How much thought did you put into selecting your current WordPress hosting company? Did you take a look at the recommended hosts on WordPress.org? Or do you purchase your hosting from the same place you registered your domain? Or maybe you just Googled “WordPress hosting” and selected a hosting provider that met your budget.
If you’re like a lot of website owners, you probably didn’t look at how each company can benefit your website. Thanks to the work we do, we’ve talked with, used, and tested a lot of the players in the WordPress hosting space.
So while saying “it depends” seems like a way to duck the question of who’s the best, it really does depend on the needs of your website. So let’s look at some different ways you may be using WordPress and which WordPress host is the best fit.
WordPress Hosting for the Casual Blogger
If you’re new to blogging, you don’t want to spend time figuring out FTP or setting up DNS. You should checkout WordPress.com, the hosted version of WordPress from the company founded by WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg.
WordPress.com is an amazing service, and I use it for managing small, personal blogs. But it does come with a trade-off. Unlike a self-hosted WordPress site, you can’t use any theme or plugin you want. You’re limited to a curated list of themes and built-in features. If you’re new to blogging and don’t want to add more features to your blog right now, WordPress.com is great. But if you run a business website or are a serious blogger, you’ll want more control over your website.
WordPress Hosting for the Small and Mid-Sized Business
Small businesses have unique needs in a hosting provider. You need great support that’s not only available 8-5, you can’t break the bank, and you need a platform that can grow with you. If this describes your needs, give my friends at WP Engine a call. They’re more expensive (starts at $29/month) than a lot of the hosting companies you see advertising online, but they’re more than worth it.
Think about it this way, if you’re a chef, do you want to use a disposable plastic knife or a Wusthoff? Both knives can cut, but one is going to barely get the job done and will break easily while the other one is going to make your job a lot easier and is backed up and supported by a company you can trust. WP Engine is the Wusthoff and the $8/month hosting companies are the plastic knife. I also know which restaurant will get my business.
WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting provider. What this means is that they focus exclusively on WordPress, perform security scans, and automatically update your site, theme, and plugins. They also have a caching system that makes your site load insanely fast, like a 2.5MB page in less than a second kind of fast.
But on top of the speed, there’s another feature that makes WP Engine stand out above a lot of other hosting companies. Their system doesn’t slow down or shut your site off if you have a huge spike in traffic. It may cost you a little bit more that month ($1 for each extra 1,000 visitors) but that’s a small price to pay for more people finding your business.
We use WP Engine for a lot of sites, including this one. They’re located in Austin, we have a great relationship with many of their engineers and evangelist (we have the same favorite coffeeshop downtown), and their support is out of this world amazing.
Another option for your business or blog is Flywheel. Another managed hosting provider, Flywheel makes running your site even easier by removing as much of the technical stuff as they can. Their goal is to make it easy to host your WordPress site. So this means no GIT/SVN integration, no HHVM, and no WP-CLI. If you’re not sure what any of those acronyms mean and you don’t want to know, then Flywheel could be a perfect choice for you. Plus Flywheel is only $15/month, making it the least expensive of the major managed WordPress hosting companies.
But just because they’ve simplified WordPress hosting and made it cheaper, doesn’t mean they don’t have advanced features or reliability. They have a super easy to use one-click staging site button so that you can test out new themes and plugins and automatically sync your changes to your live site, just by click a button. They also have a beautiful control panel that really makes other options like cPanel feel like they’re from 1999. They also maintain a presence in datacenters around the world so that your site loads quickly for visitors no matter where they are.
WordPress Hosting When You Need to Scale
So we’ve talked about WordPress.com and WP Engine as hosting options, and they both scale traffic really well. But what about when you need to seriously scale, with load-balancing, global distribution, and the ability to run on dedicated hardware?
This is when you want to take a look at the original managed WordPress hosting company, Pagely. A little over a year ago (in May 2014), Pagely started moving their entire hosting infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS). There are a couple of things to know about AWS, but the most important thing to realize is that it’s the platform that Amazon had to develop to support their own sites, so you know it can scale and you know it’s reliable. But along with that scalability comes some added complexity, AWS can be hard to setup and manage even if you’re an experienced engineer.
But that’s where Pagely comes in. Yes you could rent some EC2 servers, tie them together under a load balancer, and write some caching and performance optimizing code, but why would you want to? If you run a site where you’ll need the incredible scale that Pagely offers, you don’t have time to think about server management and with a starting price of $64/month, why would you want a solution that will keep you awake at night?
I believe in Pagely’s scaleability and reliability so much that I use them to host a managed marketing platform for small-businesses.
WordPress Hosting for the Publisher
So this is where it gets complicated. If you’re running a publishing site on WordPress, it could be a newspaper, a magazine, or an online only publication, you have a lot of options. Before we talk about your options though, I’m assuming that you have a lot of visitors, not thousands of visitors a day, but thousands of visitors an hour.
If you’re a publisher that’s doing thousands of visitors a day, take a look at WP Engine or Pagely, they’re a great starter hosting company, but I’m about to talk about how they can grow with you.
