There are about as many reasons to search for a new hosting provider as there are reasons to build a website.
When the time came for me to transfer from HostGator, I had some very definite ideas about what I needed, at a minimum, from my new service provider.
For me, it was about making the pain go away.
Poor website performance and, ultimately, poor customer service had led me to take action.
Now, I’m dancing a jig over making the switch to my new web hosting provider, SiteGround.
My two biggest pain points
For months, I watched CWI’s performance slow to a crawl.
Finally, I tested the site using Pingdom’s tool, and was heartbroken to find it took as long as 60 seconds to load the Home page.
I already optimize images. So I started researching, and reading, and implementing all kinds of tweaks to try to speed things up.
I tried everything from adding and deleting plugins, moving in and out of CDN services, and installing and testing caching plugins.
Still, I couldn’t achieve page loads better than 12-14 seconds for an initial website visit, and 5-6 seconds for a returning visitor.
I felt so frustrated, because I knew I was losing tons of website visitors simply because the blog took so darn long to load in their browser.
And that discouraged me from wanting to follow through on any of the really cool opportunities that had come my way.
After all, accepting interviews or guest posting on high-traffic websites could potentially attract lots of new visitors to my site.
But, welcoming them by serving up slow-loading web pages? I just couldn’t being myself to do it.
Super-slow customer service
So here’s the back-story:
During the last week in April, I received notice from HostGator that my account had been “abusing CPU resources for an extended period of time.”
As a result, they said they would cache my site until I fixed whatever was wrong.
That was a first.
Other than trying to improve performance, I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary (at least, I thought I hadn’t).
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong then. In retrospect, I think the culprit may have been one of the plugins I use to check for broken links.
At any rate, when I logged into my cPanel, I was met with a screen that looked like this:
So, I clicked the “Remove Restriction” button, and the notice box disappeared.
Next, I checked my CPU usage over the previous 24 hours. The graph showed a short term spike that had already returned to normal.
I went back out to my cPanel Home screen, and confirmed that my Control Panel registered all “green” bars (meaning that I was well within approved usage limits). Great!
So, I logged out and went on my merry way thinking everything would be back to normal in about 12 hours (per the email they’d sent me):
Once your sites are fixed and no longer causing service issues and remains incident free for 12 hours the restrictions will be removed and your account will function normally.
Since I never received another warning, I figured there had been no more issues.
Now, fast-forward three weeks later.
I was becoming mighty disheartened to see that the simple CDN service I’d activated a few weeks earlier appeared to no longer be working (actually, improvements to my site’s performance with the service never were anything to write home about).
Once again, my web pages were taking forever to load. So, I deactivated the service.
Now, Church Website Ideas wouldn’t load at all. I kept getting these crazy 504 error messages!
I opened a support ticket to report the issue and request help. That was on May 19th at 2:30 p.m.
Having received no response by 7:00 p.m. that same day, I started a chat session at 7:16 p.m.
By the time I closed out of the session at 8:01 p.m., I’d discovered that my account was still restricted to cache form.
Are you kidding me? Then, what did clicking the “Remove Restriction” button do?
On top of that, I was told that the restriction could only be released by one of their “security administrators.”
So at 8:16 p.m., I issued a reply ticket stating that since I hadn’t been using excessive resources for more than 12 hours, the restriction should have been lifted.
I also explained what steps I’d taken three weeks prior when I first received notice of the error.
Finally, I requested (again) that they remove the restriction.
…until nearly 24 hours later, on May 20th at 6:50 p.m., when I finally received a response: they had removed the suspension from my account, “having monitored my resource usage and found it to be satisfactory.”
No mention of their oversight. No apology offered for taking three weeks to remove a restriction that should have come off after 12 hours.
And, at the time of this writing, I still haven’t received the refund I’m due (yes, it’s been more than a month, and I’ve followed up twice).
Okay. No problem.
On to the next.
Where to go from here
A slow website and poor customer support weren’t the only reasons I decided to transfer from HostGator.
Honestly, I just couldn’t be bothered anymore with managing the minutiae of keeping WordPress secure and updated, and trying to figure out how to do the things that make for a fast website.
