WordPress is a great platform to build website. It is possible that only one developer can build the whole site. With the wide range of free plugins, you feels like working with a team. Meanwhile you reply on the web hosting company to do their job right (such as stability, speed and security etc) .
2. From Bluehost to SiteGround
I had used Bluehost for 3 years. It was not so good, not so bad either. Since early this year, I found my site was noticeable slow. Even with my eyes, I could tell the response time was around 30 seconds or more. I used google insight to run some tests. This was the result on 06/09/20.
The score for mobile (before)
The score for desktop (before)
I bet Bluehost put too many sites on one server. I had to leave. With a little research (or convinced by the affiliates), I decided to move to SiteGround sharing hosting. After I moved, I spent over a month tweaking, tuning, testing. My site’s speed had tremendous improvement. This was the test result on 7/22/20.
The score for mobile (after)
The score for desktop (after)
You can see the speed was 10 times better for mobile, and twice better for desktop .
3. SiteGround review – Nice things
(Notes, I didn’t join SiteGround affiliate program.This is a SiteGround review from my point of view.)
There are a few nice things about SiteGround.
1. Block suspicious IP address
I have Wordfence installed. But only premium version lets me block the suspicious IP addresses. I’m glad that SiteGround provides this feature.
2. Free SSL
Nowadays most web hosting companies provide free SSL. I still appreciate the courtesy.
3. Backup daily
Although I have my own backup, their daily backup and easy to use give me peace of mind.
4. Staging site
With the experience working in industry, I knew it is common practice to have staging environment for testing before deploying anything in production. I had setup a backup site, which has different domain name, hosting on different provider, but with the same content. SiteGround provides the free staging site, which is awesome!
4. SiteGround review – 3-tiers caching
Before I talk about issues, let’s briefly go through SitegGound’s 3-tiers configurations: SG Optimizer, SiteGround Tools, and connection to Cloudflare. I would guess these 3-tiers settings play the key role to make siteground earn the reputation they are fast. But they might be also the reasons which caused all the troubles I had (details in next section).
SG Optimizer: SG optimizer is a plugin that automatically installed when you join SiteGround. This is the place you can purge cache, and adjust the optimization setup.
SiteGround Tools: the Tools works as cPanel in WordPress. I love its easy to use design and clean look. Under SPEED, there are caching and Cloudflare. Caching provides 3 layers caching, Memcached, Dynamic cache and Supercache. If you use SiteGround’s caching, you can remove all other caching plugins on your site, such as WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache etc.
Cloudflare: Cloudflare provides CDN (Content delivery network) and DDos migration and security. Simply put Cloudflare will make your site fast and secure, which are something you definitely want. I didn’t have Cloudflare account before. I’m happy that siteground integrate with Cloudflare and give us free access. However Cloudflare is a 3rd party service within SiteGround. You don’t have much control of it. (especially if you are using the free version)
This 3-tiers structure looks all good until something goes wrong.
5. SiteGround issues, headaches and workarounds
Now lets talk about the other side of the story…
1. All download links are broken
In my site, I have setup Download so that the users can download the source code. The plugin I use is Download Monitor.
It was a Saturday night, about a week after I moved to SiteGround. I accidentally clicked a download button on one page. It returned 404 (not found error)! I went on to check other downloads, all my download links were broken!!
It turned out SiteGround adds prefix /home4/myaccount/public_html/ to all download links. Now I had to fix before any further damages (it’s been a week and there were a whole lot of disappointed downloaders!). I spent the whole Saturday night manually fixing the download links one by one :(. (maybe there are better ways to do this…?)
This was just a beginning.
2. Error 527 Railgun listener error
One night, I wanted to make a small change to my site. When I refreshed the page, the wheel of refresh kept spinning. After staring at the spinning for minutes, I realized my site was down. A few more minutes later, a page of “Error 527 Railgun listener error” confirmed that.
Not sure what it was, I searched on internet. it seemed having something to do with Cloudflare. Without much knowledge about this, I reached out to get the help from SiteGround customer service. From the representative’s response, it seemed she had no idea either. She filed a ticket to their tech team, and promised it would be fixed soon. Knowing I couldn’t do much to change the situation, I went to sleep.
