I’ve written a bit about hosting before, and have recommended WP Engine to a lot of people. However, just as I’ve told you about eCommerce platforms, what you select will depend on what you need. While scalability is extremely important, using WP Engine can be like bringing a tank to a knife-fight for some sites, and is more ‘locked-down’ in terms of server configuration than other hosting providers since it’s an entirely managed service. I’ve looked for other hosting companies to recommend, and SiteGround has emerged as another crowd favorite.
A lot of people I follow and respect have recommended SiteGround hosting, so I decided to give it a try. For example, WP Site Care has recommended SiteGround and uses them as their hosting partner (in short, because of fast, quality support and flexibility). Brian Krogsgard of Post Status has also been consistently pleased with his experience using them:
— Brian Krogsgard (@Krogsgard) September 12, 2013
Been working with the very nice folks at @SiteGround and Post Status is getting faster because of it. Top-notch support.
— Brian Krogsgard (@Krogsgard) April 24, 2014
SiteGround also has several customer testimonials available. After reading enough positive tidbits about SiteGround, I decided to give them a test drive myself and write this SiteGround Hosting Review.
I had a positive experience using SiteGround’s services, and will be promoting their services along with WP Engine.
I’ve read extensively on hosting speed comparisons and didn’t feel it would be beneficial to rehash them myself, so I’ve omitted a “Performance” section from this review. Here are speed comparisons I’d recommend checking out, or you could test your own hosting with Load Impact or Blitz.io and compare it to these results:
- This comparison of hosting services from Review Signal is one of the most thorough comparisons I’ve ever seen, and it includes lots of performance data for you to geek out over. Really, this is the main reason I feel like my own speed tests would be redundant.
- WP Site Care has this comparison of some WordPress hosting companies and speed that includes SiteGround.
My review will focus on the user experience in setting up an account, support, and ease of use, as the posts above do a good job of establishing that SiteGround’s performance is top-notch and makes it worth recommending.
For reference, I’m using the GoGeek plan with many of the WordPress-specific features that SiteGround offers.
Pricing for SiteGround hosting plans begins at $3.95 per month for your first billing term, which is super cheap. After your first billing term, the lowest pricing goes up to $9.95 per month (which is still reasonably priced). For comparison, an SSL-compatible plan with most providers requires a $50+ per month plan, while at SiteGround you’ll be paying $14.95+ per month ($29.95 after your first term). While price is the last criteria for comparison for me when investing in a business, this is a nice perk for using SiteGround since performance in terms of speed isn’t sacrificed.
So why is SiteGround less expensive? Even though the hosting is managed (WordPress core is updated for you, daily backups are created, etc), you’ll be on a shared server. I’ve written about Shared vs VPS vs Dedicated hosting if you want to learn more, but one of the risks of shared hosting is that other sites sharing the server with you could affect your performance (which isn’t the case with a more expensive VPS or dedicated service).
This is another reason that hosting will depend on your needs – with lower traffic, your livelihood probably won’t be blown to bits with small interruptions in service or on the off-chance that one of your server-mates nukes your server, so the decision in what you need depends on what’s important to your business.
Each SiteGround plan comes with a free WordPress install and domain name. However, as I’ve noted in our article on Domain Name Registrars, I wouldn’t recommend tying your domain name to your hosting service so that you’re free to take it with you if you switch hosting providers. Purchase your own for the nominal fee per year ($10-$15) so that you own it and it goes with you everywhere.
I recommend the GoGeek plan for eCommerce sites, as it includes SSL-compatibility. The “Grow Big” plan includes this as well, but lacks the staging site setup and premium restore services, which are handy if you need to role back site changes. The GoGeek plan also provides some handy features for WordPress sites:
- unlimited number of sites
- 100,000 visits / month
- unlimited emails
- 30GB storage
- daily backup (30 copies / day)
- SuperCacher installed
- PCI compliance
- SSH / FTP access
- free WordPress install
- WP core autoupdates
- staging site area
- Git access
- SSL compatibility
(w/free certificate for 1 yr)
Signing up for SiteGround was simple – I chose the plan I wanted to sign up for and went through the checkout process using a domain name that I already had.
The only snag I ran into while getting started with SiteGround was a billing confirmation issue. I’d signed up for the GoGeek plan and got to this screen:
I clicked the confirmation button to speak with a Live Chat representative, but was disconnected in the process after about 1 minute, and hadn’t copied my order number for reference. I initiated another live chat session, and was connected with a representative within 2 minutes. The new representative was able to find the registration information, and gave me a quick call to confirm the billing details, and I was good to go about 8 minutes later.
After I’d selected the hosting plan I wanted to use and confirmed by billing details, I got the DNS transfer information I needed via email (this was available in my user account as well). SiteGround has a tutorial available for help with transferring the DNS for your domain name to their hosting if you’ve never done this before.
Once my DNS had been transferred, I waited a bit for it to resolve, and logged back into my account. I was then taken through a setup wizard that asked me what technology I wanted to use, so I chose WordPress and was able to easily get my new WordPress site set up in a few minutes (you could select this from your cPanel later if you don’t want to go through setup immediately).
After completing the setup process, I was able to log into my new WordPress site with the credentials I’d selected. In total, setup took just a couple of minutes.
Now that my site was set up and I was logged into my WordPress admin, I took a quick tour. One thing you may want to check out are the pre-installed themes from SiteGround:
I had opted not to install any free themes, so I was a bit irritated that I then had to go through and delete these, but some of you may enjoy having a few other free options to choose from. The only other thing that’s different than a typical WordPress install is the first sample blog post – SiteGround fills this with their own promotional content, so you may want to delete the sample post as you get your site setup.
