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A Small Orange Reviews – Shared Hosting

ASO 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 in 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 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 ASO  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).

a-small-orange-plans

The Different Plans

They offer 4 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.

a small orange plans

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.
  • 2 months free – When you pay for a year up front, you get 2 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.

US Based Datacenters

You can see below the location of all the datacenters used by ASO:

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

ASO 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):

 

Customer Area - A Small Orange

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):

a small orange control panel

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 guides or tutorials as well as find what you are looking for very easily.

Summary

Pros

  • 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 definitely 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 that will any kind of budget, but if you need 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 offers 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.

Cons

  • Support – Arrrgh… this one was hard to write, and in context of other hosts support should probably be in the 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 Verdict

Our Verdict –  Pretty Good – Recommended

They are fairly high up on our list of hosting providers we would recommend.  Particularly if you check the 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 ASO 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.

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A Small Orange Reviews
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A Small Orange Reviews - Shared Hosting ASO 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 in 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 ...
9 Total Score
One of our favorites!

They were founded in 2003 and currently has over 30 employees and serves tens of thousands of customers worldwide. In 2012 it was bought up by EIG, although they retained their old management team.See all A Small Orange Offers, and purchase hosting.

Support
10
Features
9.5
Speed
9
Uptime
9
Value
9
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21 Comments
  1. Reply Matt T. February 1, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I was initially very excited when I signed up for a VPS plan with A Small Orange. Their tech support was good and my site was faster than with other companies.

    Unfortunately, everything went downhill quickly. In the last eight months, there have been at least three long outages (one lasting more than 5 hours) and several very brief outages. My website is monitored so I know exactly when service goes down and when it’s restored. I told A Small Orange they were falling well short of their 99.9 percent uptime guarantee. Their response was that the guarantee only applies to shared hosting accounts. That explains why VPS customers (who pay a lot more) are always the last to have their service restored.

    On their homepage, they proudly brag about their 99.9 percent uptime guarantee. Only in the fine print of the Terms & Conditions does it mention that this only applies to shared accounts. After I told them yesterday for a second time they were engaging in false advertising, they removed the guarantee from their site.

    If you have a large spike in traffic, your site will crash. For that reason, you’ll need to purchase a bigger plan than what you normally need unless you’re OK with it crashing sometimes.

    Given my history of issues with the company and the fact that I’ve spent nearly $1,000 with them, I thought they might consider offering me a partial-year refund when my business closed. Nope. When I asked for a refund, they simply closed my account (deleting my websites and email accounts immediately) and giving me an account credit. Why would I need a credit for an account they already deleted? If they weren’t going to offer a refund, it would have been nice for them to tell me my options before completely shutting down my account.

    • Reply Jonathan February 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      Well, your experiences are a polar opposite with ours. We actually have quite detailed uptime figures and I think the only downtime we have had in the past 5 months has been for about 4 minutes. If you are seriously concerned about uptime you would need to go for the ksplice addon, otherwise your system would get rebooted a couple of times a week for updates to be applied.

      With VPS you do need to have a little more knowledge. Whilst it is managed, they won’t configure all the nice stuff unless you ask them. For instance, we highly recommend the standard is tweaked for Nginx with reverse proxy, with other PHP tweaks (fastcgi). The base install of Centos is going to be pretty basic no matter where you are. Luckily, A Small Orange will set Nginx up for you in a few minutes, and the other is just a matter of recompiling Apache via the WHM EasyApache function. I am pretty sure A Small Orange will help you do that too.

      We have been using them for well over a year now and they have always done their upmost to help. We have never experienced that kind of downtime (although last April time, they did have a few incidents that lasted a couple of hours). What kind of traffic are you trying to send through it? If you use too much CPU, it would merely be throttled. Using too much RAM would cause errors, but you can upgrade RAM as an addon for just $5 per month.

      Have you optimized your site? Are you using caching plugins? Or are you just a very busy site?

      • Reply Matt T. February 3, 2015 at 12:37 am

        Thank you for the response and the suggestions. It’s good to hear you’ve had better luck with ASO.

        We requested Nginx and they set it up for us shortly after we started. We used a caching plugin and had a highly optimized site. I’m sure we could have done more, but that really wasn’t the issue.

        Here’s an example of one message I received from their tech support.

        “Tonight, we experienced an outage on Virtual Machines using our SAN10 unit for storage. … I understand that this was not the first outage, and I would also like to apologize for it. Last time when we’ve had servers down, it was caused by a human error, where a power supply unit was knocked down, causing power failure on the number of VPSes.”

