There are many scary threats on the Internet, and believing that your website is not a target is a big mistake. No matter how big your website is, it faces attacks from hundreds of different sources; and without the proper action, you are likely to find it hacked. Even if there is no perfect solution for keeping your website secure, your hosting provider is your first – and best – line of defense against security threats.
Now that I have your attention, let me repeat this: choosing a reliable hosting provider is the best way to ensure your website remains accessible and safe at all times. Actually, quality web hosting goes beyond uptime and security. It ensures your visitors have an excellent experience on your site and keep coming back for more. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the importance of selecting a good hosting provider, choosing based on price only.
To avoid mistakes, it is critical to know what kind of web host you need and how to select a good hosting provider. Yet, finding the perfect one for your needs – among thousands of companies – is no easy task. You must undertake a thorough research and comparisons before to entrust a particular hosting provider with your website. Here goes my own investigation.
Choosing WordPress as the platform to build my website has obviously influenced my search. First, there are WordPress minimum requirements:
- PHP version 7.2 or greater
- MySQL version 5.6 or greater
- HTTPS support
Admittedly, the vast majority of web hosts meet these specifications, which is not helping to narrow down your choices. Nevertheless, WordPress.org officially recommends three hosting providers as
some of the best and brightest of the hosting word1:
Bluehost – DreamHost – SiteGround
Keep in mind that I have opted for shared hosting.
Keeping with their own saying,
WordPress works best when it’s in a rich hosting environment. What about managed WordPress hosting then? What about companies like WPEngine or Kinsta? Beyond configuring the entire server environment specifically for WordPress, some of these companies even include their own plugins and themes to increase performance, security, or user experience. Moreover, this type of hosting usually comes with premium support. In fact, there are many pros of managed hosting, but the significant difference in price compared to shared hosting is a major hindrance.
Best hosting providers compared
Relying on a single source of information is not judicious; no matter how reliable is the source. However, choosing among thousands of web hosting companies can be tricky because
they all make bold claims about their speed, reliability, and service2. Fortunately, there are many online compilations of the
best hosting providers or other comparison tools to help you. As I didn’t want to miss out any potential candidate, I went through these kind of articles as well. Interestingly, the same companies were often listed (including those already mentioned):
HostGator – InMotion Hosting – A2 Hosting
You can’t believe everything you read online.
Seeing the same names repeatedly is encouraging. Yet, can you trust these lists? Most of the time, critical information is lacking, especially on how these rankings were established. As explained in a previous post (Gandi.net), it is not always easy to distinguish endorsements from ads and it can be very difficult to trace the honest and reliable recommendations. Nonetheless, reading reviews is indubitably a necessary step in your quest for the best hosting provider.
Clearly, choosing a company that is reputable, reliable and reasonably priced is central. Nevertheless, it is not only about finding the best hosting provider, but also picking the right one for your needs. Let me sort through the essential features (described in my previous articles: A web host and A hosting provider) that matter the most for me.
Security: protection against hackers and malware, among other threats, is paramount!
Speed: having fast website load time is essential for good user experience.
Scalability: being able to upgrade from shared hosting to better plans and/or servers.
Naturally, the hosting provider should supports the technologies required for WordPress (see above). In particular, one of WordPress requirement is HTTPS support. To have HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure, you need to have a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate installed on the server. As explained in another post (Self-hosting: a hard egg to crack), installing an SSL certificate is tricky and therefore I intended to get it from my web host (instead of directly from a recognized Certificate Authority).
Last, yet importantly, there were also features that I didn’t need to obtain from my hosting provider. I didn’t care about (free) domain names as I decided to keep my domain name and my web hosting separate (see Self-hosting: a hard egg to crack). Similarly, I opted to have a separate e-mail server and to host my e-mail account(s) with my registrar (see Gandi.net). Therefore, any offer related to domain name and/or e-mail services would be inconsequential.
Why SiteGround is the best hosting provider (for me)
I do not participate in their affiliate program. However, I have a referral link and will get up to 3 months free hosting for every person who has signed up through it. Your support is highly appreciated.
Granted, they are officially recommended by WordPress.org and they are one of the highest rated in the aforementioned compilations. However, this is not enough to make an informed decision. Besides, they have a generous affiliate program that can have significant impact on reviews or any kind of recommendations. Conflict of interest will not necessarily lead to bias, but it is not always easy to trace the disinterested and trustworthy opinions. Anyway, before to tell you what has convinced me, let me describe SiteGround with their own saying.
SiteGround, which was founded in 2004, applies The Handcraft Philosophy
to everything [they] do. Hence, their tag line is
web hosting crafted with care. They claim to
never compromise on the pillars of [their] service – server security, uptime and speed – by adopting the best technologies and developing in-house smart solutions. For instance, they
choose the most powerful and innovative hardware to build [their] infrastructure on. Their platform is built on top of the
cutting edge Linux containers (LXC). As a result, SiteGround is extremely reliable, reporting a steady 99.99% uptime.
Great, but what specific features tip the scale in their favor?
They created a pro-active server monitoring that
prevents and fixes issues without delay. They also developed an Anti-bot Artificial Intelligence (AI), which blocks brute-force attacks, as well as the resulting resource losses. They installed ModSecurity – a Web Application Firewall (WAF) module that allows implementing advanced protection – on all their shared servers and update their security rules weekly. As you would expect, they claim to run all the latest server software versions and monitor for exploits regularly.
