Sites built using WordPress now account for over twenty percent of all sites on the Internet and WordPress hosting has become a profitable business for the many involved. Thanks to my experiences working with and fixing all sorts of sites on all sorts of hosting platforms I unfortunately have a very long list of hosts I would not recommend and a very short one of those I would. Please bear in mind that this is based on my experience as a developer and not necessarily as an end user. Here, I have chosen three very different hosting platforms to recommend. Please see my policy concerning affiliate links and be assured, these are hosts where I either host my own sites or those of my clients.
Case 1: The Professional Site
When sharing a server your site is only as strong as its least secure site. You also need to assess what you have to lose and what it would cost you if your site got hacked. How long would it take you to restore the site if it were to go down or get hacked? What compromising information could be made available do you have confidential information regarding your users or your clients like credit cards, names addresses birthdates etc. Or do you have everything backed up and versioned so it can be restored at the flip of a switch. Is it better to spend your money on more expensive hosting plan. Good backup plugin and system? If your livelihood depends on the security of this information then it is certainly not worth skipping on hosting and I would say to go with the greatest degree of protection that you can afford.
Virtual Private Server: Your own server configuration
A more flexible option with a similar price point is a VPS. It is a far less expensive than a dedicated server and a good alternative. A VPS is a dedicated server that is partitioned and has its own operating system, disc space, and bandwidth. I cannot recommend a specific company here. Most hosting companies offer them and have charts or pricing tables that allow comparison. It is also important to do research here as some web hosts oversell their space and do not correctly allocate resources. A VPS is also a good solution for anyone testing their skills as a Systems Administrator although I would recommend the option in the last case if this is your only reason.
WordPress managed Hosting: Have someone else configure your server
I have worked on several sites using WordPress managed hosting and have found WP Engine to be the most user friendly and having the most intuitive user interface. I have also had occasion to compare an optimised site on a shared hosting platform to one on WP Engine and the difference was significant. They offer page caching, object caching and (at additional cost) a CDN. The packages vary in price from 29$ per month and up for enterprise clients. For an individual site that is about four times the price of most shared hosting but not unaffordable for a site that is making a profit. There is plenty to justify the extra expense in terms of what you can save in time and worry. However, if you have strong opinions on how you want to configure caching and which security plugins you wish to use this may not be the solution for you. WP Engine is essentially a VPS configured specifically for WordPress. You can also get 2 months free hosting with WP Engine on any shared annual plan.
A Dedicated Server
A Dedicated Server is basically as good as you can get in terms of resources. This is the big money option and if you need one you probably have outgrown a VPS. Both of the above options can be scaled to become a dedicated server at most hosting companies. With a dedicated server you will have a unique IP address and often unlimited technical assistance should you require it. It does, however come at a price. My recommendation here is to start with a VPS or Managed VPS in order to evaluate the hosting company.
Case 2: The Hobby, Blog, or Side-Project Site
If, however, this is something you do as a hobby, or have a site that costs money rather than making it, then you should probably go for something more reasonably priced. Determine which bells and whistles are included in your hosting plan. For example, is there SSH access? Are you restricted in the plugins that you can use and if so for what reasons? Do you know what you are doing and want to be trusted to run your site yourself or do you appreciate that there are restrictions in place that may improve the security and speed of your site? Do you need to be able to install git on the server and deploy via the command line or are you happy with FTP access. Are there restrictions that will prevent your favourite migration or backup tools from working? Will the support team work with you when you have an issue that may involve server settings. The first is a shared host with a low price point that is comparable to most shared hosting in that they have a cpanel and one click WordPress installation so you don’t need to install the database separately. The differences lie primarily in the bells and whistles but also in the support which I have found to be surprisingly good. They immediately forward tickets in the chat to a team of developers who respond very quickly.
The main advantage to Shared Hosting is the price but another is that server maintenance is taken care of. Shared hosting providers provide some sort of user interface usually cPanel or Plesk and vary considerably as to what they offer. Things to look for are SSH access and server-side caching and some sort of one-click setup for WordPress (unless you prefer doing it manually). Always choose Shared hosting that is in geographic proximity to where your clients will be located as this can make for a significant difference in the time it takes for a site to load. Unlimited Websites is good too although it is frequently a bit extra. One consideration is the hosting interface and the degree of ease with which you can navigate through the system to accomplish the tasks that you perform most often. It is also worth testing out the chat and customer service. Most hosts have a trial phase and some even offer free migration (check any size limits here because there are sometimes restrictions.) This provides a good opportunity to compare your old host to a new one. Be sure to use tools such as Pingdom tools, PageSpeed Insights, and GTmetrix to chart the performance of your site on your old host before you move then you will have a point of comparison, making sure the configuration is exactly the same on both hosts. When testing a new host ask as many stupid questions as you like at various times of day to as many people as possible. Check to see what happens if you need a question to go to the next level. In order to fortify your chances when on a shared server it is best to choose one that offers automatic updates for WordPress and its plugins.
My choice for shared hosting is SiteGround. What set them apart for me was the one-click site restoration points and the Live Chat. They also have a phenomenally quick response time for support tickets. In terms or bells and whistles, I enjoy SSH access and having Git on the server. I had occasion to visit their headquarters in Sofia, Bulgaria during Contributors day for WordCamp Europe 2014 and was very impressed by their generosity as a WordCamp sponsor.
Cloud Hosting is rather difficult to describe but basically relies on a distributed file system which uses disk space on various physical machines and is infinitely scalable. It relies on an algorithm for resource allocation. The infrastructure can vary greatly depending on the hosting company and price is based on CPU, RAM, disk space and bandwidth.
While SiteGround offers Cloud Hosting Plans, my personal use of cloud hosting is for things like side projects and for this I prefer Digital Ocean which allows you to configure individual droplets and can be extremely inexpensive depending on the size and use of your site. It is also a great place to learn how to configure a live server without investing in a VPS.