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At first glance, Fasthosts seems like it has a lot to offer if you’re looking for UK-based hosting. Automatic installation of WordPress, updates, and that all-important free SSL certificate are all included in the affordable hosting plans. However, my in-depth testing of Fasthosts revealed some troubling issues with reliability that are hard to ignore. Keep reading to discover the ups and downs of hosting your website with Fasthosts.
Affordable WordPress Hosting – With Some Downsides
If you’re targeting a UK-based audience, it makes sense to use a hosting provider with UK-based servers. However, many of the international hosting companies don’t actually have data centres in the UK.
Fasthosts is a smaller host based in the UK, and its main data centre is located in Gloucester in South West England, with other data centres in unspecified UK locations (Fasthosts refused to disclose the locations when I asked via live chat). It offers a range of hosting solutions, including “standard” shared hosting, WordPress hosting, and cloud hosting, as well as dedicated servers. It is also a popular domain registrar, so you can easily purchase domains for your hosting account.
I’ve tested various UK hosting providers over the past few months and Fasthosts is one of the more affordable options. For this review, I purchased Fasthosts’ WordPress hosting planand put it to the test over several months. I not only tested its performance and ease of use, but also used its different support channels. Fasthosts’ doesn’t compare to hosts like Hostinger, however, which offers excellent performance.
There are a lot of good things about Fasthosts, especially with its WordPress hosting plan, but my tests did reveal a big problem that is really disappointing. Read on to find out why it’s not one of my recommendations.
Unlike some UK-based web hosting companies, Fasthosts offers most of the features that I look for – and some that add real value to the already budget-friendly pricing. However, one of my biggest gripes with Fasthosts is that its storage offering is pretty small compared to other hosts.
You only get 10GB of SSD space on the WordPress plan. It’s not the smallest (I’ve reviewed one host that only offers 5GB of SSD space), but it does limit you. For example, if you want to use your website to display high-resolution images as part of a portfolio, you may be better looking for a host that is more generous with its storage space.
Another thing to bear in mind is that Fasthosts’ hosting plans include only one website each. You can add more websites to your account, but you’ll have to pay an additional hosting fee for each one. You will, however, get discounts on each website if you purchase more plans.
On the bright side, Fasthosts’ WordPress hosting is fully optimised, counteracting the impact that WordPress can have on page loading speeds. This includes load balancing (to reduce the impact of sudden traffic surges your website) and built-in caching to improve your website’s performance.
Automatic WordPress Installation
Although most web hosts have a 1-click installer for WordPress, Fasthosts does one better by automatically installing it when you sign up for a WordPress hosting plan. If you’re a complete beginner, this is a perfect way to get started without having to do anything technical.
With Fasthosts, a number of plugins come pre-installed with your WordPress website, meaning it’s even easier to get started. These include WooCommerce (for selling online), Yoast (to manage your SEO), and Smush (one of the best image optimisation plugins around).
One of the biggest issues with any WordPress website is that you need to keep the platform and all plugins up-to-date to avoid security vulnerabilities. Fasthosts includes automatic updates for WordPress and plugins, so that’s one thing you can check off the list of things you have to worry about.
Free SSL Certificates
One thing I always look for in a web hosting provider is free SSL certificates. It’s surprising how many hosts (especially UK-based ones) don’t include SSL certificates or even support the free ones offered by Let’s Encrypt and Comodo. Thankfully, Fasthosts includes a free SSL certificate for the first year with its WordPress hosting plan.See full list of features
Ease of use
Simple Setup – Perfect for Beginners
My experience setting up my hosting account and building my website with Fasthosts was actually pretty great. There’s only one plan for WordPress hosting, so you won’t have to worry about deciding which to choose. The whole process of buying the plan and setting up my new website took no more than 15 minutes.
It was one of the best user experiences I’ve had, and if you’re a beginner, you’ll really appreciate how easy it is to get started.
Managing Your Account
Fasthosts has an intuitive dashboard that is easy to navigate. You can manage your hosting packages, domain names, and SSL certificates, as well as add new products or services to your account – all in one place. This is particularly great if you’re new to web hosting.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
The best parts about hosting with Fasthosts are that you get a free domain name with every WordPress hosting plan and WordPress is automatically installed for you. All you have to do is configure a few settings for automatic updates, and you’re good to go!
