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A Small Orange WordPress Hosting Review

This post is based off WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks (2014).



A Small Orange [Reviews] has won numerous awards from Review Signal including Best Overall Web Host 2012, Best Shared Hosting Provider 2013 and Best Managed VPS Provider 2013. They've been consistently near the top of our rankings since the beginning. They stumbled a bit during our first round of WordPress testing.

But what differentiates a good hosting company from an average one? Accepting there was a short-coming and improving. A Small Orange did exactly that in our second round of testing.

The Plan

All testing was done on a Cloud VPS running ASO's WordPress LEMP stack. The VPS had 1 GB Ram, 15 GB SSD disk space, 600 GB of bandwidth and cost $25/month.



The first performance test was done with LoadStorm. A Small Orange made it to the final round of testing where 2000 concurrent users were logging into WordPress and browsing the test site. The test was designed to test non-cached performance by logging users into WordPress. It caused many hosting setups to crumble. You can see ASO's result in this graph (click on it to play with the interactive results):



A Small Orange handled the test without a single error and showed no signs of struggling with the load. There isn't much more so say than ASO handled LoadStorm with grace and ease.


The second load test that was run on A Small Orange was Blitz. Blitz was used to test cached performance. It simply requested the home page from 1-2000 times per second.


A Small Orange's Blitz results were pretty expected based on the previous test. It showed minimal signs of load around ~1800 users where the response times spiked a bit but were still under 150ms which is barely noticeable. Overall, it was a fantastic performance. Full Blitz Results (PDF)


Two third-party uptime monitoring services (StatusCake and UptimeRobot) tracked the test site for a month. The results for A Small Orange in both cases was perfect uptime. StatusCake also had a blazingly fast average response time of 23ms, which led the pack by a wide margin. In the uptime department, ASO had a flawless performance.


“WebPagetest is an open source project that is primarily being developed and supported by Google as part of our efforts to make the web faster.” WebPageTest grades performance and allows you to run tests from multiple locations simulating real users. ASO was tested from Dulles, VA, Miami, FL, Denver, CO, and Los Angeles, CA.

Company Dulles,VA Miami, FL Denver, CO Los Angeles, CA Average
A Small Orange 1.443 0.801 0.836 0.64 0.93

There was absolutely no issues with their WebPageTest results, it loaded very quickly with a great average speed of under one second.


A Small Orange [Reviews] is one of the top tier WordPress hosting providers when looking at performance. ASO improved their LEMP stack since the last time I tested. They never buckled in any test. Their staff was incredibly friendly (special thank you to Ryan MacDonald) and they’ve stepped up their performance game. The one thing that isn’t quite there yet is the documentation/user experience, there are a lot of improvements they could make to make their LEMP stack more accessible to the less tech savvy. All in all, the experience was in-line with what I would expect from a company that has one of the highest support ratings on our site.

Visit A Small Orange and use the coupon code 'orangelover' for 15% off.


Black Friday – Cyber Monday Web Hosting Deals

These are all the deals from companies we track here at Review Signal that are having Black Friday - Cyber Monday specials.

When? Deals
A Small Orange [Reviews Midnight Friday to 11:59pm Monday All Shared & Business Hosting plans: 75% off any billing cycle. (Coupon code: GIVETHANKS)
All Cloud plans: More resources and free addons! 2x HD & RAM, FREE VIP Boost Addon, FREE Softaculous Addon (No code needed)
Semi-Dedicated Hosting Plans - 25% off any billing cycle. (Coupon code: SEMI14)
Use Code DEDITHX for 45% off Starter Servers (Dedicated Annual Plan)
Use code STANDARDTHX for 47% off Standard Servers (Dedicated Annual Plan)
Use code PROTHX for 49% off Professional Servers (Dedicated Annual Plan)
Use code ULTIMATETHX for 42% off Ultimate Servers (Dedicated Annual Plan)
BlueHost [Reviews] Friday 12:01am EST to Sunday 11:59pm Pricing as low as $3.49
Monday 12:01am EST to 11:59PM Pricing as low as $2.95
FlyWheel [Reviews] Midnight Friday to 11:59pm Monday 50% off annual hosting plans
Host Gator [Reviews] 12am CST to 1am CST 75% off
1am CST-11:59pm Monday 55% off
Randomly 75% off for 1 hour 9 times from Black Friday-Cyber Monday
Kinsta Friday 0:00 GMT to Monday 23:59 PST 50% off first month
3 months free with annual plan
SiteGround [Reviews] Friday through Monday Up to 70% off
WPEngine [Reviews] Ends 12/2/14 4 months free with annual plan with coupon code 'CyberHosting14'


Did I miss any? Leave a comment below.

40 Million hits a day on WordPress using a $10 VPS

I recently tested many of the biggest names in managed WordPress hosting in my article Managed WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks. (Update: 2016 WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks) I am preparing to do a second round of testing with double the number of companies on board. Some of us like to setup servers ourselves (or are cheap).

Given a reasonable VPS, what sort of performance can we get out of it?

10 million hits as measured by Blitz.io was the benchmark to beat based on a previous iteration of this question.

I decided to test this from the ground up, let's start with the most basic configuration and gradually try to improve it.

All tests were performed on a $10/Month 1GB Ram Digital Ocean VPS running Ubuntu 14.04x64. All code and documentation are also available on GitHub.

LAMP Stack

Based on my previous experience benchmarking WordPress, I didn't have high hopes for this test. Last time I crashed MySql almost instantly. This time I ran Blitz a lot slower, from 1-50 users. The performance wasn't impressive, it started slowing down almost immediately and continued to get worse. No surprises.


