Web hosting is something that anyone who has or wants a website must get to grips with. There are many technical details that go over the heads of most buyers of hosting accounts and with fair reason. In many cases they just do not need to know all the nitty-gritty details, however some details do matter greatly with the selection of a web hosting provider and a hosting plan.
For starters, some web hosts only offer Linux-based hosting or Windows-based hosting (with a few outliers offering Mac-only hosting). Many shared hosting providers will only offer either Windows or Linux hosting. There are some providers like GoDaddy and HostGator who offer both Linux and Windows hosting which is useful when customers have web sites hosted with one or more hosting providers using both Linux with MySQL databases, and Windows with Microsoft SQL Server. Mac hosting is rare, usually only with specialist providers, and typically extremely costly. Unless wedded to the Mac OS system, they are not recommended for hosting customers at any level.
Linux hosting is generally the cheaper option because the operating system is either free or inexpensively maintained. The MySQL server (for managing databases) can be acquired without the cost of the equivalent Microsoft SQL server product.
With Windows, the host has to purchase the Windows operating system (usually one of the Server editions), a Microsoft Exchange mail server, and a Microsoft SQL Server software package to run the enterprise-ready database system. This comes at a steep price and so commonly even shared hosting accounts under the Windows platform will offer higher prices than their Linux counterparts.
Shared Hosting Explained
With shared hosting, companies will divide up the hosting environment with separate hosting accounts, separated directories, memory allocation, CPU resources, disk space allocation, and other specifics.
Depending on the server specification, the server used for hosting shared hosting plans can manage ten, a hundred or even 200 shared plans on a single server. This can sometimes leave the server extremely stretched for resources especially with memory-hungry web applications and large web sites pushing the server hard.
Shared hosting environments work on the basis that no single hosted web site will become too much for the server to handle. This is including continuing to have the resources available to host all the other websites on the server concurrently.
At a point where a single website becomes a burden for the other hosting plans, the web host may subtly or strongly urge the customer to upgrade to a virtual private server (VPS) plan where fewer websites are hosted on a single server. However, there are some custom plans under the shared hosting banner that straddle the line between shared hosting and VPS hosting which will be covered in this complete guide.
Shared Hosting vs Managed WordPress Hosting vs. WordPress Dedicated Hosts
Web hosts like GoDaddy or HostGator have shared hosting accounts available. These have a standard hosting set up that is not specifically tailored to one type of content management system like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. The key thing to look for here is that they offer a one-click WordPress installation option. This is usually offered through another installed package which makes it easy to add a range of software extras on to a shared hosting account.
Shared hosting accounts are the cheapest option. Some companies will have up to three plans which can host a different number of websites on a shared hosting server. They can handle basic sites with low daily traffic volumes. They may say “unlimited traffic” but the reality with that is whilst an occasional traffic spike might be acceptable and handled reasonably well, a sustained major jump to high traffic levels won’t be realistic on a shared hosting plan.
A Managed WordPress Hosting plan is a fairly new thing. Providers like HostGator offer a custom plan which uses shared hosting servers but provides a tailored service for WordPress users. This might include a caching plugin as standard to speed up webpage delivery and a content delivery network (CDN) to make pages available nearer to where the site visitor is accessing the internet. There are also often some security or backup benefits provided with different managed WordPress hosting plans. Typically staff are more versed with WordPress-specific hosting challenges and how to tweak their hosted systems to get the most speed out of the platform.
WordPress web hosts refer to the likes of WPEngine and WebSynthesis. Here the plans are intended mostly for existing sites with considerable daily traffic that would benefit from a more robust, VPS-like hosting environment specifically for WordPress. This will be supported by personnel with years of experience hosting WordPress sites in busy hosting environments.
Start With Shared Hosting or Managed WordPress Hosting
In almost all cases, either a single shared hosting plan or a managed WordPress hosting plan for a slightly higher monthly cost will be fine. Unless a site is expecting a large amount of traffic out of the gate (1,000s of visitors per day), then a basic hosting package will likely be sufficient.
There are also a number of things that can be done on the customer’s side to improve the speed of any existing WordPress hosting before needing to consider the additional expense of a dedicated WordPress host like WPEngine.
What follows now is a run-down of some of the better shared web hosting providers who have shared hosting plans and/or WordPress hosting in a shared hosting environment.
SiteGround offers competitive WordPress shared hosting plans. These have a 99.99% uptime because they are stronger than most about security. Brute force attacks have been prevented because of their attention to the details of what it takes to provide effective web site security.
Their shared plans have one-click WP installations. There are also dedicated WordPress shared hosting plans, which are the better bet because the prices are very reasonable. Their StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek (optimistic titles, we like it!) support a single WordPress site, or several with the GrowBig and GoGeek plans. Prices are initially discounted 50-60% during the sign up period. The plans also make clear how many monthly visitors are supported which makes it an easier buying decision too.
