I host one of most important sites (www.wprssaggregator.com) on the SiteGround platform, having moved it from its previous location at a shared host. SiteGround are a hosting company that’s been established for more than 11 years now, they are based in Bulgaria and offer shared hosting, cloud hosting and dedicated servers.
One of the reasons I moved to SiteGround was the fact that I met their team at WordCamp Europe in 2013. They left a lasting impression of me and immediately came across as a fun, knowledgeable and passionate bunch, focused on supplying a great service and keeping their customers satisfied.
Today I will share my experience of moving to SiteGround, as well as highlight some of the features about their service which I like best.
Moving my Site to SiteGround
While signing up to SiteGround, you can choose where you want your site to be hosted. SiteGround operate three datacenters (Chicago, Amsterdam and Singapore), and your choice should be based on where your target market is. On the datacenters page, they have a helpful clickable map to help you make your choice. You can also claim your free domain while signing up, if you have one already then this offer doesn’t affect you.
After signing up to SiteGround, my first real job was to transfer all my files and databases from my old host to the new one. I had a few subdomains and email routing to be taken care of as well. Thankfully, I didn’t have to lift a finger as SiteGround staff handled it all for me, at zero cost. A day later (you have to wait a bit until DNS propagates), I could access my site again at SiteGround, and everything worked as expected, well, just a bit faster! SiteGround have developed a special caching system, which I suggest you read more about.
Their support won’t have you running around in circles, which is the most important thing when it comes to hosting. In a good web host, I’m looking for support staff that can immediately understand my issue and empathise with me. There’s nothing like having your website inaccessible to your customers, and not being able to get through to your host’s support. I can tell you it’s a terrible situation to be in. Thankfully that’s not the case at all with SiteGround.
They have 24/7 phone support, as well as an email ticketing system and live chat. When you open an email ticket, you get a reply within 10 minutes, how’s that for speediness?
My preferred way of getting support is live chat, and my experience with SiteGround was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. First of all I’ve found their chat personnel to be very curteous and knowledgeable. Their level of English was that of native speakers, no problems whatsoever (one might have this concern when dealing with non-US hosts).
The chat system itself is the best I’ve seen, you get to see a photo of the person you’re talking to, making the interaction much more personal. You can also view his/her full profile, and even escalate the chat to a senior support representative if you’re not satisfied for any reason. I also liked the fact that you can enable/disable sound alerts and also increase the text size of the chat. Their live chat is also available 24/7. For more technical issues, I would suggest that you open an email support ticket, although the chat representatives are also very knowledgeable, especially considering that I asked quite a few WordPress-specific technical questions, which they answered easily.
SiteGround specialise in both WordPress and Joomla, and you’ll find tons of helpful videos in their Vimeo account, be sure to check them out if you’re just starting out with any of these CMS systems.
As mentioned earlier, SiteGround provide shared hosting, cloud hosting and dedicated servers. I’ll focus on the pricing of their shared hosting as that’s what I went for. They have 3 plans:
- StartUp – Euro 3.95/month
- GrowBig – Euro 7.95/month
- GoGeek – Euro 11.95/month
It’s worth mentioning that these package prices are currently discounted by 40-50%, so the usual package prices would cost around twice as much.
The StartUp plan is excellent for those who are just starting out with their website, while for a multiple small site owner, GrowBig is the next logical step. GoGeek is suitable for those who are reselling hosting services to their clients, or who own a couple of high traffic websites. I went for the GoGeek package myself as my site attracts a high number of traffic, plus I also wanted to take advantage of the premium features available with this package.
Which takes us to the next section in this review…
What are these premium features, you will logically ask?
- 1 Year free SSL Certificate
- 30 Backup copies of your site
Those are the most important extra features when moving from StartUp to GrowBig.
If you go for GoGeek, you also get access to these extra features:
- Free PCI Compliance (great for E-commerce websites)
- Preinstalled Git and Staging
If you’re wondering what staging is, let me tell you that it’s a small revolution that will hopefully eradicate the ‘cowboy coding’ way of editing things on your live site. We all know that the best practice is to edit your site locally and then upload the changes to the production server, but most people are already struggling to keep their live site going, and setting up a local server environment is just too much.
