In this article, we are going to discuss WordPress Hosting and look at some of the top names in the game. If you’re wondering whether you should stick with a low-cost shared hosting, or fork out the higher price for WordPress specific hosting, you’ve come to the right place.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering WHY you’d want a host that offers a WordPress specific hosting package, many top sites in the world today run WordPress. These include The New Yorker, BBC America, TechCrunch, Coca Cola France and many more.
It is powerful, flexible, easy to use, and has tons of support available.
What is WordPress Hosting?
A WordPress hosting is a web host that accommodate blogs (or sites) that are built with WordPress.
Technically there’s no such thing as “WordPress hosting”.
Any server that support PHP 5.2.4 (or higher) and MySQL 5.0 (or higher) can host a WordPress site.
Any shared hosting that support one-click WordPress installation and offer WordPress development tools (such as WordPress staging and caching) can be a good host for your WordPress site.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress hosting was intended to be a concierge service where the host would provide hands-off WordPress installation and management for its users. However, from what I see today, the term has loosened and grown to generally include web hosting which has extensive WordPress-specific features.
During your research, you probably came across numerous WordPress hosting companies and found that in some cases, prices of WordPress hosting is quite higher than the average shared hosting which you can get for as low as say $2.75 per month.
If you’re like most people, then you probably thought:
- Why is there such a big price difference?
- Is managed WordPress hosting that much better?
- Do I need managed WordPress hosting for my site?
- Is managed WordPress hosting worth the cost?
- Which part of WordPress is going to be managed for me?
Hosting Services Specific for WordPress only, Why?
Let’s start from the basics: Due to the popularity of WordPress (they powered ~32% of the Internet), many web hosting providers have chosen to add specialized managed WordPress hosting to their list of services.
Managed WordPress hosting is a type of service offered by some web hosting companies who have decided to offer specialized WordPress services. The key difference between the various managed WordPress hosting services is the level of service on offer.
For example, a web hosting service provide may decide to offer a 1-click WordPress installation utility along with automated WordPress updates; that could be managed WordPress hosting.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could have a manged WordPress hosting provider that offers WordPress specific architecture that offers you automated updates, backups, or even WordPress specialized caching services designed to enhance the performance of WordPress sites.
For the most part, if you’re wondering why the price differences, there it is.
What Do Managed WordPress Hosts Offer?
Let’s consider a few items that some WordPress hosting providers may offer;
- Specialized WordPress Caching – WordPress can be optimized to serve pages faster if some form of caching is employed. If you’ve run a WordPress site before, you’ll know that there are plugins that can do this, such as W3 Total Cache, Swift Performance, and WP Fastest Cache. In some cases, however, the web host has designed their own cacher which are optimized for their servers and this could offer an edge over generic WordPress caching plugins.
- WordPress Auto Updates – Being a content management paltform that is both popular and constantly updated, WordPress often has updates that need to be installed to cover various items such as enhanced features or security updates. Rather than having to do this constantly, some hosts can perform auto-updates for you.
- Specialized Security – Because WordPress support developers to work closely with its core to build plugins, it is also susceptible to 3rd party bugs, conflicts, and vulnerabilities. Some hosts offer enhanced WordPress services that can perform security audits of these 3rd party tools for your safety.
- Expert WordPress Support – Something that is claimed to be invaluable by many users, one key difference in many cases is the level of support that is extended to managed WordPress hosting users. Often, your support is provided by real WordPress experts who are highly skilled in the service, not just generic web technical support staff.
- Custom Dashboards – Again because you’re signing on for WordPress-specific hosting, your host may offer a customized dashboard for you to manage your WordPress site(s) and installation(s). Take for example the Plesk WordPress dashboard below. You can manage updates, logins or even clone instances from this single page.
Some quick examples (click image to enlarge) –
Shared vs. Managed WordPress Hosting
As mentioned earlier, the key to managed WordPress hosting lies in the fine print. Shared hosting services often just mean that you are being offered web resources that are shared with other users on a single server. What you do on that space with those resources is up to you.
