Shared, VPS, Dedicated or Cloud Hosting? Which is Best for WordPress?
There are so many different types of hosting that it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for your WordPress site, but at the same time, it just means there are enough options so you can choose the perfect fit.
Everyone needs somewhere to live, right? Well, so does your WordPress site!
Whether you build sites for clients or are looking to build and manage your own site, you are going to need hosting for your WordPress site(s).
Before you even start looking at different hosting providers, it helps to understand your options when it comes to WordPress hosting.
WordPress Hosting? Is That A Thing?
You know about WordPress CMS, WordPress plugins, WordPress themes, and you’ve probably heard about the WordPress support community.
But WordPress hosting? When did this become a thing?
Well, consider this …
WordPress powers over one-third of the world’s CMS websites. WordPress is free (if you didn’t know this, check out this liberating article: Why is WordPress Free?). Additionally, WordPress is open-source software used to build millions of websites designed to suit all kinds of purposes. WordPress even makes tens of thousands of free plugins and themes available to users in its repositories and directories.
The first question, then, is why does WordPress need WordPress hosting? Why not just any kind of hosting?
Well, as the popularity of WordPress increased and the WordPress platform began to be used for creating sites to suit all different kinds of purposes (not just blogs and websites, but eCommerce, membership sites, directories, multisite installations, etc.), more and more hosting providers realized there was a need to provide a web hosting environment specifically optimized for running WordPress sites, especially, as WordPress has its own characteristics when it comes to things like optimizing performance, improving page loading speed, security, maintenance, etc.
WordPress hosting allows web hosts to provide WordPress users with many custom features, such as management dashboards, marketplace integration of plugins and themes, sFTP access, automatic WordPress backups, WordPress file update versioning, and so on.
So, that’s why WordPress hosting exists.
Are There Different Types Of WordPress Hosting?
I’m glad you asked! Yes, there are different types of WordPress hosting and we’ll explore these in more detail in this post.
I take it you already understand the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. If you don’t, please go back one sentence and read the article. Essentially, WordPress.com is a hosted service for blogs, whereas WordPress.org provides a self-hosted version of WordPress that allows you to build, manage and grow your own website for any purpose you want.
In this post, then, we are going to focus on WordPress hosting options for self-hosted WordPress sites. The main options are shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated hosting, and cloud hosting, as well as using a content delivery network (CDN).
Once you understand these options, it will be to search for the right type of WordPress hosting for your site(s) and choose a hosting plan that will suit your budget and needs or specific projects.
Here are the options we’re covering below:
Free WordPress Hosting
Shared WordPress Hosting
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
Managed WordPress Hosting
WordPress Dedicated Server Hosting
Cloud WordPress Hosting
Summary of WordPress Hosting Options
While WordPress technically works with any of these options, some are better than others, especially when you have a specific project in mind.
Picking the right one is all about knowing the difference between each of these, their pros and cons, and just how much “WordPress” these hosting types can handle. So, let’s dive right into all of this now and find out which option is right for you.
Free WordPress Hosting
I’m only mentioning this option for comprehensiveness’ sake. If all you plan to do is start a blog, then get yourself a free WordPress.com site. It’s basically free hosting for a WordPress blog.
Unless it’s part of a marketing strategy to sell you a paid upgrade (e.g. offering a free trial), choosing to host your site with companies that offer WordPress hosting for free can have serious drawbacks.
The main downside of free web hosting is lack of support, especially when you need it the most. If you plan to build a real business, you need a real online presence and a real online presence needs great hosting support.
Other drawbacks to free WordPress hosting can include having to put up with other people’s pop-up banners and ads, experience frequent shut-downs, lack of access to certain files, or not being able to use your own domain (at least not for free).
As the old saying goes, “the only free cheese is in the mousetrap.” Free always comes at a price (except WordPress, of course. WordPress really is free!)
Shared WordPress Hosting
Shared WordPress hosting means many users host their sites on a single server. The server is administered by the hosting provider, but it can also be managed by anyone with access to the server’s main administration area or control panel, like a web developer or digital services agency looking after multiple clients’ sites .
