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SKGOLD Hosting makes some big promises and advertises really low prices, so I wanted to see if it could live up to its claims. While its performance was very good for a budget host, other aspects of its service were less impressive.
Budget Host with Great Performance – So What’s the Catch?
SKGOLD Hosting is a Canadian web hosting company based in Calgary, Alberta, offering low-cost shared hosting and domain names.
The first time I visited SKGOLD Hosting’s website, I felt like I’d fallen through a hole in the space-time continuum and landed in a time at least two decades ago. The website is very dated (as are some of the hosting features, but we’ll get to that later). The company makes bold claims about its hosting, so I decided to put it to the test.
SKGOLD has two data centers – but only one of them is in Canada. The Canadian data center is in Montreal and the other is in Provo, Utah, USA. Typically, the closer your website visitors are to your website’s server, the faster the website should load – and although Utah is some distance away from western Canada, it’s certainly nearer than Montreal.
SKGOLD’s website has separate pages for WordPress, Magento, Joomla, and Drupal hosting, but each of these pages leads to the same shared hosting packages advertised on the homepage. It also advertises a “Cloud Hosting” package, which appears to be the same shared hosting packages with Cloudflare enabled. This is quite misleading.
To find out what it’s really like to host your website with SKGOLD, I signed up for the low-cost Baby plan and built a WordPress website. I spent three months evaluating features, running performance tests, and contacting technical support to bring you this hands-on, in-depth review.
The TL;DR of my experience is that SKGOLD impressed me – sometimes when I wasn’t expecting it to – but sometimes disappointed me as well.
Overly Basic Features and Laughable Storage Limits on Some Plans
At first glance, SKGOLD Hosting seems to be a great choice. Its prices are much lower than most of its competitors, and you can sign up risk-free – but when you look a little closer at what you actually get, SKGOLD may seem like less of a bargain.
For example, let’s look at how much storage you get with each plan. The cheapest plan, Baby, includes just 300MB of disk space. To put that into context, Wix, the popular website builder, has a free plan that includes 500MB of storage, and I consider that limited. SKGOLD’s Basic plan includes 1000MB of storage, but there are other Canadian hosts that offer more space at a lower price.
I used to think 2GB of storage space on a budget plan was quite restrictive, but SKGOLD takes storage restrictions to a whole new level. It does have a plan with unlimited storage, but it’s actually pretty expensive considering SKGOLD doesn’t offer many value-added features to justify the price.
Bandwidth is also limited with the Baby and Basic plans, to 5GB and 10GB per month, respectively. Unfortunately, if you exceed that amount of traffic for any reason, your website may be suspended until the end of the current month or you may be charged an overage fee. If you’re only running a small, low-traffic website, this shouldn’t be a problem, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.
Only one of SKGOLD’s hosting plans includes a free domain name, and only under strict conditions. You can claim a free .ca domain name on the Unlimited plan, but no other domain extensions are available with this deal, and it only applies to the first year of hosting.
SKGOLD Hosting lacks WordPress-specific features like automatic updates. While not all hosts include these features in their plans free of charge, SKGOLD didn’t even make these available as paid add-ons.
Weekly backups are included with all plans, and a restore from the most recent backup must be purchased in the SKGOLD Hosting store under the Services subsection. Only the most recent backup is kept, and your entire account must be restored. Customers are encouraged to take their own backups.
In the SKGOLD store, there is a category for CodeGuard website backups, but when I clicked on it, the page was virtually blank. The links on the main website only led to an article about activating CodeGuard once you’ve already purchased it.
Free SSL Certificates
One thing I was pleased to see is that free SSL certificates are included with all of SKGOLD’s plans. It’s not clear from the website what kind of SSL certificate is included, but it’s fair to assume that it’s a free one from either Let’s Encrypt or Comodo rather than a warranty-protected, e-commerce-ready SSL certificate.
60-Day Money-Back Guarantee
There’s a very generous money-back guarantee period of 60 days with SKGOLD, which means you can try it out risk-free and get a full refund before 60 days are up. One catch I noticed is that you’re not eligible for this guarantee if you’ve ever had an SKGOLD account before.
SKGOLD Hosting claims its servers are all fully optimized for WordPress. While my performance tests did indicate that SKGOLD is able to deliver fast page loading speeds, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t use the most advanced server technologies like NGINX or LiteSpeed, and there are no built-in caching features on its servers.
Unlimited Email Accounts
On all SKGOLD hosting plans, email is completely unlimited. You can create as many POP3/IMAP mailboxes as you like, and you also benefit from SpamAssassin’s basic spam filter. You can add more advanced spam filtering to your plan at checkout.See full list of features
Ease of use
Beginner-Friendly and Easy to Manage
One thing that SKGOLD Hosting does have going for it is that it’s incredibly beginner-friendly. It took less than 10 minutes for me to select my plan and complete the checkout process, and I didn’t encounter any issues at all. If you’re new to web hosting, SKGOLD makes it easy to get started.
