Choosing WordPress Hosting
Choosing the right host for a website can be a difficult decision, but it’s critical to the performance and stability of the site. When it comes to sites that are powered by WordPress, sometimes a few additional factors play into the decision of which host to choose. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the hosting options for WordPress-powered websites and blogs, and we’ll also look at some things to consider when you’re deciding which host would be right for you.
Basic Hosting Options
To start with, let’s take a look at the different options that are available when you’re looking for WordPress hosting.
WordPress can be used on just about any server with just about any host, so your options are quite vast. Using WordPress for your website doesn’t require you to choose a host that specifically serves the WordPress community.
Most hosts include Fantistico, Softaculous, or some other similar tool for easily installing CMSs and scripts on your server. This means that with most hosts you can easily install WordPress in a matter of just a few minutes without touching any code or doing any manual setup.
Managed WordPress Hosting
In recent years a number of companies have been created specifically to host WordPress-powered websites. These companies that provide managed WordPress hosting offer some additional benefits that you may not get with a traditional web host. The down side is that managed WordPress hosting tends to be significantly more costly than a traditional host like Bluehost or HostGator. We’ll take a look at the benefits, as well as some things to consider that will help you to make the right decision for your own situation.
Before we get into the benefits, let’s take a look at some of the leading providers of managed WordPress hosting. WPEngine is probably the most well-known provider. Page.ly is another leading provider and was actually the first of its kind. Another leader is Synthesis, part of Copyblogger Media along with StudioPress.
Another option that offers many of the benefits of managed WordPress hosting without the high price tag is SiteGround. They offer benefits like automatic upgrades of WordPress and plugins, fixes of global security issues at a server level, automatic caching, and support staff that have been trained on WordPress. Even with these benefits that you’ll typically only find with higher-priced WordPress hosts, SiteGround’s plans are more comparable to low-cost shared hosting.
Benefits of Managed WordPress Hosting
Servers Configured for WordPress
One of the biggest benefits is that since these hosts are specifically serving the WordPress community, their servers are set up and configured with WordPress in mind. Servers with traditional web hosts are used for websites powered by a variety of different content management systems, e-commerce platforms, and scripts. As a result, they are often not optimized very well for WordPress in particular, which leads to sub-par performance.
Because WordPress is open source and extremely popular, it is also targeted frequently by hackers. Companies that offer managed WordPress hosting typically offer some security features that you may not get with another host. Because these companies work with WordPress constantly, they are able to stay up-to-date with any major security issues in the WordPress community, and they are proactive at taking steps to protect the sites on their servers.
Speed and Reliability
Because the servers are configured with WordPress in mind, the result is that pages typically load faster with managed WordPress hosting. There are also other factors involved in the speed improvements, like caching and CDNs. There are several popular free caching plugins that you can use with traditional hosting to decrease the load time of your pages, but with most managed WordPress hosts this is not necessary. They typically have some sort of caching feature or functionality built in, which means that you won’t have to mess with caching plugins that can sometimes be tricky to set up and configure. Additionally, depending on the host and the plan that you are choosing, you may benefit from the help of a content delivery network (CDN), which will serve files from various locations around the world in order to improve page speed
Expert WordPress Support
Because these hosts are targeting WordPress users, their tech support reps are typically WordPress experts that can help with some issues that a traditional host may not. If you are hosted with a traditional host and you have some issue that is related to WordPress, the tech support people may or may not be able to help you. In most cases they will try to help you, but some of these support people are not very familiar at all with WordPress. Hosts like WPEngine, Page.ly, and Synthesis offer help from support reps that genuinely know and understand WordPress. If you are a WordPress expert yourself, this may not be a major issue. However, most site owners need help with something WordPress related every now and then, and the improved support can be important.
