Update: Since I wrote this blog post in December 2014, HostGator was sold to the world’s largest web hosting provider (EIG) For USD$225 million. Since then I have had a number of problems with their service and therefore longer recommend them to clients.
Getting the right web hosting solution for your WordPress site can save you a lot of time, money and hassle.
When choosing web hosting for WordPress, most small business owners aim to strike a balance between:
- saving money (Price)
- saving time and hassle (Pain)
- getting the best site performance possible
In this post I will quickly explain how web hosting works and how to choose the right web hosting solution for you and your WordPress website.
Web Hosting Explained
Your website needs 3 core things in order to work:
- a web server – which is where your sites files and databases are physically located
- a domain name – which is the address of your website
- the software that powers your website – the files and databases which are stored on your web server.
Domain Names Explained
Many people get confused when it comes to domain names – as web hosting and domains often get bundled together when people setup a website for the first time.
The domain name is the online address of your website – Eg. www.google.ie.
Domain names simply make it easy for people to remember the real address of your website (which is really just a number) and you don’t need to register a new domain name to get your website up on the Internet.
Choosing a web hosting company is (and should be) a separate issue from registering a domain name.
In fact, it is generally recommended that you register your domain with a company other than your hosting company; so as not to have all your eggs in the one basket so to speak.
The rest of this post will focus on web hosting; we’ll take a closer look at registering domain names in another post.
Web Servers Explained
Two computers are required to make a website work: a Client and a Web Server.
- Clients are computers that request web pages from the Internet. PCs, Macs, laptops, iPhones, tablets (i.e. the computer you’re on right now) all fall into this category. Users typically request web pages on their client machines via software called a “web browser”.
- Web Servers are computers that respond to clients requests for web pages. The web server is where your websites files and database are physically stored. Servers are always turned on, always connected to the web and always listening for incoming requests.
When you visit a website – your computer (i.e the client computer) sends a request to the host server (i.e. the computer where the websites files are stored) for the web-page to be sent over the web.
The server sends the webpage to your computer via the Internet and you view the page in your web browser.
Of course the technology that makes all this happen is complicated – but, a bit like electricity: it just works, so you don’t really need to worry about it.
What is Web Hosting?
A “web host” is anyone that configures and maintains a web server to serve webpages via the Internet.
A web hosting company leases space on their web servers to customers – allowing anyone to easily make their own website accessible via the World Wide Web.
The hosting company is responsible for the availability, maintenance and security of the server.
Web hosting companies allow you to:
- upload files to their servers (limited to a certain amount of bandwidth)
- create databases on their servers (usually limited to a certain number of databases)
- setup and manage email account on their servers
- serve files (normally webpages) via their web server (provided it is legal and usually limited to certain bandwidth)
To do all this, the hosting company generally provides you with software for managing your account on the web server. The most popular software used by most hosting companies is called ‘cpanel’.
How web hosting works
When you setup an account with a web hosting company you receive access to a personal folder on one of their web-servers.
This folder (usually called the public_html.folder) has its own unique web address – and the files in it are publicly available on the Internet.
You may also direct a domain to your public_html folder so that whenever someone enters that domain into their browser, the server automatically returns your homepage.
This means that the files that make up your website need to be installed in this public_html folder.
Luckily, this can usually be done automatically using special software provided by the hosting company.
The best web hosting for WordPress
While having lots of choice is generally considered a good thing, the decision of “which web hosting company to choose” often comes at a time when people are anxious to get started and scared of making a costly mistake.
The below web hosting companies are my recommendations for WordPress hosting based on years of experience, in-depth research and a familiarity with the priorities of our members (namely to save themselves hassle and money whilst enjoying optimal site performance.
You want to spend the least amount of money? The best low-cost WordPress hosting company is, in my opinion, Hostgator (based in Utah, USA). Anyone who has took part in our WordPress training course will also be familiar with the HostGator setup as we use HostGator for the free practice websites we offer our members. HostGator benefits include: cheap, reliable hosting a familiar cpanel interface one-click WordPress installation multiple websites on one account excellent support Disadvantages to HostGator: too many visitors at once and your site will crash less than optimal site speed
You want to save yourself time and hassle?
If you don’t want to the hassle of installing WordPress, taking backups and duplicating your website whenever you want to test out new themes and plugins then you might want to consider a managed WordPress hosting solution and the one we use for this website is WPEngine (based in Austin, Texas).
WPEngine benefits include:
- automatic, daily backups
- WordPress installed for you automatically
- fast website speeds
- allowances for big traffic spikes
- and a staging area which allows you to make an exact duplicate of your site (with a single click) which means you can experiment with new themes and plugins. Then, once you are happy with your improvements on the staging server you can also easily transfer your updates to the live site.
Disadvantages to WPEngine:
- only one WP site
- it’s more expensive
You want a fast website without breaking the bank?
For the very reasonable price of €7.95 per month, SiteGround offers fast hosting along with a number of other perks usually associated with more expensive hosting providers: E.g. automated backups.
SiteGround benefits include:
- a high-performance website (fast!) at highly competitive prices
- automatic backups
- multiple sites on one account
- a free domain
Disadvantages of SiteGround:
- more work involved on your part than with managed hosting
- site may go down if you get a big traffic spike
The WordPress web hosting company I recommend to WPApplied members depends on their requirements:
if they run multiple small sites on a very tight budget then I recommend HostGator
- if they don’t care about money and just want an easy life then I recommend WPEngine
- if they are fairly serious about performance but mindful of budget then I recommend SiteGround
Image credit: flikr
I’ve included affiliate links which means that I get notified and earn a commission if this article helps you choose a host for your WordPress site. Please note that the companies listed above are recommended because they offer the best service/value for money based on our experience and research. If this article helps you choose a hosting company and you want to say thanks then please click one of the links before making your purchase.