If you want to create a WordPress site, you’re going to need some type of hosting. It’s like your car’s engine – without it, you’re not going anywhere! But when you’re staring at all those different WordPress hosting solutions, it’s tough to know exactly what you need to actually get your WordPress site up and running.
In this post, I’m going to demystify the world of WordPress hosting by explaining:
- The bare minimum that you need to host a WordPress site (spoiler – pretty much any host can host WordPress)
- What types of WordPress hosting are available (including fun acronyms like VPS)
- What managed WordPress hosting is (and whether or not you need it)
Then, I’ll recommend some quality options for hosting your WordPress site, depending on your needs, knowledge, and budget.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dig in!
The Minimum That You Need From A Good WordPress Host
The basic requirements to run a WordPress site are fairly simple. All you need is a host that offers:
- PHP 7+
- MySQL 5.6+
Don’t worry if those terms don’t mean anything to you. Pretty much every single well-known host will offer those technologies. And while you’ll see plenty of hosts advertising special “WordPress hosting”, you don’t actually need WordPress-branded hosting to run a WordPress site.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to being a little more discerning, though. While PHP and MySQL are the bare minimums, you’ll also want to look for hosts that offer:
- Free SSL certificates. This is getting more and more common. An SSL certificate lets you use HTTPS, which has all kinds of benefits for security (and even SEO).
- Easy WordPress installs. Most hosts give you a way to install WordPress with a few clicks, which is great if you’re not a techie.
- Quality support. No matter how great your host is, you’ll run into issues at some point. So make sure you pick a host that offers 24/7 support and has a good reputation.
There Are Different Types Of WordPress Hosting (But Most People Use Shared)
To add to the potential confusion of WordPress hosting, there are also several different types of WordPress hosting. Here are some of the terms that you’ll commonly see:
- Shared hosting – you “share” resources with other accounts on the same server. This lets hosts cut costs, which is why shared hosting is typically the cheapest option. Shared hosting can still offer pretty good performance as long as your host doesn’t overload a server with too many accounts.
- VPS hosting – short for “virtual private server”, this gives you your own dedicated slice of a server (rather than sharing resources). It’s a little bit more expensive, but you can often get better performance and more control over your server.
- Cloud hosting – your website is hosted “in the cloud”. It’s the newest type of hosting, and makes it easy to scale your hosting up or down as needed.
- Dedicated hosting – you get your own server all to yourself. It’s going to be expensive, but you get dedicated performance and the freedom to configure everything to your needs.
If you’re a casual user, you’ll probably want to stick to shared or cloud hosting, as these two types usually offer the best balance of ease of use, price, and performance.
Finally, there’s also one more term you should consider…
Managed WordPress Hosting Can Make Your Life Easier (For A Price)
If you find a host that meets all the above criteria, it’s a viable WordPress host. But WordPress’ popularity has also spawned an entirely new category of hosting called managed WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting is basically a concierge service that adds on lots of new services on top of the bare minimum required to host WordPress.
Because it’s something extra “on top”, you can find managed WordPress hosts for all different types of WordPress hosting. For example, some managed WordPress hosts use shared hosting, while others use cloud hosting.
Typically, managed WordPress hosts offer services like:
- Automatic WordPress updates to keep your site up to date.
- Automatic backups to keep your data safe.
- Easy WordPress install. In fact, most managed WordPress hosts will automatically install WordPress for you if you create a new site.
- WordPress-specific security rules to keep your site more secure.
- A staging site which makes it easy to safely test changes before you make them on your live website.
- Expert WordPress support if you run into issues.
You don’t need managed WordPress hosting to host WordPress, but it’s certainly a lot more convenient, especially if you’re not a technical user. It takes much of the maintenance burden off of you, which lets you focus on creating content and growing your site.
Why doesn’t everyone use managed WordPress hosting if it’s so much more convenient, then?
Well, the main reason is that it just flat out costs more. So you’re paying for more convenience, they’re not just giving it to you for free!
The Spectrum Of WordPress Hosting: From WordPress.com To DIY
Now that you know the basics of the WordPress hosting space, I can set up the spectrum of WordPress hosting.
