I’ve had a number of guys attempt to leave hateful comments and small rants about both Bluehost and Fat Cow recently. The ones that appeared both genuine, reasonable and non-abusive have been approved (very few), however, I notice some consistencies in the complaints and did some investigating. It seems that the biggest problem was that both services have updated their policies to penalize sites that attempt to abuse bandwidth or hard drive space, thus causing poorer service for others on their shared servers. Just as it would not be considered acceptable to try to run a “chop shop” auto repair from a residential apartment or a drive-through liquor store from a service business center complex, it’s necessary to be respectful of other sites and businesses in a shared hosting environment. If you really do have very heavy site traffic or bandwidth-heavy delivery needs, please accept that you’ll have to go with a dedicated server and pay the price of your success. My recommendations are for small businesses running a reasonable level of traffic (barring an unexpected piece of content going viral). And for those of you trying to bump your own affiliate sales by trashing the competition and directing traffic to your affiliate links, shame on you.
I moved this site several months ago to a WestHost Business Account and consolidated 4 of my other sites with their excellent Live Chat support assistance. I also had a student who’d gotten conned into using Network Solutions and found herself in the “WordPress Hosting from Hell” situation. Not only did she discover in my class that her WordPress installation was crippled, limiting what features she could and couldn’t use, but Network Solutions had a server crash that brought down her whole site. When contacted they appeared unconcerned and, in fact, stated that the site might be down for as much as 2 weeks! Following my suggestion, she grabbed a WestHost account on sale and they not only walked her through moving her site, they moved it for her for free! She’s been thrilled with the ongoing customer support for her questions and the rise in traffic to her up-to-date site.
Bluehost continues it’s Special Deal right now. Also, Bluehost has a WordPress-optimized hosting option at US$24.99 per month for those wanting — or needing — extra security and site speed. Wanted to also report that I’ve had some very nice service from Bluehost lately, despite concerns about their size. Bluehost, like Dreamhost and several other successful sites targeting small businesses, has recently shifted towards more managed WordPress hosting services. This is in part because of the on-going attempts to hack WordPress-based sites that have not updated to more recent versions as well as use of poorly developed plug-ins that either pose a security risk or slow download speeds due to sloppy coding.
Quick Update: August, 2013: Pulling Dreamhost from my recommendations due to an ongoing series of problems with their server downtime, support, and access issues. Follow-up November, 2015: Dreamhost appears to be shifting their business model to push WordPress users to their partially managed service which would be fine for businesses that are willing to pay to have their updates done and certain server optimization features. However, I’m concerned that they are no longer providing quality customer service to small business and solopreneur accounts. They appear to becoming more proprietary in their user interface and robotic in their customer service and support after sale so I’m continuing to leave them off my list.
Best WordPress Web Hosting Services in a Nutshell
For those in a big hurry to get to the meat
My Current Short List of Recommended WordPress Web Hosting Services
- Standard DIY Shared Hosting Service #1 (smaller, UK-based): WestHost
- WordPress-optimized and Standard DIY Shared Hosting Service #2 (larger, US-based): Bluehost
- Standard DIY Shared Green Hosting Service: FatCow
- Cloud Hosting on a Budget: WestHost
Now for those who want more information (and some idea what some of those terms mean), please keep reading.
For tips on choosing the right web hosting service for you and your organization, check out my guidelines at the end of the post.
Disclosure: I will also let you know that, except from the web design firm of Insideout Solutions and Synthesis Managed Web Hosting, I do receive a referral fee when you click through on my links and buy service. However, I never make my recommendations based on who pays the most (which is why you will never see me recommend GoDaddy no matter how much they offer in referral fees (and they offer a lot) because GoDaddy is just evil to their
suckers customers). There are a lot of people who aggressively promote companies that offer them up to US$150 to push products or services. As I said, I only recommend businesses and services that I have actually worked with or am currently using to my satisfaction.
Best WordPress Web Hosting Reviews and Recommendations
Best WordPress Shared Web Hosting
for those wanting to save money and Do-It-Yourself
There are tens of thousands more web hosting service options. To avoid giving folks “choice paralysis” I’ve whittled the list to 3 that I can recommend.
