What is WordPress hosting? How does it differ from regular web hosting? Do you even need it? And with over 40 companies offering some type of WordPress hosting, how do you decide which one is best for you? We’ve got the complete breakdown in this easy-to-follow, comprehensive hosting guide.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you’re interested in WordPress. You’ve made an excellent choice. WordPress powers over 30% of the top 1 million sites on the web, including Fortune 500 companies, popular news sites, ecommerce stores, personal blogs, and more.
Now you’re faced with a slightly more difficult decision to make—how do you choose the best WordPress hosting for your site?
Do I need WordPress Hosting?
Let’s start by answering the question, “Do I even need it?”
If you signed up on WordPress.com, and you can access your website in a browser, you don’t need hosting. In fact, you already have it. WordPress.com IS your hosting provider. However, keep in mind, hosting with WordPress.com has a lot of limitations. We only recommend it in very rare cases.
In all other cases, if you are looking to build a website on the WordPress platform, you will need to purchase WordPress hosting.
Signing up on WordPress.com is one of the fastest ways to get started with WordPress, but it does come with some important caveats and limitations. If you are unsure whether to use WordPress.com or a different hosting provider, you should read Kinsta’s article on the differences between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.
Here are just a few reasons why you might NOT want to use WordPress.com, and choose one of our recommended WordPress hosting providers instead:
- You sell products online, run any kind of ecommerce site or want to accept online payments
- You’re building a membership site, offering premium content, or requiring your visitors to login to an account
- You want complete control over the look & feel of your site
- You want to add advanced functionality, or use a plugin you found in the WordPress plugin repository
Before we dive into all the details of WordPress hosting, I think it’s important to understand each piece separately. Here’s a quick breakdown.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) used to help you build and maintain a website. In order to achieve this, it utilizes various computer files (i.e. techie Microsoft Word documents containing code) and a database (i.e. a handful of Excel spreadsheets). Both the files and database need to be stored in a place where anyone on the internet can access them. This is where hosting comes into play.
What is Hosting?
Hosting can be thought of as both a product and a service. The physical product that hosting provides is called a server (a computer that is connected to the internet). This is where the WordPress files, database and all of your website’s content is stored.
Most hosting providers also provide a service—that is, help & support for the server that stores all of your website’s content.
WordPress Hosting Requirements
In order to install the WordPress files & database, there are a few minimum requirements your host must meet. These are very easily attainable, thus what makes WordPress one of the most ubiquitous pieces of software in the world.
WordPress officially recommends the following:
- PHP version 7.2 or greater
- MySQL version 5.6 or greater -OR- MariaDB version 10.0 or greater
- HTTPS support
For best performance, a server running Apache or Nginx is recommended, but many other configurations work as well. Any server that supports at least PHP 5.2.4+ and MySQL 5.0+ can run WordPress. However, the latest versions of PHP and MySQL are highly recommended for optimal performance & security.
NOTE: There are literally thousands of web hosting companies out there, and you can install WordPress on just about all of them. However, I highly recommend choosing a hosting company who specifically focuses on WordPress sites (aka: a managed WordPress host).
Web Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting
Web hosting is more of a generic, all-encompassing phrase. Every website in the world needs some type of web hosting, regardless of whether or not it runs on WordPress.
WordPress hosting is a specific type of web hosting that provides exclusive features for sites that run on WordPress. In most cases, you cannot build websites with any other CMS except for WordPress (i.e. Joomla, Drupal, Magento, etc.).
Why choose WordPress hosting over generic web hosting?
A WordPress-specific host will add extra security, increase performance (faster page load speeds) & provide better support than a generic hosting company. This article deals exclusively with WordPress-specific hosting companies.
Types of WordPress Hosting
Now that you know what it is, you should know that there are a few different types of hosting. I’ll briefly explain each type, and then I’ll help you decide which one is best for you.
- Free WordPress Hosting
- Web hosts that offer WordPress-specific features, for free. Almost always come with caveats. Only recommended for very specific (and rare) use cases.
- Shared WordPress Hosting
- Your website shares a server with several other websites, but the host manages updates, security, performance & backups for you. Least expensive, but typically the lowest performing. Best for small sites and/or limited budgets.
- VPS Hosting (Virtual Private Server)
- This is when one server’s resources are split into pieces, and you are given full access to one of those pieces. Near full control, more expensive, technical experience highly recommended.
- Dedicated Hosting
- Your very own physical server whose sole purpose is hosting your website. Full control, most expensive, technical experience required. Typically reserved for enterprise sites.
- Cloud Hosting
- This is when you rent space from a group of servers located in the cloud. Instantly scale resources up or down, as you need them. Incredibly affordable & reliable. Popular cloud hosting platforms include Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
- Managed WordPress Hosting
- This is a host who specializes in WordPress sites, and manages updates, security, performance & backups for you. Different hosts use different setups (shared, VPS, cloud), and prices vary greatly. All hosts discussed in this article are considered managed WordPress hosts.
