This is a review of 123-reg, a free web hosting company, that claims to be an award winner.
The first thing to keep in mind about 123-reg is the carrot that the company dangles in front of you - their cheap domain name offer. You can get a .co.uk domain name for only £2.99, and a .com, .org, .info, .biz, .eu for £9.99.
As 123-reg Services are primarily aimed at the UK the price of £2.99 sounds great AND they even give you a free website development system called "InstantSite Starter". Sounds too good to be true, but don't believe the hype. What you are really getting is the company getting their foot in your door so that they can sell you a package... and one that is - in my opinion - mediocre to say the least. As one reviewer wrote, "Our conclusion is that what could be a beginner or family friendly application is turned into a sad way to milk the customer of more cash. Our concerns are, that with 123-reg's questionable online support, that this could be a waste of money for a beginner." Source I concur with that view and here is why!
Don't Believe the Hype!
First of all, the domain name. At £2.99 for a UK domain name is cheap or so it would appear. But take a look at other hostings companies such as www.one.com. Their pricing is only £6. Its reputation is second to none and their support including LIVE CHAT SUPPORT is brilliant. I know I use them. So for the sake of £3 are you really saying that a UK domain is expensive. What is ironic is that one.com other domain names offerings (.com, .org, .info, .biz, .eu etc) are actually cheaper than 123-reg at only £9 compared to £9.99.
What all this means is that 123-reg is using their so called cheap domain name to hook you into their net. Their domain name offer is not really cheap unless you think a domain name for £6 is expensive. But you may say, they provide a tool that allows you to build your own website yourself and very easily too. Surely that must count for something?
According to their sales pitch, "InstantSite is the website builder that lets you make your own website - fast. Just pick a website template, customise it to fit your needs and publish. You'll have a professional site in minutes." It sounds very tempting. The problem is that you do not get a professional site and what you get for free is not what you might have anticipated.
When you buy your domain name you do get a website builder. All website builders use templates and InstantSite is no exception. As 123-reg says - you pick a template, customise it and publish. Easy peazy! But for starters you only get a one page website and you get to choose from only 10 templates, which quite frankly are aweful. They are far from professional. But the point is to reel you in with their sales pitch so that they can sell you something "better"!
InstantSite Plus - From Bad to Worse
This is the first package that you are encouraged to upgrade to. At £1.99 per month (really £24 a year) and with over 324 templates to choose from, this does sound a good deal! At first sight it is... but! None of the 324 templates I looked at are any better than the free ones. They are much the same and what we are really looking at are old archaic web designs that show their age and have existed for years. Why invest in newer technology when the old one will do is clearly the 123-reg's remit> So old technology is what you get.
You should keep in mind that 123-reg is primarily a web-hosting company and you can view their services from the year 2000 via the Way Back Machine where websites have been archived through over 150 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. The company is more interested in getting you to get hosting from them and so that is why they offer you a free "carrot" (website) to get you hooked. The truth of the matter is that most if not all web hosting companys provide a free website builder too, as does www.one.com I mentioned earlier. But their templates are not much better than 123-reg. You can use them if you wish but they are not used as a sales marketing gimmick as 123-reg do.
If you wanted to use InstantSite Plus to build you a decent business website - forget it. As I have said, the templates are poor and mediocre and besides 123-reg describe this package option as "Good for personal sites, blogs and hobby websites." So even they admit that this package is not suited for Businesses. But did you read the fine print before going for this package? If you want to have a free blog go for Blogger from Google or Blog UK - they are much better.
InstantSite Pro - You have Got to be Joking!
123-reg offer a business package that they call InstantSite Pro. The sales pitch says, "all you need to create a business site or online shop". At £4.99 a month (really £60 per year - every year), this is what they are really trying to get you to buy. And if you do, in my opinion, you will regret it. The reason being, you still use InstantSite Builder, the site is not hosted as normal where you an use ftp, (the standard method used to transfer files from your local drive to the site), and the 324 templates are the same as the Plus package. Yuk! You can look at some of their "showroom" templates here. Interestingly, the template slideshow also says, "actual templates may differ". The buyer beware!
