SiteGround WordPress Hosting Review (2019) – Best-Value WP Hosting?
Welcome to my review of SiteGround’s WordPress hosting service.
- Excellent website load times and server performance
- Generous storage capacity
- Quick and automated refunds
- Reliable and courteous customer support
- Free SSL certificates and website migration
- Free website Staging on higher plans
- Low unique monthly visits limits
- No free malware removal
- Dated user interface
- PayPal payments are “hidden”
1. SiteGround WordPress hosting plans & pricing
1.1 Standard pricing structure:
|Startup plan||GrowBig plan||GoGeek plan|
|First term||$3.95 / mo.||$5.95 / mo.||$11.95 / mo.|
|Renewals||$11.95 / mo.||$19.95 / mo.||$34.95 / mo.|
|Renewals with 30% discount (see below)||$8.37 / mo.||$13.97 / mo.||$24.5 / mo.|
|Unique monthly visits||~10,000||~25,000||~100,000|
|Storage||10 GB||20 GB||30 GB|
You can purchase hosting for one, 12, 24, or 36 months upfront. However, the price is the same regardless of the contract length.
Note that SiteGround’s “WordPress” hosting costs the same as their regular “Shared” hosting service and runs on Apache servers.
1.2 Does SiteGround offer public discount promo codes?
There’s no discount code available for new buyers – the first term is already heavily discounted compared to SiteGround’s standard hosting cost.
However, when your first term is about to expire, they will send you an email with a discount promo code that you can use when renewing your plan.
This offer changes over time. For example, right now you can get a 20% discount if you renew for two years, or 30% off if you renew for three years.
1.3 What’s the deal with SiteGround’s one-time set-up fee?
If you choose the monthly subscription, SiteGround will charge you a one-time hosting set-up fee. This fee doesn’t apply to any of their longer terms.
|One-time setup fee (monthly terms only)|
I guess this fee is SiteGround’s way of nudging buyers towards their longer terms, but I can’t say that I like the approach.
On the flip side, the one-time setup fee is fully refundable under SiteGround’s money-back guarantee.
1.4 Does SiteGround offer student hosting at reduced prices?
Yes, they do – you can sign up for it from SiteGround’s student hosting page. All student plans come with the same configuration and resources as the StartUp plan discussed above.
The student plan costs $1.99 per month, which is a 50% discount on the standard promotional first-term price. You can purchase hosting at student prices for one year only.
After the first year, students pay the standard discounted first-term pricing on their second term, followed by standard renewal prices for subsequent terms.
To verify that you’re a student, you’ll need to register with SiteGround using an email address in an .edu domain.
1.5 Does SiteGround offer custom WordPress plans?
If you need more resources than what SiteGround’s basic WordPress hosting plans offer, you can buy their custom Cloud hosting.
Cloud hosting isn’t listed on their “WordPress hosting” page, but a customer support agent assured me that the service is optimized for WP websites.
1.6 Does SiteGround accept PayPal payments?
This one’s a little tricky.
If you try to pay, you’ll only see credit cards as an available payment method.
However, they do actually accept PayPal as well.
To pay via PayPal:
- Initiate the purchase process and enter your personal details
- Leave all credit card fields (card number, name on card, expiration date) blank
- Submit the form
You’ll get an error message saying that you forgot to enter your credit card information.
Now contact SiteGround’s customer support and tell them about this, and they’ll send you a PayPal payment link via email/Live Chat.
Horrible design, but it gets the job done.
2. SiteGround hosting resources and restrictions
2.1 What bandwidth is available on SiteGround’s WordPress plans?
SiteGround does not limit bandwidth on any of its WordPress hosting plans.
Instead, they limit the maximum number of users your websites can serve per month.
2.2 Why is SiteGround’s monthly user limit unusual?
|Websites allowed||Unique visits allowed (per month)|
Note that these limits are per hosting account, not per website hosted.
What’s interesting is that these aren’t hard limits, only educated estimates.
SiteGround simply took the average amount of server resources a typical visitor uses and, based on that, estimated how many unique visitors they can “afford” to allow to your websites per month.
So if your website uses more resources than “average,” your monthly visitor limits will be lower than listed.
But how is “average” defined? Unfortunately, we don’t know – and this ambiguity is my main concern with SiteGround.
If you’re a typical user planning to host typical WordPress blog with posts, images, and other “standard” content, you can probably trust the listed unique monthly visit limits.
2.3 What happens if you exceed your monthly user limit?
Actually, they won’t allow you to exceed it.
If your websites approach the limit, SiteGround will contact you and ask you to upgrade your hosting plan to one with more server resources.
