WordPress Hosting Comparison

Shh… I’m dating several WordPress hosts

I get around.

That’s right, I’m always dating several WordPress hosts at once, because I want to keep my options open and I want to know what’s out there. Below is a summary of my experience with three web hosts, each of them great enough that I’m willing to recommend them to you.

Let’s start the introductions…

There are affiliate links out the wazoo in this post, which means if you purchase a hosting plan through one my links, I earn a commission. You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.

Recommend WordPress Hosting (IMHO)

Before we dive, I’d like to be clear: this is not a “definitive top 10” or “best WordPress hosting” post. This is just me sharing my experiences and thoughts related to WordPress hosting with three companies.

I have no doubt there are other amazing web hosts out there, but they’ll have to bide their time for an honorable mention here until I’ve had a chance to vet them for myself.

Note: As of this writing, I have active sites hosted with each company below. I’m paying for the accounts and don’t have any relationship with these companies beyond simply being a customer (and an affiliate).


WP Engine is what’s commonly called a “managed WordPress host,” meaning that they only host and optimize their servers for WordPress. There’s no one-click install, WordPress just IS when you set up your account. I’ve always had great interactions with their customer support.

The best WPEngine Feature? Staging sites.

A staging site is an independent clone of your live production site that can be easily created to test plugins, themes, and custom code. You can also copy the staging site to the live site at any time after making changes. – WPEngine

Staging sites are the perfect way to test out changes in a cloned site environment before pushing them to production. If you’re a cowboy coder (I hope you’re not) and like to tinker on live sites, for the love of Pete, please incorporate staging sites into your workflow.

Another favorite feature? Manage multiple accounts and users with a single login. If you’re managing multiple client sites, no need to log in to each individual account. So long as you’re listed as a user on your client’s account, you’ll be able to manage their site from within your own user portal. #winning

I also love that I can create multiple WordPress installs on the same account, which makes it perfect for spinning up demo sites. Although their Startup Plan ($25/month) says it’s only 1 install, they’ll totally let you have others for demo purposes – but be warned if one of your installs starts generated more than the allotted traffic, you’ll be asked to upgrade your account).

Here’s a peek at their dashboard.

WP Engine customer portal

I’ve had consistently friendly and helpful customer service experiences, so double thumbs up on that.

WP Engine Successfully Completes SOC 2 Type II Examination

Update: WP Engine now offers billing transfer to clients. Woohoo! Also, as of  Oct 2016, WP Engine announced free Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates available on all accounts (install through your user portal). 

Update: In June 2018, WP Engine acquired StudioPress. Every WP Engine plan now comes with free access to the Genesis Framework and all StudioPress themes, which is awesome. I’ve been a long time fan of StudioPress and seeing these two companies come together is exciting.


Flywheel is another “managed WordPress host” that, on the surface, might look like WPEngine, but operates quite differently. For starters, Flywheel offers free site migrations, which is a big bonus for users not wanting the hassle (really, who wants the hassle?). Their entry-level account (Tiny Plan for $13/mo) comes in at half the cost of WPEngine’s basic account ($25).

The Flywheel interface is, well, FLY. The top Flywheel feature is the ability to create accounts for clients and seamlessly transition billing. Check it:

Flywheel Billing Transfer dialog

Flywheel is designed for straightforward usage and caters to the consultant spinning up sites for clients. It’s not for those who want to tinker with advanced server settings. Also, there’s no PHPmyadmin – they’ve rolled their own DB interface. If that bugs you, then know you’ll be bugged before you sign up. If you could give a flip about that, then strongly consider Flywheel.

Like WP Engine, Flywheel let’s you manage multiple client accounts with a single login, but I think WP Engine’s implementation is easier to understand and manage.

As for Flywheel’s customer service, I’ve yet to hear of a single person who had a bad experience with Flywheel. I’ve been with them since their beta launch in early 2013 and had a few hiccups, but each was resolved quickly and courteously — even on weekends.

Update: In September 2016, Flywheel announced free Simple SSL for all accounts.

Update: In December 2016, Flywheel acquired a company called Pressmatic and relaunched their product under the name Local. It’s a FREE full-fledged local development environment (similar to DesktopServer) and makes publishing development sites to you (or your client’s) Flywheel site a freaking breeze. You can use Local even if you’re not hosting with Flywheel, but obviously that’s integration is tight.

Update: In June 2019, WP Engine acquired Flywheel. While the two companies operate under the same umbrella, they each continue to offer their own hosting plans. The Local development product has seen continued improvement and now enables publishing directly to WP Engine in addition to Flywheel.


