A Small Orange Review: Premium Yet Affordable Homegrown Hosting
Update: due to several complaints from users, I had to revisit A Small Orange and check the state of their services currently. It seems like they’re in quite a mess. So, I do not recommend you to pick ASO. If you need a top notch, reliable, customer-friendly host instead, choose InMotion Hosting (read my review).
After Squidix, I decided to review A Small Orange. A Small Orange, or ASO in short, is actually a pretty old company, originally founded way back in 2004. They are well known in the web hosting industry as a homegrown hosting company. They are also known for their flexible plans, efficient tech support and having an overall personal relationship with their customers. Let’s find out how great A Small Orange’s shared hosting plans are, in reality.
It’s worth noting that A Small Orange has been acquired in the middle of 2012 by Endurance International Group (EIG), along with a few other big names in the hosting industry, like BlueHost. I just wanted to mention that because a lot of people have allergies to EIG-owned companies due to their generally horrible quality of service. Even after the acquisition, A Small Orange seems to be run quite independently and there’s not enough reports yet that their service quality has taken a hit.
Shared Hosting Plans
As of now, A Small Orange offers four different shared hosting plans — ranging all the way from Tiny (250MB space, 5GB bandwidth) to Large (15GB space, 300GB bandwidth) and costing from $35/year to $20/month.
There doesn’t seem to be any other significant difference between these plans apart from the disk space and bandwidth allocations.
One more thing that deserves your attention is that, by being very practical about real-world disk space and bandwidth usage, ASO have created flexible, realistic plans without any visible intention of overselling server resources.
So, for example, if someone is getting unlimited disk space and bandwidth with BlueHost (another EIG-owned company) for $5 a month, they won’t really be picking ASO’s large plan which costs 4 times that amount per month, unless they really care about the quality of the host.
This is why A Small Orange’s shared hosting platform is used mostly by serious people who know what they’re doing — developers, web designers, professional bloggers, forum admins, but at the same time also by people who, albeit being newbies in the web hosting scene, actually spent time reading real reviews before choosing a host for their own sites.
Speed – Is A Small Orange Really Fast?
For the speed testing part, I took a cue from the StableHost review that I published before this one, and moved the test site back to MDDHosting (the host I use for this site) to test its load times and then again to my brand new A Small Orange account to test how fast the ASO server was!
The result was quite surprising to me, because A Small Orange gave MDDHosting a run for its money. This is the very first time in my experience with many shared hosting providers that a host has managed to deliver almost MDDHosting-level performance without demanding too much money.
In the end ASO lost by around 71 milliseconds, which is really negligible. But one thing is worth noting, in spite of the often-really-tiny margins, MDDHosting had kept outperforming A Small Orange consistently, atleast in the 10-12 times I re-did the test. Sometimes the margin was a bit higher, around 300 to 500 milliseconds, with the margin finding its significance again.
It’s probably because even though ASO uses top-class hardware, with all of its shared servers being powered by SSDs, the Apache web server they use is still practically slower than MDDHosting’s more premium LiteSpeed counterpart. So, this is one area where MDDHosting still has an edge, and I’m sure the difference will keep on becoming more prominent as the size and traffic of the website increases. Remember, the test website wasn’t something super heavy, coupled with the fact that it also didn’t have any traffic whatsoever apart from me visiting it every now and then to test how fast or slow it loaded in my own web browser.
Support – How Good is the ASO Support?
A Small Orange is well known for its high-quality, reliable support. And I don’t have any complaints whatsoever in the support department. I found their support quite friendly, and really helpful. The response time of the first reply to my very first support ticket was 9 minutes, which is great, even if you don’t call it mind boggling considering MDDHosting’s capability of replying within 3 minutes at 1AM.
They don’t have too many restrictions in place either. I was glad to know that there was no fixed maximum limit for concurrent MySQL connections for shared plans. They just have the following limits in place for all shared hosting plans:
- 10% CPU Usage
- 5% Memory Usage (or 512 MB)
- 50 Running Processes
- 15 Minute Max Execution Time
- 100,000 Total Inodes (discreet files stored in account)
- 500 outgoing email messages per 60 minute period (all excess messages will be discarded and not delivered)
Even these limits aren’t too strict and you can easily run a medium-popularity site on their shared servers without any hitches.
Even in terms of website migrations, their limit for maximum cPanel account size is 30GB, which is way, way more than what 99% of normal users use. I liked it, especially after coming from a host that has this limit set at just 1GB.