2.4 How much storage space do you get with SiteGround?
The 10 GB on the Startup plan is generous; a single WordPress website s highly unlikely to ever approach 10 GB in size.
For the GrowBig and GoGeek plans, whether the allotted storage is enough will depend on your needs. For example, if you’re planning on hosting 20 websites on the GrowBig plan, you’re looking at an average of 1 GB per site, which will be enough for simple WP blogs but not for much beyond that.
Overall, the provided storage limits compare favorably with what other WordPress hosts offer – as long as you’re not planning to host more than 10-15 sites.
2.5 Is there a limit on the number or size of MySQL databases?
Although there’s no limit on the number of databases you can create, there’s a limit on their size:
|MySQL size limit (per database)|
Although 500 MB is probably enough for the majority of typical WordPress blogs, these limits are still low when compared to other WP hosting providers – most competitors will happily allow 1.5-2 GB databases on their cheapest plans.
For reference, I have a WordPress website with around 200 blog posts, and its database occupies 96 MB. This will vary from site to site, of course.
2.6 Do subdomains count towards SiteGround’s plan’s website limit?
No, they don’t.
Many WordPress hosting providers treat subdomains the same as a top-level domain.
At SiteGround, you can create as many subdomains as you want and they will not count towards your plan’s website quota – only top-level domains do.
2.7 Is there an inode limit at SiteGround?
An inode limit denotes the number of folders, sub-folders, and files that you can store on your hosting account.
SiteGround’s plans have the following inode limits:
To put this in perspective, a basic WordPress blog with just a few pages and plugins will use around 8-10k inodes. A blog with 200 posts, multiple images per post, and 30-40 various plugins installed, currently uses up 25,000 inodes on my server.
The 150,000 inodes on the StartUp plan are generous – you’re unlikely to ever need this much for a single website unless you upload tens of thousands of images.
Whether the 300k and 450k on the GrowBig and GoGeek plans, respectively, are enough, will depend on how many websites you want to host with them.
I can imagine the inode limit being the bottleneck for many webmasters. For example, if your average website uses ~25,000 inodes, you’ll be limited to hosting 17 sites on SiteGround’s GoGeek plan and 12 sites on the GrowBig plan.
That’s still a lot of sites given the price and compared to other hosting providers, but it’s a limitation you need to keep in mind.
2.8 How many emails can you send from SiteGround?
To combat spam, SiteGround limits email sending as follows:
|Email sending limit (hourly)|
These limits apply on a per-account, not per-domain basis.
These limits are more than enough for all business communications and even enough for small-scale email marketing campaigns.
3. SiteGround user interface and usability
3.1 Does SiteGround offer cPanel?
Yes, SiteGround offers cPanel for with its WordPress hosting at no additional cost.
Unfortunately, it’s a dated version of the control panel, but it gets the job done:
From SiteGround’s cPanel you can perform all the standard operations, including:
- Managing domains and subdomains
- Using auto-installers for WordPress, Magneto, Joomla, and pbpBB
- Enabling WP Auto Update and other WordPress tools
- Creating and managing email and FTP accounts
- Creating and managing databases
- Setting up URL redirects
3.2 How to add a domain to SiteGround?
You can do that through cPanel’s Add Domains form after logging into SiteGround:
After you click Add Domain, go to your domain registrar and point your domain at the correct DNS, which you can find at SiteGround under My Account -> Information & Settings:
This is a standard procedure that should be familiar to anyone who ever hosted a website.
3.3 Installing a WordPress website on SiteGround
When I logged into my SiteGround account for the first time, I immediately saw a WordPress-installation form:
Took around a minute from start to finish.
You can also install WP at any time using the WordPress auto-installer in cPanel.
3.4 Managing files at SiteGround
You can manage files either by creating an FTP username in cPanel and using an FTP client such as FileZilla, or by using SiteGround’s built-in File Manager:
Advanced users can also use Secure Shell (SSH) to access their server. To use it, you’ll need to generate an SSH key pair from cPanel under the Advanced section, then use a tool like Putty to connect.
4. How quickly do websites hosted with SiteGround load?
As multiple reports, including this one, have consistently shown, websites that load slowly are abandoned by more users.
As always, I set up a test website on the server and recorded its load speed once per hour using GTMetrix.
In total, I took 47 speed measurement:
Overall, the average load time was around 0.7 seconds. The recorded minimum was 0.5 seconds and the maximum was 1.5 seconds.
That’s excellent speed and on par with what you’ll get from WordPress hosts that cost five times as much.
