SiteGround Review (2019) – Reliable Shared Hosting?

Rohit Palit by | Updated:

Quick Summary

Performance

Responsive servers. Fast load times even when traffic is high.

Uptime

Downtimes are rare, so uptime isn't a major concern.

Support

Friendly support that responds quickly and is efficient.

Price

Initial rates are lucrative, but renewal isn't the cheapest.


I quickly realized after I finished writing this that this has become the most comprehensive SiteGround review on the internet at over 5,000 words! I covered critical aspects like performance, uptime, quality of support, pricing, server setup, and many other essential areas that you must assess before signing up with a web host.

If you'd rather not read it all, the gist of the review is - yes, I do recommend SiteGround for most people. If you decide to sign up, know that they don't offer any coupons, but you can  click on this link to ensure that you'll be getting the lowest possible prices based on their ongoing discounts.

I also did something uncommon to make this review a bit more interesting. I moved an already established site that gets up to 30,000 page views per month to SiteGround to test their hosting. I also had detailed chats with their (super friendly) support team before deciding to migrating the site to them. Read about my findings below...

Performance

Load time of an actual site of mine, hosted on SiteGround

As you can see in the screenshot above, the site loaded in under half a second, which is quite fast. You can check the loading time of your own site using the same tool, to get an idea of how fast that actually is compared to your current host.

I personally consider load times of less than 2 seconds to be decent, less than 1 seconds great and less than than 500 ms incredible. SiteGround is definitely one of the better performers in this regard in my experience.

Even though the site is well optimized (thus the small page size and low number of HTTP requests), you won't be able to get a similarly fast load time on overloaded servers (that bigger hosts, such as EIG-owned BlueHost use) with high initial response times (or TTFB - Time to First Byte).

Now, this particular site is a WordPress site that receives more than 30,000 visits per month. Reliability is really of utmost importance for it. Not only is it loading fairly fast, SiteGround's server is also serving such a busy site effortlessly, which can be seen from cPanel's built-in CPU resource usage screenshot below:

As you can clearly see, the site barely hit 25% of the allocated CPU resource usage in most of the days of the past month. That too, under peak load (usually when most number of visitors are visiting at once in a day). The average CPU usage is closer to the 0-5% range.

The average response time of the server this particular site was hosted on was below 200 ms, which is pretty darn impressive. They also apparently periodically move user accounts from old hardware to new, upgraded, faster servers in a bid to ensure optimal performance for end-user sites at all times.

Uptime

Although this particular website has been with SiteGround for a relatively short time (a few months), it has faced no downtime in this period.

They also seem to have a unique downtime prevention software that identifies server issues and fixes them in real time without human intervention. If it's really what they say it is, it's no doubt a great feat and deserves some praise.

I never got any emails from Uptime Robot (my preferred downtime alert tool) or Pingdom reporting downtimes for this site yet. The check frequency is set at 1 minute. I'd say it only proves the actual effectiveness of their downtime-prevention capabilities.

Other big names of shared hosting, such as HostGator, iPage, BlueHost etc. all struggle with uptime, but fortunately, this isn't the case with SiteGround. I've only experienced stellar uptime with them.

Support

Unlike their peers, say iPage or any other EIG-owned host, their customer support is actually pretty responsive and genuinely helpful. They offer the standard email/ticket support, 24x7 live chat support, as well as 24x7 phone support. So, there's a lot of support avenues for people with different preferences about the medium of communication.

In most cases, their email/ticket or live chat support should be adequate as the initial-response time is less than 2 minutes on average, and I didn't face any queues in live chat.

The first support ticket I had opened was concerning the transfer of data from previous host to them. I got their reply within 6 minutes saying that the transfer was already in progress. They also handle the migration for free for all their clients.

In general, the support department had been fairly useful and friendly. They didn’t refer me to their knowledge-base (of pre-existing articles) instead of answering simple questions, which is a rare sight in today’s budget shared hosting space.