The LAMP stack setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LAMP Stack (PDF).


The next thing I tried was PHP-FPM(FastCGI Process Manager). It got slightly better performance with just under 200ms faster response times at 50 users. But the graph looks pretty similar, we're seeing quickly increasing response times as the number of users goes up. Not a great improvement.


The LAMP+ PHP5-FPM setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LAMP+PHP5-FPM (PDF).

Nginx + PHP-FPM (aka LEMP Stack)

Maybe the problem is Apache? I tried Nginx next. What happened? I got a worse performance than the default LAMP stack (wtf?). Everyone said Nginx was faster. Turns out, it's not magically faster than Apache (and appears worse out of the box).


The LEMP + PHP-FPM setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LEMP+PHP-FPM (PDF).


I've written about creating a reverse proxy and cache in nginx before. But I've already setup Nginx as my web server, I don't need to reverse proxy this time. Nginx has fastcgi_cache which allows us to cache results from fastcgi processes (PHP). So I applied the same technique here and the results were staggering. The response time dropped to 20ms (+/- 2ms) and it scaled from 1 to 1000 concurrent users.

"This rush generated 28,924 successful hits in 60 seconds and we transferred 218.86 MB of data in and out of your app. The average hit rate of 482/second translates to about 41,650,560 hits/day."

All that with only 2 errors (connection timeouts).


The LEMP + PHP-FPM + microcaching setup script is available on GitHub. Download full Blitz results from LEMP+PHP-FPM + microcaching (PDF).

Mircocaching Config Walkthrough

We do the standard

apt-get update
apt-get -y install nginx
sudo apt-get -y install mysql-server mysql-client
apt-get install -y php5-mysql php5-fpm php5-gd php5-cli

This gets us Nginx, MySql and PHP-FPM.

Next we need to tweak some PHP-FPM settings. I am using some one liners to edit /etc/php5/fpm/php.ini and /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf to uncomment and change some settings [turning cgi.fix_pathinfo=0 and uncommenting the listen.(owner|group|mode) settings].

sed -i "s/^;cgi.fix_pathinfo=1/cgi.fix_pathinfo=0/" /etc/php5/fpm/php.ini
sed -i "s/^;listen.owner = www-data/listen.owner = www-data/" /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf
sed -i "s/^;listen.group = www-data/listen.group = www-data/" /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf
sed -i "s/^;listen.mode = 0660/listen.mode = 0660/" /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf

Now make sure we create a folder for our cache

mkdir /usr/share/nginx/cache

Which will we need in our Nginx configs. In our /etc/nginx/sites-available/default config we add this into our server {} settings. We also make sure to add index.php to our index command and set our server_name to a domain or IP.

location ~ \.php$ {
		try_files $uri =404;
		fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.+)$;
		fastcgi_cache  microcache;
		fastcgi_cache_key $scheme$host$request_uri$request_method;
		fastcgi_cache_valid 200 301 302 30s;
		fastcgi_cache_use_stale updating error timeout invalid_header http_500;
		fastcgi_pass_header Set-Cookie;
		fastcgi_pass_header Cookie;
		fastcgi_ignore_headers Cache-Control Expires Set-Cookie;
		fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
		fastcgi_index index.php;
		include fastcgi_params;

Then we move on to our /etc/nginx/nginx.conf and make a few changes. Like increasing our worker_connections. We also add this line in our http{} before including our other configs:

fastcgi_cache_path /usr/share/nginx/cache/fcgi levels=1:2 keys_zone=microcache:10m max_size=1024m inactive=1h;

This creates our fastcgi_cache.

All of these are done in somewhat ugly one-liners in the script (if someone has a cleaner way of doing this, please share!), I've cleaned them up and provided the full files for comparison.

Go Big or Go Home

Since Nginx didn't seem to blink when I hit it with 1000 users, I wondered how high it would really go. So I tried from 1-3000 users and guess what?

"This rush generated 95,116 successful hits in 60 seconds and we transferred 808.68 MB of data in and out of your app. The average hit rate of 1,585/second translates to about 136,967,040 hits/day."

The problem was I started getting errors: "4.74% of the users during this rush experienced timeouts or errors!" But it amazingly peaked at an astonishing 2,642 users per second. I watched my processes while the test was running and saw all 4 nginx workers fully maxing out the CPU (25% each) while the test was running. I think I hit the limit a 1GB, 1 Core VPS can handle. This setup was a champ though, I'm not sure what caused the big spike (perhaps a cache refresh), but if you wanted to roll your own WordPress VPS and serve a lot of static content, this template should be a pretty good starting point.

Download full results of 3000 users blitz test (PDF)


There are definitely a lot of improvements that can be made on this config. It doesn't optimize anything that doesn't hit the cache (which will be any dynamic content, most often logged in users). It doesn't talk about security at all. It doesn't do a lot of things. If you aren't comfortable editing php, nginx and other linux configs/settings and are running an important website, you probably should go with a managed wordpress company. If you really need performance and can't manage it yourself, you need to look at our Managed WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks. If you just want a good web hosting company, take a look at our web hosting reviews and comparison table.

All code and documentation is available on GitHub

Thanks and Credits:

The title was inspired by Ewan Leith's post 10 Million hits a day on WordPress using a $15 server. Ewan built a server that handled 250 users/second without issue using Varnish, Nginx, PHP-APC, and W3 Total Cache.

A special thanks goes to A Small Orange who have let me test up multiple iterations of their LEMP stack and especially Ryan MacDonald at ASO who spent a lot of time talking WordPress performance with me.

