One of the most common questions I get at WordPress events and meetups is “How do I choose a WordPress hosting company?” The answer is incredibly complicated and based on a variety of factors, but we’re going to try and simplify it for you with a few key factors:
The first thing you should look at is price. After all, you get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean a cheap host is bad. It doesn’t mean a cheap host is good either. Remember, price is just one factor.
What you’re looking for when it comes to price is affordability. It makes no sense to pay $50 a month for a managed host if your budget is $15 a month. It’s important to remember that hosting is a huge part of what runs your business online. You’ll want to keep that in mind as you budget for it. Every business is different, and in a different stage of development. But if you’ve been in business for a while, you may want to consider a larger budget for hosting because you’ve got more to lose if things go sideways.
The good news is that quality hosting is readily available, even if you’re just starting out. The bad news that same quality hosting will be somewhat limited in services. More on that later.
The other factor to look at when it comes to hosting prices is scalability. You want a host with pricing options that allow to grow. It may cost you more money to upgrade, but that’s far less painful then having to migrate to a different host because their pricing tiers don’t allow you to move up in services.
The next thing you’ll want to look at is the performance of your potential host. How fast are their servers? Are they using solid state drives (SSDs)? Most importantly, you’ll want to look at if the service is shared hosting or a VPS (virtual private server).
The decision of shared versus VPS is a huge one in terms of performance and security. Shared hosting sites are more vulnerable to issues because they are competing for resources with the other sites on that server. If one of the other sites on that server, a site that has nothing to do with your business, has a spike in traffic, you may see a slowdown on your site as a result. While these spikes may seem unimportant, if they come at a time when your site is being crawled they could impact your SEO rankings. Worse, if that spike comes during a high-traffic point for you, your users may see your site as slow and move on to a competitor.
“The number one limiting factor of speed when I conduct site speed optimizations is the hosting plan,” said David Wolfpaw of FixUpFox.com. “You can optimize images, minify and load fewer scripts, and setup a cache system. But none of those will make any notable impact if you don’t have a hosting plan with a fast server response time.”
The reality is that most managed WordPress hosts are shared hosts. That being said, the top hosts in the WordPress space have load balancers and other technology in place to prevent the kind of slowdowns and security issues that used to be a concern. If you’re selecting a managed host, be sure to ask about those features.
When it comes to hosting, perhaps the most important factor is support. Few experiences are as bad as having a site go down and not having the support you need. Not all hosts offer 24/7 support, so that’s an important factor to consider. You’ll also want to factor in what kind of support the hosts offer.
When I’m looking at hosting companies, I’m personally looking for two things: 24/7 support and live chats. I want 24/7 support because I’m often working on server related issues during off-hours to avoid messing up a site during peak times. I’m looking for live chat features because it helps to be able to copy and paste error logs and messages.
One other thing that is a bit of a sensitive topic when it comes to 24/7 support. Most of us have had to place a call to support line and gotten someone where English is clearly not their first language. That can be a barrier for communication. That’s another reason I prefer chats over phone calls. Chats help with the language barrier by literally spelling out everything that is said. There’s less chance for confusion due to language issues, and that makes the support experience much less stressful.
Lastly, you’ll want to look at the services a hosting company offers you. In this era of the web, an SSL certificate is required, not just for security but also for SEO purposes. Your host should offer some form of free SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt. If your host doesn’t offer this service, find a new host.
Another service to look out for is a CDN. While there are free CDNs out there like Cloudflare, they can be a bit on the technical side to set up. If your host offers a CDN at a reasonable price, you may want to consider that. A CDN can be a huge boost to your site’s performance, and that’s good for SEO rankings.
Finally, for services you’ll want some kind of migration service as part of your onboarding to the new hosting platform. Migrating your site can be a huge pain, and having a host who is used to doing migrations on the daily is a massive help. A good host will do the migration for free, so be wary of hosts that charge for them (unless it’s an upcharge for expedited service).
Wrapping it Up
In all, there are more than just four factors that go into choosing a hosting company for your WordPress site. These four are just some of the biggest and most important. Take them all into account, and look at other factors and choose the one that best fits your needs.
Personally, I recommend Flywheel for hosting. They check all the boxes for me, from 24/7 chat-based support to free SSLs and a cheap CDN. Their performance is top notch, and their price, while a bit on the higher side, is more than compensated for in all of the services they offer. All of my hosting clients are run on a Flywheel server, and have been for two years now. I haven’t looked back.