The popularity of the WordPress content management system primarily stems from its simplicity, user friendliness and unlimited customizability. Add to that the fact that it is open source and free to use for all purposes, and you'd almost have no reason to consider using any other CMS for your next website.
But before you introduce your WP website to the world wide web, you first have to pick the right hosting service for it from an endless number of choices that will be thrown at you left and right. This is a very critical step because the hosting service can have a major impact on your site's performance, and ultimately, its success.
The first thing you have to determine is the type of hosting you're going to use. Normally, you'd be looking at two options: shared web hosting and WordPress hosting.
This article will explain the difference and compare the pros and cons of each of these two website hosting types. You will hopefully have a clear idea about which option is right for you once you've finished reading this article. Let's get cracking!
What is Shared Web Hosting?
The term 'web hosting' normally refers to regular, shared web hosting solutions where multiple user accounts and sites share the same physical server. Each account gets allocated a certain amount of resources (CPU, RAM, disk space, etc.) that they can utilize.
Shared web hosting is what the majority of websites use. Given its affordability and simplicity, most new website owners opt for this type of hosting.
Benefits of Shared Web Hosting
Works with any CMS
You will be free to install almost any content management system (CMS) software or upload your own custom script to the server.
For example, you could have one site using WordPress, another using Drupal, and a third using the Joomla CMS all hosted in one account.
Versatile control panel
Most shared hosting services come with cPanel, which is the most feature-rich web hosting control panel on the market.
You will find all the tools you'll need to manage any kind of website inside cPanel. These include easy-to-use, web-based tools for managing domains, DNS, SSL certificates, FTP, files, databases, email, etc.
The affordability of shared hosting makes it an ideal choice for most beginners and those starting out on a tight budget.
Shared hosting is the cheapest option to go with if you are launching a new website without any idea of how it'll go. If it turns out well and starts outgrowing the capabilities of shared hosting, then you can upgrade to a more advanced hosting solution where paying a higher price would be justifiable.
Drawbacks of Shared Web Hosting
Requires more manual work
Shared web hosting doesn't normally come with any preinstalled content management system or website builder. You will have to manually install any software or script you'll need to run your website.
Some services include an automated installation tool that enables you to install a selection of popular CMS software with minimum effort, but you'd still need to manually install and configure add-ons, such as essential plugins for WordPress.
Limited server resources
Shared web hosting is cheap because many users share the same server resources and thus the cost is split between all of them. The downside is that each user account gets a small portion of each server resource (CPU, memory, disk space, I/O, bandwidth, etc.)
That's why shared hosting is only suitable for small and/or low-traffic websites that don't consume a lot of server resources.
More security threats
Shared servers usually host thousands of websites that use different software and scripts. This increases the number of possible vulnerabilities and threats that may originate from someone else's website hosted on the same server as yours.
While shared hosting companies usually have different security systems in place to protect all accounts and sites on the server, a shared environment still remains more vulnerable to various types of security threats.
What is WordPress Hosting?
A web hosting service that is specifically built and optimized for WordPress is often labeled as 'WordPress hosting'. This type of hosting is usually only restricted to the WordPress CMS and doesn't allow you to use any other CMS.
Since the majority of websites these days use WordPress, it makes sense for hosting companies to offer plans that are exclusively made and fine-tuned to meet the most common requirements of WP site owners.
There are several compelling reasons to choose WordPress hosting over shared hosting, especially if you are running a small business website. Let's explore some of the most significant pros and cons of this option.
Benefits of WordPress Hosting
You won't have to upload the WP system files to the server or go through the manual installation steps because it should come preinstalled for you. Sometimes, you get the option to initiate the automated installation process with a click of a button.
Additional useful features
Some non-default features and tools are essential for every WP site, such as caching, staging and backups. Instead of looking for third-party tools to handle these, they should be included for free with any WP hosting plan.
Since all websites on the server will only be using WordPress, this allows the host to implement custom security measures that enhance the overall security of the server and all sites it serves. Such measures can include a WP-optimized firewall, malware scanning, brute force protection, and others.
Improved performance and stability
Although specifications can massively vary from one provider to another, WP hosting plans are usually allocated higher amounts of server resources than those available with regular shared plans. This translates to better performance and faster loading speed of your website.
Skilled support team
Providers that are primarily focused on WordPress hosting usually hire support agents that are more technically experienced with this particular CMS. You should expect more thorough and helpful answers to your support requests, especially if you're paying for a premium service.
Drawbacks of WordPress Hosting
May only work with WordPress
If you purchase a WP hosting plan, you may not be able to install any other CMS or upload a custom script to the server. You should only go with this option if you are 100% certain you won't need to use any other software or custom script besides WordPress.
Limited server access and control
Many WP hosts use a custom control panel with limited access to the server and its settings. You may not be able to modify certain server configurations (e.g. the PHP version) like you could easily do with cPanel.
The advantages we discussed earlier do come at a cost. Depending on the specific details of the plan, WP hosting can be two to three times more expensive than shared hosting. Fully managed WP hosting is even more expensive. You should determine what's more important to you: the extra, time-saving features or money.
Both shared web hosting and WordPress hosting are workable options for most WP sites. Each of these two options has its own advantages and disadvantages which we highlighted above.
If you still have unanswered questions or would like to learn more about the different web hosting options for WordPress, you can find some useful articles covering this topic at SiteWays.
And finally, after you've decided on which of the two options is right for you and you're ready to choose a provider, try to stick to unbiased websites when searching for reviews and recommendations. Examples of such sites include G2 and TrustRadius, where you can find plenty of genuine reviews of different web hosting companies.