Why we switched to SiteGround hosting

Over the past few years, I ended up going back and forth between different WordPress hosting solutions. I tried everything from RackSpace cloud platform to private VPS solutions like OVH and Media Temple.
The ability to customize your platform and tweak it just the way you want to is great for power users.  That’s why for the most part I’ve been using VPS options since they allow you to set up a server just how you want to. This overview goes over my different hosting experience, so if you are on the fence what to go with, hopefully this guide will make it easier for you.

 

VPS Hosting

The benefits of VPS is that you have complete control of your hosting environment so you can set it up just the way you want to.
If you are design company hosting websites this can mean you can run some sites on PHP5 and some on PHP7. You can run Nginx and Apache on the same server if you so desire. You can play with Docker, Git or play with caching systems like Google Page Speed and Memcached, all on a single server. If this sounds like fun to you (as it did to me at first) then this is a path for you. The second biggest advantage is that you can easily host many websites on a single server. The downside of it, is of course you have to manage it yourself. There are some managed VPS options and some that are not. Below is my personal experience with both.

 

OVH

OVH is by far one of the cheapest VPS options you can get so I had to see what the bottom of the barrel gets you. Their starter package starts at only $9 a month and for that amount you get a pretty decent system on paper (now they start at $3.49 however there are usually other fees associated with account creation). This is usually enough to run around 20 basic sites and with an option to scale. This looks like a no-brainer. After you install more than 3 sites things start to struggle a little so I would recommend going with a second or third upgraded option for extra ram, as the 2GB of ram will bottleneck your system soon.

The issue with OVH is that this is certainly one of those “you get what you pay for” scenarios. Once you select your hardware you have to pay extra for Plesk management system which you will want to get if you are planning on hosting sites. CPanel option is also available however it’s about twice as expensive.

buying-ovh
Buying OVH VPS hosting

I prefer Plesk anyway because of a cleaner user interface and a more integrated overall package. I always feel like in Cpanel I have to try to find things, wherein Plesk things are where you expect them to be.

Plesk WebPro (Allows for easy WordPress management) license will bump you up at least another $6 a month. Even though the setup is a breath and you can start deploying your websites in less than 10 minutes you will at some point in the near future find out where they cut their corner: support.

ovh-and-plesk12
Plesk 12 allow to update your WordPress easily as well as brand your installation

OVH support or lack there off is why you are paying so little. If you got any questions about Plesk or if you were installing some package and broke something there will be no one there to help. Even if you need to upgrade server hardware like most storage they will indeed install it for you, however you will still need to repartition your OS to see the new space. In end unless you are a Linux guru that really loves to tinker with your server environment or you are not on a shoestring budget I would move along. OVH is great for tinkering and testing though, and we have our demo environment set up on it.

 

Media Temple

I actually used Media Temple before OVH. There is nothing particularly wrong with Media Temple, however there is nothing amazing about it either. You get a decent average price, I paid about $100 for a full managed hosting.

media-temple
Media Temple has many packages to pick from

The setup is more streamlined than OVH and although technically being a full managed service we were not supposed to get support the support team was helpful and gave some guidance when some of the setup issues needed to be ironed out. Media Temple overall ran more stable and with fewer kinks then OVH. I think they are a good hosting platform they are just not hugely better than most of the things out there. The main reason for switching is that I felt that the hosting could be better and when I learned that they were bought by GoDaddy I decided to look for alternatives. By the way, if you want to give Media Temple a try use our affiliate link to get about 20% discount on your order and we get a cup of coffee 🙂

 

Enter the fully managed solutions

Recently more and more application specific solutions have been coming up. What it means is if you are hosting WordPress site you can get a WordPress optimized hosting. You won’t have to worry about ram or processor speed, you are automatically allocated resources based on your needs. In theory, optimized hosting will perform better and faster. Some companies provide even their own specific optimizations (like caching) that should make your site even faster (instead of using WordPress plugins). You will also get support if something happens to your site. This option is great if you are not a developer and just want more of a set it and forget it solution. I decided to try this just to see how my experience will stack up against VPS.