WestHost is what I am using now for this site and what I use for my student “sandboxes” (where each student gets his or her own WordPress installation for training and testing). I have had over 100 WordPress installations running on a single account! WestHost offers extremely good prices on a basic account and an excellent price on a basic Business Account that includes a dedicated IP address, an SSL certificate (necessary for e-commerce payments), unlimited databases and space, and excellent download speeds. WestHost is where I fell in love with the WordPress automatic upgrade. Imagine having to upgrade 100 installations with FTP! WestHost also offers Live Chat Support which came in handy when I scrambled a database late one night. The Live Chat support has been excellent and essential during my recent move of 4 websites to my WestHost account. WestHost has developed a new control panel for its account management program. It incorporates all of your account management including your bill payments, support and domain registrations. WestHost also has some excellent documentation and did I mention the Live Chat support? You can also get a free 1-year domain name registration with a new account. I am currently running some performance tests on the various hosting services I recommend and I have to say that, based on my tests and the customer service I received, they are my favorite hosting service right now.
The Personal Package (which is plenty for most small businesses) runs as little as US$6.95 a month for a pre-paid contract. Right now they are running a Sale Special for as little as US$4/month for a multi-year contract.
Bluehost came to my attention working with some clients. Several times I found myself working with people already using Bluehost — and loving it. I talked with some other web developers and they praised Bluehost as well. Bluehost has a huge backbone connection (this means they have the fastest Internet connection possible), offer unlimited data storage and a unique drag-and-drop website builder (for those of you who don’t want to use WordPress but want an easy do-it-yourself solution). They also have the Live Chat Support and live streaming for video (thanks to that backbone connection). They use C/Panel for their account management (which makes me happy). I used them for a another project and was very happy, but the project ended so I closed the account. About a year later, I decided I needed to move one of my domains to its own hosting service, so opened my own Bluehost account. I was a bit slow in getting the site transferred after I set-up the hosting account because I was hit with a lot of work. Imagine my surprise when I got first an email and then a phone call from Bluehost Support asking if there was a problem in the transfer and was there some way they could help! Now keep in mind, they already had my money. It wasn’t costing them anything to have the empty space sitting on their server, but they were afraid that I was having trouble figuring out how to make the transfer and wanted to help if they could. I explained I was wanted to do some redevelopment and just hand’t gotten around to doing it for the transfer and so they said, fine, but to feel free to contact them if there was anything they could do. I finally got around to doing the transfer about two weeks later. They have recently moved towards a more managed-hosting service approach so check carefully that they meet your needs, if you aren’t wanting to sign-up for the more supportive and dedicated services.
And yes, they also offer a 30-day trial account and free 1-year domain name registration. Bluehost also offers a US$6.95 per month (US$250.20) for a 36-month contract, US$7.95 per month (US$190.80) for a 24-month contract or US$8.95 per month (US$107.40) for a 12-month contract. Bluehost is the biggest hosting service on my recommended list. Sometimes web hosting services can’t keep pace with their growth, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Bluehost.
FatCow has a funny name and an unconventional website, but I’ve had several students in my last four classes rave about their Customer Service. So I took a look. FatCow is a great choice for any environmentally-conscious businesses. FatCow is 100% wind-powered and works to be as Green as possible. On a more practical note, FatCow offers a free domain name or transfer with new accounts, unlimited databases (you know how I love that), unlimited domains on a single account, and all the rest of the usual suspects — plus phone, email & live chat support 24/7/365. FatCow is also using C/Panel for your account management program (although they have it labeled as “beta,” one of my students has been using it for over a year now). FatCow has been offering some pretty aggressive specials lately, os you stand a good chance of getting a bargain.
Managed WordPress Web Hosting
for those wanting more personalized & customized service
Updated: March, 2015
I’ve pulled OutstandingSETUP because I’ve been unable to get a reply as to their current status and rates. However, Bluehost is now offering an upgraded, WordPress Optimized service. It’s only slightly more expensive than their shared hosting and they are willing to help move sites as well. I haven’t tried the upgraded service, but used Bluehost for several years until I recently consolidated to a single host to simply maintenance while I’m traveling so much. So, if you don’t want to have to handle your own WP optimization, upgrades, and so forth, check Bluehost out.
The Synthesis team is part of the Copyblogger Media organization, so they are focused on optimized performance for demanding sites. They also own StudioPress Themes, creator of the Genesis WordPress framework, so they are used to working with WordPress beginners and businesses that want their site running without having to master web development. Basically, the Synthesis team was created to run high-traffic sites optimally for high-demand customers using WordPress and the Genesis theme framework.
