SiteGround: Web Hosting Reviewed

As of April 8, 2017 when I’m writing this review, Fanatic Entrepreneur is being hosted at SiteGround.

Something about me : I am a freelancer and in the past few months, I have been lucky enough to have found some steady jobs maintaining servers for clients. While doing so, I have had the pleasure of working with many web hosting companies. (read: *spent hours with support chat crews*.) Some of these experiences have been good but some have actually been horrible.

After trying my luck with so many different web hosts, when in February 2017 I decided to start my own blog, it wasn’t a surprise that SiteGround was my first choice. BTW, in case you didn’t know, SiteGround is recommended by WordPress.org themselves.


Psstt… There’s a small quiz at the end of this post for all of you TL;DR people 😉 . If you’re too lazy to read through all this, the quiz will help you select a the perfect web host for you.

 

A small Introduction

SiteGround was founded in 2004 and currently hosts more that 500k domains and websites. SiteGround is one of the few web hosting companies that isn’t owned by The Endurance International Group.

Siteground has their data centers located in 4 different countries:

  1. Chicago, USA
  2. London, UK
  3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  4. Singapore

The best part is that you get to choose where you want to host your website hence allowing you to target a certain part of the world with faster loading speeds.

 

Types of Hosting

SiteGround offers 4 different types of Hosting Solutions:

In this review, I’ll be covering the Shared Hosting and the WordPress Hosting solutions offered by SiteGround. Why these two, you ask? Well that’s a valid question. The answer will be a bit unexpected, but here it goes:

They are the same.

The Shared hosting and the WordPress hosting provided by SiteGround are the exact same things. The WordPress hosting page is just a page that shows why SiteGround is perfect for hosting WordPress websites. Here’s a chat transcript with a SiteGround representative who explained this to me.


Now that we’re clear about the fact that the Shared hosting and the WordPress hosting are the same, let me go on and tell you why I chose SiteGround for my own blog.

 

Siteground’s Features

Pricing

The plans are pretty decent. They’re not the most competitive but they’re somewhere near the center of the price spectra. The pricing is as follows :

  1. StartUp : $3.95 per month
  2. GrowBig : $5.95 per month (The one I use)
  3. GoGeek :  $11.95 per month (Used for a client for some 20 Days)

I have previously reviewed Bluehost and Ipage. Whereas, Bluehost has been here for ages and has proved to be the most reliable hosting, Ipage has shown potential as it is the cheapest web hosting available in the industry (Review here). SiteGround is completely different than these two. Overall, SiteGround is cheaper than Bluehost and just a bit more than iPage. You can compare SiteGround’s and Bluehost’s shared hosting and Siteground definitely comes out a winner.

 

Uptime : (Proud to be with SiteGround)

Most web hosting promise a 99.99% uptime and deliver around the same. SiteGround has overdone itself in this category. There have been multiple big outages from the Endurance International Group owned hostings, SiteGround on the other hand has maintained a respectable 99.99% uptime.

In fact, in the past month, Fanatic Entrepreneur has noticed a 99.999% uptime which is the nearly the best uptime I’ve seen. In February, this number was 99.992% which was again really great number.

SiteGround uptime

P.S : The original Uptime for the last month was 99.999% but it rounds off anything above 99.995% to 100%. 

 

TTFB (Time Till First Byte)

TTFB ( Time to First Byte) is the time taken by the user to send the request for your website, your DNS to process it and your server to return the 200 Ok code. The TTFB shows your web server’s quality. Faster DNS look-ups and properly configured servers usually show TTFBs of less than 200ms. As a basic reference, anything below 300ms will do. I personally use this free tool to check my TTFBs.

Here’s a result from when I’m writing this review. My server at SiteGround has a pretty sweet TTFB of 142ms!

TTFB SiteGround

Just as a side note, most people don’t care about your TTFB, because for them, the time taken by your website to load completely is what matters. Basically, Page load speed trumps TTFB. Still, working on improving your TTFB can help you save some important Page Load time.