For example, a popular application for managing a site’s hosting account settings is cPanel. A user on a shared server with cPanel installed may get access to their own cPanel control area, but the administrator of the server that is hosting their (and other) sites, gets access to the master control panel application, which in cPanel is called Web Host Manager (WHM).
As a website owner in a shared hosting environment, you don’t get access to the entire server, only the server administrator does. The service provider can create hosting packages and serve multiple websites from a single web server using a server management software like WHM, while website owners can only manage their individual hosting settings using an application like cPanel.
Shared WordPress hosting is usually the least expensive option and can be a good choice for websites and blogs that aren’t getting that much traffic. The advantage of shared hosting is low cost because the total cost of the server is being shared by all users. Shared hosting plans often claim to offer unlimited bandwidth and space, but the resources allocated to each individual account are in fact limited by the maximum bandwidth and space allocated to that server, and the number of customer accounts hosting on that server.
The server administrator configures hosting settings like maximum bandwidth and space for each user account, or they can choose to distribute these unevenly between users. Customers share the space and resources of the server up to their alloted limits and each user only has access to a tiny part of the server.
If total server limits are exceeded and there is no more bandwidth, space, or memory available, then the server administrator has to upgrade the server or their plan.
As a rule of thumb, shared WordPress hosting is good for anyone starting online. It suits light-traffic websites of bloggers, small businesses, and start-up companies because an average plan will typically handle no more than 300 visits per day.
Think of shared hosting like sharing a house with your college buddies. You all get a room but have to share the same amenities and living space. It’s affordable while you’re studying and only have a part-time job to support you, but at some point, you may outgrow the accommodation and need to find your own place.
Shared WordPress hosting is a great option for certain WordPress sites and projects. Some of its greatest strong points are:
- It’s the most affordable choice, often as little as $5 per month or less.
- Server security and maintenance are managed for you by the host.
- Most of the tools you need are already installed for you (e.g. cPanel)
- It’s quick to get started and easier to use than the other options.
If you ever run into troubles on a shared hosting plan, you can contact your hosting company’s support team and they can handle just about any issue you have so you don’t need to worry about being technically proficient in being a site or system admin.
While it’s a lot easier to get started with shared hosting, there are also a lot of downsides:
- Support may not be as responsive – One of the key differences between shared hosting and the other types described below is the level of dedicated support you can expect to receive. With shared hosting, it can take longer to get support or answers from your host.
- Security is not guaranteed – Since you don’t know your server neighbors, they may not be taking the same security measures as you and if they get hacked, it could lead to compromising the entire server and everything on it including your site. If you don’t have a dedicated IP address, your site could be blacklisted because of something done on a different site on the server sharing the same IP address.
- You have limited access to settings – With shared hosting, you often don’t have root access, some files are hidden from view and you may not be able to access advanced settings. For example, if you run out of PHP memory or you want to stress test your site to be prepared for traffic spikes, you won’t be able to resolve this on your own. Also, many shared hosting services don’t allow you to install certain plugins or applications.
- Your site shares important resources – Since you’re sharing the server with many people, this means you’re sharing resources such as bandwidth. If many sites on the server suddenly get tons of traffic, it creates a bottle neck and since there’s not enough bandwidth to go around, your site may become unavailable to your visitors intermittently.
- It’s not unlimited – Many hosting companies have “unlimited” shared hosting plans which sounds like they don’t put a cap on the resources you can use, but if you check their terms of service, this is definitely not the case. When the hosting company decides you’re using too many resources on the server, they could shut down your site.
Who This Hosting Option Fits Best
While the cons to shared WordPress hosting may be enough to make you want to steer clear, it may be the best fit for you if you’re just getting started and don’t expect loads of traffic yet, or if your (or your client’s) site only needs a couple of plugins installed and a few pages and the occasional new post.
