What Qualities to Look for in a WordPress Host?

I’m sitting in the back of the room at the Arizona WordPress Group, which is a free interest and support group in Phoenix to share insights and tips on using WordPress. Well, instead of being the peanut gallery, I’ll share my recommendations on the qualities to look for when selecting a web host for supporting WordPress. 

WordPress is the content management platform of choice because it’s total cost of ownership, flexibility, amazing community and rapid deployment. A long, long time ago, it was a time-consuming process to setup and configure WordPress because it required users to know their file manager, permissions, MySQL and other technical details. Well, it’s not 1999 anymore and web hosting services have matured a lot to make hosting WordPress-based websites easy, quick and painless.

I’ve used many web hosts, but these days many offer similar features and capabilities. No matter who you look for, consider applying this four-factor litmus test to them:

  1. Uptime & Security — Does the host have guarantees for uptime? Do they pride themselves on “five-nines” (99.999%) of uptime? If so, that’s a great! Do a search on Twitter to see how often people complain about downtime, slowness or if their site has been compromised. Because it’s real-time and random, you can get a good pulse-check on what people think. Does the web host offer options to maintain good security practices? Has the web host been compromised or was targeted by a DDoS attack recently? If they have been plagued by issues frequently, it is a safe bet you may feel the pain from them later.
  2. Performance (Shared v. Dedicated) — Shared hosting is the cheapest type of hosting for WordPress available. For small projects, it should be just fine for your needs, but for larger projects you want a dedicated environment to ensure you are isolated from other users for performance and uptime. Dedicated hosting costs a bit more, but if you use your site to generate income, it makes sense to make a reasonable investment into running your website.
  3. Customer Support — Customer support varies widely across many different web hosts so do your research into how fast they respond, how they handle disputes and how engaged they are with the customer community. Twitter again is a great way to see how responsive they are. Start by asking them a simple question and see how quick and in-depth they respond. You’d be surprised by the results.
  4. Peer-to-Peer Support — This is also important … ask your friends, even technical friends and ask them what they think of that company. Those who create and manage WordPress based sites have usually an informed experience. Ask them specifically why or why they don’t recommend a hosting provider. Having an informed perspective will help you have the right expectations.

These four factors can be applied to many web hosts and even managed hosting providers. Not every host is created equal and you can’t only compare prices. Generally speaking, stay away from hosts that don’t provide phone numbers, email addresses, or if they are tricky about their pricing models.

But, Joe, what web host do you recommend for WordPress? 

For smaller projects, I recommend Dreamhost (use promo code “joemanna” to save $50). They are quite affordable, very easy to work with and provide friendly web-based support. For business projects or “mission-critical” WordPress sites (in other words, you’d be angry if it went down or was slow), then I strongly recommend WP Engine. They cost a bit more, but their support is flawless, performance is top-notch and they have tools that help make backup and restoration easy to manage.

If you sign up through these links, I will probably receive a small commission. If you don’t want to use my promo code or click the link, that’s okay, too. I hope my advice helped you in your search. 

Photo Credit: thatcanadiangirl