WordPress hosting comes in all shapes and sizes. From shared hosting to clusters of dedicated servers and cloud hosting, the WordPress hosting market has no shortage of options.
But just as important as the type of hosting is the quality. WordPress is popular, and there are many hosting providers who want to cash in on that popularity without doing the work required of a secure and reliable hosting platform.
What are the qualities of a great WordPress hosting provider? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Hosting clients have different needs. But there are factors that every WordPress site owner should keep in mind.
1. Time well spent?
If you have the technical knowledge, you might consider leasing a server and handling the administration and configuration yourself. If that sounds like a good idea, consider how much time you are willing to invest to optimize, secure, and manage the server. It’s time that might be better spent on the content and design of your WordPress site.
If you’d rather leave the server stuff to a professional, look for a WordPress hosting provider that offers managed WordPress hosting with server setup, security configuration, performance optimization, and technical support.
2. Does the hosting provider know WordPress?
For some hosting providers, WordPress is just one of the hundreds of applications they support. A smaller or less important WordPress site might be fine on this sort of hosting. For larger sites or sites on which your business depends, you should consider a hosting provider that specializes in WordPress.
A specialist WordPress hosting provider will configure their platform to work well with WordPress’s features and peculiarities. They may provide a Memcached instance that integrates with WordPress’s caching system or a content distribution network preconfigured to work with WordPress. You are unlikely to find that sort of thoughtful feature on standard hosting.
3. A modern software stack
WordPress is just one component of a complex stack of essential software. WordPress depends on a web server, a database, and a PHP interpreter. Those components depend on an operating system and hundreds of utility tools and libraries. As a WordPress user, you may never have to interact with any of this software — that’s the job of the WordPress hosting provider — but you need to be sure that the host is doing their job.
Every sensible WordPress site owner regularly updates their WordPress installation. Updates bring security patches and an out-of-date site is more likely to be hacked. Responsible WordPress hosting providers do the same for the software WordPress depends on. Irresponsible WordPress hosting providers don’t, leaving their clients vulnerable to attack.
A particularly egregious example occurred last year when a Korean hosting provider was forced to pay $1 million to criminals to retrieve the data of 34,000 clients that had been encrypted by ransomware. The hosting provider ran a software stack with critical components that were more than a decade out of date.
The affected clients may have been diligent about updating their WordPress site, but it didn’t matter because the stack the site relied on was riddled with vulnerabilities.
Before choosing a hosting provider, talk to them about which versions of PHP, MySQL, Linux, and Apache they use.
4. How big is your site?
WordPress consumes server and bandwidth resources. Each visitor uses memory and processing power, and the more concurrent users a site has, the more resources it needs.
The cheapest WordPress hosting does not include the resources a busy site requires. A WordPress site with inadequate resource might be fast with a few concurrent users, but it becomes less responsive as the number of users rises. Eventually, it will be unable to respond to new requests — not something you want to happen during periods of peak traffic.
Before choosing a hosting platform, talk to providers about how many concurrent users their plans accommodate.
Be wary of providers that promise unlimited resources. Look closely at the fine print and make sure that the provider doesn’t have an unintuitive definition of unlimited. What they call unlimited might not be what you think of as unlimited.
5. Room To Grow
While it is fairly easy to migrate a WordPress site to a different hosting provider, it is better to avoid it if you can. It’s preferable to choose a provider that can offer a smooth upgrade path for a growing site.
Look for hosting providers that offer a range of hosting, from low-cost shared hosting to dedicated server hosting and beyond.
Even better, consider cloud WordPress hosting. Well-engineered cloud WordPress hosting can scale resources almost instantly, so you will never be forced to migrate as your site grows.
6. Flexible or Locked-Down
Some WordPress hosting providers offer managed hosting that takes care of everything for you. These platforms are useful for non-technical people, but they are likely to be inflexible. To provide a simple experience, the provider will limit the plugins you can install and your access to the hosting environment.
At the other end of the spectrum is completely unmanaged WordPress hosting. This is the most flexible, but also the most complex and time-consuming to configure, secure, and manage.
Most WordPress site owners should choose a provider somewhere in the middle. Look for developer-friendly managed WordPress hosting where the provider takes care of the underlying server, leaving you free to use WordPress in any way you want.
That may seem a lot to think about when all you want is somewhere to host a WordPress site. But if you keep these five factors in mind, you will find a reliable and supportive hosting provider with everything your site needs, now and in the future.