Managed WordPress Hosting Showdown – Performance Benchmarks Comparison

UPDATE: Round 2 of Testing (November 2014) is now available.

WordPress as a platform has become the most popular CMS around, claiming to power almost 19% of the web. As a result, Managed WordPress hosting has become a very popular niche. Many companies in the managed WordPress space are charging a very high premium over the traditional shared web hosting providers. So beyond the marketing speak, what are you really getting? Most promise to make your life easier with features like automatic updates, backups, and security. They also claim to have great performance. It's hard to test objectively the ease-of-use features. But we can measure performance. There weren't many performance benchmarks that I could find, and the ones I could were not very thorough. So I began by designing my own set of testing.

Companies Tested

A Small Orange* [Reviews]
Digital Ocean [Reviews]
GoDaddy* [Reviews]
SiteGround*† [Reviews]
WebSynthesis* [Reviews]
WPEngine [Reviews]

*Company donated an account to test on. I checked to make sure I was on what appeared to be a normal server. GoDaddy had over 3000 domains on the same IP. SiteGround had 887 domains. A Small Orange was a VPS, so it should be isolated. Pressable and WebSynthesis didn't have any accounts on the same IP. I am not sure how isolated they are in their environments.

†Tests were performed with SiteGround's proprietary SuperCacher module turned on fully unless otherwise specified.

The Products

I created a comparison chart of all the companies and the product used in this test. It was mostly the basic/cheapest offer with the exception of SiteGround, because their cheapest hosting plan didn't have full WordPress caching built in, but it was still very much within the price range of other offers.

(Click to see full table)



The question I tried to answer is how well do these WordPress hosting services perform? I tested each company on two distinct measures of performance: peak performance and consistency.

1. Blitz.io

Load testing from the most well known load testing service. First test was 60 seconds, from 8 locations each scaling from 1-125 concurrent users (total 1000 users). For this test each one was tested with identical theme (twenty fourteen) and the out of the box configuration. The second test was 60 seconds, from 2 locations (Virginia/California) scaling from 1-1000 (total 2000 users). The configuration of each site was identical with Customizr theme and plugins.

2. Uptime (UptimeRobot and Uptime - a node.js/mongo project)

Consistency matters. I wanted to see how well these companies performed over a longer period of time. I used two separate uptime monitoring services: one existing third party service and one open source project.

3. WebPageTest.org

"WebPagetest is an open source project that is primarily being developed and supported by Google as part of our efforts to make the web faster." WebPageTest grades performance and allows you to run tests from multiple locations simulating real users. I tested from Dulles, VA, Miami, FL, Denver, CO, and Los Angeles, CA.

4. Unnamed Load Testing Service*

This service asked to remain nameless in this article. They do natural load testing and are in beta. I tested each WordPress host with the same theme (twenty fourteen) and the out of the box configuration for this test. I ran into some issues with this service which I will discuss later.

Background Information

Before I go over the results I wanted to explain and discuss a few things. Every provider I tested had the latest version of WordPress installed. Every plugin that came with it was also up to date with the exception of GoDaddy which had an older version of JetPack included (17 days out of date when I first setup).

I had some trouble getting set up on A Small Orange, the signup email was stuck in gmail's spam filter. I also found a potentially minor security issue in their customer system which they promptly responded to and fixed. I also had to specifically ask for the customized WordPress LEMP stack to be installed on my VPS.

GoDaddy stores SFTP and other critical details on a separate area away from your main GoDaddy account and WordPress admin (gateway.godaddy.com for anyone stuck looking).

I ran into issues with Pressable's CNAME redirect. It seemed to cache a coming soon page and didn't resolve itself by clearing any cache I could find. It resolved itself over a day or so, but being stuck with a coming soon page wasn't a pleasant first experience.

SiteGround includes CloudFlare but I never got it working, it failed to configure on www. So I couldn't conduct the test with it enabled.

Pagely charges you extra for SFTP access (which I didn't pay for and made my own life a living hell while trying to do this test).

WebSynthesis came pre-installed with two themes that were out of date.



 Test 1. 1-125 Concurrent Users from 8 Locations over 60 seconds (Gallery)

 Discussion of Blitz Test 1 Results

The first thing I must note here is that two companies got absolutely destroyed by this test: Digital Ocean and A Small Orange.

My Digital Ocean VPS just died repeatedly. MySql died and needed to be manually restarted. I thought it was a bad instance, so I spun up another and got the same result. I even tried installing a caching plugin to see if I could get any performance out of their WordPress stack. I had absolutely no luck. Given this result, I eliminated Digital Ocean from the rest of my testing. You can run high performance WordPress sites on Digital Ocean (Review Signal's blog is running on one currently), but it requires knowing what you're doing and isn't recommended for people looking for managed WordPress hosting. Digital Ocean is a self-managed VPS provider; it's not for beginners or those who need managed support of their WordPress site. I included Digital Ocean to see how their offer would fare against specialized companies. The short answer is, it doesn't compare, at all.

Another out-of-the-box install with A Small Orange got crushed by this test too. After dconsulting with A Small Orange support, it became apparent I wasn't on their customized WordPress setup. I asked for it to be installed and all further tests were on this much more performant setup. You will see two sets of results for ASO, the normal and the LEMP stack, which is their high performance setup. One thing to note is that ASO offers less management on their customized WordPress setup because it no longer uses cPanel.

The lesson here is that WordPress, out-of-the-box with a LAMP stack, performs pretty badly. For a personal blog with low traffic, it probably won't matter, but for a site with any substantial amount of traffic, it will most likely crumble.

