siteground cloudways comparison

Best Web Hosting for Site Builders

Introduction

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.

SiteGround

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:

FeatureStartupGrowBigGoGeek
Recommended Monthly Visits~ 10,000 Visits~ 25,000 Visits~ 100,000 Visits
Disk Space10GB Space20GB Space30GB Space
Websites HostedOneUnlimitedUnlimited
WordPress Special CacheNoYesYes
One-click WordPress StagingNoNoYes
Pre-Installed GitNoNoYes
Free Backup RestoreNoYesYes
Free Backups on DemandNoNoYes
PCI Compliant ServersNoNoYes
Your Issues Solved With PriorityNoNoYes

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.


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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

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.

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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.

Comparison

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.

FeatureSiteGroundCloudways
SpeedGoodVery Good
PlatformShared resources / Monitored resource usage limitDedicated resources / You choose the limits
SupportMore hand holding and faster access to supportChat and forum support can sometimes be sluggish
Level of Expertise RequiredA new webmaster can figure it outMore suitable for power users, developers and those with operations experience
SecurityServer firewalls filter out known bad actorsDirectory security between sites is stronger
Domain Email HostingIncludes basic email hosting. Clunky but functionalNeed to set that up separately. Not included
Daily BackupsIncluded with GrowBig and GoGeekIncluded
On-Demand BackupsIncluded with GoGeekIncluded
Site StagingIncluded with GoGeek. Siteground's staging is betterAvailable, but not as easy to use
Pricing GotchasMust lock-in introductory discount by paying in advance. Renewal pricing is comparatively very highMonthly 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.

 

Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. You will still pay the standard amount so there is no extra cost to you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."