Although UK2 is one of the cheapest UK hosts for WordPress and shared hosting plans, its supposedly optimized WordPress hosting is a bit of a letdown. There are some good things, like free premium themes, but the poor performance is difficult to overlook.
Affordable Hosting, but with Some Performance Issues
One thing that makes UK2 stand amongst its UK-based competitors is that its data centres are actually in the UK. Surprisingly, not all UK hosts actually have servers in the UK, with many opting for data centres in Western European cities like Amsterdam and Strasbourg. UK2’s data centres are located in London, which should (in theory) mean faster page loading speeds for your visitors located anywhere within the UK mainland.
UK2 offers a range of different hosting options, including shared web hosting, optimized WordPress hosting, VPS (virtual private server) hosting, and dedicated hosting. It’s also a domain registrar, so you can get great deals on additional domain names for your website if you need them.
For this review, I signed up for UK2’s cheapest WordPress hosting plan (mainly to see if there’s actually any difference between it and “regular” shared hosting) and tested every aspect of it over several months. I’ve tested performance, chatted with support, and submitted support tickets so I can give you a genuine evaluation of what UK2 has to offer.
The TL;DR (although I really hope you’ll keep reading!) is that UK2 has some value-added features that make it stand out from the rest, but there are still some important aspects missing from its packages and its performance is not nearly as good as I’d hoped it would be.
For these reasons, It’s not one of my top recommendations, and I don’t believe it can compete with the giants of web hosting, like Hostinger or Liquid Web.
As I was working through my list of UK hosts to test for this series of reviews, I began to see a common trend. Certain features that the big names in hosting offer as standard aren’t included with these smaller UK-based hosts – and that’s a bit of a problem.
I’m talking about the lack of support for any of the free SSL options, like Let’s Encrypt and Comodo, and web hosting plans that don’t even include SSL certificates for the first year (on some plans).
UK2, unfortunately, has followed the lead of its competitors – an SSL certificate will more than double the cost of a year of the lowest-priced WordPress hosting plan at the introductory rate (and that’s including the 50% off for the first year on the SSL certificate.)
What I found really disappointing was that in the “SSL” section in the knowledge base, there’s instructions on how to install a self-signed SSL, but those instructions are for cPanel hosting… and UK2 no longer uses cPanel for its plans. Now, the only way to have an SSL on a WordPress plan is to buy one from UK2.
Another complaint I have about UK2’s WordPress hosting plans is that the storage on offer is woefully small. The Starter WordPress plan only gives you 5GB of SSD storage – and even the Pro plan caps your storage at 20GB. Compared to some other UK hosts, like tsoHost, for example, this is very small.
Admittedly, the “regular” web hosting plans come with unlimited website space – but if you want to benefit from the WordPress optimized servers and the bonuses you get with WordPress plans, then you’ll have to manage with a paltry amount of storage.
Don’t think that UK2 doesn’t have any good features to offer, though. The WordPress plans include bonuses like a free domain name (when you choose a 12- or 24-month plan), free optimized themes, Cloudflare CDN (content delivery network), automatic WordPress updates, and built-in security features. Let’s look at some of these features in more detail.
Up to 50 Premium, Optimized Themes
This is probably the biggest value-added feature UK2 has to offer. Each of the optimized themes available is sold on marketplaces at $39 – and they’re included free on Primary and Pro WordPress plans. The themes are also available when you choose the Starter plan, but you get the free or “lite” version rather than the pro version that comes with the Primary and Pro WordPress plans.
These themes are optimized to improve the performance of your website, with fast page loading speeds. They’re also really well designed and fully mobile-responsive.
Backups and Updates on All WordPress Plans
Although UK2 doesn’t advertise its WordPress plans as being “managed”, it actually includes features that other hosts only offer in their managed WordPress hosting plans. Full backups and updates are included with all WordPress plans.
With the automatic updates feature, your website will be updated when new WordPress versions are released, keeping your website safe from any security vulnerabilities.
Automatic Malware Removal
This is another feature that not many web hosts include on their budget plans – in most cases, you have to pay extra for a security add-on such as Site-Lock for malware removal. WordPress is more vulnerable to malware infections and a lot of web hosts will suspend your website once any malware is detected, until you’ve removed it (or paid to have it removed).
With the automatic malware removal feature, any malware is removed from the server before it even reaches your website, keeping your website secure and available, and giving you one less thing to worry about.
All UK2’s WordPress hosting plans come with easy setup for Cloudflare CDN, which is designed to improve the performance of your website. Cloudflare uses data centres around the world so that no matter where in the world your visitors are, your website should load quickly (I say should, because this isn’t always the case).
