I use SiteGround as my global hosting provider and have been a happy customer for many years now. I’ve found customer support deals with any issues on my site and fixes problems quickly.
I will delve into some of the secrets of using SiteGround that casual users may not be aware of. I’ll explain ways to use SiteGround when hosting content for a global audience.
I’m not going to talk about setting up a basic website using SiteGround, I’ve covered creating a WordPress website using SiteGround before.
Table of Contents
- Secrets to maximize performance of your site using SiteGround tools
- Ultrafast PHP
- Use SiteGround CDN (Content Delivery Network)
- SiteGround Optimizer plugin (for WordPress websites)
- SiteGround PHP memory limit
- SiteGround CPU limit and CPU usage
- Secrets to improving security of your site using SiteGround tools
- SiteGround Prices
- SiteGround Cloud Hosting
- Final Thoughts
Secrets to maximize performance of your site using SiteGround tools
Speeding up your website and serving content fast as important for your visitors. The good news is you can quickly implement changes to speed up your site. Let’s explain how…
SiteGround has Ultrafast PHP which is up to 30% faster than standard PHP.
Ultrafast PHP will significantly cut the time until first byte (TTFB). Faster loading times is good for your visitors and is a ranking factor for Google. Make sure you enable Ultrafast PHP in the PHP Manager section of SiteGround (it’s under the Dev section).
Ultrafast PHP uses less memory than the standard version of PHP meaning you can serve more queries than normal.
To take advantage of Ultrafast PHP you need to be on the GrowBig or higher plans.
You also get to manage automatic updates of PHP which you should enable for security reasons.
Hackers will exploit security issues in older versions of PHP. To protect your site from hackers keep all of your software up to date, that includes:
- WordPress or other blogging software
WordPress users have to be careful, the software is popular and used on many websites so will be a prime target for hackers and spammers.
I’ll tell you more about security in a moment but first let’s talk about CDN and why you want to enable it.
Enable Ultrafast PHP in the PHP Manager section of SiteGround
Use SiteGround CDN (Content Delivery Network)
First I need to explain what a CDN is and why you should use one.
No matter how fast your server is you cannot deliver content quickly to the other side of the planet. The only way to deliver content quickly is to have servers near where the request originates from. That’s what a CDN does.
Your content is cached on servers around the world and will be delivered to the browser from the nearest server. This happens transparently, you don’t need to worry how this happens – it just does.
SiteGround CDN locations (November 2022, check SiteGround data centers for latest information):
- Tokyo (Japan)
- Sydney (Australia)
- Warsaw (Poland)
- Hamina (Finland)
- London (England)
- Frankfurt (Germany)
- Madrid (Spain)
- Eemshaven (Netherlands)
- Sao Paulo (Brazil)
- Council Bluffs (Iowa, US)
- Moncks Corner (South Carolina, US)
- The Dalles (Oregon, US)
- Los Angeles (California, US)
- Ashburn (Virginia, US)
- Dallas (Texas, US)
Your content will have high availability and low latency. Data centers run on 100% renewable energy.
SiteGround CDN requires use of SiteGround centralized DNS
The SiteGround CDN service can be activated only if you use SiteGround DNS servers. This means for your DNS records you need to set the name servers to:
I found that out the hard way. Then from your SiteGround account select your website, click Site Tools -> Speed -> CDN. From the Domain drop down select your website domain and activate the CDN service.
The free CDN service will cache all your static content, this includes:
- CSS files
- JS files
- static HTML pages
- PDF files
WordPress pages will not be cached by the CDN because each page is generated dynamically.
All SiteGround plans support the use of a free CDN service. You can purchase a premium CDN plan which will further boost your website speed.
Premium SiteGround CDN plan
What’s the difference between the free CDN service and the Premium service?
Unlimited CDN traffic per month
The free plan is limited to 10GB of data per month. That’s fine for small websites but for larger more popular websites you may need more bandwidth.
Cache dynamic content
This is important. This means your main website pages are cached and served from the CDN. This is NOT the case with the free CDN service.
This will boost your website speed globally meaning your can rank highly for keywords in many different countries not just where you server is located. For website owners who need global hosting this is important and is worth paying the small amount extra for the premium service.
Custom settings for TTL (Time To Live)
Your cached content will be stored for 12 hours by default on the free CDN service. For the premium CDN service you can select between 6, 12 and 24 hours. For websites with mostly static content such as blog sites you want to set this to 24 hours.
