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Webnames advertises itself as being fast, flexible, and secure, but its main selling point is the range of features included with its affordable WordPress hosting plans. I tested it to see if it really is as great as it seems. Its performance was pretty good, but my experience with its support was not stellar, and you have to watch out for the steep renewal fees.
Affordable, Fast Web Hosting – but It Can’t Be Perfect, Right?
Webnames’ web hosting services seem to provide great value for money.There’s a lot to like about Webnames, but I’m always suspicious when a host seems to tick all the right boxes and offers low prices. When something seems too good to be true, there’s often a catch, and there are a few catches with Webnames.
Webnames offers a range of hosting types including shared hosting, WordPress hosting, and Website Builder hosting. It doesn’t, however, offer VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server hosting, making it more suited to small-to-medium-sized businesses and personal users.
Webnames’ data center is based in Vancouver, BC. The benefit of Canadian data centers should be that your Canadian website visitors benefit from faster page loading speeds. My performance tests below reveal whether this is the case here.
To give you an in-depth look at what it’s really like to host with Webnames, I conducted a very hands-on test. I signed up for the low-cost WordPress Value plan, used various features, evaluated ease of use, ran extensive performance tests, contacted support, and went through the cancellation process. Four out of these five areas were pretty great – but keep reading to the end to find out which one wasn’t.
WordPress-Specific Hosting with Value-Added Features
Webnames includes a generous set of features with all its packages, but especially with its WordPress hosting plans. To be honest, I’d recommend choosing a WordPress hosting plan simply because of the extra value (and features) that they include at only a slightly higher price. For example, the regular Value plan limits storage to 5GB, while the WordPress Value plan offers unlimited storage; the regular Value plan doesn’t include extra security features while the WordPress Value plan does. There are many more examples.
All Webnames’ WordPress plans include an “As Much As You Need” hosting policy. Unlike some of its competitors, Webnames won’t penalize you for using more storage and bandwidth than others on the same server. There is a complication, though.
All users on Webnames’ shared servers receive an equal partition, so your website won’t be affected if another site on the same server gets a huge surge in traffic. But this means that if you need more space and bandwidth than what has been allocated to you initially, you must request it. Additional resources will be given to you after your request has been reviewed by staff, not instantly.
A major flaw with Webnames’ hosting is that you don’t get a free SSL certificate, and it doesn’t support the automatic installation of free certificates from Let’s Encrypt or Comodo. Not offering free SSL is pretty inexcusable as these certificates are now so readily available. The only consolation is that Webnames offers RapidSSL and PositiveSSL certificates at a low price (compared to some hosts) so paying extra for SSL probably won’t break your budget.
The WordPress Value plan doesn’t include Webnames’ own backup and restore tool, but Plesk’s WordPress Toolkit has its own version of this.
Free Domain as Long as You Stay with Webnames
This is a feature that I actually love because it’s so rare to find it! When most hosts offer a free domain name, it’s for the first year only (and often on annual plans only), after which you have to pay an annual renewal fee. With Webnames, domain names are free on plans of six months or longer. Then, as long as you continue to renew your plan, your domain name stays free.
Just keep in mind that this offer only applies to .ca, .com, .net, .org, .us, .work, .one, .link, .name, and .click domain extensions.
BoldGrid WordPress Website Builder
BoldGrid is a premium plugin that turns WordPress into a drag-and-drop website builder that works a lot like Wix and Weebly. You get the Pro version included with your Webnames plan, giving you access to features like pre-built page elements, hundreds of templates, and advanced SEO analysis. I’ve used BoldGrid Pro myself so I can confirm that it makes WordPress much more user-friendly.
It’s a well-known fact that WordPress can affect your page loading speeds and make your website more vulnerable to malicious attacks. That’s especially true if you use third-party plugins and themes that haven’t had to pass through the rigorous process of being accepted into the WordPress repository.
Optimizing your WordPress site can prevent these problems. This can be done with the use of plugins in WordPress, and by optimizing the server itself. Webnames uses WordPress-optimized servers that benefit from security scanning, threat detection, malware removal and patching, and LiteSpeed Web Server acceleration. You also get the LiteSpeed cache plugin pre-installed with WordPress.
