Network Solutions is one of the oldest consumer Internet companies still operating. They are most well-known as a domain registrar, though they offer a full suite of business Internet solutions.
In fact, from 1993 to 1999, they were the only company authorized to register domains. If you wanted a domain in the ‘90s – you had to buy it from Network Solutions. Because of that, they’ve built a brand around being “the Internet’s domain provider.”
Network Solutions is not my primary domain registrar (which is NameCheap). But I’ve had enough clients purchase their domains with Network Solutions that I wanted to try them myself to see if there was something to their branding.
Here’s my experience and my Network Solutions review with a focus on their domain registrar service.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data and opinion is based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Before we look at the pros & cons, there are a couple items to mention.
First, Network Solutions is primarily a domain registrar. Though they refer their website hosting to their sister brand Web.com, they do offer everything from SSL certificates to Email to Online Storage among other complementary services.
Second, it’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email – or any other service. It’s analogous to your address in the offline world – it helps people locate where your property is. A domain simply tells browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).
If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting. Here’s a quiz to help you decide what the best web hosting service is based on your goals & preferences.
All that said – let’s look at the pros & cons of using Network Solutions as your domain registrar.
Pros of Network Solutions
Here’s what I’ve liked about Network Solutions. The short version is that there’s not a whole lot, though my experience aligns with Network Solutions’ own “Why Choose Us” page where they give exactly two reasons –
Branding & Longevity
Network Solutions can legitimately claim to be decades older than many of their competitors. They were founded in 1979 and actually were the first & only company to register domains for the public on the Internet.
Network Solutions has experienced a lot of change on the Internet and is still around.
Although “branding and longevity” might seem like a superficial reason to choose a domain registrar – it’s not at all.
Your domain (aka your address online) is the absolute core of your business. All your digital marketing efforts rely on your domain existing. You don’t want to entrust it to a fly by night company simply because they are cheaper or easier to use.
It’s like choosing a bank – their job #1 is simply to stay in business and be there tomorrow. Unlike many Internet companies, Network Solutions ticks that box. They’ve been around for decades; they have an established brand; and they’ll probably be around tomorrow.
Customer Support Options
Like I’ve mentioned in my hosting reviews – customer support is a key factor for any company, but it’s also tough to judge.
Customer ratings shift towards the extremes when most customers get along just fine or with mild frustration. Any single person’s experience isn’t very helpful. And only the company itself truly knows their internal culture.
Instead, I look for indicators of whether a company treats customer service as an investment, a cost or as a sales opportunity. Usually those indicators are the number of service channels and investment in DIY help articles.
Network Solutions does both fairly well. Unlike many domain registrars, they maintain a phone option along with email and chat.
They even have a feature where you can set an appointment for them to call, so that you can avoid holding on the phone/chat.
While the reps do ask light questions to look for a sales opportunity, the ones that I interacted with seemed to have a straightforward script to help me solve my problem.
That said, they have only a somewhat detailed knowledge base. I wasn’t able to search and solve my problem – even though there was a help article available.
Overall, their customer support by my criteria is an advantage for Network Solutions.
Cons of Network Solutions
Here’s what I found to be a disadvantage of using Network Solutions.
Domain pricing is usually fairly straightforward across all providers. You pay annually for the registration of a single domain. Some companies will discount the first year (ie, GoDaddy) and some will provide lower prices over the long term (ie, NameCheap).
Network Solutions falls in the GoDaddy camp – but are more expensive both short-term and at renewal.
Like – a lot more expensive.
Network Solutions will usually offer a standard .com domain for $9.99/yr for the first year they’ll renew at $37.99/yr.
Network Solutions is a very expensive domain provider however you look at it.
But with pricing – that’s not all. Throughout my time with Network Solutions – I kept getting surprised by fees for services or addons are either included, free or cheap with other companies.
For example, I thought that registering my domain would allow me to redirect wherever I wanted – that’s normal at other providers. Network Solutions charges for that feature.
WHOIS privacy (aka Private Registration) allows you to hide your address and phone number from the public record. Some providers like Google Domains and Hover bundle it into the price of a domain. Some providers like GoDaddy or NameCheap charge a couple dollars per year for the service.
Network Solutions charges several dollars per month for the service.
Network Solutions could not even get their end price right for my domain. All through checkout, I had one price. But when I went to pay on the final screen, the screen refreshed to say the price was no longer valid, and raised my price by $7.
Network Solutions’ checkout and product setup seems to be riddled with surprise fees and asterisks.
I’m not against introductory pricing, promos and fees for valuable services, but I do want the fees to be transparent and reasonable. Network Solutions seriously fails on that front.
Upsells are not always a bad thing. If a service is valuable and useful to me – then I’d like to know about it. And it’s usually easier to purchase everything at once rather than a la carte when i happen to remember it.
But there is a fairly obvious line between a “hey, would you also be interested in this?” to “hey, we put this in your cart and you can’t remove it until later” or “hey, you’d like this so have a look at it before you can manage your account.”
Here’s some assorted screenshots from Network Solutions’ checkout process…
They even have a “Daily Recommendation” screen when you log into your account with an upsell.
After a while, it’s really exhausting and certainly a disadvantage.
Interface & Usability
A domain registrar does not need a lot of features. In fact, the lack of features can sometimes be useful. A domain registrar needs to be simple to navigate with user-friendly design.
Ideally, you won’t need to manage your domains too often, but when you do, it should be a quick, simple process.
With Network Solutions’ backend – managing domains is neither simple nor fast. Here’s what it looks like –
Not to be too harsh, but it’s really just a collection of ads for upsells with a tiny link to domain management. And even once you’re looking at a domain – every action has its own screen.
There’s no action that you can do in fewer than 4 clicks. If I was migrating a website, it would be awful.
I touched on Features in surprise fees, but I have to emphasize the fact that Network Solutions does not include many basic features that other domain providers have.
For example, not only does Network Solutions charge a fee for domain forwarding, they also do not support forwarding to an HTTPS address.
In a world where most websites are going HTTPS (and something that Network Solutions certainly pitches as an upsell), not being able to forward directly to an HTTPS address is very limiting.
Additionally, they do not have email forwarding and bury all their advanced DNS functionality. These are advanced features that many website owners will never need but the fact that they aren’t included is not a good thing either. You don’t want the day you need an advanced feature to be a day when you have to transfer your domain out of Network Solutions.
Domain registrars should have a straightforward feature set. Network Solutions’ disadvantage is that they haven’t kept theirs up to date or focused on their users.
If Network Solutions seems like a good fit for you, you can get a domain from them here.
But there are much better options that even have better branding and better support.
If you want lots of options and great pricing from a reputable company without the upsells, I’d recommend checking out NameCheap here…
If you just want a super-cheap domain right now (with phone support), then go check out a GoDaddy domain special here…
Lastly, if you are more confused than ever, explore my BuzzFeed-esque quiz on choosing your best domain registrar here.