Although I didn’t test their phone support, the live chat support was pretty convenient and helpful. It’s great for quickly resolving small issues and queries. It's also very responsive. I never had to wait for more than 10 seconds to be connected to someone from their tech support department, whenever I had a question. It truly lives up to the "live" tag, as it's fast and almost instantaneous. 

Not only that, SiteGround also puts up personal profiles, pictures and other details about the technical background, specific areas of expertise, work experience etc. of all their support staff. You may like this friendly touch, which also assures that their support isn't outsourced to a third-world country.

Apart from hosting-specific support, you get application-specific support too as a bonus. Say, you're stuck with an issue with your WordPress installation. SiteGround won't refuse to help unlike most other hosts citing that it's "beyond their scope of support".

Pricing

SiteGround offers 3 shared hosting plans:

  • StartUp - This costs $3.95/mo (discounted) for the first term and allows you to host only one website (domain). You can host up to 10 GB of data and this plan is ideal for around 10,000 monthly visits, according to SiteGround. Although, a well-optimized site making full use of efficient caching solutions should be able to receive much more visits than that.
  • GrowBig - The next plan costs $5.95/mo (discounted) for the first term, and lifts the limit on the number of sites you can host, thereby allowing you to host as many domains as you like. It also doubles the storage space allocation to 20 GB. It also adds some other features like SuperCacher (SiteGround's in-house caching solution), staging sites for testing developmental features before rolling them out on your live site, and on-demand backups. This is the plan I recommend for most people.
  • GoGeek - This plan costs $11.95/mo (discounted) and comes with advanced features that not all regular shared hosting users might need. These include one-click Git repo creation, PCI-compliant servers, more server resources etc.

In summary, StartUp is good for beginners with a single site. You have to go with the GrowBig plan if you want to host several sites as there's no limit on add-on domains. And if you need even more server resources and advanced developer-centric features, the GoGeek plan would be suitable for you.

Other Points

Server Locations

You get 5 choices, across 3 continents:

  • United States - Chicago & Iowa
  • Europe - Netherlands & United Kingdom
  • Asia - Singapore

Naturally, you should choose a location that's the closest to your target audience. Many people tend to skip over this part entirely, because some of the most well-known hosts (thanks to advertising!) offer just a single server location (for example, BlueHost's sole datacenter is in Utah, US). That's why such hosts hide this fact or at least try to make it seem important.

The obvious benefit of having your server located as close to (most of) your target audience as possible is lower server response times and (generally) better site loading speed overall. This doesn't vary a lot if your server is at least in the same continent as your visitors, but the effect increases, if, say, you have an Asian audience primarily and your server is in the US, or vice versa.

Ease of Sign Up & Account Activation

The sign up process is very easy and there's just a single page to deal with, so you won't need to keep pressing the 'next' button again and again.

As soon as you complete the sign up process and payment is successful, you'll get an welcome email with all the necessary details about your account, including nameservers to use and cPanel login details. There's no additional delay due to security checks and the likes.

There's also a nice 'account summary' panel when you log into your SiteGround account. It's very useful because it allows you to know and access a bunch of things on a single, organized page. There's a button to access cPanel with 1-click. There are details about your server location, FTP details, email details, backup summary, IP address, CloudFlare summary, and many other useful things. You can also purchase premium features like a dedicated IP right on that page.

The panel even allows you to instantly change the primary domain of your account, which most hosts either refuse to allow at all, or warn a fair bit or ask for your confirmation repeatedly before doing it for you.

Room for Growth

If your website ever outgrows shared hosting, you'll have the option of not having to jump to a different boat, as SiteGround also offers VPS Hosting and dedicated servers.

Their cloud hosting plans feature scalable server resources and the flexibility doesn't even come at the cost of having to reboot the server instance every time you decide to upgrade or downgrade CPU, RAM, or storage.

These are fully managed, as well, so you won't need to be a web developer (or hire one) to make sure everything runs smoothly. They also come with their premium 24x7 support that guarantee always-available phone and live chat support alongside less than 10 minutes ticket responses.

Apart from these, the SiteGround cloud hosting plans also come with 7-days automatic off-site backups, and free CDN.

