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Learning about WordPress hosting is required curriculum for those wanting to learn how to start a blog with the web’s most widely used content management system. Unfortunately, researching the topic only brings about more questions, such as “what is managed WordPress hosting” and “how do managed hosts differ from shared hosts?”
If you want to start a professional blog with WordPress, these are a few terms you’ll need to know. Fortunately, this post is going to cover all of them.
The goal isn’t to bore you with technobabble you couldn’t care less about. I’m sure you’ve had enough of that during your time as a newbie blogger, however short that may be. As an open-source, semi-DIY platform, WordPress requires you to know a few more technical details than you’re likely comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean you need to become a walking encyclopedia on the topic.
In this post, I’m going to focus on everything you need to know about WordPress hosting as a blogger, not a professional developer. The overall goal is to morph you into a better-informed consumer so you can choose a host more efficiently and progress in WordPress more confidently.
Let’s get started.
Why Do You Need a WordPress Host?
Since you’re interested in starting a blog, this is probably the hundredth article you’ve read on the topic. You probably have a million questions as well, such as “what’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org” and “why do you need a host to use WordPress?”
I should note that when I refer to “WordPress,” I’m referring to WordPress.org. There are two versions of WordPress—WordPress.org and WordPress.com. They’re both blogging platforms at their cores, but they differ based on the way they operate and what they’re capable of.
You see, WordPress, which is a “content management system,” is nothing more than an application you can use to create content, as in pages and blog posts. You install it on a server that’s capable of reading and powering the code within it.
We won’t get into the specifics of what server configuration you need in order to power WordPress. Just know that WordPress.com is an all-in-one solution that hosts your site for you while WordPress.org is just the application.
It’s known as the “self-hosted” version of WordPress because you’re required to provide hosting on your own, which is typically done by purchasing space on a server from hosts like SiteGround, Flywheel, Kinsta, etc.
Still, why go through the trouble of finding a host that supports WordPress and installing the application on it if WordPress.com takes care of it for you? It all boils down to the limitations that plague WordPress.com.
While WordPress.com is an all-in-one solution, WordPress.org is open-source. That means anyone can create products for it in the form of themes and plugins that extend its look and functionality.
While WordPress.com allows you to build a simple blog with a few pages and extend it with a small handful of plugins, WordPress.org allows you to build everything from fully-fledged websites with cutting-edge designs to online stores, forums, online schools, membership sites and more.
The Top 3 Hosting Environments for WordPress
Hosting servers come in many different formats, each with their own configurations and capabilities. They’re called “hosting environments” and can be identified by their software and hardware as well as the way they host sites.
WordPress has three main hosting environments when it comes down to it. There are more, but the ones we’ll be discussing are the most common and the only ones the majority of sites will need.
- Shared Hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
I don’t want to bore or overwhelm you with too many technical details, so we’ll only be covering each environment with surface-level information. It’ll be enough for you to know how each hosting environment powers your website, what it’s capable of and who it’s best suited for.
Let’s start with shared hosting since is the most common hosting environment among new bloggers.
Shared hosting is the most popular form of hosting among new bloggers and WordPress users in general due to its cheap price. Unfortunately, that cheap price comes at a cost of poor performance and unreliability due to the nature of shared hosting environments.
Servers are nothing more than computers similar to your desktop, laptop or smartphone. They have motherboards, CPUs, storage drives, RAM and operating systems, just like the devices you use on a daily basis, only instead of using the versions of Windows, Mac and Linux you’re used to seeing, they use operating systems designed specifically for servers.
Shared hosting gets its name from the “shared” aspects of its hosting environment. Your site is hosted on the same server as many other sites, sites you don’t own or have any control over. You all share the same resources, which includes the hardware mentioned above as well as bandwidth.
The Lowdown on Shared Hosting
Hosting a website in this type of environment comes with a variety of different issues. Since you all share the same resources, you’re all affected by one another’s actions.
