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Blacknight claims to offer “award-winning” hosting services, but I don’t like to take a hosting provider’s claims at face value. After thorough testing, Blacknight did not emerge as one of my top recommendations. The performance wasn’t great, and the features are too limited.
Based near Dublin, Ireland, Blacknight Solutions offers domain names, shared hosting, email hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated servers, and SSL certificates. The hosting plans aren’t very generous with resources and there’s no option for managed WordPress hosting (although you can, of course, install WordPress on any of its plans).
I spent three months thoroughly testing Blacknight to give you the lowdown on what you can expect from this host. I built a test website on its lowest-priced shared hosting plan and evaluated everything from performance to customer service.
While Blacknight wasn’t the worst Irish host I’ve tested, there are some things you should know before signing up. If I had to summarise Blacknight in one word, it would be “average”. Nothing really stands out, but it gets the job done…mostly.
You Get the Basics – But Some Essentials Will Cost Extra
I have to admit that when I was looking at Blacknight’s features to write this review, I found myself struggling to find any standout features to highlight. It has the basics that you need to host your website… but not much else.
Worse yet, features I consider essential for web hosting are not included in your hosting fees. Firstly, you’ll have to pay extra for backups – and beware, the paid Site Backup add-on is automatically selected at checkout. Secondly, you don’t get a free domain name with any of the hosting plans.
Blacknight doesn’t include SSL certificates with your hosting account, nor does it support the free SSL available from Let’s Encrypt and Comodo. This will add considerably to the cost of your hosting, especially if you have multiple websites.
Blacknight also limits storage space and bandwidth on all of its plans – and the limits are pretty stingy. The maximum space available is 30GB and while I hope this is SSD storage at least, there’s no indication that this is the case.
Bandwidth limits are not too restrictive – 200GB, 400GB, or 600GB per month depending on the plan – but there are also strict limits on the maximum number of active connections to your website at the same time. These limits are 50, 100, or 150, depending on which plan you’re on, and keep in mind that each visitor’s browser will be making multiple connections to load your website fully. Your website will be temporarily unavailable to visitors exceeding those limits.
Instead of using a popular 1-click installer like Softaculous or Installatron, Blacknight has its own Application Vault. It’s a step-by-step installer for popular apps like WordPress and Drupal. The selection of applications is quite limited, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. It doesn’t support setting up automatic WordPress updates like Installatron does, for example.
Up to 90 Websites on One Account
Blacknight Solutions offers the ability to host multiple websites on a single account. You can host 30, 60, or 90 websites depending on which plan you choose.
There’s only one issue I have with this. Blacknight’s most comprehensive (and expensive) plan comes with only 30GB of storage. Split that 90 ways (because the storage is per account, not per website) and you’re left with 333.333MB per website. You may be unlikely to actually host 90 big websites on your account, but if you do, you’ll want to keep the storage limits in mind.
As well as offering basic email hosting as part of its web hosting plans, Blacknight includes a free (basic) version of Spam Experts to keep your inbox clear of spam messages. The downside is that the free version doesn’t allow you to whitelist or blacklist email addresses, which could result in genuine messages being marked as spam.
The Latest PHP Versions on all Servers
CMSs like WordPress rely on PHP to run, and having the latest version by default on all new accounts is a good thing. I’m always surprised by how many web hosts get away with using outdated versions of PHP (some are still using 5.6). Old versions are less secure and have a negative impact on performance.
Having the latest PHP version means the server your website is hosted on is faster and more secure – both of which mean a better experience for you and your website visitors.See full list of features
Ease of use
Beware of Auto-Selected Features During Checkout
Signing up with Blacknight is relatively easy and fairly beginner-friendly. The most complicated decision you have to make is which of the three plans you’re going to choose.
One thing to be aware of during the checkout process, however, is that Blacknight is one of those hosts that has the unfortunate habit of auto-selecting some of its paid add-ons during checkout. Lots of hosts do it – but I don’t like it, because you may accidentally end up paying for services you don’t want or need.
Managing Your Account with Blacknight’s Control Panel
Blacknight doesn’t actually use cPanel for its shared hosting plans (although cPanel is available on VPS and dedicated server hosting). Instead, it has its own control panel where you can manage your account and your web hosting space. It looks a little dated compared to cPanel and other bespoke control panels that I’ve used, but it’s pretty easy to navigate and use.
It has all the essential functions you need to manage your website, including a file manager and application installer. Also, because the account dashboard and control panel are not separate, it’s much simpler, which is great if you’re new to web hosting.
Although the control panel itself is easy to use, in other areas, Blacknight isn’t so beginner-friendly – as I discovered when it came to using my domain name and installing WordPress.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
Blacknight has a “getting started” guide that walks you through the process of connecting your domain name to your hosting space, and it’s worth using this (even if you’re not a beginner) because it can get a little technical. I found the process overly complicated and I’ve been working with web hosting for ten years!
I won’t go into all the technical details here, but I will say it’s a good idea to follow the step-by-step instructions carefully. You can find these in the Help & Support area in a guide called “Getting Started with Blacknight Web Hosting.” There’s a PDF version you can download, too.
Unfortunately, this guide doesn’t cover installing WordPress, but that process is at least more straightforward. You install WordPress using the Application Vault. The Application Vault takes you through the installation without you having to do much more than fill in a few details.
Unimpressive Page Loading Speeds – But Decent Reliability
As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter what cool features a host offers (or doesn’t offer, in the case of Blacknight) if it doesn’t perform well. Your visitors don’t care about the bells and whistles behind the scenes – they just want your webpages to load quickly!
