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  • WordPress

What is WordPress?

Building a website with a Content Management System (CMS) is an increasingly popular option for small business owners who value versatility and simplicity. And one of the most powerful and well-known CMS applications on the market today is WordPress.

WordPress is, like its many competitors, template-based. You simply choose a theme you like, customize it, and voila—you're up and running. And with a wide variety of plug-ins, add-ons, themes, and widgets to provide customization, you can use WordPress to create just about any kind of site you can imagine. This versatile software is used by millions to create eCommerce sites, social communities, blogs, and corporate websites around the world

The application is available as a free download from Wordpress.org, or as a one-click install from many hosting providers' Web control panels. If you choose the latter method, you can usually have the basic framework of your new WordPress site up and running in just a few minutes. Manual installations are a bit trickier, but if you've got a Web administrator or your hosting provider has a strong support service, you should still be able to get your site up relatively quickly.

The WordPress application is free, and so shouldn't add any additional costs to your monthly hosting (unless you purchase custom themes, premium plug-ins, etc.). Remember, though, that any additional features you add to your site via plug-ins or add-ons also consume resources like bandwidth. If you've got a big photo gallery, lots of media files you're sharing, or large databases for eCommerce, be sure to budget accordingly and pick a plan that fits your needs.

You can also get hosting for free directly from WordPress.com, but keep in mind that you'll have limited control over your WordPress installation, design options, and plug-ins unless you choose to upgrade your plan or buy additional services.

Why Choose WordPress Hosting?

Small businesses are particularly into WordPress because it's simple and versatile. It can do a lot, but you don't need to have a lot of technical knowledge to get started. WordPress offers SEO-friendly URLs, RSS feeds, post categories, sticky pages and media, and the interface is suitable for non-technical writers who can contribute towards the content any time. Posts and pages can be queued, scheduled, moderated and password-protected.

WordPress is based around templates, so edits are fast and easy. Its vast template library offers thousands of options for layouts, and WordPress is designed to accommodate endless tweaking and customization. With only basic knowledge of coding, you can adapt a theme to do exactly what you need it to do.

The WordPress plugin repository contains additional bolt-ons that can be added to WordPress to increase its functionality. Almost every WordPress site has a couple of plugins installed; some use dozens. Plugins can be switched on and off as they're required.

How to Install

WordPress is available as a zipped download from Wordpress.org, or as a one-click install from many hosting providers' web control panels. If you choose to use a one-click installer, your new WordPress site will be ready to use within just a few minutes. Manual installations are a bit trickier, but if you've got a web administrator (or your hosting provider has a good support service), you should still be able to get your site up relatively quickly.

What Does It Cost?

The WordPress application itself is free, and it won't normally require any changes to your hosting package, assuming you have a standard package. There are ample free themes and plugins to get you started. In fact, many businesses set up their websites without spending a penny on the WordPress platform.

If you choose to purchase premium add-ons for WordPress, these will incur a fee. Some premium themes and plugins cost a few dollars, or can be downloaded in return for a donation. Others cost hundreds of dollars a year. As a beginner user, it's highly unlikely you'll need to spend any money on these items, since they're aimed at more advanced users.

Like any site, a WordPress site is going to consume bandwidth, and over time, it will grow. The more content and media you have, and the more plugins you use, the more likely it is that your resource needs will increase. Your hosting plan should accommodate your growing site without incurring overage fees. In the beginning, shared hosting will be fine for most WordPress site, but some hosts will ask you to upgrade your plan if your site outgrows the shared hosting model. If you run an ecommerce site, or a business site, you'll probably want to upgrade eventually for other reasons.

Alternative Set-Ups

You can get hosting for a WordPress blog free, directly from WordPress.com. However, by using WordPress' own hosting, you'll have limited control over your WordPress installation. You won't be free to tweak themes so extensively, and you will be limited to certain plugins that are pre-installed. Breaking free of these limitations will attract an additional cost.

WordPress Pros and Cons


  • Essential components are free
  • Scales up easily
  • Intuitive interface
  • Easy to install
  • Runs on almost any hosting platform


Points to Remember

WordPress isn't a site builder. You can get a site up and running within a few minutes if you use a one-click installer, or a few hours with a manual install. However, getting the look and feel in place can take longer. If you're a novice, you'll need to learn on your feet, unless you pay for a managed WordPress hosting service.

Server Requirements

WordPress requires PHP version 5.2.4 or higher, and MySQL version 5.0 or higher. Your host must also support mod_rewrite, which is an Apache module that can change the appearance of a URL dynamically. Your host will be able to tell you if their hosting is suitable; most hosting is perfectly adequate.

Also see: Managed WordPress Hosting

WordPress Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is WordPress?