If one site gets hit with a sudden surge in traffic, it’ll draw resources away from your site, impacting its performance and ability to remain live. Similarly, if one site gets infected with malware, it has the potential to spread to other sites. To top it all off, if one site gets hit with a major DDoS attack, which sends a huge surge in fake traffic to a website with the intention to overwhelm its server and take it offline, it’ll take every site with it when it goes down.
This is why this form of hosting is so cheap, which in turn is why it’s so popular among newcomers. Most hosts offer shared hosting plans for a few dollars a month. Some rates are even cheaper than what some of you pay for your morning cup of coffee.
As such, I can only recommend shared hosting to new bloggers who don’t plan on growing much in their first year. This means your plan for promoting your blog only includes light social media posts and a few or no ad campaigns. If you plan on guest posting a few times a month, publishing several posts a week or dropping a lot of money on advertising, you’ll probably want to go with VPS hosting or cloud hosting.
Who is Shared Hosting for?
Shared hosting is designed for new blogs and simple websites that receive low to moderate traffic. If you only plan on publishing a few blog posts a month and do not plan on spending a lot on advertisements, you’ll do just fine with a quality shared host for your first few years.
Hosts That Offer Shared Hosting
- A2 Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
VPS, or virtual private server, hosting is an alternative take on shared hosting. Sites hosted in a shared hosting environment share the same physical resources as every other site hosted on the same physical server. However, this type of hosting environment uses software to create numerous virtual servers all powered by the same hardware.
This is where the “private” aspect comes into play. Each website gets its own virtual server. While resources may be limited as a result of every site sharing the same hardware, a single site cannot impact other sites hosted on the same physical server because the servers operate virtually. This means your site’s speed, overall performance and security cannot be impacted by the behavior of other sites hosted on the same hardware.
The Lowdown On VPS Hosting
VPS hosting is technically a form of shared hosting, but it offers far better performance and reliability. There’s less risk in this type of hosting environment since your site operates on a virtual server that’s separate from the other sites hosted on the same physical hardware.
The downsides are higher prices and lower specs. VPS hosting plans are typically priced much higher than shared hosting plans, though you can typically save on upfront costs by paying month-to-month rather than once a year. Plus, your resources in terms of storage and bandwidth are limited since you’re still sharing the same physical server with other sites.
Still, VPS hosting is typically cheaper than cloud hosting. I highly recommend starting with VPS hosting if you can afford it.
Who is VPS Hosting for?
VPS hosting is a step up from shared hosting and a much more reliable form of hosting, making it suitable for growing blogs with a moderate amount of traffic. If you can afford to pay a monthly rate of around $25 or $35/month, you may want to start out with VPS hosting even if you don’t plan on growing quickly as it’ll give you a more stable starting point. Plus, you won’t need to migrate your site for quite some time, if ever.
Hosts That Offer VPS Hosting
- WP Engine
- A2 Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
Cloud hosting is several steps up from shared and VPS hosting environments. In shared hosting, you share the server’s hardware and operating system with every other site hosted on the server. In VPS hosting, you share the server’s hardware but resources are allocated privately to your site in a virtual environment.
Cloud hosting does away with the single physical server form of hosting. Your site is hosted on a cloud server powered by a network of multiple servers instead. Resources are unlimited, and you don’t share hardware or software with other sites.
The Lowdown on Cloud Hosting
The networks cloud hosting environments use can be quite large, as in hundreds or even thousands of servers. This is how hosts are able to provide you with an unlimited number of resources, though most hosts limit the number of resources you have access to on a per-plan basis.
The biggest benefits of cloud hosting are its speed and ability to scale. While most hosts limit the number of resources you have access to, they do allow your site to draw on more resources when needed. In shared and VPS hosting environments, your site will likely crash if it gets hit with a sudden surge in traffic. Cloud hosting environments, on the other hand, can scale and sustain your site when events like this occur.
