Our A Small Orange Shared Hosting Review
A Small Orange comes fairly highly ranked in our user driven Shared Hosting Reviews table given it’s unique entry into the web hosting service market and the little unique quirks they put on the site to make it an enjoyable experience for its customers. They set themselves apart from other companies with their simple, yet effective name that is extremely memorable; coupled with a colorful and radiant template for their website that really sets the tone for their site. Not only should you read our editorial A Small Orange Review below, but also check out the User A Small Orange Reviews by clicking the User Reviews tab at the top of this page.
One interesting thing you may like to know is that the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager is
Mr Douglas Hanna (Edit: He left late 2014). He founded and writes for a popular blog on customer service and customer service experience called Service Untitled. He also served as the Customer Service Manager at Hostgator before they got purchased by EIG. He also serves as a Member of the Board of Advisors at CodeGuard (WordPress backup service). The point we make by revealing all this information, is you will see as you read our review that we think ASO & Hostnine (sister companies) have one of the best customer support experiences you will find in hosting. This really is their big strength.
Our First Thoughts
One thing that you first see when you visit A Small Orange is their original and bright, colorful branding. It is probably one of the nicest web hosting sites we have seen, but the question is does that match the quality and features of the service. We already know about ASO due to us using extensively their sister site Hostnine, including their VPS for this website. We actively maintain a site with them, which we mainly use for testing purposes, and playing around with the new blogging Platform Ghost.
When you first visit their site, you will see a very smart summary of the different types of hosting they offer, including shared hosting (which this review covers), reseller hosting, business hosting, cloud VPS hosting, hybrid hosting and dedicated hosting. As you can see, there is a fantastic upgrade path and it is a truly exceptional host (even though we prefer their sister company Hostnine).
The Different Plans
They offer four different plans, which mainly differ in the amount of Storage and Bandwidth, although their cheapest “Tiny” plan only allows one domain to be setup on the hosting.
As you can see all but the Tiny Plan come with Unlimited Domains, and 24/7 Email and Live Chat Support. All plans use SSD storage, which is at least 15 times faster than the mechanical counterpart making the site seem extremely responsive. Other features of the plans include:
- 90 day Money Back Guarantee – This is one of the longest in the industry, giving you ample time to try out the service. Note that domains are not included in this offer, so if you refund after taking advantage of a free domain, the standard domain cost will be deducted. This is pretty standard practice.
- cPanel – They provide the standard cPanel control panel.
- Fully Scalable – Easily upgrade and downgrade as you need.
- Two months free – When you pay for a year up front, you get two months free hosting, as well as a free domain.
- Unlimited everything else – Unlimited Emails, Databases, Mailing Lists, Email Forwarders, Subdomains, and FTP Accounts come as standard.
- Daily Backups – Automated daily backups are taken, although we do recommend taking your own off-site backups as well.
- Ghost blog hosting – They are one of the few shared hosting providers that have Node.js installed. This means the new Ghost Blogging Platform can be installed.
- Ruby on Rails – Unlike most hosts that use a cPanel plugin for Ruby (which is not always updated to the latest version), they use Passenger for their Ruby, meaning it is always up to date with the latest Gem’s installed.
If you need a little extra, we can highly recommend their Cloud VPS plans, but also, they have no introduced Clementine Managed plans, which have the power of dedicated resources but are completely hands off. That means that while you will receive cPanel details, you won’t have to worry about server configurations or anything else. We think this is ideal for people that want a bit more power, but don’t want the hassle of setting up and managing a VPS.
US Based Datacenters
A Small Orange’s datacenters are located in the US in both Dallas, and Dearborn, Michigan. Unfortunately, you cannot choose the location of your server.
The Sign-Up Process
The sign-up process is very easy. If you are unsure of the right plan, the first thing to do is open an online chat, and they will talk you through the best plan. Don’t worry, they don’t try to talk you into an expensive plan like some hosts! If you just have a small WordPress site, then all you will need is the “Tiny” or “Small” plan, and then as and when required you can upgrade from there. You can find a full walk-through of the sign-up process on our coupons page.
When we last setup an account with ASO (one we actively use) it took a matter of minutes to get all the account information so we could start working on our site.
