Every website on the internet is hosted somewhere. It’s the invisible infrastructure that keeps the digital world moving. WordPress hosting might not be the most common thing clients talk about, but it’s a foundation you can’t ignore.
We’ve been talking with WordPress experts to get their insights on hosting.
Hosting Horror Stories
You can’t start a conversation about hosting without talking about hosting horror stories. Everyone seems to have one, and they help underline the importance of this infrastructure.
“GoDaddy once tried to claim that I was hacked because I was running an outdated version WordPress (I was on the latest version at the time),” says Justin Tadlock. “That my web host didn’t even know the version of WordPress I was on was kind of scary.”
For Aaron Reimann, it started when a virtual private server went down. The solution involved migrating the server, but the process went into the weekend and the support team in charge of migrations had left the building—and nobody mentioned that to Reimann. His clients ultimately had 80 hours of downtime, and as you can imagine he lost a few of those clients.
For Kim White, it started with a client who already had hosting. But it didn’t meet the needs of the new site, so they had to switch servers and White spent over five hours on the phone with tech support.
“In the end, the client paid over $500 to make cheap hosting ‘work’ with their site needs,” says White. All for a $10 per month hosting service.
“All of my hosting horror stories usually start with cheap shared hosting,” says Brad Williams. “As with anything in life, you get what you pay for, and cheap shared hosting is no different.”
Though hosting horror stories are not always the hosts’ fault.
“At a large conference I was speaking at, I had forgotten to renew my SSL and my site went down when I was in the midst of driving everyone to my website,” says Bob Dunn. “Fortunately, the host was a sponsor there and helped me get things working in about an hour’s time. So my horror story was resolved by my hosting company.”
Emphasizing the Need for Good Hosting
“Investing in quality hosting that gives you peace of mind that it’s working when you’re not is worth the investment,” says White.
Despite the horror stories, it can still be difficult to convince clients of the need for good hosting.
Here are several approaches that can help:
- Help clients understand what hosting actually does: “Imagine having a beautiful red sports car, but when you open the hood you find a hamster wheel powering the car,” says Williams. “Outside it looks absolutely amazing, which is your website, but under the hood it is an absolute mess, which is your hosting server. If you truly value your business, invest in solid professional WordPress hosting. It will pay for itself in no time.”
- Put the cost in perspective: “What is your product worth?” asks Reimann. “What if the most profitable client goes to your website when it’s down? How much will that cost you? If it’s more then $30, invest more.”
- Emphasize that it’s another standard expense: “It’s a needed business expense,” says Dunn. “You don’t rent your office in some run-down building. You don’t always get the cheapest computer. You purchase business insurance to avoid liability. Hosting for your website is no different. You need to invest enough in it to meet the needs of your particular site.”
- You could also emphasize idealism: “Web hosts are the last line of defense for freedom of speech on the web,” says Tadlock. “Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms can ‘unperson’ you for controversial ideas. But a good web host will stand against the court of public opinion and provide a way for people to express themselves.”
Clients need to see WordPress hosting as an essential part of any website, so make sure you talk about hosting options when you’re pitching a web project.
Make sure clients understand the impacts hosting can have. Shared hosting may fit the budget better, but there will be drawbacks.
“Shared hosting can be like living in a dorm,” says White. “Ya’ll smell the neighbors sometimes.”
How to Choose a Host
So how do you choose a host? A number of factors come into play, but here’s what our experts said are the most important to them:
- Support: “When choosing a hosting company I always like to understand how their support is structured,” says Williams. “Do they offer 24/7 phone and/or live chat support? Is it email, ticket based, or some other system? How responsive are they? How knowledgeable are they? There is nothing worse than a hosting company with terrible support. We all hope there aren’t major issues with a server or hosting infrastructure, but the reality is it will happen, so how prepared are they for that situation?”
- Easy to use: “How easy it is to get a website up and running is what’s important to me,” says Tadlock. “The average user needs more out-of-the-box solutions that just work without a lot of fuss.”
- Research: “Do your research,” says Dunn. “And don’t start by Googling the 10 best WordPress hosts, nor pop into a Facebook group and ask who the best host is. You do not want to fall into that bottomless pit. I feel it’s important that you ask people you know and trust, explain your needs and let them help you.
- More than cost: “Don’t make it all about money,” says Dunn. “Although I understand budgets, don’t just focus on what you are willing to spend and what are you expecting from your investment.”
- It depends: White notes that what’s important really depends on a number of factors, from the type of website it is to how much the client wants to handle technical issues.
“I don’t have any problem with most small hosting plans when I am building a ‘brochureware’ type site,” says White. “But once you start talking about any working parts, people filling out a form, viewing gallery images, calendars, etc., the hosting should be able to keep up with the activity.”
“The other thing is how techy you are,” says White. “If you are taking care of a website, and you run your own business—say a jewelry store owner—do you really want to learn about security, backups, or updating WordPress?”
Juggling all these different hosting factors can be a bit intimidating. But it’s also important to know that things can change. Businesses grow and needs can morph over time.
“People need to evaluate their needs, and sometimes you don’t know what you need until you’ve used a host for a bit. And then it’s OK to move,” says White. “Really it’s just my personal experience: When I bought a house it was great, but after living in it for a while I realized I didn’t like shoveling the corner lot. Also, not everybody likes the same things. Some like a condo association to take care of everything, while others like doing lawn work.”
WordPress Hosting Considerations
If you’re dealing exclusively with WordPress, there are some specific considerations that change in relation to hosting.In short, if you’re using WordPress, not any host will do.
“We always recommend a WordPress managed hosting company,” says Williams. “It’s important to us that the hosting company we choose and recommend to clients is not only knowledgeable on proper server infrastructure, but also has a laser focus on supporting WordPress. Having a server stack completely customized for hosting WordPress websites is a huge benefit to anyone running WordPress.”
But remember that you have to do your part.
“People think hosting has to have some extra, multiple layers of security when it comes to WordPress,” says Dunn. “But you also need to play a big part in keeping your site safe and sound.”
And if a client isn’t interested in managing updates, then it’s important to point them toward an alternative.
“If I’m talking with someone who knows they want to run WordPress but doesn’t care much about other aspects of being a webmaster, I like to point them toward managed WordPress hosting,” says Tadlock.
More WordPress Hosting Insights
For more insights on WordPress hosting, read the full interviews with our experts:
Be sure to check out our own take on hosting with iThemes Hosting—simple yet smarter WordPress hosting.