One of the most important decisions you will make in setting up your WordPress site is choosing a good hosting site. There are a lot of factors that determine your experience with your host, including their uptime, their speed, and how well they handle customer support.
It’s the place where we store our data, so it’s crucial to choose a provider that offers the right features at a reasonable price. There are many hosting platforms out there, and choosing the best WordPress hosting sites can be time-consuming.
In this short guide, I’ll walk you through the key features to look for when choosing a WordPress hosting site, and give you my recommendation for the best WordPress hosting site in 2021.
While there are many WordPress hosting sites out there promising you the best service, there are really only a handful of real contenders. Some of the big players in the WordPress hosting world are BlueHost and HostGator. But if you’re just starting out with a new WordPress site, these companies may be a bit too much. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the best WordPress hosting sites for beginners.
Ranking Factors to Look For
Do you go for a WordPress hosting site with the most resources, or one that has a reputation for being cheap, or should you be looking for one that offers you a combination of both?
WordPress servers aren’t too expensive anymore and the good ones are powerful enough to get the job done. So, what should you be looking for when you’re deciding on the best WordPress hosting sites? Here’s my checklist.
Whichever WordPress hosting site you decide on, choose one that is reliable. Reliability equates to uptime and downtime the hosting provider guarantees. Normally you’ll see something like a 99.9% uptime guarantee. In the IT world, that’s called ‘three nines.’ Most enterprises aim for five nines uptime, or 99.999% availability. Most of us don’t need 5-9s. It’s overkill and very expensive to operate at that high of a reliability factor. 99.9% meets most bloggers’ standards.
Here’s Google’s chart to help you understand how many minutes of downtime is associated with each ‘9’:
By now, paying attention to security should be assumed whenever you look for any online product. It’s not an area anyone should get complacent with, especially if you’re dealing with e-commerce or visitor data.
Your hosting site should offer multi-factor authentication (or MFA, 2FA) for your account logins.
I always recommend heading over to Google and search for recent data breaches with the provider you’re interested in using. Let’s say you want to use Dreamhost. Simply search for “Dreamhost data breach” and check out the results.
Stay away from WordPress hosting sites that have multiple cybersecurity breaches in the last few years. It’s a huge red flag.
Ease of Use
You can either choose a managed hosting site, where everything is taken care of for you including updates and support, or a self-hosted site where you are responsible for everything. In most cases, you can save a lot of money going with the managed option, but it cost more.
Some hosting sites’ dashboards or admin panels look dated and are not intuitive. Others, like SiteGround, have perfected the user interface. Most hosts use CPanel, the oldest and most common web hosting dashboard. It’s cumbersome and varies based on the ‘add-on’ software the hosting provider uses.
Another thing you should look for is a ‘one-click WordPress install.’ If you’re new to WordPress, you don’t want to install it manually. Most hosts use one-click installs. Others, like my personal favorite, A2 Hosting, automatically build your WordPress server when you set up your domain name. Too easy, right?
When you eventually have problems (and yes, I intentionally said “when” instead of “if”), the WordPress hosting site better have good customer service. From personal experience, Dreamhost and SiteGround have great customer service but HostGator’s is terrible.
I recently switched to A2 and haven’t had any issues or reasons to contact their support, yet.
When you review the different packages the hosting sites offer, pay attention to what level of support the package you select comes with. Typically the higher tier service tickets get bumped to the top of the list, and the lowest tier is handled with a ‘best effort.”
Free Tools and Resources
I mentioned a cool tool before, the one-click WP install but look for a few more. The top item I look for is whether the hosting site offers unlimited free SSL certificates for my domains. Almost all hosts do now.
Look for free custom email addresses, free calendars, WordPress site migration software, site performance optimization apps, and much more.
When you’re new to WordPress, the more free tools and resources a hosting provider uses, the better off you’ll be.
This is where the assessment can get overly technical. To keep things simple, I’m going to assume you have a small website, whether it’s a blog or an e-commerce shop. My point is this: you don’t have tens of thousands of visitors per month. If that’s true for you, then a Shared Hosting package is your best option. It’s cheaper than dedicated hosting and VPS.
Make sure your hosting site uses SSD hard drives (at a minimum) on their servers. They’re faster than HDD and more energy-efficient.