    WordPress is a blogging engine and content management system. It allows users to set up highly dynamic websites with an easy-to-use administration interface that makes it simple to add, edit, and update content.

  • What are some good reasons to use WordPress?

    If you are trying to set up a new website for yourself, your business, or your organization, WordPress is probably going to be a great fit. WordPress, either with core features or through added plugins, can handle almost all of the functionality needed for modern business and personal web sites. This includes blogging, multimedia presentation, e-commerce, and social sharing.

  • Are there any reasons not to use WordPress?

    There three reasons not to use WordPress. First — if you are building a truly novel web application from scratch, there might be a better platform to do it on, especially if the application isn’t content-driven (for example, if it is data-driven or command-and-control software). Second — if you or your developers are already much more comfortable with a content management system of comparable quality, like Drupal or Joomla. Each of these systems has its specific strengths and weaknesses, but if you are just building a straightforward website or blog it is better to stay with what you already know. Third — if your website will need to do something specific that another system does better. For example, if you are planning to build a wiki (a collaboratively edited knowledge base). WordPress could work for this, but another piece of software (like MediaWiki) would be a better choice.

  • What are the alternatives to WordPress?

    The most direct “competitor” to WordPress is Joomla, with Drupal a close third. Some people claim that the administration of a Joomla site is easier, as the back-end is better designed. Drupal has a bit more of a learning curve, but is often a better choice for extreme customization, such as specialized content types and data manipulation. Other alternatives include hosted blogging platforms like Blogger, commercial solutions like Moveable Type, and static site generators like Jekyll.

  • What are the requirements for WordPress web hosting?

    WordPress requires a web server running PHP 5.2.4 or greater and MySQL 5.0 or greater.

  • Are there any additional specific hosting recommendations?

    WordPress recommends using Apache or Nginx for web servers, but this is not strictly required. Additionally, to take advantage of pretty URLs, you will need the Apache mod_rewrite module. For added security, the suPHP tool (or something similar) is suggested.

  • Do I need to be concerned about installation?

    Usually not. Most of the popular web hosting companies offer a one-click install of WordPress via a script library like Fantastico. Even without such an install wizard, installing WordPress is very easy.

  • Is there any reason not to use a one-click installation wizard?

    There are some cases where manual installation is indicated. The BuddyPress social networking plugin highly recommends against install wizards. Additionally, sometimes the needs of custom development are such that a manual installation is a better idea. However, these situations are very rare. If you are planning to run a mostly normal blog, website, or e-store on WordPress, using one of the one-click installation tools is the safest and easiest way to get started with the fewest problems.

  • What does self-hosted mean? I don’t have to run a server myself, do I?

    WordPress is available in two ways. If you purchase a hosting plan from a web hosting company and install WordPress yourself (even with a one-click installation), you are “self-hosting” your WordPress blog, because you control the hosting. The way to use WordPress is to get a blog at WordPress.com, which is really only appropriate for small personal blogs.

  • Can I host a WordPress blog on a shared hosting plan?

    Yes. WordPress itself is not terribly resource intensive and does not require a lot of environmental tweaks or special settings. Because of its popularity, most shared hosting environments are set up to specifically support WordPress. In fact, the vast majority of WordPress installations are running on shared hosting plans.

  • Do I have to know how to program to use WordPress?

    No. You can install WordPress, add plugins, change themes, customize the look of the site, and create content all without knowing how to code. All of the “user” functions of a WordPress blog are designed to be easy for non-technical users. Development skills are only required for creating new themes and plugins.

  • What is WordPress managed hosting?

    Several hosting companies offer packages they describe as “Managed Hosting for WordPress” or “Premium WordPress Hosting” or something similar. Usually, these have server environments specifically adjusted or modified to enhance speed and performance of WordPress installation. They may also include automatic upgrading of WordPress core as new versions come out. Other features include automation of routine WordPress tasks like database backups.

  • What are the advantages of WordPress Managed Hosting?

    Often, there will be significant increases in speed and efficiency with a WordPress Managed Hosting plan. Additionally, automated updates take the burden off of the user for keeping the software up to the latest version. Frequently there are security benefits as well.

  • Do I need WordPress managed hosting?

    That depends. The vast majority of WordPress users are not running it on specially managed hosting plans. If you have specific performance needs or want to automate some of the mundane tasks you may face as a webmaster or site owner, WordPress Managed Hosting might be a worthwhile investment.

  • What am I not asking about? What is some important WordPress hosting advice?

    When you install WordPress, you have to generate a user account. The default is "admin". You should change this because leaving it "admin" introduces a security risk. Though it is not at all required, I recommend using email addresses for usernames. This makes them guaranteed to be unique to that site (no problems with two people with the same first name and last initial), and they are easier for users to remember.

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