As far as I’m concerned, performance is the most important aspect of a web hosting service. It doesn’t matter what fancy features are included if you end up with slow page loading speeds and long periods of downtime. Almost all hosts claim to have fast servers – but I always take those claims with a pinch of salt and perform my own tests.
The TL;DR when it comes to Fasthosts’ performance is that page loading speeds are pretty good and the optimised servers help to deliver an average loading speed of 1.2 seconds. Google recommends less than three seconds, so Fasthosts definitely beats that (although some UK hosts I tested averaged less than a second).
I also test for reliability, and this is where Fasthosts plummets. Its average uptime over a six-month period was just 88.45%, which is downright unbelievable – and completely unacceptable! I expect a minimum of 99.9% uptime from web hosts, and Fasthosts failed miserably.
To test Fasthosts’ performance, I used the WordPress hosting plan to build a website using a customised SimpleShift one-page theme. This is a landing page styled theme with text and non-optimised HD images that you’d expect to find on a typical website. Some review sites will test performance using a blank WordPress installation, but I like to give you realistic performance results.
I use non-optimised HD images to give hosts a chance to help me with optimisation when I evaluate their support. Interested in finding out more about how we test web hosts at Website Planet? Check out this article.
I kept the test website online for six months. After testing web hosts, we usually remove the test websites so the hosts can’t perform any optimizations behind the scenes to manipulate the performance test results. The website was available at autonomous-shoes-uk-o.co.uk.
To evaluate the performance of my test website, I used three different tools: GTmetrix, Sucuri Load Time Tester, and UptimeRobot.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the GTmetrix tests revealed a decent page loading speed and PageSpeed Score. I repeated the tests several times to calculate an average page loading speed of 1.2 seconds – which is midrange compared to other UK hosts I’ve tested.
It’s certainly well within Google’s three-second recommendation, but it could be better. The fastest UK host I tested had an average page loading speed of 0.7 seconds.
The second metric I look at with GTmetrix is the PageSpeed score. This essentially tells you how well-optimised the website and server are. The impressive B rank and 89% score are proof that Fasthosts’ WordPress hosting is optimised like it advertises. You’d be surprised how many hosts claim to have optimised servers only to score poorly in the PageSpeed tests! To put the score into context, the average PageSpeed score is 75% with a C ranking.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
I use the Sucuri Load Time Tester to compare the results with GTmetrix. There’s always somewhat of a difference between the two, due to the way they each set up their testing. The results when tested from the UK (London) are pretty great, but they are less impressive when testing from other worldwide locations.
That’s not a problem if your target audience is based in the UK. However, if you have a more widespread audience then you may want to look for a host with better all-round performance, such as Hostinger.
It doesn’t matter how quickly your website loads if the host you choose isn’t reliable, resulting in big chunks of time when your website is unavailable. Unfortunately for Fasthosts, reliability (measured in uptime) was a disaster during the test period.
Below, you’ll see the average uptime over a six-month period. At the very least, web hosts should have an uptime average of 99.9% (most will guarantee this level of uptime) but Fasthosts’ uptime average is a measly 88.45%.
That chunk of red near the end of the green line is the reason why the average is so low. But the uptime isn’t always that bad. The last 30 days, for example, had an uptime average of 99.952%. But that block of red shows a period of over 20 days – yes, days – when my test website was unavailable. That month, the uptime was just 32.985%, with 498 hours and 17 minutes of consecutive downtime. To be honest, I’ve never come across a host with this kind of downtime.
Yes, Fasthosts does have an uptime guarantee. It calls this a server availability Service Level Agreement (SLA) and will compensate you if it fails to provide 99.9% uptime in any given month.
However, you’ll only get a credit on your account up to the maximum value of one month’s service. If you were running a business from your website and it was unavailable for 20 days, £3.50 in compensation would hardly make up for your losses.Check Out Fasthosts Performance
24/7 Expert Support
If you need help with your website or run into an issue, you can contact Fasthosts quickly and easily. Its telephone support is available 24/7 and live chat is available Monday to Friday, 09:00-20:00. You can also create a support ticket if your query isn’t urgent. Response times for ticket support vary, but in my experience, they are still faster than many hosts.