 

Page Load Speeds

This is probably the most important metric among all of these. Why? Because, a faster loading website means higher viewer retention. On an average, people tend to switch tabs if any website takes longer than 3 seconds to load (5 seconds for the ultra patient ones). So, if your website does not load in 3 seconds, you’re in for high bounce rates.

The average load speed of this website is 1.2 seconds (Worldwide) which is again among the best load times you can have.

Speed Test Location : San Jose, California

SiteGround Speed San Jose

Speed Test Location : Melbourne, Australia

SiteGround Speed Melbourne

Speed Test Location : Stockholm, Sweden

P.S : My web server is located in the US, hence you may notice the Page load times in Australia have crossed the 4 sec mark significantly.

This dip in speed can be solved by using a CDN. SiteGround provides an on-panel CloudFlare Integration. This is just a fancy way of saying that you won’t have to leave the SiteGround Panel to start your CDN.

 

CloudFlare CDN integration

A CDN (content delivery network) is a group of distributed data servers which are all inter-linked. A CDN simply duplicates the static data on your website so that when a user requests your website from let’s say… Mars 😛 , your server on Earth won’t have to take the load! CloudFlare’s CDN server on Mars will provide them with your website, hence significantly increasing your Page Load Speeds. Moreover, if your server ever goes down for small intervals, the CDN load-balancers render your page from their servers itself, so it’ll be like the server was never down!

Let me show you the CDN magic working. The same speed tests have been performed when the integrated CloudFlare CDN was turned on. Here are the results :

Speed Test Location : San Jose, California

SiteGround Speed CDN San Jose

Speed Test Location : Melbourne, Australia

SiteGround Speed CDN Melbourne

Speed Test Location : Stockholm, Sweden
SiteGround Speed CDN Stockholm

Notice how the average page load times have decreased. That is the magic of CloudFlare’s CDN.

 

CloudFlare WAF

Along with the CloudFlare CDN, SiteGround also has in-panel integration of the most extensive Web Application Firewall. Here’s a detailed review of the CloudFlare WAF. It has everything that you need to know about the WAF. Still, to summarize it, here are a few points:

  • Protects you from DDoS attacks
  • Protects you from XSS attacks
  • Much better than a normal firewall as it scans for malicious behavior
  • Works on the OWASP ModSecurity standards
  • Comes with 20 Page Rules

*This has been introduced in early 2017 and is not yet included with the plan, hence you’ll have to get a CloudFlare Pro membership to avail the WAF. For people with simple blogs, I wouldn’t recommend getting it.

Note: If you have an Online Store, your website has to be PCI compliant. To do that, you need to hire a network security expert to provide a detailed report on vulnerabilities on your online store. By integrating the Web Application Firewall, you automatically get the PCI compliance hence saving a lot of money on that.

 

WordPress Features provided by SiteGround

Here’s a list of all the WordPress features provided by SiteGround. They’ve made their hosting specifically configured to host WordPress websites to their best capabilities.

  • Free Install : A one click WordPress install (Very Basic).
  • Free Transfer : If you have a pre-existing WordPress blog on a different server, they’ll shift it for you to the new SiteGround servers.
  • Auto Update : Used to be a big deal eralier, but now WordPress comes built in with this option
  • WordPress CLI : If your website is ever hacked, in order to gain access, this tool really comes in handy. With the WordPress Command Line Interface you can do magic!

These are just basic features that many Web Hosts provide. Regardless, they were worth a mention as even these features are very important to the not-so-tech-savvy people.

 

Regular Backups

What is the worst thing that can happen? It’s the loss of important data. Just imagine if your online store which had 500+ products with custom descriptions were to suddenly get corrupted and all the data were to be lost. It would definitely be a big loss to your business. To stop that from happening, SiteGround has automatic backups to backup your important data. Redundancy is always better in case of any online endeavor.