Plesk WordPress Toolkit
The WordPress Toolkit is a useful extension for Plesk that Webnames includes with all its WordPress plans. This includes backup and restore tools, automatic updates for WordPress itself as well as themes and plugins, a staging environment so you can test changes to your website before going live, and the ability to manage multiple WP installations easily.See full list of features
Ease of use
Easy Hosting Management, but Watch Out for Auto-Upselling
Signing up with Webnames is simple: choose your plan and work through the stages. Watch out for the auto-upselling that happens at checkout – I’ll explain more about this in the Pricing section. It only took me ten minutes to sign up (filling in the account registration form and finding my credit card took the longest!) and I didn’t encounter any problems other than the pesky auto-upselling.
Managing Your Account and Using Plesk Onyx
If you’re a beginner, you’ll love how simple it is to use the account management dashboard when you log in to your Webnames account. It’s a clean and easy-to-navigate interface that gives you access to all the account functions you need.
Webnames uses Plesk for managing hosting space instead of cPanel and that’s a really good thing, as far as I’m concerned. Plesk offers more WordPress management features than cPanel. It’s also less intimidating for first-time users than cPanel as there’s not a dizzying array of icons to navigate.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
There’s actually two options when it comes to installing WordPress with Webnames. You can go through the standard applications panel in Plesk (as shown in the screenshot below) and click the blue Install button. This uses default settings to install WordPress in just a few minutes.
However, if you want to take advantage of BoldGrid with your WordPress website (and I recommend you do!), you can actually install both together from Plesk. The setup is almost identical to the ordinary installation, but if you do get stuck there’s an easy-to-follow tutorial available in the help section of Webnames. The screenshot below is taken from the installation guide.
Fast Page Loading Speeds and Decent Uptime – Most of the Time
Performance is the most important aspect of my web host tests. It doesn’t matter what fabulous features a provider has if you lose visitors due to a slow-loading website. For that reason, I run a lot of performance tests over an extended period to get the most accurate results.
Webnames’ performance was pretty good. It wasn’t the fastest (although it came close), but it’s certainly in the top five best-performing Canadian hosts. Its average page loading time was a decent 1.6 seconds, two times faster than Google’s recommended three-second maximum page loading time.
It also met the minimum uptime requirement of 99.9% that I expect all hosts to achieve. Its uptime score of 99.93% leaves plenty of room for improvement, but still qualifies as reliable.
I use the same process for testing every web host that I review, which I’ll explain briefly here, but if you want the full details of how we test web hosts at Website Planet, you can check out this article. After signing up, I install WordPress and upload a customized SimpleShift theme designed specifically for performance testing.
Some review sites use a blank WordPress website to run performance tests, but that’s not going to give accurate results. The test website I created looks and works like a one-page website or a landing page for an e-commerce website. It has text, buttons, forms, and non-optimized HD images. That’s not an oversight – I use non-optimized images to test each host’s technical support by asking for optimization advice. If I get good advice, I implement it before testing.
The website was available at autonomous-shoes-canada-h.ca and you can see a snapshot of what it looked like in the screenshot below.
I use GTmetrix to run my main lot of tests because it gives so much more information than just page loading speeds, including Google’s PageSpeed performance score. PageSpeed grades the optimization of your website, and GTmetrix then offers insights into how you can improve your score.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Webnames’ PageSpeed score was pretty good. The average PageSpeed score for websites in desktop view is 75%, so Webnames’ optimized servers clearly made a difference, scoring 12 percentage points above the average.
I run page loading speed tests at different times of the day to see whether the host server is slower during peak times. There was one instance when the test website took 2.6 seconds to load during peak times, but the majority of tests had a fully-loaded time of under two seconds. The fastest page loading time was 0.8 seconds.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
Normally, I use Sucuri Load Time Tester to compare the results with GTmetrix and see how fast the test website loads from other locations in the world. Unfortunately, Webnames’ firewall blocks Sucuri, so all I got was an error message.
My final performance testing tool is UptimeRobot, which continuously monitors the test website and logs any periods of downtime. Webnames has an uptime guarantee of 99.9%, which it achieved throughout most of the testing period. The overall uptime score for the three-month testing period was 99.93%, which equates to around 30 minutes of downtime in a month. For context, the 99.9% minimum would allow for 43 minutes of downtime.