The next morning, the first thing I did was to go to my desk and open the browser. My site was up! The tech team responded that they purged the cache in all layers.( I assumed they meant SiteGround Tools, Cloudflare and SG Optimizer). The site should be good now. The reason to cause this was there were URLs with lavivienpost.com. According to them, all URLs should be changed to www.lavivienpost.com (that’s probably the Cloudflare thing).
OK, so I did. A few days later, the same thing happened, again – the terrifying Error 527. I suspected the bad actor was “railgun”. But after searching online, nobody gave a solid explanation what it does, nor did anybody suggest it should be on or off. Not in any of affiliates’ SiteGround review.
Maybe it is just my site? Nothing could be worse than seeing my site was down. By risking that speed of the site may suffer, I turned railgun off. My site seemed healthy afterwards! I could relax ever after!!
Or so I thought?
3. PHP warning
As I mentioned earlier, the plugins in WordPress gave me the power of a team with 10 developers. But they also brought headaches. Whenever there were “updates” signs in WordPress, I was a little bit irritated. There were chances the updates of plugins might generate problems. Normally I updated plugins in my “backup” site before I updated the “official” site.
One day in July, after following the routine to update plugins in my “backup” site, I went ahead to update all plugins in the “official” site. Nothing seemed wrong. My site was up running. I went to take a break.
While I was watching TV, a ghost voice whispered to my ear “go check your site”. I grabbed the iPhone on the couch, opened the safari, and went to my site. There it was, right on the top of the front page, there was PHP warning.
Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/customer/www/lavivienpost.com/public_html/wp-content/plugins/xxx/app/xxx-functions.php on line 19
I rushed to my computer, and refreshed my browser. It sure was there! The error message was like somebody slap on my face. I immediately searched the error message. it seemed this was cause by incompatibility between the plugin and the php version I was using.
Luckily this time, the online article had the cure for this. By following the instructions and making the changes in the php file, error message was gone. Whee…
4. Nightmare of WordPress 5.5 upgrade
I knew WordPress 5.5 was coming. I had bad feeling about this after I had been through recently. The update date was scheduled in a weekend. I turned off the WordPress auto-update in case something went run. I didn’t want this to ruin my weekend.
On Monday, I finally had the guts to click that “update to 5.5” button in WordPress. A minute later, it showed WordPress had been updated, and my site seemed still alive!? To test, first I opened my site in my iPhone, it looked OK although there were a few social media icons looked odd. I told myself this might be due to the theme not compatible with new WordPress.
Then I opened my site on my laptop, the image was not showing on a page. Was it because I was using the “classic” editor on that page? After having tried many things to fix, none of them seemed working. So I removed the image all together.
At night while I was lying on the bed, I could not help but thinking the fix: I compromised this time, I could not compromise forever… I had to put my image back. The next day I explored the possible ways to add image back. It still didn’t succeed. Then I found something even worse happened – the responsive menu on iPhone was not working any more.
At this moment I realized the only solution was to roll back to pre-WordPress 5.5 version. I called customer service, the representative helped me to kick off the restoration, and right away informed me he had to hang up because other people were waiting for help. OK, it is not just me…
A few days later, I was ready to try the update of WordPress again. This time I setup a staging site in SiteGround. The update of WordPress 5.5 on SiteGround “staging” was smooth and successful. Then with all my fingers and toes crossed, I clicked the button “update to 5.5” on my “official” site. All were working fine now! Amazing! All the bad feeling about SiteGround faded away.
I want to emphasize that all the errors I had on SiteGround, none of them happened in my “backup” site, hosted on another provider. Under the condition I’m not a WordPress guru, I might did something wrong. I share my experience here, hoping 1) If you knew the tricks of SiteGround, please share as well 2) If you did not know, the workarounds I have figured out may benefit you.
Overall I don’t mind staying in SiteGround for a while. As software engineer, tech issues and trouble shooting are part of my life. If I leave SiteGround, I will run into other problems and headaches from other hosting company. Just keep my guard up and prepare to blow out any “fire” that might arise.