For instance, you could build and run a static website out of HTML and some script, you could run Joomla or Drupal – it could be anything.
Managed WordPress hosting acknowledges that you intend to specifically run WordPress off your hosting account. As such, these resources and the facilities extended to you are optimized specifically for WordPress.
- A type of hosting plan where you share server resources with other users.
- Average price: $5 – $15/mo
- WordPress updates and maintenance done by users manually.
- No special tools or technical support for WordPress development.
- No WordPress-specific performance and security tweaks
Managed WordPress Hosting
- Regular hosting with added services and performance optimized for WordPress websites exclusively.
- Average price $30 – $200/mo
- WordPress updates and maintenance done by the hosting company.
- Staging and multisite features for WordPress development.
- Better support – Technical supports in WordPress-relevant issues.
- Better secured – Special security rules and features for WordPress.
- Better speed – Server configured specifically for WordPress.
Pros & Cons of Managed WordPress Hosting
By now you must be thinking that Managed WordPress Hosting is AWESOME. Yet as with everything, there are pros and cons, two sides to every story so to speak.
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of Managed WordPress Hosting?
- Faster Speeds – Due to the optimized nature of Managed WordPress hosts, you’re usually getting fantastic architecture to run WordPress sites off. To what extent depends on the host, but generally, this would be faster than regular shared hosting
- Built-in WordPress tools – These range from all round tools such as JetPack to simple free themes for you to use. They know you’re going to run WordPress and they provide for it.
- WordPress-specific Support – Rather than rely on tech who are expected to know everything, Managed WordPress Hosts often hire WordPress experts for you. These specialists will know all the tips and tricks that can help you anytime, anywhere.
- Automated Updates – Due to the modular nature of WordPress, you must update not only the core files, but also each plugin you run. Managed WordPress hosts can keep all of these up to date for you, reducing security risks.
- Tools for Developers – Aside from pre-built tools, Managed WordPress hosting providers know that WordPress site owns often like to tinker. As such they will give you access to development tools and environments that you can play around with and not destroy your site in the process.
So, what’s the downside?
- Price – Almost unilaterally, Managed WordPress hosting is more expensive than standard shared hosting offerings. If you find a plan that’s the same price (or God forbid, cheaper) then you know you’re getting conned.
- Only WordPress – You asked for WordPress and you get WordPress. Want to change your mind? Change your hosting provider or switch to an entirely different type of plan. That usually means site migration though.
- Automated Updates – Yes, this can be a drawback too, if you opt for auto updates. There are times when developers (of WordPress or other plugins) make a boo-boo and release an update that is disastrous to its users. Your system will auto update. If you’re not around and don’t realize it, you can’t do anything.
Best WordPress Hosting Providers Compared
WordPress hosting service providers often have their own mixture of services that support their offerings. Some of them are unique, such as SiteGround’s advanced caching services.
Rather than try to debate the advantages of one over the other, let’s look at some of the key features of a few top (managed and unmanaged) WordPress hosting service providers.
Our Top WordPress Hosting Picks
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SiteGround’s WordPress hosting plans are a bit of an enigma for me. The reason why I say this is because of a combination of a few things. First, of course, is the price – starting off at $3.95 per month, the rate is barely above their standard shared hosting service price and way below the likes of Kinsta.
At the same time, they are offering similar customized architecture to BlueHost, which starts its rates at $19.99 a month for WordPress hosting.
The problem is, that I have heard many good things about SiteGround and have experienced their services for myself as well, which are normally outstanding. So how is this pricing possible?
Unfortunately, I must leave you with that answer for the time being. Perhaps one day we’ll find out how SiteGround manages to offer such great services at this price.
Key Highlights of SiteGround
- Automated WordPress transfers
- SiteGround Super Cacher – WordPress Special Cache
- SG-Git for WordPress repo creation
Read our comprehensive review of SiteGround.
