You need a website–even if it’s just a bare-bones one–to boost your business’s profile and draw in more customers, but with the sheer amount of options out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Which hosting plan do you need? How much should you be budgeting? What companies are the best options for small businesses?
There’s a few different factors at play here–so we’re going to go over them all in this post and help you figure out which option is best for you and your business.
Why a WordPress hosting guide?
This article specifically discusses hosting choices as they related to WordPress, because it’s our CMS of choice at Kaleidico and what we recommend to our clients. And for good reason:
- WordPress has the majority of the CMS market share, at 61%
- WordPress is easy to use and get started with (and it’s free)
- Since it’s open source and so popular, there’s a plugin or theme for pretty much any need, and many of them are free as well
That said, let’s move on to the actual hosting details…
Shared, managed, servers–what’s the difference?
Shared hosting is what most people start with. It’s got a low barrier to entry (price-wise) and there are plenty of options available. The problem is that shared hosting doesn’t necessarily scale well–especially with bottom-of-the-barrel prices (think: $3-5/month), slow load times are often an issue as soon as your site starts getting a reasonable amount of traffic.
Managed hosting costs more, but has several benefits, including that a lot of the website maintenance is taken care of. (More on that in a moment.) Since WordPress is so popular, there are several options to choose from when it comes to WordPress-specific managed hosting.
A virtual private server (also known as a “cloud server”) is a flexible option that can work for you if you know Linux and are tech-savvy, but the downside is that unless you’re paying for service or management (which can get spendy), you’re handling all of that yourself.
The need for website speed
If you’re new to looking at website hosting, you might wonder why there’s such an emphasis on speed. Obviously, you don’t want a slow loading website, but does a second or two really make a difference?
The answer: yes, absolutely. Surveys have shown that:
- 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less
- 40% of people abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load
- A 1 second delay in page load time can create a 7% decrease in conversions
If your business is largely built on referrals and word-of-mouth, it’s likely that these statistics will be mitigated somewhat, because the social proof that comes with being referred to you will outweigh the inconvenience of a slow-loading page. But still–why take the risk? (And if your business is largely built on search or social media traffic, you should take the statistics above seriously.)
Here’s a few tools to test your website loading time:
Can’t quite decide? Here’s more details:
Shared web hosting
Budget: As mentioned, shared hosting is the least expensive option you can get, with some plans starting as low as $2/month.
Maintenance required: You’ll be updating WordPress and your plugins yourself, and will need to take care of things like security on your own as well (or hire it out to a web person).
Tech know-how required: Beginner; you’re going to have to install WordPress yourself, but most shared hosts have quick-install tools and walkthroughs since it’s so popular.
Downsides: Speed can be an issue. And, depending on your provider, some shared hosting services are notorious for slow/unhelpful customer service response time–which is why it’s important to go with one that has great service.
Popular options: LiquidWeb regularly tops the recommended lists for sharing hosting; they’re pricier than the “dirt cheap” options (starting at ), but have top-rated customer service and fast servers. MediaTemple, DreamHost, and NameCheap are other popular options.
Budget: Managed hosting costs more than shared server hosting, but the upside is that a lot of the nitty-gritty of running a website is taken care of.
Maintenance level: A managed hosting solution will take a lot of the maintenance off your hands, including security updates and handling plugin/Wordpress updates for you. Typically, they also have their own caching solution built-in, which helps out with speed. Make sure to check and see what type of maintenance is actually covered in the hosting options, because it varies.
Tech know-how required: Little to none–the support with managed hosting is typically very quick and helpful.
Budget: For unmanaged, entry-level options, prices are low (starting at $5/month or so). For managed options, you’re looking at around $50/month.
Maintenance level: For unmanaged, there’s a lot of work you’ll be doing–installing and updating server-side software and applications, keeping an eye on uptime, etc. Managed takes some of the work off (but costs more).
Tech know-how required: High (for the above reasons)–you’ll need to know your way around Unix-based operating systems to keep up with your VPS hosting.
What it comes down to: If you’re a typical business owner that doesn’t have a huge amount of technical knowledge, you want shared or managed hosting. Past that, deciding between the two will depend on your budget and whether you already have an updating/backup solution in place. Either way, it’s more important to just decide and get started than over-researching!