My “Free” Gift – Actually $190 With No Easy Payments!

When Free Isn't Free

When I logged into our Siteground account the other day, a lovely image offering a series of free gifts for the holiday season greeted me.

Screenshot of the "free" gifts from Siteground
“Free” gifts from Siteground – Merry Christmas!

How festive! How generous. I had two weeks to mull them over in my Christmas induced food coma before accepting with abandon. But wait… there’s more. A little too much more, once you excitedly unwrap those babies, tear off the pretty paper and pull them out of the box.

Free Wildcard SSL for 1 Year

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. This technology encrypts data to and from websites and should be well on its way to becoming ubiquitous. Even Google has stated that all other things being equal, it will preference sites using HTTPS:// in the search rankings. Read this in-depth article from Neil Patel for further detail.

Screenshot of the free SSL offering. Math seems a bit off...
I’m not too sure about the math on this one.

The promotion was for a Wildcard SSL certificate, which according to Siteground’s own marketing, is targeted towards medium-sized websites including sub-domains. Enough Time To… is not a medium-sized website. It’s a micro- (or nano-) sized website. It appears as though Siteground figured this out on its own, because the next time I logged in, this offer was missing!

Screenshot of the different SSL offers for small, medium and large websites.
Small, medium, large – where’s ETT?

Enough Time To… uses a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt. This initiative aims to make it free and easy for everyone to install SSL certificates, in order to “create a more secure and privacy-respecting Web”. Siteground automatically includes Let’s Encrypt with every hosting account (yay Siteground!). You can use the Qualys SSL Server Test tool to check for correct certificate installation. Thankfully, the Enough Time Machine received an A! A win for users, and a win for us. Excellent. I try to be security conscious when it comes to running around online, and https:// is the way of the future.

Screenshot of the SSL certificate scorecard, with an overall rating of A.
Our SSL certificate is properly installed and working.

Free Premium Backup for 1 Year

At the moment, I am manually backing up. It doesn’t take long, I have my own schedule, and I’ve also had practice restoring, so I’m good to go. If you are running a blog or a website, backing up regularly is essential. So essential, I’ll say it again. It’s essential. You will need to rely on a backup one day. It may be because hackers hit your website, the server goes down, you install a plugin that freezes your system, or you suffer one of an unlimited number of quirks that can pull your website or blog down. Believe me, you will be grateful that you’ve taken the time to back up.

Free premium backup means an automatic backup every single day with the backups stored for 30 days. It also offers unlimited professional restores. Again, being all about security, that’s a pretty cool offering, thanks. Except: it’s only actually gratis if I upgrade my hosting plan. And while I appreciate all 12 readers of you out there, I’m not at the point where I need to spend $94.05 to continue to fly the Enough Time Machine!

Screenshot of the backup offer.
And… there’s the catch.

Free HackAlert for 1 Year

This represents an extra layer of security for you, my readers. HackAlert scans this blog for malware that may otherwise end up infecting you and getting our website blacklisted. Siteground offers this for free on new account creation, and I appreciate that. I thought that I may be able to extend the service for another 12 months using this holiday offer. They did try to warn me on the front advertisement with the line “Get a new account with free malware detection”. Yup. Only $47.40 to (for some reason) open up an entirely new account. Don’t they know we are a fleet of a single ship at this point?

Screenshot of HackAlert "free" offer, showing $47.40 to upgrade needed to access the offer.
There’s the catch again…

Free Domain Privacy for 1 Year

This one is unbelievably important if you value keeping your private details away from the crazies running around on the Interwebs. When you register a domain name, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) requires personally identified information, including your name, address, telephone number and email address. This could then be published to the public – not what you want when you are running an anonymous blog, or for many, many other reasons. To this end, there are companies that will act as a proxy for you, and keep your personal information secured. Head to ICANN’s WHOIS, enter your URL and double-check that your private information is hidden.

Siteground offers this service – quite frankly, I wouldn’t host with anyone who doesn’t offer it. Again, I was hoping for an extension to my initial sign-on offer. At least this time they did try to make it clear with “Get a new domain with free ownership protection.” Sure enough, this freebie is only going to cost me $46.80. All I need is to set up (yet) another website.

Screenshot of the "Register a Domain" function needed to access the offer.
So, which ship shall we choose to add to the Enough Time Machine fleet?

Useful Offerings, Just NOT Free

If I accepted all these offers, it would have cost me $188.25 (and I’d end up with three websites, not one)! That’s surely a gift with a sting in the tail. Am I being over-critical towards Siteground? After all, they are only doing what every business wants to do, which is entice their customers to spend more money. To me, however, this advertisement seems more disingenuous than most. Not a single * that denotes “conditions apply”. Just the liberal use of the word “free”. Should I give them the benefit of the doubt, and chalk it up to good intentions but poor execution? Or should I have lower expectations?

8 thoughts on “My “Free” Gift – Actually $190 With No Easy Payments!

  1. I have just told Poopsie to back our blog up… something we have never done before! Thanks for the tip. And sorry Site Ground were trying to trick you. I got the same email but in the Christmas busyness, hadn’t read it yet. I will now delete it!

    • Don’t worry about Siteground – I bet most of the hosting providers do something similar.

      I back up once a week, and/or before I upgrade either WordPress or my plugins. I was “lucky” I had an issue with a plugin early on, so I got to practice restoring from a backup. It is a scary proposition! Make sure you store the backups locally, and not on the Siteground server.

      • I’ve just read a suggestion elsewhere that you store your backups in the cloud instead of locally, in case of hardware failure. Also, see Martin’s comment below about plugins for easy backup.

  2. Yeahhhh, naaaaaaaaa. Thanks but no thanks for the offer Siteground. Do they seriously think that this is a great offer for existing customers? There are plenty of free backup plugins available. I use Updraft plus which has free and paid options. I find the free one does the job for me.

    • Lol! Good point about the plugin – I’m trying to stay plugin-light at the moment, but if I ever get too busy to do it manually, then that is a function I would prioritise. Thanks for letting us know which one you use.

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