 

WpEngine

WpEngine is considered one of the best all-around WordPress hosting solutions out there and for a good reason. WpEngine takes care of everything, from migration to security. They use their own caching engine to speed up your site as well as monitor your sites for any issues. You get the bear minimum control panel. Although WpEngine supports unlimited staging and GIT you are not going to get root access where you can tinker with things.

wpengine
Pretty basic bare controls. Notice option for backups and auto WordPress updates

Support is pretty great and you can be chatting to someone that knows WordPress in minutes. You also get daily backups of your site that don’t count towards your storage. If you are just deploying WordPress sites this is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. The drawbacks? It’s pretty expensive. A single WordPress install will set you back $30 and you only get 10GB of storage. Our affiliate link to get 20% off your first order in case you want to try them (you can also cancel for free if you dont like it within 15 days)

 

SiteGround

SiteGround takes WpEngine model and cuts a few corners. You get a WordPress focused hosting and you are not limited to just hosting WordPress. If you need to host a Joomla site or Magento you can. Their GoGeek plan is only $14.95 a month and you get to host as many sites as you want with 30GB of space. The one thing that they don’t tell you is that there is a limit to a number of files you can have which is around 450k.  I assume that you will be able to have about 20-30 basic sites before you will hit your limit on any of those.  Another issue was that you could only have 1 paid SSL certificate per account. Although it’s still the case, you can add as many “Let’s encrypt” Free SSL certificates that automatically renew and support all major browsers (WpEngine supports this as well) with just a push of a button.

lets-encrypt
You should be using these free SSL certificates cause they are great and painless

Overall SiteGround’s control panel is a custom instance of Cpanel. It offers enough control where you don’t feel like you are being treated like a child as a case with WpEngine.  You also get GIT support as well as staging although it’s not as seamlessly implement like in WpEngine where you can create staging instance right from your WordPress install.

siteground-panel
Semi-standard Cpanel dashboard. The power comes from the “improvement tools”

You also get a custom caching system that gives you more control then WpEngine’s on/off option. You can also use Google PageSpeed for caching which works better sometimes.

caching-siteground
You can select different caching options including Google PageSpeed, but not both

So where did SiteGround cut corners? First I would say support, although they provide a chat system the people there just have basic knowledge and are quick to send you to the ticket area. Ticket reply is quick but the support itself is hit or miss. Numerous times I had all my plugins turned off by their support team and then not turned back on, and this is on a live site. Why recommendation then? Well, most of the time everything runs very smooth just like it did on WpEngine, and you do get a bit more flexibility with Caching options. The cost is about the same of what you would get with your average hosting like GoDaddy or Hostgator but you get WordPress focus, Staging, Git, and support that’s better than most. The whole setup runs much smoother than on my VPS setups.

Yes the lack of great support is annoying but eventually, they do get the problem resolved, it just might be not as soon as you have hoped (still better than trying to figure it out yourself). If you want to sign up for SiteGround our affiliate link gives you about 20% off on your purchase (so it makes sense to buy it for a year if you are shopping for the best deal, and you can cancel it within 15 days if you don’t like it).

 

Speed Comparison

Both WpEngine and SiteGround loaded all our test sites at the same time. This is partly because of their heavy use of caching engines. If you pair it with CDN like Cloud Flare the speed bottleneck disappears. The great thing with WordPress focused hosting is the fact that your sites don’t slow down when you add more or tax your resources. In both VPS cases, if you go past your optimal resource usages or not optimally configure your server, your pages will slow down. Media Temple did perform about 10% faster than OVH. I suspect this was due to the SSD hard drives that were installed (Although OVH now offers SSD drives as well). Initially, I was going to publish all the speed comparison numbers however the change is so little that I believe I don’t have a heavy enough site to test things on.

Conclusion

Right now I believe SiteGround offers the best of both worlds, speed and easy of use of optimized hosting as well as flexibility that you would get from your vanilla hosting solution. Yes, WPEngine is better but it’s not that much better. I believe that SiteGround will be excellent for 90% of users out there that are looking for WordPress hosting. I personally love playing with hosting providers so I end up having accounts on many different platforms and leverage the pros of each one.

Let me know if you had any hosting experience with any of these companies and what’s your mileage is. Also if you are using some hosting that just blows you away, don’t hesitate to brag in the comments.