Fast, Secure, and Downright Reliable
While working for FedHill Brake Line, we always had issues with our hosting provider, Network Solutions. NetSol used to be one of the best hosting providers out there. Although the company had been with them since 1995, their service had degraded to the point where we could no longer stand it. Their prices were obnoxiously high, their online support wasn’t helpful at all, and the website kept going offline.
Worse yet, their hosted commerce platform is stuck in the ’90s, making the website hard to edit, and some things we couldn’t do at all. While their techs are very friendly, it can take days to solve problems. It was utterly unacceptable, and as the web administrator, I got to work finding a new host.
After over a month of extensive research, a clear winner emerged. SiteGround kept coming up as the best overall web hosting service. Even when compared to other top hosting providers, they came well ahead all of the rest, to the point where I was skeptical of them being that good.
Just look at their reviews -
- #1 reviewed host at whoishostingthis.com, with a full 5 stars from both the editors and users
- Won best 24/7 support from hostingadvice.com, and a 5 star review
- #1 recommended web host and a 5 star review from websitehostingrating.com
- 9.7 out of 10 rating at hostadvice.com, and won “The Badge of Excellence” award
I’m not the type of person to leave a gleaming 5-star review, so before I start listing all of the good things about SiteGround, let’s begin by taking them down a notch. (Although admittedly, I don’t have much ammo to shoot them down with.)
As a side note, I've tried to make my review not too overly technical. However, If you're still finding that things are a bit over your head, I've added an easy to understand summary to the end of any section that gets technical.
Con #3 - Had Trouble Upgrading PHP Version
With any PHP version below 5.6 soon to be unsupported, I thought the “Easy PHP Version Change” would be just that; easy. Unfortunately, after I updated the PHP version, I was left with the white screen of death. The website would display on the administrator side, but not the front end. None of our customers could view our website. Usually, this means a plugin is conflicting with the updated code, but not in this case. (That's normal, and easy to fix!)
It turns out it was just an issue with the http.config. The support tech said, “it looked a bit barren,” and fixed the problem. I’m not sure why this happened, but I have to admit it was a little irritating. With that said, the support was excellent as always, and the problem got fixed relatively quickly.
I haven't seen any complaints on the forums about this kind of issue happening, so it's evident this isn't a common problem. My websites work, and the support was great, so I'm still satisfied. (I'll be digging into it more at a later date.)
Con #2 - Price and Plan Limitations (When Compared to Other Hosts)
They do have monthly running processes and inode usage caps, which could be a problem for very high traffic websites, or web apps. They also have storage caps, but you can raise all of your caps by contacting them and paying more per month.
Although, I do have to point out this contributes to their server uptime and reliability. By placing fixed process and inode usage caps, it prevents the server from overloading and crashing. Also, data caps won’t limit the vast majority of small to mid-sized business websites.
While it’s true that other hosting providers have lower prices, they cut back on the features and support. For that reason, I chose SiteGround above all others. I’ve heard plenty of complaints from angry customers about their web hosting support being downright terrible.
Personally, when a server issue eventually happens, I want my website functional and back online A.S.A.P. Once again, this isn't much of a con. Their prices aren't that high, and to be perfectly blunt about it, I'll gladly pay a little more for my web host to not piss me off.
Con #1 - PCI Compliance Issue
This con was incredibly irritating, but it’s both a pro and a con at the same time. As cunifer.com is an E-commerce store, it needs to have a security scan for PCI compliance. If the website fails the scan, you won’t be able to process payments.
The problem was SiteGrounds security protocols. It wasn’t that they were terrible; they were so good that they kept blocking the security scanner from scanning our website. Their system kept seeing the security scan as a brute force hacking attack and would lock the scanner from accessing our website. It would fail the brute force part of the scan, and the IP address of the scanner would be blocked.
Long story short, it took over almost a week to get our site to pass the PCI compliance scan. I had to continually be in contact with their support staff, setting up temporary passwords, having them whitelist IP addresses, and temporarily edit security mods.
While it did irk me to have such an issue with this, we care deeply about protecting our customers' sensitive data, so I'm a little conflicted about listing this as a con. Their security is top-notch, but I wish it had been much easier for them to allow the PCI security scanner into the website. As always, tech help was excellent as ever, and eventually solved the problem.
