Today we start looking at some of the top hosting providers for small business and new website owners. The aim over these next few articles is to give you a better understanding of what you need from a hosting provider (as well as what you don’t) and leave you with a few recommendations to consider.
Once we’re done with these, you’ll be able to choose a hosting provider with confidence, knowing what to expect in return for your money. And for good faith we’re chucking in some discount codes along with our recommendations to sweeten the deal for you.
First up we have SiteGround – one of the most popular and highly rated WordPress hosting providers – and we’ll be focusing on its shared hosting plans, which are designed for smaller businesses.
- Extensive plan options (including excellent WordPress services)
- Features for increased site speed
- Great customer support
- Extensive tutorial guides
- Server locations in the US, Europe and Asia
- Over 99% server uptime*
*Figure estimated by SiteGround
- No Google AdWords credits
- Less storage than some options in this price range
- More expensive than some of its rivals
Quick verdict: You’ll certainly find cheaper host providers out there – and many of them come with more features, for less. But SIteGround aims to offer a higher quality of services, without the premium price tag – and you’ll see throughout the rest of this review that it largely succeeds.
SiteGround Plan Options
SiteGround offers three basic plans for shared hosting: StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek – each of which comes with a dedicated plan for WordPress and Joomla.
StartUp Plan Overview
- EUR7.50/mo (EUR3.50/mo special deal at time of writing)
- Hosts one website
- 10GB web space – suitable for 10,000 monthly visits
- All Essential Features: free domain, site transfer, app installs and email accounts; unlimited traffic, MySQL database and 24/7 support; daily backup, free CloudFlare CDN and SHH protocol
GrowBig Plan Overview
- EUR12.95/mo (EUR7.95/mo special deal at time of writing)
- Multiple websites
- 20GB web space – suitable for 25,000 monthly visits
- All Essential Features
- Premium Features: priority technical support, SuperCacher for increased speed, 1 year free SSL certificate, 30 backup copies available
GoGeek Plan Overview
- EUR23.95/mo (EUR11.95/mo special deal at time of writing)
- Multiple websites
- 30GB web space – suitable for 100,000 monthly visits
- All Essential Features
- All Premium Features
- Geeky Advanced Features: less shared accounts on your server, advanced hardware for extra speed and power, free PCI compliance, plus pre-installed Git and Staging
Choosing the Right Plan for You
Essentially, the difference between the SiteGround plans is you get more speed and security, for larger amounts of traffic, as they get more expensive. If you only plan to host a single site and you don’t expect traffic to exceed 10,000 monthly visits, then the StartUp package will probably be enough.
This plan is ideal for simple blogs or business websites that have no eCommerce element or multiple user accounts. If you’re running an online shop, handle sensitive user data or expect to generate larger amounts of traffic, then you’ll want to consider GrowBig and GoGeek.
For fully-fledged eCommerce stores with user accounts, stored credit card info and other sensitive data, GoGeek will be the option for you. This plan comes with the richest security and content delivery features to keep your website running fast and user information safe.
Note: If you expect to be dealing with serious volumes of traffic or need the highest standard of security, you’ll want to look at cloud or dedicated hosting packages from SiteGround and other providers.
SiteGround Discount Codes
When you’re choosing between host providers it’s always worth looking around for discount codes. Many firms offer promotional codes through affiliate plans – and SiteGround is no exception – which means you can save big on its shared hosting plans.
To save you scouring the web, we’ve gone ahead and gotten our hands on some discount codes for you. All you need to do is click the link below and enter the code that appears before you pay on the SiteGround checkout page.
A Closer Look at the Key Features
SiteGround sells itself as a provider that offers high-end security and performance, combined with excellent customer support, at low prices. So let’s take a look at the key features SiteGround expects you to buy into.
One of SiteGround’s biggest claims is that it offers premium security measures, even on its shared hosting plans, and it soon becomes obvious security is a priority for them. This starts with daily server backups – something you don’t always find with shared packages – and you get a varied number of copies depending on the plan you choose.
Hopefully, you’ll never need to use them, but it’s reassuring to know that your data is automatically backed up on a daily basis, should the worst happen. You’ll be glad to know that SiteGround makes it very difficult for hackers to compromise its servers, though, and the provider has fared well against numerous WordPress attacks in the past.
