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If you serve an audience in the north of England, Heart Internet may seem like a great choice due to its Leeds-based data centre – but is it really? While it offers a generous amount of SSD storage on reliable cloud-based servers, there are some essential features missing from its hosting plans, requiring expensive upgrades. This is why Heart Internet isn’t one of my top recommendations.
Heart Internet advertises itself as “award-winning” but it hasn’t actually won an award for some years now. Having intensively tested its hosting services, I don’t find it particularly surprising that its award-winning days are in the past. There are some essential features missing from its basic plans – free SSL certificates, for example – and its pricing is higher than other UK-based hosts. Does that mean you shouldn’t consider Heart Internet, though?
The answer to that question is, “it depends.” Heart Internet is still one of the few UK-based hosts with a data centre in the north of England (most have data centres in London or the even further south), so if you’re serving an audience in the northern half of the UK, you may benefit. The closer your audience is to the server, the faster your website will load for them (in theory, at least). Heart Internet isn’t a match for a brand like Hostingerthough, which offers a better price and excellent performance.
Heart Internet offers cloud-based shared hosting, WordPress hosting, VPS (virtual private server) hosting, managed VPS hosting, and dedicated servers – but my review will focus on its lowest-priced WordPress hosting as that’s the package I used to run my tests.
I signed up, built a website, and tested everything from performance to customer service to bring you an unbiased evaluation of what it’s really like to host a website with Heart Internet. Read on to discover more about my experience.
Limited Features – With Some Essentials Missing
Shortly after I’d completed my tests, I saw Heart Internet launched a new range of hosting plans, and I was expecting better offers. Unfortunately, while some aspects have improved, others haven’t.
Heart Internet now uses cPanel instead of its own Extend control panel (which comes with some benefits that I’ll discuss below) on its Linux hosting plans, and you’re now able to install WordPress on the lowest-priced plan on Linux servers. The plans also include a generous amount of SSD storage: 100GB on its cheapest plan, and unlimited storage (subject to fair usage, of course) on all other plans.
Heart Internet still doesn’t offer free SSL certificates on all its plans. While you can get a free Simple SSL certificate if you pay up front for the first year of a higher-tier Linux hosting plan, in every other case it will cost extra.
There’s really no excuse for web hosts not to either provide free SSL certificates or, at the very least, make it easy for you to install free Let’s Encrypt certificates. An SSL certificate is now essential for your website and I find it hard to recommend hosts that don’t include these automatically.
There are no free domain names included with Heart Internet’s plans (not even when you sign up for a year in advance). You can buy domain names from Heart Internet, but the prices aren’t the best.
Your Choice of Windows or Linux Servers
Not all budget web hosts will give you a choice between Windows and Linux servers – the default for most shared hosting plans is Linux, as it’s cheaper for web hosts to run. Heart Internet offers both, so if you need Windows hosting (if your business website needs to use applications that only run on Windows servers, for example), it could be a good choice.
The Windows hosting plans are more expensive than the Linux hosting plans, however, and the most basic plan (Starter Pro) doesn’t include MySQL databases, so you can’t install WordPress on it.
Installatron Application Installer
Installatron allows you to easily install and manage applications such as WordPress. It’s not only easy to use, but has features other installers don’t.
If you’re using WordPress, one of the best aspects of Installatron is that it allows you to set up automatic updates for your WordPress installation, themes, and plugins. Automatic updates are usually reserved for managed hosting plans, so you can use Installatron to benefit from semi-managed hosting at the price of basic shared hosting. This is only available on Linux-based plans, however.
Backup and Restore
Like its sister company tsoHost, Heart Internet overtly states that you are fully responsible for backing up your files and data. However, since Heart Internet has replaced the Extend control panel with cPanel, you can now take advantage of its backup and restore feature for WordPress websites. Unfortunately, if you choose Windows hosting, cPanel will not be available.
Free Website Migration
For new customers, Heart Internet now offers free website migrations with every Linux-based hosting plan. This isn’t just a WordPress plugin (which some hosts try to pass off as a free migration service) but a full migration conducted by experts. Heart Internet promises your migration will be completed within 48 hours with no downtime or disruption. I wasn’t able to test this out myself, so I can’t guarantee this claim is true.
You get one free migration on the Economy plan, three on the Deluxe and Ultimate plans, and five on the Maximum plan.
Ease of use
Beginner-Friendly Setup – But With a Rather Outdated Account Dashboard
I like a web host that makes the sign-up process as easy as possible. It didn’t take long to register my account, choose my product, and complete the payment process, and I didn’t encounter any major issues – until it came to installing WordPress.
I was not impressed by the account dashboard, though. After logging in, I began to wonder if I’d slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and landed back in the early 2000s, as the interface has a Windows XP vibe!
Choosing a Plan and Creating a New Account
There are four plans to choose from and you can compare the features at a glance to decide which one is right for you. There are separate pages on the Heart Internet website for cPanel and WordPress hosting plans, but there’s actually no difference between the two so don’t let that confuse you.