Who performed without any major issues?

A Small Orange (from now on, anytime I talk about ASO, it's about the specialized WordPress setup), Pagely, and SiteGround. Each of these companies had stable response times and few to no errors.

Who had some issues?

GoDaddy had an issue with errors in the middle of the test around 400 users but seemed to gracefully scale upwards without any difficulty and maintained steady load times and stopped erroring. Pressable's response times were a bit varied. Pressable didn't seem to have much trouble with the traffic because it had zero errors and minimal timeouts. WPEngine seemed to have a weird connection timeout issue around 600 users that resolved itself fairly quickly. WebSynthesis seemed to cap out at around 400 users/second with a few bursts. The response time remained steady and it was erroring (connection reset) instead of timing out. WebSynthesis support told me "We analyzed the logs on the server and some of your requests are not being cached as your tests are throwing over 14K symbols in a single URL. This is not realistic for normal use cases of WordPress." Nevertheless, they made a tweak to the nginx (webserver) config, and I tested it again in test 2.

Test 1. Quick Results Table

Success Errors Timeouts Avg Hits/second Avg Response (ms)
ASO 23788 18 2 396 241
GoDaddy 23962 165 0 399 227
Pagely 20132 1 0 336 459
Pressable 21033 0 19 351 412
SiteGround 19672 0 0 328 495
WebSynthesis 19995 4224 5 333 246
WPEngine 20512 192 196 342 395

GoDaddy, despite their small hiccups, managed to have the best average response time to 8 servers distributed across 5 continents (Virginia, Oregon, California, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Ireland). Furthermore, they also managed to serve the most hits.

SiteGround had the slowest average response and lowest hits/second but also didn't have a single error or timeout and the response was consistent throughout the test.

A Small Orange's performance was stunningly consistent. The fastest response was 238ms and the slowest was 244ms, a difference of 6ms over nearly 24,000 requests. They were just barely behind GoDaddy in hits and average response.

Overall, other than WebSynthesis, no host seemed to have serious difficulty with this test.


 Test 2. 1-1000 Concurrent Users from 2 Locations over 60 seconds (Gallery)

Discussion of Blitz Test 2 Results

This test was designed to see just how much traffic these web hosts can handle. Blitz increased their pricing for multiple server locations while I was running this test. I had to reduce server locations from 8 down to 2 locations with higher user counts instead. The response times may be less meaningful, but I picked Virginia and California so that the test locations were on opposite sides of the US. I believe every server tested was in the US, so hopefully that was somewhat balanced, but the average response time may mean less than the stability of the response time.

Who performed without any major issues?


Who had some issues?

A Small Orange's setup definitely couldn't scale all the way up. Response times started increasing with increased users as did errors/timeouts. GoDaddy had some bizarre spikes that look similar to the one I saw in test 1, except three of them this time. Despite this, they pushed the most successful hits again and had the best ping of hosts that didn't completely error out. Pressable had some spikey performance similar to GoDaddy. Pressable pushed a lot of successful requests and did recover from the spikes. SiteGround hit a major spike but then seemed to kick into high gear and performed even better and finished out the test exceptionally strong and stable. WebSynthesis seemed to cap out at around 400 users/second with a few bursts again. The response time remained fairly steady and it was erroring (connection reset) instead of timing out again. WPEngine's response times got worse as the load increased and timeouts started to increase as well.

I included a screenshot from my uptime monitoring system. It's checking each host every 5 seconds, and I highlighted the hour in which all the tests took place. You can see some large spikes for companies that seemed to have latency struggles.


Test 2. Quick Results Table

Success Errors Timeouts Hits/second Avg Response (ms) Max Hit Rate (per second)
ASO 27057 777 518 451 739 597
GoDaddy 49711 685 1 829 148 1750
Pagely 48228 0 1 804 216 1580
Pressable 43815 503 9 730 271 1466
SiteGround 48735 12 19 812 263 1708
WebSynthesis 20855 35773 0 348 120 763
WPEngine 39784 25 1008 663 304 1149

GoDaddy seemed to have the best peak performance again. SiteGround and Pagely seemed to handle the load fantastically and didn't show any signs of performance issues (again). With the exception of A Small Orange, every host saw an improvement in average response time. As I wrote earlier, this may be because they were tested only from US locations. That caveat aside, the response times are a lot closer together and look pretty good for US based visitors. Still, this test also started to raise questions about many web hosts' ability to handle a heavy traffic load.

WebSynthesis Response to ECONNRESET Errors

WebSynthesis ran into the same issue in both tests, a strange ECONNRESET error. Suspecting something may be blocking the test requests' as a security measure, I asked them to investigate. They made a change to their nginx config after the initial set of testing and wrote back "we made adjustments to handle the types of URLs you were hitting us with.  We did review our logs and do not see these in production thus will not put these kinds of changes in production as we feel they are unrealistic." Here are the results:

WebSynthesis2-blitz WebSynthesis2 (Download Full Report WebSynthesis2.pdf)

The new WebSynthesis results were pretty impressive. Average ping of 123ms (3ms slower than initial test), 871 hits/second average, 1704 hits/second and with only 94 errors (ECONNRESET again). The original tests did not suggest that either the hardware or software was starting to buckle. But the configuration change does indicate that they were probably blocking some of the requests. Load testing tools can't fully emulate users (they generally come from only a couple of machines) and it's conceivable that some security measures are triggered by their unusual behavior. Since I am testing these companies out of the box, I am leaving this result separate where support got involved and changed configuration settings.