For example, if you’re creating a site to give a small business an online presence or a personal blog where you only expect to get intermittent traffic, then shared hosting can work for you.
If you need a more robust environment to host your site, then consider one of the other options described below.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS) Hosting
A Virtual Private Server, or VPS, provides a more advanced option than shared hosting. A VPS is a single server split into individual virtual machines, each running their own operating systems with dedicated resources that can handle custom configurations.
A VPS, then, means that you have your own resources set aside for you on a shared server. In simple terms, choosing to host your WordPress site on a VPS means that your website will not be affected by other sites on your server when it comes to things like security and performance.
This is a great option if your websites are starting to gain more traffic. Compared with shared hosting, however, it is more expensive, as a physical server is being shared by less users.
If you’re a web developer or agency offering hosting services to clients, VPS hosting allows users to run multiple WordPress sites, offers more privileges, and provides a greater profit potential. VPS hosting performance also tends to be faster and more stable because it deploys more advanced technologies and offer better monitoring methods.
Similar to shared hosting, then, you’re still sharing a server when you choose a VPS, but there aren’t nearly as many customers allocated to the server. While resources and space are shared, everyone gets a larger slice of the pie.
You can think of hosting on a VPS as renting your own apartment instead of living in a shared house with all your friends. You have your own private part of the building, just as you would on a server with VPS hosting.
There are two main types of VPS hosting: Managed and unmanaged.
Managed VPS hosting means that your hosting company takes care of most of the work that goes into maintaining the server, including security, setting up the tools you need to run your site and setting up any other services you need.
Unmanaged VPS hosting means that you’re responsible for these areas and if you run into trouble, you’re expected to be the first port of call, not your host’s technical support team.
There are many reasons to choose a VPS hosting plan:
- You have more control – Having your own virtual server gives you administrative access. In most cases, you will have root access, be able to view all hidden files, and have access to all settings. This allows you to install and configure any software or script you want, customize your server configuration settings, and more.
- You have more flexibility – Unlike shared hosting, if there’s something you don’t have access to or need installed on your site, your hosting company is more likely to accommodate your needs.
- It’s scalable – VPS hosting typically provides instant deployment, low startup costs, pay only for services that you use, and easy upgrades. Most of the time, you can upgrade your plan if you need more resources without having to migrate your site to a new server, as opposed to shared hosting, which typically has a set limit to how far you can grow.
- More allocated resources – Unlike shared hosting, VPS has dedicated resources (RAM and CPU) and can be run independently of all other websites on the server. Since you’re renting a larger portion of the server, you get access to a lot more of the server’s resources than shared hosting. VPS hosting can also handle a lot more traffic than shared hosting plans.
- It’s more cost-effective than renting a dedicated server – VPS is ideal if you want the benefits of having your own dedicated server, but don’t want to pay as much. In most cases, VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting, but it’s still fairly affordable.
- It can be more profitable if running many websites – If you plan to manage many WordPress sites, a single VPS hosting plan can be cheaper than paying for multiple shared hosting plans. Also, as already mentioned, a VPS lets you manage your own hosting account. If your hosting environment uses cPanel, for example, you get access to both cPanel and WHM, which gives you the ability to create multiple cPanel accounts for different websites or even resell hosting services.
While you have a lot more freedom with a VPS, there are also some important points you should consider before jumping in:
- Cost – VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting. While the average cost of most VPS hosting plans has come down over time, you can still expect to pay between $20 – $80 per month, whereas many shared hosting plans start as low as $3.95 per month.
- Security is still not guaranteed – Since you’re still sharing a server, your site may still be affected by what other people on the server do, especially if they get hacked.
- Server is still being shared – Even though you’re sharing with far less people, you’re still sharing. This means that resources may not be equally distributed among all users, so you may not have access to all the resources you need when you need it, such as bandwidth.
- Technical skills are required – Even though it’s a virtual server, managing it still requires more technical expertise than shared hosting. You may not get as much help from technical support, especially if you choose an unmanaged plan, where you are responsible for maintenance, software updates, security, etc.
