WordPress Hosting Recommendations

I’ve dealt with many different hosts over the years, and have done my homework when it comes to finding a hosting company for my own and my clients’ WordPress sites. One big conclusion: It’s a hot mess out there in the land of hosting. From those who invest millions in advertising (but care little for user-friendliness) to those whose own websites look straight out of 1997, and with all the crazy technical jargon they thrust in your face, the search for a website hosting company can feel like shopping for a used car. Since WordPress rocks as a website platform, here are some WordPress hosting recommendations and tips to help guide your search.

How to Choose a Web Host

First step: decide whether you don’t mind taking care of the dirty work behind the scenes, such as database management and site backups and security, or if you’d rather have everything taken care of for you. There are two typical approaches to WordPress hosting: standard hosting or managed WordPress hosting.

Standard hosting

If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty (as dirty as web folks get their hands anyway), then you can save some money with standard hosting plans. You’ll have to get geeky from time to time, working with the hosting control panel – but it’s not that bad, I swear. Once you find your way around, most things are just a few steps. You just have to get over the geekiness of it.

To make things a bit more complicated though, standard hosting comes in a few flavors: shared, VPS, cloud,  and dedicated hosting (see bottom of post for more info). In a nutshell, each one will progressively give you more resources on the server, meaning more storage and more of the processor and memory capacity of the machine itself.

Which standard hosting plan is right for you? Perhaps the most important consideration is how many visitors you’re likely to get. If you’re looking at hundreds or low thousands of visitors per month, a shared plan will work for you. If you’re looking at considerably more, in tens or hundreds of thousands of visitors, talk to your host about whether VPS, cloud, or dedicated plans will work best. Also, if a lot of your site files are huge, like self-hosted videos, then you’ll need more resources.

Naturally, as your need for resources goes up, so will the price. Quite naturally.

Shared hosting plans tend to start around $4/month. The next level up, VPS plans, start around $25/month, while dedicated plans can get into the hundreds per month.

Managed WordPress Hosting

This is a relatively new solution, one that has emerged simply because of the popularity of WordPress as a platform. Since so many folks just don’t have any interest in touching the geekiness of a hosting control panel, a number of companies have emerged to fill that gap.

What will a managed WordPress host do for you? Managed plans pride themselves on being faster, more secure, and well of course, easier for you to manage. Pretty much all of them advertise being the fastest solution around, and they all take security seriously, as one hacked site on a server slows down all of them. Security is a big deal for WordPress sites, as they can be a tasty target for hackers. Any little bit of extra security sure doesn’t hurt.

Managed plans will of course be a fair amount more expensive, in the range of $25 to $30 per month for the basic level of service. As your traffic and need for resources increases, so do the prices.

One of the downsides of managed WordPress hosting is that sometimes a plugin that you really want may not be permitted, as many plans allow only a certain set of plugins to be installed in sites. If this type of restriction gets in your way, you may want to stick with standard hosting.

Best Standard Hosting for WordPress

Ok, so you’ve considered going with a standard hosting plan – not a bad choice. Now the next challenge is finding the right company. As I mentioned, I’ve worked with many hosts over the years, and I’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly with hosts.  Here are my recommendations for WordPress hosting if you’re going the standard route.

These two companies below are probably the best hosting companies that you’ve never heard of, but that doesn’t mean they’re not awesome. In fact, one of the advantages of these smaller and rising companies is that they will actually care about helping you out when things go wrong (which they will!).

a small orange wordpress hostingA Small Orange 

These guys are great. Their slogan gives you a sense of what they’re all about: “homegrown hosting”. I recently changed over my hosting to them after a lot of years with another host. The reasons I changed to A Small Orange include:

  • Excellent reviews and ratings on a wide variety of sites and blogs

  • Their prices are competitive and reasonable

  • Service is fast, reliable, and quite courteous

  • They don’t make false promises regarding what they offer. They tell you exactly how much storage and bandwidth your plan includes, and show a meter of what you’re currently using.
    (While most hosting companies offer “unlimited” storage and bandwidth, it’s a lie. If you go over in either of these they’ll scold you real quick.)

  • Their website and even the customer account pages are clean, well-organized, user-friendly, and attractively designed

  • They’re conscious of the environment, matching 150% of the electricity they consume with renewable energy

siteground wordpress hostingSiteground

Another great standard hosting company for WordPress sites. I was pretty torn when I was choosing a new host, because these guys look as good as A Small Orange in many ways, offering many of the same advantages listed above:

  • Excellent reviews and ratings on a wide variety of sites and blogs

  • Their prices are competitive and reasonable

  • Service is reputed to be very fast and efficient

  • Also forthcoming about the resources each plan allows, rather than offering “unlimited” resources that aren’t really unlimited

  • They also offer free WordPress migrations if you’re coming from another host

The only big deciding factor for me was that their standard shared plan only allowed one website, while we typically manage multiple sites on the same account (helixriver.com, sustnrs.com, and a couple more on the way).

They may be right for you, so check ‘em out!

Best Managed WordPress Hosting

We keep the Helix River site on a shared plan, but since we do web design, we don’t mind getting our hands dirty. That’s not true for everyone, and managed WP plans can be hugely advantageous to many site owners. I’ve done a lot of research to compare the different options, and at the moment, one of them stands out of the pack: WP Engine.

wpengine managed wordpress hostingWP Engine

As described above, the main advantages in managed WordPress hosting are that you keep your hands clean of the geeky server-side stuff, your sites load faster because the hosting company takes extra special speed measures, and they ensure the highest level of security. Most of the companies really look quite similar in their offerings, but WP Engine excels for a few reasons:

  • While all managed plans offer higher security, what do they do if you’re hacked? WP Engine surpasses all of them, offering to clean up your sites for you.

  • Related to this, they also have a “one-click” restore for backups. In case something goes wrong, you can restore back to a recent snapshot of your site.

  • They also have what’s called a “staging area”, which basically allows you to create a copy of your site that you can test out new designs, plugins, and other features, without affecting your site.

All in all, managed WordPress hosting can be an excellent solution for many sites.

 

Some More Tips for Choosing a Host

  • Unlimited is rarely unlimited. This applies to both storage and bandwidth.

  • Uptime guarantees are only as good as what they offer when their servers are down for longer than they advertise. Some companies will actually offer some cash discount if their servers are down for too long, while others will do diddly squat.

  • Price is important, but you also get what you pay for.

  • Good advertising doesn’t equal good service. Just ‘cause you’ve heard of them don’t mean they’ve invested the same effort and money into other aspects of the business!

Useful Terms

  • Shared hosting: you’re renting a small space in a big hosting server, and get a small amount of resources. Cheapest option available.

  • VPS hosting: a step up in terms of space and resources, but still ultimately a shared plan.

  • Cloud hosting: similar but subtly different to VPS, your files are stored on a variety of machines, rather than just one.

  • Dedicated hosting: you’ve got the whole machine to yourself, so you’ve got all its resources. This also is quite expensive and requires someone to manage it.

  • Managed WordPress hosting: a hosting company that takes care of WordPress-specific hosting tasks, ensuring faster and more secure sites.

Full Disclosure

Each of the aforementioned hosting companies offers an affiliate marketing plan, of which I’ve taken advantage of, meaning that affiliates can receive commissions for people who sign up with the company. But I take these recommendations seriously, and wouldn’t recommend companies if I didn’t believe they’re an excellent service. So check them out!