9 Must-have features that will keep your website flexible, online, and always available
If a web host you’re considering does not meet these criteria, don’t even think about signing up for a hosting account.
Any WordPress host you’re considering needs to:
- Allow hosting of multiple domains for no extra charge. Note that we’re talking about hosting, not registration. Even if you’re only planning on running one site, having the ability to build a test site (for instance, at a subdomain like testsite.yourdomain.com) or promotion-specific sites is important.
- Offer unlimited storage space and bandwidth. This is a loaded topic, because really, we all know that on a shared server, these resources can’t literally be unlimited. The point is that you do not want to be worrying about whether your latest blog post will push you over your bandwidth limit.
- Provide an easy way to communicate with them — to ask questions, submit a trouble ticket, etc.
- Provide an easy way to check the host’s system status, so you can quickly find out if your server is experiencing an outage and what’s being done about it, without having to submit a trouble ticket and wait for a response.
- Mention WordPress prominently in its sales materials. Look for phrases like “one-click WordPress install” or “WordPress support” or “easy WordPress install.”
- Offer a free trial period or a (limited-time) money-back guarantee. You should be able to evaluate the service over at least a few weeks to figure out if you’re comfortable there.
The next three requirements are technical, so don’t freak out! Just look for these words and phrases somewhere in the web host’s sales material. If need be, just copy this list, paste it into an email to the web host, and ask them to confirm that they meet these requirements. Good hosts will be happy to do so.
- Linux web servers (not Windows) with the Apache mod_rewrite module enabled.
- PHP version 5.2.4 or greater (that’s the programming language that runs WordPress — you don’t have to know that language to use WordPress effectively).
- MySQL version 5.0 or greater (this is the database that powers WordPress)
And a bonus backup requirement: In order to safely and effectively back up your site, your web host needs to allow access to the Linux command line Zip command via PHP’s exec() function.
My Favorite Web Hosts
Now that you’re armed with some criteria, who meets it? Many hosts do, but even in this elite group, some hosts are better than others. My research includes installing, maintaining and troubleshooting WordPress on a wide variety of hosts, and I'm confident in my top two contenders.
Here are my top two recommended budget web hosts:
If you want to be able to reach your hosting provider 24/7 on the phone, consider my top choice:
My top choice for budget hosting is Bluehost
This host meets my criteria and then some. Here are the features I like about BlueHost:
- Bluehost is the number one recommended host by WordPress for the last 10 years. Need I say more!
- Good security. Every WordPress installation uses a unique database prefix, which is something WordPress experts highly recommend.
- Lots of support/information websites: An official blog that’s equal parts tech, customer service, and humor.
- A custom control panel and custom one-click WordPress install that are user-friendly and written in plain English.
- Free trial PLUS a ANYTIME money-back guarantee (that’s the longest one I’ve seen) gives you the freedom to change your mind at anytime.
My second choice for budget hosting is Hostgator
It should go without saying that this host meets my nine criteria, but I'm saying it anyway.
What I like about Hostgator:
- If you’re moving a site from WordPress.com, Hostgator support will transfer your site content for free!
- 24/7 phone support, which you can even use to call before you sign up to ask any questions you may have (I suggest asking them about my nine criteria, of course).
- Support options include a company support portal, discussion forums (including a Network Status forum) and a fairly detailed library of video tutorials.
- Quick-install WordPress installation script makes installing the latest version of WordPress easy.
- Although Hostgator doesn’t offer a free trial, their 45-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of time to check out the company’s support (such as forums that are only available to customers) and features.
- I recommend the middle hosting tier (the “Baby” plan) because it includes hosting of unlimited domains.
Unfortunately, even some hosts that claim to support WordPress don’t make good on that promise. If your chosen host has a free trial or money-back guarantee, make sure you use the trial or guarantee period to review and actually use the host’s support system. Do your questions get answered? In language that you understand? In a decent time frame? Make sure you choose a web host you’re comfortable with. Your website, your readers, and your pocketbook will all benefit.
Full disclosure: If you sign up for web hosting via one of the links here, I will receive an affiliate commission from that host. But I'm so confident that these hosts are solid that I’d recommend them for nothing.