The WordPress blogging platform has quickly become one of the world’s most popular content management systems (CMS), and it now represents 23% of the entire web. The straightforward yet powerful platform can allow even beginner webmasters to create and manage a professional looking blog or website. It has a limitless number of free and premium plug-ins which expand its already packed list of features. The ability to easily edit the look and feel with your own coding, themes and plug-ins, means your site will never look identical to anybody else’s. What’s more, the core WordPress platform is completely free to use with lifetime support and upgrades, which helps maintain performance and security.
Depending on the scope of your project the amount of resources needed to host WordPress can vary quite greatly. A simple personal blog may use barely any bandwidth at all, while a heavily modified WordPress installation, with tonnes of plug-ins, which gets thousands of hits a day, is going to be an extreme resource hog in all aspects.
Therefore it is important to understand the various solutions available for WordPress hosting.
What is WordPress Hosting?
Unlike some content management systems, WordPress does not necessarily need any specialized form of webhosting. The vast majority of paid hosting plans will support the platform out of the box, as it only requires PHP and MySQL databases. Unless you are left in the lurch with a server you don’t know how to manage, these two features will almost always be available. There are however considerations to be made about the “load” that a WordPress installation can generate. A cheap basic hosting plan could quickly slow down if your site’s traffic picks up. And even a more expensive plan might not provide the best performance if the host has not fine tuned their servers with WordPress in mind.
Therefore if you predict your site will end up with a lot of traffic and plan to make use of plug-ins and other features, you may want to seek out a host that specifically touts its ability to handle WordPress.
If you are not interested in having full control over your website and are treating it more like a simple blog or journal, WordPress themselves provide free hosting with support staff and avid forum members on hand to help at all times.
Key Terms Relating To WP Hosting
- 1-Click Install: A hosting feature that allows you to install WordPress from an easy to use control panel, with one click. Instead of having to uploading the files to the server yourself and then configuring the databases and other information manually.
- Plug-ins: These are third party add-ons to the core WordPress platform that extend its functionality and can be installed via an easy to use control panel. Plug-ins vary from simple visual tweaks, to those that completely change how WordPress works.
- Caching: This is a process that reduces the amount of resources needed to load your site by delivering saved snapshots of pages, instead of reloading everything whenever somebody visits a page. Some hosts use their own caching systems, and there are also WordPress plug-ins that accomplish the same thing. Another method is called a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Types of WordPress Hosting
Free WordPress Hosting
WordPress.com provides free hosting to anyone who wishes to use the WordPress platform for blogging or any other purpose (providing its legal and not in the realm of adult or gambling content).
There are many benefits to this, not least the fact that installation and the difficult back end stuff is all handled for you. They allow you to use your own domain name at a fee, or you can have your account located on example.wordpress.com free of charge. You can access support 24/7 through a number of channels, your site will be automatically optimized for the search engines, and surprisingly there are absolutely no bandwidth limits. Giant corporations will millions of daily hits use WordPress.com for free and do not experience any performance issues.
However the biggest letdown and the reason we do not advise you to choose free hosting is the fact that you are not allowed to use it for any commercial purposes. This means you cannot implement your own ads like Google Adsense, you cannot sell links or make paid posts, and you cannot sell third party products.
Furthermore while they do have a wide range of themes and plug-ins available, you are not free to edit these in any way and you can’t upload your own, which limits your ability to stand out from the crowd or utilize all of the features you might require.
Shared WordPress Hosting
Most shared hosting plans will allow WordPress installations, though you may be limited to the number of database available. The biggest concern with shared hosting (which means the resources of the server are shared with many other users) is that even with a small amount of traffic performance may be an issue. This is not just a bandwidth problem, but also a memory problem. Many users simultaneously loading up a WordPress site with lots of plug-ins and a bulky theme, takes a lot of processing power. This is not practical in a shared environment.
If slowdowns start to happen your host may force you to install a caching system, or even make you upgrade to a more expensive plan.
VPS WordPress Hosting
While virtual private servers are still technically shared you are guaranteed a certain amount of resources at all times, which can solve the slowdown issues associated with shared hosting. You get what you pay for in this regard, so as long as you have an idea about the amount of CPU, memory, and bandwidth you need, a VPS is a good option for WordPress hosting.
Dedicated Server WordPress Hosting
Large WordPress sites with a lot of traffic may want to consider renting a single dedicated server, so you have the luxury of dedicated resources and the freedom to manage the server in any way you see fit. Even if you have no idea about how to run a server, managed servers that come with everything already setup are a great option if you want optimum performance.
Cloud WordPress Hosting
The modern step up from dedicated servers is cloud hosting, which once again virtualizes resources, but in a much more efficient and versatile way. Cloud plans make use of a very large network of servers, giving you almost limitless performance because resources can be pooled together, surpassing that of a single dedicated server. You often only pay for the precise resources you have used (which can work out cheaper) and scaling up and down can be automatic. If you have a particularly resource intensive WordPress site that sometimes has viral spikes in traffic, the cloud is the perfect solution.
