A Checklist for Finding the Best WordPress Host:
10+ Questions to Ask
There are numerous questions that you should get to the bottom of when looking for the best WordPress host for your site.
- How well does the web host handle large bursts of traffic? (Just think: if 2,000 people all visited your site at the same time, will it still be able to handle that?)
- How quickly can you get support? Do they offer phone, email or chat support?
- What sort of caching systems are allowed (or used) and are they set up properly?
- Can you know the actual uptime of your sites? (Not just the standard 99.95% uptime guarantee every host throws around.)
- How does the host handle traffic from different parts of the world?
- Which versions of software are provided without the need for any custom work? Which PHP version(s)? Which MySQL version? Which Apache/Nginx version?
- Does the host have a hard limit on ACTUAL visitors?
- Does your host force you to use THEIR backup system? Does it force you to use THEIR caching system?
- What is the security focus of the hosting company? Can you reset your user passwords? Can you activate two-factor authentication?
- Do you have limitations on the number of sites you can host or the number of domains pointed to your account?
- Does your hosting provide email? Do you want them handling email? (Considering OTHER users on the same shared hosting account you are on?)
- How many other web-sites (not yours) will be hosted on same IP (if you go for shared hosting). Who is your environment?
- How much control do you have over your server? Is your server managed, semi-managed, unmanaged?
- How many clients will you be hosting? Would it be more beneficial to get a higher level option with more benefits to be able to provide your clients a better experience?
Tools for Finding the Best Web Host for Your WordPress Site
You can contact the host directly to ask for some examples of websites they host so that you can test for performance. Some web hosts will even have examples of sites on their website.
The following tools can help you evaluate example hosted sites (or your own site’s current host):
- LoadStorm – Stimulate user loads to check performance and speed
- Blitz.io – Test static caching of your WordPress site’s homepage
- Uptime Robot or Pingdom – Monitor real-time uptime statistics with an external service
- WebPageTest.org – Test the speed and performance of your website
- WPPerformanceTester – WordPress performance plugin
8 Things That Really Matter When It Comes to Choosing a Web Host
To sum up, look for these 8 things when evaluating the best WordPress host for your site:
This might be obvious, but a host’s uptime percentage is probably the most important metric to use when evaluating a WordPress host. What kind of uptime guarantees does the host offer?
Consider these uptime stats frequently promoted by web hosts as they really relate to time:
- 99.999% uptime = 5 minutes downtime / year
- 99.99% uptime = 53 minutes downtime / year
- 99.9% uptime = 8 hours 45 minutes downtime / year
- 99% uptime = 3.65 days downtime / year
How much downtime can you afford? If you run an ecommerce store, downtime can be directly related to lost revenue. The risk of website downtime is much greater if you can lose money if your website goes down.
Ask what happens if your host can’t live up to their guarantee. If they screw up and their server crashes, can you get a refund? If you’re really concerned about downtime, you should also ask about their disaster planning. Things like earthquakes, tsunamis and even thunderstorms happen and they’ve been known to take down websites. Your host should be
prepared for the worst. It happens.
To help you get a better sense of the actual downtime of your site, use a WordPress maintenance service like Sync Pro that can notify you immediately when your site goes down via email or text. Sync Pro also gives you a quick look at your overall uptime and downtime stats.
The speed of your website impacts user experience and visitor bounces. Every second counts when it comes to page speed.
Consider these stats, according to this post on how loading time affects your bottom line:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Speed can ultimately impact your SEO ranking. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool analyzes the content of a web page and offers suggestions to make the page faster.
Is the server your site will be hosted on central to your core visitor group? The Internet is obviously global. But location still matters. If your site’s servers and primary audience are on opposite sides of the world, that can slow things down.
Again, since speed is a major concern for your site, pay attention to location. A global Content Delivery Network (or a large distributed system of servers in multiple data centers) can eliminate the location issue, but the location of your host is still worth considering.
A web hosting company’s reputation matters. How long has the company been around? Do they have fifteen years of experience or two? How do they respond to complaints? What do other folks say about this company? If any of the answers you find to these questions make you uneasy, you should probably keep looking.
Visit some forums online, like Web Hosting Talk and search for topics related to host performance, server speed, etc.
5. Customer Service
Is it 24/7 live U.S. support? Are the techs just answering the phones or actually fixing the issues presented?
Most of the time customer service isn’t something you worry about. But right now, it’s everything. And unlimited web space is worthless if you have problems and can’t get help.
Problems should come up very rarely, but when they do (and they probably will), you need to know you have solid support. Your host should offer 24/7 customer service that’s prompt, helpful and in the format that works best for you.
Customer service should be:
- Prompt: The best customer service should respond instantly. Depending on the severity of your issue, a wait time of around a few hours for a response should be reasonable, but you certainly don’t want to wait 24 hours for a response. That’s bad.
- Helpful: Customer service should actually resolve your issue. It’s no good if they’re evasive, give bad information or flat-out don’t care.
- Your preferred format: How do you want to get help? Some companies offer ticket-based web support and others offer full-blown phone support. Know what type of support your host offers and what works best for you.
Like customer service, we don’t usually think about security until something bad happens. And when it does, you’ll appreciate good security. You’ll find that most hosts don’t talk about security. It’s not so secure if you tell everyone what you’re doing. But one good sign is if a host brags about their security — they have something to live up to, so check out reviews to see what others have said about their security.
What kind of security should a user look for? Look for network firewalls, access lists, intrusion prevention systems and server firewalls. Basically, you want to see multiple layers of security protecting your site. Also, make sure they’re updating server patches in a timely manner.
You’re paying money to host your site and you should have a reasonable amount of control over it, right? But not all hosts will offer you the same level of control.
Since you may have shared hosting and not a dedicated server, you may not be able to control everything. But a good host will give you the necessary access to do what you need to do.
Most hosts offer a control panel that includes a lot of backend functionality — more control than you probably need. But you want to have that kind of control. You never know when you’ll need it.
The most common control panel is cPanel and frankly, it’s the best. Since cPanel is so popular, you’ll find loads of tutorials and how-to information, even if your host doesn’t provide this information directly. Because of cPanel’s popularity, you probably won’t have to relearn a new system if you ever switch hosts.
Another common control panel is Plesk, but it’s known to have problems, so avoid it if you can. Also, avoid hosts with a custom control panel. These custom control panels are often lacking features, buggy and hard to use.
8. Not Overloading Resources
One of the biggest problems you could encounter in the hosting world is overloaded servers. Many hosts try to cram too many sites on a shared server to maximize profits. Overloaded servers make sites slow or unavailable due to other sites on the same server hogging resources and bandwidth.
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to check if your host is overloading resources. Check out the speed of other sites using the host or even check out the host’s own site to see how fast it’s running.
It’s Ok to Switch Your WordPress Host
Don’t be afraid to switch your web host if they don’t live up to these standards. It’s fairly easy to move your WordPress site.
Your site is probably going to be around for years. Likewise, the service you’re getting now is what you can expect to have for years. So if your web host is subpar, don’t put up with it. It’s OK to switch and make sure you’re running the best WordPress host.
The original of the article is published at iThemes