- Great hosting speed and reliability (strong uptime)
- Multiple choices of server locations
- Recommended by WordPress.org
- 1-click WP staging, pre-installed GIT for WordPress development
- Expensive renewal price
- No live chat support for technical and billing issues
SiteGround Hosting Performance
Starting off at a steep $30 per month for WordPress hosting, Kinsta is kind of pricey. However, as always, the devil is in the details and I’ll share with you one very good reason for that pricing that Kinsta has;
Your plan is built on a combination of Nginx, LXD containers, PHP 7, and MariaDB, all hosted on a Google Cloud Platform for lightning speed. In essence, you’re going to build on Google-class infrastructure.
This includes leveraging on Cloud technology which includes Google APIs, Cloud SQL and Compute Engines and even Big Data services. As far as WordPress capabilities go, you’re signing on with the big dogs if you go with Kinsta.
Key Highlights of Kinsta
- Based on Google Cloud Platform
- Free site migrations
- Scalable resources
Read our comprehensive review of Kinsta.
- Excellent server speed and hosting uptime
- WordPress expert support
- 15 data center locations available across the globe
- A custom-built control panel that’s both impressive and intuitive
- Expensive for bloggers running multiple low traffic sites
- Does not support email hosting
Kinsta Hosting Performance
3- WP Engine
A step up in price from even Kinsta, WP Engine starts off at $35 per month and that’s for single WordPress installation sites. At first glance, their features are impressive, including services such as Amazon S3 integration and Global CDN.
What I feel is their key selling point, however, is that they are building sites on the Genesis Framework. Genesis is a massive ecosystem of parts for WordPress and is in essence, what it takes to assemble a best WordPress site in building blocks.
From speed to security and even aesthetics, there is something in the Genesis Framework that simply screams ‘professional WordPress’ – and that’s what you pay for.
Key Highlights of WP Engine
- Offers Genesis Framework
- 24/7/365 Customer support
- Strong partner ecosystem
Read our comprehensive review of WP Engine.
- Genesis Framework
- Agile developer environment – development and staging sites ready
- 60-day money back guarantee with no lock-in contract
- Costly for owners running multiple WP sites
- No email hosting
- No direct access to .htaccess file
WP Engine Server Test Results
Starting off at $19.99 a month, BlueHost is priced extremely competitively as a managed WordPress hosting provider. I’m certain the reason they can do this is because they are relying on many proprietary elements, rather than working with the big dogs such as Google Cloud and Genesis.
Take for example the speed that they lay claim to – that’s driven by an internal custom architecture that’s meant to optimize the WordPress experience. With the expensive core being internally-driven, they then leverage on partnerships with other providers such as MOJO Marketplace to beef up the offering.
Interesting fact: BlueHost is owned by Endurance International Group – the company that also own Hostgator and iPage.
Key Highlights of BlueHost
- Custom WordPress-optimized architecture
- Custom control panel
- Integrated SiteLock security features
Read our comprehensive review of BlueHost.
- Recommended by WordPress.org
- Web host with almost 20 years of proven business track record
- Plenty of room to grow – users get to upgrade their hosting servers to VPS and dedicated hosting at reasonable price
- Price increases during renewal
- Most server upgrades come in additional cost
BlueHost Hosting Performance
5- WP Web Host
As far as I can tell, WP Web Host offers basic WordPress enhancement features in its WP hosting plan, much akin to SiteGround. Given my experience with SiteGround, however, I am not keen to laugh at their prices which start at $5 per month.
WP Web Host offers customized architecture which it considers ‘purpose-built’ for WordPress and even throws in free use of a Content Distribution Network. Then there are the free themes and WordPress Toolkit, for easier site management.
It also integrates with various popular third-party tools such as JetPack and offers comprehensive WordPress security and analytic tools. Not bad for the price, I’d say.
Key Highlights of WP Web Host
- JetPack Personal and Professional comes with the plan
- 100+ Starter WordPress themes
- 14 days of backup archives
Read our comprehensive review of WP Web Host.
