Setting up a new website can be a daunting task, especially if you are doing it for the first time. However, WordPress hosting can make it easier.
In this article, we’ll have a look into why there are so many different web hosting services, what WordPress hosting is, how it’s different from traditional web hosting, and which one to choose.
Before getting started, take note that WordPress hosting can mean many different things. The web hosting industry has evolved so fast in recent years that every hosting company has developed its own kind of WordPress hosting, involving different services and architectures. As it’s easy to get lost in this landscape, first, we’ll discuss some general concepts so that you can better understand what WordPress hosting can offer in practical terms.
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What is Web Hosting?
If you want to publish a website on the internet, you’ll need a server space where you can store all the files, content, images, scripts, libraries, and other elements that together make up your website. Your server space is provided by one or more server computers that are up and running all the time and serving your web pages to internet users.
Web hosting is a professional service where you rent server space for your website. Your web server doesn’t simply store your website-related folders and files but also displays your website on the internet.
How Does the Web Server Display Your Website?
Say, your domain is www.example.com. Your visitor either knows this web address and enters it manually into the URL bar of their web browser, or cli.cks a link somewhere on the internet that points to your website
Once your link is clicked or your URL is entered, the visitor’s browser sends a request to your web server to display the page that belongs to that exact URL.
This page is not necessarily your home page. For instance, if a visitor finds one of your blog posts in Google and clicks the corresponding link, their browser will request all the resources that make up that blog post from your server—eg. images, content, fonts, and icons. In the response, your server will send back all these files so that the user’s browser can load them and display the page on the screen.
In practice, this process is more complicated and involves a chain of servers, depending on the type of website you have, such as:
- a DNS (Domain Name Server) that translates your domain name (e.g. www.example.com) into a numeric IP address,
- a web server that is responsible for request-response cycles with the user’s browser, plus serves static pages,
- an application server that processes back-end code, serves dynamic content, and communicates with the web server,
- a database server that hosts your database and communicates with the application server.
Moreover, you can have more than one servers of each type. For instance, your web host might use more than one domain name servers to speed up the translation of your domain name. It can also happen that you don’t need an application or database server, for example if you have a static website.
Even though this process might seem a bit complicated, in reality you don’t need to know much about web hosting technology. You only have to know what kind of website you want, and your web host will handle everything else for you.
Why Are There So Many Different Web Hosting Services?
Most hosting providers offer different services based on server architecture, supported software and programming languages, and other features. You’ll need to pick a hosting plan that suits the type of website you want to run.
The most important differences between web hosting services are in:
- server architecture
- supported software
- pricing plans and models
When we speak about “web hosting”, it typically means shared hosting, which means that more than one client shares the same server. This setup is ideal for most small-scale websites due to its easy maintenance (the web host manages the server configuration) and low cost.
If your website grows and has more traffic, you can scale up to a server architecture that is more suitable for higher-traffic websites, such as cloud hosting or VPS (virtual private server) hosting.
Besides choosing a server architecture, you also need to check if your web host supports the software you’ll need. You might want to use a Linux or Windows server, a specific programming language such as PHP or Java, and possibly a specific application such as WordPress or Drupal. You’ll need a web host that offers all the software and tools that are necessary to run your website.
Pricing Plans and Models
Most web hosting services (web hosting, WordPress hosting, and cloud hosting) come with different pricing plans. Essentially, if you need less server space you pay less, and if you need more space then you pay more. In some cases, more expensive plans also offer additional services such as priority support or more frequent backups.
Different server architectures also come at different price levels and might use different pricing structures. For example, shared hosting plans are typically cheaper and charge a monthly fee (usually paid annually or bi-annually), while cloud hosting plans use a pay-as-you-go model.
What is WordPress Hosting?
So, where does WordPress hosting stand in this landscape?
WordPress hosting is a specific type of web hosting—it’s optimized for the WordPress content management system (CMS). If you want to run a WordPress website and sign up for a WordPress hosting plan, you will be equipped with everything you need.
