The task of developing your own WordPress website is one of the greatest and most frustrating DIY projects. Unlike the build-your-own furniture that comes with everything from screws to instructions, getting a WordPress website up and running is a much more fluid and freeform process.
So where do you start?
The first step to building a successful online presence is finding a host that will help you on your quest. That means finding the right balance between price, performance, security, and support.
Because more than 60 million people power their sites with WordPress, hundreds of hosts claim to offer optimized hosting experiences for users of the content management system. Sifting through all those providers is exhausting, especially if you don’t have any idea what makes one better than the other.
Not all WordPress hosting services are created equal, and there’s a lot to consider before you marry yourself to a provider that is could to make it extremely difficult to divorce. Take a look at some of the questions you should ask yourself when determining if a WordPress hosting plan is just a rebranded version of a host’s generic shared hosting platform.
Does it offer experienced WordPress support?
Hosts often tout 24/7 support — but do they actually have experience with WordPress? Making sure the company with which you’re going to host has sufficient technical support is extremely important, especially if you’re inexperienced with WordPress.
Does the company contribute to WordPress Core? Sponsor or speak at WordCamps? Support open-source communities? These are all signs that the agent answering your chats or email ticket has used WordPress extensively and will be able to help you out of your predicament. Imposter WordPress hosts will only help with account configuration issues and likely won’t get involved in the WordPress software.
HostPapa will go a step further and pre-install WordPress for new customers or migrate a pre-existing WordPress site for free. Our knowledgebase features hundreds of articles on WordPress usage, and site owners can even partake in a one-on-one training session with a PapaSquad support team member. Read more about HostPapa’s WordPress features and support by checking out third-party reviews.
Does it include a staging environment?
One of the many great things about WordPress is the ease and speed at which site owners can update their content and design. However, one of the dangerous things about WordPress is the ease and speed at which site owners can royally mess up their content and design.
If you’re considering refreshing your website colors, updating a plugin, or trying your hand at coding a few customizations, one wrong move could cause everything to come crashing down. Developers have long used version control and staging environments to keep track of the last successful version of their site, and staging environments have become especially important to WordPress users.
Your staging environment will exactly mimic the production version of your site. Make changes and updates there and make sure everything continues to operate smoothly before moving the new version of your site into production. Top-notch WordPress hosting providers will make this a seamless, one-click experience.
Will it automatically back up your site?
Any WordPress user, regardless of experience, will likely be able to share stories of the time they crashed their site. Sure, support teams and staging environments help avoid catastrophe, but nothing is foolproof.
In case of encountering the dreaded White Screen of Death, you’ll want a working copy of your site somewhere that can be pulled from the dead. Most worthy hosts will automatically backup your site’s data and databases, but you’ll want to make sure you know the details. Some less-than-reputable hosts, for instance, will give you free backups but charge extra to restore your information. Your automatic backups should happen a minimum of once per week and must include all of your databases, themes, plugins, widgets, and the associated files.
Automatic backups, like those offered at HostPapa, are the bee’s knees. The daily backups cover all your website files, databases, and emails. You’ll have multiple restore points from which to choose, along with complete access to take care of things yourself.
Is there a WordPress-specific approach to security?
Because WordPress is the most popular content management system on the planet, it’s also one of the largest targets for attackers. There are several steps you can take to better protect your site, but your hosting provider can help you double-down on your security.
For starters, you’ll want to make sure you have access to a free SSL certificate, automatic malware scans, and monitoring services — all of which are available through HostPapa. The security features most commonly found with shared hosting plans are a good start, but you should be looking for solutions particularly tailored to WordPress.
Chief among those is a web application firewall that pays particular attention to the traffic coming to your WordPress site and blocks common threats. You can rest easy with HostPapa’s security force; the company’s server health monitoring and automatic vulnerability patching service recently protected 200,000 WordPress installations from an emerging vulnerability.
How does it optimize performance?
Whether your website uses a lot of scripting or a heavy theme, you may be losing valuable loading time. Speed is critical to a website’s success when it comes to conversions and search engine rankings.
WordPress can easily get bogged down by inefficient plugins and bulky images. The best hosts alleviate as much of these struggles by including a content delivery network, which distributes your site data to servers around the world. Browsers then access the information that is closest to your visitors, ensuring the shortest loading times.
In addition, HostPapa includes caching tools that save a loaded version of your site to servers’ file system or memory that can be loaded directly to visitors’ browsers — instead of having them piece the files together from scratch.