Who This Hosting Option Suits Best
WordPress VPS hosting suits traffic-intensive sites like small to medium-sized enterprises and popular blogs that are getting thousands of visits per day.
If you plan to run one or more sites where each site needs multiple different plugins installed, a VPS is usually a good solution. Also, if you’re expecting thousands of site visitors each month, then VPS hosting is also a good fit. It’s also roomy enough to run Multisite well.
Here are a few examples of the types of WordPress site you could setup with VPS hosting:
- A new company that requires a complex site but doesn’t expect to grow too quickly.
- A photography site or blog planning to post tons of photos or other media types (e.g. videos) on a regular basis.
- A site that needs to run custom scripts and plugins.
When choosing a WordPress VPS hosting solution, consider the balance of features, pricing, and performance. And if you’re interested in the flexibility of VPS hosting, but don’t want to manage all the technical details like software installation and maintenance updates, then consider the next option below.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Managing a large WordPress site that attracts anywhere from hundreds to thousands of visitors a day can be very complex. If you need the power of a VPS, but can use more assistance from your hosting provided, then managed WordPress hosting could be the way to go. This gives you all that WordPress VPS hosting can offer, with the added advantage of ongoing technical support and expert advice.
With managed WordPress hosting, you don’t need to worry about the technical stuff. Your hosting provider looks after all that, including server activation and monitoring, maintenance, site backups, optimization, and security. This makes managed WordPress hosting slightly more expensive compared to other hosting services offering similar hosting specs, but it’s a great option to consider if you are a WordPress user, especially if you have no time or skill to manage your WordPress site(s).
Continuing with our analogy of hosting as a place where your website lives, think of managed WordPress hosting as not only renting your own apartment, but living in a serviced apartment, in a building that offers you all the amenities you want for the lifestyle you seek, with neighbours and caretakers who also share similar interests.
Who This Hosting Option Suits Best
As your small business or digital presence grows into a high-traffic website, you may need to scale things up and this is where choosing managed WordPress hosting for your site makes sense.
Scaling things to the next level, however, presents many challenges. To learn more about the benefits and pros and cons, or whether this option is even right for you, we’ve written a comprehensive guide on managed WordPress hosting.
WordPress Dedicated Server Hosting
A dedicated server is ideal for larger companies with massive amounts of traffic pouring into their site, or web developers and agencies looking to provide hosting services to clients.
With dedicated server hosting, you get the whole enchilada when it comes to accessing all the resources of an entire server.
When you sign up for a dedicated server, you’re renting an entire server on your own. If your site needs performance over cost, this option might be the way to go. Just be aware that with great power comes
great responsibility hefty cost.
This is the level where you get to become the administrator of the server. You can use the entire server for your own needs, or partition it and ‘sublet’ to different users. As discussed earlier, if you were to host on a dedicate server with cPanel installed, for example, you would get access to WHM and could create different hosting packages to resell for other website owners.
Dedicated server hosting is like living in a house where you’re the only resident. You can decorate the house however you want, but you’re also responsible for repairs.
Just as with VPS, many hosting companies also provide managed and unmanaged dedicated servers.
There are many great reasons for choosing a dedicated server:
- You’re not sharing the server – All the resources are yours, you’re not sharing with anyone, and you have full reign over the server and its resources. You can allow only the people you want to be server admins, or you can create a reseller account and allow others to host their sites on your server if you want.
- Access to all settings – Nothing’s held back. You have full control over your site and server including root access and all the otherwise hidden files and advanced settings. You can make just about any change to your server that you want.
- A bit more secure – While security can never be fully guaranteed, as you’re the only user on your server (or the one controlling the server if you plan to allow other users on your server), you don’t have to worry about your site being compromised because of other users’ actions. You can implement all the necessary security measures you want to harden your server with less fear of being compromised by external influences you can’t control.