Their servers are located in Chicago, Singapore, and Amsterdam. Several plans for new customers offer a free domain registration of a certain top-level domain type.
BlueHost is recommended on many web sites mainly because they have a generous affiliate commission plan. In fairness, their shared hosting plans are not bad at all though there have been reports of less than stellar customer service of late.
The company supports shared hosting, but it does monitor bandwidth usage and other measurements. It has no problem throttling the CPU load if a site is using up too much which will have the effect of slowing down the website’s responsiveness. This approach isn’t likely to win them any fans with customers who host growing sites.
They do have WordPress-specific hosting plans, but they don’t seem to offer much different than with their standard shared hosting.
HostGator does a better job with their shared hosting plans because they charge more per month. Because of this, they can afford to put more into each plan. They are a bit more eco-friendly too.
WordPress can be installed using install scripts provided for one-click fast installation using the added cPanel. They also have web templates and many other features that can be found within the cPanel.
The straightforward approach at HostGator differentiates itself from other hosts even though it has the same parent company as BlueHost and JustHost. Downtime is less too. The billing at HostGator is a little strange with a difficult approach of new accounts for foreign bank card authorisation and billing 5-6 days ahead of the agreed billing date which can cause problems for unsuspecting customers.
InMotion is a Linux-based web host which offers a 90 day money back guarantee. It supports both MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. This means that they support WordPress as well which is available as a quick install once a web hosting account has been set up. Over 300 applications can be installed to the shared hosting account.
What makes InMotion stand out from the crowd is its solid state drives which can access data several times faster than platter-based drives. This has the effect of delivering faster web page load times even in a shared server environment. Daily backups protect the data. Spam-free email protection is included too.
Two out of the 3 hosting plans restrict the number of websites hosted (two or six web sites) which bodes well for more robust shared hosting with servers that are not overloaded with accounts.
Site5 Web Hosting
Site5 states that it is built for developers and designers. The business has been in existence since 1999, so it should have learned a thing or two about hosting by now.
This web host offers shared hosting and believes they can migrate an existing site quite quickly and easily. They do not charge for the site migration. There are disaster recovery backups provided on each account. This is performed every evening and includes the website, plus email accounts for unread email.
Their shared hosting is balanced between resources and fair use. Sites are provided with enough CPU power and RAM to run efficiently just as long as they don’t run afoul of the resource fair use limits.
They have three basic accounts: hostBasic, hostPro+Turbo, and hostPro. These provide different levels of monthly site visitor capacity. There is also a pick of servers from North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region including India. They usually charge a separate monthly fee for selecting a non-default web server.
A2 Hosting offers solid state drive hosting across the board. This is provided with RAID 10 disk arrays which mirror data across multiple drives for data security. Their server technology runs on 12 core CPUs and 64GB of RAM. There is a 10 Gbs separate network on standby to help with connectivity if their main internet backbone connection goes down.
The number of cores, their speed, RAM allocation and virtual memory can be seen for each shared hosting plan before sign up which is rare.
Their main three plans for shared hosting (Lite, Swift and Turbo) include SSDs and a free CloudFlare CDN facility to speed up page delivery to web browsers. They have web servers situated in Michigan in the USA, Amsterdam in Europe, and Singapore in Asia.
The Lite plan can host a single website while the other two accounts can host unlimited websites. Only the Turbo plan includes special caching technology to boost page delivery speeds on the server. Improved CloudFlare Basic and CloudFlare Plus plans can be added for an extra monthly fee.
ManageWP is pre-installed. WordPress can be installed using the custom install process from A2 Hosting.
The pricing of each plan is very reasonable considering the hardware and connectivity that is offered. This may be one of the better shared hosting providers and it supports WordPress, Joomla and several other content management systems.
iPage has both standard shared hosting and also custom WordPress managed hosting as well. For the shared hosting account, WordPress is just a one-click process to get it added to a hosted domain. North American website support may help with getting assistance should you run into any hosting problems.
There is SiteLock security on files and folders. A regular malware scan prevents infectious files staying on the server very long. Uptime has been pretty good, though the company that acquired iPage has suffered from occasional downtime that affected several web hosts under its umbrella. This is because several of their web hosts use servers in the same Texas USA hosting centre.
iPage has some of the cheapest web hosting packages for people just starting out. Outside of the discounted price, they still remain cheaper than many competitors. So when looking more for a cheap price short-to-medium term, this hosting provider won’t make for a bad choice.
Their custom WordPress hosting isn’t priced much higher but other than pre-designed themes and a few other extras, it doesn’t have much to recommend it versus competitors covered in this post.
A Small Orange
A Small Orange isn’t necessarily a web host that you may have heard of, but they are going places.
They offer four main shared hosting plans. These run as cheap as $2.92 per month and there is no temporarily discounted price that rises steeply after the initial period. This Tiny plan hosts a single domain with up to 5GB of bandwidth usage per month. There is a Small, Medium and Large plan range with similarly affordable prices.