No matter how good security measures from any provider may be, there’s always a small risk, and the concern with shared hosting is your site could be vulnerable if another account on the same server as your site is compromised. So it’s nice to see SiteGround includes Unique Account Isolation on all of its plans, to protect your account – even if someone on your server becomes compromised.
You also get a weekly “Hack Alert” to keep you up to date with all the latest security threats and advise you on how to stay safe – a really nice touch.
Verdict on security: Chances are you’ll never notice SiteGround’s security measures in action – and hopefully never need to. It’s good to see the firm offers multiple layers of protection on each of its plans, though, and you don’t see daily backups in this price range very often.
Uptime & Site Speed
SiteGround also makes some bold claims when it comes to performance and, unlike security features, you can see the results on a daily basis.
SiteGround tells us we can expect over 99% uptime, which means a maximum of 4.4 hours of downtime over a 6 month period – as good as any provider you’ll find. However, SiteGround has an auto-detection system, that alerts them whenever downtime occurs, so they can fix the issue – and its customized software is advanced enough to automatically fix many errors before they cause a problem.
In terms of speed, SiteGround has a much tougher job on its hands, because it has more customers to deal with than many of its rivals. This explains why you get so many features promising blistering site speed, even on its shared hosting plans. The end result leaves SiteGround marginally slower than some of its rivals, but highly competitive for this price range.
Verdict on uptime & site speed: SiteGround manages almost impeccable uptime stats and impressive speed. You may find marginally quicker page loads with some of its rivals, but SiteGround’s impressive server response times make a minimal difference at most.
Dedicated WordPress Features
While some providers like WP Engine are dedicated to the WordPress platform, SiteGround offers plans for bespoke sites, Joomla and other platforms. It also offers dedicated WordPress versions of its StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek plans.
Pricing and key features for the WordPress plans are essentially the same as their regular plans, but you get free WordPress installation, free transfer, auto-update, support and advanced security features across all plans. With GrowBig and GoGeek, you also get additional WordPress caching to improve site speed. GoGeek exclusively comes with WordPress Staging and Git support.
Note: Staging creates a copy of your website on a separate environment, allowing you to test new code and design changes before implementing them on your live site. SiteGround’s staging features makes this all doable in a matter of clicks.
WordPress features verdict: If you’re willing to pay for dedicated WordPress hosting with more robust features, then you may want to consider WP Engine or similar options. However, SiteGround offers solid WordPress performance at a fraction of WP Engine’s prices.
SiteGround wants to set itself apart as a hosting provider that offers premium customer support, regardless of its low-end prices – and it’s fair to say it succeeds. The truth is you’ll rarely need to use SiteGround’s customer support, though. This is thanks to its easy setup process and a software system that fixes many problems automatically – or even prevents them from ever happening in the first place.
If you do need to get in touch with customer support, it’s probably because of a simple mistake on your part. However, the team is quick to respond and happy to talk you through any problems, so you can avoid the same issue in the future.
You can contact SiteGround’s support staff by telephone, live chat or via an email ticket system, 24/7 – and the response times are great.
Verdict on customer support: Considering SiteGround offers hosting for so many different platforms, it’s impressive to see broad expertise and fast response times as part of a top-notch customer support team.
One of the worst things about hosting a website is getting your head around the setup process and using the software platforms involved – especially if you’re new to the game. So how does SiteGround weigh up on the usability front?
If you’re new to web hosting or have had some nasty experiences getting set up in the past, one thing you’ll love about SiteGround is the vast collection the tutorials on offer. You have starter guides for just about everything: web hosting, setting up your email accounts, FTP and even a dedicated set of WordPress tutorials.
There’s a dedicated section of “getting started” tutorials too, which covers all the basics you need. The good thing about these SiteGround resources is they’re short and simple, with plenty of images to show you where everything is. All too often documentation from host providers is overcomplicated, which defeats the whole point for new users.
Verdict on getting started: It’s not like SiteGround works a miracle by turning web hosting into something that needs no technical knowledge. However, its resources break things down incredibly well. If you’re experienced with hosting then this may not be so important, anyway, but it’s a good effort to make hosting more approachable for newcomers.
SiteGround Administration Panel
On the face of things, the SiteGround admin panel doesn’t look any different from those you’ll find with most host providers. There are some key features that deserve a mention, though, in addition to the usual suspects.
