I get a lot of people asking me where they should host their website and for recommendations for WordPress hosting.
What to look for in a WordPress host
Hosting companies are virtually the same, so I feel like small details make a big difference. Here is what I look for:
- cPanel access – cPanel is the industry standard of domain admin, its quick and simple and you can do virtually everything you need to do without contacting support. If you have cPanel access, you can add sub-domains, add redirects, add files, create email addresses, install programs; everything you need to do.
- Lets Encrpyt – This lets you generate free SSL certificates for domains, sub-domains, whatever. It’s free for the hosting company to install, so any hosting company still charging you for SSL is trying to squeeze money out of you for no reason.
- SSH access – one for the techies, but SSH means that you can log in to your server via command line, from there, you can updates files super quick, install programs, run advance commands. Sometimes called Shell access.
- WP-CLI – If you have SSH access, having WP-CLI setup will make administering WordPress sites much easier.
- Backups – Of course you will have your own backup solution, but ultimately, you want a company that might just save your arse one day, and for backups to be available at server level.
- Litespeed – Litespeed is a server technology that allows WordPress websites to load much faster. Having this setup means the host cares about delivering you a fast website.
- Staging – A staging area allows you to test upgrades and updates before letting them hit your live server.
My recommended generic hosts:
UK-based, fast SSD servers, Litespeed, 24/7 support (and super knowledgable), free SSLs via Let’s Encrypt, knowledgable staff, a reputable company (UK Dedicated), cPanel access, can be used for other things not just WordPress.
Guru is my number one choice for general hosting and UK WordPress hosting.
From £5 per month+
USA-based, cheap and cheerful hosting, 24/7 support across multiple channels, Litespeed support, Free SSL, SSH.
A2 Hosting is recommended if you need a website for a USA audience but on a budget
From $10 (£7) per month+
My recommended WordPress-focused hosts:
Pantheon have some of the fastest servers I’ve ever used, and offer some great deployment and staging utilities. Pricing is not cheap though, and when you go to Elite level hosting with them the cost is prohibitive to many of my clients. Downsides is their support – its pretty lame, live chat rarely have answers and tickets are not responded to for some days. For me, this is mostly fine as it’s not often I need support. But I think for many others, WP Engine would be a better choice as they will help with various issues via Live Chat.
A professional technically superior solution, but if you have issues you’re probably on your own.
From $41 (£30) per month+
WP Engine are just hanging in here by the skin of their teeth. They are WordPress focused, they have 24/7 support but just lately its been shockingly bad. Support used to be great, but it seems they have hired a right bunch of doughnuts to give support, and waiting times are getting real long. Their new UI interface is shockingly bad – I’m never quite sure where I am in staging/production environments (dangerous!). More downsides – no email address generation, so you need to use 3rd party email sending (i.e. Mandrill, SendGrid or alternative) and you need to host your own emails (i.e. use GSuite or Gmail). Their CDN isn’t brilliant either. Damn, why am I bothering?!
Professional but expensive solution, ideal if you know you will just be using WordPress.
From $35 (£25) per month+
Who else is on my list to check out
I’ve not got around to using these WordPress hosts yet, but I am eager to:
Have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments.
What to avoid when looking for a new host
- Custom web admin – Any company that offers custom web administration you should run from. Invariably these are clunky backend systems that are only there to limit what you do. Moving from hosts who have custom setup also means its impossible to easily migrate to a new host (no way to save settings etc).
- No migration help – Any decent company will help you migrate your existing website to them.
- Paid-for SSL or hard-selling SSL. SSLs are a cash cow, and any company who doesn’t offer you free SSL or is trying to upset you SSL probably can’t be trusted.
Hosting companies to avoid…
Avoid these companies like the plague. You have been warned!
Have heard great things about Pressable, but then realised they were now owned by Automattic, so basically WordPress.com in disguise.
What a beautiful website, makes lots of promises, but what a shoddy service. Their dashboard seems so poorly put together its amateur hour, and their support has that fantastic Eastern Europe “we don’t give a fuck” type of attitude or “you must be a total beginner” attitude. Billing system is wonky (clients paid, it processed twice, but the account still marked as pending, customer service was no help in resolution). They have a dumb system where any contact on the account receives all correspondence email – i.e if account owner emails about billing, any response is sent to all account contacts. This is super dumb, as CEOs are often named contacts but don’t want potentially hundreds of inane emails hitting their inbox from their team. It also means any issue you contact them about is shared across all team members. Dumb. Definitely not a service for Enterprise or any professional level.
They also do not offer SSH access.
I love WordPress, but WordPress.com doesn’t offer great hosting experience. You have no option but to leave some plugins installed on your site, they inject scripts in to your site, and don’t give SSH access or staging websites.
GoDaddy have assimilated lots of hosting companies under their brand – resulting in a mess of broken integrations. Their premium WordPress hosting is a mess, and suffers from frequent DNS issues. No free SSL via Let’s Encrypt. Delegated access to other accounts is a total turd. Their custom control panel is a total mess. Support is the major bad point for me, it’s slow as you have to phone each time, and cannot simply email explaining your entire problem in one hit. Or worse you need to use Live Chat which I am guessed in based in India somewhere which results in 45-60 mins of back and forth before they answer simple questions. I’ve found the best way to get support from them is to tweet at GoDaddy as the team who handles that is US-based, and seems know what they are doing to about the best you will get.
Nearly all my experiences with Exabytes have been bad. Bad website uptime (averaging 95% per month). Customer support is clueless. Overloaded servers (site crashes when doing simple WordPress upgrades!). Exabytes is a terrible WordPress web host.
Krystal claim to offer 24/7 support but I found myself waiting and waiting for support. I don’t have time for companies who claim rapid support and are slow to respond.
Ionos / 1and1.co.uk
Overloaded servers, not offering multiple free SSL via Let’s Encrypt, their own domain and web control system is clunky, and frequent billing errors. They keep changing their name for a reason!
20i Hosting don’t offer backups, give limited SSH access and have custom administration screens. Bleurgh. There is better out there so don’t bother.
TSO host don’t offer 24/7 support, didn’t bother looking past that.
Blue Host really are a terrible host, who stuffs hundreds of websites on to one server, each with virtually no protection between them. Every single customer who has hosted with Blue Host has been hacked and have had no help/support from Blue Host, without them trying to upsell their own recovery services.
TTFB is shockingly bad, and they don’t give full cPanel access. Most bloggers recommend Blue Host as they pay the most affiliate referral payments! Don’t believe the hype!
123-Reg are a domain company who has started to offer web services. They charge you for EVERYTHING! Avoid avoid avoid them.
Bulk host who doesn’t care about customers. Avoid them.
Famous for free domains in the early 2000’s, but the servers are massively overloaded and support is poor.