Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear
So, you’ve decided to build a website, and you’ve chosen WordPress as the software with which it’s built. Things are getting exciting! Before you can even start to consider what your content is going to be, what your site will look like, or when you’ll be able to launch everything, you’ll have to decide where your site will be hosted.
When it comes to hosting a WordPress site, there are many factors to consider. Not all hosting companies or services are the same, and the right choice will vary for different WordPress content creators. Here are seven key questions to ask yourself when selecting a host:
- Does it scale?
Right now, you may only want to start with a simple blog or a basic website for your business. However, will your host be able to provide the resources your site needs in the future if you want to add more functionality, like a store or paid course, or if your site receives viral traffic? Ensuring your hosting company has the ability to tailor their services and costs around what your site needs at any point in its growth cycle is important to consider.
- Is it secure?
Ensuring that your site stays secure requires mutual effort from both you and your hosting service. You need to make sure that your account password is secure, all software on the site (e.g. plugins, themes, and WordPress itself) is kept up-to-date, and spam is effectively and efficiently handled. Most importantly, you want to make sure you don’t install plugins or themes that have known security vulnerabilities, which could increase the chances of your site getting hacked. Your hosting service should also provide additional measures to keep their servers secure, and understanding what protections they have in place can provide peace of mind.
- Is it reliable?
Having your site go offline can be stressful and costly. Most hosting companies have a way to view their current and historical service statuses and uptime. It is always a good idea to review this to see if their services are reliable. You may also want to ask what they would do if there was an outage in one of their data centers. Going a step further, you could inquire about their infrastructure to serve your website globally. For example, a hosting company with data centers located around the world will be able to serve your site faster to more users, and even have added redundancy to help ensure uptime.
- Who will maintain the site?
A website is a constant work in progress, so the work doesn’t end once you’ve launched it. Web technology is always evolving, and your site will need to keep up with it. With WordPress, it’s important to ensure that the core software, plugins, and themes are updated on a regular basis. Will your host manage these updates, or will you handle that manually? And with any technology, updates and changes can sometimes uncover or result in new problems — so being prepared to revert the site to an earlier version is good insurance. Will your host perform backups for you and make it easy to restore your site, or will this responsibility fall on your shoulders?
- Where will you get support?
While you’re building your site, and then after you launch it, you will most likely have questions. You might need help formatting your content, or perhaps something isn’t working the way you thought it would. Where will you go to get help? Does your host provide support, or are you on your own?
- Do you want to pay in time or money?
Handling site maintenance yourself may lower your initial financial costs, but it will also require more time from you. You’ll need to decide if you want to invest the time to manage and maintain the site yourself, or if you would rather pay more for a hosting service that takes care of these things for you. There are enough hosting companies and services out there that you should be able to find the right balance of time and financial investment that works best for you.
- How easily can you change hosts?
No one wants to be trapped with a company if the service doesn’t meet their needs. With any hosting company you are considering, make sure you understand the process to export your content and move it. With WordPress, you own your content, so you can move it and use it however you want.
Once you have answered these questions for yourself, you’re ready to start looking for a new host. But with so many companies out there, this part of the journey may feel daunting. Here are some ways to distinguish between the different types of hosts:
Big Box and Do-it-yourself (DIY) are probably the most well known group of hosting providers. They include services like BlueHost, SiteGround, or GoDaddy. They often have a hosting plan specifically for a WordPress site, which usually includes installation of the software, and may also offer a migration tool to import your WordPress content. The WordPress Foundation has vetted some of these big-box hosts and has a list of recommended services on its hosting page.
As the name suggests, though, you are responsible for the site maintenance. This includes ensuring your site is up-to-date and secure, as well as keeping backups of your site in case something goes awry. Something to be wary of: These types of hosts often have attractive introductory rates, only to raise hosting costs later. Make sure you understand the actual costs so you can budget accordingly.
Boutique hosting services design their services for a more focused clientele. For example, showit.co specializes in WordPress-based sites for showcasing photographer portfolios. Elementor’s Elementor Cloud caters to sites built with their page- and theme-building tools. AnHonestHost.com prioritizes transparency and a personal touch, offering a wide range of hosting options, from shared server space to a private cloud. A boutique host is a great option when one particular service, feature, or tool is the most important to you.
If you’ve hired a developer or agency to build the site, they may offer to include hosting with the build. This can be a great service, especially if they include a maintenance package at a price you can afford. Just make sure you clearly understand what your commitment to their service is, whether you own your domain registration, whether the service includes anything extra (such as making future edits), and how to export your content if you need to.
A managed hosting service is a hybrid between big-box hosting and developer or agency hosting. Some examples include our own hosting plans at WordPress.com and the services at WPEngine. While a managed hosting service doesn’t include building or editing your site for you, it usually takes care of maintenance tasks like regular security scans, updating your plugins and themes, creating backups, tools for site performance, and providing customer support to help walk you through how to work on the site yourself. Managed hosting is a great option to take the weight of site maintenance off your shoulders, so you can focus on creating great content for your site and audience.
If you have any further questions about selecting a host, or hosting a site with WordPress.com, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].