When it comes to designing, launching and running a WordPress site, there are so many critical elements to consider for achieving success, from stellar content to an easy-to-navigate theme and templates to keeping track of updates to plugins. Indeed, making a mistake or ignoring any one of these elements can mean the difference between a site that bears social or monetary fruit and one that withers away.
That said, one component of a great WordPress site—and one that far too many users ignore—is whether or not they’ve chosen a solid, fast and reliable hosting service. The choices can be a bit mind boggling, especially for beginners. Is a free host the way to go? What about a shared platform? Is it worth shelling out some bucks for a higher quality host? These are all questions serious website owners should be asking themselves.
To begin, it’s important to evaluate your needs. Is speed the most important consideration? How about reliability (very important for e-commerce sites that need to keep the money flowing)? And what about security? Will your customer’s information be protected from hackers? Consider all the answers to these questions carefully and pinpoint exactly what matters the most.
Thankfully, WordPress is a very “lightweight” script and is nicely compatible with nearly all the top hosting companies out there, and most of them offer very convenient one-click installation processes for WordPress users. So check out these hosting options and do a little research before settling on a decision.
Free WordPress Hosting
There’s a saying that the best things in life are free. However, that’s rarely true when it comes to web hosting. Often signing up with a free host—you can find lots of choices in the WordPress Forum—means that said host is making their money by slapping banner ads all over your site. Some may even require you insert links onto various pages, which can be seriously annoying and give your site a bad look to visitors. And lastly, free web hosts aren’t particularly reliable: at any point the person offering the free hosting—it’s someone who is usually reselling a portion of their own server space to make a few bucks—can decide to stop the service, which leaves people hanging and can result in huge downtimes. Therefore, it’s best to avoid free website hosting if you can.
Shared WordPress Hosting
The most popular type of hosting used by WordPress beginners, shared service is a decent starting point for those new to the platform. Essentially, you’ll share server space with multiple other sites, which keep costs down and makes the service nicely affordable. Unfortunately, because of the “sharing” nature of this type of hosting you get saddled with usage restrictions. In other words, if your site becomes quickly popular and starts gobbling up server space the host will most likely require you to upgrade to a more expensive service level as your site will begin hampering the speed, response times etc. of other sites on the shared server. However, for bloggers just getting started and brand new e-commerce or small business sites, this is good place to start.
VPS—Virtual Private Server—hosting works by partitioning a physical server into multiple servers depending on what each client on the server needs for their site. So you’re still sharing server space with other sites, but you have a bit more control and privacy. And a VPS can be configured to run specific software programs, which makes it a good choice for up-and-coming designers, app developers and those with a good amount of technical know-how. But, if you’re running a site for a medium-sized business or a high-traffic blog and you lack said tech savvy, be sure to purchase a VPS that is managed: this way, the WordPress hosting provider will deal with all required system upgrades and can be available to help you if you get into trouble with your site.
Dedicated Server Hosting
When you lease a physical server from a hosting provider, you have total control over that server and can decide what operating system you want to use, what kind of hardware etc. However, this option is really only a good fit for a site that has been around for a while and is receiving a ton of traffic. And as mentioned above, if you aren’t technically knowledgeable about servers and can’t employ a system administrator, you’ll really need a managed dedicated server: WordPress itself, for example, employs full-time admins that maintain dedicated servers 24/7 and provide need upgrades, phone support and the like.
Managed WordPress Hosting
When you have an account with a managed host, you literally don’t have to do any of the work: experts will optimize your site for speed and performance, make sure it’s safe and secure, alert you if there’s a problem such as bad plugin and even do regular backups of your data. Of course, all this convenience comes at a price that many WordPress users can’t justify (a busy site running on a managed WordPress host will cost in excess of $100 a month). But those who make enough money from their site to swing the fees will never need to worry about the technical aspects of staying up and running and will enjoy superior service without troublesome downtimes from crashes, hacks and the like.