Web hosts sell hosting plans in many forms and variations. While these plans help them target consumers, it can unfortunately sometimes lead to confusion among newer buyers.
One of the most misleading comparisons is between shared hosting and WordPress hosting.
Because web hosts often sell these plans separately, those unfamiliar with the terms might struggle to make a choice.
If you’ve been trying to decide whether you should choose shared hosting or WordPress hosting, you need to be aware of the differences.
What is Shared Hosting?
Caption: Web hosting control panels like cPanel help make shared hosting plans easy to manage.
Shared hosting such as Bluehost is often the cheapest and easiest to manage among the different types of web hosting. These characteristics are what make shared hosting plans the most popular among new website owners.
Advantages of Shared Hosting
In shared hosting, web hosts take an entire hosting server and use applications to create hundreds of web hosting accounts. Each of these web hosting plans will “share” the resources of the server—for example, processor time (CPU), memory (RAM), bandwidth, and more.
Having hundreds of user accounts allocated to a single server allows web hosting companies to offer shared hosting at very competitive prices. You’ll find many promoting shared hosting at rock-bottom prices, even as little as a dollar or two per month.
Management of shared hosting plans is also easy thanks to using applications called web hosting control panels. These provide users with a simple, graphic interface that lets them quickly manage their hosting plan.
Disadvantages of Shared Hosting
Caption: A lack of resources can lead to long load times or occasional website loading errors.
The problem with shared hosting is that many websites often compete to use comparatively limited resources. Imagine a web hosting server with a 12 or 16 core processor and 128 gigabytes of memory. When split among hundreds of websites, those resources will be in hot demand.
If all server resources are in use when your website needs them, you’ll need to wait. As more people queue up for the resources, the longer your website will take to load. While this method is cost-effective, it can easily lead to unreliable website performance.
This pooling of web hosting resources also allows some web hosts to offer shared hosting plans boasting “unlimited resources.” While that may sound great, the reality is that you’ll still need to wait if other websites are using the resources.
In addition, unlimited hosting isn’t unlimited – it often comes with many terms and conditions attached.
What is WordPress Hosting?
WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) on earth. Because of its popularity, many web hosting companies offer WordPress hosting plans. For them, it’s mainly about providing what the market demands.
However, it’s essential to understand that WordPress hosting isn’t a formal category of web hosting. It mainly refers to a web hosting plan that has the correct prerequisites to support the WordPress CMS. Almost all web hosting plans can do this.
As an application, WordPress has specific requirements. The web hosting plan needs to have support for PHP, MySQL or MariaDB, and HTTPS. Despite sounding pretty generic, WordPress hosting does have some unique characteristics.
Advantages of WordPress Hosting
Almost without fail, WordPress hosting plans will come with the CMS pre-installed and ready to go. If not, the web host will provide an automated application installer that can get you started quickly. Everything else will already be in place, from PHP support to having the right database engine prepared.
In addition, various web hosting companies may also offer WordPress-specific features that can give your WordPress website a competitive advantage. For example;
Optimized Environments – Some web hosting companies will fine-tune their servers to perform optimally with WordPress. While not always a big deal, this can help your WordPress website run faster and more stably if done correctly.
Specialized Plugins – The modular nature of WordPress means it’s easy to customize. Some web hosts take advantage of this to build dedicated plugins that may help improve performance. A2 Hosting, for example, offers an optimization plugin.
Unique Features – Aside from plugins, some web hosts may also offer unique features beneficial to WordPress website owners. One example is the WordPress Manager, a WordPress management tool built into ScalaHosting’s CPanel web hosting control panel.
Scalability – Since WordPress hosting revolves around the CMS, you can get it on various web hosting plan types. If you need more powerful hosting, simply opt for Virtual Private Server (VPS)-based WordPress hosting.
Note: VPS is another type of web hosting that offers better performance, scalability, and reliability over shared hosting. Some web hosts offer VPS-based WordPress hosting and these are generally more expensive comparatively.
Disadvantages of WordPress Hosting
While getting started quickly with WordPress pre-installed may sound good, these plans may end up being a bit sticky if you later change your mind. Some web hosts won’t allow you to use alternative applications on a WordPress hosting plan.
If that happens, you’ll need to purchase a different web hosting plan. While this isn’t common, it is something to be aware of before buying a WordPress hosting plan.
Which to Choose: Shared Hosting or WordPress Hosting
|Shared Hosting||WordPress Hosting|
|Often cheap||Price varies widely|
|Easy to manage||Easy to manage|
|Usually includes an application installer||WordPress typically comes pre-installed|
|Less effective resource handling||Can be based on shared, VPS, or Cloud|
|May not support other CMS|
Both shared and WordPress hosting offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. Because of this, much depends on your website requirements.
Who Should Use Shared Hosting
If you aren’t sure about using WordPress for your website, it’s better to opt for a more generic choice like shared hosting. These plans will be able to handle most applications, including Drupal, Joomla, or anything else.