 

Free SSL certificate

ssl certificates

Notice the “Secure” and the “https” written in the address bar, that ensures that my website is protected by SSL encryption. If you’re buying a web hosting with SiteGround, you’ll receive a free SSL certificate offered by Let’s Encrypt. The Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates are not wildcard, meaning that they will not work for all your sub-domains.

If you’re going for the GrowBig or GoGeek plan, you’ll receive one premium SSL certificate and the Let’s Encrypt certificates as well. This means that if you’ll be hosting multiple websites, your primary website will be using the premium certificate whereas the other websites will use the Let’s Encrypt certificates.

 

PHP 7.1 ready

Most Web hosts have PHP 5.6 installed default on their servers and they have an option for you to switch to PHP 7.0. SiteGround has a default PHP version of 7.0 and it also allows you to switch to PHP 7.1 which is seldom supported by other web hosting providers.

PHP 7.0 is what WordPress currently recommends although it is still compatible with the 5.6 version.

 

SiteGround’s Selling Features

 

SG Optimizer ( BEST SITEGROUND FEATURE)

This is probably the biggest reason that I went with SiteGround instead of Bluehost. I’ve had a really good experience with Bluehost but their Page load speeds were something that I wasn’t comfortable with and hence I decided to go with SiteGround.

WordPress has so many Caching plugins. I’ve used WP SuperCache before and that easily decreased my website’s loading speeds to half. But the SG Optimizer does wonders on your website. Instead of using a plugin to cache your website, using SiteGround’s SG Optimizer plugin the caching occurs at server level.

Let’s have a look at some subtle features of the SG Optimizer:

  • Static Cache

The Static Cache caches all the static content on your account which includes images, CSS files, javascript, flash, and more. Once enabled, all requests of future visitors will be answered from the cached content and not directly from the server. Hence increasing the page load speeds significantly.

  • Dynamic Cache

Dynamic caching is the second layer of site performance improvement. It creates copies of your website’s dynamic content and stores them in the server RAM. Dynamic caching is also provided by many Managed WordPress hosting providers but these usually cost you ~$50+ per month. The fact that SiteGround provides you dynamic caching for such reasonable prices makes SiteGround a perfect choice for your hosting needs.

  • MemCache

The Memcached technology speeds up all database calls, all API calls and page rendering by storing data in memory to reduce the number of times a database is queried. By reducing Database queries, the load speeds increase by over 2x.

Using these Cache methods, some part of your RAM is allotted to caching and hence cannot be used. Yet, it frees up a lot of server processes as the number of database queries reduce marginally as compared to earlier.

  • Google PageSpeed

Google Page Speed is an Apache/nginx module (mod_pagespeed) developed by Google that reduces page load time. Anyone can configure that by updating their .htaccess file but this allows you to configure it using just one click!

Note: The SG Optimizer Plugin is not included in the StartUp plan. It is only available to GrowBig and higher.

SG Staging

Another very cool feature of SiteGround is the Staging option. I used this for some ~20 days while freelancing for a client who had an online store based on WooCommerce. So, what does staging do?

Well, if you ever want to make any changes to your website, eg: you want to see how a different theme will look. In a normal WordPress/Joomla install you would have to activate the theme and test it out on a live website. For new websites that don’t have a lot of users, it is not a big deal. But if your website has a very large number of users per hour. You may not want them to notice you setting up the new theme.

This is where staging comes in. You get to do all the setup part on a “stage” and once you are happy with all the changes you’ve made, tested your website for vulnerabilities or bugs etc.; you can push the website live. This way you get a platform to not only edit but even test your website before pushing it live.

Note : The staging feature is only available to Siteground users who are part of the GoGeek plan ($11.95/month). There are other Managed WordPress hosts that provide Staging. Kinsta and Media Temple are examples but they’re no where as cheap as SiteGround and hence SiteGround provides you a big advantage on that front.

