When shopping for a company to host your WordPress website, you might be tempted to just pick the cheapest hosting provider and get started. Many WordPress hosting providers promote the cheap, less-important things like unlimited space and unlimited email boxes to get your attention, while their support, security, and stability are hidden in the fine print. But it’s the fine print that makes all the difference. A WordPress hosting comparison should be about more than cost and unlimited this or that.
Impersonal Shared Web Hosting is Cheap
We’ve talked before about the dangers of shared hosting with a large provider. You can see the trouble with mass shared hosting just by doing the math. A server that costs $500 per month to operate needs 125 customers paying $4 a month just to break even. Customer Number 126 nets them only a $4 profit for the month. So in order to make any kind of real profit, that server needs to host far more than 125 customers. And with that many sites sharing server space, problems on one site can affect all the other sites on the server, too. That kind of hosting is kind of like the city bus. It’s not stylish, it’s not comfortable, but it’s cheap. Of course, if one guy on the bus is wearing patchouli, you’ll all get off the bus smelling like patchouli.
Managed WordPress Hosting isn’t Too Expensive
All businesses should stay away from economy web hosting. Consider your hosting provider in the same way you would when hiring a professional accountant or attorney for your business. Managed WordPress Hosting is going to offer you more right from the beginning that will help you avoid repairs and maintenance down the road. But what’s important when doing a WordPress hosting comparison?
WordPress is Open Source software. This means that people from all over the world are working on it. They work to write, test, repair, and troubleshoot every release of WordPress. As these updates come out, they bring new features, security enhancements, and more to this free software. While many of the WordPress updates run automatically, some releases do not. Many of the plugins, as well as the theme used on your website, need regular updates to keep up with WordPress. Knowing that your WordPress hosting provider does this for you will give you peace of mind that your website is always in the best shape, running the most current software. Some hosts will also troubleshoot your site after updating critical plugins. It’s worth the effort to prevent down time due to a broken shopping cart or blank image slider. If you want to save money and keep up with updates yourself, make sure you have a backup.
If your web host keeps daily backups you are protected from a lot of things. Typos, angry employees, malware, buggy plugins and more can bring your site crashing down. Most of the time, restoring from the previous day’s backup will make everything alright again. Know in advance if this is an add-on service or if there are any fees associated with restoring your website. Some cheap hosting services do a single backup of your entire site. That sounds good, but you have to download a 3gb file of email and other confusing files just to restore your site. If your WordPress host is nearby, like us, you can just call us up and ask for your site to be restored. We do this for free as part of our hosting so that you can get back up and running fast.
There is a lot that goes into keeping a WordPress site secure. From the strength of every user’s password to the software on the server, you need to keep your site secure. Ask your hosting provider how they handle passwords, what kinds of monitoring they employ on the site, and how fast they are able to react to a vulnerability. Even the most obscure website is attacked hundreds of times a day by bots trying to find an open door. To go back to the city bus analogy, it only takes one person on that bus to hijack the whole thing. Make sure there are security measures in place.
This is a positive way of talking about how often your website will be down. While no web host can guarantee 100% uptime, it doesn’t hurt to do some research and see what kind of downtime hosts have had. The more useful consideration here is what happens when your website goes down. Will you be in a phone tree pressing 2 for customer service and then 8 for web hosting? A good web host will be proactive when downtime happens. It can be very reassuring to get a voicemail from your provider saying, “I wanted to let you know that your website is down right now, here is why, and here is when we expect it to be back up.”
Remember full-service gas stations? While they filled your car with gas, they would check your oil, clean the windshield, and check your tire pressure. Performance optimization is like that. Companies that know how WordPress works on their servers fine-tune the server settings, plugin settings, and other WordPress settings to make your website perform better. Google reports that faster websites lead to lower abandon rates, so features like this pay off in a short time.
Malware Scanning and Cleanup
A hacked WordPress site can serve up offensive ads to your customers or be blacklisted by Google. No matter what, it is bad news and you want it caught as fast as possible. Regular and persistent malware scans are a must. It’s important to have a plan to clean up your hacked site, too. Cleanup without a backup (see Backups above) can be a tedious and expensive project. We’ve even seen sites attacked in the middle of the cleanup process. Having a web host that will do the cleanup instead of putting it all on you can save you days or weeks of work before you are online again.
The word “Unlimited” is thrown around a lot in web hosting. Keep track of what is unlimited and what isn’t. Space is often unlimited, but you have to be hosting hours and hours of media to get over 2 or 3 gb. Domains are often marketed as unlimited, but if you only need one or 2, that doesn’t matter. Bandwidth and traffic isn’t unlimited, and the limits and punishment for going over are usually hidden in the fine print of the agreement. Many cheap web hosting companies will shut down your site if you get too much traffic in one day. That means that the very moment that your blog goes viral, they take it down and visitors will only see an error, not your website.
Search Engine Optimization is important because 81% of consumers do Google research on an item before they buy it. Being visible to Google and following best practices should be the minimum requirement of a WordPress host. Additional SEO help is usually available, but a cheap web host will not pay attention to your search engine presence without additional costs. To return to the full-service gas station analogy, cheap web hosts will let you drive away without noticing that your back tires are almost flat.
Great-looking sites perform well partly because of good content and good design. Plan out in advance how you are going to create content for your website. Work with your web designer to plan out the structure of your site. Are you going to write the words and take the pictures yourself or pay someone to do it? Make sure this part is linked into the SEO part and that there is some training included. You don’t want to be chained to your web host when it comes to updating the office hours on your website. (This is the only thing on this list that isn’t included in standard Lieberman Technologies’ WordPress hosting. We include training as part of web design, but we work with each client individually when it comes to content.)
This is one that you’ll never see in a big red SALE circle, but it saves you time and money. While WordPress software is open source and free, many of the themes and plugins available are not. The WordPress theme and plugins that run on your site may have yearly licenses in order to keep running. Instead of keeping track of when the bill is up for renewal for 5 different plugins and themes, managed WordPress hosting takes care of these. Some hosts, like us, include all these costs in your yearly bill. Depending on the license, they may be free as part of their standard WordPress hosting.
Ask Questions Before You Pick a WordPress Host
I’ll admit this list is a little self-serving because we supply it all but one thing as part of our WordPress hosting. (We thrive at providing the other one on a contractual basis.) The real point is to be able to check off everything on this list when you look for a web host. Your website is your only 24/7 know-it-all salesperson. Just like you wouldn’t hire a salesperson without an interview, you shouldn’t choose a web host that you can’t talk to. Do a WordPress hosting comparison using the above criteria, and choose the host that provides all of these things.