The sales pitch says that you can have as many as 500 pages. Wow! Sounds great but in reality you will never use that many pages for your business... which is just as well as this subscriber discovered"
"We signed up for a new website with 123 after reading about their great package with 500 pages and all the mod cons going."
"At first things we going well. We selected our template and started adding pages. WE RAN OUT at 60 pages. I contacted them regarding this and they said that the information is not right on the website. I told them that this is FALSE advertising and they suggested I looked elsewhere for the provider if I wasn't happy. There was no sorry or anything. she was rude and really not helpful. for a premium rate number as well I found this totally unacceptable."
"I have taken the matter further now to hopefully get this company sued for false advertising and breech of contract." Source
So 123-reg premier package says that you can have as many as 500 pages but an operative of 123-reg admitted that "the information is not right on the website". But instead of correcting the error the company chooses to keep it as is, wrong that it is. Do you really want to work with a company like that?
Support! What Support?
Whatever company you choose to work with regarding your website it is very important that support should be second to none. I use www.one.com and I can say that their support is truly brilliant. The live support chat is excellent where you can talk to a real person who will help you with any issues you may have. You can also send emails or phone them, but the support live chat is entirely free and in real time. So how does 123-reg support pan out? Here are some comments by people who have actually used their service:
- Advantages: good control panel (when it's working) Disadvantages: abysmal customer support
- Advantages: Cheap(ish) Disadvantages: Non-existent support
- Advantages: Cheap Disadvantages: Customer support? what support.
- Advantages: Can't think of any Disadvantages: Disgraceful support & take money without your authorisation
- Advantages: Apparently none Disadvantages: Customer Service appears to be a big 0
- Advantages: easy, cheap to use for domain hosting Disadvantages: In my experience awfull webspace hosting and support.
- Advantages: None that I know of Disadvantages: Appauling service
- Advantages: Cheap, cheerful Disadvantages: Terrible service, unreliable
- Advantages: CHEAP, good for domain names only Disadvantages: Almost criminal disregard for customers data
123-reg make great claim to being an Award winning company. Taking a look at the awards that they have listed (you have to look at their sitemap to find them) and the only one that really may carry any weight is from "Start Your Business Magazine". However, it is not 123-reg that has been given the award but Webfusion! (See Here) and even then the 2010 award claimed is not shown by the magazine only the 2009 awards are. How strange!
Webfusion is the parent company and is the hosting company of 123-reg. However, both companies offer different services and their marketing is directed towards different clients. So it is very misleading for 123-reg to claim they have had an award when in fact they have not. It is true that 123-reg (not Webfusion) were finalists in 2006 and 2007 by PC Magazine, but they did not win an award from the the magazine. So, 123-reg have not won any noted awards themselves, but this is not what they say on their website.... And as we have seen, they do not look after the little guy as they claim, if the aformentioned user comments have anything to say about the matter.
If you want to a cheap domain that costs £2.99 instead of the industry standard of £6 for a .uk domain name, go ahead! You do after all get a one page website development package for free with the domain name, but the choice of 10 templates are very poor and certainly unsuitable for business, which 123-reg admit if you are prepared to read between the lines. But it will get you online although it will not give you a professional image for your business. Furthermore, do not expect good support, because the opposite is true as many people have commented upon. Finally, don't be fooled by the company claims as I have highlighted. Some of them are ....hmmmm dubious to say the least.
I can build you a professional website for as little as £99 (even less if you want only one page) complete with UK domain name, hosting, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), Statistical Analysis, Emails, Email form, Flash gadgets, slideshows, videos, Google maps and more. So if you want a "free" website with 123-reg, I am not stopping you. It is your choice... but you cannot say I did not warn you! Review Site gave 123Reg a big thumbs down as a result of 284 user reviews, with a rating of 1.4 out 5 so it is not just me who is warning you....
DISCLAIMER: This is a review by Fred Harding and the material used here from 123-reg is permitted under copyright law and "Fair Use" where a "reviewer may fairly cite largely from the original work, if his design be really and truly to use the passages for the purposes of fair and reasonable criticism.