This no-nonsense, UK-based hosting deal is as easy to understand as it is to get started and administer
- Responsive support
- UK data centres
- Clear, uncluttered control panel
- No app installer
Manchester-based 34SP.com offers domain registration and hosting services. Although its primary focus is on UK-based hosting (and its support team works from the UK, too), it has customers worldwide for its mix of Linux-based, WordPress, reseller, and VPS hosting plans.
It’s not only its offices that are based in Manchester, either: it uses data centres in the city, making it a good choice for anyone who would prefer that their data isn’t stored beyond UK jurisdiction.
34SP.com has a refreshingly simple charging structure. Everything is shown with VAT included, and whether you ask it to show monthly or annual charges when pricing up your plan, you will have paid the same by the end of the year. There’s no requirement to sign up for two or three years if you want a better deal, either: what you see is what you pay.
The actual hosting options are streamlined, so it shouldn’t take you long to work out which would best suit your needs, and 34SP.com champions the fact that it supplies free hosting to any recognised UK charity. So far, more than 600 organisations have taken advantage of that offer.
34SP.com Professional Hosting review: What do you get for your money?
I’m trialling its Professional Hosting plan, which costs £7.95 a month (£95 a year). For that, you get 50GB of web space, 50 databases, and a generous 500 subdomains should you need that many; an SSL certificate, free weekly backups, and up to 500 mailboxes (including webmail and virus protection). Bandwidth is unlimited but the number of emails you can send per day and per month is capped at 500 and 5,000 respectively in order to prevent the service being used for spam.
You would have to be a very demanding user to feel constrained by these specs, but you can also, optionally, pre-install the Weebly Website Builder for designing a site via drag and drop, add daily backups for an additional £2.50 per month, and private SMTP with a private IP address and 20,000 message cap for £5 a month. Thereafter, you can raise the cap by a further 20,000 messages for every additional £5 you spend. So, if you wanted to send 100,000 messages a month to opted-in recipients, it’s easy to calculate the surcharge (£25 a month).
Professional Hosting isn’t the only option. WordPress Hosting, which starts at £9.95 a month, includes daily backups, email and webmail, an SSL certificate, free migration from an existing provider, 25GB of storage, and unlimited bandwidth. At that price, you get a container for a single site, but if you’re building a network, there are three-, five-, and 10-site containers at £20, £30 and £50 per month respectively, with 25GB, 35GB and 50GB of storage apiece.
At either extreme sit Universal Hosting, aimed at business users, and an inexpensive Website Builder package at £2.95 a month for template-based sites. Universal Hosting is flexible and it’s up to you how you configure your container and what you install in it. Support is still on hand to talk through your options and perform incoming migration if required, but day to day management is up to you.
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34SP.com Professional Hosting review: Is it easy to set up?
All the hard work’s done for you. My account was up and running within a few minutes of me putting in a request, with both public-facing and preview domains set up.
There’s one pre-defined FTP account, and the FTP interface is locked by default to prevent unauthorised access. If you unlock it and forget to lock it again, don’t worry: it will be automatically locked again at midnight every day.
You don’t get a bundled domain, but at least that means you’re free to register (and renew) wherever you choose, whether that’s because you maintain a portfolio elsewhere, or you simply spotted a good deal through an alternative registrar. If you bought your domain from 34SP.com it will be pointed at your hosting, but you still have full control over DNS settings if you need to make a change (pointing your email at Google, for example).
You can also set up Cron to automate ongoing jobs, add support for CGI, Python and Perl, create password-protected directories, and edit .htaccess to forward requests or selectively block visitors that fit defined criteria. Adding programming languages is quite literally a box ticking exercise, while Cron is managed using a form, so there’s no need to remember which column relates to a particular time slot.
The only thing you might say is missing is an installer to handle setting up and configuring WordPress, Joomla or other web apps, which you will need to install yourself.
Fortunately, in most cases, that’s rarely a chore.
34SP.com Professional Hosting review: What goes on behind the scenes?
By default, Professional Hosting is set to use PHP 5.6, but you can switch this to anything between 5.3 and 7.3 using a drop-down menu in the control panel. You can add extra FTP and database users, as well as creating new databases, all without needing to understand the technical implications of what you’re doing. Once you’ve created a database, you can administer it using PHPMyAdmin, for which a link appears as soon as the database comes to life. Rather neatly, there’s a one-click option to back up the database contents, with the resulting archive being stored in a private folder in your web space. You can download it from there using FTP if you want to keep a copy offline. Similarly, you can back up your site by creating a snapshot, again with a single click.
The control panel is designed in-house, and is a great example of a back-end done well. Novice users should have no trouble finding their way around the clearly defined sections, and if you do get lost there are links to knowledge base articles containing step-by-step instructions for common tasks like creating domain aliases, managing MySQL databases, and creating an autoresponder via webmail.
If you’re switching from another provider, you can import your existing mailbox by providing your old incoming mail server address, your email address, and your password, and the dashboard will automatically create a matching inbox on your new account and migrate your existing messages, which is much easier than doing the same manually.
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34SP.com Professional Hosting review: Should you sign up?
If you’re looking for no-nonsense hosting that’s quick to set up and easy to administer, this is it. Many of 34SP.com’s back-end processes are automated, so you can, quite literally, be up and running a few minutes after signing up. Extras like weekly backups are very welcome, and so is the well thought-through control panel that simplifies a lot of common tasks. All of these points count in its favour, earning it a well deserved thumbs-up.
I know from experience that 34SP.com’s support team is also very responsive, frequently answering queries in a matter of minutes and following up to make sure issues are fully resolved before closing off support tickets. This is not only a boon for less confident novice users, but should also give more ambitious users – and businesses – confidence that help is there if required.
Support is something I would be happy to pay a premium for, yet 34SP.com’s price remains fair. At £7.95 a month, it is slightly more expensive than you will pay if you sign up for a three-year deal with GoDaddy Deluxe (which works out at £7.19 a month), but here you’re not committing to such a long term. At the same time, it’s cheaper, pro rata, than a two-year deal with Ionos Premium, which averages a little under £13 per month in the first year. Both GoDaddy and Ionos include one year’s free domain registration at those prices, which 34SP.com doesn’t, so if you don’t already have one you want to use you will need to add that cost on top. If you opt for .co.uk and register through 34SP.com, budget for £7.50 a year.
There’s no app installer, but you could opt for dedicated WordPress hosting should you need it, or install a Weebly trial if you prefer drag and drop design. Otherwise, there’s nothing to stop you installing your own applications the traditional way. This is ‘Professional’ hosting, after all.