WordPress is open-source software. You can learn more about it here You can download the code at WordPress.org. You can then install the code on your own web hosting and “you are free to use it for anything without paying anyone a license fee and a number of other important freedoms. (check out there site for more information: https://wordpress.org/about/). According to wikipedia, “As of February 2016, WordPress is used by 59.1% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 25.8% of all websites.”
WordPress was started by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little in 2003. Matt Mullenweg started a company, Automattic, which hosts WordPress for you at WordPress.com. This makes WordPress a hosted solution such as Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace, and others. These types of sites are nice in that you don’t have to pay hosting (if you get the free versions), but they also limit you in what you can and can’t do. For more information about these types of hosted solutions and the limitations, see this article.
To use WordPress without limits, you must download it at WordPress.org and get your own hosting. Many hosting companies make it very easy for you to install WordPress or may even install it for you.
We recommend get your own hosting account so that you have completely control and ownership. If that hosting account does not have a quick install of WordPress available, then download WordPress from WordPress.org and install it yourself, or have someone install it for you. This is the safest, best way for you to retain control and ownership of your website and it’s content. You decide what changes you want to make and when. You can also customize your website any way you want.
Linux vs. Windows
When you look for traditional hosting, there are two main types: Linux or Windows. This is the operating system that runs on the computer that will be storing your website.
Windows was not created to be a server. It was created to be a personal computer operating system. I won’t argue that Windows doesn’t make a good server. I will argue that Windows doesn’t make a good server for WordPress.
Windows software and languages, such as C#, .NET, etc. probably work great on a Windows Server. WordPress is written in PHP and uses a MySQL database. These were created for Linux machines. PHP and MySQL databases are some of the oldest tools used for websites. They are still around because they work well.
The other difference in the two are that Windows usually costs more. Most Linux software (including the server software, PHP and MySQL) are open source and don’t cost anything to use. Windows server, C#, .Net must be purchased before you can use them.
If you are using WordPress, we highly advise against using Windows servers for your hosting. Yes, it will work. They will tell you it will work just as well as Linux. They will be wrong about this and you will have a lot more headaches if you use Windows, not to mention, you’ll spend a lot more money in the long run. Trust me on this.
All hosting providers will provide room for your website, otherwise known as disk space. In the early days of websites, hosting companies put limits on how much space your website could use. If you needed more space, you bought more space. Some companies may still do this, but for the most part, hosting companies say their packages offer unlimited disk space.
This can be somewhat misleading. Most of the hosting companies that offer these kinds of packages have small print that also indicate how many files you can have on your site. We’ve had clients who have some of the ‘unlimited’ hosting packages, but were suddenly limited because they had too many files, or too many downloads, or some other limit. That doesn’t make it bad hosting, just make sure you understand what you are getting.
Website files do not take a lot of space. These are some of the things that can take a lot of space:
- Videos (We suggest you use a video platform such as Youtube or Vimeo and pull those into your website instead.)
- Audio files. If you have a lot of audio files, you should look into audio hosting and pull that into your website.
- Images (There are ways to optimize your images so that they take less space. Smaller images make faster websites too. Higher quality images does not always make your website look better. We’ll discuss this more later.)
- Email with large attachments
- Files not used by your website (such as using your website to back up your computer.)
If you continue to use more disk space than you really need, it hurts all the websites on your server. When your site gets too big to fit on the server where your website is stored, it could start causing problems and you may be forced to move your site. It’s always best to keep as small a site as possible. Use what you need, but not any more than that.
Bandwidth is the amount of computer resources that your website takes. When someone visits your site, their browser requests files from your website. Those files must be downloaded from the server to their computer. The transferring of these files is called bandwidth. The more visitors your site has and the bigger the files they are transferring, the more bandwidth your site takes.
If both of our websites exist on the same server, and your website is using all, or most of, the resources or computing power, my website will get much slower. If your website has a lot more, bigger files and a lot more visitors, your website is using a lot more resources than mine. For this reason, there are limits to the bandwidth that your website is allowed to use in any given month.
