For the purpose of this review, I will put various aspects of the A Small Orange under the microscope, examining its website, plans, pricing, customer support options, etc..
I will also study inputs from other users of this web host so as to derive to an objective review.
As I was in the middle of a new major site launch last year, I anticipated that a fairly big hosting package was necessary. I looked around and decided to partner a then lesser-known company called A Small Orange.
The fact is I had heard about them. An ex-HostGator runs the company and since my past dealing with HostGator went pretty smooth, my gut feel was that this company would do a decent job.
It turned out it is a good choice!
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A Small Orange has been in the hosting game from 2003. It is not among the better-known names in the industry, but it has surely grown in quick time. Originally founded in Atlanta, Georgia US, the company currently has its HQ in Durham, North Carolina.
The company founder is Tim Dorr, a web designer by profession, and he was soon bought out by Douglas Hanna in 2010. Hanna was a customer service manager at HostGator and he has since assumed the CEO role after the buyout.
There is also another HostGator connection here (don’t forget to read my HostGator review here), Brent Oxley, the founder of HostGator, was also involved in part of the funding of this takeover.
Hanna is also involved in the running of two other hosting companies, HostNine and SEO Web Hosting. Obviously, A Small Orange is in a good position to leverage on this well-connected network. The original founder, Tim Dorr, is now in charge of Army of Bees web design.
For some reason, there are 2 different profiles on BBB for ASO. One of them identifies the company as A Small Orange Software. I don’t know how and why the word Software is there. I never heard anyone call this company by that name. Perhaps it’s their registered business name.
Either way, there was not much to look at on the Better Business Bureau’s website since it seems the company profile there is young. There were no complaints recorded against the company, nor is the company a BBB accredit business.
That said, BBB gives it an A+ rating which is the highest rating possible.
A Small Orange Hosting Plans
I seriously think that hosting choices at A Small Orange may just be a wee bit overdone. While being presented with rich choice is not a bad thing, but more likely too much variations could confuse the customers.
It is no rocket science, but they have lots of different choices of web hosting for every category, definitely more than a handful for the potential client to grasp with. It is easy to get confused but let us see what these options are:
Shared Web Hosting
- Tiny: $35/year with 250MB Disk & 5GB Bandwidth
- Small: $5/month with 1GB Disk & 20GB Bandwidth
- Medium: $10/month with 5GB Disk & 100GB Bandwidth
- Large: $20/month with 15GB Disk & 300GB Bandwidth
- Super: $30/month with 25GB Disk & 500GB Bandwidth
Reseller Web Hosting
- Small: $15/mo with 3GB Disk, 30GB B/W, & 30 hosted sites
- Medium: $25/mo with 5GB Disk, 50GB B/W, & 50 hosted sites
- Large: $35/mo with 10GB Disk, 100GB B/W, & 100 hosted sites
Business Web Hosting
- Startup: $20/mo with 10GB Disk & 100GB Bandwidth
- Small Business: $40/mo with 20GB Disk & 200GB Bandwidth
- Enterprise: $60/mo with 30GB Disk & 300GB Bandwidth
Keep in mind that as is often the case with web hosting companies, you can get these same plans for much lower prices using promotional codes, discounts, and coupons. You just have to keep an eye out for such offerings.
How Reliable Is Aso in Terms of Uptime?
Like most other web hosts such as BlueHost, A Small Orange pitches on its 99.9% uptime guarantee. There is a live status page to track the performance, but you have to log in before you can access that information. The company also does not have a habit of showing off archived uptime data.
There is a small write-up on the company website on its data centre, but the information there is patchy. There is no indication on the number of data centers, or whereabouts are these facilities.
But the write-up did point out that its facilities are monitored with CCTV and equipped with UPS power supply through backup battery and diesel generator.
You would imagine customer service is a strong sell for any decent web host, but the company actually sting on that as well, so that is kind of baffling.
My personal take is that clients need to feel comfortable with the kind of people involved in the proper operation of the company. I really feel the business could get a helpful boost if A Small Orange takes the trouble to fill in the blanks on this aspect.
A Very Responsive Customer Support
The part that blew me over at A Small Orange is their customer service.