I’ll be going into some technical details about my performance tests in a moment, but first, here’s a quick summary of how Blacknight performed. The average page loading speed was a mediocre 2.61 seconds. That’s still within Google’s recommendation of three seconds, but other low-cost hosts achieve consistent page loading speeds of under one second.
Blacknight did very well in reliability tests, achieving an uptime score of 99.97% on average. That equates to just 13 minutes of downtime over the course of a month.
To test Blacknight’s performance, I installed WordPress and added a customized SimpleShift one-page website theme. I’ve noticed that some review sites use a virtually blank website for performance tests, but that isn’t going to give accurate performance results. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care about the performance of an empty website!
For insight into how your website might perform on Blacknight, the customized theme I use has text and non-optimized HD images, like you’d find on an average landing page. I use non-optimized images to give hosts a chance to offer optimization advice. Want the full details of how we test web hosts at Website Planet? Check out this article.
The test website was available at autonomous-shoes-ireland-a-com, and I kept it online for several months. When I’m done testing a web host, I always remove the site, so that if the host finds my review, they can’t manipulate the results (boosting the performance behind the scenes, for example).
As you can see in the screenshot above, the results for Blacknight were not particularly impressive, only just managing to beat Google’s recommended page load time. I used GTmetrix on different days and at different times to check the consistency of the results, and the average page loading speed was 2.61 seconds. The fastest result was 2.01 seconds and the most common result was 2.8 seconds.
GTmetrix also tests how well-optimized a website is, using PageSpeed and YSlow scores. The average rating for a website worldwide is around 76% for PageScore and 73% for YSlow, so Blacknight’s lack of any kind of optimization features is revealed in its below-average results.
Sucuri Load Time TesterNormally I like to compare the GTmetrix results with those I get from Sucuri’s Load Time Tester, but Blacknight appears to block almost all attempts at Sucuri testing its page loading speeds. This may mean Blacknight has stringent security measures in place, but it also means I can’t tell you how Blacknight performs outside of the UK and Ireland.
UptimeRobotReliability is the final test I run. Having a website that is frequently down would be a big problem, so at the very minimum I expect all hosts to provide at least 99.9% uptime. Blacknight easily managed to achieve a very healthy uptime score of 99.97% over several months.
However, Blacknight doesn’t offer an uptime guarantee, so if its reliability dropped, you wouldn’t be able to claim any kind of compensation.
Live Chat Support is Rapid – But Ticket Support is Slow
Support from Blacknight is available 24/7 if you’re using ticket support, but live chat is only available Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm. There’s also a telephone number that you can call (also not 24/7) with local numbers for Ireland, the UK and the US.
Alternatively, if you’re more inclined to solve problems yourself, there is a knowledge base with answers to common questions and some step-by-step guides to solving basic issues. It’s not the most comprehensive knowledge base, however.
I tested out both live chat and ticket support, and my best experience by far was with live chat. I asked about optimization and as you can see in the screenshot above, the support agent gave me detailed advice. I was connected quickly, too, and didn’t have to wait ages between responses.
Ticket support, on the other hand, was not so great. I got the impression that the agent who responded to my ticket wasn’t really interested in helping me. I asked about installing WordPress and had to wait ten hours only to be directed to a help article I could have found myself.
Affordable Plans, But the Add-ons Soon Add Up
Blacknight’s hosting plans are similar in price to those offered by other providers in Ireland. Its basic plan is affordable, but lacks features that others include. For example, international hosting company Hostinger offers even lower prices with free SSL certificates, unlimited bandwidth, and weekly backups.
You can choose to pay monthly, for one year, or for three years. It’s worth noting that if you want to pay monthly, you’ll be charged a setup fee that is equal to the cost of one month’s hosting. Paying upfront for one or three years costs less overall.
The biggest issue with Blacknight’s pricing is the cost of all the “optional extras,” like backups, domain names, and SSL certificates. If you buy all of these add-ons (which I class as essentials rather than extras), the hosting plans soon become much more expensive!
For example, purchasing a one-year SSL certificate for use on a single site costs more than half of the annual hosting fee on the Minimus plan. Since securing your website with SSL isn’t totally optional these days, this is a fairly major cost consideration.
Blacknight accepts payment via all major credit cards. Local taxes are not included in the advertised pricing. If you change your mind within the first 30 days of your hosting plan, you can take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cancelling Your Account
Blacknight has a cancellation wizard that takes you quickly and easily through the process of cancelling your account. It only takes a few minutes, but you’ll have to click a Place Order button to complete the cancellation.
When I cancelled the hosting account for my test website, I was surprised to receive a partial refund. Few hosts will give you refunds after the money-back guarantee period ends – that’s one thing I really liked about Blacknight.
After you’ve gone through the cancellation process, you’ll also need to go into the Domains section of your account to switch off auto-renewal for any domain names you purchased. The domain will then expire at the end of the billing period.
Although Blacknight offers the bare minimum you need for hosting your website, its performance is only mediocre and the amount of storage you get is limited. My biggest issue is the extra cost of features that other hosts include for free. If you’re still considering Blacknight, it’s worth working out how much a year (or three) of hosting is actually going to cost you before you sign up.
Personally, I’d recommend that you look elsewhere. If your visitors are located in Ireland, you can get great performance from a global host like Hostinger, which has servers in the UK and Northwestern Europe.
There is a wide range of hosting services available, from budget-friendly shared hosting to fancy dedicated servers. The best hosting for your website will depend on your specific needs. If shared hosting isn’t enough for you, there are several cheap and reliable VPS hosting services available.
How do I choose a hosting plan?
Try to estimate the size of your website, and how many visitors you think you’ll be getting each month. Since most web hosting providers will let you easily scale up your plan, it’s always the most cost-effective to start small and upgrade later.
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!)