The single most popular software used to power websites is WordPress - it now runs approximately 33% of the entire Internet! With so many WP powered sites, there are experts that have figured out the best way to get WordPress to run as fast as possible.
I've been running WordPress websites for more than 10 years and have tried numerous different hosting companies to find the fastest to get the quickest page load times. After all, faster loading web pages leads to better search rankings and more sales, so a slow site can't perform at it's best.
Unfortunately, I had to learn about the slow hosts the hard way by wasting a lot of time, money and even reputation for my websites. To help you avoid these same problems, I've put together this guide so you can make an educated decision about which WordPress hosting company will be best for your needs.
Jump to my recommended WP web host below.
Avoid Budget WordPress Web Hosts
If you pay $2.99 per month or something incredibly low like that for your hosting account, you're most likely using a budget company. Those companies are great when you are first getting started and building your first WordPress website, but any serious business should avoid budget hosting like the plague.
Think about this from the viewpoint of the hosting company for a minute...
A single, decent server typically costs at least $400 a month, so they're likely going to need to sell 2-3 times that much each month to cover all of their expenses and make a profit.
If they want to generate $1200 per month revenue from that server, they'll have to sell 400 accounts. Each of those accounts can have 10-50 websites, so you're talking 4,000 - 20,000 websites per server!
The only way to put that many sites on a server and not blow it up is to severely limit the amount of server resources each site can use.
For the website owner, this results in sites that are extremely slow to load.
Even worse, some traffic that tries to reach your site may get blocked entirely.
That sounds like a great way for a company to stuff as many paying customers as possible onto one machine, but it doesn't sound very great for the person that runs the site, right?
Even with that knowledge, it can still be really hard to choose the best WordPress host without really knowing what is important to look for when you buy a new account.
To make this choice a lot easier for you, let me tell you about some of the most important aspects of your hosting account that should matter to the owner of the WP site.
Exclusive Solid State Drives (SSD)
Whenever someone visits a page on a WordPress site, it has to access a lot of information that is spread out among thousands of files and many different database tables.
All of that information resides on the hard drive of the server, so the server has to retrieve that information to load the page.
Cheap servers use the slowest type of disk drive - HDD, which uses traditional magnetic spinning disks.
The fastest servers uses solid state drive (SSD), which easily has 10 times the read and write speed of HDD.
Simply put - if your hosting account isn't exclusively using SSDs then your sites load slower than they could on a better server.
Be careful with sneaky web hosts that like to disguise their usage of a mixture of HDD and SSD - they will often make up names like "Hybrid SSD" to cover up the fact that they're using slower hard drives.
Disk drives that are strictly used to store automated backups can be HDD without slowing down your sites at all, but the actual files and databases for your sites need to exclusively use SSD for the fastest speeds.
When you can use SSD only, sites will load faster and certain optimization techniques like page caching will be even more effective.
The ONLY reason to avoid SSD hosting? -If you're on a crazy-tight budget and you don't care at all about the speed of your sites.
CPU & RAM
High-powered dedicated web servers can contain 16-48 CPU cores and 16-64GB RAM or potentially even more. However, shared web hosting accounts are almost always restricted to a limited amount of CPU cores and RAM.
When shopping for an account to use WordPress, you'll want to take notice of the CPU and RAM resources that are available to use. Account features such as 1 CPU core with 2GB RAM or 2CPU cores with 4GB RAM are very common, especially with lower priced shared web hosts.
If you see a low-priced shared, cloud or WordPress hosting account that doesn't state these resources, then you should assume that you'll have access to very low CPU and RAM resources (likely 1CPU and 1GB RAM in many cases).
The worst budget company offenders either completely hide this information or bury it deep with their service level agreements.
With 99% of companies, the only way to get access to a full server's worth of CPU and RAM resources is to pay for an entire dedicated server to use just for your sites, but this is extremely expensive and can only be justified by business making six figures or more annually.
My recommended web host for WordPress websites, Iron Ally, is one of the only companies that exists that actually sells a reasonably priced shared hosting account and gives you full access to 32 CPU cores and 32-64GB RAM! With these resources, your websites won't slow down or ever block legitimate traffic.
Network Connection Speed
Even the world's fastest web server is limited by it's network connection speed to the Internet. In general, web servers run one of two connection speeds: 100mbps or 1000mbps (aka gigabit).
With the slower connection speed, any big traffic spike can easily cause a bottleneck that causes every site on the server to slow down. These bottlenecks can happen on your public website or even while you're working on your site. If you've ever sat there waiting a long time for a simple page to load on your site when you know that page has loaded quickly many times before, it's likely because of a slow network connection speed or possibly another hidden connection limit.
Almost all budget shared web hosts use 100mbps network connections because they are a lot cheaper - that's better for their profits but much worse for your business.
With WordPress, you really don't want a bottleneck like this on your servers because it is almost guaranteed to have a negative impact on your websites. For this reason, you should only look for accounts that offer 1,000MBPS or gigabit network speeds.
The average WordPress website owner probably won't even be aware that they run on a slower connection speed, but the real hosting companies that care about the success of your business will only offer the faster connections, while most mega corporations will use the cheaper, slower connections to maximize their profits.
