If you need a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a physical machine in a server facility then this article isn’t for you. For a high-level view of hosting considerations, see my previous article. In this article I look at two options for WordPress site hosting: SiteGround and Cloudways. These two options cover most small and medium site hosting requirements. My assumption in choosing these options is that you are looking for the best web hosting for site builders, not for a large corporation. I’m also assuming you don’t want to get your hands dirty with system installs, configuration, and maintenance. There are tons of hosting options out there. I’ve chosen these two because I’ve been a satisfied user of both and they have excellent reputations. Also, they are head and shoulders above most other options at similar price points, and are affordable.
I’ve used SiteGround for WordPress hosting and found they have good support and a good range of options available. They offer both PHP 7+ and free SSL certificates. Why does that matter? PHP 7+ is much faster than earlier versions of PHP and older versions of PHP are going out of support. It used to be that you only needed an SSL certificate for an ecommerce site, but now is a requirement for all websites. You need an SSL certificate or web browsers will flag your sites as being unsafe.
SiteGround shared hosting has three tiers: Startup, GrowBig, and GoGeek and the pricing scales up with the features. Here are a few of the key differences:
|Recommended Monthly Visits||~ 10,000 Visits||~ 25,000 Visits||~ 100,000 Visits|
|Disk Space||10GB Space||20GB Space||30GB Space|
|WordPress Special Cache||No||Yes||Yes|
|One-click WordPress Staging||No||No||Yes|
|Free Backup Restore||No||Yes||Yes|
|Free Backups on Demand||No||No||Yes|
|PCI Compliant Servers||No||No||Yes|
|Your Issues Solved With Priority||No||No||Yes|
I would only recommend the StartUp plan for a single “brochure” type of site. I think most builders would want to start with the GrowBig or GoGeek plans. The backup feature is a nice security blanket for the GrowBig plan, though all sites should have their own offsite backup plan. The on-demand backup feature and staging are very nice if you frequently spin up new sites, need to demo, or work on major changes without impacting the live version.
A note about hosting tons of sites on the larger tiers: though SiteGround says “unlimited,” you will want to limit the number based on how much traffic they will receive and the amount of server resources they use. SiteGround tracks the resource usage for each account based on visits, bandwidth, and CPU usage. If you consistently go over, then they will ask you to upgrade. It is sometimes hard to know in advance what your usage will be. It is nice that you can start with the middle tier and then scale up if needed. Also note that if you taking payments then you will want the higher tier because it is the one that is PCI Compliant.
When you sign up the first time at SiteGround, they offer you huge discounts. Note that that is for the first payment only. If you would like to lock in that low price for two or three years then you need to pay in advance. When it is time to renew those large discounts are not available, the introductory discount was there to help evaluate and come to know the value of the platform.
Cloudways is an interesting option. They positioned themselves between shared hosting and a VPS. Cloudways manages the server and network, leaving you to focus on your sites. While SiteGround is friendly enough for a new webmaster, Cloudways is more suitable for a power user or developer. You are in charge to figure out how many server resources you need. You choose the amount of memory, number of CPU cores, disk space, and bandwidth you will need. Once you make those choices, a virtual server is spun up and you get access to the application area where you will install your sites. As with SiteGround, it is easy to change your plan.
I switched to Cloudways because I wanted to step up from shared hosting and have more control. I’ve managed servers before, but that is a headache I don’t need as it allows me to focus on my websites and have a lot of flexibility. Also, I was fine with the speed at SiteGround, but Cloudways is faster.
Like SiteGround GoGeek, Cloudways has site caching, git, daily and on demand backups. Note though, that since it is a pay for what you use as you go along type of service, there is also a small fee for the storage space that your backups use. There is also a site staging option though it is not as feature rich or easy to use as SiteGround’s.
In this section, I want to touch on differences and things to keep in mind when deciding. A friend of mine used to comment when picking a server:
Good, Fast, Cheap. Pick Two!
Relatively speaking, both SiteGround and Cloudways are good, fast, and cheap. However, comparatively there are differences and you will need to accept some trade-offs in selecting.
|Platform||Shared resources / Monitored resource usage limit||Dedicated resources / You choose the limits|
|Support||More hand holding and faster access to support||Chat and forum support can sometimes be sluggish|
|Level of Expertise Required||A new webmaster can figure it out||More suitable for power users, developers and those with operations experience|
|Security||Server firewalls filter out known bad actors||Directory security between sites is stronger|
|Domain Email Hosting||Includes basic email hosting. Clunky but functional||Need to set that up separately. Not included|
|Daily Backups||Included with GrowBig and GoGeek||Included|
|On-Demand Backups||Included with GoGeek||Included|
|Site Staging||Included with GoGeek. Siteground’s staging is better||Available, but not as easy to use|
|Pricing Gotchas||Must lock-in introductory discount by paying in advance. Renewal pricing is comparatively very high||Monthly payments. Small amount charged for backup storage|
Best Web Hosting for Site Builders
I hope this article has gone into enough detail so you can appreciate the advantages and differences without causing confusion. When site builders are looking for the best web hosting, both SiteGround and Cloudways are good options to consider. The choice will depend on your level of server expertise and the types of sites you are hosting. I’ve seen freelancers and agencies that use both, depending on the client’s needs.