As a host that advertises optimized WordPress hosting, you’d expect Cirrus Tech to offer better speeds than its non-optimized rivals. While Cirrus Tech does offer many good features, I found some performance issues that concerned me. It can’t compare to an international host like Hostinger, which offers great performance for a great price.
Decent Features and Reliable Support, but Performance Is Problematic
Cirrus Tech has a wide range of hosting plans, including regular shared hosting, WordPress hosting, and various cloud, VPS, and dedicated hosting options. All these hosting types have slightly different features, but I’m going to focus on Cirrus Tech’s WordPress hosting plans in this review.
Cirrus Tech has three data centers, all located in Toronto, Ontario. In theory, this should mean that your Eastern Canadian visitors experience fast page loading times. In practice, that wasn’t exactly the case.
I signed up for the Personal WordPress hosting plan and put every single aspect of Cirrus Tech’s service to the test. I’ve dug deep into its performance, spent time interacting with tech support, and approached the account dashboard and control panel as if I’ve never used web hosting services before, all so I can bring you an in-depth, hands-on overview of what you can expect when you host your website with Cirrus Tech.
Great WordPress Enhancing Features – but Choose Your Plan Wisely
When you sign up for one of Cirrus Tech’s WordPress hosting plans, you get all the essential features that you need, plus some WordPress-specific features that can improve site performance.
One thing I do find a little odd about Cirrus Tech is that it doesn’t actually state how much disk space you get with any of its WordPress hosting plans. I was unable to get an answer from Cirrus Tech when I asked.
Whatever the storage allowance is, you should note that SSD storage is exclusively available on the Dedicated WordPress hosting plan. This means storage for all other WordPress plans (Personal, Business, and Corporate) is on slower HDDs that many hosts no longer use.
You’re able to host a single website on the Personal plan, two on Business and five each on Corporate and Dedicated, but there is a cap on the number of visitors you can receive in total each month (not per website).
Spam filtering via SpamExperts is included with all WordPress hosting plans except for Personal. All plans benefit from advanced security features to protect against malicious traffic and brute force attacks.
Cirrus Tech fully supports Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates, so that’s one extra cost you don’t have to worry about. You can activate free SSL from your control panel, and you don’t have to keep renewing the certificates as this is handled automatically by Cirrus Tech.
Optimized for WordPress
The more hosts I test, the more I see how important WordPress optimization is. Hosts that don’t have WordPress-optimized servers often have poorer performance results. Cirrus Tech’s WordPress optimization is said to use “state of the art technology.”
This includes caching in its top three plans (you’ll have to use a caching plugin with the Personal plan), and a few other performance boosts with its Dedicated plan – the rest remains a mystery. When I asked, I was informed that Cirrus Tech does not use LiteSpeed,and then the chat agent went silent on me.
Although all minor updates (security patches and bug fixes) will be automatically applied to your website via WordPress’ default settings, you can configure Cirrus Tech’s automatic updates feature to include major core updates, plugin updates, and theme updates. When your WordPress installation is up to date you are much less vulnerable to malicious attacks.
Weekly backups of your website are automatically taken, and you can create manual backups before you make any major changes to your website. Cirrus Tech doesn’t state how long these backups are kept, but you are able to request that your web space be restored from a backup at any time. Unfortunately, you can’t restore from an automatic backup yourself, and there’s no option to upgrade to daily backups.
Free Website Transfer
If you already have a website hosted with another provider, Cirrus Tech can transfer it to its servers completely free of charge. The migration will be managed by experts who complete the transfer with as little disruption to your service as possible, and who will then ensure everything is working as it should be.
Setting up your hosting account with Cirrus Tech is a relatively straightforward process. When you click on the Customize & Order button for your selected plan, you’ll be taken to a page labelled Setup Your Server (as shown in the screenshot below).
I wasn’t keen on the slider that pretends to allow you to customize your plan. I’d have preferred actual customization options here with checkboxes or radio buttons. As long as you have originally clicked the correct button for your chosen plan, you can ignore this slider.
Other than that minor niggle, I didn’t encounter any real issues with purchasing my hosting account, and the whole process only took a few minutes.
Managing Your Account and Using cPanel
A growing majority of web hosts are using the simple WHMCS account management dashboard, but Cirrus Tech has opted for the HostBill all-in-one hosting command center. It’s very stripped-back and simple to use with navigation buttons along the top like a regular website. There are also “Quick Links” for things like opening new support tickets, which I found useful.