So, you won’t have to worry about not having access to essential tools, features, and software, as your web host will take care of everything architecture- and security-wise, including:
- the server architecture: WordPress hosting plans use either shared or cloud hosting
- the underlying operating system: pre-configured and optimized Linux OS
- the web server software: Apache or Nginx (pronounced “engine-x”)
- the PHP application server
- the database server: MySQL or MariaDB
- the WordPress software
- pre-configured and optimized plugins and tools for essential features such as search engine optimization, security, caching, and others
WordPress hosting doesn’t only mean installing and configuring the hardware and software but also constantly maintaining, updating, monitoring, and troubleshooting them.
Besides, WordPress hosting plans can have additional features, such as:
- 24/7 customer support
- automated (and sometimes manual) backups
- free SSL certificates (so that your site will use the secure HTTPS protocol instead of HTTP)
- free email addresses and mail server (so that you can use professional email addresses belonging to your own domain, e.g. email@example.com)
- one-click WordPress installation
- premium WordPress themes
- developer features such as a staging area that you can use to securely test new plugins, themes, or features before adding them to your live site
Note, however, that there are significant differences between the WordPress hosting services offered by different hosting companies—not just in features but also in the scope of support and site management. So always scrutinize what they exactly offer and on what basis they charge you.
Web Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting: Which One to Choose?
If you compare the web hosting vs WordPress hosting plans of the same web host, you will see that there are many overlaps between the two. They frequently offer similar features, such as automated backups, free SSL, and unlimited databases, and even the prices are often the same.
The main difference is that WordPress hosting plans come with WordPress-specific features, extra tools such as a one-click staging area for WordPress or essential plugins pre-installed on your site, plus with a support team with an advanced knowledge of WordPress.
Now, let’s see some scenarios when the web hosting vs. WordPress hosting question might arise.
1. You Have Only WordPress Sites (One or Many)
If you only want to host WordPress sites, then signing up for a WordPress hosting plan is the better choice, as it comes with many WordPress-specific features.
That being said, you can also host WordPress sites on a regular web hosting plan that allows you to run PHP applications.
These plans also let you run WordPress sites, however, you might lose access to some pre-configured features (staging area, extra plugins, auto-updates) and your web server and operating system won’t be optimized specifically for WordPress.
2. You Have Both WordPress and Non-WordPress Sites
If you want to host both WordPress and non-WordPress sites on the same plan, it can still be a good idea to choose the WordPress plan—however, it depends on many things.
A PHP-MySQL site can be hosted on a WordPress plan, as it uses the same application and database structure. A static HTML site can be hosted there as well, as it only requires storage place but doesn’t need application and database servers.
But, if the non-WordPress site is written in a different back-end language, you might need to find another hosting solution for it, for instance, a Java app requires a different kind of server setup. You might also find that your web host doesn’t support all the programming languages and technologies you’ll need, in which case you’ll have to sign up with two different hosting providers (e.g. one for PHP/WordPress and one for Java).
Also note that there are managed WordPress hosting companies that only let you host WordPress sites and nothing else.
3. You Have Only Non-WordPress Sites (One or Many)
If you don’t want to host any WordPress sites, then a generic web hosting plan is better suited to you. However, web hosts are very flexible these days, so if you’ll want to switch to WordPress hosting in the future, they’ll manage the change for you.
As WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world, many web hosting companies offer specific WordPress hosting services that are ideal for website owners who have one or more WordPress sites.
WordPress hosting is a type of web hosting that’s optimized for the WordPress platform in terms of server configuration, features, software, and support.
Besides the differences between web hosting vs WordPress hosting, the WordPress hosting services offered by different hosting companies might also vary in software architecture (Apache vs. Nginx server, different Linux OSs), hardware architecture (shared vs cloud hosting), the scope of support (full vs partial site management), pricing models, and other features.