Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video How do I find a good host for my WordPress site?, part of WordPress: Ask the Instructor.
- A lot of people ask me, what is the best host for my WordPress site? And I have a really hard time answering that question. It's kind of like asking someone what is the best car? Or what kind of sneaker should I buy? Or what is the best brand of pants, or something like that. The answer depends so much on the context of where this site is going to live physically in the world, and what it's going to be doing, and how many people are going to be using it, and what they're going to be using it for, and a million other things, that giving a straight up answer that this host and this hosting package is the right thing just simply doesn't work. But I can give you some pointers on how to think about hosting and how to research hosting. The first thing you need to consider is how many people are going to go to the site? And I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about all the people who visit the site. If you have a relatively low number of visitors, maybe under 10,000 per month total, then a regular shared hosting provider is fine because you don't need a lot of bandwidth to make everything work. But when you're starting to look at maybe 10,000 a day or something like that, then you need to have a really strong service to be able to support that. Because it's not just a matter of the data being transferred through a pipe and that pipe being big enough. You also have to have a server that is strong enough to actually support that kind of traffic. That includes both the file server, and the database server, and the processors that run on that server, none of which you have any control over if you have a shared host. Now, the other thing you need to consider with shared hosting is you have a site on a shared host, and a bunch of other people also have sites on that same shared host sitting on the same database in the same file server with the same processor. That means if one of those sites suddenly gets a ton of visits, then your site will slow down or maybe even stop working because the service is basically overloaded by another site. And that same thing happens to your site. So if your site gets overloaded, then everyone else who shares that host with you also gets overloaded in the process. So it's not just a question of what you think is going to happen to your site. You also have to consider the other people that you share a space with. It's kind of like renting a room in a hotel. If you're going to invite a band to play inside your room you have to consider the people in the rest of the hotel. Maybe it's not a good idea to have a band in a hotel room. Maybe you should rent a venue to place that band in to listen to the music. The other thing you need to consider is the maintenance level that you want to commit to. You basically have two types of hosting now. You have self-hosting, where you have complete control over everything, and you manage your own plug-ins, and your own themes, and your own WordPress installation. And then you have what's known as managed hosting. And managed hosting comes at all levels, all the way from very cheap shared hosting service all the way up to fully customized managed hosting for just your site, where you have your own server and your own files. And everything is managed within its own container. Managed hosting means someone at the hosting company, either a human being or a script, constantly monitors your site to make sure everything is up-to-date, update their plug-ins, updates their themes, updates your WordPress site, and cleans up everything all the time. If you don't have managed hosting it means you need to go on and do that yourself. It's easy to forget, and then all of a sudden something might happen. The other advantage of using a managed host is if for example a new version of WordPress comes out, and there's some controversy around the accessibility of that version, that managed host may make a decision to not release that version of WordPress yet and hold you back, and you have to manually do it. So they're kind of protecting you. And they do things like have a blacklist to say there are certain plug-ins you can't install because we know for a fact they're not good. So we're going to prevent you entirely from installing them. And in some cases they also have a white list, or a top list, where they say that these are the plug-ins we recommend you install to get better performance out of your site. So, you have several conditions here. You have how many people visit your site, how much maintenance you want to do on your site. Then, the question of just what kind of control do you want on your site. In some cases your site is just something where you put a bunch of thoughts, like my websites. I have several, they're all just places where I dump my ideas onto the web. So I don't really care that much about performance, and I don't really care that much about advanced features. But if you're going to do something like run an E-commerce site, so you're having people buy stuff from you, then all of a sudden security becomes a much bigger issue. Because you're now responsible for the privacy of the people who use your service. So when they send in either an order for content from your site you need to protect that data, so other people can't get to it and see what someone has ordered. You also need to protect their private information, like their name, and address, and their own contact information. And if they're doing payments through your site you need to protect that connection to the payment portal so that no one can sit in the middle of that conversation and steal the payment data as it comes through. All of this means the more interactions the end user can have with your site the more security you need for your site, which means you have to have a more advanced host. The bottom line is when you build your site you need to consider what is the site for, who is the site for, and what am I going to do with it? And then find a host that supports the features you need. The general rule you can follow is if you are picking a hosting provider go and check if that hosting provider contributes to the WordPress Project in some way. Many of the big hosts actually pay for developers to contribute to the WordPress Project and have developers internally that focus on just WordPress hosting. That means they have a good understanding of how WordPress works and what type of hosting options are best for WordPress sites. And that will give you better service. You should also try to look at price. When the hosting is really cheap you're usually getting crappy service. That's not always the case, but it's a good indicator that you may want to do some research. Usually, I recommend getting a host that seems, you know, on the pricier side of cheap if you have something like a blog. And if you run your business it's actually worth investing in a relatively expensive host, so that you get the support you need. And that's the final point I'll make. When you pay for hosting you're not really paying for the actual traffic, and the data, and everything. You're paying for the support. And that means when you run into trouble and you have paid hosting the first thing you do is contact the host. Because that's really what you're paying for, the human being on the other end of the conversation to help you figure out what's going on.