This will keep your website online even when your website is not available as long as the CDN has a cached copy of the site stored.
SiteGround Premium CDN Price
At the time of writing the premium CDN service cost $7.49/month excl VAT (November 2022). You will need to have an existing SiteGround account first then add the CDN service and upgrade to the Premium version.
Imagine one of your blog articles becomes popular or is shared on social media and you get a flood of traffic to your site. Without a CDN service your entire website could go down because you couldn’t handle the traffic. This happens to small websites that suddenly get a lot of traffic. A CDN in this case would keep your website up.
Enable CDN service, available on all plans
To rank highly for keywords globally consider using the Premium CDN service
SiteGround Optimizer plugin (for WordPress websites)
You can download and install the SiteGround Optimizer plugin here: https://www.siteground.com/wordpress-plugins/siteground-optimizer. This plugin is used by over 1,000,000+ website owners and is free.
With just a few clicks you can boost the speed of your website. The Optimizer plugin supports three different types of caching for your website:
- Dynamic Caching – cache the entire page for fast TTFB (Time To First Byte)
- File-Based Caching – static HTML version of your website
- Memcached – Stores your more common database queries in memory
Just turn on the switches as shown below in the screenshot to start caching your content. For the File-Based Caching you can configure how long to cache content from 12 hours up to one week.
In the Caching section you have the following caching options:
- Automatic Purge (Recommended) – purges cache based on your WordPress usage
- Manual Cache Purge – a button to delete all your cached content
- Exclude specific URLs from caching – use for pages with dynamic content
- Exclude post types from caching
Turn on all caching options on your website
You can manually exclude specific URLs on a case by case basis
Optimize WordPress Environment
The first two options are really security related issues, I include them here because they appear in the Optimizer plugin.
You may have an SSL certificate installed but if a visitor accesses an unsecured URL it will be displayed without using encryption. The fix is to force use of SSL even when the unsecured URL is requested.
The Fix Insecure Content dynamically rewrites some requests to point to the secure version of that file (it could be images, CSS or JS files).
The next option cleans up your database and stops it getting bloated which will slow down your website over time.
Turn on HTTP Enforce, Fix Insecure Content and Scheduled Database Maintenance
The following optimizations are offered:
- Minify CSS files – compress individual CSS files
- Combine CSS files – bundle multiple CSS files into a single CSS file
- Preload combined CSS file – informs browser to load CSS file as soon as possible
- Minify HTML output
- Optimize Web Fonts – preload fonts, optimize loading of Google Fonts
- Disable Emojis
- DNS Pre-fetch for external domains
Turn on all frontend optimizations
Turn off caching before settings these options to check they don’t cause issues on your website. Don’t forget to turn caching back on afterwards.
Images can be a major source of slow loading pages for your website. Many website owners don’t spend any time optimizing images resulting in major performance issues that can impact their website ranking positions, engagement rate and bounce rates.
Some of the main issues with images are:
- Dimensions of images are too large resulting in horizontal scrolling on mobile devices
- File size of images are too large resulting in slow loading pages
- Wrong format used for images resulting in excessive file size and slow loading pages
Two compression settings are offered by the Optimizer plugin:
- Image Compression (Recommended)
- Use WebP Images (Recommended)
For image compression you can select from a number of different compression levels:
- None (not recommended)
- 60% (recommended)
The more you compression the image the smaller the file size and the quickly the image will load. The downside is the quality of the image will be degraded. You will have to decide the balance between speed and image quality.
WebP is a new image format that gives better compression of images without losing image quality. It’s support by all modern browsers.
Turn on Image Compression and Use WebP images.
Image compression of 60% is recommended for most websites
SiteGround PHP memory limit
PHP has a variable called
memory_limit, this variable cannot be changed. If you need more memory on your server you can upgrade your SiteGround hosting plan.
SiteGround CPU limit and CPU usage
To maximize the number of CPU seconds for your server and the maximum process time your code is allowed to run without timing out you can upgrade your hosting plan. The GoGeek plan gives you the most generous CPU execution times, more simultaneous connections and up to 400,000 monthly visits.
Secrets to improving security of your site using SiteGround tools
The internet is a dangerous place. Every year more hackers, spammers, spoofers and ransomware gangs appear.