I tried out all three methods of contacting Fasthosts for assistance and found the agents to be helpful and knowledgeable in each case. My experience reaching out through the live chat was particularly good – I was connected in less than a minute and the agent was able to give me detailed answers to my questions.
I used the ticket support option to raise questions about installing my theme on WordPress and about optimising my website. The response regarding my theme installation wasn’t particularly helpful, but the agent did refer me to a detailed guide on a third-party website. Despite contacting support after midnight, it only took a little over three hours for a response – faster than I’ve come to expect with UK-based hosts.
With my inquiry about optimising my website, I received a more detailed response, with advice on actions to take rather than just pointing me to an online guide. The response time was a little longer compared to my previous support ticket, but still under four hours.
To supplement the expert assistance from its agents, Fasthosts has a decent support website with a searchable set of articles and guides to help you troubleshoot minor issues with your website. You can also view past tickets and chats you’ve had with support as well as download printable PDF guides for more complex topics.
Discounts for Hosting Multiple Websites
Fasthosts has one of the simplest pricing structures I’ve seen from a web host, at least for its WordPress plan. As I mentioned earlier, you pay a fee per website as opposed to choosing different plan levels. There are pros and cons to this approach.
On one hand, it can become costly if you’re hosting multiple websites. On the other hand, you get the same amount of storage for each website (rather than sharing storage across multiple sites), as well as a free domain name and SSL for the first year for each website.
The more websites you host with Fasthosts, the bigger the discount you get. The maximum discount is reached once you have five websites, but the sales team can arrange special deals if you want to host more than ten sites. You can also add more websites to your account at any time, directly from your account dashboard.
Fasthosts accepts payment via all major credit cards and PayPal. You can choose to either pay monthly or upfront for 12 months when you set up your account. Regardless of which way you pay, all Fasthosts hosting plans are on a 12-month contract. If you change your mind in the first 30 days, however, you can cancel and get a refund as part of Fasthosts’ 30-day money-back guarantee.
Cancelling Your Account
When it came time to cancel my Fasthosts account after completing all of my tests, I did hit a snag: the 12-month contract. I couldn’t actually cancel the account, but I did go through the process to see how it works.
Unlike many hosts, Fasthosts doesn’t have a cancellation button anywhere in its control panel, and you can’t cancel via live chat or ticket, either. The cancellations team is only available to contact via phone. My call was answered quickly (within a couple of minutes), and I was asked to provide the support PIN that’s generated when you click on the Get support link in your dashboard.
Although the agent wasn’t able to cancel my account until the end of the contract, I mentioned that I was having financial difficulties and she immediately offered to suspend payment for three months. This was an unexpected surprise. She was very helpful and polite, and contacting Fasthosts’ support via telephone was a pleasant experience!
They make everything difficult & time consuming
(a mix between, over complicated systems, not thinking as user and not caring whether they keep their customers.
Servers & databases are as weak as can be imagined and worst.
Add lots of sites too quickly and you will hate yourself for 2 decades, like us.
Never ever ever ever choose Fasthosts. Never. Even if they pay you.
They will ruin your sanity and your business, especially as a reseller/web design firm.
You cannot imagine how uncooperative they can be on the most simple things (with costly delays until they see the light). Or idiocy of changing things for the worst. (i.e. Rather than being able to simply allocate/change, the 'account owner' of a server, they think that giving access to a clients account to build their site is better. Even though said client, can withdraw your access, if they feel like not paying for your services! Gives client too much power not to pay)
There are a lot of good things about Fasthosts that I really liked, so it was really disappointing that its uptime failures let it down so badly. Were it not for those uptime issues, I would absolutely be recommending Fasthosts for your website hosting needs. Unfortunately, such poor reliability can’t be overlooked, so unless Fasthosts’ uptime improves, I have to advise you to look at hosts like Hostingeror Liquid Web.
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!)