Web hosting is a critical need for every online business. To have a business website, you need a web hosting plan. It’s as simple as that. However, choosing the right kind of web hosting package can be confusing. 

Web hosting companies offer a lot of different types of plans. For anyone new to owning a website, that means a lot of new terms and categories to learn. The most common you’ll see are shared hosting, VPS, WordPress hosting, and dedicated servers. 

You can get a general rundown of what they all mean and who they’re for in our guide to the different types of web hosting. But for this post, we’re going to focus on two of the most common options for websites built on WordPress: WordPress hosting vs. shared hosting.

Web Hosting vs WordPress Hosting: The Short Answer

The term web hosting refers to all forms of web hosting available. It’s an umbrella term that applies to any type of website hosting plan you can find. WordPress hosting is a specific subset of web hosting plans that emphasize the WordPress platform. 

The category of WordPress web hosting overlaps with other types of hosting. Depending on which provider and plan type you choose, you could end up with shared WordPress hosting, VPS WordPress hosting, cloud WordPress hosting, or a dedicated WordPress server. As a category, WordPress hosting has less to do with the type of server and more to do with additional features that come with the plan. 

So in trying to understand the difference between web hosting and WordPress hosting, the most important thing to know is that they’re not two different things. Web hosting is a broader term, and WordPress hosting is a subset of what the phrase applies to. 

What is WordPress Hosting?

WordPress hosting is a hosting environment that’s specifically designed to cater to WordPress websites. Think of it as wearing a well-tailored suit, custom fitted to your body. WordPress hosting is tailor-made to work with WordPress sites.

managed wordpress hosting infographic

The Benefits of WordPress Hosting

Some WordPress hosting advantages include:

It’s incredibly fast. Every aspect of the server has been tweaked to cater to the way WordPress is set up, enabling quick loading times. This level of hosting can often drop page loading speed and response time by a second or more.

It’s more secure. WordPress hosting includes security protocols that address WordPress-specific vulnerabilities. You can trust the team behind a managed WordPress hosting service to stay on top of any WordPress security issues as they arise and address them faster. And in the unlikely event you do get hacked, you’ll have a support team who has experience with WordPress-specific attacks and their fixes. 

Your server is always up to date. The team who manages your hosting will ensure the server is always running the latest software, so your site performs as efficiently as possible. Their goal is to keep you happy, and your website working at top-capacity at all times. 

Dedicated customer support. The support teams who run managed WordPress hosting accounts are WordPress experts. That level of specialized knowledge pays when you have a problem. They offer experienced support, troubleshooting, and hosting problem solutions whenever needed. 

Increased uptime. Between seamless integration with your server and content management system (CMS), and automatic updates that keep your website running in the best version of WordPress available, your site will stay accessible to visitors more often. 

Are There Any Drawbacks to WordPress Hosting?

WordPress hosting is a more customized hosting solution, which means it’s not for everyone. 

The specialized features it includes mean it typically comes with a higher price tag than some other web hosting options, particularly shared hosting. For some small business or individual website owners, that makes it a tougher sell than a basic shared hosting plan

In addition, there are limitations on how much customization you can do across your site. Some WordPress hosts limit what plugins you can use, often due to security concerns. If your site requires plugins to function that are on a host’s restricted list, you may need to find another hosting option or seek out an alternative plugin. (HostGator customers on our managed WordPress plan can find the full list of disallowed plugins here.)

And as you likely already guessed, you can only use WordPress hosting if you have a WordPress site. If you chose another CMS or website builder to create your website, WordPress hosting isn’t an option. 

Who Needs WordPress Hosting?

WordPress hosting makes the most sense for anyone who has a site built on WordPress and wants:

  • Enhanced security and easier updates that involve less work and required knowledge on your part. Managed WordPress hosting means a team takes care of that stuff for you, and you don’t have to worry about it.
  • More customization options. Because a WordPress hosting plan is specifically configured for the CMS, more experienced WordPress developers can potentially extend the content management system’s functionality and do more with it. 

When considering your WordPress hosting options, remember that different plans and providers will be offering different types of WordPress hosting plans. If your business is on the smaller side, look for shared or cloud WordPress hosting, so you don’t spend more money than you have to. For bigger businesses with more traffic and complex needs, you’ll want to find a VPS or dedicated WordPress hosting option.  

And for the benefits we’ve described in this section, you specifically want to find managed WordPress hosting. Most plans you see advertised as WordPress hosting will fall into this category, but double-check so you know what you’re getting into. 

Do You Need WordPress Hosting for a WordPress Site?

Nope! Don’t think your choice of WordPress means you’re required to go with a WordPress web hosting plan. Any web hosting plan you choose should be able to work with WordPress. 

WordPress hosting just means you’ll tap into more WordPress-specific features than with a more general web hosting plan.

What is Shared Hosting?

