The single most asked question I see around the internet is some variation of What’s the best company for WordPress hosting? It’s nuts how often this comes up, but it shouldn’t be that surprising–there are so many options and choices out there, it’s almost impossible to not get bogged down.
In many ways, the hosting companies are similar. They can offer one-click installations, cPanel admin dashboards, add-on domains, and that sort of thing. But in many other ways, the hosts can be quite different, and those differences are what you should look into when choosing where your WordPress site lives.
Traditional vs Managed WP Hosting
One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make when deciding on a WordPress host is whether or not you want to go for an all-in-one managed hosting package, or if you want to go for the more traditional, shared/VPS/cloud option. Both options have their merits and pitfalls, so it will be entirely dependent on what you need.
Traditional hosts (or shared hosts) are set up to give you a section of a server. They partition off your area, and you can do what you want to with it, but like a subdivision in the real world, you have no choice of who your neighbors are, so if they’re doing shady things, your property value goes down (and becomes potentially damaged).
The trade-offs for that come in having bunches of control of your own area, often with hosting as many WP sites as you want for the same monthly cost, which is typically much lower than managed hosting. Because you handle the daily tasks and upkeep yourself.
The most well-known of these shared hosts are GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, and Siteground.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed hosting, on the other hand, offers you a single place where your WordPress install lives. It is reserved for you and yours alone. Your neighbors are off living in their own gated communities, and you’re off living in yours. You get security, updates, support, and fantastically optimized speeds (often far faster and more reliable than shared hosts) all handled for you.
But you pay for it. Again like in the real world, living in a walled-off mansion by yourself comes with a cost. You don’t get to control things yourself, as updates are handled automatically, the number of WP installs can be limited–so can the particular plugins you’re allowed to use–and the price-tag is much, much higher on average than shared hosting (especially when looking at price vs number of installs).
While many hosting companies are moving into managed hosting these days, the old standbys are WPEngine, Flywheel, Kinsta, and Cloudways.
A Deeper Dive into Some Hosts
But that’s all top-down generalization. Each host has its own quirks, benefits, and solutions that may make all the difference for you. And that’s what I want to talk about. Because while you may read the above and realize you definitely need managed hosting (or vice versa), there’s still a big decision to be made when you look at which WordPress hosting company to go with.
I’ll be looking into some of the old standbys and newcomers to the WordPress hosting scene.
GoDaddy is the granddaddy (heh heh) of hosting companies. It’s the Walmart of web hosts. People know the name, they’ve probably shopped there at some point, and they probably have an opinion about it, too. That’s not good or bad. It just is what it is.
In terms of WordPress hosting, GoDaddy offers both traditional, shared plans as well as managed WP hosting.
For WordPress hosting specifically, GoDaddy stays on brand. They mix their discounting and never-be-undersold mentality with the managed hosting philosophy of keeping focused on your singular product.
Digging in to GoDaddy
- 1 site is typical.
- You don’t get any SSH access, but SFTP is standard. This stays in line with their focus on new users.
- The cost is crazy low, especially for the first purchase period.
- 25k visitors on the lowest tier is higher than other managed hosts, but with even a modicum of success you will be paying more.
- The amount of storage you’re given for basic is 10gb — standard, really.
- Deluxe, Ultimate, Developer
- Higher tiers offer SSH access.
- 100k-800k monthly visitors is enough for most folks.
- SSL is free for one year, then you pay a $70 up-charge.
- The rest of the options, free domains, and SEO plugins are not really selling points for the increases in cost. Just download Yoast for SEO plugin and you’re set.
- Other Stuff
- GoDaddy boasts about continuous malware scans, anti-bot protection, and stopping spammers, but they don’t go into any detail about how they’re handled on the backend.
- That makes me very wary, especially because the continuous malware scan is an up-sell (Ultimate plan and up).
- Their target demo probably doesn’t care about that stuff, which is why their verbiage uses phrases like “evil hackers”.
- No choice of server specs, but that’s part of what makes it managed. That also means there’s no option to upgrade specs, either.
Final Thoughts on GoDaddy
In the end, without releasing anything but the most basic tech specs, not being transparent about what they use to protect your site, and up-selling at every opportunity, GoDaddy doesn’t seem to be a realistic choice for anyone who has already been a WordPress user for a long time. Even among managed hosts, their offerings are spare.
