One of the few major hosting companies to be based in Europe rather than the United States, SiteGround has spent the past several years growing from humble beginnings in a college dorm room to the preferred hosting provider for over a quarter of a million websites world wide.
A great success story for sure, but with some of the most highest shared hosting prices on the market in 2016, are SiteGround really the best solution to guarantee your online success?
In the following review, I’ll share my own first-hand experience of their GrowBig plan to help you make that decision.
At first glance, it’s tempting to take one look at the price tag for SiteGround’s GrowBig package and quickly start looking for a better option. After all, at a fixed-rate cost of £9.95 per month for only 20GB of storage, there’s certainly more affordable -and on the surface, better value for money solutions out there.
Yet before you balk and start checking out another hosting review, I’m going to ask you to stick with me and give me some time to explain why -despite being one of the most expensive plans on the market- I still think SiteGround represents great value for money for certain users.
As I’ve explained above, I chose to review GrowBig for the sake of a fair comparison with plans containing similar features from other hosting companies, though I must admit there’s actually slightly more to it than that.
When you weigh up what’s included for that price and compare it to the other two major shared hosting plans offered by SiteGround, GrowBig actually works out to be the best deal for those who need more than the single 10GB website of the £6.95 start-up package, but less than the advanced technical features which warrant the high first-term cost of the £14.95 per month GoGeek plan.
Indeed, whilst 20GB of storage space is disappointing when you consider that you can get unlimited hosting for a few pounds less, there’s actually a lot of features here that you don’t get elsewhere for the same price. These include:
The latter of these is especially important if you’re planning to launch an eCommerce website, though even if you’re not, it can greatly improve your search engine rankings as companies such as Google give preference to those sites which take visitor security seriously.
Not that an SSL certificate is where serious security begins and ends with SiteGround. As I’ll discuss later on in Performance and Reliability, the company are renowned for creating their own software and hardware solutions to provide greater hosting experiences than those offered by their competitors. As you’ll see in the video above, this includes providing unique systems and server configurations to protect your site from attacks.
So yes, a more expensive plan, but by combining user friendliness with advanced features that you’d otherwise pay premium price for, I have to say that GrowBig is still a solid option for high performance websites where protecting customer data is essential.
Though SiteGround’s biggest selling point is their advanced technology and features that are essential for large, resource intensive websites, it’s reassuring to note that they do get most of the basics right to.
A free domain is included in your package, along with support for unlimited add-on and sub-domains for the multiple websites you can host on your 20GB shared hosting plan.
Credit where it’s due, SiteGround are one of those rare hosting companies that manage to cater for both beginners and advanced users alike.
Whilst the latter will be able to make use of premium level features, advanced technology and sophisticated tools to build powerful, dynamic, and interactive websites, the former will be glad to note that these features -along with all of the basics- are laid out in an easy-to-use interface that doesn’t require much of a learning curve to get to grips with.
Indeed, whilst those advanced features are one of the company’s biggest strengths, setting up basic websites, adding new features, and taking care of general account and website management are as simple to do with SiteGround as they are with a company that specifically targets first-time website owners.
OK, so you’ll likely still need some level of technical ability to make the most of some features on offer, but for the most part, I can’t see beginners running into much trouble when using SiteGround’s shared hosting plans.
So far, SiteGround are one of the only shared hosting providers I’ve encountered that publish their real-time uptime monitoring figures. Just to make sure, I ran my own uptime tests on my Siteground hosted projects over a six month period, and I’m happy to report that the percentage levels my own tests came back matched the company’s own results.
As you’ll see for yourself in the performance graph featured to the right of this review, the company’s servers only dropped below an average of 99.5% on one occasion, and were more often than not right up there in the 99.99% margin, meaning that their overall uptime levels were even more impressive than those offered by other high performance companies like the recently reviewed 1&1 Web Hosting.
On the face of it, this shouldn’t be too surprising given that the company employs their own unique server monitoring software which automatically triggers troubleshooting programs to counter 90% of the most common server issues on the spot.
As you’ll see in the video above, this isn’t the only time that Siteground’s technology yields positive results for its customers. Committed to exceptional performance, the brand go all out to make sure that websites hosted on their servers load at faster-than-average rates.
As you’ll likely already know, the faster your site loads, the less chance there is of visitors getting bored with the wait and heading to another, faster website, so this is definitely another key area where SiteGround more than justifies the higher-than-normal price tag.
Finally, we get to the most exciting part of any web hosting experience; using the features and tools at your disposal to build, develop, and ultimately launch your website.
