Choosing a WordPress Web Host
All WordPress websites need to be hosted somewhere on the internet. Choosing the right WordPress web host is one of the most important decisions you can make that will affect how easy it is to maintain your website.
There are various types of WordPress hosting provider for you to choose from:
Basic shared WordPress web hosting
This is the cheapest type of web hosting and involves choosing one of the standard packages available from most hosting companies.
Basic shared hosting is the cheapest option and there are loads of companies offering it. Popular examples include 1and1 Internet, GoDaddy, Bluehost, TSO Host, Heart Internet etc. We recommend SiteGround as the best WordPress web host in this category.
- Security – while all hosts take security seriously, using basic shared hosting means that if another site on the same server is compromised then your site is at risk too. Your site is only as secure as the other sites you’re sharing with. You have no control over this.
- Backups & restores – some shared hosts have pretty good backup services nowadays. However most of them make it very difficult to restore to a previous backup. This means that if anything goes wrong and you want to roll back, you’ll need some technical expertise to do so.
- Performance – if you have a very simple WordPress website with a basic theme and no resource-hungry plugins such as membership or e-commerce, then you might get away with basic shared hosting. Most WordPress websites have some level of complexity and if yours does, there’s a risk that it will grind to a halt with basic shared hosting. You can try to cover for basic hosting by installing performance measures such as caching plugins. But it’s much better to choose a host that is built for performance, and where you’re not competing for resources with thousands of other sites.
- Scalability – if you have a huge spike in traffic or your website is running any particularly resource-intensive processes then there’s a risk that it could crash the server. This can lead to downtime for you and the other sites on your server. The same can happen the other way round – if another site on your server causes problems then it could cause downtime for you. Most shared hosts make promises about guaranteed uptime. However, the nature of this type of shared hosting means there’s a higher risk of downtime.
- Support – the support from basic shared hosts varies, and some is very good. Sadly, a lot of companies outsource their support. It can be hard to get through to an expert when there’s a problem with your website.
VPS or dedicated server
If you want full control over your hosting then it might be tempting to get a VPS or dedicated server. A dedicated server is when you have an entire server just for your website. VPS stands for ‘Virtual Private Server’. It gives you a dedicated section of a larger server which is essentially just for you.
With a VPS or dedicated server, you’re not competing for resources with other websites. You have full control over your server setup. While dedicated servers are usually very expensive, lower cost VPS’ are available so this option doesn’t have to be expensive.
However I would advise against this setup for most WordPress website owners. By definition, if you were the sort of person who would benefit, then you wouldn’t be reading this article!
- Technical expertise needed – Even ‘managed’ VPS’ and servers require some level of technical know-how. An unmanaged VPS or server is only suitable if you’re VERY technically savvy and want to spend a lot of time managing your server, doing server software updates etc. There are ‘managed’ servers and VPS’ but in my experience, they are rarely fully managed – for example, you might have to tell your hosting company when you want them to install software updates to things like your PHP version. This isn’t appropriate unless you’re a techie and know what to ask for.
- Scalability – A VPS or dedicated server is more scalable than basic shared hosting. This is because you’re not competing for resources with other sites. However, there’s still a limit on what it can do because you only have access to your dedicated environment. If your site’s resource usage or visitor numbers exceed what your environment can cope with, then you can still get server crashes and downtime.
- Support – Depending on whether you opt for a managed or unmanaged environment, there will be less support with this option. If your VPS or server is unmanaged then you will be completely on your own – completely inappropriate if you’re not a server expert.
Managed WordPress hosting
In the last 5 years, managed WordPress hosting has become hugely popular. This is hosting designed specifically for running WordPress. I would recommend managed WordPress web hosting for any non-techies.
All managed WordPress hosts are different and before signing up, I recommend checking that they provide everything I’m going to discuss in this next section. WP Engine definitely provide all these things, and other managed WordPress web hosts will provide most of them.
- Easy backups & rollbacks – most managed WordPress web hosts have excellent systems for backups and rollbacks. You can log into your hosting account and take an instant snapshot of your website, or access one of the backups that they have automatically created for you. There’s usually a one-click option to restore your website to any of the backups in the list. This is an absolute life-saver if anything ever goes wrong. For example, if something breaks after a software update or if your website gets hacked.
- Free staging site – Most managed WordPress web hosts offer free staging sites. A staging site is a duplicate of your live site where you can make changes without affecting the live site. The best hosts let you instantly create a staging site based on your live site. You can make changes on the staging site and copy the changes to your live site when you’re happy. This is a fantastic tool that lets you experiment with any changes and test software updates. All without risking any downtime on your live site.
- Lightning fast performance – Managed WordPress hosts are much, much faster than standard shared hosts. They can also be faster than a VPS or dedicated server. This is because you need to do a lot of work to fine-tune a dedicated environment. This is done for you with managed WordPress hosting. Managed hosts are built for performance from the ground up. They’ve been fully optimised to provide the best possible environment for running a WordPress website.
We regularly migrate our clients’ websites to a managed WordPress web host. We see huge performance improvements literally every time. Last week I migrated a site and simply switching hosts improved the page load time of the homepage from 6.54 to 0.82 seconds. Choosing the right WordPress web host can make a huge difference to the speed of your site.
Value for money
This deserves its own section, as lots of people think that managed WordPress web hosting is expensive.
Managed hosting isn’t as cheap as basic shared hosting or some VPS’. However, I think the value for money is much better and it can save you money in the long run. You can get managed hosting for $30 or less per month. This really isn’t very expensive given the advanced functionality you get for this price, performance enhancements, expert support etc. With a cheap shared host, you might save money on hosting. But you’ll have to pay a lot if your website gets hacked or if you need to roll back to a previous backup. With managed WordPress web hosting, you might pay a bit more per month but you’re likely to get things like rollbacks and hack fixes for free.
Which type of WordPress web host to use?
SiteGround are pretty good, but our clients who choose the cheaper option generally don’t save any money. This is because they have to pay us to manually do things like hack fixes and rollbacks. All of which are free with managed WordPress web hosting. As a non-techie who wants to maintain your website, please don’t scrimp on hosting – go for a reputable managed WordPress host and you’re likely to save money – and a lot of headaches – in the long run.
Choosing the right WordPress web hosting company makes a huge difference to how easy your website is to maintain. It’s one of the most important steps you can take to setting things up so that you can maintain your own WordPress site. If your hosting company offers the right tools and will take care of the server maintenance behind the scenes, you have a much better chance of being able to manage your website without any technical expertise.