Sure, these plans are quite a bit costlier than your standard hosting, but the significantly higher server resources that you're getting, along with all other extras, make them worth the price for larger websites and serious business sites where you can't ever afford to get your site throttled due to consuming too much server resources during sudden spikes of traffic.

Auto-Installation of Popular Web Apps

With Softaculous, you can install hundreds of popular CMSs and other web apps like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, SMF, and many others with just a few clicks. You won't need to mess with the cPanel file manager, or any nasty technical things like phpMyAdmin in the process.

Automatic Prevention of Brute Force Attacks

SiteGround has its proprietary AI-bot prevention tool that reports to block around 500K to 2 million brute-force login attempts and other malicious brute-force requests per hour across their servers.

This also saves your precious hosting resources, because these bad requests are dealt with even before they can get to your website.

SiteGround Migrator

They offer this free plugin for migrating as many sites as you want from your old host to SiteGround. The process is fairly simple and fast, and most DIY webmasters would appreciate it.

Free SSL & CloudFlare CDN Integration

SSL is an absolute must for websites right now. If your website doesn't have an SSL (i.e. isn't served using the HTTPS protocol), browsers like Google Chrome will actively display a small security warning to people. It's especially a must if you take any form of inputs from users (be it regular text forms or sensitive financial or non-financial information).

Earlier, you had to pay extra for SSL certificates and also had to pay renewal fees every year. With SiteGround, you get as many SSL certs as you need for free via Let's Encrypt, so you can keep serving all domains under your cPanel via HTTPS.

There's also the standard CloudFlare integration (free) in cPanel which many other hosts also provide these days. CDN stands for 'Content Delivery Network', and it means your website's heavy static resources like images and scripts will be served by a CloudFlare server closest to the user.

So, for example, if your site is hosted on a US server owned by SiteGround, and a visitor from Ireland tries to load your site, CloudFlare's UK server (assuming that's the closest available server) will serve your site to that user, resulting in lower latency and a faster load time.

Account Isolation Technology for Added Security

Suppose, another site hosted on the same shared server gets hacked, and the hacker gets root access of the server, thereby being able to gain access to all other sites hosted on that particular server, including yours. This is a common scenario with many shared hosts. It's partly why people who are serious about the security aspect of their websites choose VPS or dedicated servers.

However, SiteGround has its proprietary 'account isolation technology', that isolates each user account on a shared server so that even if one website or account is compromised, the hacker simply can't get access to any others.

Backups

Ask anyone who's ever lost some valuable data, and they'll tell you the importance of backups. It's absolutely crucial to keep backups of your websites, in the event something terrible happens (such as the server's storage suddenly dying or the data center getting destroyed by an earthquake).

Ideally, you should be responsible for your own backups and it's not that hard either with the plethora of free WordPress plugins that can handle automatic daily backups. But, having an extra set of backups with your web host can be a huge advantage in many cases.

SiteGround offers free, automatic daily backups that you can restore at any time. You can access and restore the daily backups of the last 30 days, which should be more than enough.

Although, I'd like to reiterate, there is no alternative to keeping your own local or off-site backups in order to be prepared for the worst possible scenario.

Money-Back Guarantee

SiteGround offers an industry-standard 30 days money-back guarantee for all their shared hosting plans. It covers only the hosting, though. So, if you've purchased domains or any other extras which they up-sell, those aren't eligible for that.

This also applies for first-time customers only, so you can't get a refund, and rightly so, after renewing your hosting with them after the initial term.

'Setup Fee' for Monthly Terms

If you're inclined to sign up with SiteGround, it's a good idea to pay for a year or two at a time instead of paying monthly. Why? Because for monthly billing, they charge an initial $14.95 setup fee. For a $3.95/mo plan, the setup fee might seem quite a lot, and quite unnecessary, to be honest. If you're on the fence, it makes much more sense to pay for a year instead, as there's the 30-days money-back guarantee to cover your back anyway.

In fact, if you need hosting for a long-term, it's better to sign up for an even longer term than one year, as you'll get the discounted pricing for the entirety of your first billing term. You can gauge the quality in the first 30 days, and choose to cancel if you don't like any aspect whatsoever, anyway.

