There is a lot more to take into consideration then pricing alone when you’re looking at the best hosting options for your customized WordPress website.
Not all WordPress hosting companies are created equal. While some hosts charge a few dollars a month, others may charge in the hundreds of dollars every month. And, with the exception of a few hosts, you tend to get what you pay for. So, the first step in choosing a hosting company is determining your needs. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when researching the best hosting options available:
- What are my current site’s bandwidth, storage and security needs?
- What are my long-term strategies and budgets to grow my site’s content, features or traffic?
- What is the true value of what a hosting company is offering; beyond the basic website file storage? (TIP: Keep calm and look beyond the initial sticker shock)
Once you answer some of these basic questions you will be able to better determine the type of hosting that best suits your immediate and/or long-term needs, and then critique the various providers in each category of hosting. There are generally two different categories of hosting: standard/self-managed, or fully managed. And, our team has worked with over a dozen different hosting providers over the past 10+ years for a variety of clients; under a variety of conditions; for a variety of reasons; both fully-managed and self-managed.
You, and you alone, are responsible for the security of your website, its updates and/or its general maintenance. You are also, in many cases, responsible for managing things like performance and traffic flow, spam review, load time, etc. If you have someone on your team managing these concerns, these services can be appealing because of the low price point.
In this category, you’ll find information all over the internet about Hostgator, BlueHost, DreamHost, Inmotion, Hub, SiteGround, Pagely, iPage, FatCow, GoDaddy, ideahost, Rackspace, Web.com, WestHost, and many, many more.
Here are the three Standard / Self-Managed Hosting recommendations we feel good about making a recommendation on today based on experience or referred experience from those who have worked with each, and in the category of customer service, service options, competitive pricing, extra or special features, and depth of knowledge and/or expertise:
- SiteGround – Back2Basics uses this service frequently for its customers (in addition to two other options) when looking at needs vs value for an individual business. In fact, because we trust in their services for qualified customers and were using them so frequently, we did become a referral-affiliate of this company.They go beyond the typical “standard” WordPress Hosting by offering free WordPress Auto Updates and WordPress Security and daily backups. It’s a baseline security, but for the price of $3.95/mo for the first year… it’s a great deal! After the first year, the price moves to $9.95/mo; still a great value when you look at what’s included without paying extra “add-ons” which can often be overlooked by the general user; leaving them vulnerable if there’s a challenge with the site. Siteground’s next plan up ($7.95/mo for the first year) includes more space and one year free SSL certificate.Even with this great pricing and their features, we still recommend working with a site manager to monitor and maintenance your site because Siteground doesn’t cover things like multiple point backups each day on their basic plans, routine plugin updates, theme updates, added database optimization, spam comment management, or traffic reporting.
- Westhost – This vendor is one that came highly recommended from a TOP industry SEO service vendor we respect. They had their own WordPress site hosted here until they decided it was time to move to a Managed-Hosting service. They are cost effective with plans starting at $9.99/mo (discounted when you purchase a year in advance), and includes higher security on the hosted files with that fee.This is a truly self-managed option; offering only database backup which doesn’t include your site’s styling sheets. Therefore, you need to know a bit more about server settings and maintenance, or work with someone who can manage the day-to-day upkeep of your site and can provided added support to their services.
- Inmotion – This is one that continues to come to the top of many report lists and seems to have good customer reviews online. They’re also running on-going promotions for $3.49/mo for the first year (comes and goes). But, again, this is truly a self-managed service with database backup only at that price-point. So, you need to know your way around server settings or work with someone who can manage the day-to-day upkeep of your site and can definitely support their services.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: Another great article on selecting the best Self-Managed WordPress Hosting for Beginners (or small blog sites): http://winningwp.com/best-wordpress-hosting/
These services typically ‘monitor’ security a bit more; some providing server-side security monitoring, and typically provide automatically mandatory security updates for WordPress and selected plugins deemed an immediate security risk. However, there are tasks which are still left up to the site owner to manage such as routine WordPress, theme or plugin updates, and spam comment cleaning. Mismanaging routine maintenance can cause site functionality challenges or open security holes later.
