Choosing a web host for your website can be difficult. With so many companies in operation, each offering multiple plans and packages, making a decision can quickly become overwhelming.
Even once you’ve made your choice and your website is online, it’s still something you’ll need to revisit in the future, once your site starts attracting more visitors, or consuming more resources in other ways.
This article looks at the three most common hosting options for WordPress users to see which is right for you.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the three most common hosting options for WordPress users in order to see which is the right choice for you, and for where your website is in its lifecycle.
Just Starting Out: Shared Hosting
Every website is hosted on—that is, stored on and delivered from—a server: a computer built to handle web traffic. With a shared hosting account, you are allocated a portion of a single web server, along with a number of other users. Since many clients and their websites can be hosted on one server, this makes shared hosting the least expensive option.
Benefits of Shared Hosting
Shared hosting packages often allow you to host multiple websites and domains on one account.
Host multiple sites for very cheap: Not only does shared hosting carry the lowest cost per account, but many low-cost shared hosting packages allow you to host multiple websites and domains on one account. This means you could host potentially dozens of small websites in one shared account for less than $10 per month.
Simple administration: Because shared hosting is built to be accessible, most shared hosts give you access to a number of tools which make carrying out administration tasks a very simple process.
One of these tools that you will probably get access to is the cPanel graphical interface for the server. This application allows you to manage your account through a visual interface, making it very easy to setup email accounts, add additional domains, and install WordPress and other software in just a few clicks.
Bundled services: Shared hosting packages often include email services, including unlimited address for each domain you host. You are also likely to have the ability to create additional FTP accounts for uploading files from different users, and also be able to host additional websites on subdomains.
Drawbacks of Shared Hosting
Other customers can affect the performance of your website.
Slow, especially if you have noisy neighbors: The main downside with shared hosting is that because you are sharing the server space with other customers, their activities of the other users and their websites can have an impact on the performance on your site.
Given the high importance of site speed, it’s worth knowing that should another website hosted on the same server suddenly experience an increase in visitors and usage, it could negatively affect the other websites hosted on the server, including yours.
Even if your neighbors are quiet, shared hosting often tends to make the fewest guarantees about site speed—since the business model is all about adding as many accounts to the same server as is feasible. This is the aspect of shared hosting where “you get what you paid for.”
Downtime on your best days: To counteract the above problem, a good web host offering shared hosting packages will have steps in place to minimize the impact one customer’s sites can have on another’s. The downside of this is that should your site suddenly receive a surge in visitors, it might be temporarily taken offline(!) to prevent it from negatively affecting your neighbors.
Resources advertised as unlimited always have a limit.
Not really “unlimited”: Many shared hosting providers advertise unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth. In theory this should mean that you have unlimited server resources at your disposal. However, this is never the case, and if you do cross the invisible line in terms of the amount of resources your site consumes, you will be asked to upgrade your package or plan.
Who is Shared Hosting For?
For sites that are starting out, shared hosting with a well-known web host is the perfect choice, because of the low costs involved, ease of use, and availability of support staff.
However, once the visitors to your website start growing, or you need more server performance for other reasons, you will need to upgrade your hosting plan to something with more capacity.
Optimized for WordPress: Managed WordPress Hosting
With managed WordPress hosting, your site is hosted on a WordPress-optimized server.
As WordPress has grown in popularity, so too have the number of hosting companies that are offering managed WordPress hosting. With managed WordPress hosting, your site is hosted on a WordPress-optimized server—one that has been custom-designed to work efficiently with the ways WordPress stores and accesses data.
Benefits of Managed WordPress Hosting
A faster WordPress experience: The server optimizations mean a faster-loading website for both you and your site visitors.
Expert support: Because these hosts specialize, the people managing the servers are also usually WordPress experts. This means you get access to a support team that goes above and beyond a regular host’s abilities in understanding and fixing WordPress problems.
Automatic updates: As well as having your site hosted on a server that is optimized for WordPress, with a managed hosting service the web host will usually take care of the updates to the WordPress software, as well as, in some cases, any plugins you have installed.
A security boost and graceful backups: Because the team will be experienced at supporting WordPress sites, appropriate security provisions will be in place to handle any WordPress specific vulnerabilities or attacks that might occur. Depending on the host and the package you choose, the backups of your site may also be managed on your behalf.
Managed migration: Some managed WordPress hosts offer a migration service to move your website from a shared or other hosting package, as well as installing and configuring a fresh installation of WordPress for new customers.
Drawbacks of Managed WordPress Hosting
Most managed WordPress hosting services will seem less than competitive on price.
Pricey: The main downside of this hosting option is the costs involved. Due to the low monthly costs of shared hosting packages, most managed WordPress hosting services will seem less than competitive on price.
Costs scale with use: The best managed hosting packages don’t offer unlimited bandwidth and disk space, like some shared web hosts advertise. This means only one site per account, and pretty severe caps on site traffic before you’re mandatorily bumped up to a much more expensive pricing tier. These extra conditions make the costs of managed WordPress hosting hit even harder.
Loss of control: While “managed” means a number of benefits, this also means you get less control over the server space you are allocated. This includes being unable to install other software, and even restrictions on certain plugins which are deemed unsecure or inefficient when it comes to using server resources.
