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 web host you’re considering for a WordPress site needs to:
- Mention WordPress prominently in its sales materials. Look for phrases like “one-click WordPress install” or “WordPress support” or “easy WordPress install.”
- 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.
- 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.
- PHP version 8.0 or greater (that’s the programming language that runs WordPress — you don’t have to know that language to use WordPress effectively).
- MySQL version 5.6 or greater OR MariaDB version 10.0 or greater (this is the database that powers WordPress)
- SSL Certificate included at no extra charge (this is how you get that green “secure” padlock icon to show up next to your website address in your browser)
And a bonus backup requirement: In order to safely and effectively back up your site using BackupBuddy (my favorite backup plugin), 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 the top two contenders.
Here are my top two recommended web hosts:
My top choice for hosting is DreamHost
It should go without saying that this host meets all the above criteria, but I’m saying it anyway.
Some more features I like about DreamHost:
- Good security. Every WordPress installation uses a unique database prefix, which is something WordPress experts highly recommend.
- Lots of support/information websites: DreamHostStatus.com, a support knowledgebase, community forums, and an official blog that’s equal parts tech, customer service, and humor.
- Did I mention humor? It’s a core value at DreamHost. Every time you change your settings on the control panel, the “success” message comes from “the happy DreamHost robots.” And that’s just one example.
- A custom control panel and custom one-click WordPress install that are user-friendly and written in plain English.
- The flexibility to choose whether to pay monthly or annually will keep your web hosting charges wallet-friendly.
- Their own WordPress migration plugin is specifically designed to help you transfer a site from another host.
- Easy upgrade from shared hosting to DreamPress managed WordPress hosting when you start getting enough traffic to justify paying a little more for hosting.
- A 97-day money-back guarantee (that’s the longest one I’ve seen) gives you the freedom to change your mind for three whole months.
The one possible downside to DreamHost is that they don’t include phone support (you can pay extra for it, though). If you are happy to communicate with your host by email or through the control panel, this might not be a downside for you.
But if you want to be able to reach your hosting provider 24/7 on the phone, consider my other top choice:
My second recommended host is SiteGround
This is another host that meets all WordPress requirements and then some. What I like about SiteGround:
- 24/7 phone support, which you can even use to call before you sign up to ask any questions you may have.
- Other support options include live chat, a knowledgebase, and a fairly detailed library of WordPress tutorials.
- One-click WordPress installer makes installing the latest version of WordPress easy.
- WordPress auto-update feature makes staying up-to-date with the latest WordPress version easy.
- Automatic daily backups of your entire hosting account.
- Their own WordPress Migrator plugin is specifically designed to help you transfer a site from another host.
- A 30-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.
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.
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 timeframe? Make sure you choose a web host you’re comfortable with. Your website, your readers, and your pocketbook will all benefit.