While a dedicated server brings a lot more freedom to your hosting experience, there are some downsides:
- You’re solely responsible for your server – If something goes wrong, it’s on you and it’s up to you to fix it (although to be fair, most companies offering dedicated managed hosting are usually very helpful and will handle most server issues for you).
- It’s not scalable – The resources you get can’t be changed unless you migrate to a bigger server. You can’t suddenly create more space, bandwidth or other resources.
- Less affordable option – Dedicated servers aren’t as affordable as VPS. Be prepared to spend $100 per month or more, and up to $300 – $700 per month for larger servers.
Who This Hosting Option Suits Best
Dedicated servers are a better option for complex sites that require better security, custom applications, and complete control of their hosting environment. It’s also a good option for running a large ecommerce, social media, directory, or membership site. You can also run a Multisite network with ease, even if there are many sites on the network.
Ultimately, it depends on the size of your server, but in most cases, dedicated servers are fairly large, unless you’re paying for the lower end of the scale, in which case, your hosting may be similar to a VPS in terms of resources.
The main thing to consider with dedicated WordPress hosting is that you won’t be able to add more resources if your site suddenly becomes popular and begins to experience a consistent growth in traffic. If you don’t have enough server resources, you can find your server falling down intermittently, which will render your site out of action until things are restored or you upgrade to the next level.
Still, dedicated servers can be great for developers or agencies looking to host client sites and companies whose sites have outgrown their VPS hosting capabilities. It’s also a great option for hosting hundreds of thousands of blogs using Multisite or loads of interactive users and members if you run an ecommerce, membership or social media site.
Cloud WordPress Hosting and CDN Solutions
Cloud hosting is different from all the other hosting solutions we have covered because it’s usually used to describe a cluster of servers rather than just one.
Cloud hosting works on the principle of data redundancy. Your web content is spread throughout multiple servers, which helps to improve your site’s “uptime” and improves data security. Increased uptime and security, however, also increases the cost, but this is a great option for anyone who wants to make sure that their site is live for users 99.999% of the time.
Cloud hosting is also elastic and ‘on demand’, in the sense that if you suddenly need more resources, your hosting can automatically adjust and resize to allocate your site the resources it needs. If you suddenly get a spike of traffic, for example, your site won’t go down due to exhausted resources, since most cloud hosting environments can expand your Processor and RAM allocation to accommodate the surge and disk space can also be increased at a later time.
Cloud hosting and CDN are different. Cloud hosting is essentially a big cluster of servers typically housed in one data center and optimized for that location. A content delivery network (CDN), on the other hand, is a group of servers distributed around different locations around the country or around the world, all storing the same cached version of your site, designed to load faster when visitors request information from your site.
Both solutions are similar in that they make use of multiple servers, but cloud hosting can store and serve up a dynamic version of your site. You also often have to share resources similar to shared or VPS hosting, but because there are more servers involved, it also means there are a lot more resources available for everyone to use as well.
Cloud hosting, then, is like renting a large house with loads of rooms where you only have to pay for the space you use. A CDN is like keeping updated photo album copies of your house in lots of Airbnb homes, so guests can check out what your home looks like wherever they choose to visit or stay.
Cloud hosting and CDNs have many pros:
- Highly Scalable – If you suddenly need more resources or access to more bandwidth, you can automatically get it.
- Flexible Pricing – With cloud hosting you pay only for what you actually use. Many CDN companies offer similar plans.
- Redundancy & Rapid Deployment – Your sites load faster and since your site can automatically resize when more resources are needed, your site is a lot less likely to go down. With cloud hosting, you also get the feature of redundancy, allowing your site to be cloned on other environments to further reduce downtime.
- Innovate Faster – the cloud gives you fast and easy access to a broad range of technologies, allowing you to innovate faster.
Additional pros of clud hosting can include complete ownership of all software and data, full access to most of the server settings you need (this depends on the hosting company and plan you choose), and better user experience as the hosting company maintains all the infrastracture and can deliver blazing fast speeds. Also, many CDN solutions offer firewall and other security features including SSL certificates to increase overall security.