Managing Your Account and Using cPanel
SKGOLD uses the WHMCS account dashboard for managing your account. This is one of the most popular client management platforms, so if you’ve had web hosting before, you may well have experience of using it previously. It’s one of the most user-friendly account management tools I’ve used.
The account dashboard main page has quick links to all the essential tools, including your most recent support tickets (and the button to create a new support ticket), your domain name(s), and your hosting service(s).
When you click on the Services or Domains tiles, you’re taken to the management page for these parts of your account, where you can turn off auto-renewal, request cancellation, and quickly and easily log in to your hosting control panel. It’s very intuitive and simple to use.
Your hosting space is managed using cPanel, possibly the most popular control panel available. I’m personally not a fan of cPanel. It’s not as beginner-friendly as the account dashboard, but once you get used to finding your way around the (huge number of) icons, it gets easier.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
If you purchase a domain when you sign up for a hosting plan, your hosting space will be automatically linked to your domain name. To start building your website with WordPress, you simply go to the Services section of the account dashboard and click the Manage Product button for your hosting plan.
There’s no need to remember your cPanel login details as there’s an auto-login link that takes you there. SKGOLD uses Softaculous for installing applications – the Softaculous icon is located in cPanel’s software section, towards the bottom of the page.
Softaculous is often described as a 1-click installer. It takes a few more clicks to actually get WordPress installed, but it’s still very easy. Softaculous does all the hard work and you only have to provide things like the name of your website and the login details that you want to use.See if SKGOLD Hosting is Right for You
Very Good Uptime and Performance Scores
To be honest, despite SKGOLD’s claim about optimized servers, I wasn’t expecting a lot when I started testing its performance. Its features list seems to be stuck in the early 2000s so I expected its performance to be lacking, too. I was surprised to find that SKGOLD performed better than a lot of its rivals.
Across multiple tests, SKGOLD Hosting achieved an average page-fully-loaded time of 1.6 seconds. Only three other Canadian hosts could beat that speed. To put this into context, Google recommends a maximum page loading time of 3 seconds, and SKGOLD is almost twice as fast. It also scored fairly well for reliability, with an uptime mark of 99.96%, well above my required minimum of 99.9%.
Now, I’m going to get technical and do a deep dive into the performance testing process and results. If you don’t have the time, you can jump ahead to see why I was less thrilled with SKGOLD’s support..
I use the same process for testing every web host that I review, which I’ll explain briefly, but if you want the full details of how we test at Website Planet, you can check out this article. I always test using WordPress, so after signing up, I installed WordPress and uploaded a customized SimpleShift theme designed specifically for testing hosts’ performance.
I want to give you the most accurate results possible, so unlike some review websites, I don’t test with a virtually blank WordPress installation. The theme that I use has all the things you’d expect a website to have: text, buttons, forms, and (non-optimized) HD images. It looks and works just like a landing page or a one-page website, (as you can see in the screenshot below) and it was available at autonomous-shoes-canada-j.ca.
I use non-optimized images because my testing process involves asking for advice about optimizing my website. Using non-optimized images gives the host an opportunity to make suggestions… if they notice the images aren’t optimized!
I use GTmetrix to time loading speed as well as to see how well it performs. The PageSpeed score is a measure of optimization developed by Google, and the average website scores around 75%. As you can see in the screenshot below, SKGOLD achieved a PageSpeed score of 88%. This indicates its servers are well-optimized for WordPress, even without the very latest server technology.
As I mentioned earlier, the average fully-loaded time for SKGOLD was 1.6 seconds. I always run multiple tests at different times of the day to see if the website loads more slowly during peak periods. In SKGOLD’s case, there was only one occasion when the fully-loaded time exceeded two seconds (2.3 seconds), and that was during a peak period. However, most of the time, the test website loaded in between 1.2 and 1.6 seconds.
Sucuri Load Time Tester
While GTmetrix shows how quickly the test website loads from within Canada, the Sucuri Load Time Tester gives insights into how well SKGOLD Hosting performs when accessed from a range of locations.
These results were a sharp contrast to those from GTmetrix, showing page loading times of 4.3 seconds from Toronto, Canada, and over five seconds for some locations outside of Canada.
Sucuri’s results tend to differ from those generated in other tests, as requests from Sucuri may be throttled by web hosts’ server firewalls. I tend to focus more on the results from GTmetrix, as these represent a more typical user experience in a given region.
A host’s performance is about so much more than just how quickly it serves website pages, of course. Reliability is another important factor that can’t be ignored. If your visitors often find that your website won’t load because the server is down, they’re going to look elsewhere.
