One of the most important aspects of establishing your very own WordPress installation is the ‘where’ part of that question. Unless you’re lucky enough to have some server class machines hanging around your house connected to a dedicated and blazing fast connection, it’s going to be a decision you’ll need to make. Here are five things you may want to consider to help you make your decision.
1. Package and Platform. Many hosts offer bundled packages on a specified kind of machine. The usual offerings give you a choice between Windows and Linux and a number of options for both. Without sounding too much like a platform partisan Linux is usually the wiser choice of the two provided that you’re offered an administration control panel (like Cpanel which gives you more than adequate control over your environment without the requiring you to use the command line for day-to-day administration tasks. A Windows environment will also run WordPress equally well but often costs more for features that you won’t find necessary for hosting a WordPress blog. If you genuinely need FrontPage extensions or something similar that requires a Windows host in order to run then, of course, use Windows.
2. Software versions. Again, most hosting companies make the specifics of the machines available for easy comparison but what are you looking for, really? The version of PHP (the web scripting language that WordPress is written in) is probably the most important here. Although the 5.x versions of PHP are listed on the PHP website as the most current they are often not what you’re looking for. The 4.x series will offer more compatibility with WordPress and any other PHP applications you might want to run in the future. PHP5 is not generally well regarded within the hosting community. Many very popular web applications aren’t yet ready to play nice with the new version yet. For WordPress users, this doesn’t mean that things won’t work but that some features can be problematic when using the newest version of PHP. Some people have reported plugins breaking after their host upgraded to PHP5 so it is something to think about when evaluating a host.
3. Reliability. Sometimes finding out whether a hosting company is reliable can be a bit of a crap shoot if you’re inexperienced with making these sorts of decisions. The most simple way to find out about bad experiences that people had using a particular provider is to Google the name of the hosting company and sucks. Although it might not be the most polite way to find out about a potential business relationship it will most often lead you in the direction of finding out where their weaknesses as a host lie. Many companies often advertise some of the sites they host. Take a look at this list and investigate which of these sites use WordPress. See how quickly they perform and don’t be afraid to contact the person responsible directly to find out how their experience has been.
4. Access. Does the host company offer access only through the control panel interface? Do they also offer FTP access or SSH access? For WordPress use try to find a host that allows FTP connections as it will make installing plugins and upgrading your WordPress installation much easier. If the host also offers unlimited SSH or shell access to all users then consider the security of your host. With access to the guts of the operating environment even as a user with limited privileges a Pandora’s box of sorts can be opened. Since you will be room mates this is something to consider before going forward.
5. Support and community. Does the hosting company you’re looking at offer support directly? Is there a forum provided for customers to communicate with one another? If you can access the support portions of the hosting site before committing to hosting there do so and read some of the forum threads. They will give you some insight into how problems are dealt with by this company and how quickly they respond to questions and fix the problems that prompted them.