For managing your actual webspace and setting up things like email addresses and SSL certificates, Cirrus Tech uses cPanel, probably the most popular of all control panels. I’m not a cPanel fan because I think the sheer number of icons can make finding tools and functions harder than it should be. It’s not the most beginner-friendly option, but once you’ve found your way around, it gets easier to use.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
When you sign up, your domain should be connected to your hosting space (mine was), so it’s really just a matter of installing WordPress. You may need to wait up to 48 hours before you can log in to cPanel, however, since it can take time for your domain name to resolve (start pointing to your webspace from your location).
Like a lot of its rivals, Cirrus Tech uses the Softaculous 1-click installer for adding applications like WordPress to your website. Softaculous has an Install Now button for WordPress that takes you through the installation process in just a few minutes.See if Cirrus Tech is Right for You
Cirrus Tech Has Some Speed and Reliability Issues
Performance is the most important aspect of my testing process, so I spend a lot of time repeating tests and running monitors at different times throughout the week. After all, low prices won’t matter if your visitors are being driven away by slow-to-load pages or periods of downtime.
When you sign up for optimized WordPress hosting,you expect page loading speeds to be faster than average. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Cirrus Tech.
Other Canadian hosts I’ve tested recently without server optimization significantly outperformed Cirrus Tech. Its average page loading time was 2.8 seconds, disappointingly close to Google’s recommended maximum of three seconds. Only one other Canadian host performed more poorly. Reliability was also very poor, with an average of just 99.367% – the minimum I expect from any host is 99.9%.
I use the same testing process for all web hosts. If you’re interested in the full details of how we test at Website Planet, you can check out this article. I’m just going to give you a quick summary here.
To test Cirrus Tech’s performance, I installed WordPress on the Personal plan and installed a customized SimpleShift one-page website theme. Some review websites run performance tests on a nearly blank website (just WordPress with no demo pages or images). I don’t do this, because it won’t give you realistic or accurate results.
The theme I use has demo content including text, forms, and non-optimized HD images. It looks a lot like an e-commerce website or landing page. I use non-optimized images, allowing hosts a chance to offer me optimization advice when I contact technical support.
You can see a snapshot of what the website looked like in the screenshot below. It was available at autonomous-shoes-canada-d.ca.
GTmetrix is one of my favourite performance testing tools as it supplies more than just information about page loading speeds. It also offers performance scores (PageSpeed and YSlow) that reflect your website’s level of optimization.
As I mentioned before, Cirrus Tech disappointed me with its average page loading speed of 2.8 seconds. The screenshot below shows the fastest page loading speed it achieved, which was 1.9 seconds. The slowest was 3.5 seconds. Considering that Cirrus Tech supposedly uses optimized servers, it’s really disheartening to find that it delivers the second-worst page loading speeds of all the Canadian hosts I tested.
I don’t know if these performance issues are due to the Personal plan not having the advanced caching features that the other plans have. But these poor speeds and the lack of optimization info leaves me wondering whether Cirrus Tech’s WordPress hosting really does run on optimized servers.
Whatever time of day or night I ran the tests, the results were poor. Even at off-peak times, Cirrus Tech couldn’t provide page loading speeds that most of its competitors manage with ease.
Cirrus Tech’s other performance scores were equally unimpressive. PageSpeed is a tool developed by Google for evaluating your site’s optimization levels, and while a score of 67% isn’t terrible, it does indicate that a WordPress plugin might not be enough to fix the problem. The average PageSpeed score is around 76%, but you should aim for a score of 90%+ to give your visitors the best experience.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
I use Sucuri Load Time Tester to see how well a host performs when accessed from various global locations. The two red columns in the screenshot below are a clear indicator of problems with Cirrus Tech’s performance.
As you can see, even from Toronto and Montreal, Sucruri reported page loading times of longer than four seconds – far worse than those that GTmetrix reported from all the way out in Vancouver, BC. Then, unsurprisingly, page loading speeds were even slower outside of North America.
Performance is about more than just page loading speeds and optimization, however. Reliability, which is measured in uptime, is also vital as you’re going to lose visitors if your website is unavailable. Cirrus Tech had unacceptably poor reliability scores during the monitoring period. Uptime of 99.367% allows for a staggering 273.5 minutes of downtime over the course of a month. That’s 4.5 hours.
The low average is largely a result of one 30-day period during which Cirrus Tech’s uptime was just 98.8% – so, the site was down for 518 minutes (6.4 hours) during that time. That’s beyond unacceptable for any web host. And, conveniently, Cirrus Tech doesn’t seem to have an uptime guarantee, so you wouldn’t have been compensated.
