How do you know which WordPress hosting is right for You?
By now you've heard of WordPress and that it powers a massive number of websites across the globe. You've heard that it's pretty flexible and easy. And you may have heard that finding the best WordPress hosting is easy. After all, everyone offers WordPress hosting. So it's just a matter of comparing features and price points and you'll be ready to pick the right host.
Unfortunately, that's not always the best advice.
The Best Plan is based on You and Your Needs (not Plan Features)
The best plan for you isn't the perfect combination of a generic list of features at a price point you can afford. What that gets you is a generically decent choice.
I'm going to tell you a quick story to illustrate this. Because I'm me, and that's what I do.
When I was in college, a group of us would go to Blockbuster (that's Netflix in a building). And to pick a movie for the night, we'd all pick 2 of our favorites and meet in the center of the store to decide. Then, going in the circle, each person would pick the movie they didn't want to see. At the end, we'd end up with a movie that everyone was find watching.
But was it the best movie? Nope. It was imply the least worst movie to watch.
Friends don't let friends choose movies or hosting that way.
First, Determine Your Needs
You want the best WordPress hosting plan? That means you need to know what you need first. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- Do I need to host a single site, or many sites?
- Do I need someone to pre-install WordPress for me, or do I want to do it myself?
- Do I need help migrating my site to a new host?
- Do I need email included in my plan?
- Do I need the ability to have a staging site? Or dev site?
These questions get answered differently for different people. Your answers will help you articulate what you need when you start comparing options.
Second, Determine Your Site Needs
The next set of questions you should answer focus on what your site needs. This helps you evaluate options because not every WordPress hosting option will be best for your kind of site.
- Does your site need the ability to scale to high traffic events?
- Does your site need a protected/reserved amount of server resources?
- Is your site a store that needs your reporting offloaded from your server?
- Does your site need image compression?
- Does your site need constant monitoring (to make sure it's not offline)?
Again, not every site has the same needs. If your site is a blog with low traffic, it's not going to need the same things as an online store with massive traffic. That's why it's important to recognize what you and your site needs and choose once you've answered these questions.
Third, Determine Your Support Needs
By now you'll notice that none of those questions were about support or price. That's because each deserves its own category of questions. But now that we're here, it's time to talk about support.
- Do you know enough about WordPress that you really only need server support?
- Do you want application-level (WordPress or WooCommerce) support?
- Do you need more than one support channel – email, ticket, chat, etc?
- Do you require a phone number so you can reach a live person?
- Do you have complex or advanced requirements that require more advanced support?
Fourth, What Will Change, and When?
One of the aspects of hosting that isn't often talked about is the fact that your needs (and those of your site) will change over time. The best WordPress hosting solution is the one that works with you at every point of your lifecycle. And that means understanding what is likely to change and what won't change. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Is my site on a trajectory to get more and more traffic?
- How easy is it for me to shift to a new plan to get more resources?
- Is there an easy way to get more resources without changing plans for temporary traffic spikes?
- If I want to add more sites to my plan, how hard is it?
- If my traffic grows, will I be charged for traffic (pageviews)?
These are great questions to ask your host – whether you're using a VPS, Shared Hosting, Managed WordPress or other kind of provider.
Fifth, What's your WordPress hosting budget
Everyone has a budget. No matter how awesome your site is, and how much it is (or isn't) making you, you have a budget that feels good to you. It's my last criteria because I don't recommend that it drives your decision. But it is a critical part of how you consider your options. So let's make sure you're clear on what you're willing to spend before we look at your WordPress hosting budget. You have several options.
- Under $5 / month total
- Under $20 / month total
- Under $50 / month total
- Under $150 / month total
- Under $5 / month per site
Notice that last one? It changed things up. Instead of being a total monthly bill, it was priced per site. If your situation is such that you're setting up 50, 100, or 200 sites, then you'll likely want to think about your price differently.
Now, Let's Look at Your Options
Once you have all your answers collected, it's time to consider your WordPress hosting options. And trust me, you have many of them. Let's look at several categories of options. I say categories because in each category, there are several options. Plus, you'll often see comparisons between two brand names, not realizing that they're sitting in different categories. This leaves you comparing apples and oranges.
I know, it's easy to hate on shared hosting, but it serves a purpose. If you have a low traffic site and you aren't sure yet if your site will take off, it might be your best option. It's known for being super inexpensive. In other words, if you want really cheap hosting, you can get shared hosting for under $5 / month. And if your budget is the most important thing to you, this may be the right call.
Companies that offer solid shared hosting include:
You can get inexpensive hosting from these providers. But the saying, “you get what you pay for,” applies. If you experience high traffic events, these plans may not serve you. You might experience downtime. Additionally, if you happen to be on a server where someone else is having a high traffic event, you may feel the pain, as these solutions place thousands of sites on the same server.