 

An Awesome Support Crew!

I’ll be very direct here. SiteGround has the best support staff that I’ve seen till now. SiteGround very proudly state that their support crew is very well trained and I’ve personally experienced this astonishingly knowledgeable support staff.

I’m used to waiting for minutes before a support crew answers my live chat. NOT HERE period. There has never been a time when it took the SiteGround representatives more than 40 seconds to answer my chat with a “Hello Mehul”. According to me, after the server speed, the most important feature that any web host can have is a competent support crew and man does SiteGroud over achieve in that prospect.

SiteGround Support Crew

This took 20 seconds to clear up!

 

The support staff is very friendly and they are able to solve the biggest of problems within minutes. This is another selling point for SiteGround.

 

The Cons

Now that I’ve told you all about the Marvelous features of SiteGround, it’s time to face the facts. Nothing is perfect, neither is SiteGround. There are some areas in which SiteGround does not even compete with other Web Hosts.

  • Limit on monthly visits

There is a limit on visits on even the costliest GoGeek plan. The Pageview limits are as follows:

  1. StartUp : 10,000 Pageviews/month
  2. GrowBig25,000 Pageviews/month
  3. GoGeek : 100,000 Pageviews/month

Unless your website is really popular, you’ll probably not cross these limits, yet you are at a disadvantage here as other hosts offer unlimited visitors and unlimited bandwidth. The limits set by SiteGround actually make a lot of sense. If you are getting more than 100k visits a month, there is no reason for you to stay with the SiteGround shared hosting. You should switch to a SiteGround VPS server as they have lower server densities than your traditional shared hosting.

  • Limit on number of Websites (StartUp only)

If you’re thinking of going with SiteGround’s Startup plan, remember that you’ll only be able to host one website with them. You may still have as many sub-domains as you may like. You can even install multiple WordPress instances using WordPress multisite but they all would have to be sub-domains of your primary domain. This is just valid on SiteGround’s StartUp plan. Most other web hosts also limit the number of websites, so if you go with SiteGround’s GrowBig or GoGeek plan, you’re good to go.

  • Limit on Space

Most websites never even use 1GB of the storage unless they are hosting videos on their servers. If you’re starting a blog or an online store, no need to worry. Here’s the limit on the space restriction:

  1. StartUp : 10,000 Pageviews/month
  2. GrowBig25,000 Pageviews/month
  3. GoGeek : 100,000 Pageviews/month

If you have a data-driven website or a social networking website, this hosting is definitely not for you. You have multiple alternatives in such case. You could go for Bluehost or Inmotion which have no limit on space or pageviews.

 

Should you buy Hosting from SiteGround?

I’ll suggest you whether you should buy Siteground based on your answers to the following short quiz:

How important is the budget to you?


The Result

If SiteGround turned out to be the perfect hosting for you, here you go:

 

If not, then these are also some good web hosting solutions. [iPage Review] [iPage WordPress Review] [Bluehost Review]

 

SiteGround is perfect for you if speed matters to you. It’s not the cheapest hosting out there, but it isn’t very costly either. The support crew is awesome, maybe the best that you’ll ever witness. But, if you’re in for a datacentric website that’ll have loads of media like images and videos, then maybe you should go for Bluehost.

If you are starting a new blog and are sure that you won’t be receiving a lot of traffic for the first few months, don’t think twice and go with iPage. There’s no doubt that it the cheapest web hosting out there (that has a certain standard). Their support staff isn’t anywhere close to SiteGround. Whenever I’ve contacted iPage, I’ve been received by some guy who couldn’t even string a sentence together. So, go for iPage only if you know your way around technology.


P.S : Buy hosting from SiteGround <<—– BIG scary affiliate link! Yes, that’s an affiliate link which means you buying a plan using this and other links will help me buy a box of cookies 🙂

P.P.S : I love Cookies (and cake) [and all other sweet things 😛 ]

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