Despite the affordable prices, the shared plans are hosted on quality Intel Xeon E5 Dual Hex Core processors. Solid state drives are used to speed up page delivery and are run on RAID 10 disk arrays for data protection via drive mirroring.
Their 99.9% uptime record is helped by daily backups, restore points, hot-link and data leech protections, IP blocking for persistent offenders, and directories which can be password-protected.
The Softaculous script is installed which speeds up the installation of WordPress on a shared hosting account.
They only have two USA data centres with nothing offered abroad. It is possible to use global CDN servers to get around this negative if you have more global site visitors than American or Canadian ones. 90 day money back guarantee is offered. Clearly they stand by their product.
Media Temple are perhaps better known for their VPS and other robust hosting solutions than their shared hosting plans, but they should certainly not be overlooked.
The company uses a cloud-like system dubbed “The Grid” which ensures that a single shared hosting plan site won’t get trampled on when traffic spikes. The company puts this succinctly that they have “Reddit-ready bandwidth” which demonstrates their confidence if nothing else.
The Grid comes with solid state drives for faster page creation and delivery speeds under any environment including WordPress. The TrueSpeed CDN ensures sites can be delivered globally at faster speeds than could be delivered from a central server location. Google Apps for Work also have support here.
They have three plans under The Grid: Pro, Agency and Agency+. Whilst the Pro plan is $30 a month putting it on the high-end for shared hosting plans, the Agency and Agency+ plans totally break the bank. The 5TB of bandwidth with the more expensive account is fair considering the pricing. As such, this shared plan is more akin to a VPS hosting plan that a shared one.
These plans may suit users who need more than a standard shared plan but don’t require a custom WordPress web host yet either. The leap up from Pro to Agency is a tough pill to swallow later though.
Nexcess offers shared hosting which is tailored for WordPress. They have servers in the US, UK and Australia.
A Dell Enterprise Server with 4GB DDR3 1333Mhz RAM memory is used from the cheapest hosting account upward, with sufficient disk space (starting at 10GB allocation) using a disk mirroring RAID-10 array.
The most basic shared account is only $11.95 but offers 150 GBs of bandwidth and supports up to 10 websites hosted. There are only 35 hosting accounts on this server.
The two other hosting accounts add a CDN with at last 50 GB of bandwidth support, more website hosting capacity and fewer hosting accounts per server. Improved caching and high bandwidth is included too.
For WordPress users, WordPress comes installed along with W3 Total Cache for faster page delivery.
Whilst the initial shared plan is ideal for people with a reasonable starting budget for one or more websites, the more advanced plans bring up costs near the starter VPS price level but deliver a more custom, tailored hosting experience. However, just at the first level they offer an excellent deal for under 11 bucks a month.
JustHost is a basic web host that offers simple shared hosting accounts for under $3 a month. They have a standard free domain for life offer which will especially appeal to new site owners looking to reduce their start up costs.
The company includes cPanel with each shared hosting plan. This online software makes it easier to access different features within the hosting as it is a standardised method to control a hosting account now.
WordPress can be installed with an easy one-click process once the set up information has been added.
JustHost is quite similar to iPage as they are owned by the same parent company.
For anyone who cares about staying green while using technology, GreenGeeks is an obvious choice. They run on renewable energy to avoid damaging the Earth or depleting resources.
The company uses a Linux-based server and solid state drives with a RAID 10 disk array to provide disk mirroring and fast data access. Nightly backups and security scans, especially for brute force attacks, provide good levels of protection for users.
WordPress and other software can be installed using the standard one-click system. SSH secure access can be used to access the account which is unusual. Google Apps can also be integrated.
Support is based near the servers in the United States.
RoseHosting focus more centrally on VPS and dedicated server hosting, but they do offer some Linux shared hosting accounts.
Usually their shared hosting package includes five plans which do well to differentiate themselves from the competition. Even at the entry-level $3.95 price point, they include an IP address, 0.5TB of SSD storage, and 20GB of bandwidth with a single site hosted.
Other plans include better hardware and resources support, plus the ability to host a greater number of websites. It will be common to move up in shared hosting plan as you add more sites.
30 day money back guarantee is included.
DreamHost is another hosting provider that uses solid state drives for faster web page delivery. They have a 97 day money back guarantee. They do use their own dashboard which will take time to get used to.
Prices are reasonable for the inclusion of solid state drives.
Shared hosting is a good place to start for people who don’t require much hosting power. Most plans are under $10 per month outside of the discounted sign-up period.
There can be major differences between a basic shared hosting plan and a shared hosting plan that has been customised well for WordPress users. Some of the latter plans are modified only slightly whereas others are more expensive but provide a genuinely useful WordPress hosting option outside of using a dedicated WordPress web host which can stretch a budget too far.
In the shared hosting space, a better budget affords a great deal more options. Even just a few dollars a month more opens up many additional choices.