When you buy a SiteGround VPS hosting plan (aka SiteGround Cloud Hosting), you get CPU and RAM dedicated to your site, running on Google cloud infrastructure, but you do not have the usual command-line access to a server that you might expect.
Instead, you can treat the SiteGround VPS cloud hosting plan as if it was a shared hosting plan, and use web-based tools to install and manage software.
The normal upgrade path from shared hosting is to a VPS, where you chose the number of virtual CPUs and the amount of RAM, and that determines the price. With SiteGround Cloud Hosting, you still pick a fixed number of vCPUs and size of RAM, but you can also choose to allow autoscaling, to increase CPU or RAM if you get a spike in usage.
Why should you consider SiteGround Cloud Hosting?
If you are starting out with a WordPress site, you generally use a shared hosting plan. SiteGround’s GrowBig shared hosting plan allows you to host multiple web sites for less than $10 per month. If your needs grow, or you start getting emails about exceeding CPU limits, you can upgrade to the SiteGround GoGeek shared hosting plan for about $15 per month.
When your site grows bigger, you have to consider moving to a VPS or Cloud Hosting. No matter who you chose to host with, the cost will take a significant jump. If you move to a traditional VPS, or set up a server on AWS or Google, you will have to manage the server yourself. If you are very familiar with the Linux command line, this can be just an extra task that you take on, but if you are not a Linux expert, this can be a significant problem that will require you to hire someone to manage your server.
SiteGround Cloud Hosting is a fully managed VPS. If you have been using SiteGround shared hosting, you will use the same web tools to manage the SiteGround Cloud Hosting plan.
Setting up a WordPress site and migrating your existing site to the new one is simple and requires no command line skills!
How much does SiteGround VPS cost?
In July 2020, SiteGround VPS aka SiteGround Cloud Hosting starts at $80 per month, and goes up steeply from there. This is a significant jump from $15 per month for the most expensive shared hosting plan, but if your site requires the resources of a VPS, then hopefully you are making money from the site and can easily justify the expense.
How does the price of SiteGround Cloud Hosting compare to other VPS providers?
When you get SiteGround Cloud Hosting, you are actually getting server resources from Google. If you sign up for the Google Cloud Platform directly, you can get a server with similar specs to the Entry plan for around $55 compared to $80 from SiteGround Cloud Hosting.
However, the Google cloud platform server is a typical VPS, where you have to use the Linux command line to install an SSL certificate and all the components to run WordPress, such as the LEMP stack. You are then fully responsible for maintaining the server, taking backups, etc.
The SiteGround VPS on the other hand is a fully managed server with one-click SSL installs, simple software installs, daily backups, and on-call support. Whether that is worth the extra cost to you is a decision that only you can make.
If you want to concentrate on building your business instead of maintaining a server, SiteGround Cloud Hosting seems reasonably priced to me.
I’ll discuss some alternatives later in this post.
Pros and Cons of a SiteGround VPS
Pro: no need to use the command line to set up WordPress.
If you are not familiar with using the Linux command line, you should check out this post about setting up WordPress on a Chromebook. That post covered installing WordPress in Linux on a laptop for local use, so it did not discuss the additional steps you would need to secure a web server, install an SSL certificate, etc.
Con: no access to the command line.
SiteGround Cloud Hosting gives you a fully managed VPS which is easy to use. However, if you want a server where you have root access to the command line, this is not for you.
One of the issues with most VPS is that if your site outgrows the CPU and RAM limits that you chose, you have to become aware of this via monitoring or your site crashing, and then you have to initiate an upgrade to a larger VPS.
With SiteGround Cloud Hosting, you can activate autoscaling on CPU or RAM so that if your site gets to 75% usage of either CPU or RAM, the system will automatically upgrade your server on the fly.
Of course, you will pay for the additional resources, and the upgrade will stay in place for a month even if the spike in usage only lasts a few days, but this is a tremendous feature.
Is a SiteGround VPS fast?
I moved the contents of this site to a SiteGround VPS, and did some comparisons. This site is on a GrowBig shared hosting plan running in the same Google data center in Iowa, so the network latency is very similar.
I configured WordPress identically, with the same plugins caching in the same way.
Using “empty-cache and hard reload” to force the server to deliver a large post with quite a few images, my GrowBig site averaged 1460 ms to fully finish loading the page, while the VPS site averaged 749 ms. Very close to twice as fast.