Typically, it kind of works like this:
On one side, you have hosts that offer:
- Ease of use
- Less flexibility
- Often a higher price versus the performance it offers
And on the other side, you have hosts that:
- Require technical knowledge to use
- Give you the full flexibility to access/configure everything
- Can often be quite affordable for the same performance
An example of the former would be the WordPress.com Business plan. It’s about as simple as WordPress hosting can be. And if you want the absolute easiest way to host a WordPress website, you won’t find anything better. You’ll just pay for the privilege and lack a lot of flexibility when it comes to managing your server.
Then, on the other end, you have something like hosting WordPress yourself on a DigitalOcean server. With this method, you can get started for just $5 per month while still having great performance. You also have full access to everything about your server.
The downside? You’ll need some tech chops to pull it off.
While those two are good examples of the extremes (and they are certainly viable ways to run your WordPress site), most WordPress hosts sit somewhere in the middle. And that area – the middle – is what I’ll focus on for the rest of this post.
Below, I’ll share some of the best WordPress hosts for users of all budgets.
The Best Cheap WordPress Hosting – A Good Option For Your First Site Or Those On a Budget
If you’re just testing the waters with your first WordPress site, or if you’re on a strict budget, these two cheap WordPress hosts will give you everything that you need to successfully run a WordPress site without breaking the bank.
We also like these two hosts because both of them make things super easy for beginners, which is why they both show up on the official WordPress.org list of recommended hosts.
SiteGround is a popular WordPress host with plans starting at just $3.95 per month for your first billing cycle.
What’s nice about SiteGround is that, despite the budget-friendly price, they still manage to add in some managed WordPress features.
For example, all of SiteGround’s WordPress plans come with automatic WordPress software updates. And they also have a great site setup tool that makes it easy to install WordPress.
Beyond that, you also get access to important technologies, including:
- PHP 7.2+
- SSD storage
- Free SSL certificate
And depending on which pricing tier you go with, you can also tack on even more managed features, including:
- Staging sites
- Server-level caching
SiteGround’s plans start at $3.95 per month, though the $5.95 per month GrowBig plan offers the best value for most users:
Bluehost is another popular entry-level WordPress host with plans starting at just $2.95 per month for your first billing cycle.
Like SiteGround, Bluehost offers a website setup wizard that does a great job of helping you get set up with a working WordPress site. And the Bluehost dashboard is also built to be beginner-friendly, which makes it a solid option for newbies.
Beyond the beginner-friendliness, you get other helpful features like:
- Automatic updates for the core WordPress software
- A free SSL certificate to enable HTTPS
- PHP 7
You also get a free domain name with Bluehost, which is something that SiteGround doesn’t offer.
Bluehost also offers a different “Optimized Hosting for WordPress” service which starts at $19.99 per month.
The Best Mid-Tier WordPress Hosting – Managed WordPress Hosting For ~$20 Per Month
The hosts in this section are a good option if you’re starting to outgrow your budget WordPress hosting, but aren’t quite ready to jump up to some of the more expensive options that you’ll see in the next section.
While a lot of Flywheel’s marketing material positions it as a host for WordPress freelancers and agencies, anyone can use and benefit from Flywheel’s services.
In fact, Flywheel is one of the cheapest ways to get access to full managed WordPress hosting, with its single-site entry-level tier starting at just $14 per month (though that tier does not get a staging site).
That plan still includes plenty of helpful managed features, like:
- Daily backups
- WordPress-specific security rules
- Free SSL certificates
- Modern technologies, including PHP 7
- A beautiful management dashboard
And if you are a creative freelancer or agency, you can also benefit from tons of helpful features that make it easy to manage client sites and billing.
Cloudways is something called a “managed cloud hosting platform”. Basically, they give you beginner-friendly access to popular cloud hosting services.
It’s the same core technology as the “host WordPress yourself with DigitalOcean” method that I shared earlier, but made a lot more beginner-friendly.