Ahh, and I’ve probably gone too far talking about ASO’s support without even mentioning that in additional to technical support via tickets, A Small Orange also offers 24×7 live-chat support.
Another great thing to bring some peace to your mind is their 90-days money back guaranty. And if you’re just planning to try them out, you can also try their small plan out without actually paying a penny for the first month by applying the following coupon at check-out:
In fact, that was how I myself tried them out as well. It basically reduces $5 / 15% off your first invoice. Now, since the small plan costs $5/month, you can get the first month for $0. Hope that helps! 🙂
A Small Orange also has nice 99.9% uptime guaranty which the extract from their ToS depicts below:
A Small Orange guarantees that your website and services that directly affect its display to the Internet (such as HTTP or MySQL) will be accessible 99.9% of the time in any given calendar month. If A Small Orange fails to meet its uptime guarantee, you will be issued a credit equivalent to one (1) day of service per forty five (45) minutes downtime. The first 45 minutes (or 0.1%) of downtime per month are not counted towards any credit and the maximum credit available is one (1) month of service.
One bad thing I found out about them from their ToS is their backup restoration policy. Unlike MDDHosting and other hosts who offer one-click R1Soft unlimited backup restores straight from cPanel, A Small Orange doesn’t offer any such tool to let customers restore their backups automatically. Instead, customers have to submit a support ticket and based on their instructions, the support staff will restore the backup. But the even worse part is that they offer only one ‘courtesy’ backup restore every month, after which if you want to restore another backup during the same month, you need to pay $10 as a non-refundable backup restoration fee.
Overall, though, A Small Orange has decent support and a transparent ToS.
I couldn’t really test the uptime of the site myself, and doing so isn’t really that meaningful when done on an one-month scale. So, I’ll have to rely here on ASO’s official data regarding the uptime of the server the site was on. As of now, the server is constantly up since more than 165 days ago. So, that basically means 100% website uptime since 165 days ago, if the individual sites don’t stay offline for some other reasons than actual server functioning. Which is, needless to say, fantastic!
Cost – Are These Guys Costly?
As I’ve discussed already, ASO’s shared hosting plans are quite flexible. Here’s a list of all their shared hosting plans as of now along with their respective disk space and bandwidth allocations:
- Tiny (250MB storage, 5GB bandwidth) – $35/year
- Small (1GB storage, 20GB bandwidth) – $5/month
- Medium (5GB storage, 100GB bandwidth) – $10/month
- Large (10GB storage, 300GB bandwidth) – $20/month
The tiny and small plans are very affordable. The tiny plan seems like a really good option for people with sites that don’t require much disk space or bandwidth to function. Even the small plan is a great option for people who’ve recently started out with their blogs or e-commerce sites. For just $5 a month, some quality support and a reliable hosting platform can be a much better option for people who don’t need much disk space and bandwidth, than just another host that offers unlimited disk space and bandwidth, at the cost of a lot worse customer support and server reliability.
The larger plans are quite on the costlier side, with MDDHosting’s basic plan coming at $7.50/month with more than twice the bandwidth allocation, even more responsive support, even less strict limits across the board and slightly faster servers.
But if you ask me for a worthwhile alternative to MDDHosting, while not wanting to compromise on any of the major aspects of service significantly, I’d definitely suggest you to give A Small Orange a try.
The A Small Orange Advantages
- Homegrown hosting with a personal touch, and friendly behaviour towards customers.
- Top-notch 100% SSD-powered hardware that offers some of the best speeds on a shared hosting platform money can buy you.
- Daily backups to ensure protection of your data from accidents.
- Live server status monitoring page, an active forum.
- 99.9% uptime guaranty.
- Efficient, always available technical support to quickly resolve technical issues with your site or service.
- No major hidden limitations, no marketing materials included inside cPanel, making it bloat-free. No marketing emails once in every week, no upselling.
If you’re looking for a reliable host with a decent customer support, you may give A Small Orange a try, especially if your requirements are more about the quality of service rather than the amount of disk space or bandwidth offered. They’ve got an expert technical support team and great overall support via tickets and 24×7 live chat that doesn’t ever make you feel abandoned.
With a great track of publicly accessible uptime details of all their shared servers, coupled with excellent server performance, A Small Orange deserves to be called one of the best shared hosting providers out there.
If you can live with some resource limits (like the 100,000 INODEs limit), the relatively higher costs if you’re need more than 1GB of space, and the fact that they are currently owned by EIG, A Small Orange definitely deserves your attention.