Limited Resources for the Cheapest Plan

The 'StartUp' plan isn't really meant for large, booming websites. Even though it doesn't have any bandwidth limit directly, it has a few other limits, such as a limit of 500 MB per MySQL database, and processing power limits that are perfect only for around 10,000 visits per month, according to SiteGround themselves.

Sure, you could optimize your site really well and use a caching plugin to receive 5-10x more traffic, but anything beyond that would be asking for a bit too much from their cheapest plan.

The amount of individual limits on small things like MySQL database tables and table sizes, is not too common even for shared hosting. Although this could be in place for avoiding potential server hogging by demanding sites that don't fit within the unavoidable limits of shared hosting in the first place.

Limited Payment Options

By default, they only support card payments. However, you may be able to pay via PayPal or other methods if you contact their live chat support.

Limited Upselling (Good!)

Unlike most of their peers, SiteGround doesn't engage in the practice of trying to upsell you a lot of unnecessary and useless services and extras. There's only one upsell, and that's their 'Site Scanner' - a daily monitoring service that checks your websites for vulnerabilities and other potentially harmful issues.

It costs $19.80/year and it's totally up to you to choose it (or not). You may go for it if you're paranoid about the security of your sites.

No 'Free' Domain Name

Unlike some other big names in the shared hosting space, SiteGround doesn't offer a free domain for the first year with any of its shared hosting plans. It's understandable, though. You can only afford it when you're cutting costs in other areas (read: core areas). So, I don't find it to be an issue.

Plus, I prefer to keep my domains separate from my hosting accounts anyway, and prefer dedicated domain registrars like NameCheap and NameSilo for registering domains.

Solid Uptime SLA

SiteGround's service-level-agreement regarding uptime is pretty good for their users. Usually, the terms of service page of any web host only buries information that's likely to make their users sad. But SiteGround is an exception in this case, as they promise a whole month's of hosting for free if they ever fail to meet their 99.9% uptime guarantee. 

This is applicable if the uptime for the month is between 99% to 99.9% - if it dips even lower, you get an extra month of hosting for free for every additional 1%.

Of course, this isn't applicable if you're the reason behind the downtime. For example, if you exceed resource limits, configure something wrongly, or violate any policy resulting in a temporary suspension, this policy won't be applicable. Scheduled maintenance windows are also exempt from this.

Rich Knowledgebase

SiteGround's knowledgebase is one of the best among those belonging to well known shared hosts. It has more than a thousand support articles on various sub-topics of web hosting, cPanel, web apps, their own billing and account management, and countless other things.

If what you're looking for is remotely common, chances are that you'll be able to find it in their knowledgebase. Apart from the knowledgebase, they also regularly publish and update helpful guides on optimizing WordPress, basics of SEO, and other topics that most webmasters would find useful. They also have this free ebook on optimizing WordPress sites for speed, which is a great resource if you're after shedding some load time off your site.

Their blog contains not only updates about their own offerings, but lots of useful advice for webmasters and web entrepreneurs. It also highlights top-performing tech support staff of each month, thereby encouraging a healthy competition in its workforce to provide more and more efficient support to customers.

Company Info & Stats

SiteGround was founded back in 2004, and is headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria. They have over 400 in-house staff, lead by Tenko Nikolov. They currently host more than 2 million domains on their network.

They're currently one of the fastest growing independent web hosting companies on Earth. This means they're not owned by, or a part of a bigger corporation like Endurance International Group (which owns over 50 popular brands in the web hosting space, including BlueHost, HostGator, iPage, JustHost, and many others). It's also reassuring to know that they've stated in the recent past that they have no plans of changing this status by getting acquired by EIG.

Shared Hosting Server Setup

For their shared hosting servers, SiteGround uses a combination of CentOS, Nginx, MySQL, PHP and cPanel/WHM. It's worth noting that Nginx is generally a lot faster and better optimized compared to Apache, which is the web server that most shared hosts use. It has way better load balancing, among other things, compared to Apache. No wonder it's not free for commercial use unlike Apache, which is free and open-source (probably why most shared hosts prefer to use it, to save costs).