Concurrent Connections & Other Account Limits
If you have access to a cPanel hosting account right now, login to it and take a look in the sidebar for various stats on your usage. You will most likely see a variety of limits here and some of them may not even make a lot sense to you. These limits can have a major impact on the speed of your WP sites. Some of them can even cause your account to completely block visitors.
Unless you pay for an expensive dedicated server for your website or use Iron Ally Hosting, I can guarantee you that your account has these limits (some hosts even hide them from you or bury them in service agreements).
Years ago I was using HostGator for shared hosting when I discovered these limits because my websites were blocking traffic. Their customer support convinced me to upgrade from a $9.95/mo shared account to a $79.95/mo VPS account. After my sites were moved, I planned a big promotion to really see what I could do without those connection limits. I was quickly disappointed to discover that my VPS account that was 8 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE still had the same exact connection limit! What's even more disappointing is that their customer support represenative recommended this upgrade to solve my problem *facepalm*. Only after upgrading to a dedicated server that was around $300 per month was I finally able to get rid of those limits.
It didn't take me very long to give up on HostGator completely after that. I actually spent years jumping from one host to the next trying to find one that could actually provide a quality server and support without charging me the GDP of a small island nation.
I only wish that Iron Ally Hosting had existed back then because they actually have shared hosting accounts for WordPress that cost under $20/mo and they don't have ANY connection limits (just like a dedicated server).
PHP-FPM & GZip Compression
Beyond the server hardware, there are other factors that determine whether a WordPress page will load in 1-2 seconds or whether you'll grow old waiting 30+ seconds. The software configuration being used can easily cut your page load time in half when it's done right.
In my opinion, two of these that you will rarely find on cheap accounts but are great for site performance are PHP-FPM and gzip compression.
I won't go into the technical details about PHP-FPM and why you should use it. However, the important part about PHP-FPM is that it's more efficient for higher traffic websites, but cheapie companies often don't use it because it eats up server RAM like it's going out of style.
GZip is server-side compression. All websites have to deliver a certain amount of file space every time a page is loaded in a web browsers. With compression you reduce the total file size that has to be delivered, so you can drastically speed up that transfer which accounts for most of the page load time for a website.
In fact, gzip compression is so awesome that web page speed tests use it as a measuring metric AND it can be used with just a few simple lines of code in your .htaccess file.
With all of that said, why would a web server ever have gzip disabled? Gzip uses CPU and RAM processing power to compress pages on-the-fly, so it trades server resources for faster page load time. If a server disables gzip then it can host more websites with the same resources - again, this is yet another situation where it's great for the profits of a hosting company but not so great for your business.
WordPress Hacker Protection & Active Monitoring
Since WP powers one-third of the Internet, it's a prime target for hackers. This can be scary and downright frustrating if you skimp on your hosting account or pick the wrong company, so anyone using WordPress should really pay attention to this part.
Hackers use a variety of ways to try to break into any WP site they can find. If you fill a server with WordPress sites, there will generally be at least 1-3 hackers attempting to break into sites on that one server at any given moment!
Even with the best security plugin protecting your sites, they're still vulnerable. In reality, you can't keep an eye on your sites 24/7/365, so most WP sites will end up hacked at some point if they are left unattended.
Even worse, when your WordPress site does get hacked, your web host will see it as a security risk to the entire server and all other accounts running there. When your account becomes a security risk, the very first thing they'll do is suspend your websites. If you have 20 sites on the same account and one gets hacked, all 20 sites will usually suffer the same suspension. When this happens, the hosting company will tell you to clean your account yourself or pay them hundreds of dollars per website to clean it for you before they will lift the suspension and bring your sites online again.
How do I know that happens? It happened to me over and over again, and I've heard from countless webmasters that suffered the same fate without knowing how to fix their sites or being able to afford to pay the hosting company to do it.
A company that truly cares about your business wouldn't do that to you or your websites!
Iron Ally Hosting truly cares, and I can honestly say that I don't know about another web host that exists that seems to share that same trait.
If your WordPress sites are on Iron Ally servers, you can rest assured that your sites are being actively monitored by a real human being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. When it's snowing so hard outside that you can't even see your car from your front window, Iron Ally is watching your sites. When you're snuggled up with your family on Christmas morning opening presents and sipping egg nog, Iron Ally is still watching your sites.
This company was built by WordPress experts, so they know the exact tactics hackers use and can spot them a mile away. This results in PROACTIVE protection from hackers instead of reactive - would you rather a hacker gets banned after they make the first attempt to break into your site or after they've successfully done it and caused a problem?
Iron Ally is so confident that they can keep your sites safe that they even guarantee it and put their money where their mouth is by offering completely free WordPress site hacking cleaning for all of their customers. If you host your sites on their servers and a hacker manages to get in, Iron Ally will clean your site without charging a single penny. I have honestly never seen another company do anything like this before, especially not for accounts that cost less than $20 a month.