While there are many benefits to using cloud hosting and CDNs, there are some downsides:
- Security & privacy not guaranteed – By leveraging a remote cloud based infrastructure, you are basically outsourcing everything and depending entirely on external security and privacy protocols. Also, as you’re still sharing resources, your site may be affected by what happens to other sites using cloud hosting.
- CDNs only display static sites – Most WordPress sites are dynamic so in most cases, a CDN won’t do much when it comes to speeding up your site’s front end (but it can improve and speed up the back end significantly).
- Platform dependency – depending on the platform you choose, you can end up becoming ‘locked into’ the applications used to make your site run, making it difficult to reconfigure applications, migrate from one cloud hosting platform to another, or expose your data to additional security and privacy vulnerabilities.
- Learning curve – Cloud hosting isn’t an easy solution to set up and can often be difficult even for technically-minded developers. It’s not impossible, but it’s also not for beginners. CDNs, on the other hand, are often incredibly easy to set up, but navigating the options may be a bit more challenging when it comes to getting the right balance for dynamic WordPress sites.
Who This Hosting Option Suits Best
Huge companies and institutions such as Netflix, Airbnb and NASDAQ use cloud hosting. If your site is as big as any of these, then you should consider cloud hosting as your best option. In fact, we’ve even written a tutorial on how to install WordPress on Amazon Web Services (AWS) if you want to set up WordPress on the cloud and manage your own WordPress cloud hosting service.
Almost any WordPress site can benefit from a CDN other than simple sites with a small audience. You can also check out our CloudFlare review for more details about their free CDN service as well as some of the benefits and drawbacks of using a CDN.
You can also check out some of our other articles for more details about cloud hosting and CDNs: Moving WordPress Media To The Cloud With Amazon S3 and CDN77 Review: A User-Friendly CDN for WordPress Faster Than Amazon CloudFront.
Summary Of Hosting Options
The table below provides a quick summary of the different types of hosting available for WordPress, which types we recommend using depending on your level of traffic, and the pros and cons of each option.
|Type of Hosting||Traffic||Pros||Cons|
|Shared WordPress Hosting||Low||
|Virtual Private Servers (VPS) Hosting||High||
* Unless it’s a managed hosting service.
|Managed WordPress Hosting||High||
|Dedicated WordPress Server Hosting||Very High||
* Unless it’s a managed hosting service.
|WordPress Cloud Hosting & CDN Solutions||Very High||
Unless you want to build a small site that is going to stay small, the best option for most startups and small businesses is usually WordPress VPS hosting or managed WordPress hosting. For larger companies, networks, and ecommerce or social media sites that get a lot of traffic and user interaction, a WordPress dedicated server or cloud hosting is a better fit.
The cost of hosting is always important, but if you’re just starting, thinking too small could limit your growth and require upgrading later to a new server. On the other hand, if you think too big too soon, you could be stuck with a hefty bill for resources that you’re not going to need or use for quite some time.
No matter what your choice of hosting is, think with the end goal in mind and plan a route for scalability. This way, as your site grows, you will have a plan that will allow you to easily upgrade your resources and transition to a new hosting environment much more easily with minimal disruptions or downtime.
It’s also important to note that all hosting companies have their own preferred hosting environments and hosting plans, so make sure you know what you need and check with them to find out exactly what you’re getting before you sign up.
And last but not least, no matter which company, hosting type or plan you choose, remember that no hosting provider is immune to service outages. Anything that is hardware-based can fail or fall over, and anything that depends on an internet connection can leave you without access.
We hope the above information helps you make the right hosting decision for your WordPress site(s). If you are looking for more than reliable and scalable WordPress hosting for your site or a network of client sites and expert 24/7 WordPress support, consider becoming a WPMU DEV member. Members get 3 sites hosted on world-class fully dedicated WordPress hosting servers included as part of their membership, plus access to our entire suite of essential plugins, site management and reporting tools, backups, optimization, security, and marketing tools, and so much more! That’s what makes us your all-in-one WordPress platform.
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