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Irish Domains advertises its hosting packages as “cloud hosting,” implying super-fast page loading speeds, but when I tested it, its performance was decidedly average. Affordability is its most attractive feature, as it’s a no-frills hosting provider that gives you most of the features you need at a budget-friendly price.
Since there are few international hosting companies that actually have data centres in Ireland, it makes sense to look to smaller, local companies like Irish Domains if your website visitors are mainly located in this region. But can Irish Domains compete with its international rivals on performance, features, and customer service? That’s what I set out to discover when I began testing this provider for myself.
My experience was very mixed. It was incredibly reliable with regards to uptime, and its performance was okay – but there were some things I really didn’t like and you should know about them before you sign up.
Irish Domains has a single data centre, located in Dublin, and offers shared and cloud VPS hosting. It’s worth noting that its shared hosting plans are advertised as “cloud hosting,” but this isn’t strictly true. I’ll explain more about this in the features section below.
Compared to the competition (both international and Irish), Irish Domains provides a fairly basic service. It’s very much a no-frills host that can give you most of the essential features for getting your website online. Not everything is included in the plan prices, however, so you may end up racking up some extra costs.
For this review, I purchased the Cloud SOHO plan (the lowest-priced option) and spent over three months running performance tests, checking out features, and engaging with the support team, to give you a full report about what hosting with Irish Domains is actually like.
If I had to summarise my experience, I’d tell you Irish Domains isn’t terrible to host with, nor is it particularly great. It’s an average host, with average features, that will allow you to get your website online – but there are definitely other options that may better suit your needs. Before you make any final decisions, you should check out Hostinger’s latest deals.
Cloud Hosting That Isn’t Really Cloud-Based at All
Irish Domains is not the only web hosting company that describes the use of the CloudLinux OS (operating system) on its servers as “cloud hosting” – but it’s still misleading! You think you’re getting cloud infrastructure when it’s only slightly-better-performing shared hosting.There are benefits to CloudLinux (which I’ll explain below) but it is vastly different from actual cloud hosting.
Alright, now I’ve got that little rant out of the way, let’s take a look at what you do (and don’t) get with your hosting package. First of all, like a lot of low-cost hosts, Irish Domains isn’t very generous with storage and bandwidth. Even the top-specCloud Developer hosting planonly comes with 50GB of SSD storage and 500GB of bandwidth per month.
In addition to your webspace, Irish Domains gives you POP3/IMAP/SMTP mailboxes (the number depends on your plan) with basic spam filtering. There’s also a 1-click installer for adding apps like WordPress and Joomla to your webspace.
Those features cover most of what you need to run a website, but there are some notable items missing. First, there’s no free domain name, so unless you already have one, you’ll need to factor in the additional cost of domain registration. Second, there’s no backup service included (nor is there an option to add backups to your package), which means you’ll have to take manual backups yourself.
Finally, while Irish Domains’ hosting plans have “SSL capability,” SSL certificates are not included and the host doesn’t support the use of free SSLs from Let’s Encrypt. A few years ago, that wouldn’t have mattered, but now SSL certificates are vital. Without an SSL certificate, your visitors will see that ominous “not secure” warning in their browsers, and may be reluctant to enter their details into a contact form, or make a purchase.
The cost of adding an SSL certificate to your website is not budget-friendly. In fact, a one-year SSL certificate can cost you more than double the cost of a year’s hosting on the Cloud SOHO plan.
CloudLinux OS Servers
Even though it’s not technically cloud hosting, CloudLinux offers some benefits that are worth mentioning. The greatest of these is the security it provides by “caging” or isolating your webspace from other users on the same server, protecting against the spread of malware infections.
CloudLinux also creates virtual partitions for every user, which means that you’d never be affected by another site’s use of bandwidth or processing power. You’d have your own share of guaranteed resources, as would all other users on the same server.
CloudLinux also improves the performance of your website, resulting in faster page loading speeds for your visitors.
Irish Domains gives you the convenient option to have WordPress pre-installed when you sign up. You can still choose to do it yourself, but having WordPress already up and running when you log into your Irish Domains account does save some time. Plus, because Irish Domains are handling it, you can be sure of an error-free installation.
Host Up to 50 Websites
Being able to host multiple sites on a single plan is a good thing, and I was pleased to see that Irish Domains allows this on all plans, even the entry-level option.