All of which can cause serious, and maybe even irreparable damage to your reputation. Some companies after they are hacked never recover. Even if you do it will be difficult for your former customers to trust you again.
You can host your website on a cheap hosting service but – you get what you pay for. How much is your reputation worth?
Let’s look into ways you can protect yourself when you host your website on SiteGround.
SiteGround Spam Protection
SiteGround uses an AI based Bot Protection system. Each hour it protects against 500,000 to 2 million brute-force attempts to hack SiteGround servers. Brute force attacks are automated attempts to log in to websites by guessing usernames and passwords.
Hackers use lists of passwords from compromised websites and use them to try and break into other systems. The assumption is that a user will use the same password on multiple websites. You would be surprised how many users have common and easily guessed passwords such as “password”, “password123”, “123456” and so on.
SiteGround SSL Manager
SSL standard for Secure Sockets Layer and means your website traffic will be encrypted. This is important for privacy ensuring no-one can spy on communications between the visitor and the website.
Image you are in a coffee shop using your laptop over the Wifi connection. Viewing a website without encryption every page you view, every log in you make, every form you fill in is publicly viewable to someone who is also using that Wifi connection.
Google expects websites to use SSL, not doing so will hurt your ranking position in Google.
Luckily, SiteGround makes it easy to create and install an SSL certificate for your website.
Let’s Encrypt certificates are free and can be installed from the SSL Manager. You can install for just your website or select the Let’s Encrypt Wildcard option to install for all your subdomains.
From the actions mention you can select Enforce HTTPS that will ensure all requests are routed to your secure website. That’s all you need to know for using SSL.
SiteGround Blocked Traffic
Improve performance on your site and block bad actors from hacking or spamming your site. You can even block entire countries! If you don’t do business in a country and hacking and spamming attempts are common go ahead and block traffic entirely from that country.
You can also block individual IP addresses or a range of IP addresses.
You can manage your block lists and easily remove them from this page.
It’s impossible to guarantee you won’t be hacked. It’s good to have an insurance policy by backing up your website frequently.
SiteGround will automatically create daily backups of your website. Backups are kept for 30 days for Shared Plans and 7 days for Cloud Hosting plans.
You can restore a backup from the menu. Select from the Actions dropdown for the specific backup you want to restore. Your restore options are:
- Restore All Files and Databases
- Restore Files
- Restore Databases
- Restore Emails
For GrowBig and GoGeek plans you get 5 On-demand Backup copies that allows you to make an instant copy of your website. Use this option to backup before upgrading your website.
Create a manual backup before deploying changes to your website
SiteGround Security Plugin (for WordPress websites)
You can download and install the SiteGround Security plugin here: https://www.siteground.com/wordpress-plugins/siteground-security.
It’s free so make sure you have it installed on your WordPress website. It hardens your website making it more difficult for hackers to attack it. Here is a list of some of the steps it takes:
- Hide your WordPress Version
- Disable Themes & Plugins Editor
- Disable RSS & ATOM feeds
- Delete the Readme.html
- Advanced protection against hackers (lock and protect system folders, disable XML-RPC)
- Hardens your security login (enables 2FA, uses custom login page, limits login attempts)
- Keeps detailed activity log (block and unblock suspicious IP addresses)
- Enables post-hack actions (reinstall plugins, reset password, log out users)
From the activity list page you can see a list of activities on your website. From the activity list report you can see:
- Timestamp – date and time of the activity
- Visitor Type – can be Human, bot (Google, Bing or other), Registered (logged in user)
- IP Address
- Page Visited
- Server Response – 200 means OK, 404 means page wasn’t found, other codes are possible
- Actions – Manage IP Traffic (use this to block the IP Address) or View Activity
The report can get long and most of the activities are normal so it’s best to filter the report to see activities that are suspicious. For instance “Unknown” visitor types and response code of 404 (this means page wasn’t found).
Hackers like to look for compromised files on your server, either from plugins with known software bugs or themes or even your WordPress install (or other software you have installed).
In the screenshot below is a filtered list for “Unknown” visitor types. The activity listed is suspicious since it is trying to access a page that doesn’t exist.
Block suspicious activity by banning the IP address. This will block all future requests from that IP address. You can see a blocked IP address from the activity log page and unblock them if needed. This can help cut down on unwanted activity on your server.
