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Call it a content management system, a platform, or a website building software, WordPress is the easiest and the best way to start a website or a blog.
There is no denying that!
It is so popular that almost every hosting company has an exclusive package (managed WordPress hosting) or a special section for WordPress hosting with options like one-click WordPress installation.
Based on the reliability factors (customer support, security) and performance factors (loading speed and uptime), here are the best WordPress hosting providers:
Before going into detail about the real-time results of these hosting providers, let me explain what the best WordPress host is and why my real-time analysis of the best WP hosts is reliable.
By doing so, I feel I can make the value of this study clear.
So, here is an overview of my case study. You can click on the part you want to read, but I suggest top to bottom, as it gives the complete picture.
It’s Time The Truth About Web Hosting Companies Be Told
The intense competition in the hosting market is incredible!
The companies continuously push each other to improve and optimize their services, to implement the latest technologies and best business practices and to provide support far beyond the narrow scope of basic troubleshooting.
Check out five different hosting companies, and you’ll see practically the same promises: 99% uptime, lightning-fast speed, secure environment and best support from highly-knowledgeable hosting specialists.
The thing is that I have been on the other side; for years I was working for hosting companies, and I know for a fact that things rarely work as advertised.
Reviews and detailed studies of the best WordPress hosting providers can help you get your bearings, but only that much.
Again, read five different hosting reviews, and you’d likely get five different ideas who the best hosting company might be. It’s not that the researchers are not doing their job well or skewer the results on purpose.
The difference stems from the monitoring tools used to measure performance. Different tools deployed from different locations bring home different results.
I believe I found a solution to this problem
And it is real-time monitoring.
Without extensive testing, there is no telling who is the best.
One of the reasons why I undertook this case study was the inability to find a reliable source of information, to determine with certainty who the best WordPress host is.
After reading extensively about optimizing the performance of WordPress websites, I figured that to define “what is a good WordPress host” I need metrics on following factors:
There are many WordPress hosting reviews with detailed metrics, but most of them rely on a single tool to measure uptime and server speed.
Additionally, the published data quickly gets old and outdated.
The metrics have been clocked in, analyzed and published. There is the occasional update, especially when a particular hosting company complains that the conducted tests do not represent their services fairly due to one reason or another, but that’s about it.
Now, in my quest for the best WordPress hosting of 2018 I bundled up several reliable tools and used their combined results to extrapolate relative and reliable data about the most impressive WordPress offerings.
Besides that, I used StatusCake for real-time updates and continuously relevant WordPress hosting comparison.
The website monitoring is live and can be checked at will so that you can see accurate uptime and responsiveness metrics at any given moment.
I began by purchasing (wherever available) managed WordPress hosting plans from the well-renowned providers.
Note: I chose these renowned providers based on my experience in the hosting industry and detailed analysis of real hosting user reviews.
Building 5-pager Site
Where in-house caching plugin was available, I went for it, as it only makes sense to use the proprietary tools of specialized WordPress hosts. This is one of the benefits of managed WordPress hosting; you can find more on my managed WordPress hosting vs. shared hosting comparison.
I included one additional optimization called GZIP compression and nothing more.
All these are basic, easy to implement optimizations, which requires virtually no technical knowledge.
Loading Speed Test
Once the sites were ready, I ran them through Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix to see how they perform.
I tested them before and after compressing the images with WP-Smush. The results before and after, unsurprisingly, showed huge differences; details are available under the in-depth review of each host.
It is the tool I am using for monitoring uptime and responsiveness. StatusCake pings the sites from different locations around the world, measuring the overall performance, which is pretty neat and gives a real-live idea how the site responds from all around the globe.
I am using it to test responsiveness under load. It sends virtual users to the site from a location you chose.
I quote here the results from a test server located on the same continent as the data center under examination.
I tested with 50 virtual users, as this number is a fair estimate what a small shared WordPress web hosting package could and should handle. Anything more than that and you are growing big! Upgrade time might be around the corner.
Speaking of upgrades, how the plans of each hosting provider scale are one of the factors forming the final verdict.