Submit a ticket and expect the technical support folks to revert with a comprehensive response inside half an hour. I have never seen such impressive turnaround and these guys are able to do it consistently. I have benefited tremendously from such amazing display of service attitude, you will as well!
When I signed on my VPS package, I was worried sick if something was seriously wrong. It turned out it was just my naivety! That was my first exposure to a VPS hosting and my assumption that the cPanel would be ever-ready waiting for me (as I logged on for the first time) was plain wrong.
ASO is exemplary in term of support skills and guidance for the subsequent and successful setup, but I was guilty of shooting off some stupid questions during the setup.
All A Small Orange plans come with cPanel (and WHM, where applicable). The arrangement is not always free (especially for those more powerful plans). So it is wise to check if there is going to be a licensing fee involved before you register.
The company seems confident enough on its quality of service on offer as it does not try to impress on the bells and whistles of the business. This is a clear departure from other web hosts that want to tempt you with freebies or vouchers.
What If Your Are Not Happy?
Both shared hosting and business hosting customers are assured of a 45-day money back guarantee. At A Small Orange, even if you have to cancel the hosting plan beyond that 45-day period, you will still entitle to a refund on your unused time, so there is clearly some protection for the customers.
This policy does not apply to other plans.
Other Reviews of A Small Orange
As usual, I scoured the web in search of real reviews from actual customers to add more credibility in this review. Not surprisingly, there were mixed opinions, but positive reviews and rating were overwhelmingly more than negative ones.
Here is a breakdown of what I thought were the most common points the majority of customers made:
- A good branding that depicts the company as a standout from the highly crowded hosting sector.
- A comprehensive “Knowledgebase and Video Tutorial” section to get customers quickly up to speed. Such resources have definitely been helpful to get customers over the learning curve quick.
- Matter of fact advertisement – no bullshit like “unlimited bandwidth” being hawked about here.
- Value for money plans, this is especially so when you take into consideration of the quality of service on offer as well.
- Rich choice of plans, you will be able to decide on what you really need, not wasting money on extras that you never use.
- The ubiquitous cPanel universally acknowledged as the easiest to use interface for system admin, for both newbies and seasoned webmasters.
- Softaculous as their CMS script installs. I don’t think there is anything else to have WordPress installed on your site just as quickly and efficiently.
- Unbelievably fast and competent response to customer service tickets.
- Phone support is non-existence for all basic packages, but if you invest in one of the high valued packages, you get to use this service. If you rate phone support as ultra important to get you website going, and you happen to be on a basic package, then you will have to consider their sister company, HostNine, seriously. Nevertheless, the level of ticket support is amazing and I personally think this mitigates the missing phone support effectively.
- It is difficult to speak badly about a company’s trajectory growth, but the fact that ASO grew so much in such short time recently could create a backlash on their service level. Today, the company is not considered a mainstream hosting provider yet. But as the business continues to scale, it can be anybody’s guess if ASO is capable of handling the extra users load or if that level of service is going to sacrifice. Back in early 2013, I complained about a drop in service quality when the company’s aggressive growth path was evident, but they quickly turned around and it has been business as usual, credit to them.
- Again, same time as I witnessed a decline in quality of customer service, uptime also suffered. For straight 2 months, my observation of 4 shared servers revealed that average uptime had dropped to 99.73%. To be fair, they acknowledged my observation and compensated me free months of hosting, as part of their process to honor their guarantee, which has been beneficial to me, to say the least.
EIG finally acquired ASO in Jul 2012. On paper, some eminent changes on operation were perhaps to be expected, but after my conversations with a few executives at ASO, I was made to understand that EIG is allowing ASO to operate sort of autonomously. If that message stays true, I have no ground to complain.
A Small Orange really looks like an honest operator focusing on its web hosting packages and services. The company lays out pertinent information for customers’ consumption; there was never any attempt to over-glorify itself or indulge in freebies to tempt customers, and the website is neat with easy to navigate structure.
If there is any bone to pick, then it got to be the lack of telephone support, limited live chat support and tech support staff who are not housed at the same location.
Although my experience confirmed that great support service can still be had through emails, I am not sure if the rest of the webmasters share my feeling.
The bottom line of this review is that A Small Orange has earned its fine reputation and its website has been a great source of fact finding and information gathering for me. It helps that the company also adopts a positive policy on cancellation refund.