I use UptimeRobot to monitor the test website from the moment it goes live. UptimeRobot automatically detects and reports any periods of downtime, even if they last less than a minute. Most hosts, SKGOLD included, have an uptime guarantee of 99.9%, which is the minimum amount of uptime I expect a host to offer.
Over the course of the testing period, SKGOLD Hosting delivered uptime of 99.966%. Compared to other Canadian hosts, that’s fairly average, as some hosts met near-perfect levels of 99.99%, but I’m still happy with what SKGOLD achieved. It allows for less than twenty minutes of downtime in a month.
Unlike a lot of hosts, SKGOLD Hosting doesn’t have multiple support channels. Support is only available via ticket or email, and although it is 24/7, I was disappointed there was no live chat option.
I contacted support on three separate occasions, and unfortunately, the responses were not prompt. The shortest response time was 90 minutes, and on the other two occasions I waited around seven hours each for responses.
In the screenshot above, you can see that when I asked for help installing WordPress, I was directed to a step-by-step article. Personally, I prefer when support agents give me instructions within a response, but I liked that the agent offered to install WordPress for me if I encountered any problems. It’s one of the better responses I’ve received.
My second encounter with SKGOLD’s technical support took place after I was unable to upload my custom theme, due to it exceeding the maximum file size limit. This is a common issue that I’ve encountered with a lot of hosts, but I was disappointed that it took so long to be resolved.
Finally, I contacted support about optimization advice. This time, I got a response in less than two hours and it was by far the best response I’d had from SKGOLD. (It’s actually one of the best optimization advice responses I’ve received from all the Canadian hosts I’ve tested!) I really appreciated the fact that the agent didn’t just direct me to a help article – she gave me detailed information about many factors that can affect page loading speeds.
Low Prices… but You Get What You Pay For
Undoubtedly, SKGOLD Hosting has some of the lowest prices for budget plans out of all the Canadian hosts I’ve tested. However, as discussed in the Features section, included resources for the lowest-priced plans are very limited, and the Unlimited plan is actually quite expensive compared to other Canadian hosts (based on the value of its features).
SKGOLD accepts payment via PayPal or credit card (Visa and Mastercard only). By default, its plans and domain names are set to automatically renew at the end of the current billing cycle. The Baby plan only allows you to pay annually, but the Basic and Unlimited plans have billing cycle options of monthly, semi-annual, or annual.
Cancelling Your Account
The only way to cancel your account with SKGOLD is to use the Request Cancellation form in the Manage Product section of your account dashboard. The form is very easy to complete and the whole process only takes a few minutes. You can also check a box to turn off domain name registration renewal.
It’s important that you check for a confirmation email, because if you don’t respond to it your cancellation won’t be processed. This is especially important if you’re cancelling within the first 60 days – if your cancellation request isn’t processed correctly within that time frame, you won’t get your refund!
I have been on the web since 1996 and I have done business with a lot of domain names and hosting providers. I have never had as much satisfaction as with Sk Gold with whom I have been for almost 3 years, really! Unlimited hosting of my 17 sites for $ 10 and a few CAD per month (including SSL!) And each .com costs me less than $ 13 CAD per year. Amazing service, super personalized and fast! Honestly, my only regret is not having found them before :D 1000% satisfied!
I love SKGOLD!!! My website hosting has been fast and reliable from day one! The customer service is always helpful, knowledgeable and extremely patient with me. Only had one suggestion, improve the online knowledgebase. On a high note, they answer all my questions timely via support tickets. Would highly recommend this company!
I paid more at a different host, bad slow support, no phone number bad people - just find a different host I just left them even tho' is was 9 months b4 renewal they say they are a cdn company but servers are in the USA at least they don't have a lot of my money - glad I only signed for 1 yr
I have my website with SKGOLD for more than 15 years. My website is always fast and I never notice any downtime, except for scheduled maintenance. They have excellent customer support and very friendly staff. All responses to my questions are always quick and easy to understand. I highly recommend SKGOLD service to anyone seeking web hosting.
Go elsewhere. They're unprofessional and a tiny outfit with terrible customer service. If you have issues and leave them negative reviews, they mess with your service. Save yourself the grief. There's no phone number to get in touch with a live human - so if you have issues, you're left high and dry until someone on their end danes to answer your support ticket. NOT what you what for running a business.
Although SKGOLD Hosting’s low prices may be attractive if you’re on a budget, storage restrictions and the lack of value-added features with the Unlimited plan means it’s not one of my recommended hosts. Yes, it’s fast and easy to use, but the restrictions are hard to ignore. Even if you’re only running a small personal website or a business website with basic content, there are better Canadian hosting options available.
If you want 100% Canadian hosting, then I’d recommend checking out my review of Bluebird Hosting, which offers WordPress hosting at really low prices, more space, unlimited traffic, and even faster page loading speeds!
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!)