When you’re at this volume of traffic, scalability is crucial. You’re going to be on dedicated hardware, but you have to be able to quickly bring more hardware online to handle this load. Again, we’re talking thousands of visitors an hour and that figure could jump to tens of thousands of visitors whenever you break a huge story or have a story that goes viral to millions of people. I’ve seen it happen before, and it’s not pretty if you’re not prepared. So the hosting plan that you’re going to need isn’t one where you can just go to a website, click a button, and give them your credit card info, you need a custom solution.
WP Engine has a dedicated enterprise team that knows their platform inside and out. I’ve worked with Alex in the past, and he’s hands down a genius when it comes to planning for a big website to get even bigger. So either give them a call or head to their website and schedule a time for their team to call you. What you’ll talk about is your current traffic levels, what your traffic pattern looks like, they’ll look at your code and make sure that it’s optimized to scale efficiently, and they’ll ask you if you want a dedicated account manager. The answer is yes, because you want someone who is just as familiar with your website as your internal team and/or your engineering partner.
So WP Engine is an option. You get all of their amazing caching, CDN, distribution advantages, plus dedicated hardware and the ability to spread your system out worldwide in several different datacenters for improved redundancy. It’s a completely custom solution for WordPress hosting, so the sky is the limit.
Pagely is much the same. They’ll build a completely custom WordPress hosting solution on the Amazon Web Services cloud that has all of the reliability and redundancy that they can offer. Remember, AWS is the system that powers Netflix which maintains a completely redundant system on the east and west coast so that all traffic can be sent to one datacenter in the event of an outage or performance problem. So the level of traffic and volume of content you move can be nearly infinite thanks to Pagely and AWS.
Pagely is an advanced Amazon Advanced Technology Partner, the highest level of technology partner Amazon offers, this gives them even greater capabilities to build solutions leveraging Amazon’s server stack. This also means that if you need something on the same server cluster as your website that isn’t WordPress, it’s possible. Amazon is the leader in cloud computing and Pagely is the leader in scaleable, high-performance WordPress hosting.
If you’re a publisher using WordPress, there’s one other company that you should take a look at that doesn’t always work for everyone, WordPress VIP from Automattic. WordPress VIP runs on the same hardware and software that’s used to power WordPress.com’s 37 million blogs, so it’s scaleable, it’s secure, and it’s built for publishing.
But WordPress VIP does require that you make some tradeoffs and give up some control of your site. Because it’s hosted in a massive shared environment, you can’t just add a new plugin or theme. Everything must be reviewed and approved by the WordPress VIP team before it’s available for use. It’s also not possible for you to have a plugin or theme that’s only available to you, anyone else with a WordPress VIP account technically has access to your plugins and themes. WordPress VIP also has the highest starting price of any of the hosting options we recommend at a minimum of $5,000/month plus a $5,000-15,000 one-time setup fee.
WordPress VIP isn’t cheap, but if your publishing business depends on WordPress, it’s a platform that you can’t afford to not add to your comparison.
WordPress Hosting for the Enterprise
If you’re in the enterprise space, you’ve probably already dealt with some hurdles in getting WordPress fully adopted. Now it’s time to identify the best hosting solution, but you also need something that’s going to keep your IT department happy and keep your CTO from having a stroke because you’ve talked about hosting your site outside the company’s datacenter.
Well, get ready to take your IT department a box of doughnuts and some coffee, because there’s an option that will make them happy and give them time to eat a doughnut.
I’ve already mentioned Pagely as an option for scaleability and for publishing companies, but they’re a great option for enterprise hosting as well. IT departments don’t like shared environment, with Pagely you can get a single tenant VPS. IT departments worry about security, with Pagely you have continuous security and vulnerability monitory and protection from hackers, DDoS, and brute force attacks. IT departments worry about cost, with Pagely you have one of the most cost effective solutions on the market that also takes the server support costs out of your IT budget.
So if you need a solution that will keep your IT department and CTO happy, you need to drop Pagely’s Enterprise team an email. They host WordPress for companies like Disney, Facebook, and Microsoft; companies that have huge IT staffs and datacenters, but know that Pagely knows more about hosting WordPress than they do.
If you thought the best hosting providers were included on WordPress.org’s recommended hosting providers page, you might be surprised at who I just recommended. In fact, as of mid-2015, the WordPress recommended hosting page is undergoing a major rewrite after years of the engineering community complaining about certain companies being included and other excluded.
The hosting provider that you choose for WordPress should depend on your unique needs and who best meets those needs. Maybe all you need is WordPress.com with the paid upgrades or maybe you need a custom solution from Pagely or maybe your needs are somewhere in between. That’s what makes WordPress amazing, it’s used by everyone from personal bloggers to Fortune 50 companies.
You can use this guide as a starting point for finding the right WordPress hosting partner, or if you need a more detailed analysis of your hosting needs, drop me an email with your needs and I can put you in contact with the right company.
Who do you use for your WordPress hosting? Is there a company that you think I should look at for a future update to my recommendations?