5. How do SiteGround’s servers handle traffic spikes?
Using LoadImpact, I simulated the type of server activity you would expect to see if 200 people visited the website simultaneously.
My goal was to see if the server maintained its performance in the face of such a traffic onslaught.
Take a look at this report to see the details. Here’s a summary:
The server response rate, indicated by the blue line on the chart above, remained stable at ~30 milliseconds throughout the test, with just one brief spike to a tolerable 132 milliseconds around 9 minutes into the test.
The above implies that even if your website regularly serves 200 (and possibly more) users simultaneously, the server’s resources will not be strained.
Here, again, SiteGround’s server performance matches that of significantly more expensive hosting services.
6. SiteGround Hosting safety and security
6.1 Does SiteGround offer free website backups?
SiteGround offers daily automated website backups on all its WordPress hosting plans. Each website backup (snapshot) is stored for 30 days and takes up no storage room on your server.
If you’re on either the GrowBig or GoGeek plan, you can also create up to five manual backups for free. If you’re on the StartUp plan, you’ll need to pay for each backup you create manually, which is a shame but not a major issue.
Manual backups use up server storage, which is the case for all hosts I’ve reviewed so far.
6.2 SiteGround Hosting’s automatic malware removal
SiteGround offers multiple malware-prevention plans:
“Guardian” is SiteGround’s custom-built malware-detection software. By default, Guardian scans are only done on request. However, if your website receives more than 1,000 visitors in a given month, Guardian will run scans automatically.
SG Scanner is the company’s premium (paid) malware tool and costs around $25 per month. SG Scanner will run daily automated scans regardless of the traffic your website receives.
Unfortunately, neither of the two options above include malware removal. If a virus or trojan is detected, SiteGround will provide a list of the infected files, but it will be up to you to clean up.
If you want malware detection AND removal, you’ll have to buy SiteGround’s Sucuri package, which costs a dizzying $200/year.
It’s a shame that they charge such a premium for a service that’s offered complimentary by many WordPress hosting providers, including WPX. Though given SiteGround’s relatively low price, this is perhaps understandable.
6.3 Is 2-Factor login authentication (2FA) available?
Yes, you can enable two-factor login authentication to enhance the security of your SiteGround admin panel.
To do this, log into your account, click My Details in the top-right corner, then click Enable next to Two-factor login:
Supported authentication applications include:
- Google Authenticator
- Duo Mobile
Once you enable 2FA, you’ll need to provide a one-time passcode, generated by your authentication app, in addition to your regular password, to log into your account.
6.4 How many failed login attempts does the system accept?
I tried to log into my account using an incorrect password to see how many attempts SiteGround’s security system would allow me to make before locking down my account.
After more than 100 attempts, my account was not locked and I was still able to access it immediately using the correct password.
I thought the system was maybe recognizing my IP address as “safe” and therefore allowing me to make this many incorrect attempts. So I switched my IP address to one in Eastern Europe using ExpressVPN and tried again – with the same result.
I reached out to SiteGround’s Live Chat and asked about this, and they told me the system should lock my account after around 20 failed login attempts.
The support operator demonstrated this by trying to access my account using an incorrect password and indeed my account was locked down (they promptly reactivated it).
So it appears that an anti-brute-force security system is in place, but for an unknown reason, I was unable to trigger it from my computer.
6.5 What if you forget your account password and lose email access?
What happens if you lose access to your email account and your hosting password? Can you regain access to your server?
I asked support about this, and they told me that I would need to contact their support team and undergo a “custom legal procedure that varies from case to another.”
I tried pressing for more detail, but all I could learn was that the procedure would likely involve providing a notarized proof of identity, among potentially other documents.
7. Additional services and freebies
7.1 Does SiteGround offer free SSL certificates?
As is standard practice at most reputable hosting services these days, SiteGround offers free LetsEncrypt SSL certificates for all websites you host on their servers.
To activate your certificate, fire up cPanel and scroll down to the Security section, then click Let’s Encrypt:
The free cert. is activated by default for the primary domain you add when creating your hosting account. For any additional domains you add later, you’ll need to manually activate the certificate from the page I show above.
7.2 Do you get a free domain with SiteGround?
As of early 2019, SiteGround did not offer free domains with its WordPress hosting plans.
However, they do sell domains. Here are some pricing examples:
Renewal and initial domain purchase prices are the same.
These are fairly standard prices in the hosting world. For cheaper domains, try dedicated registrars such as NameCheap.
7.3 Does SiteGround offer free website migrations?
SiteGround offers free migration on GrowBig and GoGeek plans. This includes moving one WordPress website or one entire cPanel account.