Who is Cloud Hosting for?
Cloud hosting is best suited for high-traffic websites that receive large amounts of traffic regularly and surges in traffic quite often. It’s also recommended for new online stores regardless of the amount of traffic it receives as sales, especially seasonal ones, tend to result in surges in traffic that would decimate shared hosting and VPS hosting servers.
Some hosts, including Flywheel and Kinsta, offer affordable monthly rates that have made cloud hosting more attainable for new and small WordPress sites. Similar to VPS hosting, if you can afford to pay around $25 to $35/month, you may want to give these two hosts a try.
It’ll give you access to one of the most powerful forms of hosting from the get go, and you’ll likely never need to go through the hassle of switching hosts when your old one is no longer able to sustain your website.
Hosts That Offer Cloud Hosting
- Liquid Web
- A2 Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
The Top 2 Methods for Hosting WordPress
While there are multiple hosting environments available for WordPress, there are really only two types of WordPress hosting. They are “self-managed WordPress hosting,” for lack of better phrasing, and “managed WordPress hosting.”
We’re going to cover both of these in depth, specifically who they’re meant for, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the hosts that belong to each category.
What is Self-Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managing a website on your own is a huge undertaking, especially if web development and technology aren’t your strong suits. The tasks you’ll be in charge of include WordPress updates, backups, security and performance. Fortunately, WordPress has quite a few features built in that make managing these aspects of your site a lot easier than you’d think.
There are a number of different third-party plugins and services you can use to manage them with a few simple clicks. Some even offer automation.
What does this have to do with self-managed WordPress hosting? Well, although self-managed WordPress hosts manage your server for you, allow you to install WordPress with one or a few clicks, and store backups of your data, they don’t help with much else.
The greatest benefit of this type of hosting is the same benefit many cite as their reason for choosing WordPress over another platform in the first place. Self-managed WordPress hosting allows you to take full advantage of WordPress. There are no limits when it comes to the way you manage your website. You can use any plugin or service you like.
You don’t need to be a web developer to use this form of WordPress hosting, but you should at least be unafraid of learning a new form of technology. If you’re able to manage your smartphone and computer on your own, you’ll do just fine with this form of WordPress. If not, you may want to consider using a managed WordPress host.
Who are Self-Managed WordPress Hosts?
In short, self-managed WordPress hosts are hosts that do not manage WordPress tasks for you. You’ll find self-managed hosts that offer every type of hosting environment available for WordPress, though shared hosting and cloud hosting are most popular. It’s also typical for hosts of this nature to support a wide variety of platforms, not just WordPress.
Here are a few examples of hosts that manage none or few parts of your site:
- A2 Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
Let’s move on to managed hosts.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress hosting is the complete opposite of self-managed hosting, as you’ve probably deducted. They manage the more technical aspects of your site for you so you can focus on creating content and getting back to business.
They install WordPress for you, for starters. Some even offer free site migrations if you already have a WordPress site hosted with another web hosting company. This includes Flywheel who migrated this very site from SiteGround.
They also handle WordPress updates, backups, caching and security. Some even take things a step further and remove malware if hackers do manage to find a way through.
It should be noted that plugin and theme updates are typically not handled by these types of hosts, but other than that, you may be wondering why anyone would bother going through the trouble of maintaining their own website with a self-managed host if managed hosts do all the heavy lifting for you.
Well, it has to do with the way these hosts operate. Because they implement their own code and server configurations, they typically don’t allow you to use third-party solutions, especially security, caching and backup plugins.
This cuts you off from the open-source nature of the WordPress community that gives you a wide range of options when it comes to optimizing your WordPress site. Plus, some plugins simply perform better than some of these hosts’ configurations. You’re also putting the fate of your website in someone else’s hands.
The only other major con that comes with using managed WordPress hosts is their high prices. Fortunately, most allow you to pay on a monthly basis, so you won’t need to pay a large lump sum upfront.
