What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that people use to create websites or blogs.
Let's back up a second though and answer the question, "What's a CMS?"
What is a CMS?
A CMS is a platform that allows for simple site creation and content management without requiring the user to possess any coding skills.
CMSs are preferred by most people creating and running websites since the majority of us don't know how to program.
Why Choose WordPress?
WordPress is one of the most popular CMS options since it is open source and therefore completely free to use.
It's even considered the easiest and most flexible CMS for beginners.
How Do I Get Support for WordPress?
Due to its popularity, you won't find any shortage of support for the WordPress platform.
Google any question about it, and you'll receive a full page of search results that will provide you with answers.
There are also numerous forums dedicated to WordPress support where you will likely be able to find people with the same questions you have.
WordPress for E-Commerce, Creative Portfolios, and Photography
WordPress is a very popular option for blog creation, but you can also design e-commerce stores, portfolios, and photo galleries with it.
What Are Some Good Alternatives to the WordPress CMS?
However, these content management systems will require some technical coding knowledge, which make them better options for developers rather than new webmasters.
Unless you know a skilled "Drupaler" or Joomla expert who can set up a site for you, then you're better off using WordPress or a DIY site builder.
While CMSs like Squarespace come with loads of options, you can also hire a developer to customize it further and create powerful integrations with third-party marketing software.
Your web hosting provider may even include their own custom site builder with your host plan.
Side-by-Side Comparison Table: WordPress vs. Site Builders
Should you use a site builder to create your website or should you stick to WordPress?
Here's a comparison to help you make up your mind.
Ideal for multi-page websites like blogs or e-commerce stores.
WordPress can power anything from small, single-page sites to large university websites.
Depends on the site builder. Some like Adobe Spark are suited to one-page scrollable sites. Others, like Squarespace, can power large e-commerce stores, creative sites, and everything in between.
Has a bit of a learning curve.
|Typically easier to use than WordPress.|
The WordPress dashboard may appear to be a bit abstract for new users. As anything that provides you with countless features, it will take some getting used to before you know your way around.
|Site builder interfaces are usually fairly simple and intuitive. It shouldn't take long for you to learn how to navigate the application. The amount of features depends on the site builder you choose.|
Designing a website with WordPress requires learning the platform: many elements come together to produce the final design of your site. You can install plugins for drag-and-drop design.
Many (but not all) use a drag-and-drop design for creating your website. This allows you to position content and website sections where you want. If you want your site customized, it's best to do this at the outset and to have your developer carefully document the code and customizations.
WordPress gives you access to thousands of themes and plugins to customize and extend the functionality of your website.
You'll get a much smaller selection of themes and plugins from website builders.
If you build a website on WordPress, you'll have to find a hosting provider that supports it. The good news is that almost all mainstream providers will support WordPress and offer effortless integration.
Website builders include their own hosting. This is great if you don't want to deal with finding a hosting provider for your website.
I recommend using WordPress to build your site.
Once you get the hang of the WordPress interface, it will be easy to:
- Manage projects
- Create blog posts
- Edit content
- Develop good SEO (search engine optimization)
- Add and edit images, audio, and video
- Switch between theme designs whenever you want.
And, you'll be free to find the best possible web hosting for your project instead of being confined to the hosting provided by a website builder.
How Do I Create a WordPress Website?
Designing and building a website on WordPress is simple.
It requires no coding knowledge unless you intend to customize finer details of your theme.
Using WordPress Themes
WordPress includes many free customizable themes to choose between. This makes it easy to get started but also gives you the control to make your website your own.
These themes will vary in the extent of their customization options. But you'll usually be able to change the theme's colors and content layout. Other themes are much more customizable.
Many WordPress website owners hire developers to help them customize their themes even more.
Since WordPress is built on the popular programming language PHP, there is no shortage of developers who know how to do this.
How to Get Started with WordPress
As we've mentioned, building a WordPress website is relatively easy. It just takes some time to feel comfortable with their dashboard.
