Choosing which website host to use can be difficult. Many factors go into the decision making process, such as price, performance, and security. We will cover the most common types of WordPress website hosting in this post, along with comparing a few key features we believe are important.
What is Website Hosting?
Simply put, the website host account is the “hard drive” for your website, where the files are stored and offered up online. You are renting space on a server to keep your website content and services accessible. When using a platform like self-hosted WordPress, the files in the “rented space” are yours, unlike websites on free platforms such as Blogger, Wix, or Weebly.
A quality host account is necessary for any successful online presence. But there are many web host companies to choose from, along with an incredible number of varying plans and services. Pricing can range from a very low monthly cost with limited options to much more expensive fees with high end features geared more for eCommerce or business websites.
What Factors Are Important to Consider?
The cost of hosting tends to be the primary consideration for most of the clients we work with. However, it really should be the least important factor on the list. It’s easy to choose the cheapest or most familiar option out there, but this can be a prime example of “getting what you pay for.” There are many inexpensive hosting plans (typically shared hosting) available, but please don’t make your selection based on this benefit alone.
Hosting companies will occasionally offer introductory monthly rates that will greatly increase when your plan renews. So that deal might not be much of a deal a year from now. It is always important that you understand what you are paying for.
Knowing the type of website you are building will influence the server storage space and technical features you look for as you compare the options. If you plan to build an online store, for example, then you need more server resources and processing speed than if you are planning for a personal blog or simple business website. Insufficient space, speed, or resources can cause your website to be unreliable or unavailable to users, which will affect your goals and traffic.
Keywords to look for when reviewing the tech specs of a potential host company are:
- Disk Space – Know how much storage you will have access to.
- Bandwidth – Just like your internet service, research any limitations on the amount of data that can be transferred from your site in a set amount of time.
- Uptime – What guarantee do they offer for the reliability of your website and the percentage of time the site and server will be online?
- Backups – Pay attention to how often these are run and if there is a cost to restoring from a backup, if needed.
- Website Speed – Does the host offer CDN (Content Delivery Network) to help offset the server resources needed for your site to load quickly?
- Security – Is an SSL (security certificate) included with your plan or an additional cost? Will the host run automated malware scans or are you responsible for checking your website regularly? Do they offer a firewall or brute force protection to prevent common bot or hacker attacks?
Usability and Flexibility
It’s important that you are able to navigate your host account, so be aware of the user-friendliness of the platform. Determine if you will have direct access to a dashboard or control panel (cPanel), if the host offers a knowledge base or support forum, and if you will have easy (and prompt) access to a support team.
Know the flexibility and scalability of the services included with the hosting plans or available add-ons, such as domain registration, website building (if not in WordPress), one-click installations of apps (like WordPress), and any email or webmail solutions.
Three Primary Types of Website Hosting
Now that we’ve addressed all (or most) of the pertinent features to consider, let’s discuss the varying types of website hosting. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the three hosting types available for WordPress websites.
Shared hosting is the cheapest and most common option, sometimes available on a promotional rate as low as $2.99/month. Because it is the least expensive option, it’s often the most appealing to new bloggers or nonprofits on a limited budget. The “shared” feature means that more than one website is stored on a single server. Sharing the server space with other websites comes with limitations in terms of bandwidth and disk space. Your website performance could suffer if another site on the server is hogging the server’s resources or having a particularly higher traffic day.
Popular shared hosts include companies like BlueHost, inMotion, SiteGround, Host Gator, or GoDaddy. Based on our experience with each of these over the years, the only shared host we currently recommend to our clients is SiteGround. SiteGround does a great job of maintaining and securing their servers, and the tech support is unparalleled in the shared hosting realm.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from shared hosting, you have the option of a dedicated host. This means your website is on the only website on a particular server and all server resources are dedicated solely to your site. This is an ideal option for very large, highly trafficked websites or large eStores.
Dedicated hosting does tend to be expensive and require the addition of paid add-ons for a control panel or other necessary server software. A highly-rated dedicated host like WP Engine averages between $125 and $150/month, depending on the client’s choice for managed or unmanaged options. Other plans with companies like Liquid Web are priced as high as $375 per month. Whether managed or not, a dedicated server is specifically designed to have top notch features and functions, the highest available uptime, and the strongest security protection on the market.
Cloud or VPS Hosting
The perfect, middle-of-the-road option to expand the features of shared hosting without requiring the greater investment of dedicated hosts is cloud hosting (also sometimes referred to as VPS or virtual private server). Similar to a shared server, a cloud-based VPS allows multiple websites to be hosted on one server system, sharing only the computer while each site maintains its own allotted resources. This means your website would not be affected by a burst of traffic on another site on the server, for example, as it would be with a shared hosting plan.
This option can be nearly as affordable as shared hosting, particularly with resellers like MRM. We have chosen to offer “managed hosting” with Flywheel as an Agency Partner. This guarantees our team and our clients priority support while also allowing us to select software updates (to WordPress and plugins) on an individual site basis. The servers are kept secure with features like a firewall and routine malware scans, and an SSL (security certificate) is included at no additional cost for any website we host. The infrastructure of these servers combined with a server-side website cache ensure that all our sites load at optimal speed.
Which One is Right for You?
Before making your selection, do your research on any potential host company. Read Google reviews, check with the Better Business Bureau for any recent or unresolved customer complaints, search WordPress support forums for recommendations or negative reviews, and even reach out to your web developer. The experiences of others should greatly affect your decision to work with a particular company, whether good or bad.
With so many options available, it’s important to know what support your website will need to perform properly and to understand the technical details of each website host’s plan. Take all of these factors into consideration before choosing a website host so that your website performance and security are adequately supported.
Weigh your options and the pros and cons of each and determine which will serve you well into the future. We often remind clients to plan for where they want to be, not just where they are. Website hosting is a worthy investment in the interest of laying a strong foundation for what’s to come.
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