Customer support for Fully-Managed hosts is usually ranked higher than a standard DIY hosting service who provide services at lesser cost. And, they typically include a few extra tools and benefits with the service package. If your website is expected to grow rapidly in content or traffic or holds more sensitive data, it may be worth the extra costs to invest in a fully-managed hosting option to ensure your website continues to run efficiently, quickly and securely, with little or minimal need of participation from your end. It’s also a great option if you have little to no technical knowledge. (NOTE: a site-manager is still recommended to handle more routine maintenance needs and basic upkeep.)
Some of the top Fully-Managed services in the industry today include WPEngine, Pagely, SiteGround, Flywheel, and Synthesis. The owner of Back2Basics has personally worked with 3 of 5 fully-managed hosting platforms cited here and currently has a number of clients utilizing at least 2 of these services today. Here is the breakdown of the best hosting options for Managed Hosting services we’re comfortable recommending as of today:
- Synthesis – This is one that comes highly recommended from a TOP industry SEO vendor who moved their web hosting to this service because of their dedicated service not only for WordPress websites, but specifically for the Genesis Framework. Genesis is one of the topline frameworks developers select to build customized WordPress website designs on today because of its flexibility, performance, SEO friendly coding, and many integrated service or features options. And, Genesis is the go-to framework Back2Basics works with when we’re developing a website design for our clients; although we do work with a variety of themes and frameworks.Starting at $47 per month, this company also comes standard with Sucuri’s server-side scanning. (Sucuri is one of the industry’s top website security vendors, and is a preferred vendor to Back2Basics). Other hosts offering Sucuri scanning is typically provided through their outward; domain scan and not server-side. Although this can give you a good baseline knowledge if your domain has been flagged by certain search engines, it doesn’t catch things happening within the web files hosted on the server itself where malware can be injected through a variety of open-source code used on site.Yoast (one of several industry-leading do-it-yourself SEO plugin vendors), speaks very highly of Synthesis’s performance and customer support solutions – of course, they’re dealing with a much higher package option than most small businesses may need.
- WPEngine – Considered to be one of the Cadillacs of Fully-Managed hosting, WPEngine is known for their wonderful customer service and tight security measures. However, because of these tighter protocols, it is a bit more challenging to install or export sites their servers on your own; often relegating these moves to their 3rd party relationships at an extra fee.Additionally, they have security agreements with Sucuri, so if your site is hacked while they are responsible for hosting, they will work with Sucuri to remedy; free of charge. This is in place even though they’re not providing on-going server-side scanning, because they are so confident in their other security protocols.WPEngine isn’t at the top of the pricing scale, but will be higher than many do-it-yourself hosting options with services starting at $29/mo. (TIP: In our experience, if you need dedicated IPs with an SSL installation in order to alleviate challenges with IE visibility, you may need to pay a premium monthly fee).
- SiteGround – We included this service provider again because their upgraded account option offers even more benefits than their base service level, and is still more than the typical self-hosted option. Additionally, we continue to have great customer service experience with them which is always a plus. With that said, this price does reflect a lesser level of security remedy or support than you would find in the base level of a service like WPEngine or Synthesis. Starting at $14.95/mo.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: Here’s another fairly comprehensive article on Managed-Wordpress Hosting (http://www.codeinwp.com/blog/managed-wordpress-hosting/). And, here is a recent article from one of the leaders in the do-it-yourself SEO plugin tools for your WordPress site: https://yoast.com/wordpress-hosting/
The bottom line?
You need to look past the price tag and really understand what you’re getting for that monthly fee. The low cost of a self-managed site might be tempting at first… until your site begins to expand rapidly or you need to add another layer of security or maintenance services to the mix. Conversely, paying extra for fully-managed hosting might not be worth the higher cost if your website is simple in design and content, has a small audience, and doesn’t require higher security or complicated extras.