The number of websites you can host on a single plan ranges from 5 to 50 – although with the storage and bandwidth restrictions, I wouldn’t recommend hosting the maximum number on any of the plans. Running a few small sites is possible on the entry-level plan, but you’ll need to monitor your space and bandwidth usage to avoid being charged for extra resources.
Parallels Web Presence Builder
If WordPress isn’t your thing, there’s an alternative for getting a professional-looking website up quickly. The included Parallels Web Presence Builder offers templates designed by web developers, and will create and pre-populate web pages according to the website category you choose. It then gives you the option to customize all aspects of the site. It may not be as slick and feature-packed as the likes of Wix or Squarespace, but it’s very simple to use.
No cPanel or Plesk – But the Alternative is (Mostly) Beginner-Friendly
Getting started with Irish Domains is straightforward – choose your plan, sign up, complete checkout, and log in. I was pleasantly surprised that there weren’t any attempts to upsell during checkout – though that’s more to do with the distinct lack of add-on features available.
Managing Your Account
Unlike many hosts that offer an account dashboard with a completely separate control panel to manage your hosting options, Irish Domains uses a single control panel for both. It’s called the Odin Panel, and it uses a tabbed interface to navigate to the various sections. You can see how it looks in the screenshot above.
It’s very easy to navigate and use. Unlike cPanel, there isn’t an overwhelming number of icons. Although it doesn’t have the modern look that cPanel and Plesk have, it’s functional and beginner-friendly. There’s a separate Applications tab for quick 1-click installation of a range of apps, such as WordPress (if you decide to install it yourself).
Connecting Your Domain to Hosting Space
Unless you opt for the pre-installation of WordPress, there’s one unusual aspect of setting up hosting space with Irish Domains that I wasn’t keen on. You have to change the hosting type for your domain name from “Parking” to “Website (Apache)”. Until you do this, you can’t install applications.
Admittedly, this process only takes a couple of minutes, but it felt like an unnecessary extra step – and the Are you sure you want to do this? type popups are a nuisance. Having had to reach out to customer support at this stage kind of spoiled the beginner-friendly vibe.
Adequate Page Loading Speeds – But Uptime is Excellent
It seems like every web host in existence claims to offer the best speeds – but in an unfortunately high number of cases, those claims are far from the truth. Irish Domains promises “Fast, Powerful SSD based Web Hosting,” which, to someone who tests web hosts for a living, is a bit like showing a red rag to a bull. In the face of such a claim, I simply had to find out the truth – so I put Irish Domains through months of performance testing.
I’ll be getting into the gritty details of Irish Domains’ performance in a moment, but first, here’s a quick summary. In my tests, Irish Domains delivered an underwhelming average page loading speed of 1.8 seconds. While that might satisfy Google, I’ve been testing hosts with page loading speeds more than three times faster.
Its reliability (uptime), however, was very impressive. In fact, Irish Domains is one of the most reliable Irish hosting providers, with a close-to-perfect score of 99.999%. That’s less than a minute of downtime in a month.
To test Irish Domains’ performance, I installed WordPress on the Cloud SOHO plan and installed a customized SimpleShift one-page website theme. It’s designed to look and behave like a landing page because, unlike some review sites, I want to know how Irish Domains performs with a regular website, not a blank WordPress installation!
To get accurate results, the theme I use has text and non-optimized HD images. Yes, I said non-optimized images. Why? Isn’t that setting a host up to fail? Actually, no. I use non-optimized images to give the host a chance to offer optimization advice when I ask. Spoiler alert: Irish Domains didn’t help! If you want the full details of how we test web hosting companies at Website Planet, you can check out this article.
The test website was online for over three months and was available at autonomous-shoes-ireland-e.com (as you can see in the screenshot below).
GTmetrix is my absolute favourite tool for evaluating website performance because it doesn’t just give you the page loading speeds. There’s a lot of other data included, giving a more comprehensive picture of server performance.
As I mentioned above, Irish Domains scored an average page loading speed of 1.8 seconds. The fastest speed it achieved was 1.6 seconds and the slowest was 2.3 seconds. To put those speeds into context, Google recommends a maximum page loading time of three seconds. Irish Domains falls within those parameters, but compared to some of its competitors, its speeds aren’t particularly impressive.
