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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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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 free application that you can use to create websites. Most users create blogs, business sites, galleries, or portfolios, but WordPress is highly adaptable and can be used for a variety of purposes. WordPress is easy to use, and allows you to get an attractive site online quickly. Using free themes and plugins, you can customize your site and extend its functionality.

  • How many websites use WordPress?

    It's estimated that around 20% of the world's websites are deployed on WordPress, although estimates do vary.

  • What's the difference between WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal?

    Joomla is probably the closest competitor to WordPress, but Drupal is arguably better if you want to code your own applications. WordPress is the most commonly used, and therefore has the biggest user community. That means it's sometimes easier to get help.

    If you're already familiar with one of these applications, and you're confident that it will work for your site, it's better to stick with it so you can get your site up and running more quickly.

  • Why do so many people choose WordPress?

    WordPress 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. It's free, easy to install, and content creation is very straightforward. It's also relatively secure, and has a massive library of free plugins and themes.

  • Are there any situations where you shouldn't use WordPress?

    While WordPress is very flexible, there are some things it can't do well. If you want to create a web application, you will probably find that WordPress is too limited, and something like Drupal may be better. Conversely, if your needs are very straightforward, you might find that something simpler than WordPress will do the job.

    There are also some use cases where WordPress plugins cannot match dedicated software. For example, if you are planning to build a wiki, WordPress could do this, but it would require major adaptations. Something like MediaWiki would probably be easier to set up and manage. The same goes for a forum; WordPress can create forums, but there are arguably better solutions out there.

  • What kind of hosting package do I need for WordPress?

    WordPress requires a web server running PHP 5.2.4 or greater and MySQL 5.0.15 or greater. Most hosts prominently advertise WordPress on compatible hosting packages. Practically all Linux hosting packages are suitable, as well as many packages on Windows servers.

    WordPress itself is not resource intensive, and most shared hosting environments support it. If your site is resource-intensive, or particularly large, your host may ask you to move it to a VPS as it grows.

  • Are there any additional hosting recommendations?

    More often than not, the key requirement is a speedy server, and good support. If you are lacking either speed or support, you might find it difficult to build and market your website.

    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 a good idea.

  • Is WordPress easy to install?

    Yes. Most of the popular web hosting companies offer a one-click install of WordPress via a script library. Even without such an install wizard, installing WordPress is very easy and takes less than 5 minutes.

  • Is it better do use a one-click installer, or install WordPress manually?

    When you use a one-click installer, the script makes assumptions about some default settings. There are some situations where this isn't advised, such as sites that will eventually run Buddypress, or sites where the developer wants precise control over the database settings on the server.

    If you are planning to run a normal blog, website, or store on WordPress, using one of the one-click installation tools shouldn't present any problems.

  • What's the difference between hosted WordPress and self-hosted WordPress?

    It's important to learn the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

    WordPress.com offers hosted WordPress, which means that your blog will be managed by someone else. While this is convenient and cheap for very small websites, it can be restrictive, and you won't be free to install any plugin or theme.

    Self-hosted WordPress means WordPress that you install on your own hosting account, using the installer provided by your host, or downloaded from WordPress.org. With this option, you have full control over all WordPress settings, so it's more suitable for business websites.

  • What are the advantages of self-hosting?

    When you self-host WordPress, you have the freedom to choose the hosting features that are most important to you. For example, you can choose SSD storage for faster load times, or you can get enough email mailboxes for your team. You're also free to install the themes and plugins that you need, rather than being limited to a small selection.

  • What is managed WordPress hosting?

    Managed WordPress is a special kind of hosting that is set up only for WordPress websites. With these packages, you will get resources similar to those on a shared hosting plan, but you will not be able to install any other software. While FTP is usually provided, it may be limited.

    Hosts that offer managed WordPress have created server environments that are tailored to WordPress. They may also offer automatic upgrading of WordPress core, and/or automation of routine WordPress tasks like database backups. There may also be special security features, and often, the support team is dedicated to WordPress only.

    While Managed WordPress offers convenience, there are some downsides. Some plans do not come with any email service at all. Additionally, moving away from a managed WordPress package can be tricky. For example, you may need to manually alter or remove files, and restore your site from backups rather than having it migrated for you.

    By comparing shared and managed WordPress hosting plans, you should be able to see where the restrictions are.

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

    No. You don't need to be able to code to install WordPress, add plugins, change themes, customize the look of the site, or create content. Some basic coding knowledge is needed if you want to manually change the appearance of your site, but WordPress' plugins and themes ensure that the majority of users don't need to do this.

  • Is WordPress secure?

    WordPress is secure, but it is also a target for hackers, simply because it is so widely used. It's a good idea to change the username on your main administrator account, and create a separate WordPress account for creating and managing content, so that the administrator username is never exposed.

    It's a good idea to install a security plugin that detects brute force login attempts, malware, and file changes. Many security plugins are available free from the WordPress plugin repository.

  • How do I move a WordPress site from my old host to my new one?

    Moving WordPress content is very straightforward, and there is an Import/ Export tool that will help with this. However, this tool does not migrate the entire WordPress install. It also won't move your hosting settings or email mailboxes.

    If you aren't technical, find a host that will move your website for you. Check the terms, and contact the sales team to ensure that your site can be moved for free. If you're moving from the same control panel (for example, cPanel to cPanel), moving is a very simple procedure, and your new install will be an exact clone of the old one.

    If you are moving from a site with a non-standard control panel, things can be more difficult. Some hosts will still move you for free, but the majority will not. Likewise, if you're moving from a managed WordPress host, you may have to manually import a database backup to transfer your data to your new host.

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