Cloudflare also includes extra optimization features such as auto minification, so that your website makes fewer requests from the server and enhanced protection against DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks.See full list of features
Ease of use
No 1-Click Setup or cPanel – but Still Not Bad for Beginners
I have mixed feelings about UK2 with regard to ease of use. Signing up is a straightforward process – and there’s even help to choose the right package for your needs, with no upselling involved. However, UK2 no longer uses cPanel and instead has its own control panel, which is much more basic. If you’re a beginner, then this may be a benefit – but as a long-time cPanel user, I found it a little frustrating!
Choosing a Plan and Creating a New Account
One thing I really like about UK2 is that its website is beginner-friendly. You don’t even need to know what type of hosting you need, as there’s a wizard on the homepage to help you decide. The wizard will suggest the best type of hosting for your needs – and it doesn’t try to force you to buy the more expensive options, either.
Managing Your Account and Using the Control Panel
As I mentioned, unlike the majority of hosts, UK2 doesn’t use cPanel for managing your web hosting. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes the vast array of icons in cPanel can be confusing, especially if you’re a beginner. UK2 uses a bespoke panel called CHI instead.
If you’re used to cPanel, the CHI control panel may take some getting used to. Instead of a dashboard full of icons, the icons are confined to the left-hand toolbar and lead to links to all the various products and services available. One thing I did like is the way that CHI makes it easy to identify which services you have: those icons are coloured white, while other products and service icons are shaded grey (as you can see in the screenshot below).
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
If you purchase a domain during signup, then it will be ready to use when you log in to the control panel. You just have to select it when you come to install WordPress.
With many hosts, you get access to a 1-click installer like Installatron or Softaculous – but UK2 takes a different approach. To be honest, I prefer the 1-click installers, but I still found UK2’s WordPress configuration wizard simple to use.
There are three steps to it, so it can take a little longer. In addition to choosing login details for your WordPress website, there’s the option in Step 2 to install any of the free premium themes that are included in the hosting plans.
One thing I did find frustrating was the length of time it took UK2 to actually set up my WordPress hosting once I’d completed the steps. After 15 minutes, I received an email to say it had been set up, but it still wasn’t showing in the “Your WordPress Hosting” section. I had to log out and log back in again for the section for managing my hosting to appear. Aside from that, I didn’t run into any issues.See if UK2 is Right for You
“Optimized” WordPress Hosting That Doesn’t Seem To Be Optimized
The more web hosts I review, the more I come to doubt their claims about optimized servers and fast page loading speeds. UK2’s WordPress hosting is advertised as “optimized” with “super-quick loading times” – but in reality, out of all the UK-based hosts I’ve tested, UK2 performed the worst.
I was actually shocked by UK2’s performance! Its page loading speed average was 2 seconds, but there were a couple of times it took more than 3.5 seconds to load my one-page website. With a different speed testing tool, the results were even worse (over 9 seconds). To put this in context, Google recommends a maximum page loading time of 3 seconds. UK2’s uptime was near-perfect, but that can’t make up for the slow speeds.
To test UK2’s performance, I signed up for the Starter WordPress hosting plan and used a customized SimpleShift one-page website theme – the same theme I use for all the web hosts I test. Some reviewers test performance based on a virtually blank website (i.e. the basic WordPress installation), but I don’t find that to be a useful benchmark at all.
To get the most accurate results, the customized theme I use has text, non-optimized HD images, and other basic elements you’d see on an average landing page. If you’re wondering why the images aren’t optimized, well, that’s so I can contact support about optimizing my website and then test the performance.
The test website was online for over three months, and was available at autonomous-shoes-uk-d.co.uk. I always take the website down after I’m done testing a host, so that if they find my review, they can’t manipulate the test results – by boosting the performance behind the scenes, for example.
I tested performance using three different tools: GTmetrix, Sucuri Load Time Tester, and Uptime Robot.
The GTmetrix tests that I performed showed disappointing results, with an average page loading time of 2 seconds (the fastest was 1.5 seconds and the longest was 3.6 seconds). Although this is within the 3-second page loading speed that Google recommends, it is almost three times slower than the fastest UK host I tested.
Personally, if I have to wait 2 seconds for a web page to load, I’m very likely to abandon the website and look elsewhere. Slow websites are really frustrating when you’re on mobile devices in particular, and considering that UK2’s hosting is supposedly optimized and includes Cloudflare CDN, a 2-second page loading time is not great at all.
As you can see in the screenshot below, even when the website loaded in 1.5 seconds, the TTFB (time to first byte) time was 1.0 seconds (which means it took a whole second for the server to send any data). Some UK-based hosts deliver a TTFB of 0.3 seconds, for context.
Although I contacted UK2 for optimization advice (as I’ll discuss in the support section), no advice was actually given.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
I also tested the website using the Sucuri Load Time Tester. This tool tests from a variety of locations around the world. As you can see in the screenshot below, the test results are poor. Sucuri was blocked (by UK2) from testing the website in the majority of locations, including the UK, so these test results aren’t particularly helpful.