Who is WordPress Managed Hosting For?
Cashflow-positive sites: Despite being more expensive than many lower performance shared hosting packages, this type of hosting still isn’t a major financial investment for any website that is generating income or new leads for your business.
In fact, with more and more hosts now offering WordPress-specific hosting, the monthly costs are now getting much closer to the cheaper shared plans that are available.
For a site that’s making money, the features of a managed service (and the fact that the unlimited offers aren’t always what they appear to be), the time savings involved, and the extra performance on offer, can justify the extra costs.
Sites that need speed: Even if your site isn’t making money, you may need speed and be willing to pay for it. Maybe you’ve got a lot of traffic that you haven’t yet monetized, but the heavy use of server resources is starting to noticeably slow down the site. Managed hosting can be a great expenditure in this case.
In general, managed hosting is a good choice for anyone who is ready to upgrade, or to start their website off on the right track.
In general, managed WordPress hosting is a good choice for anyone who is ready to upgrade from a shared hosting plan—whether for speed or for the added features. It’s also a great choice for anyone who wants to start their website off on the right track with a host that is optimized for WordPress and has great support staff. If you don’t mind investing a bit more money, then this type of hosting will appeal.
High-End Hosting: VPS and Dedicated Hardware
Dedicated hardware is a good option for resource intensive websites.
If you are preparing for an upgrade from shared hosting, or are building a website that will need more resources than an entry-level plan can offer from the outset, then a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server could be a good option.
When you sign up for a dedicated server hosting package, you get an entire server to yourself, plus full access to the server.
When you sign up for a dedicated server hosting package, you get an entire server to yourself. This means you aren’t sharing any resources with other users, as you would be with a shared hosting account, allowing you to avoid any of the potential resource competition that can result. This makes dedicated hosting a much more expensive option, but leads to a much higher level of performance, making it a good choice for mission-critical websites or sites that receive lots of visitors.
Another characteristic of a dedicated hosting plan is that you get full access to the server. Unlike a shared hosting account, you aren’t limited to accessing the server via a control panel, but can login via the command line. This means that not only can you install and configure your WordPress site, but also any other applications, databases, or scripts you might need for your business.
With a VPS package, you get the same level of access as a dedicated plan, but a portion of a server rather than an entire server.
With a VPS package, you get the same level of access as a dedicated plan, but are allocated a portion of the server rather than having an entire server at your disposal. Relative to shared hosting, your virtual server will be allocated a more generous portion of the server and its resources. This makes it a better choice for more resource-hungry websites than a basic shared package.
Benefits of Dedicated and Virtual Hosting Packages
More server resources: The main benefit is the increased server resources at your disposal. A VPS account is often the most common upgrade route for anyone who has outgrown shared hosting, with a dedicated server being the typical next level after that.
Easily upgrade the resources available as your needs grow.
Complete control: As you get a higher level of access to the dedicated server, or virtual server, you can do a lot more with your server space, including testing, development, and running other applications besides WordPress.
Easy scaling: Most hosts that offer these packages also have many different tiers, allowing you to upgrade the resources available to your site as its needs grow.
For those that need more resources, more flexibility, and the ability to experiment with their online environment, a dedicated or virtual server is a great option.
Downsides of Dedicated Hardware
Pricey: The main downside is the high costs involved relative to most other types of hosting, with a dedicated server generally being the most expensive option of the ones we’ve discussed.
Freedom to mess up: All the freedom you’re given with the server gives you a lot of room to cause very serious problems. While these hosting packages are supported by the hosting company, you are responsible for ensuring you don’t delete the wrong files or break anything on the server.
Who is This Option For?
Large site owners: For anyone with a WordPress site that is growing in popularity or using a lot of server resources from the outset, these packages offer much higher levels of performance than shared hosting, and, in some cases, than even managed WordPress hosting packages.
While your greater control over the server can increase the risk of user error, many packages of this type still include the graphical control panels that come standard with shared hosting packages. This makes them potentially as user-friendly as the entry-level hosting options, reducing the need to access the server via the command line.
Experts: If you have a specific need for your server and the knowledge to do it, a dedicated server will offer the least impediments.
In sum, if your need for flexible high-performance hosting is such that you need a server all to yourself, or at least a large partition of it, then a dedicated or VPS hosting package is often the best choice.
Hopefully you’ve now got a better understanding of the three main types of web hosting available to WordPress users. To recap:
The low-cost and ease of use of many shared hosting plans makes it an ideal choice for anyone who wants to get started with minimal financial outlay. With many shared hosts offering to install WordPress for you as part of the setup process, you could have a new website up and running in no time at all for a small monthly fee.
For those who need a faster website, with better performance, a WordPress managed hosting package could be the best option. The hands-off nature of this type of hosting is also an important aspect to consider if you don’t want to occupy your time with keeping WordPress software up-to-date and as secure as possible.
For the more adventurous, or those who need the highest levels of performance, then a dedicated server or a virtual private server is often the best choice—although due to the higher costs involved, it’s usually a better option for those who need to upgrade, rather than the owners of a website in its infancy.
Our next few posts we will be looking at the best web hosts for each of the above categories to help you choose the right WordPress host for your business.