WordPress Hosting Meaning
Blogging is a very popular term in internet now. A blog, during its initial days was something like an online diary, which people used to update on a day to day basis to express their ideas, views, share their thoughts, passions etc. It just used to be an online medium for reading. However as internet advanced, expression of views are commonly done through social media like facebook and twitter now. Blogs are also used for the same, however it also advanced to new forms. Now people use it for various means – to share thoughts, to promote their business and they even earn their living from blogs. The most popular blogging software in uses these days is WordPress.
WordPress.com Vs WordPress.org
WordPress is present in two forms – WordPress.org and WordPress.com
WordPress.com is more into normal blogging, where as WordPress.org provides the same software in a full fledged website format. WordPress.com provides you a website, in the form of a subdomain which is not under your control. Say for example george.wordpress.com, where George can write about his passion, his views on politics or anything and everything he wants to say. However he cannot modify the blog beyond a limit, or change it to a form he wish to use. Also, whether he likes or not, wordpress will add ads on his site.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, requires a domain name to be registered, hosting package to be selected, and then whatever you wish to do with the website can be done at your wish. You can modify the website as you wish, add plugins/themes as you desire, submit your site for adwords and earn revenue. All these when given to you together along with perfect management of your website, by the experts of the industry, is termed as WordPress Hosting.
WordPress is an open source Content Management System, created in PHP and mysql. It is used by millions of websites worldwide. What makes it so popular is its simple design, easy to use interface and themes which helps in building websites easily, even by newbies. One do not have to be technically knowledgeable to build a website with wordpress.
WordPress can easily run on any normal shared hosting platform. WordPress by itself is simple and sleek and do not cause any resource issues in the server. Hence all shared hosting providers allow wordpress to be installed on their server. They even provide software to install wordpress on a single click, without having to manually download and install them. It shows how every hosting provider promotes the use of wordpress and other CMS. WordPress websites are well suitable for normal shared hosting environment, provided they are simple, small websites like a personal blog with a few visitors. However, if your website is huge and drives a lot of traffic, then it is recommended that you find a wordpress host.
What Is WordPress Hosting?
A WordPress host is nothing but a shared host who has tweaked their servers to match all the technical requirements of running a wordpress website. This includes wordpress installation, website speed, website security, plugins, backups, updates, caching and anything and everything required by wordpress to run perfectly. So if your website is huge with a lot of traffic, it is recommended to get a WordPress Hosting, where your host will take care of technical side, and you can be relieved and concentrate on building your website. Cost wise, wordpress hosting will cost more than normal shared hosting, because of the extra features provided.
Features of WordPress Hosting
- Server side caching
- CDN, etc.
WordPress – Being Simple to Horrible
WordPress, by its default nature is very simple and user friendly. You can easily create and manage your website, create posts or anything you like with wordpress. However, as your business grows, or as your traffic increases, the requirements increases. Your site may require more advancements, and wordpress may now start eating your resources like anything. Your website starts loading really slow and it is such a horrible experience. Mostly, it is not a server problem, but checking a few things in your wordpress installation itself can correct the slow loading of your site. Let us see what all factors causes this and how can they be corrected. This is where the presence of a WordPress Host comes for your rescue.
Plugins – WordPress is abundant with plugins. Whatever options you require in websites, just search in google and you will find n number of plugins created for that use. I have never been disappointed searching for a wordpress plugin. For anything and everything you wish to see in your website, you will find a wordpress plugin. However not all plugins are well optimized. Some plugins may be poorly coded and once used in your website will cause heavy usage of sever resources and cause your website to load slow. Some other plugins will display a white screen on your website, leaving you clueless as to what happened to the site all of a sudden. You will have to identify such plugins and disable them to correct the problem. If there are a lot of plugins and you do not know which is the problematic one, then the easiest way to find it is by disabling all plugins at once, and then re-enable them one by one. Then enable the plugins one by one, and with utmost attention, check which plugin, when enabled, is causing the site to load slow again. As soon as you find the culprit, disable it. Too many plugins can also cause slow loading of your website.
Themes – WordPress has many built in themes which are indeed beautiful. However more beautiful themes are available from third party sources which can be bought either for free or for a fixed price. Themes will always give a nice look and feel to your website, however if not managed properly, will cause too much troubles to your website. Utmost care should be given while choosing a theme. Some themes are poorly coded, and will be easily hacked.
Attacks – Attacks comes in various forms towards wordpress websites. Mostly they are in the form of malicious activities like spamming, hacking, phishing etc. Once an attacker gains access to your wordpress, he can easily install anything in your website. Sometimes they install scripts which will send out spam emails from your website causing your IP address to be blacklisted. Sometimes they just hack and damage your website, breaking your business.
