If you are creating any WordPress site, you will need somewhere to host the website. In order for your site visitors to be able to visit your WordPress site, the site will need to be hosted on a server. While that may sound technical, most WordPress admins do not actually need to worry about servers because there are entire companies that will take care of the server for you. This is where hosting providers come in.
Hosting providers are companies that manage and operate hundreds or thousands of servers and offer your site some space on the server. Unfortunately, there are thousands of different hosting providers out there which makes it difficult to choose the right one for your site.
Why does hosting matter?
Choosing the wrong hosting provider can have many consequences. Having your WordPress site on a server that is overused or managed improperly can not only cause your site to be slow but also cause security concerns. Having your WordPress site with a quality hosting provider can improve your site’s speed, SEO, security, and more.
Types of hosting
Before we get to some of the things to look for in a hosting provider, let’s look at what are some different types of hosting. While there are many different ways you could host a WordPress site, we are going to look at the 4 most popular hosting types.
This is the most common type of web hosting and is also the most inexpensive. When it comes to servers hosting websites, each server can host several different websites. Some hosting providers may have a few websites on each server and other hosting providers may try to fit in dozens or hundreds of sites on each server.
Shared hosting is where the hosting provider has your WordPress site on a server with several other sites. While these plans are usually much cheaper, there are some drawbacks. First, if the hosting provider does not monitor the sites well enough, a site can take up most of the resources on a server leaving your site with not enough resources. Put another way, the other sites on the server can affect your site’s performance.
While that can be an issue to look out for, this type of hosting is still a great choice to start with if your budget is small and your site does not get much traffic.
A step up from shared hosting would be VPS (virtual private server) hosting. Like shared hosting, several sites are on a server. However, instead of all sites running from the server, the server has a unique “virtual” application running for each site.
This causes each site to have its own dedicated resources and processes which means that sites on the server do not usually affect other sites on the server. Also, by having a “virtual environment” set up for your own site, you have a little more control over the site’s technical aspects, such as server caching.
This type of hosting is a great choice if your site has more than a few hundred visitors each month and you have a little more budget to spend on hosting.
The next step up would be dedicated hosting. This is where your site has its own dedicated server and does not share any resources with any other site. If your site has lots of traffic or needs a lot of control over the actual server running the site, dedicated hosting is a great fit. However, dedicated hosting tends to cost quite a bit more than the other options.
By default, dedicated hosting requires you to monitor and manage all the server including all the technical aspects. Some hosting providers will offer a “managed dedicated server” which will cost a bit more but will have the hosting provider manage the more technical aspects of the server for you.
This type of hosting is great choice if your site has tens of thousands visitors each month and your budget is a bit larger.
Managed WordPress Hosting
There are a lot of technical aspects of managing servers and WordPress that can be challenging and time-consuming. This is where managed WordPress hosting comes in. With this hosting, the hosting provider sets up hosting (usually VPS) that is specially tuned for running WordPress sites which makes your site perform better.
Additionally, this hosting usually also manages the technical aspects of your WordPress site such as WordPress updates, backups, and security. These plans tend to cost more than shared hosting but are a great choice for non-technical WordPress admins or those who do not want to spend the time managing the technical parts.
This type of hosting is a great choice if your budget is at least $10 per month and you need or want someone else to handle the more technical aspects of running a WordPress site.
Things to ask/look for
Once you have an idea of which type of hosting your site needs, it’s time to begin evaluating different hosting providers that offer those hosting plans. When it comes to assessing your options, there are several things you will want to check before signing up with a hosting provider.
In order to cut costs, some hosting providers will not regularly manage and update the PHP and MySQL on the servers. This causes many WordPress sites to be using out-of-date software which is not only a security risk but also prevents your site from being as fast as it should be.
Before signing up with a hosting provider, always ask their support if your site would be running the latest versions of PHP and MySQL and how soon after updates are released do they update their servers.
If you are unfamiliar with PHP, be sure to read our article on what PHP is.
Having access to support when you need it is extremely important when it comes to managing a WordPress site. If your site goes down, you do not want to wait hours or days for support to get back to you. You should always make sure the hosting provider has either 24/7 chat support or as close to it as possible.
A lot of the price consideration will be based on your budget and type of hosting you need. However, there are some things you want to consider. The cheaper the plan, the less server resources your site generally gets. For example, if you find two shared hosting plans but one is $5 per month and the other is $0.01 per month, I can guarantee you the $0.01 per month must have hundreds of sites on each server which will cause your site to be much slower.
Avoid any “free” hosting. In many cases, they make their money by adding advertisements to your site or through malware.
One of the biggest factors in a site’s security is the hosting environment. Making sure your hosting provider keeps all server software including the OS, PHP, and MySQL up to date is crucial to keeping your site secure. Also, you should almost always have an SSL to keep the connection from your site’s visitors encrypted. Many hosting providers now offer SSL for free so you will want to check to see if that is included.
Not sure what SSL’s are? Be sure to check out our article on what SSL’s are.
Your site may have little traffic now but what if it grows? Or, what if your site gets featured somewhere which causes a large number of visitors to go to your site? Is the hosting provider able to handle greater traffic? These are questions you’ll want to ask the hosting provider before signing up.
A staging site is a copy of your website that you can make changes on without affecting your live site that visitors see. This is a great way to test new designs or perform updates. If an update would break your site, only the staging site would be broken and your live site would not be. Many quality hosting providers include a staging site in their plans and also manage the technical aspects of the staging site for you.
There are many, many great hosting providers out there. Unfortunately, if you search for hosting provider reviews or recommendations, you will find many sites that only promote the hosting provider that pays the highest affiliate commission. I suggest asking people you know or industry professionals you trust what hosting providers they use instead of relying solely on review articles.
The three below are ones that are highly recommended in the WordPress community and are ones that I have personally used.
If you are looking for an inexpensive shared hosting plan, Bluehost is a great hosting provider to get started with. Their shared hosting plans are less than $10 per month and often are on sale for less than $5 per month for the first year. Bluehost are large supporters of WordPress and can be found sponsoring many events in the industry including many WordCamps.
If you are looking for a plan between shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting, SiteGround is the perfect choice for you. Their WordPress hosting plans are a little more expensive than some cheaper shared hosting plans. However, they have some of the best support in the industry and manage many of the technical aspects for you.
If you are looking for full managed WordPress hosting, Flywheel is one of the best you can get. I use Flywheel for most of my sites and have been for several years. Out of most of the hosting providers I have tried, I find their admin area to be one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use systems I have used. All of their plans include free SSL and they offer useful addons such as staging sites and a CDN.
Since there are many hosting providers, it is very likely that you can ask people what hosting provider to use and you will receive a dozen different recommendations. Following the things mentioned in this article, you should now be able to go through and identify which one is best for your site.