The amount you’ve used is reset at the beginning of the month. If you’ve had a really good month with lots of visitors, towards the end of the month, you may get close, or even exceed, your bandwidth limit. If you have a lot of traffic quickly, you may exceed your limit without much warning.
Some hosting companies give you unlimited bandwidth as well. This usually just means that the limit is so high, most websites would not reach it. However, if I am on a server that also has other websites, I might be a little concerned if it were truly unlimited, because another website could be using an extraordinary amount of bandwidth which could slow my website down.
Limits are there to protect us when we are sharing space with other websites. If we abuse the limits, we are hurting the entire server. They can also let us know when there may be a problem. Reducing file sizes can help us keep our bandwidth more manageable.
Shared Hosting vs. Virtual Private Server (VPS) vs. Dedicated Server
When you start looking for hosting, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which type to get: Shared, Dedicated, VPS or Cloud. These differences refer to how the server software separates your site from others. What you need will depend on the size of your website, the resources your site needs, and the amount of visitors that visit your site daily.
See this article for more information about choosing which is best for you.
Email takes disk space. Depending on how many attachments in your email and the size of those attachments, it could take a lot of disk space. Images, videos, documents, or other non-text items are considered attachments.
Many hosting providers will take care of your email hosting for you and will provide you with a number email addresses for your domain. Before you select a host find out how many email addresses will be available. This could be a determining factor is which hosting provider and/or which hosting package you choose.
Also find out if the hosting provider will provide POP3, IMAP and/or SMTP. Most should offer all 3, but may not. If your hosting provider will be handling your email storage, you’ll need to understand what they have available and how much support they will offer should you have problems.
Do you need your email to be encrypted (more secure)? If so, find out if your email will have SSL (secure socket layer) support. And SSL certificate encrypts messages sent to and from the server so that it is more private and secure. Many hosts will have shared certificates that you can use even if you don’t have a private SSL installed on your website.
Your website may or may not need an SSL certificate otherwise. We will discuss this later in the security and commerce sections, but basically, you only need an SSL if you are taking private information on your website such as social security numbers and/or credit cards. It keeps your customer’s information much more secure.
Your website files need to be backed up often. How often depends on your website: how much traffic you get to your site, how often you change your website, etc.
If your website doesn’t have a lot of interactive data and doesn’t change very often, then you only need to back it up when it changes. If, however, you have a lot of interactive forms on your site and you get a lot of traffic, your site will change often and should be backed up often.
WordPress sites generally change often. Even if your site is just a blog, every time you add a blog post your website changes. If someone leaves a content, your website has changed. If someone fills out a contact form, your website may have changed. Backing your site up daily would be a good idea.
A good hosting provider will keep backups readily available. When choosing a hosting provider find out how often they make backups, if they keep offsite backups, how long they keep them, and how much it will cost to get them restored should something go wrong on your website. These should all be determining factors when choosing a hosting provider.
We will talk about backup plugins for WordPress, such as Backup Buddy later, but, you won’t need a plugin like this if your hosting provider has a good backup plan in place. It’s really overkill and is using more disk space than necessary.
My suggestion is to try your hosting provider out to make sure they really are doing what they say they are. Ask them if they can restore a backup from 15 days ago and see what their response might be. How much do you trust them?
To be safe, make your own backup when you first move your site to your hosting account just in case. Make a backup occasionally and download it to your computer. It’s better to be safe, than sorry. Trusting your hosting provider with backups is the best thing you can do for the security of your site.
Most websites today use databases. A database stores information about your visitors, products, information, etc. WordPress uses a MySQL database to store posts, pages, products, media, and other information. Databases are an important part of your hosting package.
For WordPress sites, you usually only need one database, but if your site grows and you need other things on your website, you may need more databases. So, make sure your hosting provider allows for several databases on your hosting account.