VPS and dedicated hosting are not recommended for beginners. While they typically provide the most flexibility, they are more expensive and require technical experience to setup and maintain. There is certainly a place for them in the hosting world, but this article will mainly focus on managed WordPress hosting in shared and cloud environments.
Even if you manage a large WordPress website that receives tons of traffic (1 million+ visits/mo.), there are several enterprise managed WordPress hosts that can take care of you. We’ll discuss options that cover tiny beginner sites, all the way up to enterprise-level sites.
Evaluate Your Hosting Requirements
Not all websites are created equal. It’s important you find a WordPress host to provide the best experience FOR YOU: your goals, your needs, your website. This section will ask you questions in order to help you understand what type of features you need. Shopping for WordPress hosting with no prior website experience can be like shopping for a car without ever having driven one. So many options; so many features; you need to narrow it down somehow.
The following questions will help you do just that.
All hosting should include…
Real quick, let me highlight a few things that every WordPress hosting provider should include:
- Automated backups
- Security protection (some type of malware protection, scanning or hardened security)
- Performance/Caching, specific to WordPress sites
- Free SSL certificates
This is the bare minimum that a WordPress host should provide. And now, for more specific setups…
How many sites are you building or managing?
Some WordPress hosts cater to a single site, while others were built with agencies & resellers in mind. If you know you’ll only need one site, most hosts we recommend will work just fine for you.
If you plan on hosting multiple WordPress sites—for example, freelancers, agencies, resellers, companies with multiple brands—there are several hosts that offer specific features to help make your life easier (i.e. transfer billing to a client, site configuration templates).
How much traffic do you expect to receive?
If you’re starting a new WordPress site, you might not have any idea how much traffic to expect. And that’s OK. Use your best judgement, and keep the following in mind.
- Local, service-oriented businesses often receive less than 5,000 visits/mo. Usually no more than 25,000 at most.
- Personal blogs also start pretty small, under 5,000 visits/mo. But they have the potential to grow.
- Niche blogs will depend on the niche. Find a blog with a similar audience, and ask them. You’ll start off much smaller, but this will give you an idea where you could be one day.
- Ecommerce sites will likely start small, but if you sell products that appeal to a large audience, and implement effective marketing, you could grow to the hundreds of thousands.
If you’re transferring an existing WordPress site to a new host, hopefully you have some web analytics data on how much traffic your site receives (i.e. Google Analytics, Jetpack Site Stats, etc.). If so, take note of how many visitors you’ve had in the past 30 days. You should also be able to check with your current host to see how much bandwidth you’ve used. Then use this information to shop by website size.
Anticipating growth? If you’re just starting out, but expect to grow rapidly, you can still start with a smaller plan. I highly recommend checking the pricing page of your potential host, and maybe even chatting with their sales team. You’ll want a host with…
- affordable plans for larger sites
- an easy way to upgrade your plan
- SSL, ecommerce support and/or PCI-compliance, if you’ll need it
Accepting payments online? Selling products?
Any time you accept payment online—especially when you collect someone’s credit/debit card information—you need to use an SSL certificate. Look for a host that offers a free SSL. There are third-parties that offer SSL certificates for a fee, but if you can get one included with your hosting, that’ll keep your costs down.
This includes all ecommerce websites that sell products or services online.
In all honesty, every site should be using an SSL certificate, not just ecommerce sites. I highly recommend you upgrade your site to use https.
Do you have a developer managing the site for you?
If you’re working with an agency, freelancer or WordPress developer, they might want a little more control. There are a few WordPress developer tools that make a developer’s life much easier. Some hosting plans include these features; others do not.
Do you use apps, scripts or other code that is NOT WordPress?
Many WordPress hosts restrict usage of their platform. Part of the benefit of choosing a WordPress host is an optimized system setup specifically for the WordPress platform, and a team of support gurus who know WordPress inside and out. Because they specialize in WordPress, they don’t allow any non-WordPress code.
If you have a need to host something other than WordPress, be sure to chat with the sales team before making a decision.
Now that you know the various types of WordPress hosting, and have figured out your requirements, this is where the fun begins 😃. Let’s find you a host!
WordPress Hosting Recommendations
Here we’ll give our recommendations based on several different factors. After you’ve thought through your site’s requirements, you should be able to find a category below that matches your needs.
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. We might be compensated if you sign up for a plan from our site. Rest assured, we only recommend hosts that we truly stand by. Our #1 goal is to help you make the right decision, not make a quick buck off an affiliate commission.
By Website Size/Traffic
This category will be sufficient for most of you to find the right host for your website. If you run a business website or blog, and don’t have the need for any advanced or developer features, you should be able to use these recommendations. “Website size” refers to the amount of traffic your site will receive, but it could also be correlated with how many pages/images are found on your site.