Apart from these standard things, they have their proprietary caching solution called SuperCacher, for WordPress, Joomla and Drupal sites. It takes advantage of memcached (which isn't generally seen on shared hosting) to provide fast and efficient caching.

HTTP/2, the newest (and fastest) network protocol, is enabled by default (in fact they were one of the first shared hosts to enable it by default). So, as long as you've taken advantage of Let's Encrypt to enable SSL on your site, you can take full advantage of the HTTP/2 protocol to speed up the loading of your site even more. They're very proactive about using newer PHP versions, so PHP 7 is available, too.

Lastly, as they use linux containers (LXC), shared hosting accounts are kept separate from each other, thereby avoiding potential security and other performance and reliability issues that's usually associated with shared hosting.

What's the Issue with EIG-Owned Brands?

You may be wondering, why is Rohit so much against EIG (Endurance International Group)-owned web hosting brands like iPage, Site5, HostGator, Arvixe, et al?

To know this, you need to know the basic history of EIG and how it generally operates.

So, EIG is this huge web hosting conglomerate who focuses on customer acquisition and retention through the ownership of hundreds of separate brands, all distinct from one another. They spend big on marketing, rather than on customer retention.

Due to the rather closed nature of the shared hosting ecosystem, and the fact that some of their most popular brands gained their respective popularities well before EIG acquired them, frustrated users often jump from one EIG ship to another, without EIG (the parent company) losing that customer.

How exactly does EIG manage to ruin the quality of service of successful web hosting brands? Almost always by doing these few major things (among other things):

  • Overloading servers with more user accounts (and thereby websites) than they're comfortably capable of handling, resulting in poor performance and overall reliability.
  • Firing existing employees and outsourcing critical areas of support including tech support to third-world countries where human resource is much cheaper (and less efficient at solving problems).
  • Using outdated hardware, not upgrading hardware when necessary, and consolidating the hardware of several brands and moving them all to one data center so that it's easier and cheaper to manage. The primary goal is to minimize costs and maximize profits.

There are many other reasons, but I won't get into more technical points, as they're out of the scope of this review. Many EIG-owned hosts have also seen innumerable outages that are sudden, long, and much-criticized.

All of these points make any EIG-owned host a bad choice for anyone, so SiteGround not being one of them despite being as popular a brand (if not more popular) is a testament to SiteGround's resolution of providing a solid service while being independently owned.

The Final Word

If you've read my BlueHost review, you'd know that I'm not a big fan of extremely popular web hosts, because I've found most of them to suck in terms of quality. SiteGround, being a self-proclaimed premium web hosting provider, is a rare exception.

Everyone may not afford the high prices, nor will everyone need all the extra features that they offer. Offering extremely good uptime, fast load times and reliable, well-monitored servers, they're perfect for serious websites where performance and reliability are crucial.

If you're prepared to pay slightly more compared to other popular shared hosts, you can surely give SiteGround a try!

Frequently Asked Questions about SiteGround

How to point a domain at SiteGround?

First, you need to obtain the nameservers from your SiteGround welcome email. Then, you need to log into the control panel of your domain registrar (GoDaddy, NameCheap, NameSilo, etc.) and enter the nameservers that SiteGround has provided you, and save the changes. That's it!

Note that DNS changes can take some time (from a few minutes to several hours, or even up to a couple of days), so you may not see the changes (or be able to see a SiteGround page when you try to load your domain on your browser) immediately after saving the new SiteGround nameservers in your domain's control panel.

How to access SiteGround email?

You can access your email via cPanel's 'webmail' option. For that, you need to log into your SiteGround cPanel and access 'webmail'. You'll get a few options regarding webmail client like RoundCube and Horde, but any of those would work just fine.

How to start a blog on SiteGround?

