One of the most important decisions you can make when getting ready to launch or build your website is choosing the right host. Making the right decision can be the difference between whistling Dixie and pulling your hair out in frustration. The right host can make running your WordPress website easy. The wrong host can literally destroy your business.
Unfortunately, this is not an easy decision to make. There are literally thousands of hosts to choose from. On top of that, there are several different types of hosting to choose from. In this article, we will not review specific hosts. Instead, we will look at the types of hosting and help you decide which type best fits your needs.
This is easily the most well-known type of hosting and the most commonly used, especially by personal site owners and small businesses. On a shared hosting platform, each physical server has just one operating system installed on a single partition. These servers host hundreds, often thousands of customers that all share the resources of the server. So hard drive space, ram, and CPU are intimately shared.
Shared hosting has many advantages. It is cheap, often starting as low as $1.00 a month. It is typically very easy to setup and use. Support is usually available 24/7.
Unfortunately, there are also many disadvantages to using shared hosting. WP Top Hat typically does not recommend shared hosting for any business. Shared plans are great for personal sites and small blogs. But a business that hopes to grow will quickly outgrow this hosting option.
Many shared plans claim “UNLIMITED” storage and bandwidth but beware that this is not really the case. It is marketing lingo to entice customers. The hosts actually do have limits but in a round-about way. Insteand of setting specifc limits, they allow each customer to use as much or as little of these resources as they want. But the physical server still has limits. So when users abuse this and begin using exorbient amounts of bandwidth, or when a server getsso crowded that the physical disks become full, or nearly full, this impacts every site on the server. This is what we call “noisy neighbor syndrome”.
Think of a shared server like living in an apartment building. When your neighbors fight or throw loud parties, you can hear their noise and it directly affects you. This is what happens with shared hosting. When a site gets a spike in traffic or even worse, gets hacked, your site will very likely suffer by slowing down or even going offline altogether.
Shared hosting is the most likely type of hosting to experience hacks and malware. Shared hosts have gotten much better recently at securing their servers, and in all fairness, the majority of compromises have little or nothing to do with the server itself. The real problem is that when one account gets hacked, this is often a backdoor into other accounts.
Support is another major pain point for most folks on shared hosting. Although support tends to be available 24/7, the support is often provided by minimally trained agents. Most enter the field knowing little or nothing about hosting or WordPress. Shared hosts tend to hire “warm bodies” and provide support scripts that the agent must use. If you are lucky enough to get an agent that knows his/her stuff, their hands are often tied by what they are ALLOWED to help you with. Also, shared hsots typically require their agents to handle multiple customers at the same time. So while you are chatting with an agent in live chat, they are often chatting with as many as 5 other customers at the same time. This really hurts the quality of support you will get.
With a VPS, you are on the same physical server as other customers, but you are somewhat isolated in your own virtual environment, meaning you have your own OS and dedicated resources. Think of VPS hosting as like living in a townhouse. You still share walls with neighbors, but fewer neighbors, & the walls are thicker and protect you better from noisy neighbors.
VPS hosting comes in 2 main flavors: managed and unmanaged. They are essentially the same in terms of configuration types. But they also differ greatly. Firstly, managed VPS tends to be a bit pricier, while an unmanaged VPS is typically comparable in price to shared hosting. The level of support can vary too. Unmanaged VPS typically restrict support to server issues. So if your OS crashes or the hard drive fails, you will get support. If however, you get a virus or WordPress crashes, you are on your own. With managed VPS hosting, you get a bit more support, typically similar to the support you will get with shared hosting, but many managed VPS companies go a bit further.
If you are comfortable with the command line, know how to install or remove server software, etc, then unmanaged VPS is a great option. Otherwise, a managed VPS would be a better option. Managed or unmanaged, both offer similar benefits. A VPS is very scalable, so it can grow with your business. VPS hosting gives you some protection against noisy neighbors. Although you share hardware with other customers, you have your own virtual environment, which includes your own set of dedicated resources. This also means you get some protection from security compromises. When one account get compromised, yours is much less likely to be compromised as well.
Like VPS, dedicated hosting comes in both managed & unmanaged flavors. With a dedicated server, you are the only customer on the hardware, so you are at no risk of being affected by other customers behavior. This comes at a much higher cost, often into the hundreds of dollars per month.
A dedicated server is like living on an off-grid homestead. You probably cannot hear or even see your neighbors from your front porch. Their noise and behavior does not affect you.
By default, this gives you some extra security, since everything is in your hands. On the flip side, everything is in your hands. You are in complete control and have full responsibility of your server. If you go with a dedicated server, you will likely need to be or hire a system administrator.
I saved the best for last! WordPress hosting, often called “Managed WordPress Hosting”, is hosting that is optimized for WordPress specifically. These plans are run on servers that are specifically set up to run WordPress in the most optimal fashion. Things like updates, server security, and backups are considered standard features of this type of hosting.
Support is usually handled by dedicated and committed WordPress experts. More importantly perhaps is the fact that most managed WordPress hosts will help you resolve WordPress specific problems. So if you have a plugin that is not working, or an update breaks something, support will usually help you resolve it.
Managed WordPress hosting typically starts at around $25 a month and goes up from there. It tends to highly scalable, and very elastic. By this, I mean that a sudden temporary spike in traffic, like you, see when you have a holiday sale or something like that will have no impact on your site performance.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF HOST
So which hosting type is right for you? This is often a difficult question to answer because what is right for one site owner may not work for another. So here are ______ questions that can help you find the answer.
- How much data storage will your site need?
If your site will include a large amount of media, you may need more storage. Also, membership sites with large member databases may require more storage as the database will likely become large.
- What kind of traffic do you expect to have?
If your site will launch with a large amount of traffic, you will require more resources. If your hosting plan does not provide enough bandwidth or ram, you will find your site struggles to perform.
- How much support will you need?
If you are confident you will not need much support, go with an affordable option with limited support. If you think you will need frequent or detailed support, make sure your host provided that.
- Does your site have any special security requirement?
If you are running a site for a financial institution, government agency, or any other site that collects highly confidential information, make sure your host can provide, or at least allows those extra security precautions.
- Will you need to use scripts other than WordPress?
If you need to use other scripts, such as a billing script, then managed WordPress hosting probably will not work for you.
There are other factors to consider, dependent on your specific use case, but answering these questions will really help narrow down your best hosting options. Again, we do not recommend shared hosting for any WordPress business site. A VPS or dedicated plan will likely require some expert knowledge. Managed WordPress will give you advanced support on hardware optimized for WordPress.
In the end, only you can decide what is right for your business and fits your budget. But making this decision should entail lots of researching a list of options. Good luck!