I left Dreamhost after a few months because when I switched from SiteGround to them, my sites slowed to a crawl. My pages took forever to load and it tanked my SEO.
I left SiteGround for another WordPress hosting site for the last, but not least ranking factor.
As you begin to research your WordPress hosting options, you will likely find that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. Some articles and blogs will tell you that going with a low-cost WordPress hosting option is a sure way to experience slow loading times and frequent website crashes. Other articles and blogs will tell you that expensive WordPress hosting options are the only way to go and that you get what you pay for. So which is it?
Well, I want my cake and I want to eat it too. With SiteGround, my sites were fast and the control panel was super easy to use. But after my initial service contract, the price skyrocketed well beyond a price I was willing to pay.
So I switched to the cheapest platform – Dreamhost. Like I said above, it was a huge mistake. Fortunately, I found A2 hosting and I now get the best performance at a crazy cheap cost per month.
The trickiest thing most hosting sites do is offer a significantly reduced price when you first sign up. Most offer that price for 1 year. Others let you lock it in for 3 years. After that term is over, you probably think they’d offer a renewal discount, right? Nope.
Not one single hosting provider I’ve used offers renewal discounts. HostGator? Nope. SiteGround? Nope. DreamHost? Nope. BlueHost? Nope.
Unless you want to switch hosts every 1-3 years, pay attention to the monthly cost after your discount is over and make sure it doesn’t jump from $12/mo. to $44/mo (I’m looking at you, SiteGround).
Top 5 WordPress Hosting Sites
Now, without further ado, here are my opinions on what I consider the top 5 WordPress hosting sites. I’ve shared some graphics from third-party sites to justify my opinions, too. Ultimately, you should do the research and choose the best one for your site.
#1: A2 Hosting
I love A2 hosting. Out of the numerous hosting sites I’ve used, I get the most bang for my buck with them. My sites perform insanely fast and their prices are so low that it makes no sense – but I’m not complaining!
They still use CPanel, unfortunately, but as I mentioned before, you don’t even have to click a button to install WordPress on your site. They do it automatically and when you log onto your site, it’s not full of the typical bloatware plugins.
One thing that surprised me is that in addition to the free email accounts, they also offer a synchronized calendar, too. I didn’t get that from Dreamhost and I don’t think SiteGround offers it, either.
Another shock was how easy it was to integrate my site into Cloudflare. Every other hosting site I used broke my site until I fixed it manually. With A2, it just worked. Plus, they have an integration with WPCentral so you can manage all of your WordPress sites from one dashboard. Wow.
Siteground has been the WordPress hosting site champion for a long time now. If their prices didn’t skyrocket, I would have stayed with them. Their performance levels are among the best and often are the best.
They dedicate much of their time to improving the user dashboard. SiteGround replaced CPanel with their own panel called SiteGround Manager and it’s awesome. Where CPanel makes your eyes cross when you first see it, SiteGround Manager makes your eyes roll back into your head from pure joy.
You don’t need any instructions on how to navigate to each menu in Manager, either. It’s that intuitive. Except for the cost, I don’t have a damn bad thing to say about SiteGround. If you can afford them, use them.
And that’s my list!
Wait, what? That was only four? I promised five, didn’t I…oops.
Just kidding. Here’s my last pick, but it’s sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure novel we read as kids. I can’t tell you if they’re good or not. I can only tell you this deal is f***ing amazing.
#5: AppSumo Limited Time Deals
If you’re feeling adventurous (like I am, most of the time), you can check out AppSumo for new hosting sites. They typically offer unbelievably crazy prices, where you pay a one-time fee and you lock in a lifetime plan. Yes, lifetime. As in, you never have to pay them again.
At the time I’m writing this article, you can lock in a lifetime plan with a WordPress hosting site called Rootpal. Get the deal here.
Rootpal guarantees 99.99% uptime (wow!) and 24/7 support. One of the reasons I love shopping on AppSumo is it’s like going to a small business to do business, rather than supporting major organizations. You tend to get better customer service with the smaller companies.
Use them at your own risk, though. Luckily, AppSumo has the best money-back guarantee on the entire internet and they make it easy to get your money back if you’re not satisfied.