Before you buy WordPress hosting, you need to have a solid understanding of the difference between managed and non-managed plans. Otherwise, you stand to make the wrong selection at the outset and be stuck with a hosting plan that’s time-consuming to maintain.
We’ve put together a comprehensive breakdown of what WordPress hosting is, who needs it, and what features managed WordPress hosting offers that standard hosts don’t provide.
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What is WordPress Hosting?
WordPress hosting comes in two variants: managed WordPress hosting, and unmanaged WordPress hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting is a specialized service where all the technical aspects of running your WordPress site are managed by the web host. This includes installation, security, updates, and backups.
If you opt for a non-managed WordPress hosting plan, it’s essentially just regular hosting. So you would have full control of your hosting services, and all of the technical management would be your responsibility.
For instance, with non-managed WordPress, you would have to configure daily backups to ensure that your website is protected against data loss.
Regular hosting is ideal for more technical people, because you’re in control of everything. But if you don’t have the time or skills, managed WordPress hosting could be ideal for your business.
It lets you focus on your day-to-day business, not whether or not your website is up to date.
That being said, many developers do like managed WordPress hosting, since it helps to ensure their clients’ websites aren’t having problems.
Managed WordPress hosting is a relatively new form of web hosting. And whether you’re running a blog, an e-commerce site, or a business page, you need to trust your web host to provide a reliable service. Managed WordPress hosting tends to be more expensive than non-managed, so checking out reviews is important.
WordPress hosting explained
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system or CMS. It lets anyone create a site from scratch.
You have the option of customizing files and modifying the code, but users without coding experience also have the opportunity to build beautiful websites.
With a non-managed WordPress hosting plan, you’ll need to install the free software on a hosting account. Then you pick out a WordPress template, which is basically a pre-formed design for making the front end of your site look nice.
After that, you can write your content, create blog posts, develop static pages, upload images, and add video or audio. Although it may take a few hours to get accustomed to the interface, WordPress is ideal for newbies.
Managed WordPress hosting includes WordPress management and hosting as a single package. So with this option, you’re passing over all of the responsibilities to the hosting company. It’s a clean process that should include full support. So if you have questions about accessing your website files or notice that your site is running slower than usual, a team of support representatives is a phone call away.
Whichever option you choose, WordPress allows for users of all experience levels to take advantage of a powerful CMS at a low price. WordPress is completely open source and free, and there’s an entire community of people online making improvements and giving advice on how to get setup and running. You’ll find blogs, forums, and plugins to make your site the best it can be. In fact, a quick Google search is generally all you need in terms of support.
Although WordPress is free, you will find that some services, like premium plugins and themes, need to be paid for. You can absolutely find free themes and plugins, but the premium ones are often more powerful.
Do You Need Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed hosting looks enticing for just about anyone utilizing the WordPress platform. You don’t have to think about what’s going on behind the scenes. Hosting companies have developed technologies and scripts that will automate management and make the experience as straightforward as possible for you.
It’s prudent to figure in the additional cost of managed hosting and see if it makes sense for your budget. That extra cost could be worth it if it means you don’t have to put lots of time into fixing problems. You should think about trying managed WordPress hosting if you have the cash, want to spend less time worrying about hosting, and want to ensure that your site is secure and reliable.
Whether you’re a startup or run a mid-sized business, managed hosting may provide faster site speeds, easier scaling, and less downtime. This isn’t a guarantee, but the fact that managed WordPress hosting is optimized means that there’s a good chance everything will run smoothly.
There are four main downsides to managed WordPress hosting, and it’s only fair to mention them here so that you can make a full and honest evaluation:
- Email services may not be included. If you want business email at your domain, you may need to purchase separate email hosting elsewhere. You could use something like G-Suite, or buy an email hosting plan from a regular web hosting company.
- Your host may restrict plugins. Hosts do this because they’ve identified certain plugins that result in poor performance or security risks. If you try to use a prohibited plugin, the host may remove it, rendering parts of your site inaccessible.
- It’s not always easy to migrate away from a managed WordPress host. Technically, you can export your content at any time, but creating an exact website clone could be more difficult.
- You will not always get a free domain, though some hosting providers give customers a free domain registration for the first year of service.
These caveats don’t apply for every managed WordPress hosting company, and the benefits often outweigh them. But keep your eyes peeled for missing features that your business may need in the future.
Features and Benefits of Managed WordPress Hosting
Here’s a breakdown of some of the features that come standard on most managed hosting plans.