However, considering that from a test server in France, the website took over 9 (!) seconds to load (and over 4 seconds for the first byte of data), these results are unequivocally the worst performance results out of all the UK hosts I’ve tested. France is closer to London than some UK locations (such as the North of England and Scotland), so a 9-second page loading time is utterly unacceptable!
Finally, I tested the reliability of UK2’s hosting (measured in terms of uptime). Like most web hosts, UK2 has a 99.9% uptime guarantee, with credits being issued for anything lower than 99.9% (up to 50% credit of your monthly fee if uptime falls below 96.99%).
In a startling turnaround (compared to its speed test results), UK2 actually had the best uptime results out of all the UK hosts, with a near-perfect 99.999% over three months. Unfortunately, this impressive uptime isn’t enough to mitigate the terrible speed results.
Support Is Available 24/7, but It’s Not Super Helpful
UK2 offers round-the-clock support via email/ticket and live chat. Many of the UK hosts I’ve tested only offer live chat during office hours, so I was impressed to find the 24/7 live chat support available with UK2. I even got up in the middle of the night to test that it really was available outside office hours – and it was!
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. Although UK2 is based in London, it seems to have outsourced its support to countries where labour costs are cheaper, so don’t expect native-level English speakers to be on the other end of the live chat or email.
Ticket SupportI contacted UK2 on several occasions to ask for help with installing WordPress, adding my custom theme, and for optimization advice. Although the response time was fairly good at first, sometimes it took over 36 hours to get a response, and the responses weren’t always very helpful, either.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the support agent directed me to an article that was supposed to have step-by-step instructions for installing WordPress. Unfortunately, these instructions were for cPanel, which UK2 no longer uses, so they were absolutely useless.
So, I reached out to support again – at 10pm on a Sunday. I didn’t get a response until Tuesday morning.
It’s also worth noting that when you view the ticket responses in your control panel, the links aren’t clickable; you have to copy and paste them into your browser. Not a big deal, but still a little frustrating. This time, the response I got didn’t actually tell me what to do (although the three-step process I mentioned earlier is pretty self-explanatory).
Next, I asked about the theme installation. The response was fast, within ten minutes, but, again, sending me to a link that isn’t clickable isn’t great. Other UK hosts gave me detailed step-by-step instructions in the support ticket.
In my final ticket exchange, I asked about WordPress optimization. The response was… confusing. I didn’t ask about how to test my website’s performance, but the only recommendation was to test the performance. Personally, if I was UK2, I wouldn’t be recommending customers to do that (since it’s so bad). But either way, this response certainly didn’t help me with optimization!
Live ChatWhen I tried UK2’s live chat support, I never had to wait long to be connected, but I certainly wasn’t impressed by the agent’s knowledge. In the exchange below, I asked about the control panel for WordPress plans, and the response I got showed that the agent knew nothing about the hosting plans.
Remarkably, I’d asked the same question previously, and (allegedly) the same agent seemed to have the right answer. That made me suspect that “Amber K” is a generic name used by any number of support agents.
And on another occasion, a (nameless) support agent admitted to not being sure about the refund policy, despite there being information on the 30-day money-back guarantee on the website.
Cheap Hosting That Could Cost You More Than You Think
UK2’s hosting plans are some of the cheapest out of all the UK hosts that I’ve tested – but only if you pay upfront for one or two years. However, when you add in the price of an SSL certificate, the WordPress plans, in particular, start to become less affordable. If you choose to pay monthly, you’ll also have to pay for your domain name.
Another thing to note with UK2 is that renewal prices are significantly higher than the introductory rates, so you may see the costs more than doubling or even tripling on some plans (and that’s without the ongoing cost of your SSL certificates).
UK2 does have a range of payment methods available, including all major credit and debit cards, PayPal, and Direct Debit. You can pay monthly, annually, or every two years – but check the amount at checkout as VAT is not included in the advertised prices.
Like with most web hosts, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee (not applicable for monthly plans, unfortunately). It can take up to another 30 days for your refund to be processed, however.
Cancelling Your Account
UK2 has no easy cancellation form (which is my preferred method of cancelling an account). Instead, you have to either raise a support ticket from your CHI control panel or use live chat to request a cancellation. I’ve tried both methods, and I recommend you use live chat for the fastest resolution!
When I used the live chat, the whole process only took five minutes to complete, and the support agent cancelled the auto-renewal on the domain name, too! This was probably my best experience with UK2’s live chat support (which is a little ironic).
To test out the cancellation and refund process, I signed up for another account (using a different email address) and requested a refund a few days later. This time I used the ticket system. It’s not as quick and I had to reply to the support agent to confirm the cancellation, but overall it wasn’t a difficult process. I got a response within an hour of making the request.
Although UK2 offers some great features, it was let down by its performance. That’s a shame, since the free premium themes that are included add value to its plans. If I’m totally honest, I can’t really recommend UK2 hosting (not even for a small blog), as it was easily the worst performing UK host out of all I’ve tested.
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.
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!)