Upgrading Your Plan
If you find your existing plan isn’t enough to support the growth of your site you can upgrade in a matter of clicks from the admin panel. Simply click the upgrade button to the left of the cPanel interface, under Account Information. You can also do this from inside the My Accounts tab before you sign in to the admin panel.
The first tab you’ll find in the cPanel interface is the Domains section, where you can transfer domains, register new ones, create subdomains and various other management options.
Click Domain Manager and you can review your domain information, change a number of settings and access a range of extra services, upgrades, and tutorials.
A really nice feature, should you need to change your DNS settings, is having two DNS editors: the Simple DNS Zone Editor for A and CNAME records, plus an Advanced DNS Zone Editor for more extensive records.
The Autoinstallers tab gives you access to a wealth of platform installs to bring advanced features to your website. WordPress and Joomla are the headline installs here, but Magneto, CSCart, and PrestaShop mean you can turn your site into a powerful eCommerce page within a few clicks.
Site Improvement Tools
Site improvement tools is an important part of the SiteGround Admin panel. From here you can access CloudFlare, a content delivery network (CDN) that promises to make your website perform faster.
Next up you have SiteGround’s SuperCacher that makes your website load quicker for return visitors, plus SG-Git and SiteApps for extra performance boosts.
The Mail tab in SiteGround’s admin panel is much like any other you’ll come across, but with a couple of exceptions. First of all, you have those priceless email tutorials – so check them out if you’re new to hosting email accounts.
The other key feature is Spam Assassin and SmapExperts integration, where you can edit your spam filter and other security settings.
Much like the Mail tab, you won’t find any surprises in the Files section either. Once again, the presence of those FTP tutorials will be invaluable to new users, though. As always, you can access and edit your site’s files through the file managers supplied, if you prefer not to work via FTP.
WordPress and Joomla Tools
If there’s one thing that sets the SiteGround admin panel apart, it’s the heavily integrated WordPress and Joomla tools that come as standard. The tools for each platform are almost identical, including dedicated SuperCachers for each platform and the incredibly useful Staging feature, if you’re on the GoGeek plan.
The only difference between the two sets of tools is WordPress comes with ManageWP, which brings faster updates and added security to WordPress sites.
If you want more info on the cPanel features SiteGround has to offer, you can take a look at its extensive cPanel tutorial page.
Verdict on admin panel: There are some key features here that set SiteGround apart from other host providers, but the best of them all could well be having access to extensive tutorials within a single click.
If you’ve used web hosting before you won’t find many surprises with the SiteGround user interface. In a way, this consistency is a good thing, as it means you can move between different host providers without learning a completely new interface.
That said, cPanel user interfaces in general, could do with an upgrade to make them a little more intuitive. This isn’t specific to SiteGround, of course, but it would be nice to see more providers take some initiative in this department.
You’ll see a very similar interface with most hosting providers, so there’s not much to compare in this case. The good news is you probably won’t spend much time behind the scenes, once your site is up and running – especially if you’re hosting a WordPress site. And you always have those tutorials on hand, if you ever get stuck.
Verdict on user interface: As you’ll find with most host providers, the interface is fairly uninspiring and it could be more intuitive from a usability point of view.
SiteGround is one of the most highly rated hosting providers in its category and it’s easy to see why opinions are so positive. Instead of offering every feature it could cram into its shared hosting plans, SiteGround focuses on delivering a higher quality of service on the things that matter most.
Web site performance, security and customer service are clearly the priorities for SiteGround and the standard it offers in these three departments is hard to find in this price range. You can think of SiteGround as a provider that focuses on quality over quantity and it chooses its priorities well.
The biggest drawback to SiteGround’s shared hosting plans is that they come with more restrictions than you’ll find with many of its competitors. This won’t be a problem for most users, but we have found some complaints about limited execution requests or bandwidth causing problems – this could be a simple case of choosing the wrong plan, though.
You’ll see from the reviews yourself that the vast majority are highly positive and the customer support team, in particular, is praised time and again. Our experience with SiteGround has been a very happy one too and it’s certainly one of our top recommendations in this price range.
If you’re looking for a high quality but affordable web host for your website, then SiteGround comes highly recommended.