How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting
WordPress is easily the most popular single publishing platform on the Internet, and if you’re looking to build any type of content-centered website there’s a good chance that you’re planning to use it. One of the big challenges of setting up a site using the platform is finding a WordPress hosting package that addresses all of your needs. WordPress can be a very demanding system. It’s also highly customizable. While those are a big part of its broad appeal, they also impose a certain level of trouble for any web host that has to deal with them. It’s important that you choose a hosting service provider that’s up to the task of keeping your site running for many years to come.
Before you get too far into setting up a site, it’s important to know that the host can actually handle the core requirements for WordPress. The publishing platform isn’t a single piece of software in its own right. It’s built on top of the LAMP stack, the pile of software that’s commonly used to operate many of the biggest sites on the planet. The LAMP stack is based on the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, the MySQL database and the PHP server-side scripting language.
The operating system side isn’t as important as the other three elements. It is possible to run WordPress on Windows and Apple operating systems with a few minor tweaks. It’s also possible to install WordPress on server systems like IIS rather than Apache, but it’s not advisable unless you either have the technical expertise to handle it or have a clear reason for doing so. The absolute must-have components for a web host are MySQL and PHP, as those are both essential to plug-and-go operation of WordPress. With those ideas in mind, you can approach a web hosting provider and determine whether they offer suitable options.
The next biggest question you should have regarding any hosting option, whether for WordPress or any other publishing platform, is what level of access you’re going to have to the server. At minimum, you should be able to transfer files via FTP to the server. This is important because one of the big strengths of WordPress is how easy it is to customize. This level of customization is only possible to deploy if you’re able to transfer template and plug-in files to the server.
A functional WordPress install should also allow you a fairly high level of access to the underlying MySQL database. You don’t necessarily need root-level administrative access to the database, but you should at least ask about it.
This level of access is also important because you may wish to have a developer write completely new code for your site down the road. If the developer doesn’t have FTP and database access, it will be nearly impossible to implement new code for your WordPress site in the future.
Many companies offer some type of package that they call “WordPress hosting,” but this is often a very limited type of shared hosting option. It will do the job, but in all but a few cases you would just be as well off setting up a site through WordPress.com and redirecting your domain to it. The real ability to leverage a WordPress install comes from having access to a good server. This is especially important if you expect to see significant growth in traffic, as a limited hosting option isn’t going to handle such growth very well. Remember that a slow site is a site that visitors leave.
If you’re planning to host a WordPress site of any size that attracts any real amount of traffic, say ten thousand visits a day, you should have it configured to run on a dedicated or virtual dedicated server. A VDS is generally a cheaper option, and it offers close to the same level of administrative access. The big difference is that the resources of a dedicated server are entirely committed to one customer’s needs. This means that the processors and the memory on that system are only running your site. A VDS actually partition a certain amount of resources to your site. This is much better than shared hosting, but worse than a dedicated server.
The reality is that the options you pursue are likely to be determined by whatever price you can tolerate. If at all possible, you wish to at least avoid shared hosting options, since they’re inferior to the point where you might want to consider just hosting your site with a free provider. A virtual dedicated server is likely to cost between $10 and $50 a month depending on the amount of power and storage it offers. You should expect dedicated servers to start at a price point above $100 a month. You may also wish to look at cloud hosting options, but they’re not as widely used as one might expect based on the marketing talk on the subject.
You should also ask about options such as caching, content delivery networks, security and backups. Caching helps a site run faster, and a CDN allows you to offload many elements that slow down your site, such as picture, onto a separate server. Security features are especially important because MySQL-based systems are regularly targeted by hackers due to their popularity. Backups are less important if you know how to handle the process yourself, but it’s a critical feature for less tech savvy users.
Your starting point for finding a WordPress hosting company should be price. Figure out what is the maximum price you’re willing to pay, and make every effort to get as much access and power as you can for your dollar. Many of the bigger providers throw in features like backups and CDNs as free items to attract buyers, so don’t be afraid to ask about them. When you know what to ask for, it’s easy to obtain a host for your WordPress site. Keep these key concepts in mind, and you’ll find a robust solution that fits within your budget.