The 5 Best WordPress Hosting Providers Evaluated and Ranked

Choosing a hosting provider for your WordPress site can be an overwhelming task – especially if you’re just starting out.

The sheer amount of solutions out there is baffling for beginners and experts alike. The dizzying array of slickly presented features on offer from each host just adds to the confusion. How can you possibly separate the wheat from the chaff as a newcomer to this field?

The good news is that hosting provider standards have risen considerably in recent years. In this article, we’ll cover the types of hosting available to you and evaluate and rank five of the best WordPress-focused providers by both features on offer and real-world page load times.

By the time we’re finished, you’ll have a clear overview of what you can expect from market-leading providers in order to to help you make your choice.

Let’s start with a look at general options.

Your Suite of Hosting Choices

When you’re faced with choosing a hosting solution for your site, the first question to get out of the way is what type of hosting service you want.

There are four basic types of web hosting out there, each differing in terms of storage capacity, server speed, technical knowledge required to manage, control and reliability. Let’s take a quick trip through the options:

  1. Shared Hosting: This is the cheapest and most popular option for first-time website owners. As the name implies, your site will be sharing resources with other customers on a single server. As server resources are pooled, you’ll have very little control over them and have to work within the confines of what the host makes available to you. On the plus side, costs remain low for both you and the host.
  2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting: This is the next step up from shared hosting. Instead of sharing the server with hundreds (or even thousands) of other customers, your site will be allocated its own isolated partition via the magic of virtualization. This means that you not only get space on the server but have control over resources such as memory and computational power. The upside here is control, the downside is you usually need to be familiar with server administration.
  3. Managed Hosting: This is a relatively new option but very popular among WordPress users. Managed hosting relieves you of the burden of system administration and promises to take care of all technical aspects of your WordPress site’s installation for you. These typically include security, backups and free restoration from backups, automatic updates and daily monitoring.
  4. Dedicated Hosting: This is the option you’ll be going for if you want total control over your server’s setup and have the technical resources to make the most of that freedom. You’ll get your own server and the ability to do what you want with it. That freedom comes at a price – hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars a month.

For those new to hosting, the two most realistic options in the short term are shared hosting or managed hosting. The providers we’ll cover below fall into those categories though many also provide VPS and Dedicated options.

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that hosting companies provide some of the biggest referral payouts in the online marketing industry. That’s actually less than excellent news for site owners. It means many of the hosting reviews you’ll come across online are little more than attempts to cash in on referral fees with little or no research to back up their claims.

To get a real idea of where our top five hosting providers stand in comparison to one another, we decided to perform a real-world experiment by purchasing plans and putting each one to the test in a live environment.

Let’s move on to some more detail about our testing approach.

Setting Some Ground Rules

We’ve attempted to keep our testing strategy as transparent and straightforward as possible. In order to compare like with like, we used identical installs of a minimalist WordPress 4.3.1 site running the default Twenty Fifteen theme with all plugins disabled.

Performance Measurement Tools

To measure site performance, we used GTMetrix and Pingdom to test each install for page load times from servers located in different geographical areas.

Disclaimer: Our tests were run based on page load times at low overall site usage levels. There is no magic, single-test solution that will hold true for every scenario a site may be exposed to with a particular provider. Your mileage may well vary. Physical location of the testing machine, connection speeds and many other factors could all play a significant role on any given day so take these results as illustrative.

Evaluation Criteria

To keep things simple and precise, we’ve trimmed the various features on offer from the hosting providers down to a core set of evaluation criteria that we’ll factor into our overall rankings:

  • Cost: We purchased entry-level plans for each hosting provider to give you a fair idea of the prices to be expected.
  • Sites: The number of sites you can host on each plan.
  • Space: The total storage space you will receive on the server.
  • Bandwidth: This is the amount of web traffic (usually in terms of number of visitors) that your site will be able to handle.

Ok, with those details out of the way, let’s move on to our five hosting providers!

1. SiteGround

SiteGround web hosting.

SiteGround was founded in 2004 by a group of university friends initially working from their own dorm. The company has since grown to be one of the leading web hosting service providers with a team of over 280 members.

With SiteGround you can be sure you’re receiving the latest technology and the best deals. The hosting provider is big on perks which include free daily backups, free setups and site transfers, a 30-day money back guarantee and a free domain name.

Package Details and Installation

Cost: $9.95/month

Sites: 1

Space: 10 GB

Bandwidth: 10,000 unique visitors

We went with the StartUp plan which offers all the basics you need to get started with your site. It’s a solid option for small sites that receive fewer than 10,000 unique visitors on a monthly basis. The StartUp plan offers the following features:

For installing WordPress, we used SiteGround’s built-in installer which was incredibly easy to use. The site was up and running in a few minutes.

GTMetrix Test Results plus Analysis

SiteGround page load times on GTMetrix
SiteGround page load times on GTMetrix.
  • Server location: Vancouver, Canada
  • Minimum response time: 1.10s
  • Maximum response time: 2.90s

According to the GTMetrix results, the load time experienced quite a bit of variance ranging between 1.10s to 2.90s. Overall speed looks good but the variability is a little disconcerting.

SiteGround Pingdom Test Results plus Analysis

Location Load Time 1 Load Time 2 Load Time 3
Melbourne, Australia 3.67s 2.81s 2.46s
San Jose, California 1.93s 1.18s 0.79s
Stockholm, Sweden 1.97s 2.19s 1.31s

SiteGround’s load times bounced around considerably depending on testing location with U.S. response times for San Jose significantly lower than the rest.

2. WP Engine

WP Engine hosting

WP Engine was founded in Texas in 2010 and has quickly made a name for itself as an incredibly secure, speedy, WordPress-focused managed hosting provider. With over 20,000 loyal customers, Enterprise offerings and significant funding, the company is well positioned for the future.

WP Engine’s various plans stack up well in terms of functionality as well. They offer highly optimized servers, state-of-the-art security and comprehensive support. The only drawback is that prices start at $29 per month, a number that may be hard to swallow for those just starting out.

Package Details and Installation

Cost: $29/month

Sites: 1

Space: 10 GB

Bandwidth: 25,000 unique visitors

We went for the Personal plan with WP Engine which comes with a 60-day money back guarantee. The package includes the following features:

When signing up for the Personal plan, you can opt for CDN services (free on higher-tier plans) for an extra $19.95 per month.

It’s also worth noting that WP Engine has a list of disallowed plugins to be aware of and they do not provide email hosting.

WP Engine has a beautiful user interface and getting our WordPress install up and running took only a few minutes.

GTMetrix Test Results plus Analysis

WP Engine page load time on GTMetrix
WP Engine page load times on GTMetrix.
  • Server location: Vancouver, Canada
  • Minimum response time: 0.80s
  • Maximum response time: 1.60s

GTMetrix’s page load results showed the load time increasing very slightly over the duration of the experiment but remaining impressively stable throughout. Page load speed was exceptional.

Pingdom Test Results plus Analysis

Location Load Time 1 Load Time 2 Load Time 3
Melbourne, Australia 1.19s 1.28s 1.08s
San Jose, California 0.44s 0.33s 0.33s
Stockholm, Sweden 0.82s 0.77s 0.77s

WP Engine showed remarkable stability in page load times from different testing locations. The servers located in San Jose, California had the lowest response times ranging from 0.33s to 0.44s.

3. Flywheel

Flywheel hosting

Flywheel has been around since 2012 and has made a name for itself as a designer-focused, managed WordPress hosting company in that time.

Flywheel pride themselves on speedy hosting and offer staging sites and powerful collaboration tools for both designers and agencies. If you’re doing design work yourself, their client billing transfer options are also of particular interest.

Plans are backed by a robust, cloud-based infrastructure for your site and if a particular plan doesn’t meet your needs, they’re happy to design a custom plan for you.

Package Details and Installation

Cost: $15/month

Sites: 1

Space: 5 GB

Bandwidth: 5,000 unique visitors

We purchased the Tiny plan on Flywheel which is part of their pay-per-site offer. As a name, Tiny doesn’t really do this plan justice. It’s got a very solid set of features for first-timers:

The WordPress install on Flywheel was a piece of cake generally. We had one or two minor questions for the support staff and were impressed by the speed of their responses.

GTMetrix Test Results plus Analysis

Flywheel page load times on GTMetrix
Flywheel page load times on GTMetrix.
  • Server location: Vancouver, Canada
  • Minimum response time: 0.70s
  • Maximum response time: 1.20s

The GTMetrix page load graph shows Flywheel as an extremely fast and stable service. Let’s see how it does with Pingdom.