To start a WordPress blog, the simplest (and fastest) way would be to take advantage of your SiteGround cPanel's script auto-installer (Softaculous). Once you're inside cPanel, click on either the Softaculous icon, or directly click on the WordPress icon next to it, and enter a few basic details like site title and preferred username and password, and the auto-installer tool will take care of the rest.

How to install an SSL (for free) on SiteGround?

SiteGround offers free SSL certificates via Let's Encrypt, right from their cPanel. So, you can run all your sites through the secure HTTPS protocol rather than plain HTTP, without paying extra for third-party SSL certificates. After logging into cPanel, click on the Let's Encrypt icon, and choose the domain you want SSL to be installed for. The process is swift automatic from there.

Which SiteGround shared hosting plan is right for a site with X amount of monthly visitors?

This question doesn't have a simple answer, because it depends on a wide range of factors ranging from the platform the site is built on, how resource and process-heavy it is, and how well optimized it is.

SiteGround provides ballpark figures on their shared hosting plans page, where they mention that the StartUp plan might be suitable for around 10,000 monthly visitors, GrowBig for 25,000 monthly visitors and GoGeek for around 100,000 monthly visitors. Now, in my opinion these are bit on the lower side, as I host sites that get many times more traffic than that on the GrowBig plan, but then again, my sites are usually very well optimized and largely served using caching plugins.

So, to summarize, it largely depends on how hard the server is having to work to serve your site. If your site is very dynamic in nature and doesn't have a lot of scope for caching, then it'd be safer to assume traffic numbers closer to SiteGround's official estimates, else I'd be comfortable with receiving up to 4-5x more traffic than their official numbers without thinking much.

Is SiteGround a good choice for niche sites / authority sites / affiliate sites?

Definitely! Since their plans start from as little as $3.95/year for the first year, SiteGround is a logical choice for your first niche or authority site.

You get one-click WordPress install and free, auto-renewing SSL available with them. So, if you don't have much prior experience with either, and just want to get started ASAP, it'll be a good choice for you to avoid first learning a whole bunch of things about manually installing WordPress or SSL certs.

It's unlikely that your site will grow beyond the capacity of their StartUp plan within the first year itself, but even if it does, there's always an option to upgrade to a higher plan, unless you don't want to stick to SiteGround or shared hosting itself anymore.

Does SiteGround outsource their tech support?

No, it doesn't. Unlike EIG-companies, you won't be dealing with third-world semi-robots when you use SiteGround. All of their support is provided by their own in-house employees, all of whom are experienced at their specific support areas.

You can also see small bits of info about them when you chat with a support agent, which is cool and reassuring about their knowledge and track record in providing support.

Sure, in-house talent is a lot more expensive than outsourced remote workers, but it increases the reliability, efficiency and customer satisfaction by a big margin for sure. Due to not having outsourced support staff, there's also significantly less chance for serious errors to happen if you follow the instructions or guidance of a remote support tech who doesn't really know the topic deeply enough.

Do SiteGround coupons exist?

None that I know of. Usually, you get the best offer (at the time) already when you land on their web hosting plans page.

Does SiteGround offer discounts on renewal?

No, and nor do most other web hosts. You have to realize that most shared hosts often incentivize new sign-ups by offering extremely good deals for the first billing term, with the hope of gaining a long-term client who would stick to them for a long time. This often barely leaves much profit for the host itself for the first term. So, if they start offering hefty discounts on renewals too, then it'd be very difficult for them to run a profitable operation while offering a quality service.

In my experience, most web hosts that offer close-to-initial renewal pricing tend to lack in some area or another, be it support, server performance or uptime.

Does SiteGround offer email spam protection?

Yes, it offers both inbound and outbound spam protection, even for their shared hosting plans. You can rest assured that a rogue script won't be able to quickly send hundreds of spam emails through your domain and get your domain blacklisted.

What are the MX records of SiteGround?

For shared hosting, these are the MX records:

Priority

MX Record

10

mx10.mailspamprotection.com

20

mx20.mailspamprotection.com

30

mx30.mailspamprotection.com

These correspond to their mail filtering service, SpamExperts, through which all shared hosting emails are filtered through to their actual mail servers.