What is often more important than peak performance is how well a service does on average. To test this, I used two services: UptimeRobot and a NodeJS project called Uptime.

UptimeRobot Results

Monitored HTTP and Ping every 5 minutes. This was over a 10 day span.

ASO 1 1
GoDaddy 0.9979 -
Pagely 0.9862 -
Pressable 0.9995 1
SiteGround 0.9993 1
WebSynthesis 1 1
WPEngine 1 1

A Small Orange, WebSynthesis and WPEngine showed no downtime. Every server responded to pings 100% of the time with the exception of GoDaddy and Pagely which seemed to be blocking pings to the server (at least from UptimeRobot).

Pagely's downtime was mostly my own doing (3 hours), when I was editing a template  to use some of these testing services. Only 5 minutes of the downtime was unrelated to that incident.

GoDaddy had 28 minutes of downtime. SiteGround had 9 minutes. Pressable had 5 minutes.

When you account for my screwup, only GoDaddy shows up under the 99.9% uptime threshold.

Uptime (nodejs) Results

Uptime was configured to perform an HTTP check every 5 seconds on each host with a 1500ms slow threshold. This was executed from a Digital Ocean VPS in NYC.

Responsiveness is defined as the percentage of pings above slow threshold over the period. Availability is the uptime percentage.

Availability (%) Downtime (m) Response Time (ms) Responsiveness (%)
ASO 99.998 1 204 99.97
GoDaddy 99.963 17 309 99.679
Pagely 99.998 1 237 99.974
Pressable 99.914 39 727 90.87
SiteGround 99.997 1 206 99.616
WebSynthesis 99.994 3 97 99.727
WPEngine 99.965 16 209 99.819

Nobody had a perfect record although four companies (A Small Orange, Pagely, SiteGround and WebSynthesis) were above the 99.99% uptime marker. The rest were still all above 99.9%. The most worrisome result was Pressable because they had the most downtime and a very high average response time. This might be caused by the monitoring server being far away from their server. Below is a detailed graph of the response times:


The lowest ping I saw was around 172ms and the relatively consistent bottom line of pings at around 300ms is reasonable. However, inconsistent performance with high spikes results in a very high average. Every other company had a fairly smooth graph in comparison. They show an occasional spike and/or some small variance (<100ms) between response at the base line, but nobody came close to a graph like Pressable's. The next most interesting is A Small Orange's graph:


Though within reasonable response times, it has a spike and a weird pattern bouncing between around 170ms and 270ms.

Giving Pressable the benefit of the doubt, I signed up for Pingdom and monitored what their service saw. This was done with 1 minute resolution.pressable_pingdom_uptime



The pings varied pretty wildly, the highest being 2680ms and lowest 2150, a 530ms difference. And that was based on hourly averages; the variance within each hour may have been much greater. It would seem to corroborate the results from the Uptime script I was running, i.e. performance fluctuates a lot.



Every test was run with the settings: Chrome Browser, 9 Runs, native connection (no traffic shaping), first view only. This was tested against the default install from every company. I also tested SiteGround's multiple levels of their SuperCache technology from one location to see how much it improved performance. SuperCache was left on for all the other tests performed. You will also notice the original A Small Orange and the WordPress optimized LEMP stack. Digital Ocean hadn't completely failed out at this point yet either.

Company Dulles,VA (s) Miami, FL (s) Denver, CO (s) Los Angeles, CA (s) Average Load (s)
A Small Orange 1.894 2.035 2.381 1.648 1.9895
ASO Lemp 0.85 0.961 1.056 0.665 0.883
Digital Ocean 1.245 0.95 1.419 0.924 1.1345
GoDaddy 0.94 1.208 1.229 0.671 1.012
Pressable 0.642 1.174 1.721 0.981 1.1295
SiteGround 1.073 1.327 1.682 1.353 1.35875
SiteGround (Varnish Dynamic Cache) 0.732
SiteGround (Varnish Dynamic Cache, Memcached) 0.725
SiteGround (PageSpeed, Memcached) 1.216
WPEngine 0.812 1.235 1.06 1.08 1.04675
Pagely 0.924 1.083 1.46 0.748 1.05375
WebSynthesis 0.616 1.021 1.516 1.116 1.06725

You can see a huge performance difference in A Small Orange's default cPanel install and their optimized LEMP stack. Load times were reduced by more than half from every location. That should convince you that optimizing WordPress can dramatically improve performance. To a lesser degree, you can see it happen when SiteGround's various SuperCache options are turned on.

A Small Orange's LEMP stack leads the pack here. However, it's amazing how close the performance of most of these companies was on this test.



Every service seems to have their issues somewhere. I try to avoid injecting my personal opinion and bias as much as possible. So I won't be ranking or outright saying any single company is the best. Some providers did exceptionally well and tended to clump together performance-wise, I will call those the top tier providers. This top tier designation is related to performance only and from the results of these tests. What each of these companies is offering is different and may best suit different audiences depending on a variety of factors beyond performance, such as features, price, support, and scale (I only tested entry level plans). But I will provide a short summary and discussion of the results for each provider.

A Small Orange

Once I moved away from the stock WordPress install on a normal VPS to their specialized LEMP WordPress VPS, it was a much better experience. Their uptime was near perfect on both services (1 minute of downtime total measured between them). The first load test it performed incredibly well and was 2nd by only a few requests per second. However, ASO did buckle under the heavier load test but it didn't fail out and managed to respond to most requests (including uptime monitoring) during the whole event. While their performance didn't scale as well as most of the competitors, I did receive a lot of support from them and it was quite responsive, in-line with what I would expect from a company that has one of the highest support ratings.