- Tiny Sites: < 5,000 visitors/mo.
- Small Sites: 5,000 – 25,000 visitors/mo.
- Medium Sites: 25,001 – 500,000 visitors/mo.
- Large Sites: 500,000 – 1 million visitors/mo.
If your site receives over 1 million visitors/mo., check out the section on enterprise hosting.
Tiny Sites (< 5,000 visitors/mo.)
For brand new sites, or sites receiving less than 5,000 visitors/mo., I would recommend any of the hosts we list in our Cheap WordPress Hosting section.
Small Sites (5,000 – 25,000 visitors/mo.)
Flywheel is an excellent choice for designers, agencies and smaller sites. They pride themselves on a completely managed, fast platform, with real human support. They’re super-friendly folks, and they know how to have fun alongside providing an excellent, professional service.
If you need advanced developer features, like SSH and/or Git, I’d probably go with WP Engine over Flywheel. But only because of those features. Both platforms are fast & secure, and Flywheel’s support has been a little better, in my experience.
Medium Sites (25,001 – 500,000 visitors/mo.)
Websites in this range need scalability—the ability to increase resources on the fly, as your site continues to grow. Kinsta offers the greatest flexibility here, and they provide incredible support to handle all of your WordPress growing pains.
Kinsta’s focus on performance & scalability makes it a great choice for medium-sized WordPress sites. They run their platform on the Google Cloud Platform, and pride themselves on a beautifully designed (and functional) custom dashboard, and blazingly fast speeds.
Large Sites (500,000 – 1 million visitors/mo.)
Once again, we have to recommend Kinsta here. Not only does a large site need scalability, but performance & uptime are also paramount. Kinsta delivers in all of these areas, and are much more affordable than any other WordPress host who offers comparable performance.
See below for a few additional features that Kinsta offers on their larger business plans. Some of these are not included in their more entry-level plans.
Cheap WordPress Hosting
It is often said that “you get what you pay for,” and that’s typically the case with hosting as well. However, that doesn’t mean all cheap WordPress hosting is of poor quality. It just means limited features.
If the following statements apply to you, these cheap (but reliable) WordPress hosts would be a good option:
- This is my first time building a website.
- I just started a small business and want an online presence.
- I run a local business with a fairly small customer base.
- I’m starting a personal blog, with no plans to monetize it.
- My budget is under $10/mo. or about $100/yr.
SiteGround is arguably the best all-around host for smaller-to-midsize sites. They get consistent high marks for support from the WordPress community, offer free SSLs, plenty of developer features, all for a price that will have you scratching your head. I recently switched several of my sites to SiteGround, and both the performance & support have been fantastic.
Tap is one of the lesser-known managed WordPress hosts, but they offer a fast, secure and basic platform for a very affordable cost. You don’t get many bells & whistles, but for small, basic sites, you can’t beat the price.
Tap’s pricing is per site, so I would only recommend it for a single site. It’s not great for bulk plans with multiple WordPress sites.
Enterprise WordPress Hosting
For the sake of this guide, we are defining enterprise hosting as the need to handle over 1 million visitors/mo. When your site reaches this level, every millisecond counts. Your site needs to load blazingly fast. It must not experience any downtime. And it likely generates a substantial amount of revenue for your company. You need the best of the best.
WordPress.com VIP is arguably the best WordPress hosting service that exists today. But it also comes with a high price tag, as well as a few caveats. They run their platform on a combination of different servers/providers. Great for: extremely high-traffic sites, peace-of-mind, companies with limited WordPress developers, and a huge budget.
You have to apply to be considered for WordPress VIP hosting. The bare minimum requirements are as follows:
- have at least one in-house developer (or work with an agency that has one)
- include a “powered by WordPress.com VIP” link on your site
- use only GPL-licensed themes/plugins (or your own custom code)
- use standard hooks in your theme
Check WordPress.com VIP’s impressive uptime stats via Pingdom.
Kinsta’s focus on performance makes it a great choice for large-scale WordPress sites. They run their hosting on the Google Cloud Platform, and pride themselves on developer features, a custom dashboard, and blazingly fast speeds.
Great for: Developers, agencies managing multiple large sites
Pagely was the first managed WordPress hosting company and have been in business for over 10 years. They focus on large-scale & enterprise sites, and are proud to run their entire platform (servers, DNS, CDN, etc.) on Amazon Web Services.
Stuck between WordPress.com VIP & Pagely? Pagely put together a nice comparison that I believe is completely fair and non-biased.