Fast Support That Resolves Your Problems – Except via Live Chat
Cirrus Tech has 24/7 ticket support, as well as live chat that was only sporadically available for me. Each time I contacted tech support, I received a fairly rapid response. Although the responses were sometimes a little curt, they did offer help and/or resolved the issues that I was having.
The ticket response in the screenshot above is very brief but it answered my question and told me where to look to find the WordPress installation tool. I wasn’t left waiting for hours.
Support was more helpful when I encountered difficulties installing a theme, and the response time was even shorter. What I liked about the exchange in the screenshot above is that the agent not only took action on my behalf to increase the file size upload limit, but also told me how to do it myself if I ever needed to increase it further.
When I contacted Cirrus Tech about optimizing WordPress, the response time was around 90 minutes – three times as long as my first response time – but it was actually worth the wait. This was one of the most detailed responses I’ve received from a Canadian host after asking for help with WordPress optimization. The only issue arose when the agent said my website was loading in 1.7 seconds, yet the fastest loading speed I was able to record was 1.9 seconds. The agent didn’t mention anything about the fact that I was on an optimized hosting plan, which I found a little suspicious.
I had to contact Cirrus Tech’s support team again when my website suddenly became unavailable. The response was very quick and the agent fully resolved the issue, which was related to a missing DNS record – but since my website had been loading fine up until this point, I’m not sure how or why this issue occurred.
As I said earlier, the availability of live chat was a bit of a lottery. Even without this issue, my live chat experience was not great, so I’d recommend ticket support instead. If you ask support a question via live chat, the agent may leave you waiting….and waiting…and waiting.
In the screenshot below, I asked about the type of WordPress optimization Cirrus Tech uses, and after a quick initial response, I waited for over 30 minutes until the chat was closed due to inactivity! Then, despite it being during business hours, live chat became unavailable.
My experience with live chat was off-putting, which is a shame, since my experiences with ticket support were pretty good.
The Lowest Prices Are Only Available with Three-Year Plans
Compared to other Canadian hosts with similar hosting plans, Cirrus Tech is less budget-friendly. That’s mainly because you’re paying for optimized WordPress hosting (although I question the level of optimization). If you pay on a monthly basis, the Personal plan is up to four times as expensive as some of Cirrus Tech’s (better performing) rivals.
Be aware that although PayPal payments are available as an option, it takes five days for one to clear, so it won’t be applied to your account until then. It’s best to pay via debit or credit card (Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted).
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee period with Cirrus Tech, so if you change your mind you need to request cancellation and a refund within those 30 days. No refunds will be considered after the 30 days are up. Also, the cost of your “free” domain name will be deducted from the refund amount, as domain names are not included in the money-back guarantee.
My biggest gripe with Cirrus Tech is the three-year commitment required to get the lowest prices. That’s a lot of money to pay up front, so if you decide Cirrus Tech isn’t right for you after the 30-day refund period is up, you’re left with a problem. Cirrus Tech isn’t alone in using this strategy, but I still dislike it.
Cancelling Your Account
If you want to cancel your hosting account, there’s a Request Cancellation link under the WordPress hosting management section of the account dashboard. You do have to state a reason for cancellation, but other than that the form takes literally seconds to complete.
On the surface, Cirrus Tech looks like it has a lot to offer, but due to its performance and pricingI don’t feel comfortable recommending it. My experience with live chat was disconcerting, and its reliability was unpredictable. Also, Cirrus Tech’s performance left me wondering whether the WordPress hosting was optimized at all.
If you want Canadian-based hosting, there are much better options available. You can check out my review of Bluebird Hosting, for example. Alternatively, Hostinger and InterServer are two great international hosts with data centers close enough to Canada to deliver the fast page loading speeds that your visitors deserve.
There is a wide range of hosting services available, from budget-friendly shared hosting to fancy dedicated servers. The best hosting for your website will depend on your specific needs. If shared hosting isn’t enough for you, there are several cheap and reliable VPS hosting services available.
How do I choose a hosting plan?
Try to estimate the size of your website, and how many visitors you think you’ll be getting each month. Since most web hosting providers will let you easily scale up your plan, it’s always the most cost-effective to start small and upgrade later.
Ari is passionate about web hosting and design and has been building websites with WordPress for over ten years. When he’s not testing web hosts, you’re likely to find him trying (in vain) to train his three beagles (who are better at training him than he is them!)