We found this question on Quora, and wanted to share an answer on the blog.  When it comes to WordPress hosting, there is clearly a market for WordPress specific hosting solutions, otherwise WP Engine wouldn’t exist.  But, we wanted to offer the breakdown in hosting solutions across the board, and offer an answer from 30,000 feet.

First of all, not all hosting is created equal: You will get what you pay for.

There are four types: Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Servers, Dedicated Servers, and Managed Hosting Providers.

To select the right one, look at four key areas: Security, Scale, Support, and Tools.

Quick Answer: If you’re running a high traffic WordPress site, a Managed Hosting provider is going to serve you best. It’s the same reason you send your Prius to the Toyota Dealership for service instead of Jiffy Lube. The dealership specializes in solving Prius-related problems. Same thing with Managed WordPress Hosting.

WordPress has “Application Specific” nuances that affect hosting providers. Managed Hosting providers specialize in these nuances and optimize caching, security, and support for WordPress sites.

Managed Hosting solutions are optimized for high powered sites getting a hundreds of thousands to millions of hits each month.  But “TechCrunch.com-sized” hosting may be overkill to host “MySummerInternshipAtMicrosoft.info.”  If your site is smaller and doesn’t see more than 1,000 hits a month, it’s often most cost-effective to go with a Shared Hosting solution.  However, if page load times affect revenue, like Ad-Supported or Ecommerce sites, then dedicated or premium hosting is critical.

The Hosting Solution Breakdown:

Shared Hosting– (GoDaddy and Bluehost) Great for small personal sites and low budgets, where uptime and site speed aren’t critical.

  • Security: Shared servers can be vulnerable to attacks, like Dreamhost recently.
  • Scale: They won’t scale well. With too much traffic, your site will likely go down. Speed will be very affected by what your “neighbors” are running on their sites concurrently.
  • Support: Depends on the platform.  GoDaddy is usually bad, but HostGator and BlueHost are great.
  • Tools: Lots of one-touch installers for a variety of platforms.

Virtual Private Servers- (Amazon and Rackspace) Sites getting 100,000+ visitors a month that need to scale quickly.

  • Security:  High security. Only concern with shared server space is if one site is hacked, yours may be vulnerable as well.
  • Scale: VPNs are designed for scaling, but the latency of cloud providers often means you trade scaling for speed.
  • Support: Experienced server, but not WordPress, support.
  • Tools:  VPNs will have an abundance of tools for a variety of platforms.

Dedicated Servers- (Liquidweb and Server Beach) Security and Speed as important as Scaling.

  • Security: Your data is secured on its own server.
  • Scaling: Scales as fast as new servers are brought online, with no speed loss. They’re really fast.
  • Support: Experienced server support.
  • Tools: Similar tool offerings as a VPN, varies by provider.

Managed Hosting- (WP Engine and Clickhost) The best of all four, with no real tradeoffs in features or service.

  • Security: WordPress specific security issues are patched the hour of each new WP version.
  • Scale: platform-customized architecture means scaling can be 10x faster. WP Engine serves pages faster because (nerdy talk) the caching system was built by hand.
  • Support: Support team of WordPress experts who can optimize your sites at the platform level.
  • Tools: WP Engine has features like Check Point Restore, Blog Staging Area, and CDN Control – each designed for WordPress.

Again, not all hosting is created equal. If you’re running a well-tuned WordPress, then you may want to seriously consider a Managed Hosting provider.

Since WordPress hosting is becoming more and more application specific, the providers who specialize will become the power tools for power users. That’s part of the vision for WP Engine going forward.