Choosing a Web Hosting Service for WordPress

There are several types of web hosting services: shared, VPS, dedicated, and cloud hosting. WordPress works on almost all web hosts. However, different types of web hosting vary greatly in terms of cost and difficulty to use. Choosing a web hosting service for your blog requires you to understand your needs and the properties of each type of hosting.

Shared Hosting

Sharing hosting is the cheapest type of web hosting and it’s recommended for beginners. Shared hosting runs many websites on one server. When a browser makes a request to the server, the server uses the request’s host name (domain name) to figure out which website to load. You control the server using a web hosting control panel software. The software can route the domain names, control which user can access which files, and provide users with tools to build their websites. Most of the popular shared hosting services use cPanel. cPanel allows you to manage your files, domain, emails, logs, backups, and more. It even has a tool to help you install a WordPress blog.

cPanel Dashboard
cPanel’s dashboard contains many tools to help you with your blog

A shared hosting server split its resources, such as RAM and CPU, between the websites on it. Sometimes, a website’s resource usage can spike up, causing all other websites on the server to become slow or unreachable. If a website consistently uses too much resources, the web host will disable that website and encourage its owner to upgrade to a more expensive service. Since WordPress uses a lot of resources, you may have to upgrade your service if you have lots of visitors. However, since you probably won’t have many visitors at first, shared hosting is a cheap option to get started with WordPress. They typically cost between $5 to $10 per month.

VPS Hosting

VPS hosting can be as cheap as shared hosting, but it’s much more difficult for beginners. VPS hosting also places multiple websites on the same server, but the server’s resources are split into fixed partitions. Each partition on a VPS is completely isolated from the other partitions, so if one partition uses a lot of resources, the other partitions won’t be affected. Each partition has its own operating system. It feels like you have an entire server to yourself. The main difference between having a VPS and having an entire server is that having 1% of a 128GB RAM server is much cheaper than having 100% of a 1GB RAM server.

VPS hosting is difficult for beginners because you often have to set up the server yourself. Usually VPS hosting companies install the operating system for you, but the rest is up to you. You have to manually install the softwares that WordPress needs, such as Apache, PHP, and MySQL. Also, the primary way to control your server is through SSH, which requires knowledge of OS commands. Some VPS hosts may install basic softwares and a control panel such as cPanel for you. However, even with a control panel, VPS’s are still more difficult to use than shared hosting. For example, if your server is hacked, you have to fix it yourself.

VPS Linux commands
Linux commands through SSH

Nevertheless, VPS hosting is a great way to learn some OS commands and have more control over your server. For example, it may take a long time for a shared hosting company to update their softwares to the version that you want. If you use VPS hosting, you can update it yourself.

If you already used shared hosting for a while, it could be a fun challenge to try VPS hosting! The commands may seem daunting at first, but you’ll get used to it after a while.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting just means you have an entire server to yourself. You have the same amount of control and the same challenges as VPS hosting. However, your server usually has much more resources than shared hosting or VPS hosting. It’s also much more expensive. Dedicated hosting usually costs several hundred dollars per month. You should use dedicated hosting only if a VPS host can’t handle the traffic. Before switching to dedicated hosting, you should see if you can optimize your WordPress blog by installing plugins or disabling unneeded features.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is a marketing term that refers to VPS hosting with some common characteristics. The following are some characteristics associated with cloud hosting. Not all cloud hosting services have all of these characteristics; any VPS hosting service with at least one of these features may advertise itself as a cloud hosting service.

  • Files are spread across multiple machines. I.e. instead of consuming 10% of one machine, you consume 1% each of 10 machines.
  • Able to programmatically adjust amount of resources. E.g. increase CPU and RAM when there’s high traffic.
  • Billed based on usage rather than fixed fees.
  • Your files are moved across machines without you noticing. If the machine containing your files breaks, a backup will be loaded onto another machine and that machine will run your website.

Most cloud hosting services work exactly the same as traditional non-cloud VPS hosting services. You still have to manually install softwares and manage your server’s security. If you use cloud hosting for a WordPress blog, it should be almost the same as traditional VPS hosting. The number of visitors you receive shouldn’t fluctuate much, so you don’t need to adjust your server’s resources. Adjusting your server’s resources is commonly used for big data, where you need a huge amount of computing power for just a few hours.

One benefit of cloud hosting is that it’s usually easier to upgrade than traditional VPS hosting. You don’t need to manually copy your files to a new server, you just have to click a button. They are also usually more reliable because if a machine breaks, another machine will automatically take its place. However, most VPS hosting services also do this, though it probably takes longer because it’s just a feature rather than a defining characteristic of the product. Finally, cloud hosting is usually cheaper than VPS hosting because it’s easier to adjust your resources. You can set your resources to the minimum required to keep your blog running. If your traffic increases, you can easily increase your resources.

DigitalOcean Resize Droplet
Adding resources to a server (Droplet) in DigitalOcean

Since cloud hosting was the hot new thing a few years ago, many traditional VPS hosting services advertise themselves as cloud hosting. Therefore, it often doesn’t matter if you choose cloud hosting or VPS hosting.

WPTutor.io is hosted on DigitalOcean, a cloud hosting service. However, since I almost never have to resize my server, it works exactly the same as a non-cloud VPS hosting service.

Shared vs. VPS vs. Dedicated vs. Cloud Hosting

Which type of web hosting service you choose should depend on how popular your blog is and how experienced you are with running blogs.

If you’re new to blogging, you should choose shared hosting. Shared hosting is cheap and simple to use. Once your blog becomes too popular for shared hosting, you can upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting.

I consider VPS hosting and cloud hosting the same thing, I will refer to both as VPS hosting. VPS hosting is best for those with experience running a blog or website. VPS hosting supports much larger blogs than shared hosting, though smaller blogs can use VPS hosting as well. For smaller blogs, the main benefit of using a VPS over shared hosting is having more control over your server.

You’ll know if you need dedicated hosting. If you’re reading this post, you probably don’t need dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting is for very popular blogs with millions of visitors per day.

Which Web Hosting Company Should I Choose?

I have used JustHost, site5HostGator, and DigitalOcean before. I highly recommend JustHost and DigitalOcean.

JustHost’s cheapest shared hosting service costs $70 per year and it comes with a free domain name ($10 value). I used JustHost for several years when I just started building websites. The cPanel dashboard is simple to use even for beginners. Their support team was quick and helpful. I could run my WordPress blog on JustHost’s cheapest plan until it reached a few thousand visitors per day. Since I’ve gained enough experience by that point, I switched to a VPS (site5).

I discovered DigitalOcean soon after they launched. I noticed that they were much cheaper than their competitors and all their reviews were positive. I currently have several servers from DigitalOcean ranging from $5 to $20 per month. The servers are all very fast and reliable; a $10 server could easily handle 100,000+ visitors per day. I don’t see myself switching to another service any time soon.

I will write another blog post soon about other web hosting companies.

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