Sibername has a lot of value-added features that make it seem like a really great choice, especially considering its low prices. But some of those features sound too good to be true, so I put it to the test, wondering if there was a catch. Unfortunately, I did discover a few downsides.
Affordable, Feature-Rich Hosting – But There Are Downsides
Sibername is one of a growing number of Canadian web hosting providers focused specifically on Canadian customers.
The closer your website visitors are to your website’s server, the faster your website will load (in theory, anyway), so there are definite benefits to choosing a Canadian web hosting provider. Plus, smaller hosts like Sibername are less likely to be guilty of over-populating their servers (which can have a huge impact on performance).
Although Sibername is based in Ottawa, Ontario, its data center is located in Montreal, Quebec. This means that if your website visitors are located in Western Canada, they may experience slower page loading speeds compared to visitors in Eastern Canada.
Sibername offers a range of services, including domain name registration, business email, shared web hosting, and WordPress web hosting. Unlike a lot of hosts, it doesn’t offer advanced hosting solutions, such as VPS (Virtual Private Server), cloud hosting, or dedicated servers. It does offer custom website design services, though.
To find out what hosting with Sibername is really like, I signed up, built a test website, and put this web host to the test. I looked at its features and performance, checked how easy it is to use and what its support team is like, and also evaluated its pricing. There are some things you definitely should know before you sign up for a plan.
Note: Since I did my testing, Sibername has been acquired by Web Hosting Canada. I reviewed Web Hosting Canada separately, but I do hope that current and future Sibername customers will benefit from the faster server speeds that WHC offers.
Value-Added Features Sound Almost Too Good to Be True
My first thought when I looked over the features on offer with Sibername was, “there must be a catch somewhere.” I wasn’t wrong.
Let’s look at the basics first. Sibername has three different hosting plans: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The main difference between the plans is the amount of resources (storage, bandwidth, email addresses, and sub-domains) you’re allocated.
The low-cost Silver plan is the most limited – 5GB storage, 20GB data transfer, 15 email accounts, and no sub-domains. Even the (pricey) Platinum plan only offers up to 50GB of storage, but email addresses and data transfer are unlimited and you can host up to three websites on one account.
While the resource allocations are quite stingy (compared to some hosts, like InterServer, who offer unlimited storage, bandwidth, and email addresses even on budget plans), they are adequate for most needs. Unless you’re building a media-rich e-commerce website requiring a lot of storage space, you’re unlikely to run out of resources.
One of the most important features I look for with every host I test is a free SSL certificate. Every website needs an SSL certificate to avoid that off-putting “not secure” browser warning,and with free SSLs available from Lets Encrypt, there’s no excuse for hosts not to provide free SSL certificates even on the cheapest plans.
As for Sibername, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that a free SSL certificate is provided with Gold and Platinum plans. The bad news is that on the low-cost Silver plan you’ll have to purchase an SSL certificate yourself. Likewise, you only get a free domain name with the Gold and Platinum plans.
This was another case where Sibername’s website was confusing: the site says an SSL certificate is included only with the Platinum shared hosting plan, but with all WordPress hosting plans. However, when I asked about this on live chat, I was told that it’s only included on Gold and Platinum – see the screenshot below.
All plans include daily backups that are stored off-site for extra protection and you can restore your website from a backup at no extra cost, too.
WordPress optimization is something that is becoming an essential feature rather than just something that’s nice to have. That’s because the WordPress platform is notorious for being a little bit slow and vulnerable to malicious attacks due to its open-source nature. With Sibername’s WordPress hosting plans you (theoretically) benefit from optimized servers that are designed to be faster and more secure.
Elementor Pro and Envato Elements
This is one feature that I could get really excited about. Elementor is a plugin for WordPress that essentially enables you to build your website like you would with a drag-and-drop builder like Wix. The standard version of Elementor is free to use, but Elementor Pro unlocks lots of extra features and pre-built templates. Of course, Elementor Pro would normally come at a cost, but with Sibername it’s included for free.
You also get free access to Envato Elements, which allows you to download hundreds of WordPress themes, plugins, stock images, graphics, videos, and more.Normally you’d have to pay a monthly subscription fee. The combined value of Envato Elements and Elementor Pro is actually much more than the annual cost of a WordPress hosting plan from Sibername, so this is a massively attractive feature to have!