Who are Managed WordPress Hosts?
To put it simply, managed WordPress hosts are hosts that manage several technical aspects of your site for you. They typically offer VPS and cloud hosting environments and support WordPress exclusively.
Here are a few examples of this type of host:
- WP Engine
- Liquid Web
Things to Consider in a WordPress Host
Now that you have all the facts about WordPress hosting, let’s narrow down your list of options by discussing a few things you should consider in a WordPress host.
We’ll cover the following points:
- Hosting Environment
- Speed and Performance
Start by determining the hosting environment best suited for your site. A few factors that will affect this include how much time, money and outreach you plan on doing, particularly in your blog’s first year.
These factors will have an impact on how fast your site grows. It’s simple, the more traffic your site receives, the more resources it’ll need.
If you only plan on posting a handful of posts a month, spending very little on AdSense and Facebook Ads, and doing little to no guest blogging or any type of outreach, you’ll do just fine with shared or VPS hosting.
If you plan on putting a lot of money and time towards these factors, you’re going to want to start with VPS hosting at the very least. Cloud hosting would be better as it’ll ensure your site is able to withstand rapid growth and random spikes in traffic.
Consider the future as well. Migrating a WordPress site is a fairly easy task to accomplish these days. Plus, there are services that can perform this task for you, including your new host who may offer it as a concierge service for new customers.
Still, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of migrating your site in a year or two, consider starting with VPS hosting at the very least or cloud hosting if you have the budget.
How much time do you want to spend maintaining your site every month? What does your relationship with technology look like at the moment? Do you prefer learning how to take care of your own devices, or do you prefer having it all taken care of for you?
The answers you give to these questions can give you a hint as to which hosting environment you should choose. As to which host you should ultimately choose, consider which of these services are important to you.
If doomsday hits your site, you can recover most of your data by restoring it with a recent backup. Daily backups and having access to up to 30 days worth of backups are standard services these days, even among cheap shared hosts. Avoid hosts that don’t offer these services.
There are additional backup services to consider as well, such as one-click site restores. This feature allows you to restore your site to a recent backup with a simple click.
Another feature that may be important to you is having the ability to download the backups your host creates in case you come across a situation where you aren’t able to gain access to your host’s copies.
Lastly, most managed WordPress hosts do not allow you install third-party backup plugins on your site as they’d only interfere with the hosts’ own backup solutions. If creating your own backups or using a particular backup plugin is important to you, you may want to take managed hosts off of your Maybe list.
A lot goes into the security of a website, but WordPress requires a more hands-on solution due to its open-source nature. All hosts should provide security at the server level at the very least, and every host I’ve mentioned in this post does so.
Securing WordPress is trickier. There are a number of different plugins you can use to automate many aspects of WordPress security, such as my preferred security plugin Wordfence.
If you don’t want to worry about securing your own site, scanning for malware regularly and removing malware should it make it past your defenses, consider using a managed host. They’ll take care of this for you. Like backups, using this type of host will restrict you from being able to use the security plugin of your choosing.
Keeping your WordPress site up to date is important to its performance and security. This means keeping the WordPress application (WordPress core) itself up to date in addition to the plugins and themes you’ve installed.
Some hosts include WordPress core updates as part of their services. This is mainly offered by managed hosts, though some shared hosts, such as SiteGround, offer it as well.
Hosts typically don’t offer theme and plugin updates as part of their services as updating these products can lead to technical issues that may wind up impacting your entire site. If you don’t want to be in charge of managing your own updates, consider hiring a WordPress maintenance service as well.
This isn’t something you’ll have to worry about if you’re building a new site, but if you want to change hosts for your current site, check to see if your potential host will migrate your site for you.
Some hosts offer this service free of charge while others may charge an additional fee.
While you can migrate a site without experiencing any downtime, the same can’t be said about migrating a domain name. If you register your domain with your host and decide to migrate your site, it can take up to 15 days to migrate your domain.
