The Beauty of Feedback
When someone does something wrong, tell it to them (in a constructive way); and when they do something well, tell it to them too. This principle has been guiding me along my career. Today I’ll put this principle into practice once again. In today’s blog I’ll give a big “thumbs up” to a company whose services this blog has been relying on, for the past years: SiteGround. This article is dedicated to the SiteGround Web Hosting service.
What Is SiteGround Used For?
SiteGround is a web-hosting company founded in 2004 in Sofia, Bulgaria, servicing more than 2,000,000 domains worldwide. Its key services are web-hosting, email hosting and domain registration. Personally, I think it’s great to see a company from a small country becoming so successful internationally (Bulgaria’s population is only 7 million, approximately). Do not let the company’s origin fool you; SiteGround operates as a global firm, serving clients worldwide, and it is seen as a strong player in its market.
What Web-Hosting Means
Simply stated, whenever you want to launch a website, you need to register the domain name (e.g. insightsunboxed.com), and you need to host your content on some server (i.e. web-hosting).
In theory, you could set up a small server in your own home, and run the website from that server. But for most people, this is not a good approach. First, because they do not have the technical skills to set up this IT environment. And second, because they wouldn’t be able to guarantee the availability of the service. Think for example what to do when you’re on holiday, and the computer on which your un the server crashes, or there is some interruption in the electricity network. Therefore, most people use the services of SiteGround or another web-hosting service provider, who will remove this worry from you, in return for a monthly fee. By the way, the service of registering your domain name is referred to as “registrar service”.
Which Web-Hosting Is Best?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Each person can decide which provider is the best for him or her. I can only give my own opinion, based on my own experience:
- I have done my own research in advance (before launching the websiteinsightsunboxed.com); this research resulted in selecting SiteGround as my preferred web-hosting provider
- Ever since I have started using SiteGround (roughly two years ago), I’ve only become a bigger fan.
If you do not want to read the full story, but you just want the bottom line, here it is: SiteGround service is very client-centric, and they make life very easy for their clients; they unburden their clients. That’s why SiteGround is my big winner in the market of web hosting providers. If you are interested in the details, read further.
Before continuing, we need to sketch the context of this discussion: Web Hosting for Small Businesses vs. Large Businesses. The service that I refer to in this blog is a shared hosting service, i.e. such that different users (clients) share the same physical server infrastructure, without having dedicated server capacity for each user. For such a service, SiteGround and competitors target primarily small businesses and individuals who have websites (e.g. blogs). Larger companies are likely to require dedicated IT infrastructure, they may have an own IT department and may impose SLA requirements that shared hosting services do not provide.
Why I Initially Selected SiteGround?
Spoiler alert: the reasons why I have initially selected SiteGround were good enough to “hire” them, yet they still underemphasize the power of SiteGround’s service. Read further to understand why now (as an experienced client) I’m recommending SiteGround.
When preparing my website, I had to make a choice for a Web-Hosting provider. In fact, the easiest choice would have been to stay with the small, local provider whose services I’ve been using for several years already to host my previous website. In his theory “Jobs to be done”, the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen argued that it’s not easy to get someone to “fire” their existing provider because people stick to their habits. And indeed, the old provider did a good job for a realistic price (not the cheapest, but reasonable). But throughout the years I haven’t maintained the website much, meaning that I hardly needed to rely on the provider’s support. As I was about to launch a new website, I knew I’d need more technical support. Also, knowing that I have a full-time job, it was realistic to assume that I’d regularly be spending time on the blog in the weekend, and hence… I needed a service provider who was available for support in the weekend. My old provider was a small company, offering support only during working hours. And hence I “fired” them, in Christensen’s terminology.
I performed my own research, comparing various providers of web hosting services. I compared, for example SiteGround vs HostGator, and SiteGround vs GoDaddy (both HostGator and GoDaddy offer competitive pricing), but also SiteGround vs Squarespace (a competitor that targets the more artistic audience, for a higher price).
The initial comparison considered objective criteria, but you’ll find that many providers offer similar services in terms of: the number of websites you can host, the amount of web space, the underlying database, security features, availability SLA, Integration with popular 3rd party solutions (e.g. WordPress) etc.
And so the next “test” was to contact the Customer Service (Support) teams of several providers, and obtain a more personal impression of the service. Many people do not realize how important a Customer Service agent can be for a client’s choice; never underestimate this! Armed with a set of in-depth questions about the service, I contacted the customer service of my “shortlisted” providers via online chat or phone, and engaged in a discussion with them. And this is how SiteGround won my business.
First, the agent of SiteGround was responsive. As opposed to agents of competing services who took sometimes 5-10 minutes to respond to a chat question (leaving me with the impression that they were chatting with multiple clients at the same time, and that my time is not important for them), the SiteGround agent was responsive, and there was a real interaction between us. Every question was followed by an immediate answer, showing that the agent was concentrated on the chat with me.
Second, the agent of SiteGround understood all my questions. It may seem obvious, but if you have experience with outsourced customer service centers or shared service centers, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you need to explain every question two or three times to the agent before they understand the question (let alone answer it). It may be due to a language barrier, or lack of knowledge, or other reasons. The bottom line is: it’s very annoying when you need to explain your question a few times to the agent who is supposed to be the expert. I never had to explain a question to SiteGround support; some other providers failed the test here.