Digital Ocean

They are not in the same business as the rest of these companies. I added them because I wanted to see how well a stock install of WordPress would compete with pretty good hardware that's low cost (SSD backed VPS). The results here aren't a knock on their service at all. As I said earlier, this blog is running on a Digital Ocean VPS. The difference is I have spent many hours configuring it myself to be somewhat high performance. Digital Ocean is designed for people who can administrate their own servers. If you need managed WordPress hosting, stick to companies that are managing WordPress for you. If you're comfortable and want to do it yourself, these guys have one of the highest rated companies that we track.


This whole test started from a statement made by Jeff King, a senior vice president at GoDaddy and GM of their hosting division. He wrote to me, "The new products are top of the market (really, you can’t get faster WordPress anywhere now) and we’re just beginning."  Challenge accepted.

GoDaddy surprised me, and in a good way. They have a pretty bad reputation in the web community and it shows on this site where their overall score is below 50%. Yet, their WordPress hosting kept up or led the pack in some of the performance tests. In both Blitz.io load tests, out-of-the-box, GoDaddy had the highest number of successful requests, the highest number of concurrent users, and either 1st or 2nd in average response time.  (WebSynthesis's performance did beat them when their support investigated connection resets) There were some weird performance bumps during the load tests, but nothing major. The biggest blot in terms of performance was on their uptime. They had the most downtime (28 minutes) of any of the companies tracked in UptimeRobot's monitoring (which ran longer than my second Uptime monitoring setup). But it was still 99.8% uptime, not a huge knock.

Overall, I would say GoDaddy delivered on their claim, performance wise. They appear to be in the top tier of specialized WordPress hosting companies. Given their price, I think they have the potential to push down pricing on most of their competitors who charge 3-4 times what GoDaddy charges. If we take a more holistic view, beyond performance, they still don't have all the tools to cater to the different niches that the specialized companies are competing for (although there were some hints dropped that things like Git, Staging Environments and more were coming soon). And then there is a branding problem they are trying to overcome. But GoDaddy is definitely doing some things very right and should make the managed WordPress hosting space very interesting.


Pagely's performance didn't ever seem to get affected by any tests. They had a mere 5 minutes of downtime. The load testing services never seemed to cause any stress on their system. It was an impressively consistent performance. They didn't have the highest peak performance on the load tests, but they had a flat response time and only a single error or timeout in each blitz load test. One thing that irritated me about their offer was charging extra for SFTP access. Every other company included this for free and it's generally a given with a web hosting service. Still, a very impressive performance by Pagely, they are definitely in the top tier.


Pressable had some issues during this test. I am not sure why but there was a very strange issue where performance seemed to repeatedly spike throughout my entire testing session. When it was good, it was performing at a level consistent with the top tier providers. The problem was, it wasn't always good. On the large Blitz load test there was consistent performance except for two spikes, which put it behind the front of the pack. It caused low responsiveness scores and potentially some downtime calculations as well. The foundation of a top tier provider is there, and generously open sourced on GitHub. They just need to sort out this weird performance spikiness issue.


Another very pleasant surprise in SiteGround. Not only are you getting cPanel hosting, you're getting top tier WordPress performance once you fully enable their SuperCacher plugin. They are one of the most well liked companies we track and have some of the best rated support. I honestly didn't know they were offering such high performance WordPress hosting. They didn't have the absolute fastest responses or push the highest concurrent users but they kept pace. They had one of the stranger graphs on the heavy load test, for some reason the performance got even better after a big spike. They had excellent uptime at above 99.9% measured by both services. Like GoDaddy, SiteGround looks like they could make this space interesting with a $7.95 plan performing on par with plans 3-4x its cost. While I didn't get to try some of the more developer-centric features like a staging environment and Git, they are available on a plan that's as little as 50% of the cost of the competitors at $14.95. Definitely in the top tier of managed WordPress providers.


These guys are harder to evaluate. Their uptime was excellent: either perfect or upwards of 99.9% as measured by the two services. The load testing ran into a weird ECONNRESET error. Their support was very helpful and made some configuration changes that seemed to allow the load testing service through. Once they did that, they outperformed every provider on almost every metric, highest average hits/second, fastest response and most successful hits with relatively flat response times. As I wrote in my discussion about them, load testing tools aren't a perfect emulation of real users. But it looked like it was running into a security rule rather than actual strain on the service. If that assumption is correct, these guys are truly a top tier provider.


WPEngine had some issues. Uptime was not one of them, they were perfect or upwards of 99.9% in that department. However, their performance shortcomings became apparent during the load tests. They had the most errors and timeouts, besides WebSynthesis, in the first test and seemed to buckle under the load in the second test with rising errors and timeouts and slower response times. When WPEngine was first listed here on Review Signal, they had the highest rating of any company. They've fallen a bit since then but WPEngine still remains near the front of the pack. They have a strong brand and seem to be doing some things right. They have some features that few other providers have, but this test was mostly about performance. In that department, they didn't quite match the level of performance that some of their competitors reached.



