The following article is the second in a series exploring the topic of web hosting—specifically, Wordpress hosting. These articles are designed to help you determine your needs and make the best decision about your hosting solution.
Part 1 of the series provided a general overview of web hosting, and discussed why you need it and what makes WordPress hosting different. In Part 2 below, we’ll review the different types of hosting services and give you some guidelines for determining the best fit for you. Part 3 will offer some advice on choosing the right WordPress hosting partner.
Do You Need WordPress-specific Hosting?
In part 1, we established that you’ll need hosting for your website, but does that mean you have to find a provider who offers “WordPress hosting?”
The short answer is: No.
WordPress has pretty minimal hosting requirements: PHP version 7 or higher, MYSQL 5.6 or higher -or- MariaDB version 10.1 or greater, and HTTPS support (SSL). Most hosting companies can handle those specifications and host a WordPress site. If they can’t meet all of them, then GruffyGoat recommends not using that particular host.
What makes WordPress-dedicated hosting desirable is that it’s optimized to run WordPress sites, which means that the server script is regularly updated to ensure stability, maintain a positive user experience, and integrate the most recent versions of any plug-ins or security updates. Simply put, quality WordPress hosting makes your WordPress site better.
A lot of the performance improvement of WordPress hosting really depends on the size and scale of your website. In fact, if your site is a small project with limited functionality (such as a personal blog), then you may not need a dedicated external host at all. You can simply host your site through WordPress.com—it’s free and easy to set up an account with them.
If your WordPress website needs to support a business or organization, however, there are a number of good WordPress hosting models available. In addition to free options, the two most commonly employed models are “shared hosting” and “managed hosting,” which we’ll get into below. There are alternative models as well for specialized organizations, but the model that will work best for you will depend largely on your needs, your budget, and your capabilities.
Here’s an overview of the most common WordPress hosting options…
Free WordPress Hosting
There are many free WordPress web hosts available online, but pretty much all of them offset the hosting fee by placing ads and banners on every page of your site. Your tolerance for that will determine if this is a good fit for you. Most businesses will not want to share marketing space with other companies, especially when the content of those external ads is out of your control.
Another downside to free hosting is that, unlike a dedicated hosting provider who charges a fee and has accountability to customers, the free web host is often simply renting excess server space to you. The host might not be that concerned with server performance and security, and their long-term service may not be reliable. Free hosts can (and do) fold up shop without warning, knocking their hosted sites off the internet until the site owners can find new hosts and transfer their files over.
GruffyGoat does not recommend using free WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress Hosting
WordPress is a popular platform, so some web hosting providers now offer managed WordPress hosting. With this model, your site not only lives on a WordPress-optimized server, but also benefits from a dedicated technical support team.
Depending on the terms of your plan, these experienced professionals will monitor your site for performance, keep it secure and updated, maintain regular backups of the data, and even evaluate plug-in compatibility.
Managed WordPress hosting is pretty much hassle-free, which makes it ideal for small- to medium-sized businesses who can afford a higher recurring services fee but not the operational expense of an in-house IT staff.
Performance-wise, your managed WordPress site will typically gain…
- Faster speeds.
- Improved server-side caching.
- Superior security with regular server scans and updates.
- Test sites to preview changes before committing.
- And a lot more, depending on the plan you select.
The chief downside to managed WordPress hosting is the cost. It is more expensive than shared hosting, with monthly service fees ranging from around $25 for a single site at the low-bandwidth usage end to $100 or more for plans with multiple domains and high bandwidth limits.
GruffyGoat recommends WPEngine for high-quality, affordable managed WordPress hosting.
WordPress VPS Hosting
An alternative to traditional WordPress hosting models, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) partitions a physical server into multiple “virtual” servers, giving you dedicated space for your site with high levels of management and security similar to what you get when you own a private server.
VPS hosting is best for medium-sized businesses with sufficient in-house IT resources to manage the technical requirements. Be advised that it takes a fair amount of technical knowledge to make a VPS solution work on your own. Managed VPS hosting is also available, which is a good option for high-need, low-capability organizations.
WordPress Dedicated Server Hosting
Another alternative hosting model involves leasing a dedicated WordPress server from the hosting provider. Best suited for Enterprise organizations and extremely high-traffic, high functionality corporate sites, a dedicated server gives you and your IT staff full control of the server and site specifications. As with other hosting solutions, there are managed dedicated server services available if you do not employ a system admin or IT staff.
Which to choose?
When selecting the right WordPress hosting solution for your site, you must weigh the options against your needs: speed, reliability, security, maintenance, and cost are just some of the factors unique to your business that should impact your decision.
That’s why evaluating your hosting needs at the beginning of the website process can better inform the design and development phases, and ultimately save you critical time and money by aligning the development of the site to your hosting solution.
If you’re a serious website owner, then free hosting is not a real option; and if you don’t have sufficient budgets and IT resources, then VPN and dedicated server hosting options are probably not for you either. Shared hosting and managed hosting plans tend to be ideal choices for most companies because they are relatively simple to engage and deploy.
The good news is that there are lots of solid, reasonably-priced providers of shared and managed WordPress hosting solutions available. The “bad” news is that you’ll still have to search for one that provides a plan that meets your requirements.
More good news, though! Part 3 of this series will cover what to look for in a reliable web hosting partner.