WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder. This free and open source content management system (CMS) powers over 75 million websites – over a quarter of all the websites in the world. WordPress can work on websites of all kinds, including those on inexpensive shared hosting accounts, but dedicated WordPress hosting plans are designed to allow users to take full advantage of all its features, with support from a team of WordPress professionals. Here’s a look at how shared hosting plans compare to managed WordPress hosting plans for performance, customization, security and cost.
Why Choose WordPress?
With thousands of customizable themes and plugins that can be managed from the user’s control panel, WordPress allows just about anyone to add content and manage the appearance and function of a website relatively easily, even without any experience with website design and development.
Unless a user opts to purchase a WordPress theme or add-on from a third party designer, the whole package is free and can be downloaded directly from WordPress.org or installed with “one click” through hosting providers of all kinds. WordPress can be scaled to meet the needs of sites ranging from individual websites with a few pages to large enterprises with a global reach.
Shared Hosting: Low-Cost Options for New Users
Everyone who has a website needs hosting, and there’s a hosting plan for every website. With plans that can run as low as $3 to $5 USD per month, shared hosting is a very inexpensive hosting alternative for new sites and small sites on a tight budget. This kind of hosting keeps costs low by parking hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of websites together on a single server. All websites on the server share its resources, including bandwidth, memory and CPU power.
Shared hosting users are responsible for setting up and configuring their sites. To get started, hosting providers typically make a variety of website builders and CMS options, including WordPress, available for installing on a new site. Users can contact the host’s support team for help setting up WordPress or troubleshooting problems as long as their site is being hosted.
Managed WordPress Hosting: A Dedicated Option
As the name suggests, fully managed WordPress hosting is dedicated solely to sites running WordPress, and those sites are managed by the hosting provider to help users get the most out of its many features. Many hosting providers offer managed WordPress hosting as one of a number of hosting options that can also include shared, dedicated and VSP hosting, while other providers focus only on managing WordPress sites.
With managed WordPress hosting, especially when offered by a dedicated WordPress hosting provider, servers and operating systems are specifically configured to maximize the performance and functions of WordPress on sites of all kinds. Managed hosting packages can cost up to several hundred dollars per month, with basic packages available from some hosting providers for $30 to $50 monthly.
In a shared hosting environment, WordPress is one of many CMS options available to account holders. Once installed on a shared hosting site, it becomes subject to the broader drawbacks of shared hosting. Because all the sites on a shared server have to draw from the same set of available resources, any site that overuses its share with heavy site traffic or other issues can put a burden on neighboring sites, through no fault of their own. That can cause those sites to run slowly or even crash the system – and that includes those powered by WordPress.
Although shared hosting providers offer a range of customer service support options, their support staff must handle issues related to all the available CMS and site building options, so a user attempting to troubleshoot an issue with a WordPress install may not be able to get the in-depth help needed to fix problems related to WordPress itself.
WordPress hosting providers may also use shared servers, but those servers are dedicated only to sites running WordPress, and they’re optimized to support its latest updates and features. Because fewer sites are sharing the same server, those sites can run faster with fewer risks of downtime due to overuse of thinly spread resources. And, because these servers are configured specifically for WordPress, users can access its full range of functions through regular updates and maintenance by the host.
In a hosting environment dedicated to WordPress, support staff are WordPress specialists, able to help users with issues of all kinds without having to deal with the specifics of multiple applications and site builders. Depending on the hosting package, users can also get site set-up assistance and a range of other services and features.
Can You Customize?
WordPress itself is highly customizable, and tech-savvy users can tweak its code in a myriad of ways. Shared hosting is a popular choice for new users with limited web development experience, but this kind of account does allow site owners to customize a number of WordPress features from a central control panel, and to add a wide range of free and paid plugins and widgets for added functionality. But, shared hosting users are limited to customizing aspects of their site related to performance and appearance, with the help of the host’s support staff if needed.
In managed WordPress hosting, the emphasis is often on “managed,” and the host provider generally handles most aspects of setting up and customizing a new site. Users may be prohibited from adding certain plugins or making certain adjustments to the functioning of the site, and this limited control can affect a user’s ability to add features that might be needed for the site’s overall performance.
What About Security?
In both shared and managed WordPress hosting environments, site security is largely the responsibility of the hosting provider, and site owners have limited options for installing third party security measures of their own. In shared hosting, though, providers typically apply security measures on the server itself, and in an environment in which thousands of sites share space in close proximity, malicious activity and malware can still “leak” from one site to another.
In managed WordPress hosting, the host is still in charge of maintaining server and site security, but with fewer sites involved and a focus on maintaining an optimal environment for WordPress users, those security measures can offer more effective protection against ‘bad neighbors” on the site and issues arising from shared resources and technology.
Costs Reflect Benefits
Shared hosting offers an economical way for anyone to get a site up and running very quickly, and those low costs are reflected in the limited features and support this kind of hosting provides. In this kind of environment, WordPress is simply one of many content management systems available to users. Although shared hosting packages allow users to add more features for higher prices, more support for WordPress itself is not likely to be included in an upgraded hosting package.
Managed WordPress hosting offers dedicated WordPress users the support and services they need to take advantage of WordPress features and functions, without many of the limitations imposed by shared hosting. WordPress hosting generally costs considerably more, with packages ranging from basic hosting to full-featured enterprise options costing hundreds per month. But, because these hosting packages are dedicated exclusively to WordPress, they offer the support and features that support growth and scalability, so that users can upgrade as needed as their sites evolve.
WordPress can power just about any website, anywhere. Low cost shared hosting options allow new users on a shoestring budget to take advantage of its many features, but managed WordPress hosting provides dedicated support and a range of service options for the growth of a WordPress powered site.
Machielle Thomas is the Content Manager for Bluehost. She writes curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.