How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting

How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting

Google something along the lines of “Best WordPress Hosting” and you’ll find that most of the results link to blogs with affiliate content and nothing but a price comparison between hosting companies.

But not here. We’ll go over (1) the different types of hosting available on the market, (2) what to look for in a WordPress hosting company, and (3) our list of the top hosting options in each category; all without any affiliate links and 100% unbiased.

Let’s dive in.

Different Types of Hosting

The first thing you see when shopping on a site like GoDaddy are options like Shared Hosting, Managed WordPress Hosting, and Virtual Private Servers. But what exactly do these mean? And which one do you need?

1. Dedicated Servers

Most hosting companies own and operate large data centers and when you choose to rent a dedicated server, you’re literally renting a computer for your website only. But that’s all you get. You’ll be responsible for installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting the server and its operating system, which reaches far beyond the scope of WordPress. In this case, the company provides only hardware management. Remember that term, as it’ll be useful in distinguishing the fundamental differences between each hosting product.

This option is generally not suitable for the average WordPress user, as the product is designed for those that require an unusually high amount of computational power; we’re talking millions of visitors per month.


  • A dedicated server for your website (no “bad neighbor” problems)
  • Best and fastest website performance
  • Full control


  • Cost ($100+ per month)
  • No support; requires a lot of knowledge beyond that of WordPress
  • Be prepared for rare hardware failures

2. Virtual Private Servers / Cloud Servers

Virtual private servers and cloud servers are, in the simplest explanation, like dedicated servers. But instead of renting an actual computer, you’re renting the same amount of resources you would get from a single computer but from a pool of computers/servers.

The popularity of cloud servers have significantly increased over the past decade due to its lower cost and the fact that users aren’t prone to downtime due to hardware failures. If one server in the pool fails, there are numerous others keeping your website up and running.

Also, the term virtual private servers and cloud servers are interchangeable but some providers may distinguish the two based on the level of support offered. Virtual private servers and cloud servers, like dedicated servers, leave everything up to you.

However, there’s been an increase in popularity in bundling up server resources and support in one product, which could potentially save you a lot of time and headaches. You’ll typically see these marketed as Fully Managed VPS or Managed VPS. In this case, you’re paying for hardware and operating system management. Once again, make sure you remember that term, as it’ll help you better understand the other products that may be more relevant to you later in this post.


  • Large amount of resources available for your website
  • Full control
  • No need to worry about hardware failures
  • Cheaper than dedicated servers


  • Although cheaper than dedicated servers, still cost prohibitive to most due to the large amount of time and money that will have to be spent on server-side management
  • Resources shared among others
  • Still requires a lot of knowledge beyond that of WordPress

3. Shared Hosting

This product is one that everyone has seen or heard of. That’s because it’s the most popular hosting option due to it’s cost. You can find some hosting companies offering promotional rates as low as $1 per month like 1&1 Hosting. But once you understand how shared hosting works, you might think twice about jumping on an offer like that.

How does shared hosting work? Let’s say it costs a hosting company $500 per month to run a server. If you decide to rent the entire server, you’ll have to pay the company over $500 per month for them to break even. That’s not a recurring cost that most businesses can take on. So in order to offer a monthly hosting plan for, say, $5 per month, the hosting company would have to put at least 100 users on the same server to break even. In other words, you’re sharing the same resources with 99 other websites.

You can see how this could negatively impact your website’s performance if one or several other users are consuming most of the server resources at any given point.

But the biggest concern with shared hosting plans are security-related. Depending on the host and the server’s security configuration, there will be times when another website on the shared server will be compromised and during the attack, affect other websites on the same server. This is why we always recommend that you regularly back up your entire website, because when it comes to security, there are a lot of factors that you won’t be able to control, making it a matter of when your website will be hacked, not when.

And given that you’re sharing the same resource with probably hundreds if not thousands of others, the host will configure the server in a way they deem fit for all users. This means you won’t have any control at the server level. This might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your needs. Most will find it a good thing because you won’t have to worry about any system administration.

