the most budget-friendly of hosts. It’s twice as expensive as some of its competitors, and it doesn’t offer the huge discounts that many of them do. The advertised prices don’t include VAT, either, so an extra 20% will be added at checkout.
Additionally, there’s the SSL certificate issue that I mentioned earlier. With a free SSL certificate included only with the expensive Premium WordPress hosting plan, the additional costs can quickly add up.
123 Reg accepts payment via all major credit cards and PayPal. All plans are for a minimum of 12 months, and you’ll need to pay upfront. Paying month-to-month isn’t an option.
There is a money-back guarantee on 123 Reg’s hosting plans, but it’s only for 14 days – shorter than the industry standard of 30 days. Additionally, the cost of your domain name will be deducted from your refund if you choose to cancel within the first 14 days of your plan, as domain names are not included in the guarantee.
Cancelling Your Account
Unlike many web hosts, 123 Reg doesn’t have a cancellation button or link in its account dashboard. To request cancellation, I actually had to use their live chat. This was one of the rare occasions when I was connected to a support agent.
Surprisingly, the cancellation was the best experience I had with 123 Reg’s support teams. I was connected to an agent within three minutes and the whole cancellation process took less than ten minutes. I wasn’t even asked why I wanted to cancel my account, which is unusual.
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January 30, 2020
Completely incompetent customer service lacks even reading ability
I've been trying to have them recognise my EU VAT ID since three months now. Their form just simply doesn'T have a field for it and they customer service thinks I am missing something. It is so highly annoying and such a waste of time. Save yourself from this.
Overall, I was disappointed with 123 Reg. It doesn’t have any stand-out features to rival its competitors and its loading speeds were average. The biggest issue with 123 Reg, though, is its uptime. For that reason, I really can’t recommend 123 Reg unless you only want to host a personal website. For business websites, 123 Reg’s poor uptime rates could mean a loss of revenue.
Ari is passionate about web hosting and design and has been building websites with WordPress for over ten years. When he’s not testing web hosts, you’re likely to find him trying (in vain) to train his three beagles (who are better at training him than he is them!)