In the lines to follow you will get a detailed overview of the best WordPress hosts today.
Pricing: from $3.95/mo
Min. response time under load: 0.783s
Max. response time under load: 3.14s
Average response time: 0.39s
Average response time under load: 1.26s
|Support: Lightning fast, knowledgeable, excellent knowledge base||Special features: Proprietary WordPress caching plugin, extra-fast backend|
SiteGround’s plans feature some neat WordPress perks. Their in-house built caching plugin and the lightning-fast backend provide excellent functionality, while things like WP-CLI and the automatic WordPress updates add a degree of control and extra security.
Under load, the SiteGround server responded with impressive stability and consistency. It clocked one of the quickest average response times.
Once I smushed the images, the GTmetrix test showed very decent results, even though there is room for optimization.
I contacted their support team three times and always got courteous, fast and reliable information.
The only downside of SiteGround is the somewhat tricky signup process. The advertised monthly prices show the real numbers, but if you want to pay on a month-to-month basis, you’d have to chip in additional $14.95 for the setup of your account. Prepaying waives this fee off, but it does feel a bit pushy.
Then again, I’ve seen much worse. Besides, their plans are very reasonably priced and have a good selection of features and tools. They scale up nicely, allocating additional computing power as your site grows, allowing it to meet the rising demands.
Speaking of growth, ever since its inception back in 2004, SiteGround has been gaining notoriety and an ever-expanding customer base. Not five years ago they had fewer than 300,000 domain names; now the number has nearly tripled.
I have worked for companies that have struggled to accommodate and address the needs of their expanding customer base, but the SiteGround management team seems to have a pretty good idea how to handle it.
So far, they are indisputably the best WordPress hosting provider for 2017 and are going strongly in 2018 too, ranking very high regarding speed, pricing and features, and easily topping the customer service rankings.
Pricing: from $29/mo
Min. response time under load: 0.106s
Max. response time under load: 1.09s
Average response time: 0.31s
|Average response time under load: 0.159s|
|Support: Migration plugin from cPanel, proprietary caching plugin; Hacks are fixed by support.||Special features: Proprietary WordPress caching plugin, extra-fast backend|
Hands down, WP Engine, is the host to go to for a WordPress site or a WordPress blog.
Their environment is designed particularly for the CMS, and they have numerous plugins to make your site fly.
Doubting? Check out the metrics below.
Under load, WP Engine performed more like a dedicated server than a shared one.
Despite the spikes visible on the graph, the maximum response time was considerably lower than the average of all hosts I put under monitoring.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights gave the slightly poorer result (by one point) to WP Engine than to SiteGround, but GTmetrix ranked it high with virtually no manual optimization besides the image compression. Optimized WordPress environment, indeed.
The user area is very functional and provides a great degree of control. It struck me as much more technical than what you see in regular hosting companies. There is nothing unnecessary there, and it feels empowering, conveying a do-it-yourself attitude.
All the same, you won’t feel lost as the knowledge base is an absolute treasury of knowledge.
There are text and video tutorials to take you through the setup and to show you the ropes.
Admittedly, acquiring the necessary technical knowledge is not a very big hurdle if you can spend some time on their rich knowledge base. But their pricing is the real issue.
Even compared to other best managed WordPress hosting solutions their hosting cost is quite high. Both of these factors make WP Engine a rather unsuitable host for people who just begin their online journey.
Thanks to their migration plugin, though, WP Engine is ready to welcome anyone who is ready to make the next step toward a truly optimized WordPress experience, top-notch support, and mind-blowing speed.
|Pricing: from $16.95/mo (or $7.95/mo for shared hosting)||Min. response time under load: 0.955s|
Max. response time under load: 3.11s
Average response time: 0.47s
|Average response time under load: 0.996s|
|Support: Very fast, knowledgeable, very good knowledge base||Special features: Custom DreamHost control panel, a special DreamHost backup plugin.|
As far as the optimised WordPress hosting providers go, DreamHost has plenty to offer. The company has a regular shared hosting with several WordPress perks but also a managed WordPress hosting called DreamPress.
