Five Low-cost Windows Web Hosting Providers Tested

July/Aug 2004

For this second issue of HostSearch Host Lab, we continue our testing of low-cost web hosting providers. This time we focus on providers offering plans based on the popular Microsoft Windows platform used by many web sites.

We selected five companies with a baseline price of less than $10/month: HostMySite.Com ($8.95/m with one-year payment, $9.95/m quarterly), WinSave.Com ($8.95/m with one-year payment, $9.95/m monthly), UplinkEarth.Com ($4.95/m), ExpertHost.Com ($6.25/m for multiple-domain package, $15 for single-domain package) and StartLogic.Com ($13.95/m, with a $9.95/m option based on one-year prepayment). As usual, we started with a set of pre-sale questions, followed by an order for the providers' package, uploading our test site's contents, testing support services and finally, cancellation.


1) QUALITY OF ANSWERS AND RESPONSE TIMES FOR PRE-SALES QUESTIONS

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

We submitted a list of initial queries to each provider and evaluated both speed and quality of responses. Our initial questions included: "Can I use sub domains? Do you offer online control panel demos? Can I set the folders' permissions myself? How can I tell if I've exceeded my data transfer limits?"

Within five minutes of sending out the initial queries, we received an email auto-response from StartLogic.Com, followed by another from ExpertHost.Com. But our email to UplinkEarth.Com bounced back, so we had to resubmit our questions via the "Inquiry Form" page on their website--we received an email auto-response shortly thereafter.

The first actual set of replies to our queries came from ExpertHost.Com. HostMySite.Com and WinSave.Com also replied within a timeframe of 4-10 hours. StartLogin.Com replied two days later, but UplinkEarth.Com never replied beyond the initial auto-response.

The quality of answers was equally high. But while ExpertHost.Com, HostMySite.Com and WinSave.Com answered our queries question by question, StartLogic.Com lumped all the answers together in a single paragraph.


2) QUALITY OF SIGN-UP PROCESS AND RESPONSE TIMES FOR ACCOUNT

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

Most sites have a "Order Now" button on their front page, which makes it easy to begin the ordering process. The ordering process is equally similar: select a plan, fill in the domain name and owner's information, then the credit card information. All the sites we tested offer a "30-days money back guarantee" according to their web sites.

Once we started the ordering process, we often found that the price on the service information page is not the final price. Hidden costs include one-time setup fees for HostMySite.Com, UpLinkEarth.Com and StartLogic.Com.

ExpertHost.Com's order form was particularly confusing--they have a single sign-up page with no database-field for entering domain name information. The only option on this page is a choice between single and multiple domain names to be used with the account. In general, users expect to fill in their domain name and select the option to either register a new domain or use an existing one, so we found this odd. Later we discovered that we could enter the domain name using a control panel function, but only after the account had been established.

HostMySite.Com, WinSave.Com, UpLinkEarth.Com, and StartLogic.Com have an easy-to-understand order form that shows detailed information about any additional fees. HostMySite.Com will only accept payment either quarterly or yearly, while others offer a monthly payment scheme.

After completing the order process, we first received responses from HostMySite.Com and WinSave.Com, followed by UpLinkEarth.Com two hours later and StartLogic.Com within three hours. Later we received a thank-you email and the account information email from ExpertHost.Com simultaneously.

HostMySite.Com and WinSave.Com were quickest at delivering account information, followed by ExpertHost.Com. The slowest were StartLogic.Com and UpLinkEarth.Com, both of which sent the account information four hours after the order and payment were completed.


3) QUALITY OF USER MANUALS AND INSTRUCTIONS

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

HostMySite.Com and StartLogic.Com provided thorough setup information in their account information email--we didn't even need to consult the URL links they provided.

UpLinkEarth.Com sent adequate information on how to set up the account but no URL link to additional information was included. They also neglected to include our password in the email, but only indicated that the password is the one we had setup in our order process (even the order confirmation email didn't include our password). We needed to submit a "forgot password" form to retrieve it. Neither did UpLinkEarth.Com provide IP address information.

WinSave.Com sent only username/password and links to their control panel and FAQs. Any additional information needed to set up our account would have to come from the FAQs.

At first, ExpertHost.Com sent only username/password and Control Panel link, but once we got our domain name setup, they sent another account information email which was highly informative.

Only the account information emails from HostMySite.Com and StartLogic.Com provided virtual addresses where we could preview our website before the domain name was transferred to the new web host.


4) QUALITY OF ANSWERS AND RESPONSE TIMES FOR SUPPORT QUESTIONS

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

After we uploaded our web site content to the servers, we sent out a list of support questions to each web host. Questions included: "Can we use MS Outlook to send/receive email?" and "Can we do domain parking?" Most sites explained the domain parking question in an email and provided URL links with information on the MS Outlook question.

UpLinkEarth.Com answered both questions with an excessive use of technical terminology--we felt that users new to web site management might be confused. Neither did they do not provide URL links for additional instruction.