The Control Panel
A Small Orange has a rather smart Client area for support and billing, and gives you access to their extensive knowledgebase and video tutorials. You can see a screenshot of the client area below (click the image to enlarge):
For the management of the website, they use the industry standard cPanel, and as you can see from the screenshot below, they have some nice added options,… such as PHP selector, Pagespeed Optimizer, Cloudflare one-click install, SiteLock security, R1Soft backups access, as well as their Ghost Installer (via Softaculous):
One thing we like about them is that they have kept the standard cPanel styling, rather than jazz it up like some other hosts do. Sure whilst we like the look better of some of the custom styles, having the standard version makes it super easy to follow any cPanel guides or tutorials as well as find what you are looking for very easily.
- No “unlimited everything” – Most companies will try to pitch you the line that they have ‘unlimited everything’ and that just simply isn’t true about the sites bandwidth and disk space. They have clearly separated themselves from the pack and provides you with a clear-cut picture of the disk space and bandwidth they offer. However, you can purchase additional bandwidth for your shared hosting at just $0.50 per GB per month.
- SSD Driven – Experience blazing fast shared hosting with their fully SSD driven shared hosting environment. SSD drives are at least 15 times faster than the traditional mechanical drives used by most other hosts and are more reliable as well. Typically, you will only see SSD driven hosting on a VPS or Dedicated server, and even then this is only a recent trend. This explains the lower storage space within the plans than competitors, but believe us… it is worth it.
- Superb Customer Service – This could be the best thing about ASO. Send them a ticket, and you’ll receive a response in just 30 minutes at the max. No question goes unanswered which speaks volumes to their reliability. They truly care about their clients because they know their customers care about their product. We host this site with Hostnine, who share all the same support infrastructure. We can honestly say these guys know their stuff, and are one of the best support teams we have experienced. What’s amazing is they don’t shout how good their support is from the rafters, like some other hosts.
- High Touch Services – They created a unique service that provides help for managing your site above and beyond what you would expect from a typical support service. They will help with software installation, configuration tuning or even the setup of complex software. Essentially, they advertise their technicians as being for hire for any task that needs to be done on your website. We actually think this is a great service addon, as having someone on hand to sort out a problem can be very cost affective, and give you alot of peace of mind.
- Price for every budget – They offer a good pricing, but if you need a slightly more powerful plan, we believe Hostnine is slightly cheaper in the long run.
- No hidden agenda-No lies like claiming to have unlimited everything, and no hidden fees or contracts. They also offer you a 45-day money back guarantee if you’re unsatisfied with their service.
- Different types of hosting – They you a platform of different web hosting options to choose from varying in price and outlook. Cloud VPS, Dedicated servers, re seller hosting, business web hosting and shared web hosting are all offered at reasonable prices. You, therefore, have an excellent upgrade path should you need it.
- Node.js and Ghost Blogging Platform Support – They are one of the few companies that offer this kind of support on a Shared Server. Ghost is an upcoming blogging platform that is quickly gaining traction. You can read more information in our review here, including instructions for setting up Ghost blogging platform.
- Support – Arrrgh… this one was hard to write, and in the context of other hosts, support should probably be in a positive category. However, the last year has seen their ticket response times go from around 15-20 minutes to around the 1 – 2 hour mark. They have also changed their live chat software, so when you respond it goes to the bottom of the queue again meaning that more complicated matters can drag out. But just to clarify, I am nit-picking here, and their support is still one of the best around.
Our A Small Orange Review Verdict
They are fairly high up on our list of hosting providers we would recommend. Particularly if you check the A Small Orange Reviews below you will see many people feel the same. They deserve it based on a number of reasons like offering monthly payment options, discounted pre-paid pricing, and up-front quoted pricing based on the monthly price, not on some ridiculous three to five year prepaid plan, as well as a fresh, and tangy website template that has quite the appeal to it. While Hostnine and A Small Orange are owned by the same company (or at least used to be), it is good to make note of the fact that they are cheaper than Hostnine. With that in mind, we feel that they really care about it’s clients and they have the tools available to maintain success and grow and prosper.