SiteGround Review – It Gets a Lot of Things Right and Only a Few Wrong
I think it’s pretty safe to say that SiteGround is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to hosting. While the company is perhaps best known for its very appealing shared hosting packages, it also offers cloud hosting, reseller hosting, and even specialized plans for enterprises and eCommerce enthusiasts. In addition, SiteGround is widely known as being one of the best providers of WordPress hosting on the market, with the company behind the popular CMS even recommending it as one of its top choices.
A recommendation from WordPress would be enough to boost the popularity of any hosting provider but SiteGround could easily be a top choice even without it. Unlike other providers, SiteGround offers plenty of great features even with its cheapest plans. The company’s hosting plans are slightly more expensive compared to other providers because of this but there’s no denying that you get great value in exchange for your money.
Now that you know a little bit about what to expect from this provider, let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer because there’s more to SiteGround than meets the eye.
Navigation and Ease of Use
Is SiteGround a good option for you if you’re a newcomer who doesn’t have any previous experience with hosting providers? The short answer is yes, even though there are simpler platforms out there. While many novices prefer to go with a platform like Wix when building their first website, opting for SiteGround will give you a lot more flexibility and, of course, you’ll have more types of hosting to choose from.
Getting started with SiteGround is fairly straightforward. Pick a hosting plan that’s suitable to your future website, register a new domain or connect an existing one, and fill a form that asks for some personal information and payment details. Once that’s over with, your SiteGround account will become active within a few seconds and you can jump straight into the dashboard.
The dashboard has a bit of unnecessary clutter here and there but it doesn’t look too bad for the most part. All the important tools and services like the site setup wizard and profile management are clearly visible and there’s also a cPanel that allows you to manage your websites with ease.
SiteGround offers a number of 1-click installers for popular applications like WordPress, Magento, Joomla, and more. There’s quite a heavy emphasis on WordPress here so expect to find a few more tools designed specifically for working with the CMS. If you’re not a big fan of WordPress, it’s worth noting that SiteGround accounts can also be integrated with Weebly. Choosing Weebly over WordPress has some advantages but may end up costing you more in the long run.
The SiteGround user area also features a collection of tools designed for advanced users. Among other things, you can use the dashboard to create emails and databases, manage DNS zones, park domains, upload files, and more. In addition to all of that, the dashboard also lets you manage your domains and gives you a quick way of accessing the webmail portal.
Plans and Pricing
As it’s often the case with companies like this, SiteGround’s biggest sellers are its shared hosting plans. The entry point of $3.95 per month seems pretty reasonable considering what you get in return. Sure, you can find cheaper hosting at Bluehost and a couple of other providers but you’ll be hard-pressed to find another company that packs in as many useful features as SiteGround. This can be clearly observed in our Bluehost vs. SiteGround comparison, which will show you that price isn't all that matters.
The starter plan comes with a free SSL certificate, free email accounts, automatic daily backups, unlimited databases, and a Cloudflare CDN account. And that’s only listing the highlights. You also get access to a free site builder of your choice – WordPress or Weebly – along with unmetered traffic, anti-hack protection, and even basic eCommerce functionality. Having said all that, the cheapest plan can only support a single website and comes with just 10 GB of storage, so there are some drawbacks as well.
You can get rid of the first drawback by upgrading to the $5.95 per month plan, which also doubles the available storage. In addition, with this plan, you can also add sub-users to your account and benefit from a free site transfer. A few other noteworthy features include on-demand backups, WordPress staging environment, and SuperCacher, an optimization solution developed by SiteGround that can boost website performance.
SiteGround only has three shared hosting plans to choose from, the most expensive of which will set you back $11.95 per month. That’s quite a bit more expensive when compared to the previous tier and, unfortunately, this plan doesn’t come with unlimited storage either. Instead, you have 30 GB at your disposal, which isn’t an awful lot when considering the price. Aside from that, there are a couple of interesting features here such as white label site management and one-click Git Repo creation. Users who opt for this plan also get the maximum amount of server resources available.
Given that SiteGround is officially endorsed by WordPress, it should come as no surprise that the provider has some very attractive packages designed to work hand-in-hand with the content management platform. The best part is that the prices of these plans are identical to the shared hosting packages. In other words, if you’re planning to build a WordPress website this is definitely the best place to start.
Most of the features included here are the same ones you get with the shared hosting plans so I’m not going to list them again. Instead, let’s talk about the special ones. First off, users get access to a 1-click automated installer and the WordPress Starter tool. This tool works more or less similar to Wix’s artificial design intelligence in the sense that it creates a new website for you based on your specifications.
