This WordPress hosting review was last updated September 2019 to reflect the latest in hosting options.
Do you know what's just awful? Turning the key in your car ignition... and hearing 'nuthing.
At a surface level, everything looks fine (especially to non-mechanics like myself!).
But no matter how many times you turn the key, it just won't start. Because the problem lies much deeper, in the engine itself.
If the engine's not in working order, you can count on headaches and hassles, no matter how new your car is.
That's a fact.
I've been thinking about this because recently there seems to be an upswing of online business owners who are having trouble with the "engine" of their websites: ye old hosting service.
We might not think of it that way, but hosting services really are the engines of your website. They give you the ability to put your shingle up online, and determine the speed and capacity of your online business.
So as much as we rely on our professionally developed themes, plugins, and website content... if the hosting service isn't up to par, it's just not going to work.
Unfortunately, as many entrepreneurs have experienced, not all hosting providers are able to get the job done. Some of them are just "bad engines" that leave you stranded on the side of the road. Yikes!
Table of Contents
- 7 Criteria To Use When Comparing The Best WordPress Hosting Services:
- Our Pick: Top 2 Best WordPress Hosting Providers
- Our Experience: Popularity Doesn't Mean Quality
- Which WordPress Hosting Service Is Best?
7 Criteria To Use When Comparing The Best WordPress Hosting Services:
It can be really tough to pick out the best WordPress hosting service for your website needs. First of all, because a lot of comparisons have to do with surface level capabilities that aren't really going to give your website an edge.
But it can also be tough to compare WordPress hosting services on the basis of recommendations alone. There will always be positive and negative reviews out there for top-line hosting and basic hosting alike.
So what do you look for? And how do you know if this host vs that one is going to be able to deliver on what you need?
I've sorted out 7 criteria... followed by a comparison of the top 5 WordPress hosting providers match up.
I admit, this is one of the first criteria we tend to look at - for anything, not just hosting services. While staying within budget is super important, there are two things to remember about the cost of hosting:
- Each hosting provider typically advertises its lowest price... but that doesn't mean that you'll sign up for the base package. Look at the full range of what's included in each hosting package.
- Remember that your hosting service is going to affect your online business just as much as your website, theme, design, and content. Think of this as a return on investment: a faster and more reliable host will return a higher investment back to you in additional sales and happy customers.
If you've ever hosted your own website, you're well aware of the amount of hacking attempts that go on at the website level alone.
What you might not realize is that hackers are just as intent to get in at the server level. In fact, when you select a shared host with lax security measures you're opening yourself up to vulnerabilities. You might have the best passwords and security measures, but if your neighbors on the server don't - you're just as likely to get hacked.
When your websites is your business, security is worth paying for. I've seen too many people spend days and even weeks trying to fix a hacked website or recover lost files... having to pay experts to help them untangle the mess. It's expensive, and can cost you a lot more in time and stress, too.
Shared hosting means that your site shares a server with one or more other websites. The speed and uptime of your own website can become really unstable when each website is vying for bandwidth. If you have smaller traffic numbers, this likely won't be a huge issue.
Dedicated hosting means that you're the only site on the server - which gives you a lot more certainty in terms of what kind of bandwidth your site receives. A dedicated server is also more secure, since there is less of a chance of it getting hacked or infected from other websites.
Once again, for most startup bloggers, this isn't a huge concern...but as your business grows and you rely more on uptime and security, the possibility of a dedicated server might become more of a priority.
In this review, server reliability is primarily concerned with the uptime/downtime of your website. It's affected by a number of factors, from outdated technology to bad management of bandwidth.
While no hosting service will ever be able to hold a 100% uptime record, some providers are notoriously worse than others... regardless of whether you have shared or dedicated hosting.
When it comes to hosting a membership site on WordPress, it's also important to consider the speed of the server... as you have more members logging in and more automation webhooks pinging your website, you might run into issues with a lower tier host.
At some point, most of us will need to contact our WordPress website's hosting providers with some issue or another.
With smaller blogs and websites, most issues have to do with fundamental site setup, domain names or infrequent visibility problems. But when we're working with more robust business sites - especially membership sites - the problems can get a a lot more complex... fast.
When you select a WordPress host that has strong customer service at the core of their business, you can get your issues sorted quickly. You might also be able to ask them to install an SSL certificate for you, and do a few other basic setup tasks even if you're not super technical yourself.
This is definitely something to pay attention to when you're deciding between hosting packages. One hosting provider might make the most sense with smaller traffic numbers, while another is definitely more appealing for larger numbers.
Knowing how much traffic you're currently receiving is key to starting out at the right place. But also, think about where you might realistically end up in terms of overall traffic.
Some hosting providers can grow with you, others get too expensive (and unreliable) when your traffic flourishes, making it necessary to switch to a different provider. (Switching providers is totally possible... but it's also a huge hassle.)
All of the hosting providers in our review allow WordPress installations... but if you're going with another provider, make sure you check this ahead of time! Although most hosts will allow you to install WordPress, some hosts come pre-loaded with WordPress so you have even less setup to do. These hosts also tend to offer additional WordPress-specific perks, like added security, faster loading for WordPress sites, and more.
You might be tempted to sign up for premium hosting on WordPress.com, but in our experience even though you can install plugins and themes you won't get the full open-sourced WordPress.org experience.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some hosting packages will only allow a single website, and you may have to upgrade if you want to use a subdomain which is recommended for membership sites.