Site.Pro Website Builder
If you’d rather not use WordPress, Sibername also provides a drag-and-drop website builder. You can even try it out online before you sign up. It offers over 200 website templates, plugins for e-commerce features, and lots of pre-designed sections you can easily add to your pages. If you’ve never built a website before, you might prefer this option.
Free Domain and/or Website Transfer
All Sibername’s plans include free domain transfer and website migration.If you’ve got a website hosted with another provider, you can let Sibername’s experts manage the transfer of both your domain and your entire website to your new account. You don’t have to worry about anything going wrong or your website being unavailable during the migration. Some hosts will charge you to transfer a domain name, so this is another money-saving feature.See full list of features
Ease of use
Beginner-Friendly Dashboard – But Is It Too Limited?
The whole process of signing up with Sibername was 100% hassle-free and you don’t need any technical skills at all to get started. This is one of the most beginner-friendly hosts I’ve tested, but if you’re not a beginner, you may find it a little too basic.
Managing Your Account and Using cPanel
Sibername doesn’t use one of the popular account dashboards. Instead, it’s opted for a stripped-back account dashboard that is easy to navigate and use.
If you’re new to web hosting, you’ll love the simplicity. This dashboard uses a straightforward drop-down menu navigation just like a regular website. But if this isn’t your first time hosting a website, prepare to be a little frustrated, because its account management options are pretty limited compared to other dashboards that I’ve used.
For actually managing your webspace, Sibername uses cPanel. You can log into cPanel directly from the Manage section in the account dashboard (so there’s no need to remember a separate username and password for cPanel). Compared to the account dashboard, cPanel is much less user-friendly and can be overwhelming, but it does get the job done.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
Your domain should already be connected to your webspace (if it isn’t, get in touch with support), so it’s a simple matter of going into cPanel, searching for the Softaculous 1-click installer (usually near the bottom of cPanel) and installing WordPress. The Install Now button is the quickest and easiest way to get started using the default settings. You can have your website up and running in less than 10 minutes in most cases.See if Sibername is Right for You
Some Shockingly Slow Speeds, but Uptime Is Great
Because Sibername advertises optimized WordPress servers, I was expecting great page loading speeds. Instead, I got incredibly disappointing speeds. Hopefully, following the takeover by Web Hosting Canada, Sibername’s performance will improve.
In my performance tests, Sibername’s average page loading speed was 2.8 seconds, only barely within Google’s recommended maximum page loading time of three seconds. Reliability, however, was much better, with a near-perfect uptime of 99.98%.
I use the same process for testing every web host that I review, and I’ll explain it here briefly, but if you want the full details of how we test web hosts at Website Planet, you can check out this article. I always test using WordPress, so after signing up, I installed WordPress and uploaded the customized SimpleShift theme designed specifically for testing hosts’ performance.
The test theme looks like a real website because, unlike some review sites, I don’t believe in testing the performance of a blank website. Your website is going to have content, so my test website does, too. It’s designed to function like a landing page or one-page website for an e-commerce store, complete with text, buttons, forms, and (non-optimized) HD images.
Why non-optimized images? Well, part of my testing process is to find out what optimization advice the host can give me, so I use non-optimized images to see if they notice and advise me to use a plugin.
The test website looks exactly like the screenshot below and was available at autonomous-shoes-canada-o.ca.
GTmetrixMy performance testing tool of choice is always GTmetrix, because it gives me more information than just the page loading speeds. As I’ve already mentioned, Sibername’s page loading speeds from GTmetrix were shockingly bad. In the screenshot below, you can see that it took over 5 seconds for the page to fully load.
To put that into perspective, the very same web page has loaded in half a second with some hosts I’ve tested. Therefore on at least one occasion,Sibername was nearly ten times slower than the fastest hosts I’ve tested.
I always run multiple tests at different times of day to get the most accurate results – and Sibername wasn’t always this bad. However, the fastest loading time was 1.8 seconds, and that was during the middle of the night. During peak times, at least three tests resulted in loading times of over 3 seconds. Overall, the average of all the tests I performed was 2.8 seconds. For a host that claims to have optimized servers, this is a terrible result.