Blocking the IP Address is easy, just click the Actions drop down list and select “Manage IP Traffic”, you will see a Block dialog like the one below.
The SiteGround Security plugin is highly recommended and is free to use.
Install the SiteGround Security plugin
SiteGround Protected URLs
You may want to add additional protection to content on your website – perhaps to limit a page to specific user or client. To do this you can protect the URL using the SiteGround Protected URLs page.
Enter the path to the page and set a username and password. You can then send the URL to a client with the username and password.
Any user attempting to access the protected URL will be prompted to supply the username and password you have selected.
Failure to provide the correct username and password will result in an Unauthorized page being displayed.
Protected URLs are effective against hacker scripts because the script is not expecting to encounter this kind of authorization. Protecting your login page with this method will break nearly all hacker scripts.
SiteGround 2 factor authentication
Hackers will try to break into your website. They use automated scripts that include large passwords lists and will attempt to log in by guessing your password.
Hackers know most website owners will use the default username “admin” or other common names so they only need to get the password to break in.
The best way to protect yourself from hackers is by using 2 Factor Authentication (2FA). This requires a second method to log in which making it much more difficult to break into your website.
The SiteGround Security plugin will help you quickly set up 2FA for your website.
You should also turn on “Disable Common Usernames” that disables obvious usernames hackers will use such as “admin”. Any other weak usernames will be found and you can rename them for additional security.
SiteGround Collaborator Access
Do you have other people working on your site but don’t want to give them the admin password? No problem, you can add them as a collaborator with their own log in but without full admin rights.
This is only needed if your collobator needs access to your SiteGround account not your website. For website access just create additional users accounts.
You have four options with SiteGround:
- StartUp – 1 website, 10,000 visits per month
- GrowBig – Unlimited websites, 100,000 visits per month + On-Demand backups + 30% faster PHP
- GoGeek – Unlimited websites, 400,000 visits per month + On-Demand backups + 30% faster PHP
- Cloud Hosting – auto-scale your website to handle massive traffic
Depending on your circumstances you should pick the plan that fits you the best. Your hosting plan will affect many characteristics of your website including:
- Size of your website
- Number of visitors you can handle per month
- Priority of Customer Support
- Speed of processing requests
Going for the cheapest option can be good to get started but it will be more difficult to rank well in Google because your site will be slower which is an important ranking factor for Google.
SiteGround Free Trial
Does SiteGround have a free trial option?
No. See this article: https://www.siteground.com/kb/offer-free-trial/
All hosting plans on SiteGround are set to automatic annual renewal. The last thing you want to happen is your site goes down because you forgot to renew.
This gives you peace of mind. SiteGround usually runs promotions for multiple year renewals. At the time of writing a two renewal is 20% reduced and a three year renewal is 30% reduced. Check SiteGround for the latest prices for plans.
You receive an email in advance of any upcoming renewal. You can turn off automatic renewal in the Renewal Settings of your account page.
SiteGround Upgrade Plan
You can upgrade your existing plan by pressing the Upgrade button next to your hosting plan. You can find it in the Client Area -> Services -> Hosting section.
The upgrade prices is the difference between your current plan and the new plan you upgrade to.
SiteGround Cloud Hosting
For the ultimate in performance and availability you can go with the Cloud Hosting plan. Configure your plan to whatever your custom requirements are.
This is pricey but it’s nice to know you have this option if your website grows.
SiteGround Cancellation Policy
You get a 30-day money back guarantee for all of SiteGround’s hosting plans and 14 days money back guarantee for the Cloud Hosting plan.
The following conditions apply (please check official documentation – this is just a summary):
- Termination is initiated from the Client Area of your account
- Within 30 days of your initial order
- Domain names are not refundable
- Paid support is not covered by the money back guarantee
Quick summary on performance:
- Use the SiteGround CDN to speed up content delivery (Free and Paid options available)
- Use SiteGround Optimizer plugin (for WordPress websites) to speed up your website
- Use Ultrafast PHP (GrowBig and GoGeek plans)
- Cloud hosting plans available for very large websites
Quick summary on security:
- Use the SiteGround Security plugin (for WordPress websites) to harden your website against attackers
- Use SSL certificate to encrypt your website – it’s free
- Daily automatic backups – GrowBig and GoGeek plans allow 5 On-demand backup copies
Special promotion on hosting – this won’t last so get your hosting plan today.
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