If you’re running an online store with WooCommerce, a reliable hosting platform is crucial to your store’s success. When searching for WooCommerce hosting, you should be looking for:
- near-perfect uptime
- incredibly fast performance
- ability to handle multiple concurrent visitors (traffic surges)
- rock-solid security (free SSLs are a given)
There are a few hosts that include all of this, but one clearly stands out from the rest. Liquid Web Managed WooCommerce Hosting not only offers everything we’ve listed above, but they include the following plugins & software as part of their inclusive package, starting at $249/mo.
- abandoned cart recovery by Jilt (normally $49-299/mo.)
- enhanced ecommerce analytics by Glew (normally $199+/mo.)
- super-fast product search + analytics by Algolia (normally $35-200+/mo.)
- Astra Pro WordPress theme (normally $59/yr.)
- Beaver Builder page builder (normally $99/yr.)
That’s easily $400-500 per month on included software and services, in addition to the hosting itself. All for just $249/mo. If you’re serious about your WooCommerce site, this is a no brainer.
Need something a little cheaper?
If you’re only selling a handful of products, your order volume is relatively low, or $249/mo. just isn’t in your budget, Kinsta provides fast, secure WooCommerce hosting for a fraction of the cost (with the option to easily scale to thousands of orders/mo.).
- lightning-fast speed (PHP 7+, HTTP/2 & Google Cloud Platform)
- infinitely scalable, for when your store grows
- free site migration
- free SSL
- automatic caching & performance optimizations, specifically designed for WooCommerce
- track record of handling 90,000 visitors & almost 1,900 orders on a single day. Check out their impressive case studies »
Plans start as low as $30/mo. for a super-basic WooCommerce store, but you’ll likely want to upgrade to at least a Business 1 Plan ($200/mo.) to improve your performance once your store starts to grow.
WordPress Hosting for Agencies & Resellers
Whether you’re a design, marketing or web agency, if you manage multiple WordPress sites for your clients, you’ll want to consider choosing a host that provides features to make your job easier.
Specific requirements for WordPress hosting will differ based on your agency’s goals, but here are a few things that many agencies look for in a host:
- ability to add multiple sites to one plan, and scale up as needed
- quick & easy site access, and/or SFTP management
- advanced billing management, and the ability to set up & transfer test sites
- client-facing dashboard and/or white-label your services
- templates with pre-installed, commonly used themes & plugins, plus the ability to clone sites
- manage multiple organizations & team members in one interface
- workflow & development tools to improve efficiency
- expert support (we’re talking the best-of-the-best)
There are 2 WordPress hosts we recommend for agencies, and they are each a bit different. Let’s take a look at their features.
Flywheel is great for designers/creatives
Flywheel has been around since 2012 and has long been known for catering to designers & agencies. Let’s take a look at the collaboration features that make them one of our top recommended WordPress hosts for agencies & resellers.
The price is a little high for a lower number of monthly visitors, but Flywheel is great about not charging overage fees. They would be an excellent choice for an agency or freelancer managing multiple, smaller WordPress sites.
Pantheon is geared towards developers
While Flywheel is geared more towards designers & creatives, Pantheon was built with developers in mind. If your agency manages large WordPress platforms and/or multiple developers working on the same project, Pantheon could be just what you’re looking for.
WordPress Hosting for Developers
Still finishing evaluations. Coming soon…
WordPress Hosting for Test Sites
Sometimes you just need to test something out real quick. It might be a new WordPress theme you’re considering, or to see if a plugin will do what you need it to do.
The following solutions are great for developers, as well as everyday folks who need to test a WordPress site for a limited period of time.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s not a typo.
Poopy.life allows you to spin up a WordPress test site with one click, in a matter of seconds. You’ll be automatically logged into the WordPress admin area, and a username and password is created for you.
I was fortunate enough to be randomly assigned the exuberant-beaver sub-domain!
Test sites on poopy.life offer the following features:
- Easy, one-click site creation
- Full, unrestricted WordPress install (no limitations)
- Create as many sites as you’d like
- No central account creation required
- Your site remains active as long as you continue to log in
- You can save your site as a template, and allow others to create a new test site based on your setup (using a custom URL you are provided)
- Sites are deleted 7 days after your last login
- No FTP or database access
- You’re stuck with a poopy domain (ex: something-funny.w3.poopy.life)
This is by far the easiest solution for spinning up a WordPress testing environment, if you can get past the silly name.
qSandbox offers another solution to create a free WordPress test site. They also have several paid plans with more features. Their free version is a little different than Poopy.life. Let’s take a look at the pros & cons below, and you can decide which solution is right for you.
qSandbox offers the following features in its free version:
- You must create an account with an email address & password
- Simple site creation
- Option to choose a pre-defined WordPress setup (WooCommerce, pre-installed themes, sample content)
- No time limit. Your site remains active indefinitely.
