Is It Too Good to Be True?
SmarterASP.NET has been providing ASP.net and Linux-based hosting to small and medium-size business since 1999. Based in California and hosting close to 400,000 websites, it’s a tiny speck of a company compared to the other Silicon Valley giants of the hosting world.
At Website Planet, we’re a fond advocate of the underdog, so that certainly doesn’t put us off. Quite the opposite. It’s often the smaller companies that value their customers and offer way more value for your money.
The SmarterASP.NET website and support are available in American English; however, with both European and U.S. data centers, it appears to cater to a global customer base.
While you’d be forgiven for thinking this company only sold ASP.net hosting, surprisingly it also sells Linux cPanel plans, reseller, and virtual private server (VPS) packages.
One thing SmarterASP.NET’s website does well is urge you to sign up risk-free. For instance, not only is there a 60-day free trial, there’s also a 60-day money-back guarantee.
But before you go running for the nearest cash machine, these incentives are not as good as they seem at first. Read on to find out why you need to read the fine print before signing up with SmarterASP.NET.
ASP.net First, Linux Second
SmarterASP.NET has been around for a while, so it has a handle on all the usual features you need to run a successful website. The plans include a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate (for plans two years and longer), automatic data backups (though not for the cheapest plan), antivirus and antispam protection, and a built-in content delivery network (CDN).
However, there is no website builder, and the one-click installer comes with a rather paltry “over 30 apps” (I tried to confirm with live chat, but the exact number of apps was unknown). Many companies provide 200–400. At least it’s good to see all the popular applications like WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal are included.
In-House Control Panel
If you opt for the Linux plan, it comes with cPanel access; however, the ASP.net plans all come with a proprietary “hand-rolled control panel.” There are pros and cons to this approach, and it certainly depends on your needs. But custom control panels can mean the company builds a solution to meets the exact needs of its customers, instead of sticking within the confines of an ready-made solution.
SSD Storage & RAID Configuration
If speed’s important to you, you’ll be pleased to know there are a couple of performance and reliability-enhancing features included in all of the plans. SSD storage for disk read/write speeds up to ten times faster is included, as is RAID configuration in the shared hosting plans to mitigate the risk of data loss.
Features for Developers
All of the Linux plans come with the usual phpMyAdmin and support for PHP (up to version 7.2), as well as some bonus extras in the upper-tier plans. Cron jobs and SSH access are supported, as well as Python, Perl, and Git. Just be sure to check which plan includes which features, as you’ll likely need to upgrade to benefit from them all.
Most companies focus on Linux hosting, so it’s refreshing to see a company that has been specializing in ASP for such a long time. According to its website, the team is made up of self-proclaimed “tech veterans, geeks, and nerds,” with nine out of ten of the top-level support team having a university degree in computer science or networking.
Ease of use
A Confusing Website Doesn’t Help
The SmarterASP.NET website is quite confusing as it refers to a free trial for the Linux plans, but that’s no longer an option.
However, once you’ve purchased your plan and have accessed the cPanel (for Linux plans), it’s easy to use SmarterASP.NET. Plus, with the ever-present live chat window, it’s easy to get support when you need it.
Create an Account
The process to create an account was quite buggy. I had to do it several times and also contact customer service (who were great) throughout the process.
Turns out the 60-day free trial advertised on the Linux plans is only available for Windows customers, so however many times you try to sign up (like me), it won’t work—you need to pay. If this all sounds a little odd, head over to this guide to learn more about my experience.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
Thanks to the combination of Softaculous and cPanel, the setup of my WordPress website was simple and straightforward. It only took a few minutes and, if you’ve had experience with hosting before, it follows the standard process you’ll be used to. Beginners should also be able to pick it up quickly. Click here to learn more.
Free Temporary Domain
If you’re testing out the Windows plans on the free trial, you can also take advantage of a free temporary domain. This means you don’t need to purchase a domain or transfer one over while you’re in the free trial period. When you’re ready to purchase a plan, the domains are well-priced too.
Instant ASP.net Setup
It’s standard for Linux hosting to be set up instantly, but that’s not always the case with ASP.net. So it’s a refreshing change to see that offered by SmarterASP.NET. A slight hiccup: my setup was delayed by the domain verification process (by about six hours). However, as that was on a Linux setup, I can’t comment whether it will be the same on ASP.net.
SmarterASP.NET is at the lower end of the market in terms of price point, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it only offers an industry-standard 99.9% uptime guarantee, and not 99.99% or above like some more premium hosts.
Having said that, I scoured the web looking for customer reviews on performance (speed) and downtime issues. I was pleased to see most customers are happy with most of these aspects of SmarterASP.NET, with sentiments like “great support, speed, and easy navigation” echoed.
Of course, not one to take other people’s word for it, I ran a test of my own. I put my own WordPress website hosted on SmarterASP.NET through a Sucuri page load test to find out the results.
As you can see below, the results are almost all positive, with connection speeds as quick as 11 milliseconds in Los Angeles. The “worst” (I say that loosely as the results are still great) speeds were found in India and Singapore, at around about 500 milliseconds.
Good Tech Support, Questionable Sales Support
Support with SmarterASP.NET is handled via a comprehensive knowledge base and also a selection of ways to get in touch—you can contact the team via email, phone, live chat, or support ticket.
To get a feel for the support provided, I tested each of the channels. The live chat agent picked up immediately every time I needed assistance and helped me politely. As I did get stuck a few times during the account creation process, this was a lifesaver.
I had an equally good experience with ticket-based support. I submitted a support ticket during the account creation process and received a response within about 30 minutes, resolving my question in full.
I had less luck with an email to the sales department. I sent a basic question to the sales email address (asking: where are your servers) and despite waiting 48 hours for a response…crickets. Oh well, at least my support requests were handled in a timely manner.
Bear with me, there’s a lot to discuss regarding pricing. The website does a great job of minimizing the risk of signing up—there’s a 60-day free trial and a 60-day money-back guarantee, depending on which plan you opt for. But don’t take them at face value.
60-Day Free Trial
Although the website clearly advertises a 60-day free trial on both its Linux and Windows plans, if you try to sign up for a free trial of the Linux plan (like me), you’ll end up in a never-ending circle of glitches. In a nutshell, the free trial is no longer available for Linux, only Windows.
60-Day Money-Back Guarantee
After my debacle with the free trial, I was advised to purchase the Linux plan, as it came with a 60-day money-back guarantee. Perhaps I’m naive, but I assumed this would mean if I canceled within 60 days, I’d get all of my money back. I didn’t, and you can read more about that here.
Pricing & Payment Terms
Now that the bad parts are out of the way, let’s move on to the good stuff. The prices are cheap, and you can purchase plans in terms ranging from three months to three years, with discounts applied for purchasing longer terms up front. Also, you can pay via PayPal using your credit or debit card of choice.
Cancellations & Refunds
Canceling was easy, but it wasn’t particularly pleasurable. The process was quite sales-focused, and I did feel pressured to stay. After a series of emails offering me reasons to stay, I finally received a refund, but it wasn’t the full amount. Read more about that here.