Picking the right web host is one of the most important decisions you will make when starting your website. It might even be a decision you end up making many times throughout the life of your website as it grows in size and popularity.
If you make the wrong choice, you could end up with a slow and unresponsive website that suffers from intermittent downtime. Not only will this scare away any visitors that come your way, but a slow loading website can even scupper your chances of ranking well in the search engines, undermining your attempt at growing an audience before you’ve even started.
A good web host on the other hand can ensure your site is safe and secure, loads quickly, while also providing you with access to a team of WordPress experts should you need any support or advice.
So to ensure you choose the right web host for your WordPress website, we’ve created this guide covering the three main types of web hosting and have recommended two from each category. These recommendations are based on personal experience, recommendations, and evaluation of the services and features they offer.
Whether you are starting a new website or are fed up with the poor performance of your current host, here is the aThemes guide to the best WordPress web hosts.
How to Evaluate a WordPress Web Host
As we all have different needs, naming one web host as the best option is unfortunately not possible. However, by being aware of the different criteria you can use to evaluate a web host, you will be able to see which host offers the best service according to your own personal requirements.
Factors to consider when evaluating a web host include:
- Cost (check for discounts and annual savings)
- Storage or disk space allocation
- Bandwidth or amount of traffic permitted
- Level and channels of support provided (email, live chat, phone, etc)
- Managed services such as updates and upgrades
- Staff expertise with WordPress
- Extras including 1-click installs and backups
- Number of WordPress installations permitted
- Email account provisions
- Level of access to the server and database
- Restrictions on plugins or additional uses beyond WordPress
- Uptime guarantees
- Reputation of owner or parent company
We recommend you decide which of the above are the most important to you and then use them to evaluate the services on offer from the recommended WordPress web hosts below.
I Want Affordable and Reliable WordPress Hosting
If you are looking for the most affordable option then shared hosting is for you. It’s also the most common form of web hosting out there, with many companies offering this service, competing fiercely on price.
This means you can pick up a real bargain and get your website online for a very low monthly fee. It also means you should be aware that some hosts cut corners to enable them to offer so much for so little.
What is Shared Web Hosting?
With shared web hosting, you literally share the hardware with others. You are allocated a portion of the server and its resources to host your websites on. This makes it a comparatively low cost service to provide.
If managed correctly shared hosting can offer fast loading websites, but if not, as more and more customers and their websites are added to a server in order to keep costs down, performance inevitably suffers. This results in increased page load times and an increased chance of website downtime.
To entice new customers into this highly competitive and commoditised market, shared web hosts often compete on price and by offering as many features as possible to present the most attractive deal to customers.
This materialises itself in hard to resist offers of unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, the ability to host an unlimited number of domains and websites, and unlimited email accounts, all for just a few dollars a month.
However, in order to keep costs down, some hosts cut corners and customers can suffer as a result. Popular websites that start taking up more resources than their neighbours as their visitor numbers increase often end up paying the price for their success with their access to resources being throttled. The site can even end up being taken offline for the greater good, with the only option for resolution being to upgrade to a more expensive hosting plan.
Before you write off entry level web hosts completely, not all shared hosts operate in this way and there are still some good guys out there, offering fair and well-resourced plans to their customers.
Pros of Entry Level Shared Web Hosting:
- Low cost
- Easy and instant account setup
- Lots of extras (email, host unlimited domains, 1-click installs, FTP access)
Cons of Entry Level Shared Web Hosting:
- Relatively lower performance
- Potentially oversubscribed servers and support
- Support staff might have less WordPress expertise
- Website performance can be affected by other websites on the same server
While it might sound like there isn’t much to recommend entry level shared web hosting, we haven't yet discussed its main attraction: the price. Being able to pay a few dollars for the first month of service and have a website online in just a few hours is hard to beat. This makes shared hosting the perfect choice for the beginner blogger on a budget.
By choosing carefully you can avoid the poor performing, oversubscribed shared hosts, and get yourself a real bargain that will provide the perfect platform for launching your website on a budget.
Our Recommended Shared Web Hosts: SiteGround and Site5
So while the performance on offer from traditional shared hosts isn’t suitable for high traffic (100,000+ uniques a month) or highly resource intensive websites, it can be a great match for those who are just starting out or manage a few middle of the range websites, for clients or otherwise.
If you fall into this category then the two shared hosts we recommend are SiteGround and Site5.
While these plans won’t rival the service offered by managed WordPress hosts like Pagely, whose staff live and breathe WordPress, it does offer some of the same benefits at a fraction of the price. These features include WordPress installation, auto updates, daily backups, caching, and staging, making this a great value managed WordPress hosting-lite service.
At SiteGround there are three WordPress hosting plans to choose from, with varying features on offer. Low prices combined with a service tailored for WordPress users means that SiteGround offers a lot more than a generic shared hosting service, without breaking the bank.
This makes them a good choice for those that aren’t ready to make the extra investment required for a true managed WordPress hosting experience, but also don’t want to sacrifice site speed and security.
SiteGround are currently offering aThemes readers a 60% discount on their WordPress hosting service by signing up through this link today.