Shared hosting is also a good choice if your website is brand new. New websites often don’t require a high amount of resources to support large visitor traffic volumes. You can get away with the bare minimum while paying lower hosting fees.
Shared hosting is suitable for: personal blogs, smaller websites, those with low volumes of visitor traffic, and less resource-hungry websites.
Who Should Use WordPress Hosting
For those confident that WordPress is the way, truth, and light, then WordPress hosting is the way to go. It’s especially effective if you take the time to choose a solid web hosting service provider that offers better WordPress benefits compared to others.
If you don’t mind slightly higher prices, VPS-based WordPress hosting can also offer much greater potential. The nature of VPS makes these plans highly scalable, so you’ll be able to cope with any amount of web traffic later.
WordPress hosting is suitable for: mid to larger websites, eCommerce or online stores, those with higher traffic volumes.
Managed WordPress Hosting is Another Option
Those who’ve already started shopping around for WordPress hosting might have noticed some hosts offering Managed WordPress hosting. These are a particular type of WordPress hosting plan that enhances your WordPress website management.
Think of it as an “all-in” service offered by the host. They’ll handle setting up WordPress for you and will be responsible for the technical management of the CMS. That includes application updates, the performance of the CMS, backups, and more.
Managed WordPress hosting is a good choice if you want to focus on the business side of your website. Not handling technical problems means more time you can dedicate to content creation, marketing, or business activities.
Picking the Right Web Host
Aside from the benefits offered by shared hosting or WordPress hosting plans, the choice of web host is very significant. Not all web hosts are created equal. Some may charge higher prices while offering better performance and features, while others may do the inverse.
Some things to note when choosing your web host include;
Performance and Reliability
It can be challenging to judge the performance and reliability of a web hosting service provider before you sign up and start using the plan. However, you can get a sense of how well it does by referring to other users’ comments on independent third-party platforms like Trustpilot.
One thing to note is also the backup options offered by the host. A host that provides automated backups can make a big difference in times of emergency. Equally important is the ease of recovering your website – do you need to submit a request, or is there a restoration tool for faster action?
Ensure you also check the Terms of Service (ToS) or Service Level Agreement (SLA) to see if the host specifies an uptime guarantee. If it’s there, the host may offer compensation if service outages exceed this specific figure.
Most web hosting service providers build strong layers of security into their infrastructure. While this offers a good level of blanket protection, it also helps if you have more security tools to secure your website.
WP Engine, for example, offers not only on-demand website scanning but will also help you remove malware for free. All you have to do is contact their support team, who will handle everything for you.
Whether you choose shared hosting or WordPress hosting, you will eventually need to contact customer support. These are the guys that can help you with anything that’s outside your direct management, such as billing or technical problems.
While most web hosts will say they’re great at customer support, don’t take their word for it. Check online reviews, or try to get in touch with them before buying a plan and seeing how they respond. While the method isn’t fool-proof, it may help a little.
One point not often promoted is that some web hosts field WordPress experts in their support teams. You’ll usually only find this on WordPress-only web hosts like Kinsta and WP Engine. It’s not a deal-breaker, but you may find it helpful.
Free Trials and Money-back Guarantees
Almost all web hosting service providers will offer new users a free trial, often in the form of a money-back guarantee. Within this period, you can change your mind and get a refund. What’s important to note, though, are the terms and conditions attached to this guarantee.
Some web hosts will deduct certain costs before providing refunds. The practice varies among hosting companies, so familiarize yourself with the details before making the purchase.
Sign-on versus Renewal Prices
Both shared hosting and WordPress hosting plans come in a wide price range. More so with WordPress hosting since these can be VPS-based, which are more expensive. When considering prices, make sure you’re aware of the difference between sign-up prices and renewal prices.
Most web hosts will slash prices for new accounts, tempting you in with ultra-low rates. Once the initial contract is up, you may get a rude shock as fees skyrocket. For example, if a host offers new users a discount of 80% – remember that the price only lasts for the first term of your contract.
It’s easy to get distracted by the long list of features and benefits that most web hosts like to tout. Don’t get dazed by this – make sure you know your needs and that the host can meet them. Anything else is topping on the cake and will likely only drive prices up.
The key takeaway from all of this is the understanding that shared hosting is a category, while WordPress hosting is more application-centric. Those who are sure that WordPress is their platform of choice will often find WordPress hosting plans more suitable – but not always so.
Of greater importance is the choice of web hosting service provider, as this affects the overall performance of your website. If you don’t take the time to check out the host before buying into the plan, moving to a new host will involve time and money.
Be aware of your needs and choose a hosting plan that fits those as well as possible. Anything else is merely icing on the cake for which you may end up paying more.
This article is contributed by Jason. Jason is a marketing guy, SEO fanatic, and a dad of two kids.
Thanks, Jason for the ultimate comparison of shared hosting vs WordPress hosting.