Choosing the right WordPress Hosting is an essential part of getting your website up and running. Your hosting has a big effect on the performance, functionality and reliability of your WordPress website.
In this in-depth WordPress Hosting Guide I've fully tested 10 different hosting setups to find out which one is the best to run WordPress on. I've been testing with a fully developed Woocommerce enabled website to really put the servers through their paces. To enable you to make an informed decision I also tested out two VPS servers and the managed WordPress solution from WP Engine.
Best WordPress Hosting Providers Summary
For those of you that don't have the time to read the full guide, here's a summary of the best WordPress hosting companies so you can quickly make a decision.
Best WordPress Hosting Providers in-depth guide
WordPress Hosting companies featured in this guide
The companies featured in my guide we're chosen based on a number of factors. I wanted to include popular companies, like HostGator as well as slightly more obscure companies like FastComet, that often do well in reviews online.
Shared Hosting Companies
Hostgator is big. Really big! It's also been around for a long time and currently hosts over 10 million websites on the internet. It's a company that I've been recommending in my previous video tutorials. I host a number of my own websites with them and I've always found them to be excellent value for money. Their servers are generally based in the US.
Test site: www.bowwowtech.co.uk
SiteGround is a very popular hosting company, often recommended by WordPress experts online, especially YouTubers. It is often described as a much better alternative to HostGator so I was very interested to find out if they live up to their reputation.
Test site: http://siteground192.com/~bowwowte/
Established in 1996, DreamHost has grown its customer base to nearly 2 million sites. They had a bit of trouble back in 2017 when a large Denial-of-service attack brought their servers to their knees. I think they've learnt from this and have since increased their security protection.
Test site: https://www.bowwowtech.dreamhosters.com/
Bluehost is owned by EIG, the same company that owns HostGator, amongst others in the same space. Founded in 2003 in Orem, Utah, they've grown to become huge, looking after over 2 million websites. They claim they love WordPress too stating “No one powers WordPress better or understands it more than we do.”
Test site: http://box5674.temp.domains/~bowwowte/
FastComet have been looking after websites for over 9 years. Recommended to me by a number of the WP Eagle viewers, it wasn't a company I was familiar with. According to their ‘about us' page, their “SSD Cloud Hosting solution is one of the most accessible and affordable on the Web Hosting Market powered by a rocket-fast 24/7 support team.”
Test site: http://bowwowtech.info
Famous for being one of the fastest hosts available for the money, I was really interested in testing them out. They appear to be quite a small “boutique” hosting company compared to some of the other EIG owned organisations. They also claim to be a leader when it comes to customer service, something that I can certainly vouch for as they answered my questions at lightning speed.
Test site: http://p2.temporary-access.com/~bowwowte/
Promising super fast servers, guru support and a “Anytime Money Back Guarantee” I was intrigued by the award winning A2 hosting. They've been around since 2001 during which time they've grown impressively, whilst still managing to remain independently owned.
Test site: bowwowtech.a2hosted.com
VPS and Managed Hosting Companies
WP Engine are different from the rest as they don't offer regular affordable WordPress hosting. Instead they provide a high-end, WordPress optimised, managed hosting service which promises unrivalled performance and fantastic scaleability. This does come at a premium price however, as even their basic hosting package costs considerably more than the other companies featured in this hosting guide. Is WP Engine really worth the money?
Test site: http://siteground192.com/~bowwowte/
SpidrWeb offer bespoke VPS hosting depending on the requirements of the website rather than supplying a one-size-fits-all solution. I was kindly given a couple of servers to test out, one powered by Amazon and another by 1and1 to get an idea of the difference between shared hosting and a VPS.
Test site 1 (AWS based): http://aws.bowwowtech.co.uk
Test site 2 (1and1 based): http://1and1.bowwowtech.co.uk
This part of the web hosting guide will be about the shared hosting companies (not WP Engine and VPS), however scroll to the end of this guide to discover how they compare.
How I tested the hosting companies
To create a fair testing environment so that the results were as accurate as possible I used the entry level shared package from each company (excluding WP Engine and the VPS setups). I only chose standard hosting rather than WordPress specific hosting as it's usually better value. Where possible I chose a server location in the US. I then installed an identical WordPress website on each one. I decided to use my Amazon Affiliate website, BowWowTech.co.uk as the test site.
This site is pretty resource intensive as it's running a number of different plugins including WooCommerce and Wzone which is one of the reasons I chose it for testing rather than a vanilla WordPress install. Another reason I thought it would make a good test site is because I know a large number of the WP Eagle community are running similar setups based on the popularity of my tutorial videos on this site (check out this tutorial if you'd like to create a similar site).
To demonstrate the difference between shared hosting, and the more expensive WP Engine and VPS setups I installed the site on the those too.
Once I had each hosting account up and running I tested it on the following 4 important points:
- Features – Are any extras included, like SSL and the option to chose server location?
- Speed and Performance – How quickly do web pages load?