Here are some steps to help you get started:
- Purchase a domain name
- Purchase WordPress Managed Hosting
- Install WordPress from the hosting control panel using the one-click method
- Log in to your WordPress dashboard via https://yoursite.com/wp-admin (just replace "yoursite" with your domain name)
- Take some time to explore the tabs and buttons on the dashboard
Building a Website with WordPress
When you're ready to build your first website:
- Go to Appearance and click Themes.
- Browse through themes. You can search a keyword or filter by the topic of your website.
- Once you find a theme you like, just click Install and then Activate.
- You can click on Customize Your Site from the homepage of your dashboard or click customize on the active theme.
- This will open up your website with all the possible customizations you can add.
So now that we've gone over the basics of WordPress, it's time to get into WordPress hosting.
Many hosting companies offer what's called managed WordPress Hosting.
Benefits of Managed WordPress Hosting
Here are some of the benefits of using managed WordPress hosting:
- Automatic updating of the WordPress core and key plugins
- Technical support staff with WordPress expertise
- Time efficiency
- Automatic backups
- Lower downtime risk
- WordPress-specific site security
Virtually any shared server hosting plan can power a WordPress installation. Most hosts even make it easy to get a WordPress installation up and running quickly with a one-click installation script offered through the hosting account control panel.
Support and Simplicity
Customers who do opt for a one-click installation might also receive automatic WordPress software updates. With shared hosting, that's where WordPress support ends.
For some website owners and developers, especially those managing low traffic websites, this is enough.
However, many website owners and developers are looking for more, and that's where managed WordPress hosting comes in.
Managed WordPress Hosting Can Save You Time (and Headaches)
Managing a WordPress installation can be time-consuming, and there is a learning curve.
- Themes may not behave as expected.
- Plugins often interfere with each other or with theme elements. This then requires patient troubleshooting, which can take hours for a beginner.
- In a worst-case scenario, databases can be corrupted and have to be repaired from a backup.
- Then there are never-ending WordPress software and plugin updates to take care of. Failure to keep these updated can lead to your site being hacked by bots like the Japanese Keyword Hack.
- If your site gets hacked, Google will flag it as unsafe, which will likely cause a decline in your traffic.
When the affected websites are a source of income or see a lot of traffic, these issues can quickly become major headaches.
Let The Host Do It
With managed WordPress hosting, website owners and developers can let the hosting provider take care of most of these issues, freeing them to focus on building their website, blog, and business.
Hosting providers do this by simplifying and automating WordPress installation and maintenance, hosting WordPress sites on robust server networks optimized for WordPress, and offering a customer support staff with WordPress expertise.
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Managed WordPress Hosting Features
There are a number of features which are commonly placed in managed WordPress Hosting packages:
- Automatic Installations and Updates
- Automatic Backups
- An Optimized Network for WordPress
- A Content Delivery Network
- High Uptime
- Advanced Caching
- Expert Customer Support
Automatic WordPress Installations, Automatic Updates of the Core and Plugins
First, managed WordPress hosting plans simplify or completely remove the installation process and provide built-in maintenance.
This is useful because the manual installation process for WordPress can be a little bit complicated. No matter your skill level, it's still much easier to install WordPress automatically from your host's control panel than to do so manually.
Backups and Updates
You'll also want automatic updates to both WordPress and your plugins so that you can ensure your website continues to function properly and remains safe from security threats.
Most hosts will make a backup of your website before they apply major WordPress updates.
As such, you don't have to worry about something going wrong during the update process.
Database and website backups are one of the most important parts of website management.
Many managed WordPress packages automate backups on a regular basis, and they provide WordPress experts in the event that you ever need to use one of those backups to get your site back up and running.
A good web host will give you access to your backup restore points so that you can restore your website on your own. This is very valuable if something breaks. You can just go into the backup history on your web host's control panel and restore your website immediately.
Web hosting companies will usually specify whether or not they conduct regular backups and, if so, how often they are carried out.
An Optimized Network for WordPress
Managed WordPress hosting includes a network optimized specifically for WordPress.