WordPress Starter lets you choose between a variety of features and professional designs, all of which are installed automatically on your new website. A lot of people think that creating a WordPress website is a bit of a hassle but nothing can be further from the truth if you’re using this tool.
In addition to that, you can also expect automatic updates not just for your instance of WordPress but also any plugins you may have installed. SiteGround even partially takes care of the security by assigning custom firewall rules to patch common exploits and vulnerabilities. The WordPress hosting plans come with a couple of useful plugins created by the SiteGround developers. One of these plugins lets you migrate a WordPress site regardless of which hosting plan you’re using (unlike the standard shared plans) while the other is an all-in-one site optimizer.
SiteGround’s cloud hosting packages are quite expensive compared to the market average. With an entry point of $80 per month, it’s no wonder the company didn’t make our list of cheap cloud hosting providers. But while the company does charge quite a bit for its packages, it also gives you more than enough resources to work with. For $80/mo you get 4 GB of RAM, 2 CPU cores, 40 GB of SSD storage, and 5 TB of data transfer.
Those resources should be enough for most average users but if you want to take it one step further, there are three additional plans to choose from. On the higher end of things, you can pay $240 per month for 8 CPU cores, 10 GB of RAM, 120 GB of SSD storage, and 5 TB of data transfer. And because this is cloud hosting, you get exclusive access to all of these resources and won’t have to share them with other users.
If you’re running multiple big websites and need even more resources, you can ignore the standard plans in favor of a custom one. SiteGround allows you to pick the exact amount of resources you want, up to 32 CPU cores, 128 GB of RAM, and 1 TB of SSD space. A maxed-out custom plan will cost you over two grand a month but you’re unlikely to have to worry about server resources ever again.
In order to justify the above-average prices, SiteGround threw in a couple of useful features like auto-scaling and the ability to create standalone sub-accounts under your main cloud account. You can also manually add extra resources on the fly and the service is fully managed, which means you can rely on SiteGround to ensure that everything runs smoothly as butter.
Key Tools and Features
SiteGround offers quite a few tools and features but in this section, we’re going to focus on the most important ones to keep in mind before you decide to sign up with the company. Some of them have already been briefly mentioned in the previous section but we’re going to take a closer look at them here while also listing some additional ones that we haven’t covered before.
Before you can start building your website you’ll need to register a domain for it. While rival companies like Bluehost, DreamHost, and InMotion all offer free domain names for the first year, SiteGround doesn’t. SiteGround only charges $15.95 for domain registrations, which is a bit cheaper when compared to other providers, however, there are two caveats here.
First off, you can't purchase a domain separately so you’ll also have to grab a hosting plan while you’re at it. The other problem is that SiteGround doesn’t include free domain privacy like many of its competitors. Instead, you’ll need to pay an additional $12 per year to get it. Since domain privacy is always a must, you’ll need to pay at least $30 (including hosting) when registering a new domain with SiteGround.
SiteGround allows users to create and manage an unlimited number of MySQL and PostgreSQL databases regardless of which hosting plan they choose. But while the number of databases you can have is unlimited, their size isn’t. If you’re using the starter plan you can’t have databases larger than 500 MB and table size of 250 MB. Meanwhile, database queries can’t take up more than 10% off your server’s resources. These values will increase should you upgrade to a more expensive plan.
Backup and Restore
SiteGround provides automatic daily backups and allows you to restore not just the website itself but also emails, databases, and individual files. Automatic backups are free for all users but SiteGround only holds onto them for up to 30 days so restoring an older version of your website with this system is not an option. Luckily, there’s an additional system that lets you create manual backups on demand. Up to 5 on-demand backups can be created at a time and the service is free for GrowBig and GoGeek users. StartUp users can also take advantage of it but they need to pay for each on-demand backup.
Advanced users can take advantage of the SSH and SFTP access to create manual backups of their site via an FTP client like FileZilla. This method can be time-consuming depending on the size of your website but it allows you to have full control over your files and store them wherever you want, be it locally or on a third-party platform.
All SiteGround users benefit from an unlimited number of free domain emails. You can access and manage your mailbox on the go using either RoundCube or Horde, two of the most popular web-based mail clients around. Similar to the database situation, there are some limitations to these free mailboxes depending on your hosting plan. For instance, the basic plan mailbox can hold up to 2 GB worth of emails while the GoGeek mailbox has a size of 6 GB.