So I’ve signed up for the GoGeek account, I’ve got my fresh new WordPress site ready to go, and now I’ve got to check out some of the other features offered by SiteGround.
I went to my customer dashboard to check out all of the SiteGround resources, which is where I found my account area and support resources. There are also several tutorials available for different platforms to get you started if you’re not familiar with WordPress (or other platforms, such as Joomla). The “My Accounts” tab is how you’ll access your cPanel, which is where most of your tools are located.
Note that the “Information & Settings” under “My Account” has lots of useful information, such as DNS information, FTP details (which, for me, is essential for the inevitable site breakage), and access to your free CloudFlare CDN plan.
Clicking the “Go to cPanel” button will bring you to your SiteGround cPanel, where you can access all of the tools for your account, including:
- auto-install WordPress if you haven’t done so already
- create staging sites
- create a git repository for site changes
- set up email accounts
- set up SSH access
- and more
I made sure that I’d run my WordPress auto-installer already, so I then decided to create a staging site. This is one of my favorite features of the GoGeek plan, and staging areas take less than a minute to create (this will depend on your site – if you have lots of products, posts, or pages, this will take longer). Staging Areas are extremely useful to test out site changes, plugin updates, and more so that you don’t break your live site. SiteGround also lets you create multiple staging areas.
Once you’ve started to create a staging site, you can optionally password protect your staging site so that it’s not publicly accessible. When you visit this staging site, you’ll be required to enter these credentials before viewing either the frontend or backend of your staging site.
Staging sites will be created as subdomains, such as
http://staging1.mytestsite.com/. Once you’ve created your staging site, you’ll be able to replicate staging sites, create a new git repo for your staging site changes, or push changes to the live site. You can also delete staging areas, which is very helpful. This is one thing I don’t like about some staging areas, as posts that have been copied to a staging area but I’ve deleted afterwards on my live site will be published on the staging site and send me emails about pingbacks on internal links, etc.
I also checked out the SiteGround SuperCacher from my cPanel and my new site. The SuperCacher plugin allows you to use a dynamic cache that’s powered by Varnish and Memcached. This optimizes site performance by saving some of your site HTML to serve directly to visitors rather than generating it from PHP for each visit, speeding up performance. SiteGround has full details on how their SuperCacher operates that I’d recommend reading.
Support is one aspect of a service on which I rarely like to compromise. The first time you’re in a bind and need help that won’t come through, you’ll understand why support is so important to me – this is made even worse if you’re losing money at the same time that you’re waiting for a resolution.
Thankfully, this is one place that SiteGround sticks out. SiteGround offers 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email ticketing. They state that over 90% of new customers come from customer referrals, which would be unlikely with poor support services.
Live Chat is what I had the most experience with, as this is my preferred support channel (I like being able to do other things at the same time, and being on the phone distracts me too much). Each time I’d spoken with someone via chat, I’d been connected in less than two minutes. Every issue I contacted live support with was also resolved via the same chat (except for the disconnection blip I mentioned earlier). Typical time for a resolution was less than 10 minutes, which is outstanding.
To create an opportunity for an email support ticket, I created an issue that required permalinks to be flushed (which a super-annoying issue but not always obvious) so that I could test out the response time and how they handled a very simple question. Sometimes the explanation given for simple, obvious issues tells you a lot about a support service and how they treat their customers. Do they make you feel stupid for the issue? Do they tell you how it could be solved in the future to help educate you? Do they just solve it without telling you what’s wrong? This also technically wasn’t their problem – I should have contacted the author of the plugin I used to create the issue, but wanted to see if they’d just give me the simple fix.
After submitting my email ticket, I received my first response in just under 6 minutes, which asked me to double-check the URL of the page and to send over login credentials if I wanted them to troubleshoot further. That was pretty fast – sure, it was an easy question and we didn’t solve the ticket in the first reply, but that’s still a great response time. It also let me know that they were looking into the issue.
Total time to resolution was about 30 minutes, which required one more email back and forth to confirm and fix the issue. The support tech told me how to fix the issue for future reference, and linked me to another tutorial in case I had the problem in the future.
Finally, SiteGround also offers toll-free phone support all day, every day. When I called phone support, my call was taken after less than a minute on hold, and my issue was resolved within a few minutes. What I liked about the phone support was that the technician took the time to explain my question and to make sure that I had no other issues before closing the call. Sometimes phone support seems as if they’re rushing to get to the next call, but that wasn’t the case in my experience.
Overall, my experience using SiteGround was very positive – I really liked the access to multiple staging sites with just a few clicks, as well as quality support and performance. Pricing is also very compelling; for $15 per month, you have everything you need to launch an eCommerce business (you’ll get this pricing for your first term of 1-3 three years, paid in advance). This is really helpful for sites that are just starting out and need to control costs or don’t have traffic that demands more resources.
As your site grows, you’ll probably need to change from a shared service to a VPS or dedicated host so that you’re not competing for resources with other sites on your server (or being negatively affected by them). Performance and load times make a huge difference for eCommerce sites, so don’t wait too long to make a hosting change if you’re site performance is affected. SiteGround offers Cloud (VPS) and dedicated hosting as well from $70+ per month that you could consider upgrading to as your site grows.
Have questions? I’d be happy to answer them if I can!
- Read the speed comparisons we linked to above if you didn’t – there’s great comparisons to be had.
- Here’s the full article again from WP Site Care on Why They Partner with SiteGround, as well as their checklist for selecting a hosting service.
- WP Mayor posted a review following their switch to SiteGround for some of their sites.
- WP Kube has a list of recommended managed hosting providers that includes SiteGround as well.
- Here’s a survey on hosting from WP Shout that includes SiteGround, WP Engine, and several other hosts.
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