I can’t spend endless hours researching and testing caching and security services and plugins for my website. Not to mention staying on top of how to plug up and guard against newly discovered WordPress vulnerabilities.
That’s a full-time job. One that a quality, managed WordPress hosting provider would square away for me.
That’s why, above all, my new provider had to specialize in WordPress hosting. A managed WordPress hosting provider would offer features, benefits, and expertise unique to maintaining WordPress websites.
I also needed my new provider to offer the following benefits, at a minimum:
- Responsive, out-of-this-world customer support
- Optimized servers for lightening fast website access
- Enhanced security against malware and DDOS attacks
- Automatic software updates
- Daily monitoring
- Small-budget friendly
Traditional Shared Hosting vs Managed WordPress Hosting
Now, before going further into what SiteGround offers, I just wanted to help the uninitiated understand the differences between traditional shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting.
And, if you’re using WordPress or thinking of moving to it, what benefits you’ll enjoy by hosting your website with a managed WordPress hosting provider.
What is Shared Hosting?
Church Marketing Sucks published an article that offers some great advice for choosing the right web hosting for your church. I thought their description of traditional shared hosting was spot-on:
Shared hosting is the most common form of hosting used by churches, primarily because it’s the easiest and cheapest. With shared hosting, you share a single server with hundreds (sometimes thousands) of different websites. That’s why it is so much cheaper than other types of hosting.
- Cheapest option
- Easy to set up
- Usually comes with a control panel (cPanel, Plesk, etc.) with one-click installers for popular web applications and CMSs
- Many options for “unlimited” storage and bandwidth
- You get what you pay for
- Sharing resources with hundreds of other websites on the same server
- One of those websites could compromise the entire server, leaving you vulnerable even if you do everything right
- Resource hogs slow down every other website on the server, including yours
- Not always running up-to-date versions of needed tools like PHP, MySQL and Apache, which opens you up to bugs, security vulnerabilities or being stuck on an outdated version of your CMS
- “Unlimited” does not really mean “unlimited.” Read the fine print.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress Hosting is a “specialty” service whereby a provider takes care of all the technical aspects of running a WordPress website for you.
While traditional web hosting focuses on providing a generic platform for any type of website, a managed WordPress host focuses only on supporting WordPress.
This type of hosting solution is meant to offer a convenient, completely hassle-free experience.
But, as is often the case, “convenience” comes at a price. That’s one of the common “cons” of using a managed WordPress hosting solution.
However, there are some key features which make managed WordPress hosting a smart solution despite the cost.
A few of these benefits include:
- Systems and software enhanced for WordPress so that you don’t have to worry about server optimization
- Automatic WordPress updates so you can focus on your ministry rather than site maintenance
- Automatic backups ensure that you always have a copy of the current version of your website in case disaster strikes
- Built in development tools make staging and testing out new features simple
- Integrated Content Delivery Network (CDN) systems ensure maximum speed and performance of your WordPress website
What sets SiteGround Managed WordPress Hosting apart?
If you’re considering managed WordPress hosting, you have a number of providers from which to choose.
I’m working with a small budget. So, for now, I needed a provider who combines the robust features of a managed WordPress host with shared-host pricing.
And, that’s one of great things that sets SiteGround apart for managed WordPress hosting.
They offer the best of both worlds for budget-conscious website owners.
To demonstrate SiteGround’s amazing combination of premium features at value pricing, here’s how they turn a few the above Shared Hosting “cons” into “pros”:
You get what you pay for
No, you don’t. You get much more, as you’ll soon see.
One of those websites could compromise the entire server, leaving you vulnerable even if you do everything right
SiteGround was the first to implement a unique mechanism that isolates server accounts from one another. Their unique isolation technology prevents a single vulnerable account from affecting the whole server. This revolutionary approach makes their shared hosting environment as secure as the much more expensive dedicated solutions they offer.
