We met Jean from WPMayor at WordCamp Europe and he asked us to help people choose the right hosting for their WordPress sites. Since we are Savvii, a European Managed WordPress Hosting company, we have quite some experience explaining different hosting types to (potential) customers.
- How much control do I want over my own site and hosting set-up?
- How much resources does my site need?
- Do I have special requirements for my workflow?
Along the line from being able to control everything to having some restrictions on what you can and cannot do on your hosting account you have unmanaged VPS’s (think Amazon, Linode, Digital Ocean etc.) on the full-control side of things, generic managed hosting (think your average shared hosting company) in the middle, and managed WordPress hosting on the other side (Savvii for example).
The first thing you need to realize is that full control usually means installing, configuring, updating and improving your hosting stack yourself. If you have no knowledge of Linux and webservers this is a no go for production websites. For the bare minimum you have to set-up a webserver (Apache or Nginx), PHP, a database server (MySQL) and a decent back-up strategy.
In managed hosting (both generic and WordPress specific) the above is all taken care of. However you cannot tweak your webserver, PHP or MySQL settings. In generic hosting these settings are mostly default to make sure everything can run while in managed WordPress hosting these settings are specifically tuned for WordPress.
Speaking of limitations regarding your site generic managed hosting companies do very seldom impose restrictions. In order to guarantee stability and speed managed WordPress hosting companies will often have a blacklist of slow or dangerous plugins or PHP functions. If you use such a plugin they can often recommend a better alternative.
Conclusion: Do you need very specific hosting settings? Contact a managed host in advance to see if they can implement them for you.
The more complex your site (lots of plugins) is or the more visitors you get, the more load your site will generate. WP WooCommerce installs with lots of products are a good example of complex sites.
The hosting set-up has a big impact on the load your website can handle on a given server size. Using Nginx as a webserver in place of Apache means using less resources with high traffic. Using caching layers as Varnish, Memcached, XCache or Redis means your website can also handle more load. These are typically things generic hosters lack.
For sites with a smaller load generic managed hosting is enough. If your site grows bigger you’ll need either your own unmanaged VPS or managed WordPress hosting. If you’re already on a VPS, scaling your VPS is quite easy and can be done with little or no downtime.
If you have strict requirements for your workflow such as SSH access, staging sites, direct MySQL-client access, etc. It would be a very good idea to check these against your new hosting company. With unmanaged VPS’s you have all the freedom to implement what you need.
If you use the most basic of workflows (develop local or on your live site and use FTP), managed WordPress hosting companies can provide you with extra tools to improve your workflow. Think of options as staging sites, snapshot backups, etc.
Other things to consider
It is worth noting that both unmanaged VPS and lots of managed WordPress hosting companies are not one-stop-shops. You will probably have to manage your domain and e-mail somewhere else.
The reasoning behind this is that offering a good e-mail solution is an art in itself and requires lots of knowledge and customer support (and has limited revenue potential). Since most managed WordPress hosting companies are still quite small they want to focus all their resources on providing the best hosting solution. Their target audience has implemented a specific mail solution like Google Apps or Micorsoft Exchange most of the time already.
Since providing e-mail solutions is a managed service by definition this is something that unmanaged VPS providers do not provide.
We hope by now you have better indications on which type of hosting to choose. If you are contemplating different options it can pay to send them an e-mail with both hosting and WordPress specific questions or call them to see how well they help you. Reading reviews or doing a Google or Twitter search can help too.
Limited budget, time and/or knowledge: Generic hosting
More budget, limited knowledge and/or time: Managed WordPress hosting
More budget, serious with your website, lots of hosting knowledge and time: Unmanaged VPS
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to subscribe to WP Mayor’s RSS feed.