VPS Hosting for WordPress
If you are bothered that what someone else does on their site affects you and your site (which is what happens with shared hosting), then an alternative approach may be VPS hosting. Most of the shared hosts out there also offer a VPS solution. It costs a bit more, but it mitigates the challenges that we just looked at with shared hosting.
VPS plans are often offered as DIY. It means you can do anything you want on them. You're getting a virtual server that's private (that's what VPS stands for) and what you do with it is up to you. But that means you'll likely be installing WordPress on your own, configuring things on your own – not just at the WordPress or site level, but also the server level. And some people love that! But it's not for everyone.
Companies that offer VPS hosting for WordPress include:
Now, can you get other VPS plans for other folks? Sure. But mind you, we're talking about hosting WordPress. So you want to make sure that the hosting you choose has an understanding of WordPress, or your support calls will be very frustrating to you.
Not all of them are the same though. So you'll want to ask about off-site backups or server monitoring. If they say you can do whatever you want, it likely means they're not doing it for you. Never assume that you're getting backups created – because that assumption can come back and bite you.
The good news with VPS is that you can decide (or get help deciding) exactly how many resources you want (RAM, etc). The challenge with VPS is that you normally max out at that level of resource. It's fixed. So if you need dynamic scaling, it's normally not included as part of a VPS offering.
Also, the good news with a VPS is that there aren't any limits on the number of sites you host. Some people pack them up so that they're virtually indistinguishable from shared hosting. With VPS, you're able to do whatever you like in terms of how many sites you place on the account.
Dedicated Hosting for WordPress
Think of Dedicated Hosting as renting a server. You get the box. In many ways that sounds similar to virtual private servers (VPS). But there isn't a lot that is virtual in this case. It's in the name, “dedicated.” You're getting a server. And you can get a really big server. Tons of resources. But you'll pay for that. It's really for customers who have demanding sites or plan to host a lot of sites (more than you would with VPS).
Another benefit for complicated sites with non-WordPress components, is that with a dedicated server, you can put a variety of technologies on the server and run it any way you like. It's completely up to you.
There are many companies offering dedicated hosting, here are a couple to choose from:
The good news here is that you can order anything you want. You control everything. You choose the operating system you like, the security controls you like, the backup approach you like, and everything else. It's all under your control. That's also a challenge if you're not a server geek or don't have one on staff. Whether you are a reseller, hosting an application (or SaaS), run a site with high demand, or something else, dedicated solutions can be the best solution for WordPress hosting if you need it. But be sure to ask about resizing if you need more resources.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed WordPress is what I often recommend for people looking for the best WordPress hosting because it is designed for WordPress sites. There are many benefits for people who choose it:
- The hosting plans take WordPress into account when configured
- There is often WordPress specific security in place
- Sites load quickly because of the WordPress optimization
- Sites have the core software (and sometimes plugins) updated automatically
There are many great options, delivered by some of the hosts already listed, but also a few others.
Other than Nexcess and Pagely, the other hosts have pageview guidance or limits on their plans and in some cases charge you for going over those limits. So it's worth checking that out before deciding which plan to sign up for.
Pricing varies for each host in the list, but it's often more expensive per site than shared hosting, VPS, or Dedicated because of the nature of these products. That said, some of these managed WordPress plans are run on shared environments, which keeps the price low.
Managed WooCommerce Hosting
Not many hosts offer a Managed WooCommerce hosting plan. There are a few hosts that talk about it, but as of today, only two really offer something that is more than just a WordPress account with WooCommerce added. If you're running a WooCommerce store, it's worth looking at both of these options.
The first is GoDaddy. They partnered with Automattic – owners of WooCommerce – to provide tons of WooCommerce extensions and discounted hosting ($1 for the first three months). It's a $29/month plan with a free theme (Storefront) and a bunch of bundled WooCommerce features.
The second is Nexcess. They've partnered with Jilt for Abandoned Cart, Glew for Advanced Reporting, Putler for Analytics, Jetpack for image compression, Astra for the fastest WooCommerce theme, and Iconic for a bunch of WooCommerce features. Plans start at $19/month. The plans also come with auto-scaling to support traffic spikes.
Performance tests I ran in July of 2020 put Nexcess faster than GoDaddy, but every person should test it themselves.
If you're looking for the best WordPress hosting plan out there, you need to start with your own requirements. You need to know what your site or store needs. And then you need to ask some questions of the hosts you're talking to. There's a plan for everyone and a price that fits your budget. But don't let price be the only driver or you're struggle after you decide you need a little bit more than you thought you'd need.