SiteGround is a compelling web host that offers more features than the competition and at a better price. Pity it's so hard to use.
By Jacob Roach – Last Updated: 20 Feb'18
SiteGround is a 14-year-old web host with a variety of plans, but a keen eye for WordPress. While most managed WordPress solutions, such as those from Pagely (read our Pagely review for more on this), reach well into the thousands, SiteGround bypasses this structure and provides entry level plans with a smorgasbord of features.
Prices don’t scale as cleanly as specs do, though, showing that the primary focus of this company is on the little guy. Even so, there’s plenty to like about SiteGround. While the control panel could use a makeover, the service is fully featured and worth your consideration. Read on to see how it stacks up against our best web hosting providers.
- Great WordPress plans
- Lots of features
- Daily backups
- Top-notch support
- Inexpensive shared plans
- Large knowledgebase
- Expensive cloud & dedicated plans
- Dated control panel
- Slow response time on shared plans
The list of features at SiteGround is extensive and, honestly, the most significant selling point. Features spread across all plans, not restricted to just those paying a high tab. From shared to dedicated hosting, SiteGround includes everything.
The pinnacle of this is automatic daily backups. This service is almost always paid, even at the high-end, but SiteGround includes it with every plan offered. It only keeps a week’s worth of backups at a time, but it’s hard to complain when it’s free.
You get a free Cloudflare CDN across all plans as well. While SiteGround isn’t the only host to offer it, the feature is definitely welcome. A CDN serves up content from a network of servers, decreasing load times by sending data from the nearest source and migrating traffic in case of a spike.
While each plan has specific features, the ones included with WordPress are the most impressive. SuperCacher, for example, is a SiteGround developed caching plugin, featuring three different stages of stored content.
Caching refers to a computer storing information on a website, so no fetching is required when the site loads. In the case of SuperCacher, static and dynamic resources are both saved, improving speeds considerably.
SuperCacher also implements the Memcached system. This free technology is used by companies like YouTube to decrease load times on database-driven sites tremendously. It stores objects in the server’s RAM to reduce the number of times a database is queried.
The compelling part of this area is how far-reaching it is. Features like HTTP/2 enabled servers and SSD storage are expected on high-end configurations, but SiteGround provides it for all. If you want a fully featured host, this is the place to look.
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The pricing at SiteGround is a mixed bag. Inexpensive shared and WordPress plans are attractive, but higher end options come at an unreasonable cost.
Shared and WordPress hosting hold the same pricing scheme, but slightly different features. The former focuses on those who are putting up a website for the first time, fit with a site builder, free set up and automatic daily backups.
You can install WordPress and Joomla on shared plans, but you may opt for a managed WordPress plan instead. You’ll get WordPress specific features like staging, WP-CLI and SuperCacher for the same price.
These two plans distinguish the value of SiteGround. Shared hosting can be found for a buck less at Bluehost (read our Bluehost review for that service’s pricing schemes), but the rates for WordPress are unmatched by any competitor operating on this level.
No other plan continues this trend, though, priced much higher than other providers. Cloud Hosting with HostGator (read our HostGator review), for example, comes in at only $4.95 per month on the low-end, contrasted by SiteGround’s staggering $80 rate.
There’s a reason the pricing ends up this way. SiteGround provides an impressive amount of options on the low end and, as the platform seems to lean this way, is likely compensating for the lost revenue with the more expensive plans.
The comparison really isn’t fair as SiteGround’s plans include many features that other hosts charge for, one of which is daily backups, a feature that on its own could cost $20 or more per month.
SiteGround offers six different hosting plans, with a particular concentration in WordPress. You have options between shared, cloud, dedicated, reseller, enterprise and, of course, WordPress hosting.
Shared hosting is the most accessible point of entry. The model works by adding multiple users to the same server to maximize the resources inside. Speeds and uptime take a hit, but at the gain of a low price point.
That unfortunately becomes apparent at SiteGround. We used Pingdom Speed Tests to test the website speed from four servers around the world, returning an average load time of 1.57 seconds. That score isn’t strong, especially compared iPage’s 783 ms average response.
The average doesn’t tell the full story, though. Of the four locations, the two located in the U.S. returned speeds under 600 ms while the ones abroad landed above one second. If you have a site that primarily focuses on U.S. visitors, though, the speed is excellent.
To simulate real traffic, we used LoadImpact to send 50 users to the site in a five minute span. Speeds were consistent throughout, peaking in the beginning and leveling off at around 10 users. We ran this particular test with a U.S. based server, so we double checked with one in Australia to see if the same issues with speed would arise.
Unfortunately, they did. The test returned consistently long load times, with some spikes reaching above one second. As our test site has no content to load, these times are far too high when compared to other hosts.
WordPress hosting doesn’t share the international lackluster performance despite being the same price. The SiteGround developed SuperCacher improves speeds across the board, combined with a free CDN through Cloudflare for serving up static content in different regions.
The three different WordPress plans are suitable for those starting a blog with the intention of growing it. SiteGround offers recommendations of traffic for each plan and enough resources to accommodate. The marketing isn’t cheap, and SiteGround’s stair-step model is one of the best we’ve seen.
Even faster are cloud hosting plans. SiteGround offers four different configurations to start, but you can customize one to fit your needs. This model distributes your website across multiple servers around the world, improving both speed and uptime. Scalable resources ensure speeds are consistent, and auto-rollover protects against a server going offline.
Dedicated servers show high performance, but not a lot of value. The entry plan features a low-level Intel Xeon processor and only 4GB of RAM, a pitiful configuration compared to HostGator’s Xeon-D with 8GB of RAM at half the price.
