Picking a WordPress hosting company is similar to picking a standard web hosting company in that you should be reviewing the following items:
- Ease of Use
Let’s take a look at each of these items as it relates to WordPress hosting in particular.
Having the cheapest host is not the goal here. What you’re looking for is value. What good is a $10/month hosting company if the site is down all the time? You might as well have no website than give customers the expectation that you do have one and then not deliver on that promise. It’s a good idea to immediately narrow the field to hosting companies that specialize in WordPress hosting only. Yes some larger well known hosting conglomerates have thrown up landing pages saying they specialize in WordPress hosting as well, but it’s not the same because it’s not their only focus. There are really only 3 reputable WordPress hosting companies including us here at Pagely®, so that’ll save you some time. You’ll find the pricing to be quite similar for each, and they may seem priced “high” relative to the bargain basement general hosting world. That’s okay, because you’re getting a lot more resources for your money. If a dedicated server costs $XXX per month to run (even a cheap one) and you’re paying $10/mo for hosting (or less), how many sites do you think you’re sharing that machine with? Quite a bit, because not only do they need to recover hardware costs, they also need to recover support costs. So if you’re on the server with 999 other sites, is it any surprise your site is down all the time?
Ease of Use
So now that we’ve narrowed the field to the 3 main companies who specialize in WordPress hosting only, you should consider the ease-of-use of each. What does their control panel look like? What kind of tasks will it let you accomplish? If you’re used to LAMP and the common WHM/cPanel setup, you may be surprised to learn that many of the companies that specialize in WordPress hosting don’t utilize them. That’s because it’s easier to provide security and ease of use via a proprietary control panel built specifically for WordPress. WHM/cPanel (or even Plesk) may let you do a lot of neat things for a non-WP site, but if you’re running WP clean and sticking to plugins/themes, you probably won’t miss it.
If you’re looking at hosts and they’re claiming “unlimited” for anything, then that’s definitely a red flag. Most hosting companies lease their machines from a third-party datacenter and contrary to popular belief do not own their own equipment or facility. This even holds true for some of the largest hosting companies out there. Because of this fact, you now know that any hosting company has real costs for storage/bandwidth and if they gave those away for free in a truly unlimited fashion they’d be out of business pretty quickly. In this business, “unlimited” is not necessarily a good thing.
Make a list of the features you feel are absolutely necessary to running your website and then see which hosts have them. Some features may seem important at first but you may not end up using them that much. So be thorough but not too picky in this aspect. After all, a terrible host with a lot of features is still a terrible host.
When talking about security, make sure whatever host you choose manages the updates to both WordPress core and plugins for you. You probably don’t want them touching your themes since they often have a lot of customization around them. The 3 main managed WordPress hosts all work this way and that’s good news. In addition, make sure you read up on their security philosophy and processes in detail so you know what you’re getting. Here at Pagely® we’ve nicknamed ours PressArmor™ so check it out sometime.
When considering a host, speed is an important consideration. The faster your site loads the higher your conversion rate, and the more Google will like you (hint: better organic positioning). The “time to first-byte” metric is overrated, so don’t give it too much weight. You can use Google’s free Page Speed tool to test your site when running a trial with a hosting company, and in addition you can checkout WebPageTest.org which provides a little more detail. Many times you can speed up your site by just reducing plugin culprits, so also checkout the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler. Since Pagely is based on Amazon’s 64-bit machines that also power internet giants like Foursquare, you can be sure your site will load fast with us.
The main advantage you’ll have with narrowing the field to hosting companies that only host WordPress is that you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing 100% of the support techs understand WordPress. No more getting on a chat with someone who has never even deployed it, and is fishing for answers in some knowledgebase on the fly. Many of the large “name brand” hosting companies will claim their techs all know WordPress, but if you’ve ever had much experience working with them, you already know that simply isn’t true.
Having a CDN is one of the most overlooked aspects of hosting. A CDN simply allows you to offload your static assets (think images etc) to a place that specializes in making sure those load quickly and are cached no matter where your user might be. This is especially critical for eCommerce companies where an additional half-second of page load time can mean losing the sale. Nobody likes shopping on a slow eCommerce site. So make sure whatever host you choose gives you the option to easily add a CDN to your site. If you value your business and page load times, you should definitely be running one. Here at Pagely we built a CDN specifically for WordPress called PressCDN, which you can easily add to your site via our control panel. It’s powered by 4 major providers including Amazon Edge, Akamai, EdgeCast, and MaxCDN.