You’ve decided to use WordPress to launch your new website.
That’s a great decision. WordPress is a type of web builder and one of the top CMSes in the world, because it makes it very easy to create, build, and grow your website.
In order to have a website online, you need to have a domain name and a web host. Without those two in place, you have no way for people to access your website, and you don’t have anywhere to store your website’s files.
You might be wondering, do I need web hosting for WordPress sites?
Well…yes and no. WordPress actually has two different versions, WordPress.org and WordPress.com. With the second version, you can actually obtain a free domain and website, without the need to sign up for hosting on your own.
But, this might not be the best course of action, as you’ll soon learn.
Below we’ll highlight the differences between the two versions of WordPress, help you decide which one is best for your needs, and get into the variety of WordPress hosting options you have available. If you’re new to building a website, this article will show you how web hosting works and how it applies to your site.
What You'll Learn...
- The Differences Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
- Why You Should Self-Host Your WordPress Site
- WordPress Hosting Requirements
- Different Kinds of WordPress Hosting Available
- What to Look for in a WordPress Web Host
- Closing Thoughts
The Differences Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
Once you’ve decided upon using WordPress as your CMS of choice, your next decision is to choose which version of WordPress to use.
Think of it like owning your own home, versus renting an apartment. By owning your home you have complete control over it. With renting you can only do as much as the homeowner or property manager allows.
Take it back a minute…WordPress is an open-source content management system, meaning anyone in the world can code and develop for WordPress. But there’s still a “governing body” if you will. That’s WordPress.org.
What is WordPress.org?
WordPress.org is probably what you’re most familiar with. You can download the self-hosted version of WordPress here. When you’re building a site using WordPress, this is probably the version that you’re going to use.
WordPress.org is the informational website, offering all the information about using WordPress and the new releases for the software. You can download the WordPress software from WordPress.org and take it to any web host.
When using this version you can install it on your own server or you’ll need web hosting services.
Why is WordPress.com?
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is sorta the business unit of WordPress where the same organization can make money off WordPress.
WordPress.com is similar to a site like Typepad, or even Tumblr. Instead of having your site on your own domain, you’ll create a free site on a subdomain. So people will have to type in something like “yourname.wordpress.com” to access your site.
With this, you don’t have to worry about a domain or hosting. Just sign up and start building your site with the selection of free themes.
This might sound ideal, but the free version is pretty limiting, especially with the themes you can use. With WordPress.com you’ll have a very small selection of themes and plugins to choose from, even if you upgrade to the premium package. Plus, it’s very difficult to grow a popular site or an online business using a subdomain.
Why You Should Self-Host Your WordPress Site
Overall, if you’re going to be using WordPress you’ll want to be using the self-hosted version. Sure, using WordPress.com might let you build your site and get online faster, but you’ll be sacrificing a lot.
Here’s a list of the benefits you can enjoy with the self-hosted version of WordPress:
1. Control Over Your Theme and Plugins
When you’re building a site you want to build it exactly as you see fit. With WordPress.com your plugin and theme selection will be greatly limited and you’ll only be able to make certain customizations.
By self-hosting WordPress, you open yourself up to the entire world of WordPress plugins and themes. You’ll have access to the library of free themes and plugins, as well as any premium theme or plugin you wish to purchase.
2. Improved Site Performance
When you self-host WordPress you have the ability to choose the best host for your needs. That means you can find the host that’s going to help you get the most out of your WordPress site.
You’ll also have control over any plugins that you install to help further optimize your loading speeds and overall site performance.
Plus, self-hosted sites tend to perform better than sites that exist as a subdomain of a larger site, both in the search engine rankings and user experience overall.
3. Turn Your Site Into a Business
With a self-hosted site, you can monetize however you want.
There are certain advertising and monetization restrictions for WordPress that you’ll run into. For example, you can only use their integrated advertising platform, and you need a certain level of traffic to qualify.
By self-hosting your site there’s no limit on how you choose to make money. You’ll have your choice of ad networks. You can install plugins to help you sell affiliate products, create your own courses, and more. You can even turn your WordPress site into a full-fledged eCommerce store.
If you’re serious about growing your WordPress site, scaling your traffic, or turning your site into a full-fledged business, then you’ll want to self-host your WordPress site.
WordPress Hosting Requirements
Luckily, WordPress doesn’t have that many hosting requirements. Overall, it’s very lightweight and compatible with almost every hosting company’s setup.
The only two main requirements are:
- MySQL version 5.6 or higher
- PHP version 7 or higher
HostGator uses the Softaculous Apps Installer tool to easily install the CMS of your choice. Using this tool makes installing WordPress incredibly simple. You just login to your control panel, select the app, choose WordPress, fill in some basic site details and the tool will install WordPress for you.
Then, all that’s left to do is find your theme, customize it to your liking, and install plugins to add more features to your site.