Instead of needing to manage your cloud server by yourself, Cloudways does the heavy lifting for you and gives you an easy-to-use dashboard area.
The benefits are that you can:
- Easily install WordPress with just a few clicks
- “Scale” your hosting as needed (like if your site suddenly starts getting more traffic
- Create staging sites
- Run automatic backups
- Install an SSL certificate with one click
Cloudways’ plans start at just $10 per month for the cheapest DigitalOcean server (that droplet would cost you $5 per month if you managed it yourself – so you’re essentially paying Cloudways $5 per month for the convenience).
Media Temple is a long-standing web host that offers budget-friendly managed WordPress hosting plans starting at just $20 per month.
The value on that plan is great because it supports 2 sites, whereas most other managed WordPress hosts only support one site on their entry-level plan.
As you’d expect, you also get:
- Automatic core WordPress updates
- Automatic daily backups
- Easy site staging environments
And Media Temple also offers a unique WP Easy Mode feature that helps you set up a great-looking WordPress site.
The Best Premium Managed WordPress Hosts – If You Need Top-Notch Performance And Are Willing To Pay For It
If you want the best features and performance (and are willing to pay for it), these three hosts will give you lightning fast page load times and tons of bonus features. They also make a great option for a WooCommerce store.
You should expect to pay $30 per month at a minimum, though.
Kinsta is a performance-focused managed WordPress host built on the premium tier of the Google Cloud Platform, which is the same infrastructure that Google uses to power its own products.
To help you manage your WordPress site, Kinsta sets you up with a great-looking, beginner-friendly dashboard. And you also get tons of managed WordPress features to make your life easier including:
- Automatic daily backups
- Automatic updates
- Easy staging sites
- WordPress-security rules, including helpful features like automatic limiting of failed login attempts
- A free SSL certificate
Kinsta’s plans start at $30 per month:
WP Engine is one of the oldest, and largest, names in managed WordPress hosting. This is no mom and pop operation – in early 2018, they raised $250 million in funding, which gives them plenty of cash to invest into offering a great experience.
As a managed WordPress host, you get those same nice concierge services, like staging sites and automatic updates.
Other helpful features include:
- Latest technologies, including PHP 7.2+
- Free CDN
- Free SSL certificate
- 24/7 live chat support
Additionally, WP Engine recently added another very valuable benefit. As part of putting that $250 million in funding to good use, WP Engine acquired StudioPress, the company behind a WordPress theme framework called Genesis and 35+ premium themes.
The upshot is that all WP Engine customers now get free access to every single Genesis theme.
WP Engine’s plans start at $35 per month:
Liquid Web is a well-regarded enterprise-level host that recently launched their own managed WordPress hosting plans at the end of 2017.
While Liquid Web is relatively new to the managed WordPress hosting industry, they have a great reputation for performance on their other hosting plans.
The managed WordPress plans don’t disappoint – you get:
- Automatic daily backups
- Automatic WordPress updates
- Free automatic SSL certificates
- Easy staging sites
- Full server access, and developer tools like WP-CLI, SSH, and Git
Liquid Web acquired the popular WordPress brand, iThemes, in early 2018. Since that acquisition, they’ve built some of iThemes’ products into their managed WordPress offerings, so customers also get access to iThemes Sync as part of the package.
Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting plans start at $99 per month. While that is pricier than the other options, it does support 10 sites, while WP Engine and Kinsta’s entry-level plans only support a single site.
Get Started With WordPress Hosting Today
If you’re just getting started with WordPress, I’d recommend launching your first site with SiteGround or Bluehost. Both of them do a great job making it easy to launch and manage a WordPress site without breaking the bank.
The only easier option would be the WordPress.com Business plan. But that’s quite a bit pricier and also comes with some big limits on flexibility.
As your site grows, you can move “up” the tiers as needed to handle more traffic and get better performance and support.
And as your knowledge grows, you can always keep the idea of hosting WordPress yourself in your back pocket. While this approach definitely requires a whole new level of knowledge, you can get some surprisingly good performance out of just the $5 per month DigitalOcean plan. And it’s also a great way to teach yourself new skills!
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