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iiNet promises rock-solid business web hosting, but after months of testing its services, I’d have to disagree. Basic features, average performance, and a poor user experience make me think that ‘underwhelming’ would be a better description.
When it comes to hosting, Australians usually get the short end of the stick — ridiculously long loading times prevent us from using the thousands of European and American services available today. Instead, we’re forced to choose between the few local Australian companies, or to go with a host operating from South-East Asia.
With less competition, these hosts lack incentives to improve. More often than not, it leads to them offering subpar experiences for premium prices, counting on the fact that you simply have no other option.
Enter iiNet, which promises to not only deliver high-end hosting solutions, but to be the rock-solid foundation upon which you will build your website. Its services include, among others, cloud, VPS, and shared hosting plans.
I set up a real website with iiNet so I could check it out for myself. Specifically, I signed on to iiNet’s Web Hosting 1 plan and thoroughly tested it for months.
My conclusion? A bit different from what iiNet would have led you to believe. Well, maybe we just have very different ideas about what rock-solid actually means. Don’t be fooled by the marketing. Read my full review to understand what you’re going to get.
Dry facts first: with iiNet, you’ll be able to choose between cloud, VPS, and shared hosting on Linux or Windows. I went with the basic shared Linux plan, and sure was disappointed with what I found. The company’s website advertises a very short list of “features”, and unfortunately, that short list is complete.
My “Web Hosting 1” plan included 10GB disk space, 100GB monthly bandwidth, 100MB space for my database, and a maximum of two databases.
The 10GB disk space is much more generous than Relentless Hosting’s Tin plan, which only offers 1GB. Despite this, iiNet isn’t piling on the goodies here; even the most expensive shared hosting plan is barely enough for two websites, with just 20GB of storage and 200MB for your database.
What else will you get on these Linux plans? Well, one-click installers for CMSs like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, so you can get your site set up quickly using those. There’s no website builder available, however. No Weebly for you!
You’ll also have full support for Perl, CGI, and MySQL 5. You can choose the version of PHP on your account using a simple drop-down list in the control panel.
Let’s go into some more detail.
SSL provides a basic level of security for your website, and therefore some reassurance for visitors. It offers a potential ranking boost in search results, and it’ll prevent the visitor’s browser from displaying a warning that your site isn’t secure.
However, free SSL is not included. You can buy a certificate and apply it easily to your site in Odin, but it’s a real shame that it costs extra.
You can see here that shared SSL is ‘enabled’, but it’s not enabled on my main domain name. It’s applied to the temporary domain assigned to my site. You’ll still need to buy an SSL certificate separately and install it here for your site to show the little padlock icon.
Should you have to pay extra for SSL? No. Most hosts provide a basic SSL certificate for free. This is a misleading screen that could easily lull you into a false sense of security.
While it’s not uncommon, I was happy to see that iiNet will migrate any websites you might have hosted with other companies – for free.
This is a great offer, and it’s much better than most hosts’ migration services. iiNet is saying it will migrate you from any control panel for free. So it’ll do the tedious, manual work when transferring your data to the Odin panel that iiNet uses. I certainly wouldn’t want to waste a weekend doing this myself, so kudos to them.
Each plan is limited to two manual backups. In my view, this is a crazy limitation. Why does iiNet feel that backups are not important? With competitors like Relentless Hosting offering daily backups, iiNet’s ‘rock-solid’ promise sounds less and less believable.
On the plus side, backups are easy to create and restore. There’s a wizard that handles it all for you, and I found the process was quick and simple. You can’t restore a single file, though, so if you’ve accidentally deleted the wrong file in your WordPress theme, you’re out of luck. It’s all or nothing.
This is not a great user experience. You’ll need to purchase a third party backup service if you want to automate the backup process and be fully protected.See full list of features
Ease of use
It Can and Should Be Easier
Minimum fuss is all I’m looking for. If you make it easy for me to manage and administer my account, I’m a happy camper. Sadly, iiNet’s approach is better described as extra fuss added for fuss’ sake. From the problematic signup process to Odin, a hosting control panel that is best described as “meh”, using iiNet was never as easy as I wanted it to be.
Let’s go over the entire thing, from signing up to getting WordPress going.
iiNet has a customer ‘Toolbox’ (for billing and tickets). The hosting login is separate from that Toolbox section. In theory, you should be able to hop directly from the Toolbox to the Odin panel with a click, but it never worked that way for me.
Odin has a separate username and password, so this just added an extra bit of hassle to the management. It should really be smoother than this.
Creating an Account and Connecting a Domain
To find the hosting section, you’ll have to head to the Business section of the iiNet website, and then click Websites. Click Sign Up under the plan you want to buy.
You will need to enter a domain you own, or add a new domain to your cart, then check out. Again, the whole process is defined by unnecessary extra clicks.
You’ll find the WordPress one-click installer under the Site Applications menu in the Odin control panel.
Personally, I think this one-click installer is less intuitive than the popular Installatron or Softaculous tools, which Australian hosts like VentraIPdo offer. This screen, for example, is right at the beginning of the WordPress one-click install process. It has the potential to trip up a novice user, because there’s no guidance here at all.
After you click Next on the screen above, the installer works fine: select the options you need and then the installer sets up your website.