Our Pick: Top 2 Best WordPress Hosting Providers
There are so many options for WordPress hosting available - but a few big names tend to pop up repeatedly. We'll go over our top 2 picks (and why they made it on our list), as well as two popular names we recommend clients stay away from (details included - we don't "hate" on anyone!)
Here's our honest opinion, based on the 7 criteria listed above in addition to personal experience:
After becoming frustrated with smaller hosting providers due to our high volume of website visitors, we switched to using WPEngine here at AccessAlly a few years ago. We've never been happier with the quality of service. (Read the full story of why we switched to WPEngine here.)
WPEngine is designed for more advanced, high-traffic website needs, which makes it a great option for those of us who need a solid option that will grow with us.
Although WPEngine comes in at the higher range of webhosts, it's an investment that will allow your online business to grow and flourish... especially if you're running a membership site.
This is definitely the strongest and best WordPress hosting service we've found in our own 15 years of website hosting experience.
- Cost: $29 - 249+ / month
- Security: Great
- Server Reliability: Great
- Customer Service - Quality & Accessibility: Excellent
- Dedicated vs Shared Hosting: Both offered
- Traffic Limits: Fluctuates per package
- WordPress Installation & Multiple Sites: Yes
Kinsta is a premium hosting platform optimized specifically for WordPress, and created by WordPress professionals.
They've come onto the scene as a great option for hosting membership sites, and they even have an in-depth post about membership site hosting for WordPress here.
Kinsta offers a fully managed WordPress experience, that's secure like Fort Knox, with a focus on daily backups and making sure your site loads quickly. This is key in choosing the best WordPress hosting for a membership site with lots of members logging in daily.
- Cost: $30 to $200 +/month
- Security: Strong
- Server Reliability: Very Good
- Customer Service - Quality & Accessibility: WordPress savvy support
- Dedicated vs Shared Hosting: Fully managed
- Traffic Limits: Lowest starts at 20,000 visits/month
- WordPress Installation & Multiple Sites: Yes, includes free migrations
We highly recommend Kinsta - and they even offer free migrations!
Our Experience: Popularity Doesn't Mean Quality
There are a lot of hosting providers out there, many attracting new clients with cheap, intro-level packages. While there's nothing wrong with marketing your product to those who are just starting out or have a lower budget, there are a series of issues that arise as a result.
Finally, before reading through the list below, please understand that we are aware it is possible to host your site on one of these solutions and still have a good experience. But as your site grows in traffic and complexity, the likelihood of hosting issues also grows.
BlueHost is a popular hosting service with new bloggers and online business owners. It's built a great reputation for being incredibly affordable and easy to use. Setting up a WordPress site on BlueHost is pretty straightforward, and you'll find many great tutorials that help you get everything going.
While BlueHost does seem to have fairly competent customer service, the wait time for their chat help can be pretty lengthy. Once in, the chat experts tend to be pretty helpful in resolving the problems at hand.
If you're just getting started BlueHost might be a good option for you, but I don't see it as the most long-term solution for most business owners.
Cost: $2.95+/month (Dedicated: $79+/month)
Server Reliability: Good - they're known for having downtime that affects multiple servers at a time, but BlueHost tends to resolve the issues within a reasonable period.
Customer Service - Quality & Accessibility: Ok - some issues with wait time
Dedicated vs Shared Hosting: Both offered
Traffic Limits: Fluctuates per package
WordPress Installation & Multiple Sites: Yes
GoDaddy is a popular choice by budget-conscious bloggers for its low initial cost ... and because it's a familiar brand that many of us use to purchase our domain names. Unfortunately, this is one hosting service that tends to be accompanied by a plethora of challenges for the ambitious online business owner.
Yes, there are a lot of people who state that GoDaddy has worked just fine for their website...and indeed it might if you keep things pretty static and simple.
Common problems (working with our clients as they build their membership sites and use our plugins) are:
- Slow Speeds - GoDaddy's servers tend to use outdated PHP files and lack the basic resources to keep site speeds high.
- Support - Slow or useless. Users are required to call over the phone for support, which can definitely be a huge hassle.
- Site downtime - No hosting service is going to be up 100% of the time. Unfortunately GoDaddy is known for having more downtime than most.
- Email Issues - the email platform they use isn't super user-friendly.
This is why we DO NOT recommend GoDaddy for your host. The amount of time and frustration you'll save yourself is worth it!
Which WordPress Hosting Service Is Best?
Essentially, as is typical in our world, there is no black and white answer. But overall, here are the top 3 recommendations if you're looking for the best WordPress hosting for your blog or membership site:
Small, startup sites: BlueHost is a good starting point. Not only because it fits into pretty much any budget, but also because it's fairly reliable and secure for the price that you invest in it.
High-traffic or advanced business websites: WPEngine comes out at the top, along with Kinsta. Not only do we use WPEngine (and love them), but they are dedicated to making sure high-traffic membership sites are up and running at great speeds.
Don't have a membership site yet?
Find out how AccessAlly can be the online course and membership site ally you never knew you needed.
Maria Myre is the word person at AccessAlly, where she spends her days sipping on espresso and exploring new, intuitive ways to connect entrepreneurs with the tech tools and training that will best fit their business needs. When she’s not writing tech-y business stuff, Maria enjoys art and horseback adventures in the Great Outdoors.