Understanding WordPress website hosting
What is website hosting
A WordPress website is made up of a collection of software files and an all important database where all your pages, posts and settings are kept. All websites need to be ‘hosted’ (stored) on a computer system called a server. The server is what enables visitors to see your website on the internet.
In simple terms this is how website hosting works
1. A visitor either types your website domain name into their web browser (e.g. Chrome, Safari, Firefox) or searches for you on Google and clicks the relevant link
2. A directory system (called DNS) converts your domain name into an internet address (known as an IP address), in order to know where your website is hosted. Your browser uses the IP address to link your visitor’s ‘request’ to see your website with your website server’
3. When the server receives the request, it assembles the web page requested by your visitor
4. The server then delivers the requested web page to your visitor’s browser
This process involves a multitude of operations, all performed in seconds. How fast, reliably and securely this happens is ultimately all down to the quality of your website hosting.
How to choose hosting for your WordPress website
Hosting plays a critical role in:
- How fast your website loads for your users
- Whether it is always online and available to view
- How secured it is against attacks
- How it is ranked by search engines
When selecting hosting providers to suggest to my clients, I look at 4 fundamental elements:
- The quality and security of the server infrastructure
- The technical support provided for when things go wrong
- The availability and quality of support for when things go wrong
- Cost and value for money
I regularly review the list of providers I work with. I have, for example, recently stopped recommending a provider as I no longer feel it offers the right level of performance, support and value for money for my clients.
The main categories of website hosting
There are broadly 3 main categories of hosting:
With shared hosting, your website shares server resources with many other websites. Think of resources just as you would for a personal computer (disk storage space, memory and processor)
Pros: Often the cheapest option and usually simpler to manage with little technical knowledge. Security is usually ok with reputable shared hosting providers as they put account isolation measures in place between websites sharing the server.
Cons: Resources are allocated at the host’s discretion so downtime (times where your website is not available to view) can occur if other websites on the server are using up too many resources. The IP address of your website is shared with many other websites on the internet, so if another website is hacked or is engaged in spam activity it could have a potential negative impact on your search engine optimisation as your IP ‘reputation’ may be damaged.
Virtual Private Servers or “Cloud VPS” hosting
Cloud hosting or VPS is the next step up from shared. Here your website is hosted on a virtual machine in the cloud which is ring-fenced just for your website.
Pros: Better performance and SEO than shared hosting. Your website has its own server with dedicated resources for its own use, as well as a dedicated IP address.
Cons: Requires more technical expertise to set up and manage. Costs a little more than shared hosting but is still very affordable.
Where you would buy an actual physical machine at the data centre (as opposed to virtual). This is more costly, starting at around £150 per month. This is usually reserved for very large, enterprise level, sites.
Shared v. Cloud VPS hosting comparison
|Shared Hosting||Cloud VPS Hosting|
|IP Address||Shared with many unknown sites||Dedicated resources|
|Resources||Shared with many unknown sites||Dedicated resources|
|Best for||Personal sites / Small blogging sites / Lower traffic sites||Business critical / Higher traffic websites / Ecommerce websites|