When I first got to this point with SiteGround, I was particularly pleased to note that the company go above and beyond the kind of support you’ll find with many of their competitors.
Again, the basics are all present and accounted for here. The use of the cPanel dashboard and Softaculous makes managing your website and launching popular Content Management Systems (CMS) like Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal an absolute breeze.
Whilst one-click install of major website platforms isn’t too uncommon with shared hosting providers, SiteGround’s advanced support for these three particular platforms is. The company uses a bespoke system of server caching to load CMS platforms at faster-than-average speeds, something you’ll find both with GrowBig shared hosting in general as well as the company’s dedicated Joomla and WordPress hosting packages.
Developers and those with more advanced needs will be glad to note that the company supports multiple versions of PHP upto and including the latest version, as well as all of the following:
Didn’t I say earlier that SiteGround do a great job of catering for users at all levels? If anything I’ve mentioned above leaves you scratching your head and searching for your nearest Geek-Speak dictionary, I may have some good news for you.
The GrowBig shared hosting package also includes a drag-and-drop website builder with a wealth of beautiful, professionally designed templates. From giving this web builder a trial run for myself, I can confirm that this is as easy to use as anything offered by the company’s competitors whilst still allowing you to implement any of the more advanced features should you choose to.
When I get to this point in the reviews here on UK Web Host Review, I often mention that though free marketing and advertising tools are certainly a nice, value-added feature- they perhaps shouldn’t be a deal breaker when it comes to choosing a new shared hosting solution.
That’s perhaps just as well with SiteGround, since they don’t offer the usual marketing bundle containing Google AdWord credits or Yahoo!/Bing network vouchers for advertising that most other hosting companies bundle in as a bonus.
That’s not to say that no marketing support is available. Email marketing management apps and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tools are included through one click installation on your cPanel, whilst the company does do a good job of providing novice-level how-to marketing guides covering topics such as SEO, social media and Pay Per Click advertising.
If you’ve read any of my other hosting reviews, you’ll likely note that this is one of the rare occasions when I don’t recommend investing in a different package other than the one central to the review in order to launch an online store.
That’s because SiteGround’s GrowBig package already includes the majority of the essentials, including a free SSL certificate and data encryption tools, both of which are vital for ensuring your site can process sensitive customer data such as financial information and keep them out of reach should anyone try to steal that data or otherwise hack into your website.
Along with those essentials, basic features such as support for Magento and PretaShop as well as popular payment gateways and tools such as ZenCart, osCommerce and CubeCart.
If you did want to upgrade to the £14.99 GoGeek plan, you’ll also benefit from full PCI compliance taken care of for you, saving you the extra leg work and cost of making sure your site is fully compliant with online retail regulations.
By and large, I was pretty impressed with SiteGround’s above average customer service.
All the usual channels, including email, phone, and live chat were present and correct, along with a solid library of tutorials and how-to guides which provide simple, step-by-step instructions for both common web hosting issues and more advanced tasks alike.
Whilst that alone may not sound too impressive (after all, these are all, for the most part, fairly standard in the hosting industry), what really endeared me to SiteGround was their almost-instant response times.
This is especially helpful when using the phone support service, avoiding the costs and frustrations of sitting on hold for several minutes whilst waiting for someone to pick up and help out.
When they do pick up -or respond via email and chat- the tech support specialists not only seem to know their stuff, but -perhaps more importantly- know just how to explain that stuff in clear, user-friendly terms. When I spoke to them, the reps I dealt with only veered into technical territory when I did first, so I think it’s fair to say the team are well practiced in pitching their responses to the level of skill and know-how of their customers.
With that said, I really can’t say enough kind things about SiteGround’s support team, and they certainly get top marks from me.
Though the £9.95 per month price tag may not be the most attractive I’ve come across, I do think this is one of those cases where -in the best possible sense- you really do get what you pay for.
The advanced security and performance features, built on the company’s own in-house technology certainly make this an attractive option for high performance websites, whilst the free SSL certificate (which the likes of eHost charge up to £100 per year for) is a particularly nice touch.
Also commendable is something I’ve mentioned several times throughout this review, the perfect combination of high performance technology and beginner-level user friendliness.
Still, if the high cost for only 20GB of storage is still clawing at you, all that’s left for me to do is to thank you for sticking with me, and invite you to check out my reviews for other companies which offer much more space at several pounds less than SiteGround’s advanced level GrowBig shared hosting plan.
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