 Product Comparison Chart with Coupon Codes




*Unnamed Load Testing Service

AVG Response Failures AVG Response Heavy
ASO 2031 No
GoDaddy 2120 No 5904
Pagely 2398 No
Pressable 1360 No 15570
SiteGround 22659 Yes 25712
WebSynthesis 1929 No 3740
WPEngine 1835 No

I didn't get to conduct a full test with this service because I may have caused the entire service to crash during testing. This table is showing 2 tests, on average response and whether failures occurred (any type of failures). The second test is what caused the service to crash and is incomplete. The first test was 500 users/second from 1 machine and the second was 8000 users/second from 40 machines. The response times were pretty slow all around, and SiteGround seemed to have some major issues with this test. I am unsure as to why, I re-ran the first test again later and it seemed to handle it without any failures (errors) on the second run. The testing system is in beta and it's really hard to know what happened. SiteGround seemed to handle Blitz's heavier test without issue and the second test here went fine. Hard to know if there was really an issue on SiteGround's end or the testing service. The heavy test was interesting, WebSynthesis ended up being the fastest which is a similar result to the Blitz.io test once they fixed the nginx config. Perhaps this load test wasn't triggering any of their security measures? I could not complete the testing because the system went down prematurely.

I am not sure if there are useful inferences to be drawn from these tests. I was asked not to name the service because of the issues encountered but I wanted to include the partial results here in case someone did find some value in looking at the numbers.

I actually tried a third load testing service that was also in beta and it never was able to fully run the tests either. I am starting to feel like load testing kryptonite.

Thank You

First off, I want to thank the companies that agreed to participate voluntarily. I had nothing but pleasant experiences dealing with the people at each company. A few even took it a step beyond and offered a lot of help and insight about how this test might be conducted. There was a surprising amount of consistency of views about what and how to measure performance offered. A few of the individuals who stood out the most:

David Koopman at GoDaddy for his insights on performance and testing.

Vid Luther at Pressable was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about performance. He's even written a great article here about performance. He also helped get at least one other company on board for testing and for that, I am thankful as well.

Tina Kesova at Siteground has always been helpful and this test was no exception. She had SiteGround on board almost instantly when I just mentioned the seed of the idea back in November 2013.

A few friends of mine also helped in figuring out how to perform these tests and dealing with some of the technical challenges in benchmarking. Dave Lo, Eric Silverberg and Samuel Reed all offered their advice and helped me make the design of the tests as fair as possible.

A special thanks goes to people who read drafts of this article and provided feedback including Andrey Tarantsov, JR Harrel and my dad.

Anyone else I missed, I am sorry, and thank you too.


The Best Web Hosts of 2013 – Reflections and Awards

2013 was the first full year of operation for Review Signal. It has been an exciting year and a successful year. We've added roughly 90,000 new reviews in 2013. We added two new companies this year. One was a company we struggled with to get listed because of their vast size and scope: Amazon. The other has been possibly the fastest growing new web hosting company of 2013: Digital Ocean. While proud that we added these two companies, it isn't enough. We're tracking over one hundred companies and there are a more that should be added soon. Adding a new company does take some extra work, but we need to find that time and make sure it gets done. Without further ado...

The Best Web Hosting Companies of 2013

Best Shared Web Host: A Small Orange

asmallorange best shared webhost

Best Web Hosting Support: SiteGround

siteground best hosting support

Best Unmanaged VPS Provider: Digital Ocean

digitalocean best unmanaged vps

Best Managed VPS Provider: A Small Orange

asmallorange best managed vps

A Small Orange continues to be the top web host that offers a broad range of hosting options. It was only beat out by newcomer, Digital Ocean, which provides very specific unmanaged SSD backed VPSes. And SiteGround is a new comer to our best of the year category. They eked out a less than 1% edge over A Small Orange in support rating. We would like to congratulate all of these companies on an excellent 2013 and hope that they continue their stellar performance in 2014.

I would also like to thank Cat Robinson for designing this year's awards. My favorite part of working with her was 'I don't know what a cute symbol is for VPS provider.' Me either. Thank you Cat.

*The way these scores were calculated were the same as last year. We only look at data collected in the 2013 calendar year, so there may be some differences in what you see on the site live, which keeps all data from all years versus this years rankings.

Black Friday Web Hosting Deals

Since there are some huge sales going on this weekend, I thought I would compile the list and share them here. They are sorted alphabetically by company.

A Small Orange [Reviews] - Coupon Codes Available Only Black Friday and Cyber Monday (EST)

'GOBBLE13' - 50% off shared, business, reseller (first invoice, all billing cycles)

'TREAT13' 50% off add-ons

'CHEER13' - 35% off Hybrid/Dedicated

2x RAM on Cloud VPS

BlueHost [Reviews] - $3.95/month

Digital Ocean [Reviews] - Coupon Code 'BLACK50' $50 Free Credit

DreamHost [Reviews] - 80% Off Through Monday

Host Gator [Reviews] - 60% Off with 75% Off Fire Sales (times listed below)

All Times in CST (GMT-6)

Friday 12AM - 1AM, 9AM - 11AM,  9PM - 11PM

Saturday 12PM - 1PM

Sunday 8PM - 9PM

Monday 12AM - 1AM, 10AM - 12AM, 10PM - 11:59PM

HostMonster [Reviews] - $3.95 per month Black Friday - Cyber Monday

JustHost [Reviews]- $2.25/month

MediaTemple [Reviews] - 75% off Grid / DV First Month

SiteGround [Reviews]- 70% Off Through Monday

WPEngine [Reviews] - 33% off Annual Plan Black Friday - Cyber Monday

'cyberhostspecial13' - 4 months free when signing up for annual plan.

GoDaddy Media Temple

GoDaddy Acquires Media Temple: The Good, The Bad and The Business

If you are following the tech or web hosting world at all today, you've probably heard about GoDaddy [reviews] buying Media Temple [reviews] which Tech Crunch announced earlier today. The news is evoking some very strong emotions and reactions from the community.