While we think a specialized platform like Shopify would be more suitable for eCommerce, you can definitely build a good online store with SiteGround as well. The provider offers three specialized hosting plans for eCommerce, all of which are very similar to the aforementioned WordPress hosting plans in terms of features. The only major difference is that these plans come with a simple installer that allows you to set up a fully-functioning storefront in just a few minutes. The resulting online store runs on WordPress and includes the popular WooCommerce plugin along with a professional theme.
That said, you don’t have to stick to WordPress in order to build an online store with SiteGround. The company offers a free shopping cart install with all hosting plans. The shopping cart works well with a wide variety of platforms, including Magento, PrestaShop, osCommerce, and more. If you’re looking for a cheap and very easy to use platform for eCommerce, we recommend checking out Weebly.
Unfortunately, SiteGround doesn’t offer any SEO tools of its own, which puts it at a disadvantage when compared to companies that do offer them, such as iPage or HostGator for example. If you’re not very familiar with search engine optimization you may want to try Wix as the platform has a great SEO Wiz that does most of the work for you. If, on the other hand, you do know what you’re doing, you can use SiteGround to build a WordPress site and then install the Yoast plugin on top. Doing so will give you access to some of the best and most helpful SEO tools out there.
Additional Supported Technologies
SiteGround is a great choice for tech-savvy users thanks to the large number of technologies it supports. We already mentioned a few of them earlier in this review but those were just the cherry on top. Among other things, SiteGround supports HTTP/2, .htaccess, Mod_rewrite, and multiple versions of PHP (the default one is 7.1). In addition, you can also use a wide variety of PHP encoders, libraries, and image galleries.
SiteGround’s location coverage is not very impressive compared to some of the other big providers out there. Especially those that deal primarily in cloud hosting like Vultr or Cloudways. SiteGround has servers on three continents but there are only five data centers to choose from. Two of them are located in the US, two in Europe and one is in Singapore.
The data centers themselves are state-of-the-art and feature high levels of redundancy to offset any potential issues. SiteGround works closely with Google to ensure that its network is always up to par with modern standards. The two companies also have a partnership that allows SiteGround to run green-friendly data centers by matching 100% of the energy consumed with renewable energy.
Performance and Reliability
If you’re worried about the price, there are plenty of platforms that let you build a site for free or for very little money. Wix and Weebly are two good examples. If you’re worried about the performance, however, it’s a good idea not to be stingy and sign up with a provider that has a good track record. Can SiteGround be considered a reliable provider? The short answer is yes but let’s take a closer look at some of the stats.
Not only does a fast website ensure a good user experience but it also helps improve your SEO. Slow sites have been routinely shown to have fewer page views and lower conversion rates when compared to their faster competitors. If you’re running a small blog this might not matter too much, but it’s definitely important for businesses since losing potential customers means losing money.
We tested a WordPress website hosted on SiteGround to see what sort of speeds we’d get and we were not disappointed by the results. On average, the page loading speed hovered at around 645 ms, which is very good. Not the faster website we’ve ever had, mind you, but very good regardless.
We did notice that the site slowed down during peak traffic hours but that’s not very surprising given that we were using a shared hosting plan. With this type of hosting, you’re sharing server resources with other users so it’s always better to go for a plan that gives you dedicated resources if you can afford it.
Server Response Times
Testing individual pages can give you a good idea of a site’s overall speed but it’s not always the most accurate testing method. That’s because some pages may inadvertently load slower than others depending on how much content there is on the page. For instance, a page with lots of high-resolution images will always load slower than a simple page with no images found on the same site. That’s why we decided to also test the response times of the server itself in order to get an even better idea of how SiteGround performs.
During our testing, we were able to get response times as low as 40 ms for US servers (where the site is located). We used a tool that measures response times from different locations and found that things slow down to around 300 ms when measured from Europe. Meanwhile, users from Japan would have to wait 2 seconds or more in order to get a response, which isn’t great.
These results are pretty good and show why it’s important to pick a server location that’s as close as possible to that of your target audience. As mentioned before, SiteGround doesn’t have many locations to choose from so that can be a bit of a problem for some people. However, if you’re targeting users from the US or Europe there’s generally nothing to worry about because SiteGround performs great in these regions.
Unlike many other providers, SiteGround doesn’t make a big deal about the uptime of its servers or brag about it in big bold letters on its home page. Does that mean the uptimes aren’t very good? No, quite the contrary. During our testing, we haven’t noticed any significant outages and it seems downtime isn’t an issue at SiteGround, in general, based on all the other reviews we’ve read online. No company has 100% uptime all-year-round but SiteGround comes as close as you can get.