This means websites hosted on a managed WordPress account should load faster than those hosted on a generalized hosting account.
Generally speaking, the server environment for managed WordPress hosting is not a shared environment. It tends to be a VPS environment, though there are some exceptions.
Some web hosts will misleadingly advertise WordPress hosting on their websites. But when you click on these plans, you'll realize that they're the company's same shared web hosting plans given a new label.
This just means that their shared hosting plans can support WordPress and will often come with one-click app installs. Though cheaper, these plans will not come with the power and speed of real managed WordPress hosting.
Find out the type of server that the company's WordPress plan is hosted on. You'll want it to be a cloud server or VPS if you're looking for the fastest WordPress hosting available.
A Content Delivery Network for Speedy Site Loading
The managed hosting environment also typically includes a content delivery network to speed up delivery of websites for visitors who are geographically distant from the server location.
One additional network feature offered by some managed WordPress hosts is automatic website scanning for removal of troublesome plugins.
Certain CDN providers, such as Cloudflare, can help protect your website from DDoS attacks as well. You can see the type of CDN your web hosting is providing to you. It will likely be Cloudflare.
Your web host may also include separate DDoS protection, which will give you stronger defense against these targeted attacks.
Importance of SSL Certificates
In addition to this, you may want an included SSL certificate.
These protect the data of visitors who are on your website. When you have an SSL certificate, your website's domain name is stamped with a secure seal that is visible to website visitors.
Regular network monitoring is important for any website. It ensures that problems on the network, such as those due to failing server components, can be identified and fixed as quickly as possible.
Web hosts that engage in daily network monitoring will usually provide a higher uptime guarantee for your website.
The uptime guarantee issued by a web host is their SLA or service level agreement. This is the percentage of uptime that they promise to you.
If your website experiences more downtime than their SLA allows for, they will usually compensate you with web hosting credits.
You want to look for a web host that provides at least 99.9% uptime. But 99.95% and higher is even better.
One reason why managed WordPress plans can run the platform so much faster than basic hosting is because of their use of advanced caching.
Caching is extremely important when it comes to WordPress sites.
What Exactly is Caching?
First, here's a brief rundown on what caching even is for those of you who are unfamiliar. I'm sure you know about clearing the cache on your computer, and that this can fix some issues you're having with viewing web pages.
Caching is the process of storing data in a temporary storage area.
When you land on a website for the first time, a static version of the site is stored in a cache on your computer.
Then, when you return to that same web page at a later date, your web browser will receive the files from your computer rather than the website's server.
What Does Caching Do?
This decreases load time and lessens traffic on the network.
When someone loads a WordPress site, their browser has to receive the pages from the database, which increases load times.
This is reduced with optimized WordPress caching. You want the fastest load times to reduce visitor bounce rates. And when your website loads faster, it's ranked more favorable in Google's search results.
Since caching reduces the traffic to your server, it will help you save bandwidth on your hosting plan.
So, when you're looking for WordPress hosting, just make sure the provider has optimized caching features in place.
For example, SiteGround has a feature that they call the SuperCacher. This tool enables dynamic caching on your WordPress website for super-fast loading speeds.
You can also install WordPress plugins to optimize caching of your website, such as WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache.
Expert Customer Support
Lastly, managed WordPress hosting typically includes 24/7 access to premium support from support engineers with WordPress expertise. With most general hosting plans, application support is not included.
So if you have a WordPress installation running on a general hosting account, it's unlikely customer support will help with WordPress-specific questions.
However, with managed WordPress hosting, support for the WordPress application is included in the support offering.
One of the most important things to consider when you're hosting a website is security.
You need to be aware of the possibility of the following threats to your website:
- Data breaches
- DDoS attacks
- Backdoor trojans
- Internet fraud
These types of attacks don't just happen to large businesses.
Just because you're starting a small website for the first time doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about security. Many times, your website or computer may be targeted to facilitate an attack on a larger target. Hackers may also be interested in gaining financial information to help them commit fraud for financial gain.