If you don’t mind the inconvenience and would rather purchase a domain and hosting together, look for hosts that offer both. Managed WordPress hosts typically don’t offer domain registrations.
This is another product I recommend keeping separate from your host. If you move away from your host, you’ll lose access to any email accounts you’ve created.
Use a dedicated email host instead, such as G Suite. If you’d prefer to keep these products together, find a host that offers email hosting. Like domain registrations, managed WordPress hosts typically don’t offer this service.
Speed and Performance
This is something you’re going to have to do a little digging on. Once you have a list of hosts you may be interested in, read a few web hosting reviews from around the web to gauge each host’s performance, particularly page speed. Your site should load in under 2 seconds to ensure it’s compliant with Google’s standards as well as the expectations of your users.
Read my review of SiteGround to see how well it performs. Here’s a taste—I’ve found Siteground’s servers to be nearly twice as fast as Bluehost’s.
Just like performance, consider reading reviews to see if the hosts you’re interested in offer quality customer service. You should also consider whether or not hosts offer the form(s) of customer service you prefer to use.
Most hosting companies offer a support ticket system. Some offer support via live chat, but finding a host that offers phone support is fairly difficult these days. This is partially due to the technical nature of web development, which is better explained through screenshots and links to pages where problems are occurring, two things that are hard to exchange over the phone.
Still, whether you prefer live chat over phone support or vice versa, make sure the host you ultimately choose offers it.
Lastly, consider your budget. Shared hosts often list their prices in monthly format, but most require you to pay for a year of hosting upfront. Also, some hosts offer fantastic introductory rates but charge their regular rates once your first year is up. Be sure to factor this into your budget.
Most managed WordPress hosts allow you to pay on a month-to-month basis, and although you’ll wind up paying more overall, it can be a way to save on startup costs.
However, cost shouldn’t be the deciding factor for you. Going with cheap web hosting, especially the cheapest shared host you can find, may only lead to a nightmare of regular hacks and downtime for your site. You also shouldn’t waste money on cloud hosting unless you truly expect to receive large amounts of traffic in a short period of time.
How to Choose the Best Hosting for Your Needs
Now that you know about the types of hosting available in the WordPress industry as well as which hosting aspects to consider, you should have a pretty easy time coming up with a small list of hosts you may be interested in.
Start by determining the host environment you’ll need based on the guidelines I provided. Jot down the list of hosts that offer that hosting environment, then use the hosting aspects we went over in the Things to Consider section to narrow things down and eventually make a decision.
In the meantime, let me introduce my favorite hosts to you.
My Favorite Hosts That Offer WordPress Hosting
SiteGround is definitely my go-to hosting provider when a project calls for shared hosting. They offer fantastic introductory rates that allow you to grab a hosting plan for as little as $47.40 for your first year.
They’re one of the fastest shared hosts I’ve come across. In fact, a site I used to host had its load time cut in half when I transferred it to SiteGround from Bluehost. They also offer a large collection of WordPress-centric features, including a support staff experienced in the application.
Currently, my site lynwildwood.com is hosted there. You can read my review of SiteGround to see how well it performs with the host. I also have a tutorial on how to get started with SiteGround if you’re interested in this host.
My other favorite host, the one hosting this very website, is Flywheel. They’re a managed WordPress host that offers cloud hosting, and although their target customers are designers and agencies, they’re still a great option for bloggers.
They’re pricier with plans starting at $25/month, but you can pay that $25 today and have a cloud hosting plan at your disposal without having to pay for an entire year upfront.
They’re a managed WordPress host, so they handle backups, security, performance and core WordPress updates for you. They even migrated my site over to them free of charge when I first joined them.
Posts on this host are still in the works, so you’ll have to visit them yourself to learn more about them for now:
That’s all for this post. I hope I made the topic of WordPress hosting a little more clear for you, and I wish you luck in your journey toward choosing the right host for your site.