A continuation of our search for quality web hosting takes us to perhaps the Internet’s most cleverly named hosting company: A Small Orange. Founded in Atlanta in 2003, ASO has steadily crept up the mythical web hosting ladder to now host over 450,000 sites across the globe.
While ASO is certainly impressive for being such a young company, they are not without their blemishes. In 2012, much-maligned Endurance International Group bought out the company and introduced an slow and steady decline to the company’s reputation.
We’ve discussed EIG and their monopolization of the web hosting business numerous times in other reviews (check out iPage and HostGator), and ASO is not exempt when it comes to their questionable business strategy.
Nonetheless, ASO has a significant customer base around the globe, whether that is due to the aforementioned excellent customer service or their steadfast commitment to being an environmentally friendly company.
So has EIG’s takeover tainted ASO, or has the hypothetical “fruit” fallen far from the tree? Let’s take a deeper look into ASO hosting to see if they might be right for you.
A Small Orange Plans and Pricing
ASO’s shared hosting plans are comparable to other hosting companies regarding pricing and options, with just one glaring absence: unlimited bandwidth. In today’s world where high traffic for websites is becoming more and more the norm, we were disappointed to discover that ASO’s shared hosting plans do not offer unlimited bandwidth.
The standard “Tiny” shared hosting package starts off with 500 MB of storage space and 5 GB of bandwidth (equates to about 20,000 visitors) while the “Large” package increases your storage space to 30 GB and bandwidth to 500 GB. Utilizing SSD drives in redundant RAID 10 arrays also significantly increases the speed of your site.
Shared hosting packages come with unlimited e-mail accounts and storage, and if you pay with the yearly payment option you are given a free domain and 2 free months (making it a 10-month subscription)
There are also “Business” packages available for more resource-intensive sites. Whether you are a high-traffic blog or an e-commerce site, ASO’s Business packages include SSL certificates and enterprise database support in the form of PostgreSQL and MariaDB.
An important thing to keep in mind is that ASO also offers a 90-day money back guarantee with all hosting packages, meaning that you can truly give them a try for a few months to see if they might be the right fit for you.
A Small Orange Customer Service
ASO has a reputation on the internet for having some of the best customer service in the business. With 24/7 e-mail and phone support, ASO has most bases covered should you have any issues with your website.
Live chat is also available, albeit this feature is currently restricted to weekdays only. Our live chat experience was remarkably refreshing and quick, and we were shocked to find that our wait time for the session on a Monday morning was only 3 minutes!
Telephone support was a little more difficult experience, even though we were connected to a rep in just under 6 minutes. Unfortunately, the rep was not able to answer our question about Windows hosting plans being available, and we had to wait an additional few minutes to be transferred to someone who could answer our question.
A Small Orange Reliability / Speed
As far as speed and uptimes go, ASO has a somewhat conflicting reputation on the Internet. Numerous comments and complaints can be found relating to their apparent uptime issues over the past year or so, increasing significantly since the takeover by EIG.
While this is no doubt concerning, we give each of our hosting providers a clean slate until we have tested and examined them for ourselves.
According to Cloud Spectator (an independent hosting monitor commissioned by GoDaddy), ASO maintained a 100% uptime for the entire month of November 2015! This high uptime is just an additional reflection of their lifetime results (tracked since August 2014) on Cloud Spectator, ranking extremely favorable with a 99.23% uptime.
Page load times are obviously an essential part of generating and maintaining traffic for your website. Much like their uptime results, ASO showcases some pretty good stats regarding page load times, with our tests showing an average speed of around 2.5 seconds using an NYC server. With high-quality SSD drives utilized on all servers, the additional performance boost is certainly welcome.
But is this all there is to ASO’s reliability and performance? Definitely not.
As is true with other hosting companies we have looked at in the past; the EIG takeover affected ASO’s uptime to the point where the consensus on the Internet appears to be entirely negative regarding ASO reliability. Complaints about uptime issues are littered throughout various hosting review sites and social media, with the “where there is smoke, there’s fire” phrase being entirely compatible in this instance.
A Small Orange Security
In today’s digital age, the security and protection of your data is crucial. If you are running your business on the web, it’s important to keep not only your own site’s data secure but any visitor’s data as well.
ASO takes your site’s security seriously with daily site backups, IP-blocking, and hotlink/leech protection coming standard with all hosting packages. They also actively run Linux Malware Detect (Maldet) on all shared servers, along with ModSecurity as an external, web application firewall for any 3rd party applications you might install.
With 24/7, 365-day support technicians on site at their data centers in Dallas, TX, and Dearborn, MI, ASO has any data center related incidents well covered. In the event of any data loss, R1Soft Bare Metal Restore Backup Manager is used to give you a simple and quick restore of your information.
Sitelock is also available as an additional purchase starting at $20 a year, something that is highly recommended if you are running an e-commerce site.
A Small Orange Interface
CPanel comes standard with all shared plans while Softaculous script installer ensures the quick installation of web applications. As previously mentioned, Weebly Website Builder is also available (and heavily advertised) to allow simple, drag and drop website building.
ASO’s custom CPanel is easy on the eye while remaining extremely functional as well, providing easy and quick access to e-mail accounts, site statistics, and security features.
We were especially impressed by their FTP Manager as well, one of the most important functions of any high-traffic site.
The only negative experience we encountered related to ASO’s interface was the sign-up process itself. Having to register separate CPanel accounts for each subscription (can’t be on the same e-mail address!) does create some unwanted confusion and headaches.
A Small Orange Hosting Conclusion
• 90-day money back guarantee
• SSD drives standard for Shared packages
We weren’t so sure about
• Uptime issues
• No unlimited bandwidth plans
• Sign-up process
• EIG acquisition
The purchase by EIG has indeed cast a familiar shadow over A Small Orange, with the general internet outcry being directed towards a rapid decline in reliability. It’s important to note that ASO has also had quite the negative press recently, with a well-documented VPS outage occurring on Christmas and lasting for (!) 5 days.
ASO also has a unique pricing system as well that is quite different from other hosting providers, with the absence of an option for unlimited bandwidth meaning that you should properly research how much potential traffic your website will garner before signing up for a plan.
So is ASO right for you? Even with a few a hiccups, they still provide great value for small and growing businesses, so give them a try at no risk for 90 days!