Network Solutions is one of the USA's true hosting pioneers. A popular domain name registrar and a hosting provider, Network Solutions has millions of users and is one of the big fishes in the online service business.
The new millennium, however, brought the provider some new challenges. Registrars and hosting providers from all around the world have flooded the industry and now, the competition for each dollar is tougher than ever.
Does NetworkSolutions still have what it takes to repel the rivals?
This is what we'll find out together in this Network Solutions review.
What Is Network Solutions?
Network Solutions is USA-based hosting and internet services company, offering shared, WordPress, and VPS hosting packages. It also sells domains and SSL certificates, alongside eCommerce, security, email, and marketing services.
Unfortunately, Network Solutions doesn't seem to have fully adopted dedicated or cloud servers yet.
But even without that, it's a decent lineup. Domain names and SSL certificates are always needed and depending on the size of their projects, clients can choose between shared and VPS hosting options.
In that case, it's perfectly enough for most of the regular users. May not be suited for enterprises - but this is not what this company is targeting anyway.
The more interesting is though, what features Network Solutions can offer for its price. And is it a good provider?
Network Solutions Pricing
Network Solutions has 3 shared hosting plans with the price starting at $9.96/month if you pay for a year in advance. Another option is Professional Hosting for $15.78/month giving you more resources. You can also opt out for Professional Plus for $21.62/month.
All of the plans include a free domain, malware scanning, and backups. Differences come in other features:
- With Web Hosting plan you get 300GB disk space, 1000 email accounts, and secure FTP.
- Professional Hosting package gets you unlimited disk space and emails, as well as automatic malware removal.
- Professional Plus includes all unlimited features and promises an SSL certificate.
You can take a better view of the plans and compare them in the table:
|Web Hosting||Professional Hosting||Professional Plus|
|Disk space limit||300GB||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|SSL||Extra fee||Extra fee||Extra fee|
|Customer support||Ticket, phone||Ticket, phone||Ticket, phone|
|Choice for server location||No||No||No|
|Free Automated Backups||Yes (daily, 14 days)||Yes (daily, 14 days)||Yes (daily, 14 days)|
Just like with all other providers, you've got to be careful when looking at the prices. Usually, you get the advertised price only with a specific period length and only for the first term.
The same goes for Network Solutions, you need to buy a yearly plan to get an advertised price. And after the first term, it will go up to its monthly rate. So check the table below to see what pricing can you expect:
|Payment Period / Plan||Web Hosting||Professional Hosting||Professional Plus|
*Additional taxes not included - they may differ with your locale.
What is all that about? You see, Professional Hosting plan doesn't really exist as plan. I mean sure, Network Solutions speak of it, they put it in its promo posters, all looks super legit. But what happens if you try to purchase that plan or at least see the real price?
The price is for the cheapest Web Hosting plan, which is surprising. But, take a look at the addon - SiteLock Premium, which weirdly appears out of nowhere and pushes the price up to the something which is advertised (but still not exactly that).
It gets even more interesting when you want to remove the add-on. Once you press on Remove button, you're redirected to a new shopping cart with different pricing. As we can see, pricing is similar to that of the Professional Plus plan for $349.50/year. Just no premium features are included.
Where is this coming from? Only Network Solutions could know their weird strategies. And it's not like you are losing a few dollars. The difference is hundreds of dollars.
And in fact, all the plans act the same. Choose a Professional Plus - you'll see a bunch of expensive add-ons. Remove them - price goes up even more. And your promised SSL certificate? I'm sorry to tell you this, but neither it is included, nor it is free.
As you can see, the SSL certificate actually costs $69.99/year.
Now we can make some first conclusions about Network Solutions. First of all, it has only 2 plans. The first one is genuine - you get what is advertised. The second is the tricky one - basically, it's the cheapest plan with a bunch of add-ons that make up the price plus some unlimited features.
Our second conclusion - Network Solutions will try and trick you in every way possible. So if expensive plans do not scare you away, the tricky upsells should.
Network Solutions Features
Network Solutions is an expensive and tricky hosting provider. But perhaps what you get with the plans is worth the hassle?
Let's see what Network Solutions can offer.
Automatic daily backups
At all times, Network Solutions will keep a snapshot of your website from each of the last 14 days.
If you make any bad changes or something unexpected happens, you can always restore the page back to where it was. Some providers do it weekly, some don't do the backups at all - and it may turn into a disaster you will avoid with Network Solutions.
So, if we are to trust Network Solutions with this one, you can get a premium feature included with all of the plans.
Plenty of resources
Even the entry plan includes a hefty 300GB of allowed disk space. This trumps a lot of competition, which often tends to offer way less than that.
You are even allowed to run 3 different websites with the entry plan. And that is rare with other providers.
This is a great option for people looking to build extensive databases full of information. Even eCommerce should function without a problem on such an account.
In addition to that, the cheapest plan also allows for 1000 mailboxes and 25 MySQL databases. You are unlikely to run out of that anytime soon.
