I Moved My Website to SiteGround

If you asked me last week what I’d be doing this weekend in my spare time, it’d have told you I’d be writing. I’m neck deep writing a new book right now and having a ton of fun. But when my website started burning, I couldn’t ignore it. These past few weeks, Dreamhost has been taking a nosedive in terms of performance for my sites. At first, I thought I nailed it, but the further I dug, the more troublesome things were. After several tech support chats and nights of tossing and turning sleep, I decided to give them the heave ho and move all my operations to SiteGround.

Yep, you read that right. After being with Dreamhost for 25 years (yes, that long), I needed to switch. Over the past few months, Dreamhost started having random multi hour site outages. While no provider is unaccustomed to that from time to time, it was happening far too much for me.

What happened?

This past week, though, things came to a head. After a supposed database issue (and resolution) I started paying more attention to my site load times. Needless to say, I was shocked how bad they’d gotten. While Divi is no lightweight theme on WordPress, it’s wonderful for what it does, and I would rather not roll my site by hand. For about a week straight, I was seeing 8 second to 120 second load times. Yes, you read that right, 2 minutes! No site should be any more than 3-4 seconds to load, and ideally 1-2 seconds is the bar you want to shoot for. Dreamhost hadn’t been that low in a while, so I dug in to see if I could fix it.

At first, their support was super helpful, and we thought we nailed it when they found signs of numerous background processes running on my shared instance. Some bad WordPress plugins run long processes to get and report status, thereby bogging down your site for every user. I turned that feature off at the site level, and at first, that seemed to help. I merely had to set up a crontab to run every 5-10 minutes to execute the same processes, but rather than affecting every user, it would only hit that automated cron.

Fast-forward to the next morning, I loaded my site, and it took about 35 seconds to come up. What the hell! That’s not a fix. So, I dug in again and rooted around in many dark corners of my site, only to find something horrible. When it hit me, I was stupefied. I hadn’t realized how bad Dreamhost’s shared hosting service had gotten the past few years. They’ve focused the efforts as a company on their other products, and I hadn’t paid attention. I’d lost focus on my hosting provider. To me, I’d always simply paid my legacy rate and never thought for a second to change or see if what I was getting was worth it. I blindly trusted them to do the right thing. Only when performance was bad did it open my eyes to see I wasn’t getting what I was paying for.

What does this mean?

You see, I was on their legacy Code Monster plan (grandfathered in from years of usage) and I was paying about $250 annually for all my domains (12 at last count). Yes, I know I was stupid for not looking sooner. There is still a silly part of me that would have felt better if Dreamhost had reached out to me and told me I could get more for what I was paying. But they didn’t, and now I feel used.

Customer service is dead, and my eyes are open. Though, I will say one thing. When I asked their customer service agent in chat if I was overpaying, they said yes. Kudos for them for not lying.

What came next was my usual paralysis of analysis when I tackle something, be it software, computers, or in this case, hosting providers. After narrowing the field in the start, it was coming down to SiteGround, Pressable, and Flywheel. I kept my price point on or about the same. Sure, I’d like to save more $$$ but I also want performance and features. I don’t only have one domain, and I like geeking out on my sites from time to time.

To be honest, any of these providers would be great for someone looking for high-quality WordPress hosting. They’re all blazing fast, recommended by Divi to run their products, and have great modern managed host tooling. These options really are the top of the WordPress hosting providers in terms of speed and quality. There is only one host that’s faster, but their prices were sky-high, and I eliminated them from my field. That was WP Engine.

The biggest factor for me between all the hosting providers was not being able to run multiple domains without the price shooting up. While only one of my domains receives most of my traffic, I have some subdomains I run custom routing on. They handle all the back-matter for my books, as well as newsletter traffic. The only hosting provider that gave me these configuration options in my budget was SiteGround, and they did it in spades.

They’re coming in for the first year really cheap at $4.99 a month on their GrowBig plan, with that changing to $24.99 a month after the first year. Paying annually gives me 2 months free, so that comes in spot on my budget. If you’re interested, they do have a cheaper tier as well, so take a look. Furthermore, if you don’t want WordPress, they do other hosting as well at affordable rates.

With the price being on target, the rest of my decision came down to features. Their WordPress migration worked on the first try, which was a worry I had. Remember, my site is old (but kept up to date by me). Add to that they have an easy-to-use and modern site management UI, local file management, ssh support, built in automatic backups, responsive chats with support (I had a few), and more. I’ve been truly ecstatic with all the features they offer. They even have a free tier for their CDN I’m trying out that makes my WordPress content cached globally and results in stupid fast speeds. Win-win!

How fast is stupid fast?

On Dreamhost’s Shared WordPress, I was at a C or D score for speed and time to first interactive, and that was on a better day the past few weeks with 4 second or so load times. On SiteGround, after running through a few rounds of optimizations using SiteGround SG Optimize WordPress plugin, I came in with a solid A. Even before those optimizations I was at an A- in case you were wondering. What does that translate into for real-world use? Anywhere from sub-second to 1.5 seconds load time. Amazing, right? It’s a night and day from my old site. Below is the scoring from GTmetrix site scoring tool.

SeanWillson.com GTmetric Site Score

Pretty sweet right?

I know this was a longer post. I was considering doing some tooling screenshots as well, but I’ll save that for later if people are interested. In the end, I’m thrilled with my new site and have migrated all my domains and services to SiteGround. The only thing left over at Dreamhost are my domain registrations, but I’m looking at alternatives to those as well.

While this article is 100% my doing, if you’re interested in WordPress hosting and want to give SiteGround a try, you can click the banner on the right or use this referral link. I’ll get a referral fee at no cost to you.

Also, if you’re into science fiction, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter using the link at the bottom of this page or download one of my books. Remember, Dark Nebula Isolation is FREE on all the major retailers or directly from me.

Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for hosting suggestions, drop me an email, I’d love to chat and help if I can. You can use the links at the bottom of this blog or drop a comment below.

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