Flywheel is one of the big names in managed WordPress hosting. Focusing on seamless migrations, ease of use, and your peace of mind, they put everything out there for you in the beginning. Their focus is on UX, both for the site visitor and site owner.
Like other hosts, they do offer tiered pricing with various features walled-off by tier. They don’t offer a lot of tech specs, either, but their target demo consists of designers and agencies looking for a smooth transition from the dev team to the end user.
Digging in to Flywheel
- Pricing Details
- Pricing is pretty standard among managed hosts. While they have a $14/month plan (aptly called Tiny), you will likely need at least the $28/month one. However, if you do go over any of your quotas, your site doesn’t stop working, though. Flywheel support just contacts you to work things out.
- You get 1 WP install regardless of tier, unless you’re on a bulk plan (mucho dinero).
- CDN and Multisites are up-sells, which isn’t the best, but it’s understandable given the resources required.
- You get free SSL certificates for all sites, though, which is awesome.
- Everything but the Tiny Plan includes a staging site within the dashboard. However, even the Tiny Plan can take advantage of their Local by Flywheel app, which will connect to any Flywheel account. If you haven’t tried Local before, you should — it’s great, and you can use it regardless of hosting provider, too. This might even be a better option than having staging included in your plan. Seriously.
- Pricing Details
- Security and Other Stuff
- Open about what they use. Sucuri is on every site, and they use IP blocking, limit login attempts, and scan for malware (though they don’t show what they use outside of Sucuri).
- Automated, regular backups.
- You can’t pick or use your own security or caching plugins. That’s handled by Flywheel. Again, this is really typical of managed WordPress hosting, so it’s not a big deal. I just wanted to mention it.
- SFTP access is available for each site you have on your account. Just fire up FileZilla or Cyberduck, and you’re rolling. You can even give other folks SFTP access just by entering their email.
- You do have database access only through the dashboard, but if you’re used to going through cPanel to get to phpMyAdmin and such, it’s the same, really.
- You have to contact them to handle SSH-only tasks, which can be a killer for some folks and companies.
- You can transfer billing and sites in a couple of clicks. This is a huge benefit for designers and agencies and freelance builders. If you do this, you don’t have to pay up front. I’ve set up sites like this, and it works like a charm.
- Support is also fast and responsive, and in my experience in contacting them, my questions were answered without a lot of back-and-forth rigamarole.
- There is 24/7 emergency support, standard support hours are M-F 9a-5p CDT (normal US working hours), and there is a ticket system, phone support, live chat, as well as an extensive knowledge base.
Final Thoughts on Flywheel
Flywheel is a good option for managed hosting, and it’s pretty standard all the way around, from cost to security to access. You do give up some freedom which is typical for managed hosting, but Flywheel won’t nickel-and-dime you on features, and the support is available to you even if you’re not paying up front and your client is.
BlueHost is a newer entry into WordPress hosting (though it’s a veteran in the shared hosting scene). The options you get for WordPress hosting are spelled out much more explicitly than many companies, but the cost is a little higher, too.
I think, though, that you get what you pay for with them, and the extra transparency that BlueHost offers really makes it a worthwhile option. In my experience, the WordPress hosting here is pretty stable.
Digging in to BlueHost
- Bluehost lets you know exactly how much space you have for backups (and separate space for storage), the amount of RAM for your servers, and the number of IP addresses you’re allowed (1 per site, typically).
- Servers are NGINX and have PHP-FPM to speed them up.
- You can upgrade your server’s specs at any point. CPU, RAM, and file storage
- They offer a WAF (web application firewall) for everything above the most basic tier. This is awesome.
- They also include a CDN and SSL certificate at no charge with their basic plan. Again, awesome.
- Even the basic plan offers 100 million visits a month. That beats the heck out of the 5-25k that’s standard. Let’s just say, you’re not going to be paying for any overages anytime soon with BlueHost. If you get Reddit-level surges regularly, you’re good.
- Again, like other WordPress hosting solutions, you have a custom dashboard instead of the traditional cPanel and won’t be using your own security or caching plugins because BlueHost manages that part.
Final Thoughts on BlueHost
Flywheel focuses on designers and agencies, and GoDaddy focuses on new users. BlueHost, though, focuses on the technical agencies and businesses that make up the WordPress ecosystem. By providing details like their server architecture and giving you the ability to scale as you need, the higher prices they charge after the discount period seem to be worth it.