For new website owners, the most common alternative to WordPress hosting is shared hosting. Shared web hosting is when a web hosting provider uses one web server to host a number of different websites. Most websites don’t get enough traffic or use enough space to need their own website server. All of them save money by renting space on a server they share with others. 

shared hosting infographic

Why Would I Use Shared Web Hosting?

Shared web hosting is the most basic type of web hosting plan available, and therefore the most affordable. It’s frequently the first choice for small businesses and new websites. If your website will be on the smaller size (think: 10 or 20 pages vs. thousands), and won’t see thousands of visitors a day right off the bat, investing in a more expensive web hosting plan means paying for more space and features than you need.

With most web hosting providers, a starter shared web hosting plan will cost you less than opting for a WordPress hosting plan. If the list of WordPress hosting features described above doesn’t feel necessary to you, or simply doesn’t seem worth a few extra bucks a month, going with a shared web hosting plan will make more sense. 

But do be aware that sometimes the WordPress plans companies offer are shared hosting plans that simply include extra WordPress features. Make sure you understand what you’re buying. 

For reference, HostGator’s managed WordPress plan is cloud hosting, rather than shared hosting.

Who Needs Shared Hosting?

The advantages of shared hosting can be great if you’re just getting started with building a website, will have a relatively simple website, and want to keep your costs low. But if your website will be large and complex, or if you’re expecting to get a lot of traffic from the jump, a shared web hosting plan won’t make sense. 

And for many businesses that start with shared hosting, if your website grows in size or popularity over time, you’ll need to upgrade. If your website starts taking up more than its share of space and bandwidth on the server, the web hosting provider may push you toward a different option (probably a cloud or VPS plan as the next step up), so your website’s popularity doesn’t throttle the website performance of the other websites on the server. 

Shared web hosting is a valuable option for new and small websites, since it creates a lower barrier to entry than more expensive choices. It provides all the basics you need without frills, and makes it easier for anyone hesitant to start a website for budgetary reasons to do so. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s what you need, it will serve your purposes. 

How to Choose Between Shared Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting

If you’re trying to decide between a shared hosting plan and a WordPress hosting plan, the first step is to figure out what type of hosting the WordPress plan offers. That will play an important role in making the right decision. 

A shared WordPress hosting plan will offer the same in terms of space and bandwidth as another shared plan. The differences will be in what features come with it. Look at the specific list of features offered in the plan you’re researching, and consider if they’re worth the additional cost to you.

When pitting other types of WordPress options, such as VPS, dedicated, and cloud WordPress hosting against shared hosting, the calculus changes. Choosing one of these plans will mean upgrading to more server space, faster load times, and better security in addition to adding WordPress features. For cloud WordPress hosting, you’ll also gain scalability—meaning it will be easier to grow, and to serve more visitors some days than others while paying only for what you need. 

To decide what makes the most sense for you, consider these questions:

  • Is your website on WordPress or not? If not, that makes your decision straightforward.
  • What’s my budget? Shared hosting plans are cheaper. If a shared plan meets your needs and a low cost is a priority, that could decide things for you. WordPress web hosting is often affordable too though, so if the features sound nice enough to pay just a little extra each month for, it may be worth it.
  • How concerned am I about security? WordPress hosting is more secure for WordPress sites than shared plans that aren’t specific to WordPress. But upgrading to options like VPS or a dedicated server increases security as well.
  • Am I good at staying on top of updates? WordPress updates regularly. The most recent versions are always the most secure, and often include useful new features. If you’re the type of person to ignore update reminders, letting someone else take care of them for you may be worth it.
  • How much traffic do I expect? If you’ll be building a website audience from scratch, a shared plan will likely serve you for a while. If you have a website that gets a lot of traffic, or you have reason to believe your new website will get a lot of visitors right away, you may wear out the bandwidth your shared plan offers right off the bat. In that case, you’ll want a web hosting plan (whether a managed WordPress one or otherwise) that can handle more visitors. HostGator’s cloud WordPress plans can take on hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, without costing much more than our shared plans. 
  • Are my WordPress tech skills still iffy? If you think you may need a lot of support and hand holding as you figure out how to use WordPress for your website, a managed WordPress plan can mean getting more relevant tech support help when you need it. 

By the end of that list of questions, you probably have a decent idea of which direction to go in. But if you’re still not sure, HostGator has staff available 24/7 that can help talk you through your options and answer any questions you have. 

Is WordPress or Shared Hosting Right for You?

You can use WordPress on a shared web hosting plan with no problem. But you will be responsible for a little more management of the environment than if you go with an optimized WordPress hosting package. 

In the case of HostGator’s plans, the cost difference between a starter shared hosting plan and our most affordable WordPress hosting plan is minimal—between $2.75 a month and $5.95 a month. And our WordPress plans use cloud hosting, which means they can handle more traffic and deliver higher speeds. If those benefits sound worth the few extra bucks, you have your answer. If you’d rather save money now and consider upgrading down the line if needed, that works too. 

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.