It doesn’t matter which page you’re on when you click on the big yellow BUY NOW button – the same product will be added to your cart in either case. Kind of misleading – but at least Heart Internet isn’t advertising its WordPress hosting as “managed hosting” when it’s clearly not (I’ve seen other hosts do that).
Managing Your Account
Heart Internet has its own bespoke account dashboard that is supposed to make it easy for you to manage your account. I’ve got to be honest – it should come with a user manual. I prefer a more intuitive interface that doesn’t require me to click half a dozen icons just to find the section I’m looking for. As such, I found Heart Internet’s account dashboard headache-inducing.
For example, in the account management area, there are icons titled Renew Services, Contacts & Billing Details, and Feedback. Click on Contacts & Billing Details and you’re presented with no less than 11 different icons, covering such things as security details, billing details, changing your password, viewing invoices, managing products, managing subscriptions, viewing personal data, and accessing your account PIN. It’s organized, for sure, but this does not make it easy to navigate!
There’s a simple button to access your cPanel (which is separate from your account management dashboard, thankfully), so there’s no need to worry about remembering cPanel login details.
The latest version of cPanel is incredibly easy to use and very beginner-friendly. There’s an “Action Center” with suggestions of things you need to do to get started. There’s also a really helpful “Getting started with WordPress” guide that’s really helpful if you’re new to it.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
In theory, the process of connecting a domain and installing WordPress should be simple and hassle-free. It wasn’t. This could have been a one-off problem that I encountered, but although I followed all the steps correctly, I still ran into difficulty. The issue was something to do with the domain name that I’d purchased at the same time as the hosting.
When I reached out to the support team, they were able to resolve the issue quickly, and I was then able to log in to my WordPress dashboard. The problem caused me a few hours’ delay, but I can’t fault the support team who did a great job of fixing the issue.
Mixed (but Decent) Results from My Performance Tests
When I’m testing web hosts, I’m mainly concerned about how quickly web pages load. I know there’s a lot more to performance than page loading speeds, but it’s a big issue that can cause visitors to abandon your website before it’s even loaded, which can negatively impact your ranking in search engine results.
I know you’re itching to know how I rate Heart Internet’s performance – so before I go into all the technical details, here’s a quick summary. I got mixed results from my performance tests, but in general, Heart Internet performed fairly well. It had an average page loading time of 0.9 seconds (one of the better speeds compared to other UK hosts I tested) and an uptime average of 99.95%.
Google recommends a page loading speed of under three seconds, but if a web page takes more than a second to load for me, I go back to the search results to look elsewhere. Heart Internet satisfied both me and Google, so its performance is definitely a strong point.
To test Heart Internet’s performance, I installed WordPress on the most basic cPanel/WordPress hosting plan and uploaded a customized SimpleShift one-page website theme. Some review sites tend to use a virtually blank website for their tests (essentially, the default WordPress installation), but the performance of an empty website tells you virtually nothing.
For accurate results about how your website might perform on Heart Internet, the customized theme I used has text and (non-optimized) HD images, as with any regular landing page website.
When I test web hosts, I use non-optimized images to give the support team an opportunity to perform some optimizations when I contact them to ask for advice. Spoiler alert: Heart Internet didn’t optimize anything!
My test website was online for almost four months – this was enough time to test performance at various intervals and measure overall reliability. I always take my website down once I’m done testing a host, so the host can’t go back and make additional optimizations to manipulate performance test results once the review is up. The website was available at www.autonomous-shoes-uk-l.co.uk.
I got mixed results with my performance tests. Results can vary when testing server setups with different tools, but in this case, the differences were greater than I’d expected. I used three different tools: GTmetrix, Sucuri Load Time Tester, and UptimeRobot.
Heart Internet claims to be cloud-based, so I was expecting faster speeds than from a regular shared hosting server. Heart Internet also claims that the hardware on its servers “has been cherry-picked to deliver superior reliability and performance” – but out of all the UK hosts I’ve tested, the results from GTmetrix tests show a level of performance that’s decent, but not the best.
As you can see from the screenshot below, the web page was fully loaded in 0.9 seconds. This result was the same each time I tested, which is a little unusual. 0.9 seconds is well within Google’s recommendation (but only just within my personal 1-second rule).
The PageSpeed Score tests how well-optimized a website is. Heart Internet’s PageSpeed Score rank is D, or 67%. For some context, the average website without optimization tends to get a rank of C, or 75% – and the best hosts I’ve tested tend to achieve a rank of B, or 88-89%.
Although I contacted Heart Internet about optimizations, nothing was done in response, so you’re on your own for improving things like the PageSpeed score. I’m fairly certain I could get the test site up to at least a B rank by using an optimization plugin for WordPress.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
When I tested the Heart Internet test website with the Sucuri Load Time Tester, I got much more promising results. A load time of 0.186 seconds is blazingly fast – and even the USA, Dallas location got an impressive page-load speed of 0.547 seconds. That means Heart Internet could work for you even if you’re serving an international audience.