- Ability to download/export your files & database
- Password-protect your site with a 3-digit access code
- Choose your own sub-domain (ex: companyname.qsandbox.com)
- Limited to 1 site on the free plan
- Content Limitations: 3 users, 5 plugins/themes, 10 pages/posts, 30 media uploads
- No FTP or database access
- Adds WordPress Dashboard widgets & modifies the WordPress Toolbar, making it not a true clean installation
- Can only install themes & plugins from WordPress.org. No upload capability.
After you’ve decided on a WordPress host, it’s time to pick a plan that best suites you. Here are a few tips.
WordPress Hosting Plans & Signup
Some hosts make this part easier than others. It’s fairly common to be presented with multiple plans, options, cross-sells & upsells. This section is dedicated to helping you navigate the signup process, and choose the best plan for your WordPress site.
Which plan is right for me?
Almost every WordPress host approaches pricing a little differently, however, there are a few common characteristics that they use to distinguish between plans. Plans are often based on some combination of the following:
- number of visitors/mo.
- storage space needed (for storing content, images, etc.)
- number of WordPress installations (i.e. how many websites you can manage)
- support for WordPress Multisite
- advanced features like staging sites, SSL, CDN, Git, WP-CLI and SSH
For most sites, I recommend starting with your minimum requirements. You can always upgrade later, and most hosting companies make it pretty easy to upgrade as your site grows.
Unsure of your traffic? Not sure how much storage you’ll need? Start with the lowest plan. If you see a sudden increase in traffic, be sure to reach out to your host right away to avoid potential overage fees.
Consider your must-haves & dealbreakers
If your website has non-negotiable requirements, make sure the plan you select includes them. Some hosts offer varying degrees of support for the following features, depending on which plan you choose:
- Multisite support
- PCI Compliance (a must-have for ecommerce sites)
- Free SSL certificate, or the ability to install a third-party SSL
- Staging environment (ability to test changes on a private copy of your site)
- Developer features, such as Git, WP-CLI and SSH
If most of the features mentioned in this section didn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Just pick the smallest hosting plan that is offered, and you can upgrade later if you need to.
Hosting Setup & Configuration
After choosing a hosting plan, some WordPress hosts will present you with a few options. Some of these options are required before you can set up your site, while others are optional, and can be applied at any point in the future. Let’s go over some of the more common options that you’ll encounter when setting up WordPress hosting.
NOTE: These vary greatly between hosts. This is by no means a complete list, but it should cover some of the more common options.
Typically chosen before you can install your website. NOT easily changed; choose wisely.
This is where your server will physically be located. Some hosts use servers scattered around the globe. The closer your server is to the physical location of your website visitors, the faster your website will load.
- Small, local businesses – If you run a small business in the state of Virginia, choose a server location in the U.S., preferably on the East Coast. The closer the server is to your customers, the better.
- Global traffic – If your website receives equal traffic from all parts of the world, server location is not quite as important. This is where you’ll definitely want to utilize a CDN (CDN guide coming soon). But let’s say you have slightly more traffic coming from Europe than the U.S.; choose a server in the U.K.
Bottom Line: Choose the server location closest to the physical location of the majority of your website visitors.
Typically optional, and can be added at any time. Sometimes you will be asked about it upfront.
We highly recommend you use an SSL certificate on your website, regardless of how big or small it is. An SSL certificate makes your website more secure, and Google will award it preference over a non-secure site in search results.
In today’s highly digital world, security is of utmost importance. Many WordPress hosts now offer free SSL certificates. There is no reason not to take advantage of it.
The method of installing an SSL certificate will vary by host. Don’t hesitate to reach out to their support team if you are unsure of what to do. But when you see the option to install an SSL certificate—especially if it’s free of charge, or included with your plan—always take it.
Bottom Line: Always say yes to an SSL certificate.
Most of the hosts we recommend offer a free SSL certificate.
CDN (Content Delivery Network)
Typically optional, and can be added at any time. Often times it is sold as an add-on (additional cost).
We highly recommend the use of a CDN on your website. A CDN creates copies of your website’s files, spreads them across different servers all over the world, and provides a faster experience for your visitors.
Choosing the CDN option that your hosting company offers might be the way to go, but it’s not always the best choice. See our CDN guide (coming soon) for help choosing a CDN provider.
Bottom Line: Most sites will want to utilize a CDN, but a little more research might be needed to choose the best option. If you’re not sure, go without one to start. Do more research. Add one later.
Add-Ons & Upgrades
It is our opinion that a great WordPress host includes the features that we feel are essential to any site on the web. Things like…
- malware protection
- daily backups
…should come standard. Many WordPress hosting companies include these features with all plans. However, some of the cheaper hosts push them during the signup process, and sell them as add-ons.
After adding up the cost of a few add-ons, sometimes a “cheaper” host can cost just as much as a reasonably-priced one.
Bottom Line: The host who includes these basic features in all of their plans, is the host who cares more about their customers.