Our payment processor also recognized that the server was PCI compliant, and let us process payments while the scan issue was being solved.
In the end, we moved over to the new, more secure iframe payment gateway, which eliminates the need for a PCI Compliance scan. I’d advise that every E-Commerce website use the iframe method. It’s not only easy to implement, but also incredibly secure!
Pro #3 - Blazing Fast Speed
Many new small business owners don’t take into account page speed when selecting a host. So why should you care? Part of my job is to ensure the website loads as fast as it can because page loading speed affects conversion rates. The longer your website takes the load, the more impatient your visitors will get. And when that happens, they leave and don’t make a purchase.
In addition to page speeds effect on sales, research by Akamai Technologies found the following results. -
- After 3 seconds of waiting, visitors’ loyalty decreased by nearly 16%.
- 47% of users expect web pages load in at most 2 seconds
- 52% of participants said that fast loading influenced their loyalty
- 40% of users leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load
With cache enabled, SiteGround’s so fast; they leave everyone else in the dust.
These results are based on tests with real accounts on 12 of the most popular web hosts on the affiliate market: Bluehost, HostGator, iPage, Fatcow, Justhost, AsmallOrange, InMotion, WebhostingHub, Arvixe, GoDaddy, GreenGeeks and A2Hosting.
While there’s always still work to be done on the front end to speed up the website, it’s great to have a host that has everything handled on the back end.
Pro #2 - Top-Notch Security
A hacking attack is the worst thing to happen to a website. It puts both you and your clients' sensitive data at risk and severely damages your businesses reputation. Unfortunately, around 30,000 websites get hacked, and small business owners own many of those sites.
SiteGround has some of the best security in the business. They were the first web host to apply account isolation mechanisms. (Meaning that if one site on the server gets hacked, all of the other websites on the server are isolated and remain secure.) While many hosts have followed their example, many hosts could benefit from better account isolation mechanisms.
They also keep a close watch on vulnerability announcements. For example, they issued a patch for a significant WordPress WP Touch and Joomla! VirtueMart vulnerability within 48 hours. In comparison, SiteGround tested 12 other hosts a month after the vulnerability announcement. All 12 failed the test, and were still able to be hacked.
With hacking being such an essential issue for website owners, that's downright unacceptable. It caught my attention that they take such an aggressive approach to keeping my sites safe.
I also have to point out this site was subject to a hacking attack in 2016. SiteGround immediately blocked it and kept my site secure! It takes a load off my back, knowing that combined with my security protocols on the front-end, I can count on SiteGround to implement fantastic security on the back end as well.
Pro #1 - The Best Customer Support I’ve Ever Encountered
There's plenty of reviews and articles from people complaining about lousy web hosting customer support, and I won't bother wasting time with my personal stories. I think everyone knows how unbelievably irritating it can be dealing with incompetent support staff. Just imagine how angry you would be if your server has gone offline, customers can't access your website, you're losing sales by the minute, and your web host isn't helping at all.
A common theme among my cons about SiteGround is that their staff solved all of the issues. There’s not much to talk about when it comes to their support service. If there’s a problem with your server, no matter how difficult it is to solve, they work with you until it’s fixed. It’s as simple as that. The bottom line is, unlike so many other hosting providers, they’re actually competent.
Check out some of their support stats in the pictures below -
If you're looking for a new web host or are starting a new website, I wouldn't recommend anyone other than SiteGround. They've been an absolute joy to do business with, and they serve all of their customers with the same attention and care they've shown me.
My advice would be to choose either the Grow Big or Go Geek plans. The Start-Up plan is cheap, but the other two offer more value.
The Grow Big plan is the best bang for your buck. I’d advise this package for most clients. It allows you to host multiple websites and comes with SiteGrounds custom SuperCacher optimization. (Which provides better page speed)
I use the Go Geek plan. It supports staging copies and has GIT integration built-in. However, this plan is also the best choice for large E-Commerce sites, as well as large, resource-intensive sites.
The Grow Big and Go Geek plans also feature a free professional website transfer, making it easy to switch away from your bad host. (The transfer service includes Wordpress, WooCommerce, Joomla!, Drupal, Weebly and more.) Visit their website to view their service plans.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you go through them and make a purchase, I will earn a commission. I link to these companies because of the quality and not because of the commission I receive. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is entirely up to you.