E-commerce stores, as a result, are even more vulnerable to attacks since they collect credit card information.
If you're planning on building an e-commerce store on WordPress, make sure that your web host supports PCI compliance.
This, along with SSL security, can help protect your customers' sensitive financial information. PCI is an industry-standard for information security that must be followed by people handling major credit cards.
You may be required to ensure your own website meets compliance. But the first step to ensuring compliance is choosing a PCI compliant web host.
Most mainstream web hosts will be PCI compliant, especially those offering managed WordPress plans.
SSL certificates come in two different forms, shared and private.
Both types will transmit your site visitor's data over the network in an encrypted form to protect their information.
Shared SSL certificates are free and are usually included with any web hosting plan.
On the other hand, private SSL certificates require a purchase. You'll have to get both a dedicated IP address and a private SSL for an additional price. But, this will give your site higher security and is recommended for e-commerce.
There are also other steps you can take to ensure the security of your WordPress site.
If you're on a managed hosting plan, you shouldn't have to worry about security patches or system monitoring. Your hosting provider should take care of this.
To secure your WordPress site yourself, you can use the following methods:
- Customize the URL of your login page to reduce brute force attacks
- Set up a lockdown feature for failed login attempts
- Use 2-factor identification with Google Authenticator
- Create a strong password for your WordPress account
- Make sure you enable SSL on your website
- Perform regular backups
- Only install plugins and themes from trusted sources
- Use managed WordPress hosting to keep everything up to date
Who Can Benefit From Managed WordPress Hosting?
If your WordPress site sees less than a few thousand visitors per month, and if it isn't generating any income, then shared hosting is probably completely adequate for your needs.
However, if your site has become a source of income, or if it is seeing a lot of traffic, then the upgraded network, simplified maintenance, and premium support of managed hosting will take much of the security risk and maintenance work out of managing your site.
Managed WordPress hosting is for customers who want to focus on the appearance, content, and marketing of their site while a WordPress expert takes care of routine maintenance and stands ready to help fix any technical snafus.
Managed WordPress Hosting Pros & Cons
Here are some of the positive and negative factors related to managed WordPress hosting:
- Managed WordPress hosting providers take care of updating plugins, themes, and the entire platform.
- Service providers test the compatibility of the new updates before applying them.
- Hosting optimized for WordPress will improve your site load time due to extensive caching, PHP optimizations, and a CDN.
- You get daily automatic backups of your website.
- The support assistance on managed plans is exceptional.
- You save time since you don't need to learn all the technicalities of hosting a website.
- Managed WordPress plans will cost more than basic shared hosting options.
- These plans are expensive for people just starting out with a website who aren't making income from it yet.
- You have less control over your hosting environment.
Best Managed WordPress Hosts
To give you a jumpstart in your search for managed WordPress hosting, our top recommendations are listed below.
SiteGround: Optimized WordPress Hosting
SiteGround offers excellent affordability.
With some very low-cost managed WordPress plans to choose between, you can set up a WordPress website for the first time without breaking the bank.
Even though SiteGround uses shared servers, your WordPress site will fly thanks to their proprietary SuperCacher.
When it comes to uptime, SiteGround has you covered with a 99.9% uptime agreement. In fact, they've experienced no less than 99.996% uptime in the last 12 months.
If you're looking for some of the most powerful WordPress hosting, check out WP Engine. They'll also give you highly reliable web hosting with a 99.95% uptime agreement.
They use an optimized caching system and a fully-managed CDN to boost the load time of your website.
And since their prices are a bit steeper, you get enterprise-level security as well as highly-scaleable cloud resources.
For blazing-fast WordPress hosting on VPS technology, try BlueHost.
When it comes to price, Bluehost is fairly similar to WP Engine.
These two companies may be better options for you once you start making an income from your website, or if you're realizing the need for more powerful hosting.
Because they use virtual private servers for their WordPress hosting, your resources are always guaranteed.
You'll never experience site performance issues due to other users on your server.
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