Less Crowded Servers Plus Content Delivery Networks
With a managed WordPress account, you are very likely to share your server with fewer hosting customers, compared to a shared hosting account.
Many hosts use virtual private servers (VPS) and bolstered by content delivery networks (CDNs):
- The VPS provides resources to your website only. Remember, though, that most managed WordPress plans don’t include any root server access to the VPN itself, and you won’t be able to install anything else.
- The CDN speeds up the delivery of your WordPress site since it utilizes an entire network of servers located all over the world. Since content delivery depends on the proximity of the server to the end user, someone living in India would see your site faster since it would be delivered for a server closest to India, regardless of the location of your host.
A fast website is essential in business. The longer a site takes to load, the more people will leave. So a fast website will increase conversions and improve user experience.
Managed WordPress hosting is optimized to run WordPress as fast as possible.
That said, there are some things that will affect the speed and performance of your website, even if you’re using managed WordPress hosting:
- Third-party advertisement systems
- Too many widgets and plugins
- Multipurpose WordPress themes with too much functionality
- Images that aren’t optimized or are large files
- Not using a CDN to deliver content faster
- Failure to use a caching solution.
Just because you have a reliable web host doesn’t mean your site is optimized to run at its fastest. You need to take care to manage the speed and performance of your website on a regular basis to make sure your visitors are getting the best experience possible.
A hack or data breach can lead to business disaster. You could lose data, expose customer details, or accidentally infect others with malware. You’re responsible for keeping your website secure, and if it’s not, you may face penalties or the collapse of your company.
On any hosting platform, WordPress is secure. And with a managed WordPress host, your site is scanned for security holes constantly. The host will fix any issues before you know it. And if you are compromised, they’ll quickly revert your site back to how it was before the breach.
Automatic Updates and Backups
With managed WordPress hosting, backups are almost always taken care of for you. Check the exact provision with your host, but you can expect daily restore points at a minimum.
Customer Service and Tech Support
Despite all the above-mentioned features you should look for in a hosting provider, there is on crucial feature that you cannot afford to overlook: customer service and tech support.
After all, even if you have an affordable and reliable hosting company, if there is no support team on hand to help you, your website could be in trouble if something breaks or a server crashes.
Running a business website is a lot of work. And the larger your website grows, the potential for problems to occur will grow with it.
Even if you’re tech-savvy, problems related to your website and its hosting services can easily surpass your technical knowledge. And since your revenue relies on your website’s uptime, it’s important you have a capable team on standby at all times to help you in the case something happens.
Here’s what to look for when it comes to your web host’s customer service and support:
- Response Time. Make sure the support team can answer your questions quickly and efficiently, especially if they say they are available 24/7/365.
- Contact Methods. Email, a ticket system, live chat, and phone access are all important ways to contact your support team. You need to know your hosting provider has a method you’re comfortable with. Also, make sure the host has support available in your language.
- Availability. Your site’s problems won’t take the weekend or holidays off so look for a support team that won’t either.
- Expertise. Understanding your CMS is a must. That’s why using managed WordPress hosting is a good idea. Hosting companies that offer managed WordPress hosting will have the knowledge to help you with your website’s issues and have the right solutions to fix them.
Some web hosts offer tiered support services. Whether you pay more for web hosting support will largely depend on your individual needs.
For example, if you are running a large, highly-trafficked site, a more expensive plan might be worth considering. After all, some of the services provided in higher support tiers will prioritize your issues over other, smaller issues. This can make a huge difference in how much revenue your business loses should your site crash and customers not be able to access it.
However, for most websites, the amount of customer service and tech support that comes with the hosting plan you choose is usually enough, so long as the features you require are included.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
When it comes to using the WordPress CMS, you have two choices. You can use WordPress.org or WordPress.com. Unfortunately, many beginner business owners get the two platforms confused. And, while neither is a bad choice, the one you choose to use to build your business website will have an effect on your company’s success.
WordPress.org is an open source platform that is 100% free to use. All you need is a web host to host your site’s data, and a domain name, which you can sometimes get through your web hosting provider. Because you need the services of a hosting company, this platform is considered self-hosted.
Here are some of the main benefits of using the self-hosted WordPress.org platform:
- It’s free and simple to use
- You own your website and data
- You can extend its design and functionality
- You can run a business and start a blog on the same platform
- You can monetize your website using your own ads and collect 100% of the revenue
- You can tap use metric tools like Google Analytics.
In addition, using the WordPress.org platform gives you the freedom to brand your company as you want, provides many opportunities for SEO optimization so your site gets found in search results, and comes with full theme support, meaning you can customize your free and premium themes in any way you want.
