WordPress is often cited as being the most-used CMS (Content Management System) on the planet. Because it’s used by everyone from small bloggers to large corporations, it stands to reason that most any hosting company can meet the somewhat meagre minimum requirements for running the platform. Still, there’s more to consider than just meeting the bare minimum when choosing a host for your website.
There are some important factors to keep in mind when shopping for a host that can make or break your overall experience–not to mention your site. And WordPress in particular has its own specific needs. Here are five things to look for when it comes to hosting a WordPress website:
1. The Installation Process
Depending upon your experience and comfort level, the process for installing WordPress could be an important factor when choosing a web host. Many hosts now offer a “1-click” install that can be managed through an account control panel. The process usually involves filling out a few form fields with information such as the title of your site and preferred login information. The server takes care of creating a database for your site and installing WordPress.
Some may still prefer to install WordPress manually, however. That requires you to download the install package from WordPress.org, create a database (either through the command line or via your hosting account’s control panel), filling out the database settings in wp-config.php and finally uploading it all via FTP.
While 1-click installs are both easier and faster, you don’t always get the same level of control as with a manual install. Plus, some hosting companies may automatically install specific plugins or themes with 1-click installs–something not everyone wants. In the end, it’s really a matter of personal preference.
2. How Core, Plugin and Theme Updates are Handled
Keeping up with the many updates to WordPress core, plugins and themes can be difficult–especially if you don’t login to your website’s dashboard very often. Updated versions often become available without much (if any) advanced notice and it’s easy to fall behind. Not only does that mean you may be missing out on new features and bug fixes, but you may also be exposed to unpatched security holes.
There are a couple of things to consider here when it comes to hosting. First, make sure that your host allows you to run updates through the WordPress Dashboard, ideally without having to connect through FTP. That makes the entire process of updating a fairly quick and painless task.
The other option is to go with a managed WordPress hosting provider. They may offer automatic updates, which can both save site owners some time and provide peace of mind.
3. Backup Features and Policies
Losing a critical file is one of those feelings best described with a scream (or whimper). Losing all or part of your website is magnitudes worse. Yet, we kid ourselves if we think that this “can’t happen to us”. The sad reality is that it can happen to anyone who doesn’t have a good plan in place.
That’s why it’s incredibly important to know if and when your host creates backups of your WordPress website. Not only that, but you’ll want to find out if there are any fees involved in recovering previous versions of your site.
All things considered, you’re better off with a host who offers daily backups with the ability to easily restore them. Short of that, you’ll want to invest in a backup strategy of your own. This is an area where the more knowledgeable and prepared you are, the less likely it is that you’ll have to face a catastrophe.
4. Disallowed and Discouraged Plugins
One of the hidden secrets of web hosting is that providers often have lists of WordPress plugins that they either discourage or outright ban you from using. The good news is that it rarely includes anything that would take away from the core functionality of your website.
In general, plugins are usually banned or discouraged because:
- They’re known for taking up too many server resources.
- They’re outdated, abandoned or have security flaws.
- They provide duplicate functionality for something the host already provides (caching, backups, etc). You often see this in managed hosting environments.
Even so, there are occasions when a plugin you plan to use raises the ire of a web host. It’s better to find that out early on to avoid any unpleasant surprises later. If a company doesn’t provide such a list on their website, it’s best to ask them directly.
5. Support Policy and Availability
Even the best of hosting providers will suffer from a hiccup or two. And sometimes you just have a simple question to ask. So it’s good to know that there are a team of qualified experts there to help you when you need them.
While technical support is something you (hopefully) won’t have to use too often, you’ll want to become familiar with how they operate beforehand. Find out their hours of availability–ideally some form of support is available 24/7.
It’s also a good idea to know what types of situations are covered. For example, not every host will readily answer a WordPress question. If you’re not a WordPress expert, you may want to search out a provider who does answer those types of questions.
Finding the Host that Offers You the Most
There are no shortage of web hosts out there looking for your business. And many now actively promote their WordPress-centric services. In a highly-competitive marketplace, it may be tempting to look only at pricing when making a decision. But to find a provider you’ll be happy with, you’ll have to look beyond cost to see what is really being offered.
The true measure of a host is in the tools they offer to make life easier, data security and backup options and the level of support they provide. Find a company you’re comfortable with in those areas and your WordPress website will thrive.