- Newbies friendly – Easy to use interface
- Competitive pricing
- Free JetPack Personal in WP Lite plan and JetPack Professional in higher plans
- Price increases during renewal
- No live chat and telephone technical support
- Mixed results in our speed test
WP Web Host Server Perfomance
Do You Really Need A WordPress Focused Hosting?
Initially, I thought this matter clear cut and the question easily answered. Yet upon further deliberation (and thoughts of other matters) the waters muddied a little. I was at a point of time where I was weighing the pros and cons of Virtual Private Networks, buying a new phone and a couple of other things – all great to have, but I things I could do without.
To make matters worse, I had to throw in thoughts from a business perspective and views from the angles of sites of various sizes. Perhaps I could start of with who I think managed WordPress hosting is ideal for.
YES, this would absolutely be true. The concept of managed WordPress hosting simply screams synergy with business sites. The plans offer potent combinations of convenience, speed and security, all key elements a business site should be concerned about.
The added security elements are even more crucial if you’re going to be running any payment infrastructure through your site.
High Volume Websites (possibly big blogs, news sites, etc)
YES, I’d say this would be a go as well, simply because of the time it would take off the site owner’s hands. There is also the WordPress expertise that these managed plans offer that you can leverage on.
The Ambitious Site Owner
Perhaps. You’re not there yet in terms of traffic, you don’t have the full staff skillset you need to build a world class site and you could use a little help. Managed WordPress hosting can give you that extra leg up. The question would be – are you willing to pay for it?
This is not an easy choice, since the price often trades off in terms of built in features and other facilities that you’d otherwise have to pay for with regular shared hosting plans (which shouldn’t costs more than $5/mo at entry level).
The Starting Blogger
No. Even if you fall into the category of what you think might be ‘ambitious site owner’, start off at the bottom. You’ll need to learn somewhere, and getting spoon fed and paying the high price of managed WordPress hosting for it is sheer folly. In any case, you’re unlikely to need many of the features offered yet.
Conclusion: Our Thoughts on “Best” WordPress Hosting
Personally, I feel that this really is a concierge service. I feel that Managed WordPress hosting generally offers at least some form of benefits, but it’s not meant for everyone. As I’ve listed above, consider your situation before looking towards Managed WordPress Hosting.
One big point I’d like to highlight is technical capability. It is my opinion that technical skills, at least rudimentary technical skills, should be part of your skillset if you’re aiming to own a successful, large volume site.
It’s not rocket science, there are literally hundreds of tutorial and forums to learn from and you have to playground to fool around in on the WWW. Ignoring the tech altogether is sheer laziness – and could cost you some day.
With that, the decision is in your hands.
Wait, what about WordPress.com?
WordPress.com, operated by Automattic, Inc., is a service site where you can build and host your WordPress sites.
WordPress.com is the most popular blogging platforms out there – and for good reason.
Its existing templates are so easy to use that even the most novice website architect can navigate them to create a beautiful, professional website – not to mention that for the seasoned developer, the site is highly customizable. WordPress.com also comes with thousands of ready-made plugins and built-in site metrics.
And best of all, it’s completely free!
Sounds good? Not really. There are several issues that you need to know with WordPress.com.
- Limited monetization – For many bloggers, their blog is their business – meaning they need to monetize it. But WordPress.com applies tons of limitations to users’ blog – for example, no affiliate links are allowed.
- Ugly domains – the built-in hosting in WordPress.com provides site owners with a partially selected domain – meaning that they can select their domain name, but that the system adds on an additional string to the end of it; the result is a long URL (something like myblog.wordpress.com) that is not only difficult for potential visitors to remember.
Paid hosting providers, like the one we mentioned above, offer far more flexibility for things like storage, owning your ad space, security, and site portability.
* Note: WordPress.com is not the same as WordPress.org. WordPress.org is the site where you can download the WordPress application you use to build a site.