The Complete Guide to WordPress Hosting

My main goal with this post is give you a thorough guide to WordPress hosting. Hopefully this guide will answer every question you have ever had about WordPress hosting in general.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What Is Web Hosting?

Web hosting provides the infrastructure to keep your website live. Your web host stores all your website’s files on servers to make them accessible to visitors.

The phrase “information superhighway” is often used to describe the internet. A street grid is a good comparison for hosting as well. Think of it as the streets and highways that people use to reach your website—the better the infrastructure, the better the experience for visitors.

Hosting With WordPress.Com or WordPress.Org

A common question I get from new WordPress users is whether or not they should host with WordPress.com or with WordPress.org.

WordPress.com offers free and paid hosting services. Are these any good? The answer depends on what you need.

With the free hosting plan of WordPress.com, you end up with some major restrictions such as

  • Use of themes and plugins from third party developers are restricted.
  • Inability to run your own ads or disable ads provided by WordPress.com
  • Your site can only run on a sub domain

The only benefit here is that you basically get free hosting. You also don’t need to install WordPress as everything will be setup for you automatically.

With the paid version of WorPress.com hosting, these restrictions are removed but the price you pay (roughly about $115 per annum ) is more expensive than most hosting plans you could get with WordPress.org.

With WordPress.org you get no restrictions whatsoever and can choose your preferred web hosts to host your website. 

There is more work involved here as you would need to install WordPress on your website implement whatever custom design and functionality you want on your site. In other words, you do have to put in some work but you have complete control on how your website runs.

My simple advice here is to ignore hosting with WordPress,com and stick with WordPress.org

Siteground and Cloudways are my preferred web hosts with WordPress.org

wordpress.com vs wordpress.org comparison

What Is a Domain Name?

If the web is like a series of streets and highways, the domain name is the address. The domain name tells people and other computers where to find your website online.

Where to Buy a Domain Name

Vendors such as SiteGround, GoDaddy, and HostGator sell domain names. I feel it’s more accurate to say “rent” rather than buy as you pay an annual fee. You may often save on charges if you pay in advance. If you fail to pay for the renewal, you lose control of the domain.

What Is a Web Server?

A web server is a type of software that makes the internet function. It stores webpages, processes them, and distributes them when a client makes a request. When you click on a search link, it’s a web server that brings the webpage up for you.

Web Host Services

The vast array of services that hosting companies provide can be confusing. To make things simpler, I’ll go through the most popular services.

guide to wordpress hosting - Siteground tools

The image you see above is a screenshot of some of the tools and features provided by Siteground hosting.

Storage

Data storage is the basic service you’re paying for here. The storage limit refers to how much space you may use on the host’s servers. The bigger and more complex your website, the more storage space you’ll need.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to the data transferred between the servers and the site. You might hear about a site crashing because they’ve had too many visitors. This error is due to bandwidth issues.

Databases

Databases manage the site interaction between the server and visitor action. When you fill in a form on a web page, a database controls the information. The database software also determines how many features your website has.

Website Builder

This software makes it possible to build pages without any coding experience. WordPress is a type of builder.

Control Panel

The control panel is a graphic user interface or dashboard for editing.

Auto-Installation Scripts

These scripts are another alternative to creating code. One-click WordPress installs fall under this category.

Security

All service providers secure their servers. This security doesn’t necessarily stop you from being hacked, so you’ll want additional security measures.

Support

All companies offer support. I always look for 24/7 instant chat support. If your site goes down, you can’t afford to wait a few hours for someone to answer your support ticket or email.

Backups

Your pages are vulnerable to hacking or being lost when you make changes. Regularly backing up the pages is crucial to recovery if something goes wrong. Check if your plan includes backups or not.

SSL Certificates

An SSL certificate confirms that a third party has verified certain information about your site. If you don’t have this certification, your website appears with an “HTTP” address. Search engines and clients typically view HTTP sites as less trustworthy.

Most plans include basic certification. If you want to upgrade to a higher level of verification, you’ll have to pay extra.

Shared Hosting vs. Cloud Hosting

At first glance, there may not seem to be much difference, but let’s see what the subtle differences are.

Shared

With these products, you share a server with other webmasters. Sharing resources makes the packages more affordable but might come at the cost of performance. If the company adds too many clients to one server, it strains resources.

If there are too many users on at once, web speed suffers. The server may even crash.

It’s a viable option for businesses and websites with lower levels of traffic. The service provider takes care of the maintenance and upgrades, letting you focus on your site.

If you’re interested in this option, you must choose a reputable provider. Siteground offers the best service in this arena. The network is high-speed, and the company boasts an uptime of at least 99.9%.

siteground shared hosting plans
The three shared hosting plans offered by Siteground and their features

Cloud

Cloud hosts have changed the landscape significantly. Instead of sharing one server with other webmasters, you share a network. This system provides plenty of scalable capacity for clients and the provider.

Should one node go offline, there are many others to pick up the slack. Traffic is spread throughout the network to reduce congestion and improve speed.

The primary benefits of working in the cloud are scalability and performance. You may quickly increase your page’s capacity to cope with a sudden upswing of traffic. Should traffic drop, you can decrease your package.

With many computers on the network, computing power increases significantly. With the load shared, response times are faster, and downtime is minimal.

Cloudaways offers the best blend of service and affordable pricing in this arena.

cloudways cloud hosting plans
Some of the cloud hosting plans offered by Cloudways

Domain Transfer From One Web Host to Another

So let’s say you are no longer happy with your current hosts and want to make a switch. What is the process like?

Changing from one provider to another means transferring your files and updating the DNS records.

To get started, you have to sign up with your new web hosting company. They may migrate the files for free (like Siteground does) or request a fee. You’ll have to grant them access to your existing control panel and account for this option.

An alternative would be to just do the transfer yourself.

Step One: Transfer the Files

You’ll either download the files using an FTP client or export the database from your control panel. From there, upload them to your new account. Many hosts make this simpler by enabling one-click WordPress migrations.

Step Two: Check for Errors

Confirm that everything is working as it should. Some hosting companies like Siteground makes this simple by providing a staging platform for you to test with.

If you don’t have that option, go through each page and check each link. Sometimes assets get moved around during the transfer, and you’ll need to reorganize them.

If something went wrong, the database might be in tatters. In this case, it’s easier to start again. Go back to your original account and download everything again.

Step Three: Update the DNS Records

Nothing is final until you change the DNS records. To do this, log into your account at the company you bought your domain from initially.

You might see a feature like ‘DNS editor‘ or something similar. Click on the link and then you ll need to add a new DNS record. This process involves adding a CNAME record along with its value and TTL (time to live).  Take a look at the screenshot below for an example.

Your new hosts will provide you with all the values for the new record you are creating.

Note that you’ll have to wait a few hours for the transfer to take effect.

dns zone editor

Step Four: Verify DNS Propagation

Check What’s My DNS to verify that the changeover is complete. Then monitor the site’s performance for the next week or so to ensure there are no problems.

You can use a tool like dnschecker.org

dns propagation checker tool

Step Five: Cancel Your Old Account

When you’re sure that everything’s in order with the new account, cancel the old one.

Learn More About Professional Hosting Solutions

Would you like more information on the best service providers? Check out my comprehensive Siteground and Cloudaways reviews for more details.

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