Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
My Experience with Hosting
In the last 10 years I’ve tried & tested tons of of WordPress hosting companies and there’s one thing I’ve learned: there is no such thing as the perfect host. Every time a host started having problems, I moved providers hoping the next one will be the magic solution. That process repeated until I accepted that there’s no such thing as a cheap WordPress host with 100% uptime without any problems. However, I did learn which companies I could rely on to give me solid service, depending on what I was looking for.
I’ve also spent more money than I needed to to test out a lot of different hosting companies. When it comes to recommending a host to friends (over time) I also learned that for most, a simple solution is best.
When looking online for WordPress host recommendations it’s difficult to find unbiased information – there are good commissions for recommending hosting accounts so you’ll find many articles and guides on questionable sites that are recommending whatever host pays the highest commission. (We also get a commission if you signup from a link on this page, but we’re giving it to you straight & from experience – and more importantly – we still actually use all 3: Dreamhost, WP Engine, and HostGator.)
After years of trial and error – here’s the breakdown: For most people Dreamhost is the easiest to setup. Alternatively HostGator is just about as easy and offers the cheapest option (though you still have to prepay). WP Engine is the most professional and most stable – it’s the Rolls Royce of managed WordPress hosting.
Dreamhost is cheap, reliable, and has been a around long enough to deal with problems well when they arise. My girlfriend’s site ran 500,000 pageviews per month on DH, I host a bunch of sites on the same account too, and it’s been very solid with few hiccups. The biggest con is that support is done via e-mail, but when her sites have been down, they’ve responded in a reasonable timeframe. If phone support is really important to you, go with Hostgator instead.
What to use for which scenario:
Why Dreamhost? Easy 1-Click Setup
One of the biggest reasons to go with Dreamhost is how easy it is to setup a WordPress site with them. They have 1-click installation, which is the fastest way to get a WordPress site up and running (but do make sure to uncheck the deluxe install option so you get a clean installation without all the unnecessary themes & plugins).
When I was with VPS.net, it took longer to install WordPress (and cost more to have cPanel and Fantastico installed in order to make this happen). Plus once the site was setup, I manually had to change permissions on folders so that uploads worked. While this was presumably more secure, it was also a royal pain in the ass.
I’ve setup dozens of websites with Dreamhost, and the 1-click install made it really easy. Also, they offer an automatic update function so that you’re always updated to the most recent version of WordPress (if you so choose), which is good for security and to keep the functionality updated (but mostly for security).
If you want the easiest setup, a low price, and reasonably good service go with Dreamhost.
Why WP Engine? Security & Support
WP Engine is the only hosting company that Automattic (the parent company of WordPress) has invested in – and for good reason. They host ONLY WordPress sites, have top notch engineers, and have a built-in CDN (Content Delivery Network) that makes your site load much faster. WP Engine takes care of a lot of behind the scenes stuff like security, scaling, making sure your plugins are working properly.
Yes, they are relatively pricey. They’re also focused on running a single blog (or multiple blogs if you sign up for the higher priced plan). However if you’re serious about running a blog and want to save yourself a lot of headache in the future (and especially if you’re not super technically savvy) then that price can be well justified.
WP Engine also has a staging area in their dashboard, which is an awesome feature! You can duplicate your WordPress install and make changes to see how everything works before pushing it out to your live site.
I’ve even visited the offices of WP Engine in Austin, TX during SxSW and have a lot of respect for their team and company. They really are a cut above the rest when it comes to managed Hosting.
If you want the fastest website and the the best support behind you, go with WP Engine.
Why HostGator? When You Know What you’re Doing
I host a bunch of my sites with HostGator, including a number of WordPress blogs. I’ve been around the block long enough to know which plugins to install, how to change out themes and work with php and how to setup my own CDN (Content Delivery Network). I have spent a lot of time with this stuff so I’m comfortable with it.
I use WHM and cPanel and know my way around them pretty well. Whenever I install a fresh WordPress site I setup the MySQL database using cPanel and do a nice fresh install.
HostGator has been the most reliable host I’ve ever been on – they’ve had very little downtime (literally minutes over the past year and a half). Along with a good CDN they should be able to take care of big spikes in traffic and keep running smoothly. I’m on their Level 3 VPS and have been very happy. I pay about $50 per month but they’ve lowered their prices even more for new customers – $39.95 month when I last checked.
If you’re going to host a bunch of WordPress blogs or other sites and can setup your own CDN, you can’t go wrong with HostGator VPS. They’re also a good option if you’re only hosting one site and want to save the most money since they have the cheapest 1-domain option of all 3.
If you want a VPS, host multiple sites, and know what you’re doing – or – if phone support is important to you, go with HostGator