Pingdom Test Results plus Analysis

Location Load Time 1 Load Time 2 Load Time 3
Melbourne, Australia 1.32s 1.35s 1.63s
San Jose, California 0.65s 0.65s 0.66s
Stockholm, Sweden 0.66s 0.62s 0.60s

Flywheel not only showed rock-solid stability and impressive page load times within the same server location but also across territories. Page load times for San Jose and Stockholm were nearly the same despite the distance involved.

4. Media Temple

Media Temple hosting

Media Temple is the grand old man of our providers so far and has been around since 1998. They offer premium web hosting and cloud services to 1.5 million websites spread out across 100 countries.

With a long track record in hosting behind them, Media Temple offer one-click WordPress installs, domain registration, hosting from VPS packages up to fully managed clouds, and much more besides. They don’t claim to have the fastest page load times in the business but we found them an impressively stable provider.

Package Details and Installation

Cost: $20/month

Sites: 2

Space: 30 GB

Bandwidth: 400,000 unique visitors

With Media Temple, we went with the managed WordPress Personal plan which came with several attractive features:

Media Temple’s support team is available to assist you 24/7 and they were able to successfully help us out with a couple of minor queries while getting our WordPress install up and running.

GTMetrix Test Results plus Analysis

Media Temple page load times for GTMetrix
Media Temple page load times for GTMetrix.

Server location: Vancouver, Canada

Minimum response time: 0.80s

Maximum response time: 1.10s

According to test results obtained from GTMetrix, Media Temple showed impressively minimal variance and not too shabby page load times at all.

Pingdom Test Results plus Analysis

Location Load Time 1 Load Time 2 Load Time 3
Melbourne, Australia 1.29s 1.33s 0.98s
San Jose, California 0.35s 0.28s 0.25s
Stockholm, Sweden 1.05s 0.93s 0.93s

They may not make speed the absolute cornerstone of their marketing but there is no arguing with Media Temple’s results. Pingdom tests showed blazing fast speeds in the U.S. and eminently respectable results elsewhere.

Comparisons and Ranking

We’ve tabulated the features and response times of each hosting provider so you can compare the offerings at a quick glance.

Feature Comparison

SiteGround WP Engine Flywheel Media Temple A Small Orange
Cost $9.95 $29 $15 $20 $10
Sites 1 1 1 2 1
Space 10 GB 10 GB 5 GB 30 GB 15 GB
Bandwidth 10,000 visitors 25,000 visitors 5,000 visitors 400,000 visitors 150 GB bandwidth
Siteground WP Engine Flywheel Media Temple A Small Orange
Avg. loading time 2.03s 0.78s 0.90s 0.82s 1.28s
Min. response time 0.79s 0.33s 0.60s 0.25s 0.59s
Max. response time 3.67s 1.28s 1.63s 1.33s 2.41s

Speed Comparison

Final Verdict and Rankings

With respect to page load times tested out on GTMetrix and Pingdom, WP Engine stands as the best hosting provider. It just about edged out Media Temple and its overall mix of features, stability and security makes it our top pick.

Joint runners-up are Media Temple and Flywheel with A Small Orange in third and SiteGround bringing up the rear.

Media Temple impressed with fast page loads and innovative features such as WP-CLI support.

Flywheel’s designer-orientated approach will put it out in front for many however and experienced shared hosting users may well be swung by the simplicity and power of A Small Orange’s offering.

SiteGround’s fourth-placed showing shouldn’t be taken as too much of a knock against their packages though. They’re a very solid WordPress host in general but, on the day, and with the features we were concentrating on, they came in last.

Those results in full:

  1. WP Engine
  2. Media Temple and Flywheel.
  3. A Small Orange.
  4. SiteGround.

Conclusion

Though we’ve assigned rankings to the providers based on this round of testing, none of the companies here have failed any sort of test and all offer a range of solid WordPress hosting options to suit different needs.

Our hope is that the indicative speeds and feature listings we’ve provided here will help you narrow down the list of possible candidates for your site. Most of the providers listed provide very reasonable money back guarantees that enable you to test their services yourself in a risk-free environment.

We’re curious to hear your feedback as WordPress site owners. Which hosting provider do you use or recommend for your own sites? Which factors are most important for you to evaluate when looking for hosting providers? Get in touch via the comments and let us know.

2 comments

    1. VIP starts at 5k a month, so it’s not really an option for most people. Pagely have also gone quite far up the value chain in recent years and their base package is $499 p/m. Again, only suitable for those with high budgets. To be fair, though, they are both very good hosts. Just not the focus of this article.

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