But emotions are only so interesting. Let's talk about the implications of this acquisition and how people might actually be affected by it.

The Good

The obvious winners here are the owners of Media Temple: Damian Sellfors and John Carey.

One of the biggest concerns that I've seen is that Media Temple will now go downhill. I don't know that this is guaranteed and it seems unlikely to happen overnight. I only have a few years of data, and only one company jumps to mind as a good comparison: A Small Orange [reviews].

A Small Orange - trends - sep2013

A Small Orange were acquired by Endurance International Group (EIG) in March 2013. EIG, for those who don't know is the conglomerate that owns many major web hosting brands including BlueHost [reviews], HostGator [reviews], Host Monster [reviews] and more.

Most of the EIG brands do not have a great reputation. A Small Orange has had one of the best reputations since Review Signal has launched. So, I've been keeping a close eye to see what happens to their ratings as time goes on. They've continued to operate independently and their ratings have gone up in the past few months. That is the exact opposite of what many people would expect based on the acquisition.

I only have 6 months of data to look at so far, but the trends looks good for them. There may be a decline at some point, but the idea that a company that gets acquired immediately becomes bad isn't necessarily true. Which is good news for Media Temple customers.

The Bad


When the second question in your acquisition FAQ is "What about GoDaddy’s reputation in the tech community?" you have a problem.

The answer sends some confusing messages too:

GoDaddy has been transformed in recent months and is essentially a new company. If we did not like what we have seen, we would not have joined the GoDaddy family. They have overhauled their leadership team and attracted tech talent from the best-of-the-best. We love “the new GoDaddy” that CEO Blake Irving and his team have created, especially their new approach with advertising, product focus and UX.

Though neither GoDaddy’s brand nor operations are being integrated into ours, we are excited to be a positive influence on them with how to make even more improvements to better serve the Web pro community.

It's a new company, they are great, but we won't be integrating any of that greatness. In fact, they turn around and say they hope to influence GoDaddy positively, so Media Temple is better? All the data we have would agree with that argument.

As far as GoDaddy being a new and great company?

GoDaddy - trends - sep2013

Not seeing it. It looks fairly stable at a mediocre level. Maybe more time will change that.

Virb and Founders

Another bad signal is both co-founders are leaving. They are also buying back Virb. There are a lot of flowery words about growth, dreams and better serving customers, but the actions seem to speak louder.

The Business

The web hosting industry continues to see consolidation. There appears to be two major players for the consumer market now: GoDaddy and Endurance International Group. They both seem willing to spend massive amounts of money to buy valuable brands.

Last year Media Temple had $52 million dollars in revenue [source]. So I would expect they sold out for 100's of millions considering growth, the cost of customer acquisition in the web hosting industry and low attrition rates.

Neither seems to be aggressively pursuing the growing developer market. There is a whole different set of competitors in the space like Amazon, RackSpace, Linode and Digital Ocean. Media Temple says they specialize in serving web professionals, but that's a slightly ambiguous term. This may be a slight push in the developer direction for GoDaddy, but I am not sure that the GoDaddy brand has much of a chance at making a headway in the developer space. It seems to evoke a lot of strong emotions (both rational and irrational). Using the Media Temple brand may be their only chance at getting any type of foothold.

For Consumers

I don't expect any dramatic changes right away. Media Temple should be on their absolute best behavior considering they know how bad the GoDaddy brand is and any legitimate reason to sow doubt would be amplified by the acquisition news.

A lot of people want to move on moral principles and that's reasonable. I would suggest taking a look at our web hosting reviews.

For those on the fence, locked-in or unable to afford a move, I wouldn't worry too much. We have yet to see any change in performance, it's likely to remain stable for a while.

Keeping an eye out for warning signs of declining performance at your web hosting company is always a good idea. This applies to any company, because over time, service and quality will vary at any company.

The Best of 2012 – Reflections and Awards

It's been an exciting year at Review Signal. We launched in September. It's been going well and we have really enjoyed the feedback from our users. Thank you to everyone who has visited, reached out and help us along the way.

We wanted to end the year with a look back through our data and recognize some exceptional companies that stood out this year.

Best Overall Web Host: A Small Orange

A Small Orange 2012 Best Overall Web Host

A Small Orange have consistently had the highest rating of any company all year. Their rating for the year ended at a 77% Overall Rating. Their customers have been simply raving about them.

However, one new specialty hosting company did eclipse them in November.

Best Specialty Web Host: WPEngine (WordPress Hosting)

WPEngine 2012 Best Specialty Web Host

WPEngine was a late addition to our system and it got a huge number of reviews very quickly. The consensus was that WPEngine is pretty good with an Overall Rating of 80%.

One of the biggest differentiators for hosting companies these days is the support. We wanted to recognize two companies that had the best service ratings. We separated them into managed and unmanaged because of the very different nature of each offer. We ran into some issues where some companies had high ratings but very few actual reviews related to it. To normalize for volume we applied a Wilson Score interval, so some companies may appear to have higher support scores but the confidence in those is lower because there were only a few reviews making up that rating.

Best Managed/Unmanaged Hosting Support: LiquidWeb / Linode

LiquidWeb Best Managed Support HostingLinode Best Unmanaged Support Hosting

Both LiquidWeb and Linode have very passionate customers and are near the top in Overall Rating as well as having the highest Support Ratings in their respective categories. Linode has a passionate fanbase in the developer community who seem more than happy to manage their own VPSs. LiquidWeb's customers are generally in the managed Dedicated and VPS categories.

We congratulate each of these companies on an excellent 2012 and hope their performance only continues to improve in 2013.