In addition to page loading speed, GTmetrix measures optimization using Google’s PageSpeed Score. Sibername achieved a score of 67% which, while not bad enough to be coloured red within GTmetrix’s traffic light system, is still poor. The average PageSpeed score for similar websites is around 75%. With an optimization plugin, I could probably push the score up to 80%+ (but Sibername didn’t suggest I use one).
Sucuri Load Time Tester
I use Sucuri’s Load Time Tester to compare its results with those from GTmetrix. This allows me to see how fast the website will load from locations further away from Sibername’s data center. For the majority of locations, as you can see in the screenshot above, Sucuri was unable to load the website. That can be due to security settings on Sibername’s servers or the connection timing out.
What shocked me was the time it took for the page to load when tested from Montreal – where Sibername’s servers are located. 8.2 seconds is the kind of page loading speed I remember from the early days of home internet using a dial-up modem. This kind of page loading speed is almost guaranteed to drive your potential website visitors away.
UptimeRobotOf course, a web host’s performance includes more than just page loading speeds, so I also monitored the test website’s uptime using UptimeRobot. The difference between Sibername’s speed and its reliability is like night and day. It achieved an uptime average of 99.989% over the testing period, with a perfect uptime score of 100% in two of the three months!
If you need help with your website, here’s the good news: Sibername’s support teams are available 24/7, but keep in mind that this is only true of email support. Technical support via live chat is from 8am to 11pm (EST). Phone support is from 8am to 8pm (EST) from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 3pm (EST) on weekends.
I used both email and live chat support and to be honest, I’d recommend live chat support rather than email whenever hours permit. With live chat, I usually got a response within seconds and the agent was always eager to help.
What I like about live chat support is that you can ask further questions while you’re following the agent’s instructions (I find that the back-and-forth nature of email support can be frustrating). I never had to wait more than a minute for answers to my questions. Unfortunately, though, live chat means having to work around the business hours and any time zone differences.
My email support exchange about WordPress optimization was quick – I got a response in under an hour, which is fast for email support. But otherwise it was disappointing.The advice wasn’t as step-by-step as some of my other encounters with support, and the agent wasn’t really able to give me any advice (other than to use GTmetrix).
Confusing Billing Cycle Discounts
Although Sibername can’t compete with the likes of Hostinger’s cheap plans(but then, nobody really can!), the value-added features with Sibername still put it into the “affordable hosting” category.
There’s not a massive difference in price between the Silver and Gold hosting plans, but there’s a vast difference in what’s included, so I’d really advise you to consider starting out with the Gold plan. The Gold plan includes an SSL, a free domain name, and more resources, making it better value than the Silver plan overall.
I’ve got to admit that I found the billing cycles for Sibername confusing. Not the billing cycles themselves, but the prices and discounts listed for each. I do appreciate that SiberName is clear about its billing cycle options so you won’t get any nasty surprises at checkout,but trying to make sense of the pricing logic gave me a headache!
For example, the discounted price and the full price for the prepaid one month option is cheaper than the monthly price for the prepaid three months option. The only pricing/billing cycle discounts that make sense are the prepaid 12 months and prepaid 36 months options. The prepaid 24 months option just looks completely out of place.
Sibername accepts a wide range of payment methods, including credit cards (Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover), INTERAC Online (for Canadian bank accounts), PayPal, and cheque or money order. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can cancel within the first month and get a full refund for the cost of your hosting (minus the cost of your domain name).
Cancelling Your Account
If you want to cancel your Sibername account, I’m afraid there’s no easy cancellation button like a lot of hosts provide. You have a couple of other options for cancelling: you can contact support and ask for your account to be cancelled, or you can simply turn off auto-renew for your hosting and domain and allow your services to expire at the end of the current billing period.
If it wasn’t for Sibername’s performance issues, I’d no doubt be recommending you give it a try. Ilove the value-added features, especially Elementor Pro and Envato Elements, but unfortunately, the benefit of the freebies can’t make up for the awful page loading speeds that my test website sometimes experienced.
As I mentioned earlier, performance may improve now that Sibername is part of Web Hosting Canada, which has better page loading speeds. If it does, then Sibername will be a much more attractive prospect for your website. At present, however, I’d recommend you choose a faster Canadian host like Bluebird or HostUpon, or opt for super-cheap international hosting from Hostinger!
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!)