The fastest response came from WinSave.Com, however, they sent only links to follow rather than a direct answer to our questions. The other web hosting providers answered questions promptly.


5) HOSTING QUALITY--SPEED AND PERFORMANCE

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

We uploaded ASP and HTML test files to test server performance. The ASP file performed a number of functions, including mathematic calculations, create/write/delete files, database manipulation, and looping calculations. The ASP test was conducted multiple times to obtain an average. We used www.visualware.com to test response time from different locations around the world.

UpLinkEarth.Com was the fastest we tested, taking only 1.02 seconds to complete the series of ASP tests. StartLogic.Com took 1.15 seconds followed by WinSave.Com at 1.85 seconds and HostMySite.Com at 1.95 seconds. The slowest was ExpertHost.Com, which took 6 seconds to complete the test--over three times longer than the next-slowest provider.

HostMySite.Com had the fastest response time at 109 milliseconds, followed by UpLinkEarth.Com and ExpertHost.Com. The two slowest response times we got were from WinSave.Com and StartLogic.Com.


6) USER-FRIENDLINESS
ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

We felt that support from HostMySite.Com, WinSave.Com and StartLogic.Com are the friendliest--they were prompt and willing to help, and their answers were easy to understand. In addition, StartLogic.Com always replied with an auto-response email followed later by an email with direct answers to every question we asked.

ExpertHost.Com's replies were quite short, sometimes too short to fully cover the information we needed. UpLinkEarth.Com replied with an excessive use of technical terminology,--inexperienced users might not comprehend most of their answers. Also, we needed to access their control panel to read their replies if we submitted the questions on their contact form.


7) VALUE FOR MONEY

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

WinSave.Com offers excellent value for money with their basic package: 1GB storage, 100GB transfer and 500 email accounts. StartLogic.Com offers 500MB storage, 20GB transfer and unlimited email accounts, but it's the most expensive provider we tested. UpLinkEarth.Com offers the lowest price among the tested sites, but they offer only 100MB storage and 5 email accounts.

ExpertHost.Com offers scalable solutions with a variety of features. Although the test speed is slow, their huge storage and data transfer allotments may offset this for users not overly concerned with speed.

Even though StartLogic.Com was the most expensive, its test performance--especially on the ASP files--was impressive.


8) QUALITY OF RESPONSE TIME AND CANCELLATION CONFIRMATION

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

Our last step was to cancel the services and evaluate their response time. HostMySite.Com and WinSave.Com are easy and straightforward, submit the request then they canceled the account almost immediately (WinSave.Com was slightly faster than HostMySite.Com).

After our cancellation request was sent to StartLogic.Com, we were told that we had to call them during their business hours to confirm the request.

When we informed ExpertHost.Com that we wanted to cancel the hosting service, they instead sent us information on how to delete the domain in our hosting account (remember that ExpertHost.Com offers both single and multiple domain plans). They seemed to misunderstand our instructions to cancel the entire account. We needed to re-send confirmation that we wanted to cancel the hosting server, not just delete the domain in the hosting account.

The slowest to respond was UpLinkEarth.Com. They asked us to send a request to their accounting department, but those emails consistently bounced back, so we had to ask their support staff to contact their accounting department on our behalf. We finally managed to get the service canceled, but never received a confirmation email.


TOTAL SCORE

ExpertHost.com
HostMySite.com
StartLogic.com
UpLinkEarth.com
WinSave.com

WinSave.Com scored highest among the five providers tested here, followed by HostMySite.Com. Both WinSave.Com and HostMySite.Com offers a suitable price, good server performance and also great support.

StartLogic.Com is a little expensive than others, but its server performance and support is good. ExpertHost.Com got low points for their server performance, especially on the programming test. Even though UpLinkEarth.Com offers the lowest price and their server performance is acceptable, we felt their overall features, support and user friendliness is unacceptable.


HOW WE TEST

First, we submitted a list of initial queries to providers, and tested their response time and the quality of their responses. Our questions were simple, for example: "Can I use sub domains? Do you offer online control panel demos? Can I set the folders' permissions myself? How can I tell if I've exceeded my data transfer limits?" Some providers responded personally to our slate of questions while some only provided URLS to FAQs, and/or avoided questions altogether.

Next, we signed up for basic packages, then checked quality of online user manuals and instructions. Our next test was to create a list of typical support questions and check response time and the quality of responses to those. For example: "Can we use MS Outlook to send/receive email?" and "Can we do domain parking?" Most sites answered the first question and provided URL links for the second question.

The next step was to test server performance, both network and data processing. We uploaded ASP test files to test data processing and used www.visualware.com to test response time from different locations around the world. The ASP test was conducted multiple times to obtain an average. We also calculated a "user-friendliness" factor and evaluated the value-for-money offered by each provider.

The last step was to cancel our subscription and evaluate the process for each provider.
The test was done solely by HostSearch.com's experienced team using our criteria and standard. We are not responsible for any uses of information on this page.

Top 3 Hosts From Our Search

13essentials Hosting
2Steadfast Networks
3HostRound