So yes, WordPress running on a SiteGround VPS plan can be much faster than on a shared hosting plan. Which is only reasonable, since it is 8 times as expensive!
Alternatives to SiteGround VPS
If you are comfortable using the Linux command line to install WordPress and manage a server yourself, then you can get a raw VPS server from many providers like Google, AWS, Azure, or Digital Ocean, or shopping around for a cheap VPS on sites like LowEndBox.
This approach can save you money, but it is not a comparable service. Here are a few managed VPS options:
Cloudways offer a fully-managed VPS experience, similar to SiteGround Cloud Hosting, but they don’t use their own servers – instead, they let you choose between Google, AWS, Digital Ocean, Linode, and Vutr as VPS providers.
I’ll write a post another day about Cloudways – they offer one-click installs of WordPress and SSL certificates, plus a simple migration option. They also offer command-line access to the VPS, but not with root access.
Price-wise, you can get a similar-sized VPS to the SiteGround Entry plan for less cost if you chose a DigitalOcean server, but if you want a server on AWS or Google, you’ll pay about the same or more than SiteGround.
One issue I found was that the Cloudways server defaults to WordPress 5.3 and PHP 7.1. With only a little poking around in the docs, I was able to upgrade to PHP 7.3, and upgrading to WordPress 5.4 worked well, but it detracted from the overall experience to start with older software.
Amazon Web Services offers a vast array of web products, with confusing pricing which makes it relatively easy to find yourself with a huge bill at the end of a month.
Lightsail is Amazon’s fixed-price VPS offering, and they offer an option to spin up a working WordPress server with a reasonable fixed monthly price.
I hesitate to fully recommend AWS Lightsail though, since you can still get hit with additional fees for data transfer overages and you have to organize your own backups and have basically no support.
The documentation is first-rate though. This is really more of an option for someone who is quite technical, is willing to learn about AWS, and also wants to get a WordPress site up on a VPS quickly.
Step-by-step how to set up a WordPress site on SiteGround VPS
When you sign up for a SiteGround Cloud Hosting account, you get to pick the size of your VPS, starting at $80 US for a 2-cpu 4GB RAM server.
You set the sliders to the power that you think you need, paying attention to the price shown on the right. Don’t go crazy though – check out the discussion on Autoscaling below.
Next, you can customize the location and billing period:
You can click on the pencil beside the data center to chose which one you want for your VPS – the closest data center should have been chosen by default.
If you click on the Period dropdown., you can get a discount by paying for 3 or 6 months at a time.
After a few minutes, your VPS will be created, and it will appear as just another hosting plan, alongside any shared hosting plans that you already have.
When you click on ‘Set Up Site’, you have exactly the same options that you do with the shared plans, including the use of the excellent migration plugin. If you are not familiar with the SiteGround migration plugin, see this post.
When you finish setting up your site, you have a fast VPS running it, but while setting up the site, you can treat the VPS exactly like a shared hosting plan.
If you are not familiar with SiteGround, you can sign up for an inexpensive but fast SiteGround Shared Hosting plan first, and check it out. Your VPS will look just the same, but will run even faster!
Autoscaling in my opinion is one of the best features of the SiteGround Cloud Hosting plan. When you click on the ‘Manage’ button on your Cloud Hosting plan, you can access the Autoscale tab.
As the text indicates, Autoscaling is inactive by default. If you activate CPU autoscaling, then if your CPU usage reaches 75%, another CPU (or your choice of up to 38 CPUs) will be seamlessly added to your server. If the new configuration again reaches 75%, then your choice of CPUs will be added again until the system reaches your monthly cap.
You will be charged for the additional CPUs for one month, even if your CPU usage only spiked on one day.
You can activate RAM autoscaling in exactly the same way.
For example, you could sign up for the Entry plan of 2 CPUs and 4GB RAM for $80, and activate autoscaling of 1 CPU and 1 GB RAM, and set the monthly cap to 4 CPUs and 8GB RAM. That would give you a potential bill of an additional $60 if your site uses a lot of resources.
Autoscaling is something you should approach cautiously because of the potential for high costs, but if your site could experience unpredictable (but highly desirable) spikes in usage, you should definitely activate autoscaling.
Basically, I feel that anyone using SiteGround Cloud Hosting should activate autoscaling (with reasonable monthly caps), since it allows you to have the resources available for your site to grow without having to pay for a larger plan all the time.