If you’re on the StartUp plan or if you want to migrate more than one website, SiteGround charges $30 per migrated website.
Migration usually takes less than an hour and does not involve website downtime.
It’s unfortunate that the free migration only covers one website, but it’s better than nothing.
8. How safe is it to buy from SiteGround?
8.1 Does SiteGround offer a money-back trial period?
SiteGround offers a 30-day full money-back guarantee on all plans and terms. What’s more, the money-back guarantee covers the one-time setup fee you pay when signing up for SiteGround’s monthly terms.
To receive your refund, just cancel your account from the Billing page within the specified time – no need to contact support and request a refund.
The advertised refund time is up to 21 days but in my case, it was almost instant (see below).
8.2 My own money-back request – step by step
Here’s a one-minute video documenting my hosting cancellation and money-back request. Canceling my hosting account is part of my routine when reviewing a hosting provider:
(Make sure to choose “immediately” when asked when you wish to cancel, otherwise, you won’t receive a refund.)
I checked my PayPal account five minutes later, and there it was:
So in total, it was 6-7 minutes from the moment I decided to cancel to the moment that funds were credited to my account.
They processed the refund automatically and I did not need to request it via Live Chat, which was a great plus compared to other hosting providers.
If you pay via credit card instead of PayPal, you’ll have to wait a day or two before you get your money back.
8.3 Does SiteGround offer refunds on unused subscription months?
Officially, SiteGround does not offer pro-rated refunds – so if you buy the 2-year term and cancel after one year, you won’t receive a refund for the unused 12 months.
However, a customer support team member told me that if you’re “very unhappy” with their service and decide to cancel before your term is up, you should contact their Billing department and they’ll consider refunding any remaining unused months.
9. SiteGround Hosting Content Delivery Network (CDN)
SiteGround partnered up with the popular provider CloudFlare to offer free CDN to all users.
You can activate it from cPanel to instantly improve website load times for your visitors:
Some of you may ask: “but isn’t CloudFlare generally free for bloggers anyway?”
And you’re right – there’s no real added benefit to having CloudFlare activation available through the SiteGround control panel – perhaps except for the simplified activation.
Plus, through SiteGround, you also get CloudFlare’s Railgun service for free – a $200/year value. Railgun improves connection speeds between your server and CDN servers by optimizing compression of some resources. Although to be fair, this is probably of little use to anyone but the most demanding webmasters.
10. SiteGround WordPress Staging
SiteGround allows you to create a clone (Staging) of your website. You can experiment on the Staging without altering the live site.
The Staging feature is available for GrowBig and GoGeek plans only. This was a bit disappointing, as many other hosts offer Staging on all their plans.
You can create a Staging from cPanel:
The Staging is created under a subdomain and comes with all the functionality and management options of a standard website.
When you’re ready to push the changes from your Staging to the live website, just click the Push to Live button:
- Stagings use up server storage capacity equal to the size of your original website. Be careful.
- When you push your changes to the live site, any changes you made on the live site since you created the Staging will be overwritten. If this is a problem for you, see my WPX Hosting review – their Staging feature solves this issue.
11. Live chat customer support quality
You can reach SiteGround’s live chat customer support team 24 hours a day, all year long.
Overall, I found their support team very capable. They answered my questions quickly and fully.
In the process of writing this review, I probably asked them around 30-40 questions total, and I received a satisfactory answer to each one.
Queue times are practically non-existent – I rarely had to wait more than 15 seconds before a connection to an agent was established.
The only gripe I have with their live chat is how difficult it is to access. Most hosting companies prominently display a “Live Chat” button on their website – not so with SiteGround. In fact, you’d be forgiven not to know there’s a live chat feature at all!
Here’s a video tutorial that shows you how to connect to Siteground’s live chat:
Not only do you need to be logged in, but you also need to navigate a maze of information to access Live Chat. This was an annoyance for me.
12. SiteGround Hosting – final thoughts
Server performance is on par with what WPX and WP Engine offer.
Live chat quality is great, though I wish it was easier to access.
The monthly visit quotas is a bit low, particularly on the Startup plan. The backend interface is dated and not beginner-friendly, but works as intended and is easy to get used to.
Overall, If you’re on a budget, or are just starting out with one or a few WordPress websites, SiteGround’s WP hosting definitely offers the best value. Just make sure to install your own WordPress malware scanning and removal plugin, because SiteGround’s free security plan does not include malware removal.
If you are planning on hosting dozens of websites or you manage high-traffic websites, consider other hosts.
Make sure to take advantage of the heavily discounted first term and purchase the longest plan you can comfortably afford.