Every project I work on requires hosting…no brainer, huh? But selecting the appropriate host for a given project and client is more complicated that you’d think. Every client has a different set of requirements for their WordPress project. Understanding the requirements is part of our consulting process for any project we work on in order to provide the best WordPress hosting recommendations. There would be nothing worse than building a project and handing it to a client only to see it fail due to hosting requirements not being met. And I see it just as bad to hand off a simple WordPress site to a client and have them overpay for a hosting solution that is intended for much larger demands. That can cost thousands of dollars over just a couple years!
Here are some of the factors I consider when consulting with clients on hosting requirements:
Resource Demand: There are a lot of things that contribute to server resource demand, but primarily I am interested in site traffic and complex processes on the site. There are solutions to optimize for both of these demands, but hosting a website that typically received 1000 hits per month vs. 100,000 hits is significantly different.
Internal Support: Who is the primary owner of the account in the client’s organization? How much savvy do they possess for navigating the demands of different hosting platforms? I don’t like to hand a custom configured VPS hosting setup to a client who’s primary role is sales support for a company. Some hosting solutions might cost a bit more but provided more managed services to reduce the load in internal support staff.
Hosting Support: Does the host offer easy access to phone support? What hours? Are the level 1 support folks competent or reading a script? Are level 2 and 3 support folks accessible by phone? Do they treat you like an idiot every time you call? These are the concerns I have regarding different hosting company support teams. Check it out before you’re stuck waiting for you ticket to be answered with 48-72 hours when your website is down.
Additional Tools: What does the host bring to the table beyond the typical cPanel setup? Will they save money from another service or product that might need to be purchased later? Check if they include SSL certificates, CDN support, firewalls, automated updates, and how their back systems work. Do the math ahead of time to make an educated decision.
Do They Champion WordPress?: Notice I didn’t say, do they support WordPress… Working with a host that champions WordPress through additional products, support of WordPress events, and encouragement toward WordPress best practices will move you toward a higher quality experience for your site development over time.
As I discern the needs of my clients I typically end up recommending one of three primary providers I work with. Here are my best WordPress hosting recommendations:
I heard about WPEngine through WordCamp years ago and have continued to be impressed in all of my interactions with them. I wish all of my clients were on WPEngine. Why? Performance, added tools for backup and caching, excellent support, staging site (YES!), and scalability. I’ll be honest, I don’t do command line programming and don’t want to have anything to do with server maintenance. I don’t think my clients do either, so allowing WPEngine to be the experts costs a bit more, but saves a ton of hassle. Be sure to find their coupon at the bottom of this post. UPDATE: WpEngine is offering free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates now as well, which makes them very attractive for any critical sites I work with.
Say what you want about shared hosting, it has served me and my clients well for years. For sites with less that 1-5k visits per month, I think a shared host is just fine. This is usually driven by a concern for protecting the bottom line of small businesses as well. Bluehost has plenty of extra products and services to boost their WordPress support as well, but I generally advise clients to keep it simple and enjoy the strength of Bluehost: cheap WordPress hosting with great state-side support.
After 9 years with Bluehost and referring countless clients their way, I regret that I cannot recommend their services in good faith any longer. They made major changes to their support practices that resulted in a major decease in access to trained support staff and delayed response times. I have lodged multiple complaints and never received a single response except ‘I’m Sorry’ through their Facebook support.
UPDATE May 2017
After much research, my preferred option for my own needs will be SiteGround. Their support and systems are consistently rated the highest by unbiased measurements. I still recommend GoDaddy for client who have simpler needs or want to keep their hosting and existing domain provider the same.
I am now hosting this site on GoDaddy due to the need for an easier platform to connect my clients to solid hosting with excellent customer service. I used to hate dealing with GoDaddy, but they have been killing it with their WordPress product and improved support. Their resource levels are still iffy at times, but they are a perfect fit for more of my small business clients.
My preferred domain registration company is Namecheap.com. I prefer them for competitive pricing, great customer service, excellent UI, and they also offer additional services like hosting. This is a re-seller of Enom products, but I still think they are doing a great job. They also offer a cheaper intro price than Bluehost for basic hosting needs. I just wouldn’t use any advanced page builder plugins on their platform.
Photo by Grover_Net