No matter your level of WordPress expertise, your site’s performance, security and success are ultimately at the mercy of your web host. Choose a cheap hosting service, and you open yourself up to uncontrollable risk – backdoors that allow hackers to get in, other customers on the same server causing issues or insecurities for your site, and an array of other potential dangers.
With that in mind, we’ve laid out our top three WordPress hosts, based on our experience over more than a decade with just about every hosting provider under the sun.
WP Engine: Our Overall Favorite
WP Engine is a high-end, WordPress-exclusive host with excellent built-in security and caching, as well as live chat support with a very fast response time. We use them for our own site as well as clients ranging from small brochure sites to big magazines that get hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors.
We especially like WP Engine because they have a suite of tools that makes life super-easy for the security- and performance-minded WordPress developer. This includes:
- A built-in staging site for every site you create, including one-click deployments between live and staging (in either direction). This is great for testing upgrades or new development before going live.
- Automatic daily backups of both live and staging.
- Excellent built-in caching and seamless integration with Cloudflare for improved firewall, caching and SSL.
- Built-in security measures specific to WordPress sites.
- Direct support for general WordPress software questions (in contrast, most hosts will say “it’s the software’s fault” and stop there, even if it’s a relatively simple fix).
(If you’re a direct client of ours, let us know before you sign up for WP Engine and we’ll hook you up with a coupon code and other significant discounts.)
Rackspace Cloud Servers: For large-scale deployments
For high-traffic sites that need a ton of power and the ability to crack open the hood of the server, we recommend a custom stack with Rackspace Cloud Servers.
This isn’t a project to be taken lightly – it requires a deep understanding of Linux server administration and WordPress development – but Rackspace’s excellent support and Managed Cloud service makes it a relatively painless process. They also handle a lot of the server-admin legwork for you at the Managed service level (which is expensive, but worth it when you’re getting set up).
Our typical stack starts with one or more web servers under a load balancer, and at least one MySQL high-availability database cluster. This is a bit heavier-duty than the base WordPress recommendation from Rackspace, but in our view, Cloud Servers are overkill if you need a relatively simple site (in that case, just use WP Engine). Rackspace only comes into play when you get to the point where you need the ability to fine-tune your server settings and/or scale up dramatically, and you have the resources to justify spending $1,000+ per month to accomplish this.
Most importantly, Cloud Servers put you in a position to scale out your stack very quickly, either by increasing resources on your existing servers, or by replicating new servers to handle additional load as your traffic grows.
Nexcess: An excellent all-purpose solution
While WP Engine has us covered 90% of the time, we also run a number of sites on Nexcess. Like WP Engine, Nexcess offers WordPress-specific hosting, but they also have similar plans for other content management systems and for generic shared hosting as well.
Nexcess doesn’t include WP Engine’s built-in staging site, but it does include automatic backups, good support and a reputation for quality and security. Their least-expensive plan is also just a bit more than half the cost of WP Engine’s, so if your site isn’t mission-critical, you can save $15/month with this alternative solution while still having a reliable host on your side.
You get what you pay for. Please, don’t go cheap.
Regardless of which host you choose, our most important advice will always be the same. Don’t be fooled by “budget” services offering unlimited everything for $4.95 a month. If you’re serious about your business, invest a few extra bucks for a high-quality host who’s actually going to take care of you and actually cares about security. The big, budget hosts with the tiny monthly fees seem like a great deal until you realize that they’ll cause your site and your business to lag in every way. Invest in yourself, your business and your sanity, and choose a solid host to help your site succeed.