Purchasing and user interface
We were not scared of Network Solutions and decided to try an purchase a plan. After all, it promises 30-day money-back guarantee.
How it went?
Networks Solutions accepts both a plethora of credit cards and PayPal. This is a typical selection of payment options, which is more than enough for most users.
Upon choosing my plan and its duration, I had to go through Network Solutions' upselling efforts.
First, I was offered an SSL certificate for $7.99/month and a cheaper first month, as well as domain privacy protection for $0.83/month.
Then, the account information.
Network Solutions asks you to add a security question which will, presumably, be used for account recovery.
Luckily enough, the list is pretty good and you can also add your own. Questions such as "what is your favorite movie?" or "what city were you born in?" are simply not safe enough to stop people from taking you down.
Speaking of safety: the password system in Network Solutions is archaic, to say the least.
The password must be between 8-16 characters.
More than 16 letters not allowed? There is no logic in that - passwords with additional symbols are exponentially more difficult to crack. In an age where users are more and more concerned with the security of their data, this kind of limitation doesn't sound right. Oh, speaking of security...
How lovely it is to transition to this topic. There's something fundamentally wrong with the security systems Network Solutions use in the purchasing process. Have a look at this error message I received after typing in my credit card information.
Oooooompf. That doesn't sound good. So far though, I didn't suspect anything unusual. Many hosting providers attempt to stop credit card fraud at all costs, so it is common for them to ask for additional verification. Often this means stuff like sending in your ID information - a driver's license or something like that.
So I called the customer support - still blissfully unaware of what was about to happen.
In my 13 minutes of conversation, I had experienced a stunning approach to personal security management as we know it. Instead of having to send my ID or whatever, I had to repeat my personal information and credit card details.
On phone. To a complete stranger. Numbers, one by one.
Absolutely incredible and astonishing and not in a good way. Such information should be treated very carefully and Network Solutions do not value it as it should. If you're looking for personal security tips, here's your first one - do not use this hosting provider.
However, for the sake of exploration, I decided to dive in anyway. After I told my card details to some random guy on the phone, the purchase process was instantaneous and I got to see the dashboard immediately.
It is only slightly confusing - while it takes some time getting used to, essentially it's not much more complicated than most of its competition.
You will eventually visit a control panel to manage your hosting. But Network Solutions does not use the good ol' cPanel. The provider has its own custom hosting management panel.
It looks pretty good from the outside. However, once I started using it, glaring errors have started appearing.
For instance, let's take a very simple operation, such as creating a subdomain. While many other providers make that a very basic operation, requiring little to no assistance, in Network Solutions I had to google a solution. Even then, the best I found was this:
This is unnecessarily complicated. What's more, even by following the actions I was unable to create a subdomain, as some buttons were clearly not where they were supposed to be.
And even if they were, in most cases, you just have to locate a "Subdomains" option in the panel, write your desired name and hey presto, it's there. Network Solutions offers very complicated network solutions.
Anyway, once I was finally done and attempted to install WordPress, I was met with a yet another upselling attempt.
The WordPress itself is of course free. But Network Solutions really wants you to protect your website for a lot of money.
What can we tell from this? Network Solutions may be behind in terms of usability, but when it comes to upselling, it's on top of the game.
Network Solutions Service Performance
While Network Solutions is kind of confusing to use and tries to get your money in every way possible, perhaps it's worth because of performance? After all, it has many users still hosting with them.
In this part of Network Solutions review, we'll see how this provider performs in terms of customers support, server speed and uptime, and account security.
Network Solutions customer support
Network Solutions offers 2 main types of customer support - 24/7 phone and tickets. Unfortunately, a live chat is not an option.
For example, Network Solutions presents you with a huge list of phone numbers to call in case you need help.
The concept is easy - pick one according to your problem. The reality is different.
What if you're having a number of problems? That's several different calls.
Anyway, I mentioned you can do tickets. Do you have an idea where on this screen you can find the menu?
Look at the picture once more and make your guess.
Okay, got it? You can find an "Email Us" link under the "eCommerce Support" part of the table:
So when you do click it, you are redirected not to email, but directly to ticket support window.
Ticket Service Evaluation
Despite the awkward location, ticket screen itself is actually quite comfortable and nice to use. You can also add additional comments right after your original inquiry, which is very thoughtful.
What I was let down with, however, was the response times.
While a lot of the competition manages to close tickets in less than 6 hours or even an hour - Network Solutions needs an entire day!
Maybe the company's agents also have trouble finding the ticket screen? That's certainly not out of the question.
The responses themselves were alright though. And I managed to receive the answers that I needed. However, the additional comments that I made were not always addressed. Also, sometimes the replies felt like they were pre-written and taken directly out of the internal knowledge base (but it's perfectly alright in most cases anyway).
Users have also mentioned the tickets being closed even if the issue is not resolved. And that might be a big problem for all users.