        I don’t expect perfection, and that’s why I always held off on writing negative feedback. However, if I make a mistake and don’t live up to my customer’s expectations, I will do anything to try to make it right. Most businesses seem to have the same philosophy.

        I should clarify what I meant about the site crashing if you have a large spike in traffic. We had an article featured on the main page of Google News, and we had about 1,200 readers on the site at one time. That’s significantly more traffic than we normally have, and I realize most websites won’t experience such dramatic fluctuation unless you have content which may go viral. It’s still frustrating when you have a huge opportunity to reach new readers and no one can access the site. We were told to upgrade to a plan which cost twice as much to avoid future crashes. Unfortunately, we rarely used that amount of RAM, but you want to be prepared.

        • Jonathan Griffin February 3, 2015 at 8:46 am

          Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately our experience with high traffic sites is fairly limited, so it is difficult to say how to counteract that. Certainly, using an opcode cache into RAM to save compiling PHP all the time will not only speed up the site but will help with CPU usage. Unfortunately, that can use a little more RAM, but still RAM can be fairly cheap (note some companies charge much more than others, mainly due to difference in datacenter costs i.e. some datacenters will charge $400 (i.e. premium datacenters such as Softlayer) for 128GB RAM, others just $140). We are currently testing Litespeed Xcache combination which is said to be able to server alot more traffic for less… but you have to purchase a Litespeed licence and it can be quite complicated configuring Opcode caching with that (we are using a company called Remsys for our system admin). To be honest, with that kind of traffic you are better off choosing a company that has experience with high traffic sites. Whilst we haven’t reviewed them, WiredTree is one that includes Litespeed configuration (we tested them once, but preferred Hostnine A Small Orange) as standard. Another option is SiteGround VPS, and have RAM to autoscale on demand. You have a few options, but for the great support experience you need to be prepared to pay for it. With that kind of traffic though you are getting, I am sure you can afford it!

  2. Reply Neil Ford December 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

    For me the biggest reasons to stay with them is their amazing customer service. No matter how I try and contact them I get really prompt responses. I’ve had other hosting companies take days to get back to me and that was really frustrating.

    This speed of response seems to be really standard with this company too. When I decided to activate my hosting with them I think it took 20 minutes to have everything set-up and ready to go. Every time I need to set up something new it goes really fast as well. I think I have a bigger web presence because they make it so easy.

    As far as price goes I feel like they could be a little cheaper per month but I also feel what I pay is fair. I don’t think they would be able to provide the service they do if they were cheaper. They are right on the edge of budget hosting which means I can still afford them as a poor college student. On the other hand I feel really professional when I deal with them.

    As far as the actual hosting goes I have no complaints. I have barely any downtime so I feel like I’m getting what I pay for whenever I look at my site. The servers seem to be really fast so I never get complaints about things loading which can be really nice. All together I don’t think there is anything I would change with the hosting itself.

    A Small Orange is the best hosting company I have tried. From personal sites to the start of business products I have found them to be really helpful. No matter the expertise level I have they are always there to help. They are, at their core, great hosting with a commitment to service.

  3. Reply Charles Bernard December 18, 2014 at 9:17 am

    ASO has had great up-time for me. I really never have to worry about my host being down or extended maintenance. This has made it really easy to manage my business in a short amount of time instead of worrying about it constantly. This has got to be one of my many favorite things about this company.

    I know that this is a bigger company, but when I deal with them I feel like I’m dealing with a local business. Their customer service never acts like they don’t have time for my questions. Instead I feel like I get all the help I need and then some. Some of the representatives will even make jokes with you making me feel like I’m talking to a friend instead of technical support.

    Speaking of support, trying to contact them gets you results within literal minutes. I have traveled a lot all over the world so I contact them at weird times. I have never had to wait more than a few minutes for someone to help me with my problems. I think that is one of the things that makes me really stay with them.

    Unlike some other companies they don’t expect me to know everything when dealing with the interface. If I need to get something set up as far as hosting they are always willing to answer my questions. This is really helpful when I know I need to do something but I’m not quite sure how to go about making it happen. I never end up feeling like an idiot when trying to do things I need.

    Overall A Small Orange is the best hosting solution I have been able to find for my business. They work well with being a traveler and understand the importance of prompt service. They put a lot of care into their products and this makes it easy to work with them. Overall they are just a great hosting company.

  4. Reply Ben September 26, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    They are the best host I have ever been with. I moved upwards of 15 domains to them because their service and support is fast and great. If I have ever had an issue the answers are very quickly given. If you are not with A Small Orange you should seriously consider moving to them.

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