There are various other forms of attacks as well. Most of them are brute force attacks towards wordpress login pages. Some intend to just flood the wordpress login page with traffic, leading to slow loading or not loading the site at all. Some intend to gain access to wordpress admin area by trying with random usernames and passwords. There are some other types of attacks called xmlrpc attacks, which are very common these days, intended towards the xmlrpc.php page in your wordpress. Such distributed attacks when gets severe, will raise heavy load on the server and will affect all websites hosted in that server, and not just the single wordpress installation.
Home Page – Your site home page is what the visitors sees first, and you try to show maximum content on it. This will cause the site to load slow as all these data and widgets takes time to be loaded. Something which you did to impress your visitors might now cause a bad impression on them as the site takes ages to load.
Images & Videos – Images and videos in your websites always give a stunning look and entertainment to your website. However, when you try to load all these from the server it will take a lot of time to load depending on the size of the images – result being a slow site again.
How to choose a good WordPress Host?
Factors mentioned above are to be taken care of by anyone who uses a wordpress website. WordPress Hosts give utmost importance to all the above factors. Given below are the factors, which you should consider while choosing a WordPress Host.
- Know your Needs – First and foremost thing to check is whether or not the host is able to meet your resource requirements. You will have various requirements like disk usage, approximate number of visitors, bandwidth usage, number of email accounts etc and the host need to be able to satisfy all of them. There are a lot of hosting companies available, hence if one host do not have it, then move on to the next in your list. Be also aware of unlimited offerings, and be ready to accept that it is not a reality but a marketing trick. No host is able to actually provide unlimited resources. They are advertised on a belief that not all customers who signs up will use all the resources they have signed up for. This will help in maintaining a balance, especially in a shared environment.
- WordPress Management – Since you are choosing a WordPress Host, you need to make sure that the host will do all sorts of management related to your installation. Any issues or configuration problem should be properly taken care of by the support, because they hail themselves to be specialized in all aspects of WordPress. WordPress installation, all configuration aspects, optimization, performance issues etc should be handled by them. You need to confirm this with the provider before signing up.
- Reputation – Reputation of the host plays a crucial factor while choosing the host. Good reputation is not very easily gained, it does require superior customer service, quality support, good uptime and better management. Those hosts with good reputation should be the #1 choices in your list. Shortlist a few such hosts, read their reviews, try out their live chat if they have any and then you would be able to decide. For your easiness, we have coined up reviews of a few such hosts whom we found excellent in our Reviews section. Do not forget to read them as simply choosing a WordPress host, without proper research, will disappoint you later.
- Price – Another dominating factor in any purchase is the cost of the product. WordPress hosting, due to the extra specifications, costs a little more than normal shared hosting. However, if the service is good then it is worth the money you spend. We have a tendency to go after cheap offering, but keep in mind that when price is cheap, so would be the quality offered. It is always recommended to sign up with a good host with a reasonable plan. Do not be baffled by the Free, Unlimited offers.
- Caching – It is very important for high traffic wordpress sites to have caching enabled. Caching is the process by which dynamically generated data is stored in a static format, whereby further queries to the same data can be served from cache, rather than invoking the same process again. This speeds up page rendering. WordPress hosts employ different caching techniques and it is important to know what is used.
- CDN – Another important technology that all WordPress hosts should use is CDN or Content Delivery Network. It is very important for high traffic media websites. CDN is the technology by which static data is spread across various servers. Users when requesting these files will be hitting the server which is closest to their geographical location. This greatly improves website speed and almost all WordPress Hosts use CDN. It is important to know whether your provider uses it or not.
- Backups – Backups are real crucial in Web Hosting, no matter whichever type of hosting you choose. You should choose hosts with good remote backups, and easier restore options. Most hosts provide multiple restore points as well, so you can choose the date from which to restore. Even though your host would guarantee backups, from your end it would be a wiser move to generate and download local backups as well.
- Support – Support stands top most, above any other concerns. If support is not good, then you are at a loss. Before signing up, try contacting the pre sales/sales/support team of your prospective host with a few questions and check how fast and good they respond. Their response time, knowledge in the matter, attitude towards customer etc should be given importance. If that is satisfactory, then you can sign up with them. However try to repeat it and seek their help many times during the first month itself, so that if you find issue, you can switch before getting too worse. Most hosts offer support through live chat, phone, email and helpdesk. The more number of options they provide, the better, because in an emergency you can try any of those to get a response. Also they should be available 24X7 to help you any time.
- Money back – Most hosting companies now offer money back guarantee to their customers within a set time. In fact, it is a really good option which allows the customer to actually try the host without loss of money. So try to do everything you need during the trial period and if you are not satisfied you can immediately switch host and claim the money back. Hence, always check if the hosts offer any money back guarantees.