While the company doesn’t mention anything about the uptime on the home page, you can find some information about it by reading the SiteGround Terms of Service. Since most people don’t bother with that, we’ll give you a quick summary of what it says.
SiteGround guarantees network uptime of 99.9% on an annual base. If your actual uptime falls below the promised value by even less than 1% you are entitled to a month of free hosting. You also get an additional month of free hosting for every 1% of uptime lost below 99%. That’s quite generous but there is a caveat here. Scheduled maintenance and downtime caused by sources outside of SiteGround’s control (such as DDoS attacks) will not be counted when calculating your total uptime.
A lot of people don’t need to contact customer support all that often but if you do happen to need assistance, you’re in good hands here. In fact, SiteGround’s customer support can easily be considered one of the company’s main selling points. The provider offers 24/7 support via tickets, live chat and phone, with a toll-free number available in certain regions.
You can expect a fast reply regardless of which channel you choose. We were particularly impressed by the speed at which agents reply to tickets since this channel is usually the slowest. That’s not really the case here as tickets are answered in 10 minutes or faster. Meanwhile, live chat and phone responses are pretty much instant most of the time. The only problem with SiteGround’s customer support is that you need to jump through several hoops in order to use the live chat. Aside from that, though, the support is very solid.
In addition to the aforementioned channels, SiteGround also has an extensive knowledge base with hundreds of useful articles. All articles are sorted by category and sub-category and there’s also a search bar, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding what you’re looking for. It’s usually better to try getting in touch with an agent if you’re a newcomer but if you’re already an experienced webmaster, you can definitely fix a lot of problems yourself by simply consulting the knowledge base.
Does SiteGround Offer VPS Hosting?
SiteGround offers cloud hosting plans, which come with dedicated resources just like VPS packages, but are not quite the same thing. Buying a VPS plan will give you dedicated access to a single machine whereas with cloud hosting you get access to resources that are spread amongst a number of different machines. Cloud hosting is often considered a better option but VPS is a lot cheaper.
Does SiteGround Offer Dedicated Servers?
SiteGround did use to offer dedicated servers until fairly recently but the company eventually switched entirely to cloud hosting (in addition to shared hosting). A dedicated hosting plan is essentially a more powerful version of a VPS. It’s also a lot more expensive. Price-wise, SiteGround’s cloud hosting plans are somewhere between a VPS and a dedicated server. If you’re looking for a company that offers VPS and dedicated packages, as well as cloud hosting, we recommend checking out DreamHost.
Is SiteGround a Good Choice For Beginners?
Absolutely. Not only does the company offer a cPanel but there’s also a separate panel with very useful site tools designed by the folks over at SiteGround themselves. Having said that, we do recommend going for a WordPress package if this is your first time building a site because it will make things a lot easier.
Is it Better to Use Weebly or WordPress to Build a Site Hosted on SiteGround?
WordPress is definitely the better option in most cases because SiteGround offers special packages that work great with the CMS. Weebly might be easier to work with but SiteGround only includes the free version of the builder, which comes with a lot of limitations. You can pay for a premium Weebly plan but in that case you’re better off skipping SiteGround and signing up with Weebly directly since the builder comes with free hosting.
What is SiteGround’s Refund Policy?
According to SiteGround’s refund policy, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all shared hosting plans and a 15-day money-back guarantee for cloud hosting packages. The policy does not cover domain registrations or renewals.
SiteGround is a very solid choice for all types of users, though it’s particularly good for hosting WordPress websites. The company’s prices are a bit higher than the market average but you definitely get your money’s worth here. Even the cheapest packages come with tools and features that other providers force you to buy separately. Then again, most providers offer free domains with their hosting plans while SiteGround doesn’t, so there are clearly some drawbacks as well.
While there's not quite as much variety as we would have liked when it comes to the types of hosting on offer, SiteGround does cover its bases by offering both shared and cloud hosting. There are specialized packages for WordPress and online stores but those, too, are ultimately shared hosting plans with extra features. Still, we do appreciate that the company is trying to make things easier for users who are looking for a quick way of setting up a WordPress site or eCommerce platform.
As far as the performance is concerned, our experience has been very positive and this seems to be the case for most people based on our research. The same can also be said about the customer support, though if we were to nitpick, we would recommend improving the live chat system just a little bit. Aside from that, though, we don’t have any major complaints and we wholeheartedly recommend checking out SiteGround because this is overall one of the best hosting providers on the market right now.