On my quest for finding the best WordPress host, the latter was the logical choice. It seems to be one of the reliable WordPress hosting environments out there.
DreamPress From Dream Host
DreamPress comes with pre-installed WordPress, Varnish, and Yoast. Jetpack Premium along with all the above is added to the Plus and Advanced plans.
Additionally, Object caching and W3 Total Caching are configured so that your site can come to live already optimized, to a great degree.
Under load DreamPress performed impressively, even though the December 2017 tests showed slightly worse performance.
The load was handled with impressive stability and without any worrisome spikes. The one slower response time still was pretty fast.
Despite the slightly lower Google Speed score, the DreamHost servers performed well with GTmetrix. In both cases, there were suggestions on how to make it even better. But that’s to be expected, given the rudimentary improvements I made.
The responsive and knowledgeable support, combined with the very decent backend speed, make managing WordPress at DreamHost a very pleasant experience.
The DreamHost control panel is a pleasure to work with – very intuitive and accessible interface makes navigation and service management a breeze.
The site responds very quickly as well, and so far the uptime has been impeccable. DreamPress might not be a very cheap WordPress hosting solution, but it is worth every penny for those who value speed, reliability and excellent support.
Pricing: from $5.95/mo
Min. response time under load: 0.660s
Max. response time under load: 2.25m
Average response time: 0.39s
Average response time under load: 7.17s
|Support: Could be faster and more knowledgeable, good knowledge base||Special features: MOJO marketplace is available, Google Analytics and Varnish are ready to use.|
HostGator installs WordPress for you, allowing you to start designing your site immediately.
Nice perks like MOJO and Google Analytics can help you with functionality and statistics, while Varnish provides a nice speed boost. WP Super Cache is the plugin of choice for the HostGator environment; it is pre-installed as well.
Interestingly, under load, the HostGator server was doing fine until the virtual users surpassed 30.
After that the server began to lag, driving the average response time to rather unacceptably high values. Tests in December 2017 showed even worse performance, which is the main reason why HostGator lost its position in the chart.
Both speed tests suggested that there is room for improvement.
Other than the image compression additional caching could bring home better results.
SiteLock is added to all WordPress plans, enhancing the security together with automatic plugin and core WordPress updates.A reasonable backup offering is in place in case things go truly south.
The HostGator user area is simple and reasonably easy to use, but I found their support a tad lacking in my initial research.
One of the three agents I got in touch with was answering questions I had never asked, which was rather unsettling and hard to explain. Since I have contacted their support more than five times, though, and inevitably got excellent service. So much so that I consider the support one of the strongest sides of the company.
All in all, HostGator is a solid host and provides a decent performance for the asked price. The plans scale up reasonably well; the most expensive one starts at $9.95, keeping the potential WordPress hosting cost very low.
Pricing: from $3.92/mo
Min. response time under load: 0.531s
Max. response time under load: 1.67s
Average response time: 0.54s
Average response time under load: 0.660s
|Support: Quick, friendly, knowledgeable, excellent knowledge base||Special features: A2 Optimized WordPress installation|
A2 WordPress offering is very reasonable. Since the couple of outages over the first couple of weeks of testing, the servers of A2 have shown nothing but stability, which helped the company’s improved ranking a lot.
Under load, the A2 Hosting server handled itself pretty well, even though there were a couple of spikes in the initial tests. When I tested again in December 2017, the results were truly impressive, combining stability and speed matched only by the top 2 hosts in this list.
After a quick image optimisation, A2 began loading the site rather quickly, scoring very decently at GTmetrix.
The A2 Optimization seems to work without much additional tweaking.
Indeed, the A2 Optimized installation provides very serious caching possibilities, and the A2 servers are quite powerful. Advanced users can enjoy tools like SSH, Node.js, Git, CVS, Subversion & Mercurial, PERL 5.10, Ruby 1.8, MySQL and PostgreSQL.
A2 hosting, a very green company with excellent support and a decent knowledge base, is also the cheapest starting option, making it a very strong candidate for WordPress beginners.
