Types of WordPress Web Hosting Available
Making sure you sign up for a service that caters for WordPress is actually pretty easy (almost everyone covers the basic WordPress hosting requirements), but still there are various levels of service that you can opt for, and you choice will depend on your needs...
Free WordPress Hosting
There is really only one option if you want free WordPress web hosting, and that is to go with WordPress.com. You can sign up and have your own site hosted at yourname.wordpress.com in a matter of minutes. If you are not sure if you are ready to commit to a running your own site on a dedicated domain then this is a great first step. The downside is that you don't have your own dedicated domain, and for many people that is a big downside...having your own domain means you can brand yourself (and have a branded email address) rather than being a subdomain on WordPress.com. Check out our recent post on the problem with free wordpress hosting. There are other services like WordPress.com that offer a very similar free hosted service, but WordPress.com is run by Automattic, the company behind the platform, so it stands to reason that they know it best. It's also worth noting that Automattic are very well funded so there is no chance that they are going to close up shop or disappear for any reason, and that WordPress.com does actually have a paid upgrade option which allows you to host with your own domain...so that might be a good upgrade path for the first time WordPress webmaster. That said, even if you pay to use your own domain on WordPress.com you still get the same WordPress hosting platform which does have some limitations, principally in terms of the plugins and theme customization options. It is these limitations that lead us to ultimately recommend you go for a self-hosted WordPress installation which will give you the ultimately flexibility...
Shared WordPress Hosting
This is where we recommend most new webmasters start out. Shared hosting means you will be on a server hosting hundreds of sites so you share the resources and costs of the server. It is a great option because it is affordable (starting at $5-7/mth) and you still get most of the features of a more powerful set up. Shared WordPress hosting plans are often sold as 'unlimited' bandwidth and storage which is a bit of a misdirection in a way because the performance bottle neck isn't going to be bandwidth or storage, it's going to be processing power. A shared server will provide your site with plenty of processing power for a few thousand visitors a day, but if your site grows to an extent that it has many concurrent users then you are going to want to upgrade to a WordPress VPS or dedicated server...and for this reason we do recommend you go with a shared WordPress hosting provider who offers a good upgrade path. Shared WordPress hosting accounts always provide you with a web based interface like cPanel to manage the various elements of your site, including email setup, databases and typically offer easy installation tools for all the popular web site software packages, including WordPress. WordPress isn't actually hard to install manually in any event, but the 1-click installers do make it faster and ensure that all the file permissions are set right so that future updates to core WordPress, themes and plugins are all easily performed via the WP control panel. As above, we think that A2, Siteground and InMotion Hosting offer the best shared service.
WordPress VPS Hosting
A VPS server is a great next step up from shared WordPress hosting. It is also shared in the sense that your VPS will run on a physical server with other clients, but the server will typically host much fewer clients and you also get low level access to the server administration functions. It runs in effect like your own dedicated server, but on a server with other users. VPS hosting plans will typically come equipped with a control panel like WHM which allows even non-technical users to manage the various server functions via a web interface. For this reason a VPS is a great option if you are a designer/developer who wants to offer hosting to your clients, but doesn't want to mess with technical system administration. We use a VPS to host many of our own sites and client sites.
Managed WordPress Web Hosting
If your site has grown increasingly popular, and you need the additional capacity, but you do not have the time, know-how, or the staff on hand to deal with server operations then managed hosting might be a great option for you. Once applicable only to dedicated plans, managed services can now be had for VPS, cloud or co-location hosting as well. It's an option to consider if you:
- Lack sufficient expertise to properly administer the space.
- Are long on skills but short on time to manage a server yourself.
- Can justify the extra expense.
With managed WordPress hosting, you are renting not only the server but also its support team. Costs can vary. Depending on your choice of host, your benefits will include:
- Trouble-shooting and maintenance.
- Software installations and upgrades.
- Hardware repairs and server monitoring.
- Greater security and peace of mind.
- Built in Content Distribution Network (CDN)
- Built in caching layer for improved site performance
Dedicated WordPress support staff and faster problem resolution could provide the biggest benefit. A crashed website equals money lost. The dedicated knowledge and experience of the web host's staff can get you back in action in a hurry. In spite of the extra fees, managed WordPress hosting solutions can still save you money. Under these plans, you will likely pay less for such essentials as software, hardware, server space and bandwidth. In addition, its relatively low cost is certain to trump the expense of hiring even one technology expert. This is why we host this site with the world's biggest managed WordPress hosting provider, WP Engine.
Dedicated WordPress Hosting
If your site is a huge success then you will ultimately want to get your own dedicated server (though for 98% of all business sites and blogs a shared server or VPS is more than enough). This means you'll have your own physical server hosted in the providers location, dedicated to just you. There are of course many levels of server you can lease, from smaller cheaper servers right up to very powerful servers with a huge amount of processing power. The important difference from shared and VPS type offerings is that you will have complete control over your WordPress hosting environment. If you get to this level you probably have your own system administration resource, though most dedicated server providers can also provide a managed solution (which of course costs more).