Phone Service Evaluation
Finally, I picked out one of many phone numbers and made a call. Despite having a serious array of options, NetworkSolutions still led me through an extensive in-call menu in order to talk to someone. It makes you think - what's the point of having multiple numbers if you are going to redirect the people anyway?
Anyway though, after a couple of menus and several upsell attempts, I was finally connected to the agent.
In all of the cases, it took around or less than 1 minute of waiting, which is absolutely fine. Then, I had yet another revelation.
Despite me choosing a specific number and going through a menu, I wasn't guaranteed that I will speak to an expert in the field. During my calls, customer support passed me around like I’m a blunt in a frat party.
Often I had to go through 2 or 3 people to get an issue solved. Each connection had its own waiting time and had recorded attempts to sell me something. The entire situation felt a bit weird. When possible, the number of transfers to a different agent should be minimized. Although it's always great to talk to someone who's an expert, transfers are stressful. I believe Network Solutions should work on reducing them.
Overall though, the phone support wasn't half bad. The agents themselves attempted to help me as much as they could and wait times were okay. This provider has enough problems, phone service probably isn't the biggest one of them.
Network Solutions is definitely not a good provider in terms of pricing, user interface, and customer support. However, the performance of the servers is still the most important part of all hosting.
So to review Network Solutions performance, we've performed 3 tests:
- Host's speed hosting a small website
- Host's speed with a website builder site
- Server's overall speed and uptime
Host Speed During Low Upkeep
In theory, an HTML website is supposed to be the quickest thing a hosting provider could ever run. After all, this specific page consists only of 20 or so lines of code and a server should crunch such a task in no time at all.
But the response times were not excellent. Server performance was rated C, which indicates some problems.
While the US and even South America's response times were generally good, other lagged behind.
Host Speed With a Website Builder Site
This is bound to be more of a challenge for Network Solutions - I have created a website builder website, which is definitely much heavier than the simple HTML.
It should be slower, but if servers are well-optimized, we shouldn't see a massive difference.
The performance was rated D+ which is just a bit worse than with a lighter website. The US response times remained great, while others lagged behind.
Overall, nothing great but nothing tragic once more. These results are generally common with other providers as well. But considering the price of Network Solutions, performance could and should be better.
Server Overall Speed And Uptime
Sometimes, instantaneous tests do not reveal the true performance of the host.
That is why we've set up a monitoring tool to test Network Solutions response time and uptime throughout the time.
The results revealed a sad picture. Response times averaged 1,7 seconds with occasional peaks to 3 or even 4 seconds. And this is slow. The industry average is 553ms and Network Solutions exceeds that more than 3 times.
The uptime, fortunately, was flawless. During several weeks that we were monitoring Network Solutions, it remained up and running. No downtime was recorded.
The uptime might be the only good feature Network Solutions has.
But overall, the performance is definitely not a reason to choose this host.
Account security evaluation
Here we are - it's time for the final test. During this evaluation, we will see just how much does Network Solutions value security of its clients' data. Judging by what I endured during the purchase process, I have my reservations. But this test is slightly different, and it's going to consist of these two parts:
- Manual brute-force break-in attempt
- Luring out the account password from the Network Solutions' customer service representatives
So, for the first test, I changed my IP and browser, then attempted to log into my account. But I wrote the incorrect passwords in for 20 times in the row and then, only guessed it right on my 21st attempt. This way, I managed to replicate the experience of someone guessing an account's password, either by hand or using software designed for that.
Despite definitely guessing the password right, I was blocked by the system.
Then, I changed my IP and browser back to what I was using earlier. To no success - my account was very much locked out, with no indication that the password I wrote in was right.
What would an ill-wishing person do then? Go and lure the password away from the customer service, of course! So this is what I've done.
I called the customer support once more and dramatically (tears and everything) pretended to be the rightful owner of an account, who was unlawfully locked away from his server space. Network Solutions agent has asked me these questions:
- The phone number associated with the account
- Name associated with the account
- Domain connected to the account
- Answer to my security question
Once you answer to all four, it's a jackpot! Your password can now be overridden!
Truth be told, this is an okay security measure. Most of the "weekend hackers" won't have information to all of the first three questions. And if your security question is a good one, you're in business. Just make sure to take the question seriously and don't forget the answer yourself!
Network Solutions Review - the Verdict
Our Network Solutions review shows, that it is one of the worst providers you could ever choose to host your website. Not only its performance is worse than poor, but it also tries to take as much money from you as possible.
But the problems don't end just there.
The host raises a lot of questions about its security - asking card details on the phone is just not acceptable, if not illegal. Network Solutions also lies about the features the plans include. Promised SSL certificate turns out to be an expensive add-on.
Talking about using the services themselves, the control panel lacks functionality. Though it looks good, you will probably have some issues using it.
I'll have to be blunt - there is not one reason you should consider Network Solutions as your next hosting provider. Whatever it can do, others can do better. You can do better. This provider needs a massive refresh in its services. And for now, Network Solutions is not the solution you are looking for.
- No recorded downtimes
- Poor performance
- Expensive plans and lots of upselling
- Security concerns