Looking for an inexpensive Windows web hosting company for an ASP.NET (or Classic ASP) website? I have experience with five of the most popular shared hosting plans: Hostek, Arvixe, SmarterASP, ASPnix and RDO Servers. Here are my recommendations.
I've hosted one of my customers website with ASPnix for a year or two now and have just moved another over there. They have plans from US$5 per month but you need the US$10 and up plans for essential features like dedicated IP so you can use SSL. There's no difference between the Personal, Portal and Business plans other than the limit of number of sites you can have, SQL Server databases, and email accounts (Update: there are now differences in application pool limits).
Disk space, bandwidth and domain limits are unlimited (within reasonable use) and the only database size limit is for SQL Server and is a generous 10Gb per database. On the Personal plan you can have up to 25 websites which is amazing value.
ASPnix use a customised version of WebsitePanel so there's plenty of control over your website and good options for scheduled tasks including database backups.
For SSL you will need a dedicated IP (US$3/month) as they don't offer SNI, but they make it very easy to install a free Let's Encrypt SSL certificate which automatically renews upon expiry. Their control panel also makes it easy to enable DKIM with just a couple of clicks.
They have myLittleAdmin for managing SQL Server databases via the web rather than having to use SQL Management Studio which is a handy feature.
If you have an old Classic ASP website you will probably appreciate the components they already have installed, and they are one of the few hosts to have ABCpdf installed for both Classic ASP and .NET (which I needed for two customer sites).
They have been a very reliable host. I did experience one recent issue where their SQL Server went down and needed restoration from backup. It was offline for quite a few hours as a result, but they handled it well.
Support has been excellent, and for one of my customers, they went way above and beyond what you would expect of a US$10/month unlimited hosting plan to assist with getting a difficult database migration done.
Based on this experience and the service my other customer has been receiving, I would have to say that ASPnix is one of the best providers of inexpensive shared hosting.
Update: I have been using ASPnix for several years now. Support has always been excellent and quick to respond. There have been occasional short outages, but this is typical of every host I have used.
Find them at www.aspnix.com (disclosure: affiliate link).
#2 RDO Servers
Recently I was looking for a new hosting plan to host three of my websites and I came across RDO Servers. Although there's not many reviews out there for them, the reviews were good and I noticed that they post on the Web Hosting Talk forums which is a good sign to me.
Looking to reduce my hosting costs, their plans appealed because I could run multiple sites and use SNI for SSL, so no need for dedicated IP addresses for each site.
They answered a few pre-sales questions well so I took up one of the their Windows shared hosting plans. This was also my first experience with Plesk as a control panel.
I had a few issues in setting up my sites, but (almost) each issue was solved quickly and support was quick enough and helpful. The issues were minor, such as not being able to add domain aliases, and some issues with backups.
Overall their service seems well above average and I would definitely recommend them if their service suits you. However, because of some limitations of Plesk I did not going to continue to move my websites there.
The limitations that affected me were to do with backups. Plesk does not seem to allow me to schedule separate database backups. It can only do a combined scheduled backup of the website files and database. As I have a few GBs of website files this makes one long, slow backup that is quite large. Also each backup gets a new name and doesn't overwrite old backups so have to be manually deleted.
The Plesk backup and restore system is actually otherwise good, and if you trust your hosting company to store it safely then it is good enough.
Visit the RDO Servers website.
I have been with Hostek for some time and I have an older personal unlimited plan which costs around US$70 per year, and includes a dedicated IP address.
The dedicated IP had to be requested through support but once activated I was able to install my own SSL certificate without additional cost.
Hostek have their own custom control panel which is good and provides access to most features you would need.
They do not offer SNI so you will need a dedicated IP for each website if you want to use SSL. There is no option for scheduled database backups.
I have found support to be fast and helpful. The service has not been fully reliable however, with occasional website downtime, MySQL outages and some unusual website errors.
In the control panel there is an option to block IP address and Hostek themselves seem to occasionally add blocked IP addresses. For what reason I do not know but probably for my protection. However it does worry me as once they blocked my own IP address. Also, I was once warned about excessive MySQL usage as I was doing daily dumps to a backup service but I reduced this to a less regular schedule and they haven't contacted me since.
Visit their website at hostek.com.
I signed up to SmarterASP because they have a very generous free trial period, and the cost of their least expensive shared hosting plan was only US$2.95 per month plus US$2 per month for a dedicated IP address. Since then the dedicated IP is no longer an option on the "Basic" plan, only on the "Advanced" plan and above (US$4.95 per month).
SmarterASP also offer "Semi-dedicated" plans which are similar shared hosting but with less sites per server, plus a matching database server with less databases per server. I don't have any experience with these plans, which start at US$29.95 per month.
I have found the shared hosting service to be very reliable so far, and support have been quick to respond and helpful.
The drawbacks to this hosting is in some of the extra costs. I originally thought I could purchase the dedicated IP option and then install my own SSL certificate (I usually buy basic certificates for less than US$10 per year). However when I came to do this I found there was a US$19.95 charge to install your own certificate, so I ended up purchasing a certificate from SmarterASP themselves for the cost of US$29.95 per year. Note that they do not support SNI so a dedicated IP is required.
