If you’re using WordPress for a website, you need to have what’s called a web host. A web host is a company that supplies the necessary Web server space, file storage, and Internet bandwidth so people can actually get to your WordPress website. If you’re using WordPress.com, you’ve got a web host, and that’s WordPress.com, and it’s free. But if you are self hosting WordPress – for a number of reasons, such as needing plug-ins for WordPress.com doesn’t support, or you want to use a theme or design that WordPress.com doesn’t support – you need a web host.
A web host is different from your domain registrar. A domain registrar is the company do you pay to register your actual domain, such as markratledge.com. The company you get Web hosting from can be the domain registrar, but doesn’t have to be. Almost every web hosting company out there offers domain services, while some domain registrar services don’t get into web hosting.
So web hosting is just that: you are hosting your domain registration. And when you get a web host, you go to your domain registrar and point the name servers at that web host. And that’s how your domain name becomes a real website accessible to the public with web hosting.
There are many, many web hosts out there, and some are better than others. You can read reviews and ask your friends, but you can be overwhelmed with the number of choices. What you are looking for in web hosting is security, reliability, business experience and cost.
Security is very important. Some WordPress security you need to take care of yourself, as in making sure your WordPress site is updated regularly, not sharing your passwords, and other common sense security. But much website security comes from the web hosting company itself, because they are actually running the Web server hardware and software, so you need to find a web hosting company that has a good reputation for security. Almost every web host out there gets hacked at some point, but some hosts are much better than others. Take a look at Web hosting reviews for notes on security; you’ll find that some web hosts have a lot fewer problems than others.
Reliability is also important. You want a web host that is up 99% of the time. This is much less of an issue now than back in the Bad Old Days™. Way back in the early days of the internet, web hosting was more of a science than it is now. These days, any good, national web host is going to be up 99% of the time, outside of big failures that impact everyone.
You need to consider business experience in the sense of how long the web host is been in business. There are some good web hosts out there that just started up last year, but for me, web hosts need to have a good track record. In some cases I might go with a web host that has just started up, but it would be more of a gut feeling, and I doubt I would recommend the host to anybody else until I knew they were reliable. I have known some small, local web hosts, but without exception, their service got flaky and they were eventually bought out or went out of business. It’s almost always a good idea to go with a big company for web hosting rather than a small, local company. Big companies have server space and bandwidth to make your site reliable and fast. A small local company may have personalized service, but they not may not be able to stay up 24/7/365 days. I like to support local businesses in Montana, but unfortunately, web hosting is one of those businesses where you’re better off with a national company.
The last important consideration is cost. Web hosting is dirt cheap anymore, so this is really the last consideration. But on the other hand, don’t go with the web host that’s only going to charge you two were three dollars a month. That’s just way too cheap, and I doubt they will be reliable, secure or helpful when problems arise. It’s simple economics; they have to make enough to be able to pay for bandwidth and for employees. On the other hand, you really don’t need to pay 15 or $20 a month for good hosting. Right around $6 to $10 a month is a good benchmark for what to pay.
Now, who do I recommend for web hosting? I don’t recommend GoDaddy. Sorry, but they’re just not a good web host. GoDaddy is constantly hacked, from my experience from working on the WordPress.org forums. You can do much better than GoDaddy. Now, GoDaddy is cheap for domain registrations, and many people I know use them for domain registrations and not hosting.
I used to recommend Media Temple, but not anymore. Over the last year I dealt with some of their Grid Servers and VPS’s, and their speed and reliability were low. And then last fall I read that GoDaddy bought Media Temple, and that won’t be good for their VPS service. See GoDaddy Buys Media Temple To Build Up Its Business With Web Professionals | TechCrunch
So, who do I really recommend? I’ve always recommended Bluehost. Granted, I’ve had a few problems with them over the years, but nothing that would chase me away. Most of their online tech support people are very helpful, although I run across one or two that are not over the years. Once I had a customer get an account with Bluehost that turned out to be inordinately slow, and it took a day or two, but we were able to get their account moved to another server and after that, everything was okay. Bluehost tends to be pretty secure, too. And if you pay for two years in advance, you can get web hosting for six dollars a month. Bluehost uses the very popular Cpanel for a control panel, so setting up your website, e-mail services, domain services and others is very easy. Blue hose also acts as a domain registrar, so you can register your domain and keep everything in one place.
If your site grows and your traffic gets heavy, you can upgrade to one of Bluehost’s Pro servers, which can handle tens of thousands of hits a day. Bluehost has also started a line of dedicated servers, but I’ve never used them.
One other web host I can recommend is WP Engine. They are more of a managed WordPress hosting service rather than a general web host service. At WP engine, you can start your own WordPress site or import from a current WordPress site into their dedicated hosting system. You get your own control panel for WP engine, and from there you can add WordPress sites, clone a site for testing, and rollback the site to a previous version if you have problems.
WP engine restricts a few plug-ins, and you can’t do anything in .htaccess files in terms of redirects and other mod_rewrite rules. But if you need a good turnkey managed hosting system for WordPress, WP engine is a good way to go. They have very fast servers, with their own caching set up, and they are very secure. Their tech support is helpful and fast. Check out WordPress Hosting, Perfected. WP Engine®.
Another choice for webhosting is Amazon Web services (AWS). If you use Amazon, you have to be very technically adept. You’re going to need to know how to set up a Linux server, configure DNS, and more. But, for high-traffic site, and for server you have a lot of control over it, Amazon Web services may be the way to go. You’ll need to find one of many tutorials out there on the web to learn how to set up WordPress on Linux instance at Amazon Web services. I’ve done it before, and it was interesting, and I even thought more about using Amazon for other websites. See Amazon Web Services, Cloud Computing: Compute, Storage, Database. Amazon is especially good if you need to run sites with complex database back ends, need very high reliability and redundancy coordinate with a lot of other IT people for the site.
Now, if you’re running a huge and busy site, like the LA Times, or Time Magazine, you need serious and secure hosting. Take a look at VIP Cloud Hosting from WordPress.com. They start at $5000 a month, so it ain’t cheap. But I’m sure it’s worth it. But I’m sure if you’re running a site that requires such hosting, you’re probably not here, reading this post, looking for recommendations for web hosting service.