With that being said, we typically do not recommend WordPress hosts that charge extra for things like security & backups.
Security Add-Ons (ex: SiteLock)
With any managed WordPress host, security should come standard. You’re paying them to manage your WordPress site, which includes keeping it safe from potential attacks. If the host has a partnership with a security company, and includes their services as part of their hosting service, that’s a great thing. But if they try to sell you a security service for an additional fee, they might care more about their bottom line than they do your website.
SiteLock is a popular example of a cloud-based, web security product that you might see offered for an extra fee. While it is a fine service, it is our opinion that you should not have to pay extra to keep your site safe.
Backup Add-Ons (ex: CodeGuard)
Backups are an incredibly important part of maintaining a healthy website. Most managed WordPress hosting includes daily backups. For most sites, this level of backup is more than sufficient. However, some hosts let you create a backup on-demand (whenever you’d like).
So if a host tries to sell you additional backup services, be cautious. CodeGuard is one such example that gets promoted as an add-on to some hosts. While CodeGuard is a great website backup tool, and even offers some advanced features that managed WordPress hosts do not, 99% of the time they are not necessary.
Free Email Accounts
Many hosting companies offer more than just hosting. Because most site owners also need an email address, you’ll often see options to add email accounts to your hosting plan. Sometimes, they are even included for free. While this seems like a great deal, I usually advise against it.
Hosting a website and providing an email tool are two completely different things. Very few, if any, companies are good at both. Let your host handle your website, but go elsewhere for a solid email provider. It can be challenging to switch email providers down the road, so making this choice upfront can save you time in the long run.
We have found G Suite by Google (formally Google Apps) to be the best.
Free Advertising Credits (Google AdWords, Facebook, etc.)
You will sometimes see hosts offering free ad credits to go along with your hosting plan. While ad credits are a good way to jump start a business and send traffic to your site, I wouldn’t let this be a deciding factor at all. The amount of the credit is small enough to get you a few visits, but chances are you’ll need to spend a lot more time and/or money to see quality results.
Sample Questions to Ask Sales Team
One of the things this guide does not talk too much about is support. The reason for this is that it varies greatly, depending on who you talk to. So instead of trying to tell you these guys have incredible support and those guys suck, we’re providing you with a handful of questions so you can evaluate them yourself. Feel free to reach out to any host you are considering, and put them through a brief test. By measuring their response to some of these questions, you’ll have a better feeling whether or not you can count on their support team.
- Do you install WordPress for me?
- Am I sharing server resources with other sites?
- If another site gets hacked, could my site be affected?
- Do you offer a free SSL certificate?
- Do you set that up for me?
- Does it automatically renew?
- What version of PHP do you run?
- Can I switch between versions?
- Do you manage WordPress updates?
- Just security releases or all releases?
- How quickly do you update after WordPress releases the new version?
- What about plugin updates? (most companies don’t offer this, but see how they handle the question)
- How do you handle large traffic spikes (i.e. viral content on social media)?
- Do you use cPanel or a custom dashboard?
- If custom…can I see a preview?
- Look for basic stats, managing backups, enabling SSL, domain management, database access (phpMyAdmin), etc.
- How do you handle plan overages?
- What type of security measures do you have in place?
- Will you fix my site if it gets hacked?
Warning: Watch Out For…
WordPress hosting companies are for-profit businesses. Not unlike most companies, they don’t always give you ALL the information behind their offerings. They put their best foot forward, giving you just the information they feel is necessary to get you to make a purchase.
This section tries to alert you about the small print. These are things that might not appear on pricing & signup pages, but are important for you to be aware of.
NOTE: The companies we are recommending are not out to trick you. However, they are still trying to make a profit. They utilize common marketing strategies, and in doing so, some language might be vague or a little confusing.
Many WordPress hosts offer introductory pricing that only lasts a limited time. You might get a cheaper price for the first 3, 6 or even 12 months. After that, the price will go up. Sometimes the price jump can be 2, 3 or as high as 10 times the introductory price.
Before purchasing, I recommend confirming the introductory offer, and getting a representative from the company to explicitly state the regular price after the initial offer has expired.
Bottom Line: Asks questions, and confirm the regular or renewal price before making a purchase.
When browsing the features of WordPress hosts, you might see “unlimited bandwidth” or “unlimited visitors.” Sometimes this is 100% legit, and they mean exactly that. Other times, they’re not telling you the entire truth. Most smaller sites don’t have much to worry about here, but if you’re expecting growth, or migrating a fairly large site, read on.
A host may offer you unlimited bandwidth, but what they’re not telling you is, once you reach a certain bandwidth, your site performance will drastically decrease, leaving visitors waiting 10+ seconds for your site to load. You’ll need to upgrade your plan to get performance back up to an acceptable level.
