SiteGround New Client Area and Site Tools – part 3

… starting from the point where the story stopped.

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.

Before the actual switch, SiteGround offered the possibility to try a demo of the new Client Area and Site Tools and to attend [their] webinar that was scheduled for the following month. While I didn’t activate the demo, I was eager to learn more during SiteGround’s webinar about their new client interfaces.

A week before the webinar, I received an invitation by email:

We would like to invite you to a webinar about our new client interfaces on Thursday, September 5, 2019 at 12 PM EDT. The SiteGround Team

In the email, there was also a brief What is the webinar about? outline:

Nikolay Todorov (our CTO) and Hristo Pandjarov (our WordPress Initiatives Manager) will walk you through the main features of the new Client Area and Site Tools, describing the benefits of the new interfaces and why things have been designed the way they were. They will be happy to answer your questions at the second part of the webinar.

My question

As explained in the first post of this mini-series, SiteGround decided to implement – along with their new Client Area – their own control panel (i.e. instead of cPanel), namely Site Tools. Importantly, they stated that the new Site Tools included all the functionality you need to manage your site and that you should be able to do almost everything you’re used to doing. Usually the saying goes like this: you can’t see the forest for the trees; however, this time the “almost” was the detail that exposed the forest. Indeed, despite several claims to the contrary (by Hristo Pandjarov; see below), the Chief Operations Officer Reneta Tsankova eventually admitted that SiteGround won’t use Softaculous anymoreone of the casualties among other functionality losses.

With the new interfaces we are not removing but adding functionality for our customers . . . There is no functionality that we are sacrificing, no functionality removed from . . . Everything, that we used to offer in terms of functionality, control, features is there.Hristo Pandjarov

It is worth mentioning that while this auto-installer, namely Softaculous, makes it easy to install WordPress, it can do more than just installing new applications. In particular, it can also be used to create a full backup of your website. As a matter of fact, Softaculous being my go-to, and what is more free, backup solution for my WordPress website (see Backup, Backup, Backup!), I was a little concerned by this issue and asked (via the comments to SiteGround blog post) what will be the Site Tools’ alternative (to back up both Files and Database and keep the copy locally). Hristo’s answer was to upgrade (my StartUp plan) to their GrowBig plan – a $19.95/mo. substitute! Although I didn’t pick up Hristo’s recommendation brush-off at first, I was ready to strike back during the webinar:

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)!


The webinar

Immediately upon accessing the crowdcast live video platform, I checked the growing list of questions. There was nothing about Softaculous and/or free backup solution; therefore, I posted my own query (see above). The seminar not yet started, I kept monitoring the newly posted questions. To my surprise, people were upvoting mine; clearly, I was not the only one concerned with this issue! When the “crowcast starting soon” message let place to Nikolay Todorov and Hristo Pandjarov, I polarized my attention to the webinar1.

Briefly, they first explained the reasons behind their interfaces change – the main being to make their products more website-centric instead of hosting-centric – trying to sale how this new interfaces will benefit their clients. An interesting feature, though, was the possibility to create a new website, using a temporary URL created by SiteGround. This would allow using the latter during the development of your website, and then later on change it to an actual domain name. Then, they started the screencast to show all the exciting new stuffs they have built and the responsivity of the new interface (i.e. mobile friendly). After a 9-min preview of the User Area (from 8’ until 17’), they moved on the Site Tools for another 33-min long walk-through.

After that, they addressed the actual migration process, one of the biggest challenge they faced, according to Nikolay Todorov. Nonetheless, it should involve only a short downtime, but no action from the customer (meaning no IP address nor nameservers2 change). As for the when (will the migration starts), Nikolay Todorov let a dry chuckle escape before to state that the first migrations were planned for mid-September. He then added, still looking uncomfortable, that they will start very slowly to make sure they don’t break anything. A nervous laughter and a chilling sense of unease hit Hristo as well. Nikolay immediately specified – probably to calm Hristo and/or to reassure us – that after each migration, every single website will be manually checked by [their] technicians. He also explained that each customer should postpone any major change during the migration, the date of which being communicated in due time by email. This ended the 54-min long first part of the webinar.