- Value for money – What performance and features you get for your money
- Support – How quickly I got help if I needed it
Hosting Features and Specification
When choosing a hosting company, comparing the features and specifications between companies and packages can be a little overwhelming. Let us take some of the confusion away by explaining the key features you need to check when choosing your hosting:
- Number of Websites / Domain Names – This is the number of websites you can setup. Most basic packages limit you to just one site however higher packages are often unlimited in the number of sites you can create. If it's your first site, start with the basic package and then upgrade as and when you need to.
- Free Domain Name – Some companies offer you a free domain name with your hosting, which is a huge bonus as it saves you the cost of registering a domain name, which can cost $10 – $15 per year.
- Storage – Measured in GB this is the amount of stuff you can upload to your web hosting. If you're thinking of adding lots of videos and images to your website you'll need plenty of space. Luckily a lot of companies offer unlimited storage space. If you are going to be adding mostly text content with a few images then storage will probably not be a deciding factor for you.
- Bandwidth – This is a measurement of how busy your site is. Every time someone visits your site they will use some of your bandwidth. The more images and videos you have on your site the more bandwidth your visitors will use.
- SQL Databases – Most web applications, like WordPress, require an SQL database. Generally you'll need one SQL database per WordPress install.
- Email – Most companies will offer you email addresses which can be used with your domain name. However, I often find that it's better to run your mission critical email with a dedicated email company like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Suite.
- Money Back Guarantee – Sometimes things just don't work out and you need to walk away. Knowing you can get your money back if you need to takes the risk out of choosing hosting. Money back guarantees can range from 30 days to ‘anytime'.
- Server Location Options – From a speed and performance point of view it's often beneficial to host your website close to your visitors. Some companies give you the ability to choose the location of the server you'll be using for your site.
In the table below you'll find the features offered by the companies in our test as well as the price for their basic packages.
As you can see there are a number of similarities between all the companies featured. They all offer a FREE SSL certificate, an essential feature in 2018, and they all offer unlimited bandwidth. The main points of difference between them are the ability to choose server location and the length of the money back guarantee offered. The amount of storage offered also varies, although 10GB is probably enough for most people's needs.
FastComet stands out from the rest as it's the only company that offers a free domain name, even though they are one of the cheapest offerings. It shouldn't completely influence your choice but it's certainly something to consider.
After looking through all the features in detail, there isn't actually that much difference between all of the companies. If you're going to be choosing a company based on features it's probably going to come down to having server location options and the amount of storage offered, although all companies probably offer enough storage for most sites.
If I had to choose a company based on features alone then FastComet and DreamHost come out on top for the amount of stuff you get for your money. Both of these providers are very well priced for the features you get. However, you can't just choose a host based on features alone. You have to consider speed and performance too..
Speed and Performance
The speed that your website loads is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to choosing your hosting provider. To measure the performance of each hosting package I used measurement tools as well as loading each site simultaneously whilst recording to see which one was the fastest in the real world.
WP Hosting Check plugin
I installed the wp Hosting Performance Check plugin on each site and left it to collect data for at least 30 days. This plugin measures the site each time a page is requested and gives your three key metrics..
- Web Browser Load Speed – How long a page takes to render fully in the visitors browser
- Server Response Time – How long the server takes to start serving the page to the visitor
- Technology level – An indication of the spec of the tech that the site is running on. This includes things like PHP version and MYSQL version.
Google PageSpeed Insights
The Google PageSpeed Insights tool is often used by webmasters to measure the speed of their websites on mobiles and desktops. With this tool you also get recommendations on actions you can carry out on your website to improve performance. One thing to keep in mind however, is that the results that Google give don't always match up with real-world performance. For example the site on A2 Hosting was one of the quickest to render in the browser, yet didn't score too well and the HostGator site which was noticeably slower than the rest scored pretty well.
Note: Since running my experiments Google has changed the PageSpeed tool interface and technology, which now generally results in even lower PageSpeed scores!
Browser Reload Test
As well as using measurement tools I also wanted to see how the sites actually loaded in the real world. So I came up with the WP Eagle quick and dirty browser reload test. I added each site to a tab in Google Chrome and then refreshed them simultaneously whilst recording my screen. By playing back the recording I was able to clearly see which sites rendered the fastest. I ran this test a number of times and the results were pretty consistent.
Of course, this isn't particularly scientific but I believe it gives a clearer indication of the speed of the sites over the measurement tools.
In the table below you'll find all of the results from my tests. The table is sortable by clicking on the column headers so can arrange the companies based on which metrics are the most important to you.
|Company||Web Browser Average Load Speed||Server Response Time||Technology Level (lower is better)||Google PageSpeed Score (Mobile)||Google PageSpeed Score (Desktop)||Browser Refresh Test Result|
When it comes to speed there really wasn't much between A2 Hosting and SiteGround which both delivered impressive page load speeds. At the other end of the scale MDD Hosting and DreamHost both rendered the test site 4 times slower than the fastest companies, with page load times of around 8 seconds!
I have to give the award for the best performance to SiteGround however as they achieved better Google PageSpeed scores and in some of my browser reload tests rendered slightly more quickly than A2. If you're looking for great website loading speeds you won't go far wrong by choosing SiteGround or A2 hosting.