Different Kinds of WordPress Hosting Available
Since WordPress is so lightweight it can be installed on most hosting platforms. The biggest distinction you’ll find is the types of hosting available and the different feature sets they provide.
Here are the three types of hosting most common to WordPress site owners and the benefits of web hosting services:
No matter what kind of site you’re building you’ll probably start your journey with a shared host, and WordPress is no different. Shared hosting isn’t specialty WordPress hosting, but instead, you get a beginner friendly environment that can be used by a wide range of sites.
The reason a shared hosting plan is so popular for beginners is its affordability. Plus, with the bundled one-click installer you can install WordPress in a few minutes.
You probably don’t want to stay on a shared hosting plan forever, especially if your site is growing. But it’s a great place to start and will give you everything you need to create and grow your WordPress site.
2. Managed WordPress Hosting
The next step up is WordPress managed hosting. With WordPress managed hosting only WordPress sites are allowed on the server. That allows the server to be incredibly well optimized for the WordPress platform.
Plus, you literally don’t have to do anything that relates to your server. The “managed” portion of managed hosting means there’s a team of WordPress experts managing your server environment for you.
Managed WordPress hosting is more expensive than shared hosting, but considering you don’t have to waste any time in technical tasks, and your site will perform at a very high level, these costs could be offset.
3. Dedicated Server Hosting
Lastly, outside of shared and managed hosting you have the option of getting a dedicated server for your WordPress site. With a dedicated server, you’re renting an entire physical server for your website. You won’t share this space with any other users.
Your server is completely up to you to customize. You’ll have your choice of hardware, software, operating system, and a lot more. This means it can be fully optimized to your website.
However, using a dedicated server only makes sense once you’re receiving a significant amount of traffic. You’ll also want to have the ability to hire a system administrator who can maintain, upgrade, and troubleshoot your servers. Otherwise, you’re probably best off sticking with a managed hosting provider.
What to Look for in a WordPress Web Host
Now that you understand the importance of hosting for your WordPress site, along with the kinds of hosting available, it’s time to dive into what you should look for when selecting a WordPress host.
1. In Your Price Range
This is probably obvious, but you’ll want to choose a WordPress host that you can afford. Even if you have the budget for a more expensive host, it might not always be necessary.
For example, if you have a small website with only a few pages, and a little traffic, but that traffic is worth a lot, you might not need to move away from shared hosting.
Typically, people will only move their sites once they’ve reached the limits of their current hosting package.
2. Control Panel Access
If you’re just getting started online, then this is a must-have. An easy to use control panel will make it incredibly easy to manage your server, and install WordPress. It will also help you do things like create a domain-specific email address, add domains to your account, and a lot more.
The most commonly used control panel is cPanel, but your host of choice might be using something different. Regardless of the control panel that’s included with your hosting package, it needs to be easy to use.
3. Technical Compatibility
Obviously, your host needs to be able to run WordPress. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to run WordPress; you just need PHP 7 and MySQL 5.6 compatibility. Still, you’ll want to make sure your host supports these.
Since WordPress is so common the chances are high that they do, but it’s still worth double-checking before you spend money on a hosting package.
4. High Performance
The performance of your host is incredibly important. Without a high-performing host behind you, your site will suffer, both in your user experience and search engine rankings.
If you host your site on a managed WordPress server, or dedicated server then you will see improved levels of performance. But, for those just getting started with their WordPress sites, a shared server could work well until your traffic levels grow.
You can always improve your speed and performance by utilizing a CDN. Or, installing a variety of plugins to help optimize your WordPress site for speed.
5. Solid Support Team
The final thing you’ll want to look for is a great support staff. Your support team will be the liaison between your website and server and should be by your side if any issues arise.
Beyond having your issues responded to quickly, you’ll also want a knowledgeable and helpful staff. After all, there’s no point in having support if they’re not going to be able to help fix your site issues.
Take some time to research both the support channels and what kind of support the host offers for their hosting plans. For example, do they only offer support for issues that directly pertain to hosting? Or, are they more flexible and will help you through general site issues as well?
Hopefully, by now, you have a better understanding of why you’ll want to use the self-hosted version of WordPress, as well as the variety of hosting options that are available to you.
Web hosting is important for your WordPress site to operate at its best. Your host provides the foundation for the success of your site, and you don’t want to leave this up to chance.
If you’re looking to learn how to build out a website and don’t have any existing traffic channels, then a shared host would probably work for you.
However, if you’re already established, or your site is getting a decent volume of traffic, then WordPress managed hosting is a solid fit. You will spend more, but you’ll have a team of WordPress experts behind you at all times.
Finally, there’s dedicated hosting plans, which is probably only well-suited for a fraction of websites. You’ll not only need the revenue to justify a dedicated server, but you’ll need the technical staff as well.