Expert Support by Professional Plugin & Theme Developers
If you have ever used a big corporation for hosting, you've probably noticed that getting customer support that solves a complex website problem is very difficult. In fact, many Internet forums actually discuss their strategies for navigating those support systems to give reps the right questions to reach the right people or to get offered the correct solution.
I have one word for all of those people and those hosting companies.... Seriously?!?!
Only the experts are going to know how to navigate that kind of customer support system, and yet the real experts will likely never need to use customer support except in an emergency.
How did this happen in this extremely technological industry? Unfortunately, I have another one word answer.... MONEY!
Put yourself in the shoes of the CEO of a major hosting corporation for a moment again.
Your company headquarters is in the USA and most of your customers are also in the USA.
If you run a local call center and give agents a support script to use, you can probably pay them $10 per hour or $20,800 per year for 40 hours a week (minimum wage in the USA is even less than that in many states).
Another option is to open a call center in another country where you may be able to get people that speak English as a second language to work for much less, such as $2 per hour or $4,160 per year for 40 hours a week (you can outsource to some countries for even half that amount).
Which one is best for the hosting company profits and which one is best for the customers?
That is the normal customer support dilemma for most companies, but it gets even worse for web hosting.
Only basic problems can be solved with a script when it comes to websites.
For anything beyond a basic problem, the customer support agents can't help you at all, so you start to get passed around to other employees.
Doesn't it suck to have a problem and talk to multiple employees before you finally get to the person that can actually help you?
This happens with your hosting account because the person that can solve your problems is usually a linux server administrator and they usually earn a salary starting at $90,000 and going up into the mid-100s.
Really think about those numbers..
If you wanted to spend around $100,000 per year on your customer support team, you could have one decent linux server admin or you could have 5 USA call center agents or you could have 25 foreign call center agents.
With those numbers you can probably see why most hosting companies use sub-par customer support that only knows how to read from a script.
Sure they employ linux administrators, but their bottom-level support agents don't know the first thing about websites, so it's impossible for them to help you unless you guide them every step of the way.
This is another area where Iron Ally really shines - their customer support agents are 100% in touch with the website industry.
In fact, Iron Ally's support agents are also website owners and even current or former WordPress plugin and theme developers. This means that they will know exactly what you are talking about and will know what to do to solve the problem.
The very first support agent you reach will either be able to solve your problem or directly transfer you to someone that can. They guide you and not the other way around.
Picture this - imagine that your best friend is an Internet guru and makes their living running websites. You can ask this friend any question you want about websites, 24 hours a day with no limits, and they'll give you a straightforward, honest answer.
That best friend sounds pretty awesome, right? That is exactly what you get with Iron Ally's customer support.
In fact, all Iron Ally customers are treated like family and given a personal support team to call upon. This means that you only deal with a small handful of people instead of talking to someone new every time you need help.
Most hosting support goes like this..
You: "Hi, I'm having a problem with ___."
Support: "Sorry, please let me take a few moments to familiarize myself with your account."
Every support agent you talk to says that same line and sometimes you get passed to 3-5 people to solve one problem. Then you call back a week later and have to go through the same thing again.
Guess what? That kind of hosting company considers their time and money more important than yours, but you don't have to deal with it.
With Iron Ally, you will receive support from the same people, so they won't waste your time. This allows their support to build a relationship with you and provide you with more effective help that is tailored to your personal needs.
1-Click WordPress Installers (Softaculous)
The quickest way to create a WordPress website on a hosting account is to use a 1-click installer like Softaculous, but not all hosts offer this feature.
This is the single easiest way to install the WordPress content management system software. It even has a lot of other added features like convenient admin account access from cPanel and automated backups.
Softaculous isn't just limited to installing WP though - there are hundreds of other website scripts that it can put on your sites with a single click. When you come up with a new idea to create a new site, you can simply look through the options available in Softaculous and find the one that is best suited for your needs. This makes it perfect for WordPress site owners but also really great when you want to build almost any other kind of website.
My Recommended Website Host For Blazing Fast WordPress Sites
I have mentioned my preferred WordPress hosting company a number of times throughout this guide because there is not a single other host that offers what they do for anywhere close to the same price. Iron Ally is out to prove to the world that hosting can be done better and that website owners deserve much better from their hosts. If you try them out, you'll likely never use another company ever again.
All of Iron Ally servers use only SSD for your website files, email accounts and even databases. They do not partition CPU cores and RAM to restrict your access to those vital resources. They do not impose connection limits that will negatively impact your website traffic. They exclusively use gigabit (1000mbps) network connections. They do not restrict usage of important web server features like gzip compression and PHP-FPM. They actively monitor and protect your WordPress sites from hackers and guarantee to clean your sites if they ever fail. You can call on their support for anything you need because they are your personal Internet guru dedicated to helping you. They include a free .COM domain name for the life of your account, and you can even host all of your domains on one account for one price. If you're moving from another hosting company, they will move all of your sites for free.
Did I mention they do all of that for less than $20 a month?
No other WordPress host comes anywhere close.
The best choice for any WordPress website that wants fast page load times is Iron Ally Hosting.
Iron Ally WordPress Hosting