If you want a dedicated solution and have the coin to flip, it’s best to go with a custom-configured enterprise plan. This full-featured service allows you to collaborate with the experts at SiteGround to configure a server specifically for your needs, as well as get a direct line to support.
The amount of options at SiteGround is impressive, but only a few plans are of note. Shared hosting is an affordable and full-featured option for those starting out, and WordPress plans offer a clear path of growth. If you’re looking for more power, however, it’s best to look elsewhere.
Where SiteGround stumbles is in ease of use. The website is outdated and even furthermore the control panel. Even with cPanel integration, SiteGround could do with a significant update.
The website itself isn’t too bad, though. SiteGround manages a no-frills look with minimal delving into tech jargon. It pushes the prominent features to the front, with straightforward pricing and specs for each plan.
Even so, the website feels old. This becomes especially apparent during checkout. Though we can admire SiteGround’s dedication to privacy, the way in which it verifies your credit card is meandering and, frankly, annoying.
The company authorizes a small charge of $1 or so onto your account, and you then have to enter that amount to prove you own the card. This process is the same as when linking a card to PayPal, for example. However, not all banks give this information online, meaning some will have to call and likely be put on hold.
In the case of our chief editor, the amount was automatically converted to euro, meaning an extra call was needed to get the correct amount in U.S. dollars. Any two-factor authorization system would circumvent this lengthy process without opening up a vulnerability in security.
SiteGround seems to go back in time with each step down the line. The billing panel feels more dated than the website, with too much information in too small a space. You’ll find plenty of useful items, but only if you know what to look for.
New users will feel completely lost, especially considering SiteGround buries cPanel within all of the hoopla of web hosting. You must go to “my accounts” and then “go to cPanel” which is sandwiched between specs like your account DNS and FTP details.
This button should be on the landing page of the billing area. As SiteGround’s focus seems to be on those looking for an inexpensive plan, this process, like verifying a card, is tortuous, leading to unnecessary confusion.
cPanel itself ticks the clock back a few years too. The layout of categories with icons is still present, but far less attractive. This is cPanel at its worst, again providing plenty of options, but lacking the ease of use of other providers.
You’ll fare just fine if you’ve used another web host, but the tradeoff isn’t worth it for new customers. The system is robust in protecting your information, but, like an overprotective parent, SiteGround could benefit from giving users a longer leash.
Dated, but top-notch, SiteGround’s security is unmatched by many others. It takes no risk in protecting customer information, one of the strongest points of the platform.
The protection starts at a physical level. SiteGround protects five data centers with 24×7 human security, biometric entry and bulletproof lobbies. Inside the data centers themselves, SiteGround implements enterprise-class UPS’ to protect against outages.
This trend continues on the software level. SiteGround grants users free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates with each plan. An SSL certificate (secure socket layer) encrypts information as it is being transferred, protecting from someone stealing it during this process.
If your website takes any personal information, an SSL certificate is paramount as many web browsers are now flashing warnings for non-secure sites.
Also included with each plan is a free Cloudflare CDN. A content delivery network (CDN) performs two functions: improving speed and migrating DDoS attacks. The latter is essential to security as denial of service attacks are one of the most threatening to websites today.
A CDN can reroute the massive amount of traffic in the case of an assault. Because the content is served up from many servers around the world, the brunt of the hit is managed while keeping your website online.
The only thing missing is some malware removal tool. SiteGround includes a website checker in cPanel that will search your site for malware, but nothing to deal with it. Integration with SiteLock, for example, would tie the bow on the rest of the security features.
As illustrated with the credit card example in the above section, some of the security measures can feel restricting. Even so, the standards are impressive, making security a massive win for SiteGround.
As with security, SiteGround overcompensates with support. While restricting privacy measures come at a fault, overloading in support poses no downside. SiteGround has 24x7x365 support via phone, email or live chat.
All three methods are surprisingly good. SiteGround gives immediate responses for both phone and live chat support, with no queue of customers in front of you. The familiar and dreaded “we’re experiencing a larger than expected call volume” is a thing of the past.
Even after testing each, there was no one form of contact that was better than others. The level of support was consistent, leaving the choice only up to preference. A support profile is displayed with each connection, allowing you to rate that particular representative and find them later down the line.
SiteGround provides plenty of DIY solutions as well. The knowledgebase and tutorial sections of the site are helpful and user-friendly, a far cry from the control panel.
SiteGround intends you use the knowledgebase and tutorials in conjunction. General articles serve as a sort of FAQ for web hosting while tutorials divulge specifics of a topic. This system is one of the best we’ve seen as it doesn’t overwhelm the user while still providing all necessary information if needed.
The tutorials edge out the knowledgebase, though. Instructions are laid out in steps, with high-res screenshots to illustrate each process. The knowledgebase is useful for quick solutions, such as increasing your WordPress memory limit, but the tutorials provide the best DIY solutions.
What’s surprising is how easy these tools are to use when compared to the rest of the service. SiteGround even provides an extensive tutorial for starting a website but has yet to update the user area. The comparison accentuates the support, making this area another major win for SiteGround.
Though good mixes with bad, SiteGround is still a host that sits above many. Its dedication to security is apparent, and the extensive feature list feels like money well-spent on cheaper plans.
Shaky usability and expensive premium options are the missteps of SiteGround’s services, but not ones that impact all users. If you want a fully-featured solution and don’t require the workforce of hosts like Pagely, then SiteGround is a great option.
Do you plan on signing up for SiteGround? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.