The best WordPress hosting plans are not equal
The best WordPress hosting, and how to choose wisely comes up a lot in our business. I recently spoke with the vice president of a small business who spent $17,000 redesigning her WordPress company website. It was a stunning and unique design.
But the site pages loaded extremely slow, especially on mobile devices. Even worse, the site displayed errors or timed out before fully loading. The client explained that the company hosting the site continued to blame the WordPress theme and plugins she was using for the performance problems. They talked her into upgrading twice to more expensive shared hosting plans.
My investigation revealed that the site was well-designed with a good theme, and a minimum number of established and maintained plugins. In addition, images used on the site were optimized, and she made use of good caching and a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to boost performance. From a site standpoint I couldn’t find any problems. For a site that was getting fewer than 5,000 hits a week it should have performed extremely well.
Poorly designed, under-resourced WordPress hosting
Then I looked at the site’s WordPress hosting package and discovered the problem. The site was served by a poorly configured, under-resourced, overloaded, shared web server containing over 2,100 websites. The problem was not bad applications; it was bad hosting. Unfortunately, this is something we encounter more often than not.
Bad hosting can ruin a great WordPress site. It’s like taking your brand new Tesla S and running it on flashlight batteries.
If this has happened to you, don’t feel bad. It’s easy to get lured into a bad WordPress hosting plan. But the consequences of trusting the wrong hosting company can include more than just aggravation. Loss of business trust, security breaches, and blacklisting by major search engines and ISPs are all known effects of hooking up with the wrong host.
The damage can be irreversible in some cases. That’s not only unacceptable, it is entirely avoidable.
There are great WordPress hosting plans out there. However, depending on what your site needs, going cheap on hosting can kill any chance you had of making your mark on the internet. Let’s first go over what you need to know, what you need to ask, and the minimum requirements you need to stick to for your WordPress site.
Before choosing the best WordPress hosting: Learn how to identify bad WordPress hosting
WordPress hosting can be difficult to plan for because most people just don’t know that they need. They assume that if a hosting company claims their hosting plans support WordPress everything will be fine.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Authors of WordPress themes and plugin authors, as well as bloggers (even WordPress.org itself) are often tied financially to bad hosting companies, “consultant” contracts, and financial support for WordPress conferences. The conflict of interest is clear. Besides that, theme, plugin authors, and bloggers often know a lot about writing code, but virtually nothing about web servers and what it takes to properly host WordPress for businesses, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
“Listing (of recommended hosts) is completely arbitrary, but includes criteria like: contributions to WordPress.org. . . .” source: https://wordpress.org/hosting/
Red flags when searching for WordPress hosting solutions
The big time hosting companies, including Dreamhost, 1and1, Hostgator, Hostmonster, and Go Daddy, all use the same basic marketing strategy, and the following are very good reasons to think twice before making a decision to use them.
- claim even their cheapest shared hosting packages support WordPress sites.
- underplay or completely omit actual server specifications, like available RAM and PHP resource limits.
- offer potential customers unlimited domains, email accounts, databases, and generous disk space.
- bait customers into signing up for ultra-cheap hosting packages (sometimes under $3.00 per month).
- require contracts.
- get the customer signed up, and
- (a) bombard inexperienced site owners with premium add-ons, and
- (b) wait for things to go wrong, and they usually do.
- offer support that’s often outsourced, under-trained, and prioritized on upgrading customers to higher priced hosting.
- repeat step 6 and 7 until they have you on a VPS or dedicated server for 5 to 40 times the price of that first package.
Does that sound familiar?
When you get sucked into these big hosting operators, just know that their real goal is to sell you more and more stuff. It’s evident from the moment you log into your hosting account. Their hosting account control panels are flooded with ads for upgrades and add-ons.
Poor performance and reliability actually play into the cheap hosting scheme. They know that most people don’t know anything about web servers, CPU cycles, bandwidth, RAM, PHP resource limits, load balancing, or resource distribution. And that makes it easy to blame your WordPress site for problems that crop up; like slow performance, errors, and other serious issues. They don’t tell you that your site is being loaded onto a server with hundreds or thousands of other user accounts—running WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and heaven knows what else—and there is no way the server can adequately support the load of all of those web sites.
