UPDATE May 2022: As I type SiteGround are offering their GrowBig plan for £4.99/month for 12 months (in the UK). However, please look out for the renewal fees after that because these have increased since I originally wrote this article. Aside from this, everything in the post below is accurate and even with the higher price point they are pretty competitive all considered (I’m still a happy customer and have no inclination to move elsewhere).
The first thing to say is I’m not trying to convince you to move hosts – if you’re really happy with what you’re using right now then it makes sense to stay put.
Equally, if you find a different solution to me, then that’s great too.
Rather, I am sharing my experience over many years together with what I use today so you can make a better, more informed choice.
Also, a quick note to say that affiliate links are used in this article. This means if you click them and make a purchase then I will receive a commission.
Right, let’s start with some perspective…
1. Is There Really Much Difference Between Hosting Companies?
There is a vast array of hosting companies to choose from and in the main, there isn’t in my view, an enormous difference between them.
Hosting technology has improved dramatically over the past few years so unless you have extremely high traffic or very specific technical requirements, any of the main hosting companies are likely to be a reasonable fit.
Since I started my business in 2010 I’ve used:
- Hostgator – Shared hosting
- Hostgator – Reseller account
- Hostgator – Dedicated server
- Hivelocity – Dedicated server
- Liquid Web – Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A few years ago there was a significant performance difference between these options.
But today, as hosting technology and server speed has advanced, my current host (SiteGround’s GrowBig plan, $9.99/month) is, in my experience, easily as good and arguably – as we’ll see below – even better than the others I used to use.
That said, there are a couple of things to be aware of:
The internet is full of recommendations for different hosting companies mainly because so many hosts pay handsome referral commissions.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this but it’s good to be aware that a given hosting “review” or comparison site may be primarily motivated by money rather than your best interests.
So bear this in mind and be prepared to take things you see with a pinch of salt.
2) Endurance International Group (E.I.G)
E.I.G is a company that has spent years buying up different web hosts and consolidating their operations for cost advantage.
At the time of writing Wikipedia lists a total of 88 different E.I.G hosting brands.
One of these brands is Bluehost – a company that traditionally pays high referral commissions which explains why it gets recommended so often.
Another is Hostgator who I was with when E.I.G took them over.
When this happened, I experienced technical problems and incredibly poor and slow support … I had a dedicated server on which I hosted client websites, so this was not a pleasant experience.
Because of this I would personally steer clear of an E.I.G owned host.
Perhaps that’s unfair and maybe they’ve changed their ways, but I do think it’s fair to say they are more driven by cost saving than pure hosting and customer service excellence.
Elsewhere, you’ll see a lot of steers towards higher priced hosts (e.g., WPX Hosting starting around $20/month).
Again, there is nothing wrong with this but in my view unless you have a very specific requirement there just isn’t the need any more to pay these higher prices.
The bottom line is that hosting technology and server capacity these days means a standard hosting company will probably work just fine for you.
2. So Why Did I Switch Hosting?
The original catalyst was cPanel’s announcement to radically change their pricing structure.
If you don’t know, cPanel is a web application that allows you to control your website hosting.
To install WordPress, add a new email address for your website or backup your data, cPanel is what you can use to do that.
I had a Virtual Private Server (VPS) with Liquid Web at $80/month.
The price increase meant I would incur an additional charge for each of my 12 websites or I could migrate from cPanel to Liquid Web’s own system called Interworx.
I’ve nothing bad to say about Liquid Web whatsoever – their support was superb and I was very happy overall.
But after a few years with them this situation presented the opportunity to look around to see what else was out there.
After some solid research I chose SiteGround.
Here’s my experience…
3. Migrating My Websites To SiteGround
SiteGround have two options for this:
1. Professional Transfer
They do a free transfer for one of your sites. So no good for me because I have 12 websites.
2. SiteGround’s Migrator Plugin
This is the DIY option I used.
I have to say, being a marketer not a techie, migrating between hosts was not something I was particularly looking forward to.
However, I found the system to be incredibly simple and straightforward.
I filmed one of the transfers here so you can see how it works:
4. SiteGround Page Loading Speed & Site Performance
This was my primary concern: how could SiteGround possibly come close to the performance from my old $80/month VPS hosting?