That said, there are a few downsides to using WordPress.org:
- You’ll need to pay for web hosting and a domain name
- You’ll be responsible for all updates, unless you use managed WordPress hosting
- Backups of your site’s data will be your responsibility
- Investing in premium themes and plugins can become costly.
WordPress.com is a hosted solution created by the co-founder of WordPress itself, Matt Mullenweg. Its most basic plan is completely free to use, you don’t need a web host, because this platform hosts your site’s data for you, and you don’t need a domain name either.
Lastly, there is no need to perform updates or backups because WordPress handles this for you
Though WordPress.com if free to use, there are several downsides to consider before signing up to use it:
- Ads. They place ads on all websites that you don’t make money from and can make you appear less than professional.
- Monetization. You are not allowed to monetize your website with your own ads, though you can use their specific advertising program WordAds and share revenue with them.
- Plugins. You cannot add plugins or themes to your site and are limited to the customization options built in to the platform.
- Analytics. You can only use their built-in analytics, meaning you cannot access Google Analytics.
- Impermanence. Your site can be deleted at any time.
- Watermark. Your site will display a “Powered by WordPress.com” link.
- E-commerce. There are no e-commerce features available.
As you can see, though WordPress.com is free to use and doesn’t require a premium domain name or web hosting services, there are many disadvantages that can hinder the success of your business website.
After all, business owners want to be able to create online stores or membership sites, monetize their blog using ads they can collect revenue on, and don’t want to be at the mercy of Terms of Service, constantly worrying that their entire business can be shut down at any moment.
Using WordPress.com offers business owners very little room to grow and succeed. And while there are some initial costs associated with using the self-hosted WordPress.org platform, you have room to make enough money to more than cover those costs.
Personal Hosting vs. Business Hosting
Running a personal website is a lot different than running a business site. After all, personal sites are great for starting a blog and fulfilling a hobby. They don’t expect a lot of visitors and do not typically sell any products or services. Because of this, using a hosted platform such as WordPress.com, Blogger, Contentful, or Tumblr may be just what you need in terms if design and functionality.
However, if you are looking to start a business site, you’ll need to invest some money into a self-hosted platform such as WordPress.org to maximize your site’s potential in terms of design and functionality.
If you don’t want to use WordPress.org, there are other options, known as website builders, that can help you create a business website from the ground up. They offer easy to use drag-and-drop technology, pre-designed templates to choose from, advertising options, e-commerce capability, social sharing capability, and SEO optimization.
Here are some of the best website builders on the market today. Keep in mind, some website builders come with hosting plans, and others are standalone solutions that can be added to WordPress or work on their own.
- Wix. A cloud-based website builder that’s fully hosted, comes with hundreds of templates, an SSL certificate, and lots of apps to extend the functionality. It does not come with a domain name and has limited bandwidth and storage.
- BoldGrid. Built on top of WordPress, you can choose from themes to create your site on, using their staging environment, and create a WooCommerce shop.
- Shopify. Designed specifically for e-commerce websites, Shopify is fully hosted, managed, and feature-rich so running your business is easy.
- Weebly. Fully hosted, with built-in contact forms, photo galleries, sliders, and more, this website builder also supports e-commerce stores.
- Squarespace. Not only does this hosted platform have a website builder for creating an e-commerce site, it makes adding blog content easy using the drag-and-drop system.
WordPress Installation: Step by Step
Whether you decide to use a non-managed or managed WordPress hosting provider, installing WordPress onto your website after getting a web host is easy to do. In fact, most hosting companies provide one-click WordPress installs from their cPanel, which is the section in your user account that lets you manage all things related to your website and hosting services.
You do this using any number of apps, such as QuickInstall or Softaculous, depending on what your hosting company uses. Adding to that, some of the very best hosting providers on the market have easy to follow setup wizards so you know your WordPress install is done correctly.
Since every web host has their own steps for installing WordPress onto your website, you’ll need to consult with your specific hosting provider for exact steps. However, in an effort to give you an idea how easy it is, we’ll show you how to install WordPress onto your site using QuickInstall.
Step 1: Find the QuickInstall Icon on cPanel
First you’ll need to log into your hosting account and navigate to the cPanel dashboard. Next, scroll down to the Software and Services section and click on the QuickInstall icon.
Note that this process will be slightly different if your host uses Softaculous or another installer instead of QuickInstall. However, the basic concepts and steps still apply.