The next figures I focus on when using GTmetrix are the PageSpeed and YSlow scores. These are more about optimization than they are about speed, highlighting all the issues affecting a website’s performance. The average PageSpeed score for websites is around 76% (a C grade).
Irish Domains lags behind the average with a score of 67%. This exposes the bare-bones nature of its hosting plans. There are no enhancements included, the servers aren’t optimized for WordPress, and there’s no support for a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to boost performance, either.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
I use Sucuri Load Time Tester to see how a website performs worldwide. The nature of the internet is such that you must expect at least some international visitors. Unfortunately, the results from Sucuri reveal subpar performance when tested from anywhere other than the UK. All other locations took more than three seconds to load, resulting in Irish Domains being awarded a performance grade of F.
There’s not much I can say about Irish Domain’s uptime, other than to applaud the host for its reliability. If only it could have an exceptional set of page loading speeds, too! It’s worth noting that Irish Domains doesn’t advertise any kind of uptime guarantee, but with scores like this, it might not need one.
No 24/7 Support – and Response Times Could Be Better
There’s always the chance that something will go wrong with your webspace, and you can almost guarantee that it will be at the most inconvenient time possible. Unfortunately, with Irish Domains, if your website encounters issues outside of office hours (Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm), you’ll struggle to get help. There is an out-of-hours support email that you can contact, but only for “emergencies” – and even so, you can expect to wait around four hours for a response.
There’s no live chat, so you’ll have to stick with ticket or telephone support. There is, of course, a knowledge base with articles and instructions for the most common problems.
I contacted the support team on a couple of occasions. The first time was to ask how to install WordPress, a routine enquiry that I ask all hosts in order to evaluate their responses. Having submitted the ticket outside of office hours, I had to wait over seven hours for a reply. While the response I got wasn’t the worst I’ve received, it consisted only of a few links to articles in the knowledge base, and no mention of having to change the hosting type for my domain from “Parked” to “Website (Apache)” in order to complete the WordPress installation.
My problem with the hosting type change was the subject of my second support request. I was somewhat frustrated at this point because the previous support agent hadn’t mentioned this step. As I submitted the ticket during office hours, I received a response in less than two hours. This time the support agent gave me step-by-step instructions.
Overall, Irish Domains’ support was inconsistent. The lack of real out-of-hours support may not be an issue if you’re experienced or happy to try to resolve problems yourself, but if you’re a beginner, this could be frustrating.
Affordable Hosting – Until You Add SSL
Irish Domains’ prices are intended to be affordable, and even the most expensive hosting plan is relatively budget-friendly. At least, it is for the first term, when you get a 50% discount – after your initial term is up, your plan will automatically renew at the full price. It’s not unusual for there to be price increases on renewal, but I prefer to recommend hosts that don’t employ this tactic.
You can choose to pay monthly, or pay upfront for one, two or three years. All major credit cards are accepted. Considering the jump in price on renewal, it may seem like a good idea to subscribe for the longest period you can afford, but then you risk being stuck with what might turn out to be a substandard hosting plan for a long time.
There are a couple of things to watch out for. As I already mentioned, SSL certificates will cost you extra. And, unlike some hosts, Irish Domains doesn’t have any low-cost options. Your SSL from Irish Domains will cost you more than the annual cost of your hosting plan in the first year if you opt for either the Cloud SOHO or Cloud Starter packages.
Another thing you need to factor into your hosting budget is the cost of your domain. Irish Domains may offer deals on domain names, but the price you pay depends on the extension you choose. Don’t forget that VAT is not included in the advertised prices – it’s added at checkout.
Unlike many hosts, Irish Domains doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. You can request a refund in the first 14 days of your plan under Irish Distance Selling regulations, however.
Cancelling Your Account
There’s a simple cancellation wizard in the Odin Panel that makes cancelling your account a really simple process. It only takes a few minutes – and I even got a (very small) refund, which I wasn’t expecting.
Although Irish Domains is one of the most reliable hosting providers I’ve tested, it’s not one of my top recommendations. Because of the added cost of an SSL certificate, you’ll end up paying more for basic hosting than it’s worth. There are no big problems with Irish Domains, it just falls short of the standards I expect from hosting providers. You’d get better value (and performance) from an international host like Hostinger (and the costs are lower, too).
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!)