MySQL is the type of database used by WordPress. There are other types and brands of databases available, but MySQL is one of the oldest and most popular. Since you will have a WordPress site, make sure that you have at least one MySQL database available with your hosting provider.
Also, make sure that you have good access to your database and that it is being backed up with the daily backups. Some hosting providers make you wait while they create databases for you. This can be frustrating if you need to get your site up and running quickly. In our opinion, it’s best to get hosting that uses cPanel for your control panel.
cPanel gives you direct access to your database management as well as a copy of phpMyAdmin which allows you to have a visual tool to access the information inside your database. This is very helpful for you or your developer should you have problems with your website or database down the road.
If you have a website, especially for business, you will want to keep up with visitor statistics. Having statistics on your website is not as big an issue as it once was because Google Analytics is now available and is the most popular tool for statistics.
But, some hosting packages have statistics tools included. Our favorite stats tool, which is available on a lot of cPanel hosting accounts is AWStats. It provides statistics for unique visitors, where they came from, when they came, who visited most, and what terms were searched for and how often.
You can also get raw stats which is a log file that lists the IP address of each visitor, which files they accessed, etc.
Again, statistics aren’t as important as they used to be in your hosting package, but they can still be helpful. Just be aware if this is important to you when you are looking for a hosting provider.
Support is what really sets hosting providers apart. Many hosting providers do a fairly decent job at all the other things hosting providers do, but support is where many of them fail. Many companies will either skimp on support and offer little to none, or they will outsource it, many times, overseas.
You need a hosting provider who is responsive to your email, phone calls, and/or support tickets. You need someone who will monitor your website to keep it up and who will respond quickly when your site goes down.
Before you choose a provider, find out what kind of support they offer. Most hosting providers offer a 30 day money back guarantee, so go ahead, try them out for a few days before you actually move or start your site. Ask them questions. See what kind of support you get. Don’t wait until your site goes down at the most inopportune time to find out that their support really stinks.
Security is a very important factor in who you choose for web hosting. WordPress is notorious for getting hacked. Since WordPress is so popular, and it’s open source, meaning that the code is available to the public, hackers have a better chance of looking at the code, finding loopholes and then breaking into WordPress sites that don’t take extra security measures with their hosting.
Many hosting companies are offering security packages or hosting with added WordPress management and security. WordPress is easy and inexpensive, but it’s not free if you care about your security. You will either pay for extra security or you will pay to fix your site later.
Ask your potential hosting provider what kind of extra security they have in place for WordPress sites. Ask if they scan for malware, ask what they do to help if your site gets hacked. Ask what they do to prevent your site from being hacked. Ask if they will keep the site updated for you or if that’s something you have to do yourself. Know what security is in place so that you can either find another provider, or know what steps you need to take yourself to keep your site secure.
If you hosting provider doesn’t offer security services specifically for WordPress, you can purchase those services from security providers who will better protect your site regardless of what hosting provider you have, but the best way to keep your site secure is to choose a hosting provider who provides good security, backups and has a good recovery plan in place.
Expect the best, but be prepared for the worst. Know who you will contact if your site goes down or gets hacked. Will your hosting provider fix your site? Most won’t, so have a plan in place if things go wrong. Of course, you can always call us. We are here to help.
Free Hosting Trial
While you are learning about WordPress, we want to offer you a free web hosting account for 30 days. This will allow you hands-on experience while you learn. If you sign up for one of these free accounts, we will install WordPress for you on the account. Contact me here to get your free trial WordPress site and subdomain name with hosting.
We will also give you a free subdomain name so that you don’t have to register a domain name. With both the free trial sub-domain and and the free trial hosting account, you will have everything you need to learn to build your website at no cost to you. Our hope is that you will like our hosting, support, security and service enough to keep allowing us to serve you in this capacity. There really are no strings attached. At the end of the 30 days, you will owe us nothing unless you decide to keep your site on our servers. Here are our current hosting prices.