I ran a series of tests using GTmetrix before and after transfer:
Click Here To See The Full GTMetrix Performance Reports
(Opens In New Tab)
The screenshot above shows a performance increase on SiteGround compared to the old Liquid Web VPS for this site, gainhigherground.com.
Of course, this is just one test and speed naturally varies depending upon the time of day etc.
And possibly my old Liquid Web VPS server could have been optimized with various technical tweaks.
But as a marketer and information product creator I don’t have the technical knowledge, time or frankly the inclination to do this.
Moreover, subsequent performance tests on my SiteGround hosted sites have yielded pretty impressive results in the same ballpark as the one shown above.
So SiteGround is making me extremely happy in terms of performance and site loading times.
This is very important to reduce site bounce rates – especially when running paid traffic (e.g., Facebook ads) to your landing pages.
Again, I believe this indicates that technology improvements mean you simply don’t need to spend a lot of monthly cost on hosting unless you have very particular requirements or extremely high traffic.
5. SiteGround Tools & Functionality
This is something else I quizzed SiteGround about via their Live Chat Support before I signed up.
In a nutshell I’ve found the control panel tools inside my SiteGround account to be extremely refreshing, straightforward and easy to use.
For example, here’s how to install WordPress:
Here’s another example, of applying your SSL certificate to ensure you have a https:// secure browser connection on your site (these certificates are free for each one of your websites):
6. Other SiteGround Features
Obviously SiteGround’s website provides a full feature list for each of their plans (I have the GrowBig option).
But here is a short list of things I’m most impressed by:
1. WordPress Staging
If you have a problem with your site, or you are thinking about making some big changes, SiteGround allows you to create a “Staging” version of it.
This allows you to experiment and play around without worrying about breaking anything on the live version of your site.
Once you’re happy with your changes you can do a Full Deploy to make your staging copy live, or, choose to partially deploy certain elements.
Very easy to do, right from inside the SiteGround dashboard and no need for third party plugins, some of which require payment for this kind of staging functionality.
SiteGround handles this for every site you have.
By default it keeps daily backups for 30 days and you can also perform a manual backup whenever you wish – an easy task but important before making any significant changes to your website.
Restoring a backup is again done within your dashboard.
Keeping your WordPress installation, themes and plugins updated is important for security.
Previously, I’d used third-party plugins for this but SiteGround now takes care of this for me.
There are many other SiteGround features but the ones above are, for me at least, the most important.
The only other thing I will mention is their File Manager app, again accessed from the main dashboard.
It’s an extremely simple app which just allows you to edit, upload and download the files held on your server.
Not something I use often but I mention it here because I’ve found it a breeze compared to the same process on cPanel which I am used to from all the previous hosts I’ve been with.
7. Support & Customer Service
As noted above, I asked various questions before I signed up to SiteGround, including:
Q: Is there a difference between SiteGround’s standard hosting plans and “Wordpress Hosting” plans?
A: No, it’s the same thing – they are just shown differently on the website for SEO purposes.
Q: What’s the difference in website loading speed and performance between the GrowBig & GoGeek plans?
A: Very little if anything for less than 25,000 visitors per month. The differences are mainly capacity related e.g., amount of file storage space etc.
Q: Can I upload non-Wordpress files, like HTML pages inside my account?
A: Yes, using File Manager in your account’s dashboard.
As you can see, just basic questions, but I wanted to know and test their support.
The service was very speedy and efficient, but of course as with most companies, it often is for prospective customers!
The good news is the level of support has continued now that I am a customer: Each time I’ve used the live chat it’s been quick to connect (within one minute) and the reps have been super helpful.
So overall, I’m extremely happy with the service. It’s certainly matched Liquid Web in my experience.
So based on all my hosting experiences over the years and my current use of SiteGround, I think it’s a great choice.
I have fast loading pages (important for low bounce rate and Facebook Ad landing pages), quality support and an easy-to-use interface to control my account with all the functionality I need.
If you’re on a budget then it makes sense on that score too.
If, like I was, you’re looking to move to a fresh hosting solution, get a performance boost for lower cost, unhappy with current customer support or starting up then I personally highly recommend SiteGround.
Whether you decide to go the same way as me or not, I hope sharing my experience here has helped you to make a more informed choice!
Was this useful to you? I’d LOVE to hear your questions, experiences and thoughts – do drop a quick message below and I’ll reply personally 🙂 Cheers, Rob.