Hence, they will edit things live, and hope for the best. Heck, I’ve been guilty of such practice myself in the past, before my hosts introduced staging environments. With the one-click staging environment, you basically press a button and have a perfect replica of your site created. You can then install that new plugin, or make that major modification to your theme there. Once you’re happy, push another button and those changes are brought over to your live site? Sound easy? It’s because it is! Seriously, this feature alone is worth the upgrade to SiteGround if your current host doesn’t have it.
For those who really prefer version control for their sites, the availability of Git is definitely very welcome. With Git integration you can easily develop locally and push changes to the live site, all the way having an exact trace of who did what and when, plus the ability to easily roll back any changes. Essential stuff for those working in teams.
SiteGround also provide WP-CLI, but we’ll talk more about that in another article. It’s basically another geeky tool that can speed up a lot of things for developers (think creating new WP installations, upgrading plugins, etc).
While signing up with SiteGround, I also opted to take the HackAlert Malware Monitoring service, at $12/year. It is a website monitoring service that acts as an early warning system to help your site enjoy zero-day malware notices.
You get a weekly report email that shows you the results of the scan. Of course if there is any infection you will be immediately notified.
SiteGround have one of the most user friendly user panels I’ve seen, from here you can access your accounts, support, and billing among other things.
From your user account you can also add extras if you wish. Of course you can also monitor the extras that you have already bought or have access to through having bought a particular package from the ones described earlier.
The cPanel itself is customised and looks very good, here’s a screenshot.
As you will notice the staging functionality is given prominence and is really as simple as pressing one big button.You will also notice that I have CloudFlare CDN implemented on my site, this comes for free with all hosting packages by SiteGround. With regards to performance, as I mentioned earlier SiteGround have implemented their own caching systems and plugin to go with it, its called SuperCacher and you can read about it here.
You might be thinking that SiteGround must be skimping on something to achieve such great features at those prices. Maybe security? I’m glad to tell you that no, if they’re skimping on anything it’s definitely not security.
Chatting with the SiteGround team at WordCamp Europe, I immediately realised that they are obsessed with security, which is why all their plans come pre-installed with hundreds of in-house made security improvements and patches. They take a slightly different approach to security compared to some of the managed WP hosts. SiteGround allow much more freedom to our customers without making compromises with the security. For example, they offer automated upgrades of WordPress and its plugins, but you also get an opt-out option, while with some managed WP hosts you cannot forego upgrades.
Another difference that struck me is how they handle security issues with a particular plugin. The majority of the hosts will usually ban the usage of the affected plugin, but SiteGround try to find a server level solution instead, that will allow using the plugin while at the same time block its vulnerability. This is what they call proactive security, which means protecting their customers without shifting the responsibility to them and without hurting their website’s functionality. This security approach is of course available on all their hosting plans from the shared ones that cost below $10/month to the most expensive dedicated solutions.
I am genuinely impressed by SiteGround as a company, their people are super friendly, and genuinely enjoy working there. Most importantly, they provide an amazing service. My experience with their support specialists has been among the best I’ve ever had with any customer support department in any industry, so this makes SiteGround a winning package in my mind.
SiteGround’s hosting packages are tremendous value for money, they combine the customer care emphasis that can only found at high end managed WordPress hosting companies, with the low-cost of shared hosting companies. This means you get a lot of bang for your buck.
I also love the SiteGround site, they rebranded and redesigned their site a few months ago and I genuinely enjoyed browsing through many of their articles. I think they did an exceptionally good job at simplifying the technical stuff for new users that might feel daunted by hosting. Perhaps this is what makes SiteGround different than other hosting companies. Being a customer of SiteGround means building a real relationship with the people at this company, and you’ll get the feeling of being handled by people that really care about your site. Their documentation pages are some of the best I’ve come across lately, support is phenomenal and sites run fast, backed by their 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Giving a few final bonus points for SiteGround is the fact that they are very involved in the WordPress community and also sponsor a number of WordCamps around the world.
My experience with SiteGround left me no choice but to wholeheartedly recommend them, this is a company that really deserves your custom. Go SiteGround!