How to choose the right WordPress hosting solution for your website – in the shower

Ah, the shower, what a great morning ritual.  It wakes me up, helps me get my singing voice ready to bang out some great code, and is a great way to talk to people about WordPress hosting.  Google “WordPress Hosting” and you’ll see results that span all sorts of price ranges and technical mumbo jumbo.  Google “favorite shower songs” and you can find way too many results for One Direction’s “What Makes you Beautiful” Either way, you’ll get a good laugh and will end up confused.

Good thing I used to work at Dell, have a few extra hours this afternoon and get a little too excited about showering and WordPress hosting.  I’m going to go through the choices that you have when you choose WordPress hosting, hopefully in laymen’s terms.  In the end, hopefully before the end of “What Makes you Beautiful” – you know you’re still listening to it – I’ll make a recommendation.

Let’s start with the 4 basic types of hosting accounts to choose from:

  • Shared Hosting
  • VPS (Virtual Private Server)
  • Dedicated Hosting
  • Managed Hosting

And 6 factors to consider when you’re choosing a host:

  • Support
  • Security
  • Scalability
  • Speed
  • Tools
  • Price

Knowing these various features, we can quickly cut through the clutter to prioritize which type of hosting will suit your needs the best.

Shared Hosting: “One Community Shower” plan

Creative Commons permission from Flickr user rishibando

Welcome to your freshman year of college!  New friends, new experiences, and a community shower!!!!  Your community shower is your shared hosting experience where it’s most compelling feature is price. Shared hosting is cheap and we all do it when we start out.  For less than $10/ month you share a single server’s resources with a few hundred of your closest friend’s other small sites. It’s fun for a while because you meet a bunch of new people, but never fun before a football game and the 2 showers in the hall have a line out the door!

In hosting terms, the downsides are that pages will take several seconds to load, and you’ll be responsible for keeping your site secure and updated from all the Internet bad guys like hackers and malware. As anyone who this has ever happened to can attest, this is NOT fun and can be quite frustrating to the average WordPress user.  If you get a spike in traffic because your site goes viral, there is a high risk that the site may crash.  If price is the most important factor, shared hosting is the way to go.

Virtual Private Server: “Shower in Shared College Apartment” Plan

Whew, freshman year’s dorm experience was a blast, but you are glad it’s over.  This year, you are moving into an off campus apartment with your two closet friends.   Gone are the days of dirty showers and lines before gameday, at least you thought…  A virtual private server, or VPS,  gives you more control over your site for development, along with more server resources, since you’re only sharing the server with a few other sites and not hundreds. A VPS account can handle higher loads of traffic than a shared hosting account.

You’ll pay a bit more money for a VPS, $20-$100+ (depending on the storage) for the extra control and resources. And the server will be pretty beefy, so it can handle some significant traffic. However, scalability is limited to that server. Once the server runs out of processing power, either because of your traffic load, or maybe your neighbor suddenly got an influx of traffic, your site’s performance will drop as a result.

Since you’re running a VPS and because you’ve got more control over the server, please make sure you are performing your own security measures to prevent hacking. You’ll receive pretty good support, but the folks you call or email won’t be able to offer much help if you get hacked, or if your site goes down.  Also, most of these folks are not familiar with the WordPress platform.  So yes, better than having one community shower in the college dorm, but you are still relying on your roommates not wanting to shower the same time you do. Plus, let’s face it, our roommates are dirty and don’t ever clean the shower!

Dedicated Server: “I’ll build my own Shower” Plan

Creative Common permission from Flickr user planohandyman

Junior year.  Gone are the days of sleeping through intro classes and hello to the days of never sleeping to finish up the work for the classes in your major.  You also think that since you are a junior, now that you can build your own shower and keep out everyone who you don’t want out of your shower.  Have you ever built a shower before?  No, but you did see a guy do it on the Home Depot YouTube channel and it looked pretty easy!!

This is the solution you’ll want if you need absolute control over all the technical aspects of hosting your sites. But you, or your SysAdmin better know the difference between Apache and Nginx, and being familiar with object caching. And someone on your team needs to know their way around a MySQL database, as well as how to maintain your own security protocol and firewall.

Dedicated servers give you a whole server, or several, for you to work with. Depending on how you set things up, your site will be extremely scalable under high traffic loads, and you’ll be able to hand-tune the performance and scalability. Dedicated servers are more expensive than a VPS: right at $250-$300

to start. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s a good solution for websites that you want complete control over.

Managed WordPress Hosting : “My shower is clean and mine” Plan

WordPress hosting shower
Creative Commons permission from Flickr user fyera

By your senior year, you have learned to focus on what you are good at and realize your major was not “Shower Community Building.”  You need an “elite” breed of hosting that is the top of the line for speed and scalability, and it also assumes that your site is running on WordPress. That’s a safe assumption, since about 20% of the Internet is built on WordPress. Managed WordPress Hosting means that a company like WP Engine or Synthesis takes care of all the technical details of the hosting and makes sure that your WordPress site is served quickly, usually under a second, and that speed scales with high traffic loads. So if (and when!) you get featured on the New York Times, you’ll be able to handle all the traffic.

WP Engine can also manage the security for you, and automatically update WordPress when the latest version is released. Knowing that your site is being cared for by WordPress hosting specialist means that you don’t have to worry about hackers or security. WP Engine even guarantees their security. No otherManaged Host that I found has this guarantee.

One of the biggest benefits is having expert support when it matters most. Managed hosts have support staff who know not only hosting, but they know WordPress as well, and can offer help in troubleshooting issues with plugins or themes.

What is my recommendation to get you out of the shower and building awesome sites on WordPress with the least amount of hassle?  WPEngine!

Hopefully, I helped you choose a WordPress host that is best for you and gave you some great music to listen to in the process.  If not, my apologies, but ‘that’s what makes you beautiful’.  What experiences have you had with WordPress hosting?

Please use the comments below to tell your stories.



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