SiteGround New Client Area and Site Tools – part 13

We started onboarding new clients to it in the summer of 2019, but switching all our existing clients was a hugely complex task that took us another 1.5 years and tons of hard work.Tenko Mikolov

Two weeks ago, SiteGround published a post1 in which they gave a glimpse of all the effort that went into this complex migration process. What a perfect opportunity to do the same: time to take stock! As I said last week, I will indeed put an end to this never-ending SiteGround New Client Area and Site Tools mini-series. However, this post will not be my overdue verdict on Site Tools (see Want to bet?); you will have to wait a little bit longer for that.

A quick summary

SiteGround new Client Area and Site Tools coming soon

At the end of July 2019, SiteGround announced the advent of their New Client Area and Site Tools. Moving to a modern interface was one thing; replacing cPanel with their own control panel was another story! One sentence – the word “almost” emphasized in red by me, in particular – triggered an immediate reaction from the community:

To make the transition smoother, we made sure our new Site Tools included all the functionality you need to manage your site. You should be able to do almost everything you’re used to doing, except now with a brand new user experience.Reneta Tsankova

As related in part 1 (of this mini-series), I discovered that SiteGround decided not to use Softaculous anymore. By suppressing this auto-installer, they deprived me of my go-to backup solution. As explained in Backup, Backup, Backup!, Softaculous provides indeed a stress-free backup solution with the possibility to backup both files and database either separately or simultaneously, all within a single interface! When I expressed my concerns2 in a comment, I was brushed off by Hristo:

I would recommend upgrading to Grow Big where you can create instant backups which are stored on a different server and are much easier and safer to create and restore from.Hristo Pandjarov

Not willing to accept this $19.95/mo. alternative3, I reiterated my concern during the webinar (see part 3):

By removing cPanel AND Softaculous, you suppress two FREE backup solutions (out of the three server-level, independent backup options available) – the third option being a manual backup (FTP + phpMyAdmin). What tool(s) will replace these two convenient methods in the new Site Tools? Other than the SiteGround Backup tool, which is neither independent (of SiteGround’s infrastructure) nor free (i.e. on demand backups for StartUp plan)!

Nikolay Todorov (SiteGround Chief Technology Officer) answered that they don’t have that functionality, but they will eventually provide a tool that allows that.

by SiteGround

To sum up, SiteGround removed two convenient, and more importantly free, backup solutions (i.e. cPanel and Softaculous). Instead of providing a substitute, they put forward their own solution, namely SiteGround Backup. A $29.95 per backup alternative (with their StartUp plan) that does not allow you to download your backups!

The actual migration

Starting from the second half of September 2019, we will gradually roll out the new setup to all our existing clients, replacing the current User Area and cPanel. We will notify you by email at least one week in advance to let you know when you’ll be switched to the new interfaces.

As chronicled in this mini-series, the wait for the Switch was another issue. First, I erroneously thought that it was scheduled March 4, 2020 (see part 4). I was already complaining about the delay – How come did the next few weeks turn into months? – but this migration turned out to be the migration of their servers to the Google Cloud Platform instead. When the actual migration took place on April 21, 2020, I discovered that this was only the Client Area Interface Switch (see part 5). Naïvely, I thought the second step, that is the cPanel Switch to Site Tools, would follow immediately. How wrong! It took SiteGround another nine months to schedule the second step: January 12, 2021 (see part 7). As for the migration per se

Website under construction

… it went smoothly; for the first step, at least. As suggested by the above screenshot, things were a little different for the second step (see part 8); still, I thought the migration was successful. However, when I encountered an issue with their AutoUpdate tool (see part 10), I had to change my mind (see part 12 and SiteGround AutoUpdate tool ruined).

We were shyly moving at a few hundred account transfers per day with a high fail rate, meaning we had to go over many of them manually and fix any issues that might have been caused by the migration.Tenko Mikolov

What about the New Client Area and Site Tools?

Although I am not questioning that the New Client Area is a much more modern and mobile-friendly interface, as far I am concerned the improvements stop there (see part 5). In fact, my opinion was, and still is, that this new interface is nothing but a Client Marketing Area – a shopping site actually – not a User Area anymore!

As apologized, my review about Site Tools has yet to be published. However, my first impression – heavily influenced by the loss of my backup solution and the noticing that the only free option left was not even working properly – was not a good one (see part 9). Of course, the paring down of features is not speaking in Site Tools favor!

Saying that I am a little reserved in my enthusiasm is an understatement.

Here are two comments (among the very few posted4) to the aforementioned post1 by SiteGround; the one praising their accomplishment to the sky:

Statistics are much more limited than before. Will something like AWStats return?Lex Jansen
Documentation needs a lot more work as the interface is far from intuitive. A promotional video tells me how wonderful it is, but not where my emails are going missing. Hosting has become a lot more expensive over the last couple of years and I’m seriously considering moving.Elizabeth Spiegel

Last comment

SiteGround logo with a referral link to their website
Referral Link

Back in the first post of this mini-series, I expressed my feeling that the so-called improvements associated with the site-centric philosophy (adopted for Site Tools) may only concern the agencies; not the single-site owners (like me). Going through SiteGround post1 strengthened my opinion that their agency clients were the real beneficiaries. Here are the first four new features listed in their post:

  • Easy multiple website management under one login,
  • Seamless team work by adding website collaborators,
  • One-click transfers of ready-made sites to your clients,
  • Giving your clients white-label access to their websites’ Site Tools.
So many new features now available to all!Tenko Mikolov

I didn’t even bother to ask about the tool that will allow you to download all your data . . . with a single click; the one promised by Nikolay Todorov in response to my question during the webinar.

The end!

1 Tenko Mikolov (2021) All SiteGround Accounts are Now Using Site Tools. SiteGround. ^
2 Beyond my concern with the suppression of Softaculous, I was worried about the ability of their automated script to handle any potential peculiarity (without messing things up). I was also curious about how their Site-Centric Philosophy will display the different sites of my WordPress network. Last, I commented on my fear that they may sacrifice quality over simplicity and advised them to provide some documentation to compensate for the loss of the many cPanel tutorials. ^
3 This was back then. SiteGround recently increased their hosting prices (see Is the hike in SiteGround prices justified?) and now the GrowBig plan is at $24.99/mo.. ^
4 Eight at the time of this writing. Nothing compare to the 281 comments in reaction to their post announcing the advent of their New Client Area and Site Tools! ^

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