You have a ton of options these days when it comes to picking a web hosting provider. Everything from dedicated servers, to shared servers to VPS's and cloud hosting.
While each of these hosting options has their own benefits and downsides, the most commonly used hosting that you will find is typically a shared server, for a variety reasons:
- Simple to configure
- Multiple website support
- Relatively inexpensive
- Supports WordPress
I myself have several shared servers on a variety of platforms for testing purposes and simply just to test out. SiteGround is one of those hosting platforms and the one that I will be reviewing today.
I've used SiteGround for over a year now for various projects that I maintain. And I continue to use it because frankly, it has alot to offer that many other hosting providers just don't bother to include. At least not without added fees.
So in this article I am going to review the good, the bad and the in-between when it comes to choosing SiteGround as your next web host.
Also note that I am a SiteGround affiliate, which means that I earn a small commission from each referred signup. But also note that I am a genuine fan of it as well, which is why I joined the affiliate program to start. I would not otherwise endorse a product that I myself do not use or did not believe was of high quality.
With that, let's get into the review.
What's to like
Let's start here. Because there is alot to point out about what makes SiteGround a strong contender in the hosting game.
Easy to setup
For one, SiteGround makes it incredibly easy to navigate and to setup your hosting account. How easy? Well, you could set up a new blog in 5 minutes if you so wanted to. Much of this has to do with the fact that SiteGround has completely rebuilt their architecture from the ground-up moving away from their original cPanel implementation and into a fully in-house platform.
Most other hosting platforms tend to use 3rd party server management software, like cPanel or Plesk, and alot of times, that software is not very up to date from a UI/UX perspective and not very user friendly.
Don't get me wrong. They work just fine. But the learning curve is typically very high for simple website configurations, such as setting up domains, SSL certificates and managing files. Sometimes you just want to click on "New website" and have a new website appear.
High learning curves can lead to more errors and bigger headaches when something goes wrong. Which on a shared server environment, isn't impossible and will inevitably happen.
SiteGround has done a really good job at this onboarding process and really, you can be up and running with just a few clicks as mentioned, regardless of which pricing option you choose.
SiteGround offers 3 pricing options currently.
The StartUp plan is ideal for anyone looking to just deploy one website without any other requirements. The features of that plan include:
- 1 website
- 10 GB of storage
- 10,000 monthly visits
- Free SSL
- Daily backups
- Free CDN
- Free Email
- Managed WordPress
- Unlimited Databases
And this is why I personally really like using SiteGround. Many of those listed features are not standard with other hosting providers.
I also use GoDaddy for various web projects, and while for the most part I'm pretty content with their technology, I don't get the benefit of a free CDN, free email or free SSL certificate.
Those have to be configured and purchased separately and that process can be somewhat time consuming to figure out.
For example, setting up a free SSL certificate on GoDaddy isn't the most streamlined process. It can be done however, you can read my article here on how to do so, but there's a learning curve as mentioned above.
Next up, if you are looking for a host provider that you will be sticking with for some time and perhaps have multiple websites on, the GrowBig plan is the way to go.
Features there include many of the ones in the StartUp plan plus a few additions:
- 2 websites
- 20 GB of storage
- 25,000 monthly visits
- Free SSL
- Daily backups
- Free CDN
- Free Email
- Managed WordPress
- Unlimited Databases
- Speed boosting caching
The biggest benefit with the GrowBig plan is the fact that you get double the storage space and double the amount of traffic visitors. This is the perfect plan for the developer looking to build a sandbox environment at an affordable cost. Though keep in mind that there is a limit to the number of monthly visits that you can receive.
As thatsoftwaredude.com has grown in readers during the past few years, I would not be able to use this plan due to that limitation. So it is definitely something that needs to be taken into account.
And last but not least, is the GoGeek plan, for the more professional site owner. There is alot more to like in this tier, and you can read more about those features right over here. But essentially, for a slightly higher price, you get 40GB of storage space, up to 100,000 site visitors, up to 5 websites and Git functionality
and priority support for any issues that you may have. This tier is more for the person who is hosting
websites for other people, such as clients for your digital business.
WordPress Starter Kit
SiteGround offers their WordPress Starter Kit, which is essentially a managed WordPress platform that handles creating and managing a WordPress website for you with just a few clicks.
While I personally don't run or manage any WordPress websites, I did set one up just to test out on the platform. Overall, it really did just take a few minutes and speeds were noticeably higher than in other managed WordPress providers that I've used in the past.
It's important to highlight the speed part here, because I've used managed WordPress platforms on various other hosting sites and those experiences have been painful for a variety of reasons.
For one, those implementations tend to be incredibly slow, to the point where any update to a website takes 20-30 seconds to register. But more challenging is that those other implementations also tend to not be stable. Changing a template can cause errors and the WordPress plugin marketplace can also potentially fail to work correctly.
I did not have any of those issues setting up WordPress on SiteGround. Setting up templates just worked (as they should) and navigating around the admin quick and effective.
So if you are looking for a place to host your WordPress applications, SiteGround is definitely a worthy competitor to what's out there.
You can check out their WordPress hosting plans here.
Every hosting plan on SiteGround offers free CDN hosting through CloudFlare.
What's a CDN, you may ask? Well, a CDN stands for Content-delivery network and essentially it is a distributed method of serving files over the internet.
