Basic WordPress hosting is not difficult. You need a server with a compatible version of PHP, a MySQL database, and a web server (often Apache) — a combination that’s typically referred to as a LAMP stack (the L is for Linux). For anyone with a bit of technical knowledge, this is relatively easy to deploy, which is why there are so many WordPress hosts. Anyone with access to a server — which is almost everyone in the cloud era — can install the necessary software and offer WordPress hosting.
However, being able to do something and being able to do it well are two very different things. Although basic WordPress hosting is fine for low traffic websites where performance isn’t an issue, if you expect great performance, consistent reliability, and trustworthy support, basic WordPress hosting isn’t going to cut it.
That’s why there’s such a wide range of prices in the WordPress hosting world. WordPress hosting accounts range from a few dollars a month, to hundreds of dollars a month. For premium managed WordPress hosting capable of supporting the largest sites with an audience of millions spread across the world, the cost can be even higher than that.
Choosing the cheapest WordPress hosting is usually a mistake. You get a hosted WordPress site, but no guarantee that it’s going to perform well, be secure, offer decent uptime and availability, or include any reasonable level of support. However price isn’t the best way to distinguish between good and bad WordPress hosting. Excellent WordPress hosting can be relatively inexpensive. A high price tag doesn’t always imply a high-quality service.
So how can you tell if a WordPress hosting provider’s plans are worth the money?
At the lower end of the market, you’ll find WordPress hosting accounts running on ancient versions of PHP. It doesn’t pay for these hosts to put much effort into upgrading. There are security and performance implications to using outdated software, so you should look for hosting providers that offer the most recent versions of PHP and other software.
At the time of writing, that means PHP 5.6 at a minimum, and preferably PHP 7, which brings with it huge performance increases.
Many of the best WordPress hosting companies offer a range of management services over and above simple hosting. These might include free backups, proactive software updates, a low-cost content distribution network, or built-in caching, among others.
Each of these helps make your site faster or more reliable. They also reduce the amount of work for the hosting client, who would otherwise have to find their own solutions to many of the problems that managed WordPress hosting providers have already solved.
Faster is always better where web hosting is concerned. Better performance leads to faster page loads and a more responsive experience for users. The best WordPress hosting companies are dedicated engineering a hardware and software platform that works with WordPress to provide optimal performance.
It can be difficult to determine which WordPress hosting providers offer the best performance. The most reliable way to find out if a provider meets their performance promises is to take a look at the experiences of current clients, which brings us to our next suggestion.
You won’t have to look hard to find reviews of web hosting providers. Web site owners tend to be quite vocal about poor experiences, so before you settle on a provider, Google for reviews. Pay particular attention to what people say about performance, reliability, and support. You might consider making specific searches with the provider’s brand name and keywords like “performance” or “downtime”.
Take each review with a pinch of salt: people aren’t always entirely honest and some may be motivated to give unfair reviews. Read several reviews from different sources to get a comprehensive idea of what current and previous clients experienced.
Support is hugely important, especially if you aren’t experienced with WordPress. Look at the WordPress provider’s site to see what level of support they promise. Then look at the reviews and opinions of other users to see what experience other clients have reported.
If something goes wrong with your site, you don’t want to wait days before someone from the company responds to your support ticket, so be thorough with your research.
Support levels vary between no support at all to comprehensive hand-holding. Support is a big cost for hosting providers, so you can expect that premium providers — with a premium price — will offer the best support.
Finding a WordPress hosting company you can trust is important — you might be working with them for many years, so it pays to do a bit of due diligence before sealing the deal.
About the Author
Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://blog.nexcess.net/.