They will be happy to answer your questions at the second part of the webinar.

The first – or more accurately easiest one – was about the availability of the webinar, that is if it was recorded. Then, while Hristo was trying to pick and choose the next “easiest one”, Nikolay told him Okay, let’s stop. Answer this one!. This was actually mine. I didn’t expect that it will be pushed toward the top ranked questions. Not only was I so gratified, but also it meaned that many share my concern with the loss of two free backup solutions. Naturally, I was also so proud they pick my question first (despite Hristo mispronouncing “CogitActive”). Check my moment of glory:

by SiteGround

In short, their answered that at this point [they] don’t have that functionality, but they will eventually provide a tool that allows that. Needless to say, that I will come back to you on that matter! Hristo also explained (about my SiteGround infrastructure concern) that they do off-site backups, meaning that their backups are stored off the main location of the host server. Something I knew already, though! Besides, this doesn’t address the point of keeping a copy locally.

As for the other questions, most had already been addressed during the webinar (or in the original blog post). Among the few others, one was about the possibility to open the dashboard in several tabs (of the same browser). Nikolay’s answer was a clear nope! – one more time, a nervous laughter and a chilling sense of unease hit Hristo. Another interesting question was how do you access the control panel?. Hristo answered that one of the benefits of the new Client Area is the single login to, while Nikolay added that you could also directly access Site Tools via Last, but not least, someone asked when do you think you will be migrating the last server?. Nikolay honest reply was I still don’t have the definitive answer to that.

That’s it, the webinar ended up on Nikolay giving Hristo bunny ears! I am not making this up, check the video at the 1:37:22 timestamp.

Follow up blog post

As promised, four days later, Hristo posted the answers of all questions to which [they] could not reply during the live show3. Here are few relevant ones, i.e. those regarding backups:

What is Missing? I’m specifically concerned about manual backup that can be downloaded (cPanel backup) and database tools, particularly phpMyAdmin.
We offer backups (automatic daily backups and the option to create instant ones with a friendly restore tool), but we do not offer the cPanel backup. PhpMyAdmin is available in section Site > MySQL > PhpMyAdmin tab.

Is it easy to find and download a backup?
You can find your backups in Site Tools > Security > Backups. Restoring a backup is even easier than before. Just select the backup you wish to restore from and select the item you wish to restore from the Action menu next to it. Downloading a backup is not possible at the moment.

Where did the softaculous function go?
We now offer an “App manager”, which is powered by Softaculous Remote and allows you to install new applications easily. You can find it in section Site>App Manager.

To recap, SiteGround removed two convenient, and what is more FREE, backup solutions (i.e. cPanel and Softaculous), but did not provide any substitute in their new Site Tools. As an alternative, they put forward their own (already existing) tool, namely SiteGround Backup. However, the possibility to create (with the latter) instant backups on demand is not available free when using their StartUp plan (i.e. $29.95 per backup); the only way to have this feature free of charge would be an upgrade to their GrowBig plan (i.e. $19.95 per month). Most important of all, their backup copies cannot be downloaded locally; thus, defeating the 3-2-1 backup rule!

It started…

On September 12, SiteGround send an email: All you need to know about our new Client Area and Site Tools. Again, they showcased the webinar, the three blog posts on the subject, and the Demo tool. Nothing new but that:

Our new Client Area and Site Tools are already live and we will gradually be switching our existing clients to these new interfaces over the next few weeks.The SiteGround Team

Over the next few weeks!

To be continued…

1 You can now access the latter on YouTube. ^
2 You might want to consider reading Pointing my domain name to my website for more info about nameservers. ^
3 Hristo Pandjarov (2019) Webinar About the New Client Area and Site Tools. SiteGround. ^

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