Now, there are additional risks associated with hosting your website on a shared hosting environment. As several customers share the same server, a single hacked account could provide an entry point for attacks that will affect your website as well. SiteGround uses a CHROOT account isolation to isolate each account in its own directory. This minimizes the possibility of single account affecting the security of the others.
Here goes their
security-first mindset. A beneficial outgrowth of their advanced security solutions is their impressive 99.99% uptime.
All their servers are highly optimized for speed. First, all their shared servers are equipped with Solid State Drive (SSD) storage. If you didn’t know, SSDs can write and read data at incredible speeds compared to regular Hard Disk Drive (HDD). In addition, they use NGINX web server technology, which is a faster alternative to Apache3. Similarly, their servers support HTTP/2, a new network protocol that significantly speeds up loading of websites. They also take advantage of PHP 7 speed benefits.
They provide an advanced web site optimization solution, called SuperCacher, which can boost the loading speed of websites. However, only the first level (Static Cache) – out of the three levels of caching options – is available on their most basic shared plan. In the same line, they offer a free Cloudflare CDN (Content Delivery Network).
Last, but not least, they have data centers in four different locations: Chicago (USA), Amsterdam (Netherland), London (UK) and Singapore. Outstandingly, you can choose the location you prefer during signup.
In short, SiteGround tackles slow speeds from all angles.
SiteGround offers a full-spectrum of hosting solutions: from shared hosting to cloud hosting to dedicated servers.
Their shared hosting can be breakdown into three plans: StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek (the latter being a
semi-dedicated solution). Similarly, their cloud hosting comes in multiple flavors: Entry, Business, Business Plus, Super Power, and you can even create (i.e. customize) your own plan. Lastly, they run three levels of dedicated servers: Entry Server, Power Server and Super Power Server.
It is easy to upgrade (or downgrade) within shared hosting plans (or within cloud hosting plans), or to upgrade memory of dedicated servers. Likewise, you can upgrade from shared hosting to cloud hosting or to dedicated servers. Apparently, there is no downtime involved; at least, when upgrading or downgrading a
cloud hosting account from one plan to another.
To sum up, there is definitively room for your website to grow.
Managed WordPress Hosting offer, SiteGround
isn’t a managed host4. Nevertheless, they include benefits that mirror (real) managed WordPress hosting. Indeed, you can expect plenty of optimizations in terms of server resources and performance.
You have also the possibility to take advantage of their free WordPress installation. Recently, SiteGround has rolled out a new WordPress Starter Plugin. In addition, they have dozens of well-designed, well-developed and well-secure free themes.
They manage the security of WordPress sites at server and application level. Auto updates (for WordPress core files and plugins as well) is also available on all WordPress hosting plans. Moreover, they provide top-tier WordPress-related support.
Undoubtedly, SiteGround has developed impressive security and speed features that are specific to WordPress.
All their shared hosting plans include a strong feature set. Let me just name those that stand out.
First and foremost, they provide Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates and it is absolutely free and easy to set up. Recently, they even add the possibility to install free Wildcard certificates on top of the automatic issuance of the standard Let’s Encrypt certificate.
SiteGround allows only one website on the most basic plan, but you can have unlimited subdomains and parked domains. Thus, at the end of the day, you can still have several different websites (see A domain name) as long as they remain underneath the same domain name.
They provide free SSH and SFTP access, which is invaluable for moving large amount of files safely. Among the other advanced features, I can highlight Mod_rewrite or .htaccess. If you don’t know what these things are (like me not so long ago), you will soon realize that they are absolutely critical for bringing your WordPress installation to the next level.
SiteGround backups account data free on a daily basis and they keep 30 versions (i.e. 30 days) of backups. This is great.
However, if you are on their most basic plan, you don’t have access to these copies and you will have to pay to restore your website. This is not satisfactory.
– Emendation –
SiteGround performed a massive upgrade to all their hosting plans (probably to celebrate their 15th anniversary). They now provide the restore option free to all users, including those hosted on a StartUp plan.
March 28, 2019
Source: More Features for All Our Plans
Their support – tickets, live chat and phone – is available 24/7. They also have an impressive help system in the form of Tutorials and detailed Knowledge Base and they organize webinars when required (e.g. General Data Protection Regulation).
Understandably, SiteGround has packed their shared plans with many features.
To conclude, I was looking for a worry-free hosting solution in term of security and a premium, yet reasonably priced, hosting service. Of course, the plan you choose will affect performance and speed to some degree. In spite of that, there is no doubt that SiteGround qualifies as a high-end shared hosting. Thus, for all the reasons described above, I believe SiteGround is the right fit for my project.
Nota bene, this is not a review about SiteGround. Furthermore, I am not trying to convince you to choose them as your hosting provider. Besides, what is best for me is not, necessarily, what is best for you. Nonetheless, if you decide to sign up with them, I would be appreciative of you doing it through my referral link.
1 See WordPress Web Hosting. ^
2 Peter Pollock (2013) Web Hosting For Dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ^
3 If you don’t know what I am talking about, you may consider reading my post on web host. ^
4 Daryn Collier (2018) Managed WordPress Hosting 101: Is It Right for Your Business?. Design Bombs. ^