How to choose the right type of hosting for WordPress
When starting a website with WordPress, many beginners have little idea of what web hosting is or the effect that choosing the wrong type of hosting service can have on your website. In this article, we’ll discuss the main types of web hosting available so that you can make an informed choice about which is best for you.
What are web hosts?
In order for your website to be on the internet, it has to be stored on a web server; a powerful computer with software that serves your web pages to users around the world who have requested to see them. A web host is a company that provides the servers on which you store your WordPress software and all your website data. They also provide a wider range of services to help you manage your website, keep it safe and enhance its performance.
Forget price – at least for the moment
When it comes to choosing a web hosting package, one of the biggest mistakes many WordPress users make is to think of it as an overhead that should be got at the cheapest available price. It isn’t. You should look at web hosting as an investment in your online business infrastructure that can have a real effect on your profitability.
Your first priority should be to look at the features of each type of hosting and assess which of these is most appropriate for your business’ needs. It is also advisable to take a long-term perspective. What do you need now? What might you need two or three years down the line? Only when you know what you need should you consider the pricing.
Types of Hosting
There are four main types of WordPress hosting available: shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting. Here we’ll give you an understanding of each.
The best way to understand shared hosting is to think of an office block where each office has been leased to a separate business: you have your own space but have to share all the resources with the other companies. With shared hosting, your website leases out part of server whilst the rest is used to house other websites. It is by far the most popular hosting option because sharing the CPU (processors), memory and disk space makes it less expensive.
Shared hosting works perfectly well for the vast majority of the world’s WordPress websites; it provides adequate speed, storage, bandwidth and reliability for them to function without problems. However, for the server’s resources to be shared fairly, web hosts do need to put limits on some features. As a result, there may be limitations on storage space or the number of files you can upload, which can be a problem for very large e-commerce sites with lots of product images – especially as WordPress makes multiple copies of each image which you upload. There can also be a limit to the number of websites, databases (you’ll need one for every WordPress site) and email accounts you can create. Some hosts may restrict your bandwidth, too, in a similar way that broadband companies do with their fair use policies, which could limit the number of visitors who can access your website at any one time.
The usage requirements for most websites will be well within the limits set by web hosts and this makes shared hosting ideal for small to medium sized websites that don’t require processor heavy software or don’t have exceptionally large amounts of traffic. However, if you think your business will outgrow shared hosting, you will need to consider the other options available.
If shared hosting is too limited for your needs, the next step up is VPS hosting. VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. Web hosts create a VPS by partitioning a physical server is into several smaller virtual servers. The difference between VPS and shared hosting is that each virtual server is completely independent of the others on the physical server. As a result, your WordPress website will have a guaranteed CPU, memory and disk space allocation which won’t be affected by other websites.
The other advantage to VPS hosting, is that it offers the freedom to host unlimited domains, install custom applications and software and make changes to the server settings. This is usually not allowed on shared hosting because these changes could affect all the other customers sharing the server.
Being able to make changes to the server settings can be important to some WordPress users, especially if you want to import large amounts of data, such as if you run an online shop and need to update your wholesaler’s stock details using cron-jobs. Some hosts put limits on shared servers which can cause these automated processes to time out, resulting in inaccurate prices or unavailable products being for sale on your store. This won’t happen with VPS hosting.
Virtual Personal Server hosting is ideal for SME’s and bloggers with high-traffic websites; small to medium e-commerce sites; small membership sites and school virtual learning networks. It’s also useful for companies that run more than one website or those with lots of employees and need large numbers of email addresses and user accounts.
With this form of hosting, the use of the entire physical server is dedicated to your business. The capacity of the resources available from a dedicated server gives you the potential to host enormous, high-traffic websites, including those which need processor hungry apps in order to run. Dedicated hosting is the best choice for large e-commerce businesses that have thousands of visitors simultaneously searching your database for products. It will allow you to store large quantities of data and have the processing power to cope with significant volumes of queries.
A dedicated server allows total control over the server settings and lets you choose the most appropriate operating system and software. Importantly, as all the resources on the server are dedicated to you, it makes hosting far more reliable even when you are exceptionally busy.
Cloud hosting is where your website and the resources needed to run it are stored across a cluster of different servers. This gives it a number of significant advantages over a dedicated server. Firstly, if a dedicated server goes down, it will take time to restore your website onto another server and this will result in downtime when your site is offline. With cloud hosting, if one server goes down, it doesn’t matter as the others in the network are still running; as a result, there is no downtime.
The second major advantage is its scalability. With several servers working for you at one time, should your website be exceptionally busy, you can utilise the power of all those servers to boost memory, processing and bandwidth. If your business grows, you can scale up on a permanent basis or if something goes viral and you need short term capacity to keep up with demand, cloud hosting could be the choice for you.
One of the main advantages of WordPress is that it is easy for a non-IT specialist to use. As a content management system (CMS), it allows businesses to focus more on the front end of the website and develop the content for their visitors. With this in mind, it is best to know that there are some specialised IT skills needed if you want to manage your own server. This doesn’t apply to shared hosting, but it does apply to VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting. If you need these types of hosting and terms like PHP, MySQL and Linux mean nothing to you, then the sensible choice is to leave it to the professionals and opt for managed hosting. With managed hosting, all the technical aspects of configuring, running and maintaining the server are taken care of by your web host leaving you to dedicate your time to the website itself.