Best WordPress hosting for speed and performance: SiteGround
Value For Money
When you're on a tight budget and you want to setup a new WordPress website then you're probably looking for a company that can give the most bang for your buck. To assess the value of a hosting company I took into account the features offered combined with performance and the level of support offered.
The cheapest company in my test is DreamHost with packages starting at $4.95, however the service also felt pretty cheap with slow page load times. Technical support however was good and I found their team prompt and helpful when I need assistance.
The 2nd cheapest option is FastComet who offer packages starting from $5.95 that include a free domain name! I was impressed with the service from FastComet as it delivered great performance for the low price, not as quick as the fastest companies, but more than adequate for the cost.
The most expensive company was HostGator and unfortunately you're not getting anything extra for the money as they failed to perform well in the performance tests. The HostGator support and features were no better or worse than the other companies.
In conclusion, if you're on a very low budget then FastComet is the best choice. If you can afford a little more then SiteGround is ideal as you get top performance without breaking the bank.
Best Value WordPress hosting service: FastComet
Customer Service Support
Sometimes things go wrong with websites. It's inevitable. And when they do you want your hosting company to be responsive and helpful when you reach out to them. To test out the the support offered I raised a support request with each one and measured how quickly they responded and how helpful the response was. The support offered did differ with some companies offering real-time chat and others just using the more traditional ticketing system.
Here's an overview of my findings..
The support received from all of the companies featured was good. If you're making your decision based on support it's really going to come down to if you prefer live chat which does give a quicker response time. However if you're prepared to wait a little longer for help, companies like FastComet are certainly worth considering as I found they often went the extra mile to help with problems.
SiteGround and A2 Hosting were also impressive with quick, friendly, detailed responses to my questions. One thing to note however, I found the best support was offered by the premium managed hosting company, WP Engine (see below for more on them).
Best WordPress hosting for support: Siteground
WP Engine and Spidrweb (VPS) hosting services
As well as testing out shared hosting services I wanted to find out if it's worth paying a bit extra for either a VPS server or a managed WordPress service like WP Engine. I've been using WP Engine for a while for about 20 sites and have been happy with the service, although it is expensive, so I had a good idea about how good it was. I'd never used a VPS server, however I was approached by Spidrweb who kindly offered to give me access to a VPS server to test out.
What is the WP Engine Managed Service?
The WP Engine managed service is a special type of shared hosting that has been designed with WordPress in mind. You don't get access to the stuff you usually get with hosting, like email and SQL databases, but instead you get an easy way to setup a WordPress site without features you don't need. They make it really easy to get a site up and running or move to them from an existing host. I've found the WP Engine customer support excellent. By operating a WordPress focussed service they are supposed to be able to deliver fantastic performance.
With prices starting at $35 per month for one site, is WP Engine really worth it?
What is a VPS?
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) gives you complete control over your own web server. You can use it for whatever you like, not just WordPress. Pricing on VPS is a lot more than shared hosting as you generally have to commit to a certain spec of hardware. Once you have a VPS server you can install as many websites as you like. VPS servers generally perform much faster than a shared hosting service, however you do need quite a bit of technical knowledge to set up and maintain your server and websites.
My VPS test server was supplied by Spidrweb who are offering a managed VPS service. This means that you can pay for access to a VPS for your WordPress websites and just pay per site. They'll take care of the technical stuff and give you access in a similar way to a shared hosting service. They also promise not install more than 30 sites on each VPS maintaining a high level of performance (shared hosting companies install 1000s of sites on each server!).
Spidrweb don't actually own any of their own servers. Instead they use Amazon Web Services and 1 and 1 internet to provide the technology, and they provide setup, support and maintenance. I was given access to both types of servers to allow me to make a comparison.
Features and Specification
In the table below you'll find the features offered by WP Engine and Spidrweb..
WP Engine and Spidrweb Hosting Speed and Performance Tests
I tested WP Engine and Spidrweb in exactly the same way as the shared hosting. Here're the results. I've kept the shared hosting services in the table so it's easy to compare..[table “” not found /]
In my tests the AWS based VPS from Spidrweb outperformed everything else, but not by a big margin. My two top performing shared hosting companies, SiteGround and A2 Hosting were very close with only a few tenths of second between them.
The result that shocked me the most was the performance delivered by WP Engine who failed to beat the majority of the shared hosting companies on test. This result has provoked me to move all of my current sites with them to a new provider that can give me improved performance for a lower monthly payment. I will say that WP Engine do offer excellent support, and they've helped me out with all kinds of WordPress problems, not just hosting related ones, but this alone cannot justify their massive price tag.
So in conclusion, avoid WP Engine and get a VPS server if you can afford it and have the technical know how. If not, shared hosting from SiteGround or A2 hosting will give you pretty much the same experience for a lot less money!
Affiliate Disclosure: Please be aware that any links of coupon codes you use from within this guide maybe affiliate. This means I will receive a small commission if you use them. If you do, THANK YOU!