By the way, this is another type of service/product where you pay for hardware and operating system management.


  • Super low cost (starts as low as $1 per month)
  • No need to worry about system administration


  • No control at the server level
  • Other users on the shared server could affect your performance

4. WordPress Managed Hosting

This is a product that has really become popular since the widespread adoption of WordPress. WordPress Managed Hosting is shared hosting. But instead of letting you install any application you want and run scripts, you can only use WordPress on the server.

This sounds very restrictive at first but there’s a reason why WordPress Managed Hosting has become so popular over the years.

Remember all those mentions about hardware management and operating system management? When you pay for a hosting plan that includes only hardware management, you’re effectively paying the hosting company to manage the hardware components for your server as well as providing the server resources for you to use.

When you pay for hardware and operating system management, you’re paying the hosting company to manage not only the hardware, but also the operating system for the server.

Now when you are on WordPress Managed Hosting, you’re paying not only for hardware and operating system management, but also application-level management, in this case WordPress. This means they manage the WordPress application for you as well.

The extent of the support, however, varies widely among the companies but can include things like core updates, plugin updates, backups, and access to WordPress-specific support staff. If you decide to go with the WordPress Managed Hosting route, you’ll have to do a lot of research and comparison to make sure you’re actually getting the support you think you’re getting.

Because when it comes to maintaining a WordPress installation, there is a long list of things that must be managed and performed.

As an example, keeping regular backups is one of the things that must be done because it’s so easy to break a WordPress website or have it compromised by hackers. And nothing fixes all of those problems as quickly as a working backup. However, although most hosting companies promise to back up your WordPress website, some might deliver the back up or restore your site in a couple of days. Can you afford to have your website down for days at a time while customers are trying to reach you?

Other hosting companies may also say they back up your site but they won’t include the text or images in the database. This means that when you go for the restore, none of the content you worked on will be included, rendering the backup pretty much useless.

Another example of something that could go wrong is plugin incompatibility. Most WordPress Managed Hosting plans will proactively update your plugins for you. But what if the moment one of your plugins are updated, it breaks your site? Don’t expect your host to step in and help you. You’ll be on your own at that point.

This is why Zen WP has become so popular. Zen WP provides comprehensive support plans for WordPress websites. This means if things like plugins break your site, a developer will fix it immediately, getting your site back up in no time.


  • Low cost (you can find options as low as $5 per month)
  • Servers are optimized for WordPress
  • WordPress-specific support included


  • Still shared hosting
  • Support is limited. Make sure you do the research

5. Other Unique Options

In 2017, we have seen some hosting companies with unique offerings really take off such as Silverlake Hosting and Cloudways, both very unique in their own ways.

For example, Silverlake focuses on WordPress hosting on the cloud and is very much a Managed WordPress Hosting option. What separates them from the others is that they provide full domain, hosting, and WordPress support, allowing you the time to put all your focus on your WordPress site instead of solving technical problems. Their support is legendary according their users.

What to Look for in a WordPress Hosting Company

1. Uptime

Site or server uptime is probably the most important thing to consider when looking for a WordPress hosting company. Because what good is your website if it’s constantly down?

You’ll see many hosting companies advertise their hosting plans by saying that 99.9% uptime is guaranteed. That’s the industry standard so there’s no need to make a comparison between companies based on those numbers.

However, you do want to check public reviews of companies you’re considering. There are a lot of hosting companies that are notorious for chronic downtime and you want to be sure to stay away from them.

2. Site Speed

Google has explicitly stated numerous times that site speed will be a major factor in SEO. Why? Because slower websites have higher drop off rates and are a bad experience for users overall.

Once again, it’s not just about SEO. It has been proven time and time again that slower loading landing pages have a direct correlation with higher bounce rates. In other words, the slower your website is, the more customers you will lose.

Make sure the hosting company you use doesn’t have a reputation of overloading their shared servers such that your website speed will be below the industry average. You can check the speed of your website using our favorite tool from Pingdom.