While you won’t get auto-updates of the WordPress software, they do claim to offer support from a team of WordPress experts and a 1-click installation of the software.
The main attraction of Site5 is that they provide one of the best value entry level hosting options that allows you to avoid the Endurance International Group-owned hosts, such as HostGator and Bluehost, while still enjoying competitive monthly rates.
The Problem with HostGator and Bluehost
The $4 a month hosting plans from the likes of HostGator and Bluehost will probably have caught your eye during your research. Whether that is due to their low, low prices, or the fact that they are heavily promoted online by bloggers seeking to earn an affiliate commission for recommending them, they will probably be on your radar.
However, these services are often not the bargain they appear to be. If you are serious about your website, and are using it to promote a business or your own personal brand, or you just don’t want to alienate your audience with a slow loading website, then you will be better off with another hosting company.
While HostGator and Bluehost are some of the most popular web hosts out there, their reputations were built prior to their acquisitions by Endurance International Group. EIG are one of the world’s largest hosting companies, thanks to their purchase of many individual web hosts, which so far numbers around 50. Although thanks to their approach of keeping a low profile, you would be forgiven for not being familiar with them despite their size.
However, despite being responsible for managing a reported 2.9 million customers, and their 10 million domains, the level of service on offer isn’t always what you might expect. As new customers are acquired by EIG after a buyout of a competitor, they are reportedly made more profitable by reducing the amount of server resources they have access to, resulting in increasingly slower loading websites. The quality of technical support also suffers due to this approach, with the ratios of customers to support staff dwindling as more companies are merged into the EIG infrastructure.
It’s not just this approach to keeping costs down that makes these hosts an unattractive option. They have also experienced widely publicised downtimes where their customers’ websites have been unavailable for considerable amounts of time, including periods in 2014, and they almost topped the list of top 10 outages of 2013.
Finding a non-EIG owned low cost alternative to HostGator or Bluehost can be difficult due to them keeping a low profile when acquiring a new host, however, our two recommendations in this category – SiteGround and Site5 – are two such options you should definitely consider.
I Want Fast and Secure High Performance WordPress Hosting
If you are seeking a fast loading website that can handle a steady increase in visitors, as well as unforeseen spikes in traffic should your content go viral, then managed WordPress hosting is the best option.
For users that don’t want to worry about keeping WordPress up to date, configuring caching plugins, securing their site, and setting up a backup schedule, this type of hosting is again the perfect match.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress hosting companies offer a service tailored to WordPress users. From the way the servers are optimised, through to the expert knowledge of their support staff, everything is focused on ensuring your WordPress website runs as smoothly as possible.
The target market for managed WordPress hosting falls into to two main camps: site owners who don’t want to worry about installing updates, managing site backups, and defending against security breaches; and those who need a fast loading website that outperforms shared hosting.
As the servers the websites are hosted on only cater to WordPress websites, they can be tweaked and optimised to deliver the best possible performance, without having to make any compromises in order to accommodate other software and types of website.
The managed part of the service often includes automated website backups, updating the WordPress software and the plugins that are installed on your site, and optimising the servers. This helps keep your site up to date and secure, taking some of the workload of managing a website off your hands, allowing you to focus on creating content and promoting your website. A good managed WordPress host will also use custom tools and bespoke services to keep your site secure and running as fast as possible.
Why WordPress Managed Hosting?
If you don’t want the burden of keeping the WordPress software up to date and want to stop worrying about whether your website is vulnerable to security breaches, malware, and attacks from hackers, then a good WordPress managed web host will take all these tasks off your hands. The staff and systems in place will work proactively to ensure you site is not only fast but tightly secured.
Pros of Managed WordPress Hosting:
- WordPress-optimised servers for faster loading websites
- Automated backups
- Managed WordPress software and plugin updates
- Expert WordPress support staff
- Strengthened security measures
Cons of Managed WordPress Hosting:
- Doesn’t always include email services
- List of prohibited plugins
- Restricted access to the WordPress database
- Not the cheapest option
Our Recommended Managed WordPress Webhosts: Pagely and Media Temple
Although the number of companies offering this type of hosting is growing all the time, our recommendation goes to the original managed WordPress host: Pagely and newer entrant into the market Media Temple.
Pagely has a number of hosting tiers on offer, each with multiple plans that cater to the beginner blogger, through to busy eCommerce store owners, right up to those running high traffic and resource hungry applications and beyond.
As the Pagely hosting plans are powered by Amazon Web Services, their packages are all fully expandable. This means that no matter how popular your website or WordPress application gets, you will be covered.
However, for the new website owner, their entry level plan starting at $24 per month is an affordable way to start your website off on solid foundations, or rescue it from the underwhelming performance of your current host.
Pagely are currently offering a risk free 30 day trial on their hosting plans.
Why Media Temple?
Unlike Pagely, Media Temple just offer one managed WordPress hosting plan, but with unlimited bandwidth and 20GB of SSD storage space on offer it should be more than suitable for most websites. In fact, one Media Temple managed WordPress hosting account allows for up to three separate WordPress installations, each with their own domain.
