Fortunately, there are a few things you can consider to help guide you through what can seem like a maze of hosting options. Let's start with the basics:
Do they support the required server technologies for WordPress?
WordPress sites are typically hosted on Linux servers, with Apache, PHP and MySQL support. As of WordPress 3.2, the minimum requirements for WordPress are PHP 5.2.4, and MySQL 5.0 or higher. You should make sure the host you are considering supports these technologies.
Some hosts may run Windows servers, and although WordPress can run on Windows, it is much more robust and reliable when running on Linux. For example, many Windows servers do not support .htaccess rules, which is used to provide WordPress permalinks - the very powerful and slick SEO feature of WordPress.
How long have they been in business?
You will want to choose a web hosting company that has been around a while; it is important to have confidence that they aren't going to close up shop overnight. A minimum of 5 years of business is a good rule of thumb. Some hosts may not have this information on their website, so you may need to ask.
What is their geographic location?
If, for example, you are a Canadian business or blog who specifically targets Canadian customers, you will likely prefer to deal with a Canadian web hosting company which has Canadian servers, Canadian support, and operates under the legal jurisdiction of Canada. For example, the USA has privacy laws which do not apply in Canada and may jeopardize the confidentiality of client’s information. It is important to consider this when choosing a host for your site.
Further, search engines like Google recognize the hosting location of websites, and may assume that your site is geared for a specific audience depending on where it is hosted. For example, a site hosted in Canada is more likely to receive preferential rankings on Google’s Canadian website.
How much storage space to they offer?
A typical shared web hosting account will include between 500 MB and 2 GB of disk space. This can seem like a lot, however if your site or blog hosts a lot of images or video, this space will be consumed quickly. Consider hosting your photos and video on an image or video hosting service, such as YouTube or Flickr. If most of your media assets are hosted there, then 1 or 2 GB of storage space on your hosting account should be more than sufficient.
If the host passes these initial tests, you can get more specific from a WordPress standpoint:
Will they do the initial WordPress installation?
Some WordPress hosts will perform the initial WordPress installation for you, which can save you the time and frustration of doing it yourself. Many will include this at no charge, some may charge a few dollars. This way, you can focus on getting your site's content and theme up and running, without the technical headaches of installation, databases, and the like.
Will they keep my WordPress installation up to date?
Widely installed software packages such as WordPress, are often subject to security vulnerabilities. The more successful a website platform is, the more attention it receives from hackers and folks looking to stir up trouble. Fortunately, WordPress is constantly being updated to make sure it is safe and secure.
Although WordPress updates are relatively easy to install, you should consider finding a web host who will take care of the updates for you. Some web hosts will provide this update service as part of a hosting package. Expect to pay a few dollars more per month for this service, but it can certainly be worth the peace of mind it offers.
Does their support system or help desk support WordPress related inquires?
Most hosting companies will have a support or knowledge base section of their website. Check this area to see if they provide WordPress related information, articles, resources, etc. This can be a great source of tips and tricks, and other useful WordPress related articles. You should also check their help desk to see if they respond to questions about WordPress itself (as opposed to general hosting related questions).
Do they take backups of WordPress sites, and if so, how often?
While most web hosts handle backups, how often are the backups performed? It can seriously hurt an organization if a website crashes and is restored from a backup which was taken weeks or months previously. Of course, a responsible website owner should ensure they have their own local backups, but sometimes it’s just not possible to have everything saved offline. Therefore, a solid backup plan through your web host is great to have in place.
By considering these points in your hosting research, you will greatly increase the likelihood of a great hosting decision. There are many great hosts out there, and it is important that you take the time to choose the best fit for your site.
Choosing a Web Host For Your Self-Hosted WordPress Site was written by Dave Zille. Dave is the founder/principal of dazil Internet Services Inc, a web development and support company specializing in WordPress. With a strong background in project management, teaching, and developing for the web, Dave brings years of experience and tremendous enthusiasm to his work.