Step 2: Find the WordPress Installer
You’ll then be taken to the one-click installers page on QuickInstall. Click on the WordPress link to launch the WordPress Installer.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Now you’ll be taken to the WordPress Installer where you’ll see an overview of the WordPress software. Simply click on the ‘Install WordPress’ button to continue.
Step 4: Configure WordPress
From there, you’ll need to configure the WordPress Install settings. First enter your site’s domain name. Then, add an admin email where all important information regarding your website will be sent. Next, give your site a title, which you can easily change later. Lastly, fill in a username, first, and last name.
When you use the self-hosted WordPress.org platform for your business site, you have thousands of free and premium themes to choose from. The WordPress theme is what gives your site its front-end styling, In other words, the theme is what people visiting your website see.
Most WordPress themes provide the following front-end styling elements:
- Overall style
- Font styles
- Widget sections
- Page layouts
- Styles for blogs and blog archives
- Any other style details.
You can get your WordPress themes from a variety of sources. For example, sometimes your hosting provider will set you up with their exclusive theme to get you started. Other times they have a whole host of themes to choose from based on the kind of website you’re creating.
This makes setting up WordPress even easier because as you sign up for hosting services, choose your domain name, and install WordPress, you can usually select a theme and have it automatically installed and activated on your site.
However, there are also other places you can get themes, whether you want to pay for them or not:
- WordPress Theme Directory. This is one of the best places to get free WordPress themes. The themes are versatile so any kind of website you are building is covered. In addition, themes go through a strict inspection to make sure there is no bad code in them.
- Marketplaces. There are large marketplaces that sell thousands of WordPress themes. Some of the most popular themes on the market are found in these marketplaces. You can get detailed descriptions of the theme’s features, find out about theme support, and even read reviews so you can see what other people think about the theme you’re interested in.
- Theme Companies. There are also smaller companies in the WordPress community that dedicate themselves to building both free and premium themes.
Free vs. Premium Themes
You might be wondering whether it’s better to use a free or premium theme on your website. Let’s take a look at each so you can make a better decision when it comes to choosing the right theme for your website.
The biggest benefit of using a free WordPress theme is that it’s free. And, when you are just starting out with your business website, it can be easy to decide to use a free theme over a paid one.
However, if you get your theme from the official WordPress Theme Directory, you’ll be happy to know that it has undergone a thorough review, meaning it has standard compliant code, fully supports WordPress features and plugins, has quality HTML and CSS, and is as secure as it can be.
The downsides to using a free theme include:
- Limited support options
- Limited features and functionality
- A lack of uniqueness for making your business stand out
- No warranties or guarantees, which is no good if it breaks your site completely,
On the other hand, paid themes do come at a cost, though the benefits often outweigh the costs. For example, premium themes come with plenty of features and customizations for creating a stand out website.
This is especially helpful for those running business sites that need features such as drag-and-drop page building, multiple layout options, color schemes for proper branding, and e-commerce support.
In addition, paid themes come with support and regular updates. This is great for any time you run into any problems using your theme. It also ensures your theme is always up to date and working with the most recent version of WordPress.
The downsides to using a premium theme include:
- Less than stellar code since anyone can create and sell a premium theme
- Too many features dragging down your site’s speed and performance
- A higher learning curve because of the amount of features
- Features that mimic plugins are included, which disappear if you change theme and change your entire website.
To install and activate a theme on your WordPress website, all you need to do is navigate to Appearance > Themes in your WordPress dashboard. Then, select the theme you want to activate on your website and click ‘Activate’. You’ll then be able to customize your theme as you see fit.
WordPress Hosting Alternatives
If you enjoy using WordPress, but managed hosting isn’t right for you, there are other options:
- Shared Hosting. This is great for low traffic websites, those on a budget, and those who don’t want a lot of control. You share a part of the host’s server with other website owners and draw your resources from the same place.
- VPS. Using a VPS plan, you get your own portion of the server to draw resources from so no other sites can affect them. It’s easy to scale and you have more control over your part of the server since you don’t share it.
- Cloud. Cloud hosting uses multiple servers that all act as one. There is no sharing of resources, and if one server goes down, another one steps in and takes over. It’s super easy to scale because there are unlimited resources available.
- Dedicated. For those who want more control and an entire server to themselves, this option is perfect. It’s good for very large, highly-trafficked websites.
In the end, managed hosting is ideal for many businesses, but an expensive waste for others. If you’re a busy entrepreneur, and you’re not interested in getting technical, it’s likely the perfect choice for your website.