The plans scale up nicely, with the biggest one (at only $9.31/mo when prepaid) sporting some promising performance boosters. These factors, when backed up with decent uptime, put the A2 setup up there, as one of the platforms providing the best hosting for WordPress.
Pricing: from $3.95/mo
Min. response time under load: 2.21s
Max. response time under load: 4.09s
Average response time: 0.78s
Average response time under load: 2.21s
|Support: Extremely quick, very knowledgeable, good knowledge base||Special features: Free domain name, excellent customer area, instant access anywhere with mobile app.|
While not exclusively WordPress oriented, the FastComet perks make site management easy. The mobile app, in particular, is something I look forward to seeing from all hosting companies soon.
As fast as site performance is concerned, aggressive GZIP, AutoMinify, KeepAlive, header optimization and other performance boosters are available across the board, while Memcache, APC, and OPcache come only with the biggest plan.
Under load, the FastComet server delivered a rather consistent but also disappointing response times when tested initially. In December 2018 the average response time improved a lot, dropping below 2.5 seconds, which is pretty good.
This suggests that through additional optimization you can achieve very good performance. It seems that with the provided speed boosters and the proper setup (without many add-ons), the FastComet servers can deliver consistently well.
After the smushing and resizing the images, both GTmetrix and Google’s PageSpeed Insights listed suggestions on additional optimization, despite all the compression and caching.
Priced very competitively, FastComet allocates server resources according to the purchased package. The plans scale nicely both regarding features and pricing. Backed up by an excellent support team, this is a place where you can grow your site easily.
Indeed, the average response time is slightly slower than that of some of the other hosts I examined, but 0.78s is still seriously fast.
With seven data centers around the world and an excellent network infrastructure, this is a company that invests in its future heavily.
Pricing: from $2.95/mo
Min. response time under load: 1.22s
Max. response time under load: 16.37s
Average response time: 0.85s
Average response time under load: 2.27s
|Support: Quick, but can be more knowledgeable, good knowledge base.|
Special Features: OptinMonster account
While the dedicated WordPress hosting BlueHost has seemed very powerful, it is provided by VPS technology, which places it in a different category altogether. That’s why I went for their shared hosting.
I’d like to test the VPS servers too and might very well do it in the future.
BlueHost installed WordPress for me, but I must say that it took a while. Compared to other of the best WordPress hosts the backend is also considerably slower.
When under stress, the BlueHost server performed consistently. Its response times were not the worst but nothing to brag about either.
The speed tests showed comparable results to most of the hosts under scrutiny, with suggestions for additional compression, caching and code optimization.The response time is still pretty good, but the support agents were rather slow and not particularly knowledgeable.
They answered my simple queries eventually but took their time. One thing that truly bothered me was the fact that the information displayed on the BlueHost website about the hosting plans is simply not detailed enough.
Yes, the info can be found through a link at the bottom of the page, but why should it be so difficult to locate information of crucial importance?
Check the A2 Hosting plan details and compare them to BlueHost’s; the difference is staggering.
Lastly, the BlueHost pricing is a bit tricky. The fact that the advertised prices are available only for prepaid plans is a standard practice, but the inability to choose a billing cycle shorter than one year for the first two plans is baffling.
Overall, I feel that BlueHost is an OK option, but there are better choices out there, with more transparent pricing and better support.
The above list is still in its infancy.
If you’d like to see how hosts evolve or fall apart, make sure to check out our monthly updates.
InMotion Hosting is one such hosting company I am interested in. They are famous for their WordPress web hosting services and immense knowledge base, which put them on my radar early on.
Unluckily, there were some issues with my account activation with them (my fault), making it impossible to feature them in this first edition of the chart.
Other big companies with strong market presence all around the globe are 1&1 and GoDaddy.
I am highly skeptical about many things about GoDaddy in general, but I am also eager to test their servers and see whether they can prove me wrong. They deserve a chance and the same goes for 1&1, who have some impressive features in their plans.
With all these clarifications out of the way, I am about to bid you farewell till the middle of February, when I’ll have more data, more analyses and more companies to contest for the best WordPress hosting website owners can find.
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