In one of the screenshots for this review, however, I found an anomaly in the UptimeRobot results – and the reason why the overall score for the three month period was lower than many of Webnames’ competitors. During one 30-day period, Webnames had a single incidence of downtime that lasted for 52 minutes, taking the uptime score for that month to 99.87%.
Server outages can happen, and Webnames did meet my minimum requirements, but the very fact that this long period of downtime occurred at all is a cause for concern. It’s not as bad as a couple of the other Canadian hosts I’ve tested, though.Check Out Webnames.ca Performance
Basic Support – Unless You Pay For Additional “WordPress Support”
You want to know that you can get help when you need it, right? Even if you’ve been building websites for years, if something goes wrong you need your host to fix it. Unfortunately, this is the one area where Webnames really failed to shine.
Support is (theoretically, at least) available seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s not 24/7, however. Unusually for a web host, Webnames prefers you to phone for help rather than submit a ticket. Nine times out of ten I couldn’t get the ticket support form to load, no matter what browser I used!Live chat wouldn’t load for me, either.
There is an Email Us link that I had to use, but it’s one of those links that opens your default mail client without a subject line. Then, I had to reply to an automatic response with my account number before I could get help. Frustrating!
I evaluate technical support by asking the same set of questions of every host, regarding WordPress installation, uploading a theme, and optimizing my website. Or, at least, I try to.
I emailed Webnames’ support team about installing a theme and I received links to third-party websites and YouTube videos. This was odd, considering Webnames actually has a pretty decent set of step-by-step theme installation instructions in the FAQ section on its own website.
I emailed in my other questions, but the responses were equally unhelpful. My optimization question wasn’t really answered at all. I was disappointed, but then I discovered a reason why it might have been so bad.
Webnames offers a paid WordPress Support plan. This expensive service includes help with website maintenance, optimization, and lots of other things that many web hosts don’t charge extra for.
Maybe Webnames’ poor technical support is a result of it allocating most of those resources to the paid WordPress Support option. By the way, the price for just one hour of WordPress support is roughly the cost of six months’ WordPress Value hosting.
Cheap Prices to Start – but Renewal Prices Are Almost Double
Webnames’ prices are not the cheapest, but they are affordable – at least in the initial term. Like a lot of web hosts, however, its renewal prices are much more expensive. Depending on the promotional offer you accept when you sign up, you could find yourself paying almost double when it’s time to renew.
Another thing I want to point out about Webnames’ pricing is that the promotional (discount) prices only apply to the first year, even if you select a two- or three-year plan. The more common approach is to offer the lowest price for the whole of a one-, two-, or three-year plan. With Webnames, there’s no benefit to paying upfront for a term longer than a year.
When you’re at the checkout screen, inspect the order summary, because some paid options are pre-selected. This is known as “auto-upselling,” and it applies to both the domain privacy service and the PositiveSSL Certificate option, each of which adds a small annual fee to your total.
Admittedly, the cost of the SSL certificate is low compared to some hosts (though not as cheap as Hostinger’s single-fee lifetime SSL) and I would recommend adding it anyway, but auto-upselling is one of my “red flags” with web hosts so I do need to draw your attention to it.
Webnames accepts payment via credit and debit cards including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. It also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you change your mind within the first 30 days you can request a refund. The cost of your domain name and any added features (e.g. domain privacy and SSL) will be deducted from your refund, however.
Cancelling Your Account
There’s a simple cancellation form to complete if you want to cancel your hosting plan. This is accessed from the hosting management section of your account dashboard and takes just a few minutes to complete. You have the option to set the cancellation date of your plan, too. This can be either immediately, at the end of the current plan, or on a specific date that you set.
While writing this review, I was wondering if Webnames’ good points are strong enough to outweigh its shortcomings. To be honest, I’m not sure how to answer this question. There’s so much that I really like, including its fast page loading speeds, the Plesk control panel with WordPress Toolkit, and the BoldGrid Pro plugin – but its support is poor.
I can (sort of) overlook the pricing issues and the auto-upselling, and Webnames’ uptime has been much better since I finished my testing period, but technical support is an essential part of web hosting.
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!)