Servers and The Basics of Hosting

Now that you’ve taken the preliminary steps of designing your blog and purchased your domain name(s), it’s time to select a hosting solution.  If you have a website for your business already, you likely already have a web hosting provider and either space on a server or your own server. If you are setting things up for the first time, you will contract with your chosen web hosting provider who will allot you website space on a server and set you up with a FTP (file transfer protocol – this is the way you upload and download files from your server) account.

Servers and Hosting

Photo: © F.Schmidt / Shutterstock
What are the basics of hosting and which type is right for me?

Basics: A server is essentially a large computer that is held in a hosting provider’s data center. Your hosting plan determines how much of the server your account “owns”. There are three main types of hosting services: shared server, virtual private server, and private server.

Shared Server: The most economical option.  Your website is hosted on a server along with multiple other websites.  The hosting provider that you choose will set limits for your account so that you do not overload the server and cause the rest of your server’s websites to go down.  This option is great for those of you just getting started, as the memory and bandwidth that you will be provided is likely sufficient for your needs.  However, if you expect several thousand visitors per day (at peak times), you may experience slowness with shared server hosting and your web host even has the ability to take your site down to steady the server.

Best for: Just getting started; Non-complex sites; Static websites (non-blogs); Sites without a rush of traffic at peak times

Virtual Private Server: Picture a server as a packing box for glassware.  You get the space for one glass and share the box with multiple other glasses.

The server is partitioned off so that you have full control over only your piece.  No other website can touch your area of the server, and vice versa.  Advantage: your own place to play, guaranteed server resources up to your partition’s cap.  Disadvantage: you can’t take advantage of the resources that the other partitions aren’t using like you can with the shared server.

Best for: I personally don’t recommend VPS hosting.  I tried it for a while and was completely unimpressed.  In for a penny in for a pound, I say, and if I’m spending money and getting dedicated resources, I’d rather have…

Private (Dedicated) Server: Your very own home for your website.  With dedicated hosting, you will have full control over your entire server.  There are differences between private server plans, so you should do your homework and speak with potential hosting companies to see where your website fits in with their offerings.  Be sure to know:

  1. Exactly what type of server you will receive and how much horsepower it has
  2. The level of support you receive from the hosting provider
  3. What you will be charged for (bandwidth, number of databases, disc usage, FTP accounts, etc)

Best for: High-traffic websites, those who want lots of control over their site and the resources it consumes.

Which hosting company is right for me?

As I’ve previously mentioned, each of my domains are registered with DreamHost, but my hosting is with LiquidWeb. I have a dedicated server. LiquidWeb is the third hosting provider that I’ve used, and I could not be more pleased with their service. Real, live people pick up the phone, ya’ll! They are incredibly responsive, my move over from my previous hosting provider was painless, and I experience very few issues. No hosting company is perfect, but LiquidWeb was recommended to me by a trusted friend, and I have personally recommended LiquidWeb to other bloggers who have also experienced the same stellar service.

I also know bloggers who use and enjoy Bluehost, though I have no experience with them.

Managed hosting providers

There are several commonly-used managed hosting providers, such as WP Engine and Synthesis. Managed hosting providers typically offer standard pricing plans, with certain levels falling under either shared, VPS, or dedicated server hosting. The benefit of a managed hosting provider is that their servers and architecture are optimized for WordPress. The downside is that some plugins and other functionality are disabled by default. Many plans also place limits on bandwidth transfer, storage space, and the number of WordPress installations you can run on your account. WP Beginner has a great article on managed WordPress hosting, which I highly recommend that you read if you’re thinking of going this route.

For experienced website owners: what type of hosting do you use and what hosting companies do you recommend? Have you had good experiences with Virtual Private Servers? If you have a high traffic site, when did you switch to a dedicated server, or, have you been able to stick with shared hosting and save money?

Coming up in this series: Setting Up Your Server, Installing WordPress

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15 comments on “Servers and The Basics of Hosting

  1. Thanks for the post Ami. Do you have any recommendations for good web hosting providers? I know wordpress has a link on their site for some, but are there any good ones you have used?

    • Ami writes...

      Hi Chichi! I currently Inmotion Hosting and have a dedicated server. I have been nothing but pleased with Inmotion.

      Before that, I had shared hosting on Dreamhost. I was quite happy with Dreamhost until my traffic grew to a level where I had real issues with the performance of the site (about 6000+ page views per day was when it got pretty slow). My one big negative with Dreamhost is that there is no phone support, only email support.

      I don’t have any personal experience with Bluehost, but I know several people who use them.

      I hope this helps and that other people chime in with their hosting provider experience!

    • Cyd writes...

      Hey Chichi – I currently use Dreamhost for two different blogs and, to date, haven’t had any issues. Knock on wood. ;-)

  2. Katie writes...

    Ami, this is a great topic and I hope everyone chimes in. I went with a local reference for a hosting provider (fatcow), and it wasn’t the right thing for me knowing what I know now. It is often slow and I find it goes down for a few minutes occasionally. I think it is fine for sites that are smaller and more personal, but not for ones like our industry. I am now looking for the best dedicated server for my blog and hope to change that soon!

  3. Catie Ronquillo writes...

    I use HostMonster which I think is also related to Bluehost. I’ve been using them for a year and they have been great. Their prices are reasonable and they have email, chat, and phone support. I had a problem a few months ago where I wasn’t receiving any email and they had it fixed quickly! Also, their dashboard has WordPress installation at the push of a button.

  4. perfect bound writes...

    Hi Ami! So looking forward to attending my ‘edit and post’ class each morning. You’re on a great roll here. Keep it up!

  5. Kara writes...

    I have VPS hosting and I love it. It allows me to maintain multiple sites and blogs in one location, for one price, w/out the high cost of dedicated server hosting.

    If you’re managing a single blog or a single site, then VPS is probably not the best option.

    • Ami writes...

      kara, that makes sense and it’s good to hear that someone has good experiences with VPS hosting! i bet that was why it didn’t work for me, i was paying almost as much as my dedicated server costs now for having EAD on a VPS!

  6. Brit writes...

    I use BlueHost for mine and have had zero issues, even on days where traffic really spikes. Plus, their customer service is on top of it – which I love.

    At my day job, all of our clients are hosted through MediaTemple, which is a great, great resource. Pricey, yes, but definitely worth it.

  7. Amy I. writes...

    I couldn’t have picked a better time to start the transition to WP. Loving this series!

  8. Eliana B. writes...

    Just wanted to say your topics are amazing Ami. I look forward to reading more.

  9. Drew Tufano writes...

    Hey Ami! Great site, very well done. I can only imagine how much time and energy you’ve put into it – it shows!!

    You’ve done a great job here trying to simplify something very complex.
    One big tip though, price says a lot about the host. If you’re hosting a WordPress blog, you should be paying $10/month minimum, and if it’s a high traffic site (more than 10GB monthly traffic) expect to pay exponentially more!

    A good resource to scour is Web Hosting Talk ( Do a search on any potential hosts and see what the general consensus is. No company/person is perfect, but avoid those who consistently disappoint or fail.

    Web hosting administration is no easy task, and very few are skilled enough to do it well.

  10. Tyson Peppin writes...

    I needed help for choosing a website hosting provider and got it here. Thanks for sharing this post. Your article is very easy to understand. Do you have any suggestions about which company is the best as a hosting service provider?

  11. Anirud writes...

    As a beginner, should i buy shared hosting because it seems to be cheap

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