Average Speeds, but at Least the Uptime Was Consistent
So far, features and ease of use have been a mixed bag. I didn’t know what to expect from the performance tests. Some hosts aren’t the most accessible, but they compensate for that with great speed, so I can live with it. Then again, a host that is slow just makes other issues more difficult to live with.
For three months, I ran speed and uptime tests on my site at iiNet, using GTmetrix, the Sucuri Load Time Tester, and UptimeRobot
To be fair to the host, I gave them the chance to suggest ways I could optimize my site before I ran the tests. iiNet didn’t provide any specific links or help, so I tested the website without any optimisation.
The site was autonomous-shoes-australia-m.com, and I used the testing methods in this article. I took the website down because I didn’t want the host to manipulate the performance of the site now the tests are done. I’ve taken screenshots of everything so you can see the outcome for yourself.
First up, I ran speed tests on my site using GTmetrix. I used a test server in Sydney so I could closely imitate the experience of an Australian customer visiting my website.
iiNet is one of the slowest Australian hosts I tested, with loading speeds ranging from 1.5s to 3.7s over nine tests. That’s a lot of potential customers who will click away to load something faster on their screens, such as an actual, literal snail.
To put that in context, the site took about twice the time to load as my identical site on Crazy Domains. But the speeds are still better overall than the site I set up at NetRegistry.
On the plus side, there is clearly some compression being applied, since my homepage here is under 1MB, when the actual size was closer to 1.4MB.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
Sucuri tests loading speeds from different data centres around the world, and I used them all. Overall, iiNet loading times were pretty good from Asia.
Again, I ran the test nine times; the screenshot below shows a typical result. Singapore was by far the fastest data centre to respond, with the best result coming in at just over 0.9 seconds:
Loading speeds from Brazil, the UK, and some locations in the USA were slow. Above, you can see that the London data centre took four times as long as Singapore to load my site.
The slowest speed I noted across all nine tests was Atlanta, at 4.9 seconds.
Expecting great global scores from a small Aussie host is a big ask; I wouldn’t lose any sleep over these speeds if your core audience is in Australia. But at least you know the score now, so you can always use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to bring those global speeds down a little.
I definitely can’t fault iiNet on uptime. Check it out: a straight 100% over 30 days. That’s impressive by any standard, and most hosts will only guarantee 99.9% uptime.
The Tech Support is Okay – the Knowledge Base Stinks
iiNet provides in-person tech support by phone, ticket, and email, but sadly, support is not 24/7. You can contact someone between 8am and 8pm AEST on weekdays, or 8.30am-5pm AEST on weekends. If your site goes down outside those hours, you’ll just have to wait.
When I worked out how to send a ticket (which was a bit of a feat in itself), I got a callback to talk me through the answer, which was superb.
I tested the email response time by submitting a query in writing. This was a pre-sales question, and it was answered within seven hours, which is not too shabby.
All ticket responses were friendly, concise, and accurate. Here’s the response to a technical support query about installing WordPress. The quality of English is great here, and the answer is clear.
I also asked about optimisation. This resulted in a less helpful answer; there are no specific tips here for me to get my teeth into.
There is one final thing I have to mention. iiNet’s knowledgebase is a mess. Some of the articles are repeated three times with different branding. And there is a section titled Web Hosting, but it just links to a domain name FAQ. iiNet, you really need to fix this.
iiNet is Expensive Compared to Other Aussie Hosts
The Web Hosting 1 plan is poor value. The ‘3’ plan is slightly better value when you compare the resources you get. But iiNet isn’t going to win any prizes for its pricing. And even if the prices were lower, the hosting plans are too bare bones to really be worth it.
There’s no trial period or money-back guarantee, and no refunds once you’re under contract. You also won’t get a free domain. Worse, the terms and conditions for hosting are basically non-existent, so be careful not to get sucked into a potentially messy legal situation.
iiNet Cancellation is… Sort of There?
There’s a Subscriptions page in the control panel that will, supposedly, allow you to quickly cancel your hosting. It automatically calculated a refund for me. Everything was looking great. But at the last moment, it complained that I’d entered an invalid email address.
Um.. but I wasn’t asked to type one in.
In the end, I went back to the other control panel – the Toolbox – and sent a ticket from there.
iiNet, here’s an idea: if your cancellation form doesn’t work, just remove it and save us the hassle.
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I don’t think hosting is a primary service at iiNet.
The prices are just too high considering how basic the plan features are, and how difficult it is to actually manage the hosting. Performance was underwhelming too. Rock-solid? No, I really don’t think so.
In its favour, tech support is super-attentive, so this might be a good host for the beginner. But – agh – the support department isn’t open 24 hours a day. There’s always a drawback.
If you’re already an iiNet customer and you want hosting for a side project, you might find iiNet to be convenient. But I would urge you to compare pricing with Relentless Hosting first, because you might find that it gives you everything you need much for a much lower price.
Alternatively, if your target audience isn’t based solely in Australia, you’re going to be much better off with an international host, like Hostinger or Liquid Web.
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.
Based in Melbourne, Jack is a long-time web developer and WordPress enthusiast, always interested not only in how things work, but how he can make them work better. You'll typically find him glued to his computer screen at all hours of the day and night, but he does go outside every once in a while - mainly to play squash or do some surfing (or at least pretend to).