Choosing a WordPress Host
As the founder of a company that has launched hundreds of WordPress websites on dozens of different hosts over the years, it’s clear that not all hosting companies are created equal.
In this post, we’ll address some of the big questions that repeatedly come up when we work with hosting.
What is a “WordPress Host”?
In the distant past, hosting involved getting a chunk of space on your host’s server and configuring/installing all your own software or services.
These days, there are WordPress-specific hosts that remove much of the hassle of setup and maintenance. They also typically have their server settings optimized for fast loading of WordPress sites and often have superior WordPress security.
RECOMMENDATION: If you have a WordPress site, work with a
WordPress-specific host. The added features and performance make it the logical
Why is hosting pricing all over the map?
At a quick glance, you can find hosting solutions ranging from $3/month to hundreds of dollars a month. There are many reasons for this (including support levels provided) but the biggest distinction is typically the type of hosting you are receiving.
At the low end of pricing (under $10/month), you’ll almost certainly be on a “shared host” where you share space on a server with dozens or even hundreds of other websites. Your performance may suffer at times when too many of the other sites are busy at the same time. You’ll also likely be limited to a single site in your account.
At the high end of pricing ($100+/month), you’ll typically find “dedicated servers” or, more likely, “virtual private servers” (VPS) where you receive dedicated space that you don’t share with others, which ensures consistency of speed for your site.
In the middle ground ($20-$50/month) you’ll find what we call “hybrid” offerings. These offerings typically have an element of shared resources, but also have strong systems in place to ensure you have at least adequate levels of dedicated resources.
In truth, you get what you pay for, with the caveat that there are some companies out there positioning themselves as premium providers and charging overly high prices for less than stellar offerings.
- If you are just starting up and/or have a simple
site that is not absolutely critical to your business, then you might start
with a low cost host and upgrade if/when you need to.
- If your website is more feature-rich and is
critically important to your business, you’ll likely want a mid-level “hybrid”
host. The boost in performance will be well worth it.
- If you have very specific needs or super-high traffic volumes it may make sense to upgrade to a high end / VPS solution. If you have less than about a half million visitors per month, there is probably no need to jump to this level of hosting.
What should I watch out for?
- Introductory pricing – many companies have cheap
pricing to get you on board and then double or even triple their pricing when
- SSL/HTTPS. Having SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is
now pretty much mandatory unless you want all your visitors to see a security
warning in their browser when they visit your site. Some hosts have SSL
available for free while others charge $60 or more per year for it.
- Extra pricing for additional features. Features like daily backups, extra security, staging sites, etc are included with some hosts but considered additional features with others.
What about email?
Unfortunately, many WordPress-specific hosts (including our favourite one) do not offer email service with their hosting as it’s a dramatically different focus and service than web hosting. However, it’s also worth noting that most “free” email packages that come with hosting cause more hassles than they are worth (performance issues and unsophisticated or overly harsh email filtering).
Google Suite offers fantastic email service for $6/month/user (we’ve been using it trouble free for 11 years). Additionally, using your Google Suite address can be used as your login for all Google services like Google My Business, Analytics and Adwords. Alternately, companies like GoDaddy are now offering Microsoft 365 email-only packages from about $5/month per user.
RECOMMENDATION: If email is not critical to your business, a free offering might suffice. Most businesses will want a professional email solution like Google Suite or Microsoft 365.
What features should I look for in a WordPress Host?
- One click install (the ability to quickly
install WordPress without technical hassles).
- Automatic WordPress updates. It’s critical for
security and performance to keep your WordPress version up to date so pick a
host that offers this.
- Daily (or at least weekly) backups that are easy
to restore. This is particularly important with WordPress as occasionally an
update might cause a conflict. If you have daily backups and “one click”
restoration, getting your site working properly again is as simple as the click
of a button.
- Speed enhancements. Sophisticated WordPress
hosts offer configurations designed to speed up delivery of WordPress sites.
- Enhanced security. Many WordPress hosts offer
advanced WordPress security. Also, it’s worth noting that lower priced shared
hosting situations can cause security issues if other sites on your server are
- SSL (HTTPS). Ideally this should be free and
- Support. In the hosting world, support ranges
from stellar to non-existent. Try to get a sense of what your hosts support is
like before you make a decision.
- Staging sites. A staging site is a second
version of your website that is not available to the public. If you are doing
an overhaul of your site you can do it on your staging site so that nobody sees
it while you’re tinkering with it and experimenting with things. Once you’re
happy with it, you can “publish” your staging site to the internet and
overwrite your old site.
Easy staging setup is available for free with some hosts but is challenging or non-existent with others.
- Content delivery networks (CDNs). These networks
host your files and images and can speed up your sites load times. If you have
tons of media and images on your site, this might be an important option.
We’ve found that good mid-level hosts have fast enough image hosting that this is typically not a critical option if your site is properly set up and your images are properly configured.
RECOMMENDATION: before picking your host, become familiar
with the different options and make your choice based on the best price to
value ratio for your particular needs.
All that said, who do YOU recommend?
I’ll start answering this question by sharing a list of the 3 WordPress-approved hosts for 2019 (https://wordpress.org/hosting/):
BlueHost used to be positioned more as a premium host but seems to be moving more towards value pricing.
I’ve used Bluehost a few times with their higher priced plans ($30ish/month) which I’m not sure that they offer any more. At that time, I found them to be fast enough on the front end (for visitors) but sluggish on the back end (when editing the site).
Dreamhost now offers performance plans and at the value level is a solid alternative to GoDaddy for shared hosting, particularly if you are a developer (GoDaddy is typically simpler for beginners).
I’ve used Dreamhost extensively and they have been a “go to” for lower priced hosting. That said, in recent years they seem to have lost a bit of their competitive advantage (in terms of speed) compared to their low-priced rivals. One of our developers tried their performance offering in its early days and had hiccups with it (he won’t use it anymore) although those issues may well be ironed out now.
I’m not too familiar with these guys but am currently experimenting with their lower priced offering as a platform for hosting multiple domains with straightforward single page landing pages. I’ll report back on how that goes (update – so far so good on SiteGround. Not quite as fast as Flywheel but it’s looking like a great low cost option that also includes basic email).
Some other hosts:
GoDaddy is our #1 recommendation as a registrar (the place where you register and maintain your urls/domains). While they’ve never been my first choice for hosting, they are not bad and we’ve launched numerous sites with them over the years. That said, GoDaddy currently charges $80/year for their SSL certificates, making their low cost hosting nearly as expensive as mid-level “hybrid” hosting when comparing apples to apples.
- Flywheel Hosting
DISCLOSURE – we have now become resellers of Flywheel hosting. I don’t feel that my opinion is influenced by our relationship but feel it’s important to share with you that we have that relationship.
I fell in love with Flywheel for hosting about 2 years ago and now use them almost exclusively.
We have launched over 60 sites with Flywheel. While things haven’t been perfect, they’ve been close. We’ve had no major issues and the minor issues that come up have been handled quickly and efficiently.
They are a mid-level “hybrid” host. On the surface, their pricing looks higher than some of the lower priced options but if you add up the features and service, I find it to be a bargain. It’s worth noting that in May 2019 they are upgrading their services and removing their lowest priced plan, which may make them a less viable option for small businesses with simple sites.
Did I get it wrong or miss any great hosts?
If so, I’d love to hear your input and always want to know about great hosting options – please contact me and share your thoughts!Notes for JumpStart Web & PlusROI clients: