Not all web hosts are created equal, and with so many choices available, picking the right service can be complicated. Throw in terms such as ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’ hosting, and making a decision gets even harder.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of information online about most major WordPress web hosts. You’ll need to factor in a number of aspects – including their customer support and server speed – potentially wading through multiple resources to narrow down the contenders. However, looking at review after review can be quite tiresome.
In this article, we’re going to talk about what you need to look out for in a WordPress host, and discuss the differences between managed and unmanaged solutions. Then, we’ll introduce you to seven of the top platforms around and compare them against each other in terms of ease of use, performance, and customer support. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!
Our Findings (In a Nutshell)
We’re going to cover a lot of information in this article, but if you just want to view a side-by-side comparison, check out our summary:
|SiteGround||Kinsta||WP Engine||InMotion Hosting||Flywheel||DreamHost||Media Temple|
|Visitors per month||25,000||40,000||25,000||20,000||15,000||Unlimited||250,000|
|Support response time||Less than 1 minute||Less than 2 minutes||Less than 1 minute||Less than 5 minutes||Around 7 minutes||Less than 3 minutes||Less than 5 minutes|
|Average page loading time (in seconds)||0.64||0.46||0.32||1.37||0.61||0.45||0.61|
|Cost per month||$5.95||$30||$29||$4.99||$15||$16.95||$20|
On the whole we found SiteGround’s complete package of price, support, performance, and features hard to beat, and it regularly beat out other (more expensive) competitors in various aspects. Overall, we’d whole heartedly recommend SiteGround as a host that can handle both beginner and more advanced sites of all stripes.
What to Look for in a Good WordPress Hosting Company
Keep in mind that numbers alone don’t often paint the entire picture. If you’re in a hurry, we recommend you check out the sections pertaining to the hosts you’re interested in. That way, you’ll be able to read about our personal experience using them.
Choosing the perfect host for your WordPress website is one of the best ways to avoid headaches later on. You can always migrate later, but doing so can be a hassle. What’s more, with plenty of available competition, there’s no excuse to choose a bad provider.
As we mentioned, not all hosting providers are equal. However, the best ones share some characteristics that set them apart:
- Performance. Good performance is critical to a website’s success, and it depends in part on your host’s hardware and configuration. Your choice of plan will affect your site’s speed too, but some providers simply offer better performance across the board.
- Support. Regardless of your experience, sooner or later you’ll run into an error that requires some help to fix. Stellar support is a boon, and ideally you want it to be knowledgeable and fast. If you find yourself constantly dealing with poor support, you may need to consider a switch.
- Security. Online security is a big deal for most websites, regardless of its size. A good web host will provide you with tools to help secure your user’s data. For example, they might help you set up Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates for free, or monitor your site for known vulnerabilities.
- Multiple plans. Having a choice of hosting plan can actually save you money in the long run. If you’re a beginner WordPress user, starter plans tend to be priced very competitively, meaning your initial outlay is minimized. As your site grows, upgrading your plan will likely be easier on your budget.
- WordPress-specific features. WordPress is very popular. Due to this, many web hosts offer plans that cater directly to the needs of the platform. They’re usually the option you should look to.
At first glance, it may seem like a lot to take into account, but hosting is a very competitive business. It’s common to find providers that go the extra mile for their customers by meeting all of the above criteria and more. On the whole, you stand to benefit since you can have your pick of WordPress-friendly services at reasonable rates.
The Difference Between Managed and Unmanaged Hosting
On top of looking out for all of the criteria we’ve discussed so far, there’s one big choice you need to make when looking for a WordPress web host – whether you choose a managed or unmanaged plan. Let’s talk a bit about both these types of hosts, their benefits, and their downsides.
- Unmanaged hosting. This basically gives you full freedom to do what you want with your WordPress installation. In most cases, the price reflects the lack of host support with regard to your installation. If you have experience managing WordPress, there’s no real downside to using this type of plan (other than a potential impact on your time).
- Managed hosting. Think about managed hosting as having access to your own concierge service. You’ll get a lot of extra help, and your provider will – in most cases – monitor your site to make sure it’s running smoothly. However, that usually comes at a premium price. It’s the perfect option if you don’t mind the extra cost.
Managed hosting often gets a reputation for being the superior choice, but in truth, both types of plans are perfectly viable. If you feel comfortable troubleshooting WordPress on your own, unmanaged hosting is often the best option. On the other hand, if you have the budget for it, you can’t go wrong with a good managed host.
How We Conducted Our Tests
We’re now going to compare seven of the best WordPress hosting providers available, evaluating them using three different criteria:
- How easy the installation process is. Since we’re using WordPress, we’ll be evaluating each host on how simple they make it to set up the platform.
- The quality of their customer support service. Customer support is often a key factor in recommending a host. It means all other factors being equal, we’ll look to the one offering the best support experience. To gauge this, we’re going to ask each provider a simple question “Are there any plugins you’d recommend for someone new to WordPress?”. Then, we’ll dissect their responses.
- Their baseline performance. We signed up to the starter plans for each host, and set them up with a new WordPress installation. To gauge their performance, we ran speed and stress tests for each website. We’ll be using the Pingdom Tools and Load Impact services respectively for these tests.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the contenders.
7 of the Best WordPress Hosting Providers Compared
Before we jump in, it’s worth noting that we’ve presented this list based on each host’s overall price and performance, from best to worst. If you want to see the results at a glance, feel free to skip ahead to the comparison table at the end. However, we do recommend that you take the time to fully read about our experiences with any host you’re interested in.
1. SiteGround (Managed)
SiteGround is one of the most popular managed hosting options for WordPress thanks to its competitive prices. In fact, it often beats some unmanaged services in this aspect.
However, much like other budget-focused hosts, the platform doesn’t support month-to-month payments, so you’ll have to sign up for a year at minimum. It’s a good idea, as you’ll be committed to your project. Overall, SiteGround is a great option for WordPress hosting.
Installing WordPress on SiteGround
Unlike some other managed options, SiteGround doesn’t come with WordPress preinstalled. However, you can use the built-in Softaculous installer to get up and running with one click, or ask the support team to do it for you.
Testing SiteGround’s Customer Service
Sometimes, customer service can be rather hit or miss depending on which agent you get. However, we’ve had nothing but good luck using SiteGround thus far. It’s to be expected, as they’ve consistently had stellar feedback for their customer support.
For our test, we had to wait in line for less than a minute before getting in touch with a representative, and our conversation took about three minutes total. Overall, we walked away very happy.
Testing SiteGround’s Performance
As we mentioned earlier, we’re going to run simple speed and stress tests for each host. Let’s start by checking out the results of the former:
Our basic WordPress site loaded in less than a second, which is faster than the majority of the web. Now let’s see how it fares under stress.
Load Impact enables you to test how your web host fares with multiple simultaneous visits. As your website grows, so will the stress on its severs, so it’s important to be prepared.
For our tests, we simulated a maximum of 25 concurrent users over three minutes and the results were stellar – the load time stays consistent regardless of the number of users on-site. Overall, SiteGround holds up under pressure. If you were to use their dedicated SuperCacher plugin, you’d likely achieve even better results.
2. Flywheel (Managed)
On top of offering a top-notch hosting service, Flywheel also knocks it out of the park when it comes to extra features. For example, it offers its own tool to help you set up local staging websites, and plenty of functionality that agencies will find helpful.
Flywheel’s starter plan costs $15 per month, and from what our testing revealed, it’s a sound investment for small to medium-sized sites.
Installing WordPress on Flywheel
Flywheel sets up WordPress automatically for you on every new website. Plus, it also offers a ‘blueprint’ feature that enables you to save a WordPress configuration for later use on other sites.
Testing Flywheel’s Customer Service
Flywheel’s support service isn’t as speedy as the other options we’ve covered so far. However, they are one of the most helpful teams we’ve come across. We’re confident of walking away with the answers or help we need practically every time:
Overall, a few extra minutes of waiting time isn’t really a deal-breaker. The only downside is that their support team isn’t available around the clock unlike other hosts (unless you’re dealing with a real emergency), so if you run into an issue out of hours, it’ll have to wait until the next day.
Testing Flywheel’s Performance
Our basic speed test came back with excellent results – our site loaded in well under a second, beating out the average handily:
As far as our stress test, Flywheel managed to really surprise us. The site loaded even faster even under stress and the results were mostly consistent:
From a performance standpoint, Flywheel is a slam dunk, even on its basic plan.
3. WP Engine (Managed)
WP Engine is another big name when it comes to managed WordPress hosting. Like Kinsta, their primary focus is also on clients who require top-notch performance.
However, the primary difference is that they offer more reasonable prices. Their basic tier starts at $29 per month for a single site, and it should be more than enough for the majority of users with basic needs.
Installing WordPress on WP Engine
WP Engine is entirely dedicated to WordPress sites, so setting up new ones is as simple as adding a new installation from your dashboard.
Testing WP Engine’s Customer Service
As with the other hosts, we got in touch with WP Engine’s support team to gauge their plugin expertise:
In this case, we got an answer in less than a minute and our agent provided us with a very thorough list of recommendations. Quite often, these lists of plugins are pre-selected – meaning it’s as much a test of the companies’ knowledge, as the customer support.
Testing WP Engine’s Performance
After our speed test, we’re off to a good start with WP Engine. Our basic site loaded in approximately 0.3 seconds, which is much better than the average:
Better yet, WP Engine barely broke a sweat under stress – and it remained within that initial range during the entire process:
As far as performance goes, we give WP Engine an enthusiastic thumbs up!
4. DreamHost (Managed)
DreamHost breaks the mold when it comes to WordPress hosting by offering only two plans: a shared hosting option and a managed alternative. For our testing, we opted to use DreamPress – the managed option.
A DreamPress plan will set you back $16.95 per month, includes features such as a Jetpack Premium account, and is a good option for small to medium sites. However, the lack of more powerful plans gives us some cause for concern when recommending this host, even if it scores well in every other aspect.
Installing WordPress on DreamHost
DreamHost plans don’t come with WordPress pre-installed, but the platform does offer a one-click setup option, so it won’t take you long to get started.
Testing DreamHost’s Customer Service
It took us a couple of minutes to get in touch with a DreamHost support agent but once we did, the wait was worth it:
We got a broad range of plugin recommendations, and the agent was thoughtful enough to ask if we were looking for any type of plugins in particular.
Testing DreamHost’s Performance
Despite its lack of varied plans, DreamHost performed very well with regard to speed:
Likewise, its stress test went off without a hitch – in fact, it scored the fastest loading times out of every host on this list, even with multiple simultaneous users:
From a performance standpoint, DreamHost is definitely a smart choice and it comes at a very reasonable price.
5. Kinsta (Managed)
Let’s start by getting something out of the way – Kinsta is expensive. However, the service boasts some renowned clients such as Ubisoft and General Electric – so you know they’ve got to be good at what they do.
Kinsta plans start at $30 per month for a single website and prices climb up quickly based on the number of projects you need to host. It’s definitely not a budget option, but if you need top of the line performance and can afford it, they’re worthy of your attention.
Installing WordPress on Kinsta
Kinsta enables you to manage all your sites from a single dashboard. Each time you add a new one, the platform will check if you want to set up WordPress on it automatically.
Testing Kinsta’s Customer Service
As far as response times go, Kinsta was pretty fast, despite contacting them at an odd hour:
We had to wait around three minutes for someone to answer our question, and our assigned agent had some out-of-the-box plugin suggestions that at least showed some thought.
Testing Kinsta’s Performance
Considering its prices, it’s no surprise that Kinsta delivers when it comes to performance. Our basic site loaded in under half a second, which is the very definition of ‘blazingly fast’.
As far as our stress test, Kinsta somehow managed to beat its speed test score while managing over two dozen visitors:
Overall, if you don’t mind paying a premium price for your hosting service, Kinsta will be a good choice.
6. Media Temple (Managed)
Aside from its great selection of plans, Media Temple also stands out for its variety of WordPress-friendly features, including staging sites, and a catalog of free themes.
Installing WordPress on Media Temple
New sites on Media Temple don’t come with WordPress pre-installed, but there’s a one-click option that enables you to set up the platform quickly.
Testing Media Temple’s Customer Service
Unfortunately, Media Temple’s support service was unable to aid us with plugin recommendations due to their internal policy:
We tried asking a follow-up question but the response we got was a bit superficial. Overall, the response times were excellent, but the support itself was a bit lacking.
Testing Media Temple’s Performance
First off, our usual speed test returned some very positive results for Media Temple – with loading times well under the one-second mark:
As for our stress test, Media Temple held its own rather well. There was some slight variation in the results, but only one notable spike in loading times:
Overall, Media Temple performs quite decently, so it’s well worth checking out if you’re a web developer, designer, digital entrepreneur, or agency.
7. InMotion Hosting (Unmanaged)
InMotion Hosting offers its customers a wide range of WordPress-specific features. Plus, its plans are very competitively priced, which makes it a good option for newcomers to the platform.
A starter plan on this platform will set you back $5.99 per month, and while not the cheapest of the bunch, it’s certainly competitive.
Installing WordPress on InMotion Hosting
While you’re able to install WordPress manually (and via the Softaculous installer), InMotion also enables you to pre-install WordPress during your checkout process just by ticking an option. Just keep an eye out for it and you’ll save yourself a little work!
Testing InMotion Hosting’s Service
We didn’t have to wait long to get in touch with an InMotion support agent; however, the conversation itself left something to be desired:
We were recommended a generic plugin and referred to the WordPress.org repository, which could be overwhelming for a newbie to the platform. Overall, the experience wasn’t as good as other hosts.
Testing InMotion Hosting’s Performance
Our basic speed test for InMotion went decently enough. The service loaded our site in 1.37 seconds, which isn’t blazingly fast – and is much slower than some of the other choices in this list – but still falls within an acceptable range:
Likewise, our stress test started off pretty well, but loading times quickly jumped up as soon as we hit over 18 simultaneous users:
Overall, InMotion Hosting’s basic plan should be good enough for a starter website, but you’ll want to upgrade it (or switch hosts) as your needs evolve.
Final Verdict and Rankings
It’s difficult to compare web hosts objectively since your choice may differ depending on your needs. So, instead of choosing an overall winner, we’ve decided to rank all of them according to the quality of their support, performance, and their price respectively. Here are our results:
|SiteGround||Kinsta||WP Engine||InMotion Hosting||Flywheel||DreamHost||Media Temple|
|Visitors per month||25,000||40,000||25,000||20,000||5,000||Unlimited||250,000|
|Support response time||Less than 1 minute||Around 3 minutes||Less than 1 minute||Less than 5 minutes||Around 7 minutes||Less than 3 minutes||Less than 5 minutes|
|Average loading time (in seconds)||0.64||0.46||0.32||1.37||0.61||0.45||0.61|
|Cost per month||$5.95||$30||$29||$4.99||$15||$16.95||$20|
|Price to performance ranking||1||4||3||7||2||5||6|
Finding the perfect WordPress host is simple on paper. All you have to do is check out performance metrics, look for good customer support and an excellent variety of plans, and compare each choice. However, there are so many options that the process could become overwhelming.
From a price to performance ratio, we have to recommend SiteGround as one of the best options available. As long as you don’t mind paying for a yearly subscription, you can’t go wrong. Other great choices with decent prices also include Flywheel and WP Engine.
Do you have any questions about the WordPress web hosts we talked about in this article? Pick our brains in the comments section below!
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