So you get the most from using Synthesis if you also use a theme from StudioPress. Customer Support can handle all your questions from hosting to WordPress theme issues. And for those who are really upping their game, you can integrate the Scribe program to perfect your copywriting skills.
Insideout Solutions is another web design and development service which offers WordPress website packages. You have one-on-one service with an on-site support staff to answer your questions as well as an award-winning graphic design team who can help with your print marketing as well as online. The WordPress packages come optimized for mobile as well as desktop systems and you can add SEO and other services as needed. For a number of years they handled only tourism and hospitality clients, but are now handling all industries and professions. Feel free to contact them with any questions — and you will speak to an actual staff member and not outsourced customer service. A basic WordPress website package starts at US$125/month.
Best WordPress Cloud Server Solution on a Budget
WestHost provides a cloud service built for some serious traffic. This is not a dedicated server. Dedicated servers have their place for certain needs, but they don’t scale to handle traffic spikes and rapid growth easily. Basically, you’ll be serving your content from a series of nodes to speed up delivery. And if you don’t freak out at the idea of “building your own server” and need to support serious website traffic, then keep reading. WestHost will help you set it up and, if you talk with the right person, may even help you migrate your site to your new setup. Check out WestHost for affordable cloud hosting.
In addition, you should be highly suspicious of companies offering unbelievably cheap deals — emphasis on the unbelievable. “Free” is rarely free. The most common hidden “gotchas” or catches are crippled WordPress installations (you don’t actually get all the features and control), advertising links (sometimes hidden), tracking code, malicious links, discovering that certain critical features are extras, or even just making things too difficult for you to leave when you become unhappy with the gotchas, frequent downtime, slow delivery, shoddy customer service, or other headaches.
What You Need to Know To Get the Best Web Hosting Service
First, anyone taking my classes knows I only recommend a WordPress-based site for small businesses and professionals. They also know I only recommend services that I am actually using or have worked with recently. Below are my current recommendations. I currently use WestHost and Bluehost for various sites. (I still have a Dreamhost account to test when they resolve their server farm issues). I would not hesitate to use them again. I also get a lot of people asking me about the best managed WordPress web hosting because they want additional support services such as WordPress installation, so I’m including some folks that will help you with installation, WordPress themes, and website support — while still offering you full control of your site. I have worked with all of them. And for people with a lot of traffic and site demands (lucky you!), I can now recommend Synthesis by the folks over at Copyblogger Media who also run StudioPress.com Themes and Scribe to improve your copywriting.
Never select a business service on price alone. Yes, I’m certain you can find something cheaper, but there is no such thing as a free lunch and there will be a catch. Think about it for a moment. You would never go strictly by price alone for your other business services, would you? You wouldn’t use a dishonest accountant simply because he offered to work really, really cheap (or free), would you? You wouldn’t use a vendor who supplied such poor quality products that they fell apart as soon as your customers tried to use them, would you? You wouldn’t put your business in an unsafe building, not matter how cheap the rent, would you? Of course not.
What we want as smart business people is a fair price, a good value. We expect people to pay us a fair price for our products and services, and we expect to do the same. And what’s fair depends in part on how much service and product you need.
Most of the web hosting for WordPress listed above will be offering specials, particularly for multi-year contracts (that’s where you see those prices drop to as low as US$4/month), and you should always be able to cancel for a refund within 30-90 days (depending upon the terms of service).
Having said that the second most important thing in choosing a web hosting service for WordPress, or any other site, is being brutally honest with yourself about technical savvy and website maintenance. In other words, how much hand-holding will you really need or want?
While the standard web hosting services I recommend all offer simple or “one-click” WordPress installation, you will still have steps to follow and if you are planning to do your own WordPress site set-up and administration, you will need to learn about theme and plugin installation. If you hyperventilate at the thought of watching videos or following instructions for installing WordPress, consider a managed service. It may cost more per month, but be worth the reduced stress. This is a decision no one else can make for you.
And finally, you need to be brutally honest about the amount of bandwidth you will be using. All of the hosting solutions I recommend offer plenty of bandwidth in their basic packages for most small businesses and non-profit organizations. If, however, you anticipate using a lot of bandwidth, either because you expect a lot of traffic or you are serving high-bandwidth content on your site like videos (and not using a video service like YouTube or Vimeo), then you may want to look at the amount of bandwidth included in your terms of service. Of course, you can always start out with the least expensive site and, if you need more bandwidth, upgrade later.