Managed WordPress hosting also typically involves WordPress upgrades that are done automatically by the host. This means that you’ll need to spend less time managing upgrades yourself, and it can decrease security risk. If you’re a designer or developer looking for a host for your client, this also makes it easier on both you and the client with less of a need for on-going maintenance from you. The issue of automatic upgrades is slightly less important today than it was just a few weeks ago. As of WordPress 3.7, minor upgrades will be done automatically even if you are using a traditional host.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Host
If you’re looking for the right host for your WordPress-powered website, here are some things to consider.
Having your site hosted on a server that is specifically set up and configured for WordPress can result in significant gains in load speed and reliability, so this is definitely something to consider. You’ll need to weigh this benefit with other factors to help you determine if managed WordPress hosting is something that you need. For small websites with low traffic, a low-cost shared hosting plan may be sufficient. For higher-traffic websites, you’ll need to give more consideration to optimum performance, and one way to improve performance is to choose a host that specifically serves WordPress users.
WordPress can be installed manually without too much trouble, but for most people the easy installation is much preferred. Without the easy installation you’ll need to manually create a database and enter the credentials into the wp-config.php file. It’s not particularly time consuming or difficult, but many people won’t want to mess with it. Even if you are comfortable with the manual installation, easy one-click installations can save at least a few minutes out of your day. Before signing up with a host you should check to see what options they offer for installing WordPress. All of the hosts that have been mentioned on this page offer easy WordPress installations.
How much maintenance are you able and willing to do on the website? Managed WordPress hosting can decrease the time that you need to dedicate to maintenance because of the automatic WordPress upgrades. The automatic upgrades are especially nice if you’re setting up the website for a client who may not be comfortable with doing the WordPress upgrades on their own.
Ability to Grow
Any time you are looking for a host I think it is important to consider what options will be available to you in the future. At the moment you may be able to get everything you need from a low-cost shared hosting account, but that may not be the case forever. If your traffic grows or your needs increase, does the web host offer sufficient plans that you can upgrade into, or will you be forced to move to another host? Bluehost, for example, only offered shared hosting in the past. However, they’ve added VPS and dedicated servers, which means their customers no longer have to leave when it comes time to upgrade to a more powerful hosting plan. All of the hosts that we’ve looked at in this article offer a number of different plans that would allow you to grow without needing to move to another host. Bluehost, HostGator, and SiteGround offer shared hosting as well as more robust options. Bluehost and HostGator offer VPS plans and dedicated servers, and SiteGround offers cloud hosting plans and dedicated servers. WPEngine, Page.ly and Synthesis base their plans on things like the number of visitors and needed features, but all allow room for growth.
Will You Need WordPress Support?
If it’s likely that you’ll need support related to WordPress or popular plugins, managed WordPress hosting may be a good choice. You’ll get better support for WordPress-related issues and the support staff of these companies will generally be more familiar with WordPress. This may not be important for everyone, but it is something to consider.
Do You Need 24/7 Support?
WPEngine, Page.ly, and Synthesis are much smaller companies than massive hosting companies like Bluehost and HostGator. Working with smaller companies does, of course, come with some benefits, but one of the major limitations of using a smaller host is the lack of 24/7 customer support. If having support available 24/7 is critical to you, you may need to go with another host.
Of course, price is a factor when choosing a host. There are definitely some significant benefits to managed WordPress hosting, but most plans are also more costly than going with a traditional web host. You’ll need to look at the prices of the plans that suit your needs and see which host offers the best option for you. Although managed WordPress hosting may cost more than other hosting plans the price may include things like automated backups, a CDN, and auto upgrades that would otherwise cost you time and/or money. When you factor this in, the price looks a lot better.
How Many Sites Will You Host?
Most managed WordPress hosts will charge per site or per WordPress installation. With shared hosting at Bluehost, HostGator, or SiteGround, you can get low-cost plans that allow you to host multiple websites. If you have a number of different websites, managed WordPress hosting can quickly become very expensive. Low-cost shared hosting plans are generally preferred by people that have a number of small or low-traffic websites. For those with multiple higher-traffic sites, a VPS or dedicated server may be the best option.
