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WordPress Hosting Types Explained

by | Nov 25, 2020 | WordPress, Web Hosting

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When looking for WordPress hosting, all of the different types of hosting might be a bit confusing. This post exists to clear up some of that confusion, and to help you decide the best type of hosting for your website.

Shared Hosting

Most people looking to start a website are probably going to end up choosing shared hosting, so we’ll cover it first. One of the reasons shared hosting is so enticing is because of its relatively low pricing when compared to the other hosting options. For example, you can literally find shared hosting plans starting at just $1 a month! So, how can prices be so low, and what’s the catch?

Well, it’s rather simple actually. Shared hosting is actually a pretty descriptive name; with shared hosting, the resources of a server are used to host many websites. And it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Most of the smaller WordPress websites probably aren’t going to need an entire server’s worth of resources, so dedicating an entire server would be a bit wasteful. Additionally, not all websites on the same server are likely to get traffic at the exact same time, so shared hosting allows for an efficient use of server space. That efficiency is what allows for prices to be so low; hosting companies can split the costs of one server across many people.

Overselling

Although having many websites on the same server has the potential to more efficiently utilize server resources, it can also be taken too far. In order to offer unbelievably low prices, some web hosts resort to overselling. Overselling is when a web host sells more resources that’s what is available on a server.

For example, if a server has 100 GB of storage, a web host might choose to sell 150 GB worth of WordPress hosting plans on that server. Since most people overestimate how much space a WordPress website needs (the average WordPress website is only around one gigabyte), this amount of overselling probably won’t cause too many problems. As long as most people don’t use up the maximum amount of storage their plan allows, nobody will run into any problems, while allowing the web hosting company to offer even lower costs.

However, when overselling is taken to the extreme, problems start to happen. With the storage example, if the total usage exceeds 100 GB, you may still have storage left in your hosting plan, but you won’t be able to use it because the server has no more storage available. The same thing can happen with RAM and other resources; if they’re oversold too heavily, you won’t be able to make full use of your hosting plan. And, in some cases, that may result in your website getting slow or even crashing entirely.

CloudLinux

Another problem with shared hosting is poor isolation between websites. From a performance perspective, this means that one website can use up too many resources, and slow down yours or even crash the entire server. Poor isolation can also be a security hazard in some cases. One popular tool to combat this on shared hosting is CloudLinux, which is why you’ll sometimes see it advertised by web hosts.

CloudLinux significantly improves the isolation between hosting accounts, and allows web hosts to place limits on how many resources each user can use. So, if a website gets a surge of traffic, CloudLinux will prevent that website from using up all of the server’s resources. So, instead of the entire server going down, only that one website will. CloudLinux also has many useful security features, such as CageFS which provides better file system isolation, and HardenedPHP, which makes older versions of PHP more secure.

There are also other tools that can accomplish similar levels of isolation, but CloudLinux is the most popular.

VPS Hosting

The next step up from shared hosting is VPS hosting. Similar to shared hosting, VPS hosting also allows for multiple websites to be hosted on the same server. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting will virtualize an entire server for you which provides a few key benefits.

First, most VPS hosting plans offer significantly more resources than shared hosting. This means your website will get access to more RAM, CPU, and storage which allows your website to load faster and handle more traffic.

Another benefit is much better isolation. Although many VPS’s can live on one server, each one is essentially its own server with its own operating system. This provides much better isolation than shared hosting, and prevents one website or account from taking down the entire server. At the same time, VPS hosting is still relatively affordable because the web host can still split the costs of running a physical server across multiple users. Although each VPS gets its own IP address and operating system, it still shares the same physical server as other VPS’s which means the web host needs to maintain less physical servers.

Lastly, VPS hosting also offers more flexibility. Since you’re getting an entire virtualized server, you can customize it much more than you could with shared hosting. For example, you may want to install Redis to be used as an object cache for WordPress, which is something that very few shared web hosting plans offer. Or, you may want to use NGINX or Varnish as a caching server to boost your website’s performance, which also can’t be done with most shared hosting plans. Depending on your web host, you may also be able to run non-PHP web applications, such as Discourse and Ghost.

Dedicated Hosting

The next step up from VPS hosting is dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting, as its name suggests, gives your website the power of an entire physical server. Not only do these plans offer more resources than VPS hosting, but you’re also getting dedicated resources, which means no one else can use the RAM, CPU, or storage space your plan provides. With VPS hosting, it is still possible for web hosts to oversell their servers, but that’s not the case with dedicated hosting.

Dedicated hosting comes with all the benefits of VPS hosting (minus the lower price), and provides the best isolation possible. However, dedicated hosting plans are also some of the most expensive. Since you’re the only user on the server, you have to cover all of the costs associated with it, which results in higher prices.

Clusters

Once your WordPress website gets to the point where even the largest dedicated servers aren’t enough, then it’s time to consider a cluster of servers. You won’t really find this option listed with a set price with most web hosts. Instead, you’ll probably need to contact a reputable web hosting provider and work with them to create a custom hosting plan for your website. It may also start to make sense to have your own team at this point to manage a WordPress cluster with a cloud computing services like AWS or Digital Ocean.

Managed Hosting

Managed WordPress hosting is more about the experience and support for WordPress. For example, managed WordPress hosting usually doesn’t come with cPanel; instead, they (usually) come with a control panel dedicated to managing WordPress websites, and include servers that are specially optimized for WordPress. Managed hosting also often includes a built-in caching solution to make your website faster, and some managed WordPress hosting also comes with other performance features such as a CDN.

Conclusion

  • Shared WordPress hosting is great option for most beginners because of its low prices
  • Once your website grows out of shared hosting, VPS hosting is the next place to look
  • As your site continues to grow, dedicated hosting offers even more resources
  • Once your website is too big for a single server, it’s time to look at cluster solutions
  • Managed WordPress hosting makes managing WordPress easier and often includes advanced caching solutions, and other WordPress performance optimizations

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