You might also see “unlimited visitors” or “unlimited pageviews.” While it is technically true that they are not counting or limiting the number of visitors to your website, these plans often have a bandwidth limit. Every visitor to your site is going to use some bandwidth. So you will hit your bandwidth limit eventually, and once you do, you will be asked to upgrade.
Bottom Line: Almost nothing is truly unlimited. With every host, be prepared to pay more as your site grows.
In general, hosting comparison tables can be incredibly helpful. However, be wary of comparisons on the host’s website. Almost every hosting comparison I’ve seen on 10+ host’s websites, all claim that they have the best performance, fastest load times, etc.
Obviously, they can’t all be #1. The truth is, there are so many variables when testing out different WordPress hosts, that almost no test is a true apples-to-apples comparison. Even when a host claims the tests were administered by an “independent third-party”, using “industry-standard tests,” I still wouldn’t use them to help make your final decision.
Bottom Line: No comparison table is perfect. Don’t allow them to be your deciding factor.
WordPress Hosting We DON’T Recommend
It’s rare that you find an article advising you which companies NOT to use, but I think this information can be incredibly important. There are too many blogs blindly and irresponsibly recommending hosts with the biggest affiliate payouts, even when those hosts are known for poor products and/or poor service. This section tries to address that.
The following non-recommendations are based on a few things:
- previous personal experience with a site or sites hosted there
- considerable, consistent feedback from the community
Here are the WordPress hosts that we DO NOT recommend.
Network Solutions, a Web.com Company
Network Solutions is one of the oldest, and potentially largest, providers of web hosting & other web services (founded in 1979). Ownership of the company has changed hands multiple times (they are currently owned by Web.com). Quite a few controversies have also surfaced about sketchy business practices. If you’re interested, you can read more about these on their Wikipedia page, but I can tell you from first-hand experience, they operate like a massive corporate business that is out to profit at the expense of its customers.
Their prices are higher than most of their competitors, and you receive an inferior product and service. You’ll pay extra for things that are included with most other providers. I’ve seen websites on their platform take much longer to load, often times returning a server error. I’ve had numerous issues with business email accounts & deliverability. And their dashboard for managing your services is grossly outdated, and inundated with messages trying to get you to pay for additional services.
EIG-owned Hosting Companies
Endurance International Group (EIG) might not sound familiar when thinking about web hosting, but they are the parent company that owns 50+ more recognizable brands in the hosting industry. They are notorious for acquiring smaller companies, laying off some of the staff, and bringing down the quality of service in the process. They are a publicly-traded company who prides themselves on their strategy of growth through acquisition.
The following articles provide evidence of the enormous amount of negative experiences that EIG customers have experienced over the years. They provide first-hand accounts of massive server outages, 48+ hour support response times, and seemingly endless streams of Twitter & Facebook feeds loaded with negative comments.
If you’re considering any of the EIG hosts listed below, please reconsider. Skim through the following articles, and if you’re still not convinced, read some of the comments. Or do a search for EIG hosting nightmares.
- Beware EIG Hosting by ResearchAsAHobby – “EIG ‘optimizes’ cost structure of the hosts it buys out, fires great (expensive) support staff and migrates clients to a worse hardware infrastructure.”
- Comprehensive list of server outages & customer fallout by Linux Depot
- Should you change web hosts? by Chris Lema – “A company whose growth strategy is acquisitions, normally looks at numbers rather than individuals.”
Popular EIG-owned WordPress hosts to avoid:
- A Small Orange
- see full list
Update 2017: EIG lays off 90 people in it’s Austin, TX office, and 440 people in it’s Orem, Utah office. The company has stated this is in an effort to consolidate support services to their Arizona location. They are hiring 600 new people in Arizona.
Update 2017: EIG’s 2016 financials (public record)
But Bluehost is recommended by WordPress.org
Bluehost was one of the first companies EIG acquired back in 2011. WordPress.org has recommended Bluehost since 2005, well before they were acquired. Why would WordPress still recommend a host that is owned by a company which has such a bad reputation? Only WordPress has the true answer to this question, but here are a few facts.
1. EIG made an investment in Automattic (the makers of WordPress) in 2014. I could not confirm the dollar amount. In 2014, Matt Mullenweg (CEO of Automattic & co-creator of WordPress) said, “Endurance (EIG) was one of the earliest supporters of the WordPress community, so it’s great to have them aligned with Automattic in creating the best services and experience for the billions of people WordPress will reach in the coming years. This is just the latest chapter in a long and fruitful partnership.”
2. Bluehost was the first multi-event WordCamp sponsor, and they’ve been supporting WordCamps since 2005. In 2014, Bluehost sponsored every WordCamp in the world. I can’t confirm how much money Bluehost/EIG has given to the WordPress Foundation in support of WordCamps, but this further illustrates the financial connection mentioned above.