On a typical shared server, you might have 1 single server located in one single location serving files around the planet. If you are in Los Angeles for example, you might have your website hosted in Arizona. If you visited your website from your Los Angeles office, you might not notice any performance issues as the server is nearby.
However, if say a site visitor is, say, in the UK halfway across the world, they might notice higher latency when visiting your site in Arizona. A CDN essentially makes copies of your website and serves them to a user from the most convenient server location closest to them, overall reducing load times.
SiteGround is partnered with CloudFlare to provide this service to its customers, both in a free basic implementation and a paid premium version for those that need the extra performance and optimization.
This is again, one of those features that you don't see other hosting services provide out of the box to its users.
SiteGround has an in-house caching engine dubbed SuperCacher, which does what its name implies. It caches files, and thus leading to better performance and site speeds to your users.
SuperCacher involves 3 separate caching mechanisms:
- Static caching
- Dynamic cache
Memcache is vital for those that rely heavily on database querying, as it keeps track of unique database queries in your application and caches the results in RAM to serve back later on subsequent queries. Reading from RAM is magnitudes quicker than from the hard-disk drive.
The dynamic cache is the most complex in terms of functionality and usage. It essentially stores rendered versions of your website in RAM storage. What do I mean by rendered you might be asking? Imaging running a PHP website on an Apache server. In this case, the server would take your PHP and would then render a compliant HTML output. This output is what would get sent to the user's browser for rendering.
Dynamic caching on SiteGround stores this HTML output in cache and serves it directly to users, bypassing the entire server processing entirely.
And by just spending a few minutes reading through user comments on one of their blog posts, you can see just how much sites are benefiting from the performance boosts.
This is important now more than ever as the growing trend from search engines is to now use site optimization and performance as a ranking factor.
AI Anti-bot system
The more advanced the internet gets the more people will try and take advantage of it. SiteGround is aware of that problem and have come up with a solution.
SiteGround now has AI anti-bot software running on its servers preventing various kinds of bot-based attacks.
Each hour it blocks between 500,000 and 2 million brute-force attempts across all of its servers.
You might think that this is trivial to some extent. But the reality is that most internet traffic is probably bot-related and the numbers are not slowing down. Most bots are friendly and mean no harm. They sweep through websites and gather metrics, other's scan for problems and some even help you find ways to improve your business.
Other bots however essentially try and log in to as many places as they can trying as many password combinations as they can before something stops them. This is when having somethng like ReCaptcha makes sense. You can read more about how to implement the ReCaptcha mechanism on your own site here.
SiteGround's new tech does just that. While you can go out of your way to install your own bot mitigation services and software, often times these aren't free or are limited in the number of attacks that they can handle.
SiteGround offers it right out of the box on all of their servers, which is definitely a huge standout feature from a site owner's perspective.
Unlike many other shared hosting providers, SiteGround has upgraded their hardware for all pricing tiers and now rely solely on SSD drives for all of their servers.
This ensures faster speeds overall, but really, it also shows how committed SiteGround is to providing users with the best possible service.
Typically, SSD storage comes at a much heftier cost compared to its standard hard-disk drives. And while originally SiteGround only offered SSD drives to their higher resource customers, around 2015 they made huge changes to their shared hosting infrastructure. This included more CPU power, more storage, increased RAM on top of the SSD upgrade.
So again, if performance is a key metric for you, then SiteGround is a worthy competitor.
Who's it not for?
I may be an affiliate, but I'm also honest as well. SiteGround has a lot to like that, as I mentioned, you won't find with other hosting providers.
But there are certain vital things that it does lack in and that might not make it the most ideal hosting platform for your websites.
For one, SiteGround does not offer any type of Windows hosting. That means that if you are a ASP.NET developer or working with .NET core, your applications will not be able to run in this environment.
And also note the limitation on site visitors. Other hosting providers do not have such limitations in place. GoDaddy for example offers unlimited bandwidth and storage on their shared server environment. And while I'm sure they would eventualy cap the number if it ever gets too high, I personally have not faced any challenges with my growing site visitors.
And last but not least, but maybe not a deal breaker, SiteGround plans do have a limit on the number of websites that you can install on their servers. Their most affordable plan only allows for up to 1 website and their most expensive, up to 5.
I myself have had up to a dozen websites at any one time. Most hobby projects, though others (such as this blog) are of higher complexity. So being able to find a hosting provider that allows for unlimited websites is important for me personally. But it might not be for you.
I'll end by saying that I've spent a year working with SiteGround, both from a user perspective and as an affiliate. And the one standout feature that I've noticed above anything else is the quality of their customer support.
Any question that I have had has been answered quickly and effectively. And while I would like to say that when I've had issues and trouble with my server that someone helped me out, I haven't had any issues or trouble since I created my account with them.
If you spend just a few minutes reading through their blog posts on various company-wide updates, you will notice that the comment section is heavy with content. If someone asks a questions, there will be an answer to that question.
If you are looking for a long term hosting solution that's stable, reliable with real people on the other end ready to help you out, I couldn't recommend SiteGround more.
It may cost more than some of the other options out there, but I assure you that most of those other competitors won't give you as many features included with their plans.
And if you enjoyed this review, then perhaps you would consider using my affiliate link here and help out this blog as well.