WordPress is a free and open source content management system, usually used for managing a blog, but also used to power large publications (including HowToGeek). While the software itself is free, you’ll still need web hosting so your audience can visit the site. These hosting providers run WordPress on their servers and often manage most (if not all) of the technical work for you.
While you can set up a basic site at wordpress.com, the default one has ads, you can’t put your own ads on their regular plans, and they offer much less flexibility and freedom than a paid hosting provider. Most of them have plans for only a couple bucks a month, so if you’re serious about starting a website, it’s best to look for actual hosting.
What to Look For
Web hosting generally falls into two categories:
Managed hosting is when the hosting provider sets up WordPress (or whatever service) for you and handles all the behind-the-scenes IT stuff. If you’re just getting started setting up a website, it’s best to look for managed hosting.
Shared hosting is when the hosting provider runs your site on the same physical server as other sites and is generally much cheaper than having a dedicated server for your site. Unless you’re expecting millions of visitors to your site, shared hosting is often a cheaper and simple option.
Hosting providers often separate their services into different tiers and offer different products for more money. Usually, they’ll limit how many different WordPress sites you can have, limit your storage space for pictures and videos, and sometimes limit how much traffic your site can get. Be realistic about how much you need, as you can always upgrade to a better plan if the need arises.
What Providers to Consider
There’s no shortage of hosting providers out there, and many of them look pretty similar (and all claim to offer the same services). We’ve put together a list of the industry-leading providers to help you choose the one right for you.
Recommended by WordPress themselves, Bluehost is the safest bet on this list. Their plans start at $4 a month, and they offer managed WordPress hosting in addition to the option of setting it up yourself. Their higher tier plans offer “unmetered” storage and bandwidth but be warned that this is not completely unlimited, as the top 0.05% will be forced to upgrade plans.
Realistically though, you probably won’t be falling into this range unless you’re specifically trying to use up space, and you’ll probably want a better server anyway if you are.
HostGator is another good option; They’re fast, cheap, and offer managed WordPress hosting. They do divide their plans into “visits per month,” so you’ll need to upgrade if you plan on having more traffic.
1&1 offers managed hosting in addition to having a site builder tool so that you can make a custom site fairly easily. Their basic plan starts at $1 a month, but the price will increase after the first year.
Inmotion offers complete web design packages, where they’ll work with you to build a custom website (including custom WordPress sites). They have managed hosting as well, but tend to cost a bit more than the competition.
Renting Your Own Server
If you’re running a large publication, are serious about page load times, or just don’t trust someone else to do your job, you can always rent a dedicated server and set everything up yourself. The options listed above all have dedicated servers for sale, but if you’re managing multiple servers in different locations, it’s best to go with a more flexible hosting provider. For that, we recommend Digital Ocean and Amazon Web Services.