- Monitoring – 24X7 monitoring of your websites can be considered a mandatory requirement. Because if your website goes down and if you or your support team are not aware, then your business is going to be badly affected.
- Upgrade Options – Once your resource requirements increases, your site would need to be upgraded to higher plans. So if a shared WordPress hosting plan is not sufficient, then check if your host is able to carry out migration of your account to a VPS or other higher plans as desired. They should be able to do it at their responsibility.
- Addons – With higher plans, it is desirable to look for addons like one click staging site, Search Engine Optimization help, free domains, free malware scan, free SSL etc.
- TOS – The Terms of Service of the host should be properly read and understood before signing up. The attractive offers displayed in the home page stickers will have a different face and hidden costs which will be briefly described somewhere unnoticed in their TOS. So, make sure you have properly read the TOS. WordPress being a favourite target of all spammers, you should also know about the abuse handling procedures of the company.
- Security – Security should be a great concern and should be checked with the host, as to what all mechanisms they have in place to protect your data. Server Side security will always be taken care of by the host, but when it comes to wordpress there are a lot of things which can be done on the website side. We will come to such security tips later in this post.
Pros & Cons of Managed WordPress Hosting
Managed wordpress hosting is one in which all aspects of WordPress administration is taken care of by the host, giving ample time for the website owner to concentrate on their website and business. Like any other hosting, this also has a lot of prons and cons, a few of which are discussed below.
- Speed – With the use of CDN and other special caching techniques, your website speed is guaranteed. Servers specialized for WordPress have all configuration in place to boost up the speed of websites. Hence you are assured to get a fast website compared to a normal shared hosting. Some hosts use SSD disks which will further speed up the website.
- Updates – In a normal environment, you need to take care of all updates yourself. Plugins and themes are the most vulnerable. In a WordPress hosting, you just don’t need to worry about outdated plugins at all. Your installation as well as every plugin and theme associated will be updated regularly, as soon as a new update is released. Everything will be taken care of and managed by your support team and you can simply relax and concentrate on building the website.
- Security – Your wordpress installation will be highly secure, and will be taken care of by the host itself. You don’t need to worry about the security as the hosts will already have security measures in place to take care of server security. All you need to take care from the security point of view is to use strong passwords. Most hosts will conduct daily scans on your websites and if any website appears to be hacked, they will also take up the responsibility and clean the malicious files. They will also do an investigation on how the hack happened, and patch the application and take all necessary measures to prevent it from happening again.
- Support – Any issues that affect your website or any configuration help required with your wordpress settings can be taken to the support team. In normal shared hosting, only website issues will be taken care of by them. Thus, the website owners can focus more on creating a good website with good contents, selling their products, concentrate on their customers and leave the headache of managing the server and configuring and optimizing the website to the host. It saves a lot of time for the site owners to invest in their website and business, and also relieves them from the dirty jobs which they are not very expert at.
- Backups – They will take periodic backups of your settings, so that you can request a restore any time. Backups are very crucial to any hosting, however with wordpress hosting, you can request for a site backup as well as there are backup tools available as wordpress plugins also.
- Performance – In wordpress hosting, the hardware and software used are all specifically suited for wordpress websites. There will be server level caching and also all software used will be of the latest version, free from vulnerabilities, and will be tailored to give the best performance possible.
- Increased Uptime – Almost all hosts including normal shared hosts advertise 99.9% uptime. However, with wordpress hosting, due to the superior techniques in place, they are able to offer the promised uptime for all websites. Your visitors will not be disappointed by landing on an error page while browsing your site.
- Scalability – Some WordPress hosts deploy their servers on cloud platform, thus being able to scale and meet the resource requirements as much as possible. WordPress being a PHP/Mysql driven application, sometimes when thousands of visitors land on your website, there are chances for visitors to land on database error pages. With wordpress hosting, most hosts are able to scale the website’s traffic automatically, and make it possible for the website to accept any number of visitors.
- Price – Compared to a normal shared hosting, the price goes high when you opt a WordPress Host. If you are a small blogger, and do not earn enough income from your website, then you cannot afford WordPress Hosting.
- Lack of Control – You will have control, but not full control to all settings in your installation. You will be allowed to make changes and additions, but major technical things like caching, optimization etc will be done by host. They will decide what needs to be updated. If you are a technical person, you might not like this always.
- Limitations – You cannot create any other type of website on WordPress host. You can create websites with wordpress only. Also, you will not be allowed to install any plugin that you like. Depending on the host’s server setup, sometimes some important required plugins may not be available for use as the host disables it.
- Not everyone’s choice – Managed wordpress hosting is indeed good for WordPress websites, however if you are a newbie starting with wordpress, then you do not require Managed WordPress hosting. If you are a normal blog owner with a personal blog, with just one post in a week then you don’t need Managed WordPress hosting. Also, if there are not much visitors on your website and you do not earn enough money from the blog, then also you do not require this option.