Resource hogs slow down every other website on the server, including yours
Resource management and site speed are priorities at SiteGround. Here’s just a few of the features and techniques they use to ensure peak performance of their client’s websites:
- Use the latest & best technology
- Store databases on faster disks
- Utilize dynamic caching based on Nginx (GrowBig & GoGeek plans)
- Data centers on 3 continents & free CDN with 34 locations
- All server-side software is optimized for speed
Not always running up-to-date versions of needed tools like PHP, MySQL and Apache, which opens you up to bugs, security vulnerabilities or being stuck on an outdated version of your CMS
SiteGround makes sure they’re always running the latest version of software on their servers. That ensures their clients (like me) stay safe and protected from the countless vulnerabilities outdated software leaves you exposed to.
Another thing to consider is that popular server software like Apache, PHP, etc. is a regular target of hacker attacks. Many providers wait for the software’s developers to patch the software when vulnerabilities occur.
SiteGround takes a proactive approach. They monitor and detect security exploits, and develop and apply server-level fixes to plug up vulnerabilities immediately.
That protects their clients (like me) from prolonged exposure to vulnerabilities.
After spending some time on their website, and seeing all they had to offer, I had a hunch these guys might be just what the doctor ordered.
After asking around a few of the Facebook Groups I belong to, there was no doubt. These guys fit the bill!
The transfer from HostGator to SiteGround
Immediately after signing up with SiteGround, I needed help. I was turning cartwheels over how responsive and helpful they are!
I’ve seen them described as having “the friendliest support on Earth.” I’ve got to agree. Hands down, theirs is the best support I’ve ever experienced with a web host provider.
I was already several hours into moving CWI myself, when I realized that I could simply ask them to do it. Having opted for their GrowBig Shared Hosting plan, I could have them transfer my site from HostGator.
Initially, I also wanted Multisite enabled. So, Simeon and Delyan moved my website for me, and enabled Multisite.
Totally painless, and all for free! All that was left for me to do was update my DNS records with my domain registrar.
Now, my site is lightening fast!
Super, human customer support
That brings me to one of my favorite things about SiteGround: how personal their customer support truly is. In the five years I was with HostGator, I’d never seen anyone’s face.
SiteGround’s Customer Center is set up very differently. Not only do you get to see the face of every person who helps you, but every one of their profiles contains a short bio.
So, the very first guy who helped me, I knew what he looked like, when he came to SiteGround, what he thinks about his work there, and what some of his favorite things to do are when he’s not working.
A REAL human being was helping me.
And, if we were somehow “disconnected” or if I needed help after our session was done, I only had to ask for him when opening a new chat session, and he’d be right there.
As it happens, I got to test that. Sure enough, he was right there to pick up where we’d left off.
You also have the option of “filling in” your own profile, so that those who help you can enjoy the benefit of seeing you, too. I was inspired to add my picture to my profile.
It’s funny how a small thing like being able to see a person’s face—even, an image—can transform the online experience.
Getting started with SiteGround
Whether you’re in the market for a traditional shared hosting provider, or want to opt for managed WordPress hosting, I’m happy to recommend SiteGround.
Getting started with them is easy.
Step 1: Choose your hosting plan
SiteGround offers three Shared Hosting plans:
- The StartUp plan is perfect for small churches with one website, or that are just getting started with WordPress.
- The GrowBig plan (the plan I chose for Church Website Ideas) is a great value for the money. This plan comes with free website transfer and SuperCacher, a website optimization solution that greatly improves the speed of WordPress websites.
- The GoGeek plan is for churches in need of more geeky development features like staging and GIT integration.
Step 2: Choose your domain
Every SiteGround hosting account comes with a free domain name for life.
If you want to register a domain name with SiteGround, here’s where you do it. If you prefer to use an existing domain with your new account, simply select, “I already have a Domain,” and enter your domain name.
Step 3: Review and complete purchase
It’s worth noting that SiteGround is one of a very few web hosting providers that offers their lowest advertised price on EVERY period during the initial sign-up.
In other words, you’re not boxed in to registering for the longest period in order to receive their lowest advertised discount.
Step 4: (Optional) Have them move your existing site
With their GrowBig and GoGeek plans, SiteGround will transfer your existing website FOR FREE. There are some restrictions, so be sure to read the Terms of Service first.
If I can answer them, based on my experience with SiteGround, I’m happy to.
Fire away with a Comment below.