Specialized WordPress Hosting
Specialized WordPress hosting can mean different things, from simply referring to a host that supports WordPress, to a host that only supports WordPress and is an expert in all aspects of the platform. Ultimately the choice may boil down your own level of knowledge. If you can follow basic installation instructions and know your way around each feature, a regular form of hosting that supports WordPress should be fine. If you’re a beginner or would rather pay for extra support, a dedicated WordPress host like WP-Engine may be a better option. With the latter you can also be reassured that performance is optimal.
Why Use Specialized WordPress Hosting?
There are many reasons why you might choose a host that actively touts their support for WordPress.
- Performance: Regardless of the plan or type of server you choose, you are likely to have better performance at your chosen level with a host that actively supports WordPress. Some hosts will even fine tune their servers specifically for WordPress performance.
- Support: Although most hosts will have experience with WordPress, having somebody with extensive knowledge of the platform will leave you in a much better position is something goes wrong. If you’re running a business, you need this reassurance.
- Extras: It’s one thing for a host to allow WordPress to be installed, it’s another when you can do it at the click of a mouse with “1-Click Install.” WordPress hosts may also bundle all sorts of other extras to make your life easier. Perhaps they have a catalogue of themes or plug-ins, or provide automatic caching to ensure your site loads smoothly and doesn’t use too many resources.
- Freedom: Using a host outside of the free WordPress.com system gives you the freedom to do whatever you wish with your website. You run it as a business, sell things, and use third party advertising to generate revenue from your blog posts.
What to Look For In a WordPress Host?
If you want the best possible experience with your WordPress site it’s worth searching for hosts that make managing things easier. 1-click install, round the clock support, optimized and cached servers, and extra themes and plug-ins are all perks that you may deem essential.
Recommended WordPress Hosts
- WordPress Premium: The good news is that if you still want the reassurance of staying within the official WordPress family, with all of the freedom of a 3rd party host, they do offer premium hosting plans. There are two simple options, the $99 per year “Premium” or the $299 per year “Business.” Both support full customization and sites that function as businesses, however if you want to run a full blown e-commerce site you will have to go with the Business plan. This also gives you access to 50 premium themes at no extra charge, though you can buy individual premium themes on the premium plan.
- WP Engine: Is one of the few web hosts that dedicate their entire range of services to WordPress. Their servers are fined tuned to handle even the largest of sites, and they have custom made caching technology to make sure things load quickly and smoothly, regardless of the number of plug-ins you use. One guarantee that stands out is that they will never allow your site to crash or go offline based on traffic spikes, as they allow for instant scalability. You will however have to upgrade your plan if you consistently experience a high amount of traffic each month. Plans start at $29 per month for 1 WordPress install and 25,000 hits. This can then be bumped up to Professional or Business plans, or you can work with them directly for an individual plan to suit your needs. Their support staff are all experts in WordPress.
- Bluehost: Is a traditional web host but are known for being particularly good with WordPress. Their system features 1-click install and a free Content Delivery Network (CDN) which is a caching system for faster and lighter site loading. For just $5.25 per month you can have an unlimited number of WordPress installs, and unlimited bandwidth and space. WordPress themselves vouch for their excellent performance and support.
- Dreamhost: Features 1-click install and will allow you to try their service for 2 weeks for free. Their starter plan is just $1.95 for all kinds of “unlimited” features, but they do urge you to upgrade to their “DreamPress” plan if you have a fair amount of traffic. This is their highly optimized solution for $19.95 a month, which features “auto-scaling” at no extra cost. Performance is fast and the support really know what they’re doing.
- Rackspace: Is not necessarily a specialised WordPress host, but they are still a great solution for larger sites and business due to their “pay as you go” cloud hosting. What this means is you pay for only the resources you use, with no need to upgrade or downgrade from server to server or plan to plan. They have some of the best support reviews in the business, which runs 24/7 via phone, email and live chat. They will also help you if you need to migrate or install a fresh version of WordPress and you can’t do it yourself. Their cloud network is super quick and is easily comparable to any of the other top WordPress hosts.
The Final Word
Your choice of WordPress hosting is dependent on your own level of expertise and the amount of resources you require (i.e. how much traffic you have or expect to have). Most hosts support WordPress, so as long as they have good reviews in general, you should be fine. If however you don’t understand how to install WordPress and are unlikely to be able to fix things if something goes wrong, or you run a business and simply don’t want to waste your time doing technical stuff – you may want to choose one of the above hosts due to their excellent support, WordPress expertise, and 1-click install feature.
If you are not on a tight budget you can’t go wrong with choosing a specialized WordPress host. Even if you think you know what you’re doing, the server performance and support will always be there.