3. User Interface and Features

Going back to our example of relying on hosting companies’ backups, if you need to restore your site through a backup and your host actually has a full backup of your site, what’s the process for restoring your site? Is everything done online? If so, how easy is it?

Some hosting companies have a great user interface that allow for one-click backup restores while others make you create a support ticket that might take days to get answered.

Other things to keep an eye out for are the access to your WordPress database, cPanel, and more.

Best WordPress Hosting

We’ve split this up into the four categories that were given at the beginning of this article based on the three important features of a WordPress hosting plan. Oh yea, and as promised, no affiliate links. These are our genuine opinions.

Best Dedicated Servers: Dreamhost

This isn’t just our preferred hosting company for dedicated servers. Dreamhost is our favorite hosting company all around, and for a good reason. These guys are focused on two things: uptime and speed. And their reputation in the industry has been built on that for the past decade.

Most of their plans are also feature-rich and support is as good as it gets in the industry.

One of the ancillary services that Zen WP provides is web development and design and generally, we host the websites we develop on our own managed cloud servers. But in the rare instance any of our clients want to maintain control of their own hosting account through a third-party dedicated server, we’ve always recommended Dreamhost and nobody else.

Best Virtual Private Servers / Cloud Servers: Amazon Web Services, Linode, Digital Ocean, and Google Cloud

This is a difficult category in which we couldn’t only choose one. We would recommend any four of these companies to everyone but the best option for you will really depend on your needs; needs that stretch far beyond the scope of WordPress.

I will say, however, that Zen WP uses Google Cloud to host all of the websites we develop in addition to the websites that users on our support or maintenance plans decide to migrate over to us.

Best Shared Hosting: Dreamhost, InMotion Hosting, Media Temple, SiteGround

All four hosting companies are the best options when it comes to uptime and speed. Let the user reviews online speak for themselves. We’ve also had direct experience with all three in addition to countless others.

I also want to mention that the first three are above-market when it comes to price, meaning you’ll pay a lot more for their shared hosting plans than you would with others. But again, you get what you pay for.

However, if you are on a budget, I would highly recommend SiteGround. The company has made quite a name for themselves over the past several years for the incredible amount of value they provide over competitors in the same price point.

After years of using all four hosting companies, my only wish to this day is to see the user friendly interface that GoDaddy offers on at least one of these hosting companies’ shared hosting plans. When that time comes, I think we will be able to narrow down our choice of the best shared hosting plan to only one provider.

Best WordPress Managed Hosting: WPEngine and Flywheel

While most hosting companies’ definition of WordPress Managed Hosting is providing plugin updates and site backups, WPEngine and Flywheel are laser-focused on WordPress. This means servers that are optimized for WordPress with caching, and features that are relevant and useful to only WordPress users like staging sites and the ability to push and pull from your sandbox with one click, all without any additional plugins.

But as with the shared hosting category, you get what you pay for. WPEngine and Flywheel are considerably more expensive than their counterparts but for this good reason.

Although these features make WPEngine and Flywheel our top choices for WordPress Managed Hosting, our only reservation with both companies is that neither of them provide complete WordPress management at the basic level. In fact, no major hosting company in the industry provides complete WordPress management and maintenance which entails:

  • WordPress core and plugin updates
  • Uptime monitoring
  • Regular site backups
  • Security
  • Immediate support for plugin conflicts
  • Immediate support for WordPress problems
  • 24/7 developer support

This is where a support service like Zen WP or hiring a freelance developer to manage your website might help fill in the gaps.

Best Boutique Hosting: Silverlake Hosting

Silverlake’s target market is comprised of those new to WordPress and those that do not have the technical know-how to manage a website (or those that do not want to learn). As a result, they make it very easy for their users to run a website, essentially managing everything in the back-end for them.

On our list of what to look for in a WordPress host, Silverlake excels in all three areas. They host your website in the cloud, giving you the best uptime and speed the industry offers. In addition, many of their plans include Cloudflare’s business plan, which translates into blazing speeds. And in the event that you choose a lower tier plan that does not include Cloudflare Business, they will integrate Cloudflare’s Free plan for you.

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