Third, the agent of SiteGround gave good, detailed answers, and did so quickly. He demonstrated that he knows the material well. Support staff of competitors failed here too. Either they had to spend long minutes searching for the answer, or they gave an answer that I was able to prove incorrect (e.g. by referring them to information on their own website that contradicted what they were saying), or they gave general answers that lacked the details that I was looking for.
And therefore it was the Customer Service agent of SiteGround who had won my business.
Who Is The Best Web Hosting Company? Or: Why SiteGround Is The Best (For Me)?
The short answer is: quality, quality, quality.
The service of a web-hosting provider is commoditized, to a certain extent. This means that there are multiple providers in the market, all offering very similar services for similar prices. Brought to its essence, the service relies on having some servers, and allowing multiple users to use certain capacities on these servers. There are no major entry barriers (e.g. IP rights, know-how, unique technology) that can protect the position of existing players in this market. All the providers out there offer similar services, and differentiation by price is quite hard, as big players have already brought down the prices to a reasonable level. A main way to differentiate yourself is therefore with the quality of the service. But how do you define and measure quality? Here’s my own analysis.
Given that SiteGround targets primarily small businesses and individuals who run websites but lack strong technical capabilities, SiteGround correctly identified how to become successful: a client-centric service that makes life easy for client.
Think again about the profile of many SiteGround clients. These are not very technical people, yet they need to face “scary” technical matters such as alias domains, domain redirects, Add-on domains, WordPress installation, plugins, HTML, user admin, email setup, FTP servers and more. The beauty of SiteGround service is that if the client feels comfortable enough to do these things by himself/herself, the online platform offers all the tools to do so; but if the client prefers that these settings are taken care of, the SiteGround service agent will do it for you. Especially when these changes are necessary only irregularly, you may not want to learn and remember how to handle all these settings, in which case it is very handy when the agent asks you: “do you want me to do it for you?”.
During the last couple of years I’ve contacted the SiteGround support agents numerous times. In an overwhelming majority of the case (I think there was just one exception), I found that:
- The agent responded quickly: the support agent is always dedicated to one client, and does not multi-task, chatting to several clients at the same time.
- The agent was knowledgeable: I have asked agents a large variety of questions, ranging from technical questions (e.g. how to set a wide range of settings; how to do migrations, how to connect to other service providers) to account management and financial questions (e.g., billing/invoicing). In all cases, the agent was able to give good answers, demonstrating that they are knowledgeable about the services. If the agent did not actually know all the answers, they were able to find the answers very quickly in the knowledge base of SiteGround (so that to me it seemed that they knew the answer).
- My problem was solved, or my question was answered: the goal for which I contacted the support service has always been achieved. I received the information that I needed, and/or I completed the task that I was trying to complete.
- The agent made solving the problem easy for me: While all the above items are important, what really makes the difference, in my view, is that the SiteGround support service unburdens the clients. They do not just answer your questions with information on how to solve the problem (and leave it up to you to do it), but rather they pro-actively ask you if you want them to do it for you, and if you give them the green light, they do it on-the-fly, removing the need for you to learn how to engage in the more technical sides of hosting a website.
Why Choose SiteGround? Conclusion
Getting back to the theory “Jobs to be done” by HBR professor Clayton Christensen (if you haven’t read his book Competing Against Luck, that’s another recommendation for you!), SiteGround understands the job that the client tries to get done. They do not just offer a web-hosting service (i.e. their core product), but rather they offer a solution to get the client’s job done: run a website without the need for technical skills. The fact that this behavior has been consistent in numerous interactions with many different Customer Support agents at SiteGround shows that SiteGround successfully embedded a mentality of “unburdening the client” in its organization. It is this understanding of their clients’ jobs that makes the SiteGround service so superior, in my view. And hence my recommendation.
For those who have some more detailed questions about SiteGround and about Web Hosting, below I provide a short Q&A section.
Q&As Concerning SiteGround and Web Hosting
What Type of Hosting Services does SiteGround Offer?
SiteGround offers three main options: shared hosting, cloud hosting and enterprise solutions. Share hosting is intended for the large audiences who run small websites without very strict availability or performance requirements, such that they do not require dedicated server capacity. Instead, they can share server capacity with other users. The current blog refers to shared hosting services. Cloud hosting is intended for clients who do require dedicated server capacity. And Enterprise Solutions are the high-end hosting services in SiteGround’s portfolio. As opposed to the shared hosting services and the cloud hosting services which are “off the shelf” service packages, Enterprise Solutions are bespoke service packages, that are tailored to the specific needs of clients whose needs are too complex to be met by pre-defined service packages.
Where Are SiteGround Servers Located? Where is SiteGround Hosted?
SiteGround has 6 data centers in 6 countries, such that each client can decide in which region they want to host their website: the United States, the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Australia and Singapore.
Where Is SiteGround Based?
SiteGround’s headquarters are based in Sofia, Bulgaria. The company has offices in Bulgaria and in Spain.
Which Web Hosting Is Best For WordPress?
WordPress is such a popular platform, that it’s probably safe to say that all serious web hosting providers offer smooth integration with WordPress. I’d say that if any provider does not offer such smooth integration, it’s a clear reason not to use their services.
Can I Switch Web Hosting Companies?
Yes, you can always switch web hosting companies. But you’ll need to arrange a smooth migration, to avoid that your website is down. If you do not have the technical skills to do this yourself, you’d better have someone help you. Based on my experience with SiteGround, I would trust their support staff to help you do a smooth migration from your current provider to SiteGround.
Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, by Clayton M. Christensen