For certain websites & apps, Microsoft Azure does a fantastic job. However, it is built with Microsoft’s web technologies in mind (namely, .NET and SQL databases). WordPress runs on PHP and MySQL databases—two very different technologies.
Azure has modified their platform to allow for PHP and MySQL databases, but that’s not its bread’n’butter. It runs slow and costs extra to upgrade to a point at which it’s comparable to other managed WordPress hosts. This is why we don’t recommend it for WordPress sites.
WordPress Hosting FAQ
Q: Can I install any plugin on my site?
A: All of the WordPress hosts on this page, except WordPress.com, allow you to install (almost all) WordPress plugins. Most of them maintain a small list (20-40) of plugins that they do not allow. However, most of the plugins on the disallowed list are related to security, backups & caching/performance, which the hosts themselves already provide.
Because each one might have a different list, we recommend you reach out to each host that you are considering, and ask for a list of disallowed plugins.
…more questions coming soon.
WordPress Hosts Compared
I’ve put together a comprehensive comparison of 7 of the top WordPress hosts, with plans to add more hosts, as time permits. Everything is documented in this Google Spreadsheet, and categorized by features.
45 WordPress Hosting Companies & Counting
This list is to show you how many players exist in the WordPress hosting business. It is not a complete list, but includes many of the more well-known companies. They appear in order of starting price, highest to lowest. All prices are regular renewal rates (not introductory rates), assume monthly payment, and are listed in USD.
This should not be considered a recommendation of any kind, as I have not had experiences with many of these hosts.
List updated April 2018
- WordPress.com VIP – Big business & enterprise plans – Starting at $5,000/mo.
- Pagely – Business, VPS & enterprise plans – Starting at $499/mo.
- Presslabs – Publishers & enterprise plans – Starting at $300/mo.
- Liquid Web – Business & agency plans – Starting at $119/mo.
- Web Synthesis – Business (VPS) & enterprise plans – Starting at $47/mo.
- WPServer – Starting at $45/mo.
- Pressjitsu – Business, developer & enterprise plans – Starting at $40/mo.
- Bluehost – VPS hosting plans – Starting at $39.99/mo.
- WP Engine – Personal, business & enterprise plans – Starting at $35/mo.
- Kinsta – Individual, business & enterprise plans – Starting at $30/mo.
- WPBeast – Only dedicated servers – Starting at $29.95/mo.
- Pressable – Personal, agency & enterprise plans – Starting at $25/mo.
- Pantheon – Personal, agency & enterprise plans – Starting at $25/mo.
- WPX Hosting – Business plans – Starting at $24.99/mo.
- Pressidium – Personal to enterprise plans – Starting at $24.90/mo.
- DreamHost – Shared & managed plans – Starting at $20/mo.
- MediaTemple – Personal, business & enterprise plans – Starting at $20/mo.
- WPPronto – Personal & business plans – Starting at $20/mo.
- LittleBizzy – Personal & business plans – Starting at $20/mo.
- WPOven – Personal to agency plans – Starting at $19.95/mo.
- JumboWP – Personal, business & enterprise plans – Starting at $19/mo.
- Flywheel – Personal, business & agency plans – Starting at $15/mo.
- uPress – Plans starting at $15/mo.
- StackPress – Single-site plans only – Starting at $14/mo.
- 34SP.com – Personal, managed plans – Starting at $12.50/mo.
- Savvii – Shared & VPS plans – Starting at $11.99/mo.
- MagicPress – Personal & agency plans – Starting at $10/mo.
- WPHostingSpot – Various, cloud-based plans – Starting at $10/mo.
- WP.land – Personal & business plans – Starting at $9.99/mo.
- Lightning Base – Personal & business plans – Starting at $9.95/mo.
- GreenGeeks – Shared, personal plans – Starting at $9.95/mo.
- SiteGround – Shared plans – Starting at $9.95/mo.
- iPage – Shared hosting plans – Starting at $9.49/mo.
- InMotion – Shared plans – Starting at $7.99/mo.
- A2 Hosting – Shared hosting plans – Starting at $7.99/mo.
- 1&1 – Shared & managed plans – Starting at $7.99/mo.
- Cloudways – Various, cloud-based plans – Starting at $7/mo.
- Nestify – Personal to agency plans – Starting at $5.99/mo.
- HostGator – Shared hosting plans – Starting at $5.95/mo.
- A Small Orange – Shared hosting plans – Starting at $5/mo.
- Tap – Free & personal plans – Starting at $5/mo.
- GoDaddy – Various, managed plans – Starting at $4.00/mo.
- Jolt – UK-based shared hosting – Starting at $3.50/mo.
- WordPress.com – Free, personal & business plans – Starting at $2.99/mo.
- Pressed – White-label, reseller plans – Starting at $99/yr.