A More In-Depth Look at the Options
Let’s take a look in more detail at each of the hosts that have been mentioned in this article. There are certainly plenty of other hosting options available, but this will cover many of the most popular hosts for WordPress users.
Bluehost is one of the largest and most popular hosting companies in the world. They offer shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers. All of their hosting plans come with 24/7 support by phone, email. or chat. Their shared hosting plans currently start at $4.95 per month with unlimited domains, unlimited diskspace, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited email accounts. Their VPS plans start at $29.99 per month and go up to $119.99 per month. Managed dedicated servers start at $149.99 and go up to $249.99 per month.
HostGator is another huge hosting company, and is actually owned by the same parent company that is behind Bluehost. Like Bluehost, HostGator also offers shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers. They also offer 24/7 support by phone, email, and chat. Their shared hosting plans currently start at $3.96 per month, which allows for 1 domain with unlimited diskspace and bandwidth. Currently starting at $6.36 per month you can get a plan that also allows unlimited domains. VPS hosting plans currently range from $19.99 per month to $219.95 per month. Their managed dedicated server plans range from $174 per month to $374 per month.
WPEngine offers managed WordPress hosting with the following benefits:
- Managed WordPress upgrades
- Daily backups
- One-click restore points
- EverCache technology, no caching plugins needed
- Malware scanning
- Expert WordPress support
- CDN (on most plans)
All of these benefits mean that your WordPress site will perform better and will be more secure. Their pricing starts at $29 per month for 1 WordPress installation with up to 25,000 visitors per month and 10 GB of local storage. WPEngine offers support via a ticket system and by chat on all plans. Customers on plans starting at $99 per month can also receive support by phone. Their support hours are limited to 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Central.
Page.ly offers managed WordPress hosting with the following benefits:
- Secure hosting with redundant firewalls, and DDoS protection
- Expert WordPress support
- Automatic WordPress and plugin updates
- Nightly backups
- Advanced caching with no plugin needed
- CDN (additional charge of $9 per month)
Their plans currently start at $24 per month for sites with up to 25,000 visitors per month, 10 GB of bandwidth, and 5 GB of storage space. Support is available only through a ticket system and support hours are not listed.
Synthesis offers managed WordPress hosting with the following benefits:
- Efficient NGINIX architecture for fast page loads
- Enhance security with proactive monitoring and patching, including DDS/DDOS and brute force protection
- Keyword and social media research
- Content optimization guidance
- Influencer outreach tools
Because Synthesis is part of Copyblogger Media, their service is unique in that it includes features intended to help you improve traffic to your website, not just to provide hosting for you. Their plans start at $27 per month for 1 domain with up to 2,500 daily pageviews, 50 GB of bandwidth, and 3 GB of storage. They offer support via a ticket system with no support hours listed (although they do mention 24/7 monitoring).
SiteGround has been included in this post because they offer many of the benefits of managed WordPress hosting, but at a price comparable to regular low-price shared hosting. You don’t have to use WordPress to host with SiteGround, but their hosting plans offer the following benefits to WordPress users:
- Easy WordPress installation
- Free WordPress migration
- Automatic WordPress and plugin updates
- Automatic caching, no plugin configuration required
- Servers optimized for WordPress
- WordPress-related support
Unlike WPEngine, Page.ly, and Synthesis, SiteGround offers 24/7 support by phone, email, and chat. They also offer email addresses at your domain, which is not offered by WPEngine, Page.ly, or Synthesis. Their shared hosting plans start at $3.95 for 1 domain with up to 10,000 visitors per month and 10 GB of storage. This plan does not include WordPress caching feature, but all other plans do include it. Currently for $7.95 per month you can get shared hosting for multiple websites up to 25,000 monthly visitors and 20 GB of storage. Cloud hosting plans currently range from $68.95 – $138.95 per month. Managed dedicated servers range from $229 – $429 per month.
What’s Your Experience?
Please feel free to share your experience with WordPress hosting in the comments.
Published December 16th, 2013 by Steven Snell