Sucuri gave the test website for Heart Internet an A+ grade (quite understandably!), but I’m still a little unsure about why there are such huge differences between the Sucuri and GTmetrix tests. Some variation is expected, but in the Sucuri tests, the website loaded five times faster. To make sure it wasn’t a one-off, I repeated the tests, but the results were virtually identical.
Heart Internet, unlike many web hosts, doesn’t have an uptime guarantee for its shared cloud hosting plans. There is a 99.9% uptime guarantee for its VPS (virtual private server) plans, but for all other plans, you won’t get any compensation if your website experiences long periods of downtime.
I monitored my test website’s uptime over a period of three months, and it scored an average uptime of 99.95%. This is well above the 99.9% that is considered the minimum for a reliable web host. For context, 99.95% equals around 21 minutes of total downtime over the course of a month, while 99.9% is equal to around 43 minutes of total downtime.
Solid Support – But Live Chat Isn’t Always Available When It Says It Is
According to Heart Internet, you can access ticket support 24/7, and live chat support is available Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm (GMT/BST). That’s a fairly standard support offering for smaller hosts who don’t have the staff to be able to provide 24/7 live chat support.
To see if the support on offer from Heart Internet was consistent, I submitted a range of different support tickets and contacted live chat on different occasions. In most cases, the ticket support was good, with quick responses to my questions and fast resolution of any issues. The issue with installing WordPress, for example, was resolved within 75 minutes of me submitting the ticket. With some hosts, you may wait hours for a response or resolution.
Although the response time wasn’t the fastest, Heart Internet responded to my first ticket in a few minutes and to my follow-up question in less than 75 minutes.
I was particularly impressed with the step-by-step instructions provided in response to my question about installing a WordPress theme. Although it didn’t give me instructions on how to install a third-party theme from a .zip file, the detail in the response to this question was much better than I’ve received from some other hosts.
However, when I asked for help optimizing my site, I was a little disappointed to have been directed to an article on another website – and that it took an agent 40 minutes to find this article. No direct help was offered.
Finally, I engaged with live chat support to ask about support hours, about the changes to the hosting packages, and also to raise a question about my cancellation. I attempted to contact live chat support on three other occasions as well, but received a message indicating that it was offline, despite it having been well within the hours that it was supposed to be available. That was disappointing, as I usually prefer live chat.
Relatively High Prices for Basic Hosting
Okay, so Heart Internet does have somebudget-friendly hosting plans – but compared to other hosting providers (such as Hostinger, which has servers in the Netherlands and delivers great performance in the UK), its prices could be considered quite high.
That’s because of what isn’t included in Heart Internet’s basic plans, like free domain names and SSL certificates. Once you add those , alongside the 20% VAT at checkout, you’ll find that Heart Internet is much less affordable than it might have appeared.
You can pay monthly or annually for your hosting plan – there are sometimes discounts if you choose to pay annually. You can pay by any major credit card for monthly plans, and by card or direct debit (UK bank accounts only) for annual plans.
Heart Internet offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on its hosting plans. The money-back guarantee is on a “no-questions-asked” basis, too. Note that if you bought a domain name at the same time as your hosting, the cost of the domain name will not be refunded.
Cancelling Your Account
To test how easy it was to cancel a hosting account with Heart Internet, after completing all the performance tests I went through the cancellation process. Like most web hosts, there are several steps to take before cancellation is complete.
I spent some time locating the cancellation link, which was tucked away at the bottom of a long sidebar on the right side of the account dashboard. After finding it, I had to fill out a form to confirm my desire to cancel the hosting services.
What I liked about this form was its simplicity. All I had to do was check the boxes for the services I wanted to cancel, and submit the form. There was a field inviting me to explain why I wanted to cancel – but it wasn’t required, so I left it blank.
While the form states that upon submission you can consider your hosting plan to be cancelled, I had to respond to several messages from the customer support team before my account was fully discontinued. To see what would happen if I didn’t respond to one of the messages, I waited over a month to respond to the second message.
The form acknowledges that Heart Internet may contact you to discuss the cancellation, but it doesn’t make clear that if you don’t engage in the discussion, the process won’t continue. After the process had concluded, I contacted live chat support to find out exactly when my account had been cancelled. The support agent confirmed the account hadn’t been fully shut down.
Fortunately, I had removed my payment details from the account before initiating cancellation, so no charges were posted, but it’s disappointing to find that the process isn’t as smooth and straightforward as the cancellation form suggests.
Heart Internet is a decent host, but the lack of free domain names and free SSL certificates on its lower-priced plans makes it less budget-friendly than it may initially seem. Despite that, should you be putting it on your shortlist of potential hosts?I’ve got to be honest here. There are better hosts to choose from in the UK. Heart Internet’s services are average and its plans don’t really offer anything that makes it stand out. Its sister company tsoHost(they’re both part of the Host Europe Group, which is now owned by GoDaddy) is actually better value, as it includes a free domain name, though you’ll still have to fork out for an SSL certificate.
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!)