“support talked her into moving up three tiers in 18 months”
If you don’t finally get angry enough to move to another host (which is no fun either), you will waste countless hours battling hosting support. The fallback response will get very familiar to you: “You’re running too many plugins, or that theme is using too much memory or CPU. We need to get you into a package that handle your site needs.”
I had a business owner tell me that, while using a very popular hosting company, she was talked into moving her site up three tiers in 18 months, just trying to deal with slow performance issues. She then moved to another equally bad host, before being lured back to her original host, by an offer she couldn’t refuse, on the highest-tier hosting plan they had. After graduating from a $5 per month starting plan to a $179 per month premium plan, she found that down time on the site actually increased and her pages were loading so slowly that she finally shut the site down.
How to choose the best WordPress hosting plan
For the average small business, using a premium WordPress theme like Avada, Enfold, or Salient, and running one or more popular plugins like Woocommerce, BBPress, W3 Total Cache, and YOAST SEO, your hosting package should offer capabilities and resources you need. At a minimum, I would recommend the following. And you don’t need to necessarily understand what all this means, but your potential hosting company needs to show you that they meet these minimum standards::
- Latest Linux – CentOS 64 or Ubuntu Server 64 (No Windows)
- NGINX Latest or Apache 2.4+
- PHP 7.0 with option for PHP 7.1
- PHP Memcache
- MySQL 5.6 or 5.7
- SSH SFTP file access
- Prepacked with latest version of WordPress
- Strong security policy with a written guarantee
- Service Level Agreement – 99% up-time guarantee
WordPress Hosting Minimum PHP Resource Requirements
- Available Memory 768MB or higher
- Disk Space – 80GB or higher
- Bandwidth 400GB or higher
- Database memory included
- ini override
- memory_limit 768MB
- post_max_size 64MB
- upload_max_filesize 64MB
- max_execution_time 180 (240 if you plan to import large amounts of data over http)
- max_input_vars 2400
The above recommendations are meant to be guidelines, not absolutes. If you are running a simple WordPress personal blog site with a few plugins, you can make do with a little less. If you are running a high-traffic, high memory/process intensive site with a lot of complex plugins and externally connected services, you will likely need more. But always get as much as you can afford.
Use a checklist and stick to your guns
Make a list of five hosting companies that you feel meet your needs. Then use web host provider checklist to narrow them down. Contact them directly via their site contact form. Remember there are some very good small hosting companies out there, so keep an open mind. Ask around professional technology forums about WordPress.
Good entry-level to small business hosting
For simple, entry level, or small business presence sites, I recommend either ThemeSurgeons at the entry level, or GEMServers GEM-S for small business. Webfaction plans start at around $10.00 to $20.00US per month. They provide good performance, and good support, and they don’t try and upsell you death. GEMServers hosting is designed for businesses that need extra performance that rapidly scales to your needs. Yes, it costs more. But you get the absolute best WordPress hosting available.
Disclaimer: I founded Theme Surgeons more than 5 years ago because far too many of our customers were suffering poor hosting for WordPress.
The best WordPress hosting for the Enterprise
Hosting WordPress on a large scale demands a completely different approach and type of hosting environment, and if your site needs to handle tens of thousands to millions of hits per day, don’t make the mistake of putting the lifeblood of your enterprise in the hands of a GoDaddy, or Bluehost, or a WP Engine. They might be an okay choice for a small entry level blog or low traffic site, but they are not designed to handle the type of load that a GEMServers or a Kinsta or Automattic VIP can manage.
For a high-traffic site, take a look at GEMServers ultra-high performance, enterprise delivery and storage. No other hosting company comes close. Great hosting companies create tailor made, high availability, web hosting and storage systems that can scale instantaneously and handle millions of visits per day. A host like GEMServers also provides a much higher degree of security, reliability, and concierge level support. Pricing for this type of hosting starts at around $275 per month at a minimum, and is more often between $2000 to $20,000 or more per month. GEMServers is serious hosting for serious business.
Choose the best WordPress hosting for you
Regardless of where you choose to host your WordPress site, focus the same attention to detail on selecting your WordPress hosting solution as you spent planning, designing, and building the site. And if you don’t have the time or interest in doing that, you should seriously consider hiring someone who can properly assess your needs and help you choose the best WordPress hosting for you.
If you need help in deciding where you should host your WordPress site, send us a note. We’ll be glad to help. We even perform no-cost consultations and site assessments.