Tips to keep your WordPress website fast and secure
Above, we discussed some factors which might affect the loading time of your website, and certain other factors that cause huge damage to your website. In this section, we will see what all can be done to speed up your website and also keep it secure from malicious activities. All good wordpress hosting companies will employ many such techniques to provide a good hosting experience to their customers.
Use reliable themes – The word ‘Free’ always have a magical attraction. You tend to grab anything you get for free. Same applies in the case of wordpress themes as well. Many are not ready to spend a penny for getting good themes. Most are satisfied with the free themes that are available. Though not all, most free themes are not well maintained and no proper updates to threats are covered in it. Hence, website using such themes will get attacked at the first place. To avoid that, it is always better to use a theme from the official wordpress theme repository. If you are able to spend a few dollars on third party commercial themes, then go for a good theme with proper support and updates.
Disable unnecessary plugins – As I mentioned above, wordpress plugins are available for anything and everything, and once you start using it, you tend to install plugins for all purposes. A lot of plugins will slow down your site badly. Hence disable the unnecessary plugins always. Use plugins only based on your requirements, and also identify resource consuming plugins and replace them with good ones. Install plugins from trustworthy sources only. This practice will not only fasten your websites, but will also minimize security risks.
Keep your home page simple – You might be tempted to showcase all your talents, design and data as soon as a visitor lands on your website. You will push all contents, images and widgets into the home page. This will load up your home page like anything and will lead to a very slow loading site. You should understand that a simple and nice design can be more impressive and appealing than a heavy loaded one. Just create a simple home page with necessary links to relevant information, this will load your website much faster than earlier.
Updates – Your wordpress installation, plugins and themes should always be upgraded to the latest stable version. Updates are released frequently and you should not miss or delay updating them. Old versions of any software are prone to attacks and this is a major requirement towards keeping your website secure.
Images and Videos – High quality images, and huge sized images and videos will slow down your website when accessed from the same shared server as your website is. Most shared hosts do not allow streaming, and hence videos cannot be played from their server. The best method to overcome this problem and reduce the slowness caused thus is to embed the images and videos from other links. For example, videos can be embedded from youtube so that when a visitor plays the video it is played from youtube. This also gives an added advantage that your bandwidth is not being used for playing your video.
Preventing attacks – You can disable xmlrpc.php file in your website’s .htaccess to prevent access to the file causing attacks. There are also plugins available in wordpress which disables xmlrpc and prevents attacks. Other distributed attacks cannot be fully controlled, if you do not have a DDOS protection enabled host.
Caching Mechanisms – WordPress being built in php is served dynamically. Each time a request is received, the page needs to be served from the webserver. Caching mechanisms, when employed, caches the web pages for faster delivery, there by improving speed and performance. There are a lot of cache plugins available for wordpress, out of which the plugin named W3 Total Cache has high popularity.
Using CDN – CDN or Content Delivery Network is a technology, when enabled, helps in speeding up your website drastically. The idea behind it is to use a large fleet of servers distributed across the world, and when a page is requested it delivers the page from the visitor’s closest server. For example, a visitor from Europe visits a website which is hosted in US. All the images and static contents hosted in that website will be delivered to him from a server in Europe which is closest to his geographical location.
Malware Scans – Whichever CMS you use, malware scans are a very important part of security. Most hosts will help you with it, and such scans will help to identify if any malicious scripts are injected into your website. For shared hosting customers, you will have to seek the help of your support team. Many wordpress plugins are also available which can be installed and used to scan the files.
WordPress Admin Security – A common target area for majority of wordpress attacks is the wordpress admin panel. The login.php script will be hitting a lot of traffic causing issues. To prevent this, it is recommended to IP restrict the admin area. You configure it in such a way that only those IP Addresses which belong to the admin users are allowed to access the wordpress admin area. All other access will be restricted. This can be done with the help of .htaccess file in your website. Another option is to setup two way authentication to admin area. That is, password protect the admin area, so that any attacker will have to crack the password protection first before playing with the actual admin logins. It is also recommended to use very strong admin passwords, avoid dictionary words and also keep the passwords confidential. Another security option is to change the admin username from the default “admin” to something else.
Strict Permissions – It is a common practice seen where by people set very loose or full permissions to all files and folders in the website. This makes the website very insecure and lets anyone play with it. This should not be done, and permission should be set strictly as said by the host.
Recommended WordPress Hosts
Based on our personal experience, and based on our customers’ experience, we have a list of WordPress hosts whom we recommend. The list is given below. You can also read reviews on them in our Reviews Section. If you are searching for a discount, you can check for discount coupons, if any, offered by the hosts at our ‘Discount Coupons’ section.