Also when I came to back up my database I found that although I could manually take a backup at any time, if I wanted to schedule automatic backups I had to purchase quota (US$35.40 per year).
There is a limit of 50 emails per hour being sent from their email server. This includes emails sent in code, and emails sent in webmail or a mail client. You can pay US$35.40 per year to increase this limit to 100 per hour, or pay US$30 per year per email address to use their bulk email server to send up to 10,000 emails per day from code only (not webmail or a mail client). I signed up for the 10,000 per day limit out of necessity only to find that they say "DO NOT send email to your own domain name" and more importantly "DO NOT send out more than 10 emails per minute to avoid any performance problem". What kind of bulk email server is that?
I did have some issues setting up sending of email through code. I found out that you can only send email from an account you have set up in your account. This may or may not be a problem for you.
Note that the email limitations could be avoided by using an external mail service such as mailgun.
The control panel is a custom panel and works well with access to most features you would need. There is remote IIS management access too, if required. A useful feature is the Webbase MS SQL Server Manager which allows you to modify the database structure and data via a web interface, rather than having to use SQL Management Studio.
On the subject of SQL Server, where most hosting companies allow you to see a full list of all databases on your shared SQL Server, SmarterASP list only the database(s) you have access to. Although this means you can't see how many other databases are sharing your server (you probably don't want to know), it does mean you don't have to search through many databases to find your own.
Visit their website at www.smarterasp.net.
Note that SmarterASP, hostbuddy.com and mywindowshosting.com appear to be the exact same company with the same prices although the later shows more detail about each plan in regards to concurrent users and available memory.
Arvixe used to be such a good host, until they got bought out by EIG. Under no circumstances would I recommend hosting with Arvixe (or any other EIG-owned host). Support is next to useless so if something goes wrong, expect to be offline for a long time.
I've had experience with several websites hosted with Arvixe, from the cheap personal plans to their business plans and VPS.
A while ago I needed to get a hosting plan for a new project and I chose Arvixe's Personal Class ASP plan as it is US$5 per month including a free domain name (for as long as you keep the plan). SSL is an extra US$25 per year but no dedicated IP is required as they offer SNI. This means a year's hosting including SSL is US$85 which is very reasonable for an "unlimited" plan.
I also have one customer on Arvixe's Business Class ASP plan which for US$29.95 per month I expected to be on servers with less websites. I didn't see any evidence of this though, and I suspect it is the same servers as personal plans, just with a higher price tag. I could be wrong. The business plans do come with dedicated IP and free SSL though.
Arvixe appear to set up their servers differently to most hosting companies. Most have separate servers for web, database, email, DNS, etc. Arvixe seem to lump everything on the same server. There are some good things about this, and some bad. They also use the Express Edition of SQL Server which has some limitations on memory and CPU usage.
They use WebsitePanel for managing the website and it is very good and provides excellent access to all features, including scheduled database backups. I do seem to get logged out of the panel often though.
Arvixe have an email limit of 100 per hour so you need to ensure your code does not send more than this.
Aside from the almost complete lack of support, I also don't like Arvixe because once all of the sites on the same server as mine were hacked (a conditional redirect was hidden in web.config).
Visit their website at www.arvixe.com. Actually don't visit it.
I've been looking into "cloud" hosting and have been impressed with GearHost (see my post Moving to the cloud - web hosting options for Classic ASP and ASP.NET). They offer hosting built on Microsoft Azure pack but with a much simpler and user-friendlier pricing structure. They even offers some free plans useful for trialling the service and development. Cloud hosting offers scalability and availability that isn't usually available in regular shared hosting - it's a bit more expensive but far superior and suitable for websites where you don't want any downtime. There's also Everleap and Applied Innovations which are also built on Microsoft Azure Pack but are a bit more expensive.
Update (November 2016)During my continued search for a suitable host for all of my websites I came across Peoples Host. Although only around for a year or so, they review well and seem focused on providing quality hosting and customer service.
Their plans start at US$10 per month (for 2 years, US$15 if paying monthly).
They use WebsitePanel and offer SNI.
I've only been trialling them for a short time and so far so good. The only negative has been that you must go through support to setup SSL (they will install your own certificate and there is no installation cost).
Like Arvixe, they appear to have all services on the one server - web, mail, SQL Server, MySQL. Some people may not like this but I have not found it to be an issue and there is actually some benefit to having some services on the same server, such as application to database connections.
For SQL Server they use the Express Edition (64-bit). This could potentially limit database performance depending on how busy the server is.
So far I found support to be very quick to respond and very helpful.
Visit www.peopleshost.com (disclosure: affiliate link).
Update (November 2016)
Recently I was able to compare the performance of one of my websites on Arvixe, ASPnix and Peoples Host.
Strangely I found Arvixe to be significantly quicker for serving pages, but ASPnix and Peoples Host to be equally quicker than Arvixe for database queries (despite Peoples Host using SQL Express and ASPnix using the full version of SQL Server).
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