This makes Media Temple a good value package for those with multiple sites they’d like to host on an optimised server, where WordPress updates, backups, 24/7 support, are taken care of, and that also provides an email service.
While managed WordPress hosting is the perfect choice for those with a need for speed, reliability, and expert support, there is another group of WordPress users who might be better served elsewhere.
If you require more freedom, such as being able to install any plugins of your choice, access to the WordPress database, and the ability to install other software alongside WordPress, then a managed VPS solution might be for you.
I Want High Performance WordPress Hosting with More Freedom
If you need high performance hosting to match or exceed the best managed WordPress hosting services, but want more freedom as to what you can do with that hosting space, then a VPS or virtual private server could be your best choice.
What is VPS Web Hosting?
A VPS or virtual private server hosting account gives you greater access to the server space you are allocated. This gives you the freedom to install any software of your choice, including WordPress.
This type of hosting comes in two main varieties: managed and unmanaged. While unmanaged hosting is cheaper, you are fully responsible for managing the server and installing and configuring any software you want to use.
Managed VPS hosting on the other hand takes many of the responsibilities of managing a server off your hands, while still giving you access to a high performance web hosting server. In this section of this WordPress hosting guide we will be looking at managed VPS hosts, but a good example of an unmanaged VPS is Digital Ocean.
Managed VPS vs. Managed WordPress Hosting
While Pagely offer a managed WordPress hosting service, if you want to host other applications alongside WordPress, or have more control over how your web hosting space is setup, but still want access to high performance hardware for a fast loading website, then a non-WordPress specific managed hosting service could be a better option.
As the server space provided by a standard managed web host won’t be configured and optimized specially for WordPress, you will generally get better performance and a fasting loading website from a managed WordPress host. Although if you have the abilities, you can configure the server so that it is optimised for WordPress.
So, if you are require greater freedom or a more hands role in how your server is configured then VPS hosting could be for you.
Pros of Managed VPS Hosting:
- Freedom to install any plugins or applications of your choice
- More hardware for your money (but a greater monthly cost)
- High performance hardware
- Proactive support staff
Cons of Managed VPS Hosting:
- More expensive entry level plans than WordPress managed hosting
- Support staff less likely to be WordPress experts
- Servers not configured specifically for WordPress
Our Recommended VPS Web Host: Servint and WiredTree
Virtual private server hosting is an even more crowded market than the managed WordPress hosting space. Many web hosts well-known for their entry level shared hosting packages also offer managed VPS hosting.
However, if you are looking for the best performance then choosing a web host that focuses on high-end hosting is the best approach and for that reason we recommend Servint and WiredTree.
The Servint VPS plans start with generous hardware allocations and include unlimited bandwidth, making them an ideal choice for the most demanding of websites.
Their VPS plans are highly scalable so as your website grows, so too can the resources it has access to. For those that need even more power, Servint also offer higher performance fully-managed dedicated servers.
If you choose one of the managed hosting plans from Servint the support team will be monitoring your server and their network and will work proactively to take care of any problems that arise, without you having to worry about detecting them and contacting the support team. While you won’t get access to a support team that are 100% WordPress experts, you will find a well-staffed and knowledgeable team willing to help.
These managed VPS plans include access to the pre-installed cPanel and WHM graphical user interfaces for managing your server and account, with the support team proactively monitoring your server and the network for anything untoward.
WiredTree also offer a range of a la carte upgrade options such as additional hardware or software. This includes Softaculous and Fantastico, the automated application installers, and more disk space and RAM.
Although the available bandwidth isn’t unlimited, it is generously allocated with the VPS1500 entry level plan consisting of 4,000 GB, with affordable overage charges and upgrade options.
Conclusion: So Which Host Should You Choose and When?
So to summarise then, for those looking for a blend of premium features and budget pricing, a quality shared host like SiteGround would be our recommendation. You'll get solid performance, timely support and a reasonable level of security. If you want more than that, like top of the line performance, maintenance tasks taken care of, and the highest levels of protection, you'll have to splurge a little more on a managed WordPress or VPS host.
The major advantage of choosing a managed WordPress host over a managed VPS host is the amount of time they will save you. A managed WordPress host will watch over your WordPress installation, taking backups, and installing core updates and, depending on the host, updating plugins. This allows you to focus on building your business or website, rather than administrating it.
For some websites there will come a point where the increased number of visitors, or the ability to unburden yourself from maintaining your website makes it easier to justify the cost of managed WordPress hosting.
When that time comes, or if you want to start out on the best infrastructure from the beginning, our recommended managed WordPress host, Pagely, is ready for your website.
All that’s left to do now is sign up to the right type of hosting for your needs. So to recap, the aThemes recommended WordPress web hosts are:
- WordPress optimized hosting on a budget: SiteGround
- The original managed WordPress host: Pagely
- More freedom and responsibility: Servint
While the $5 a month shared hosting plans are hard to resist, to avoid disappointment, it’s important to remember that the service won’t match that offered by a managed WordPress hosting plan.
If you have any questions, comments, or hosting experiences to share, please post them below.