This is the newest of the bunch for me, but so far I’m pleased as punch. In the case of SiteGround, what I needed was cheap WordPress hosting (or, if you’re in the marketing department, “affordable WordPress hosting” 😉 ). I didn’t need migrations, malware scans, nightly backups, or all the bells and whistles that come with a managed WordPress host – I just needed something quick and inexpensive.

Whereas 10 years ago, GoDaddy would have filled this role for me, I’m now looking at SiteGround. For $6.99/mo (or less, if there’s a promo deal), this is a great option if you need to just need something basic. You can also do monthly billing, which helps offset the up-front expense of launching a WordPress site.

WordPress is one of several one-click install applications available and you get a standard cPanel interface to work with. While I think cPanels are a gross user interface to work with, the site overall isn’t hideous and I appreciate that I haven’t been bombarded with up-sell opportunities at every turn when tootling around.

I’ve tried some other hosts in the “inexpensive/bulk shared hosting” category and been so sorely disappointed with the dependability and the customer service that it was a breath of fresh air to move to WordPress-managed hosts Flywheel and WPEngine. SiteGround is my first attempt in over a year to go back to a shared hosting experience and, so far, it’s been good.

One more thing to note: SiteGround accounts come with email accounts. I’m a firm believer that you should host your email separately from your website, but if the email + hosting package turns you on, you’ll be happy here.

Update: As of February 2016, Siteground offers free SSL certificates via Let’s Encrypt (install via your client area).

Update: As of 2020, no more cPanel! SiteGround has rolled their own custom interface. And they get big kudos from me for focusing on making their hosting interface accessible.

In Summary

I’ve highlighted three WordPress hosting companies, each with different strengths depending on what your situation is. Here’s an overview, because tables are nice:

Staging AreaYesBeta (this has been beta for longer than I’d like and is still buggy)Yes (on GrowBig Plan)
Multiple WP InstallsYes (if an install draws a ton of traffic, you may get bumped to a higher plan)No (but does allow for Demo sites with limited lifespan)Yes, but not on entry plan.
Customer ServiceAward-winningVery goodOk
Free MigrationsNo (but they do have an automated migration tool)YesNo (but they do have an automated migration plugin)
Transfer Billing to ClientYesYesNo
Automatic BackupYesYesYes
One-click (free) Restore from BackupYesYesYes, but not on entry plan.
Git Version ControlYes (here’s a tutorial on using Git push with WPE)NoYes (on GoGeek Plan)
WP-CLI and SSHYesOnly if you’re using LocalYes
Deploy site with Local ConnectYesYesNo
Deploy site from DesktopServerYes, but with difficultyYes, on a site with completed billingYes
Free SSLYesYesYes
Free StudioPress themesYesYesNo
SOC2 certificateYesNoNo

It’s important to keep in mind that hosting is not a one-size-fits-all situation. What I care about in a hosting plan, you may not (and vice versa), so do your homework before signing on the dotted line.

So which WordPress host is right for you? I’d probably sum it up like this:

  • Freelancers, developers and digital agencies, go with WP Engine. You’ll enjoy the suite of modern developer tools, top-tier performance, and ease of account management.
  • Freelancers, designers and marketing agencies, go with Flywheel. Client billing transfer and the beautifully designed, non-techie user portal will make you happy.
  • Freelancers and developers on a budget or building websites for families and friends, go with SiteGround. While you may not get top of the line performance, you can get a WordPress site up and running quickly with minimal costs.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that while you may get a price break for signing up for a full year, you may want to go month to month with a host before committing to a long-term relationship.

Since I originally wrote this article, I’ve also started a managed WordPress hosting account with Nexcess (a Liquid Web brand). You can check out my Nexcess review here.

112 thoughts on “Shh… I’m dating several WordPress hosts”

  1. Hello Carrie,

    I have a GoGeek account at Siteground and tried to use the staging service for WP, which was the reason why I signed in for this account. But it simply does not work. Siteground support tries to help, but staging im my opinion is useless when you have to rebuild a page everytime you push it live from staging.

    The interesting thing is that I hear no comments about staging (at Siteground), positive or negative in forums. Only articles and reviews telling theoretically how it should work; no real live reviews, testing on a live system, with some complexity.

    We experienced nothing but severe errors in real live ….
    and I would be more than happy to hear some real success stories.


    1. Flywheel’s staging is nice, but to be useful it requires an external code repository and deploy service/s. Even then moving databases around remains a tedious and perilous chore with a live and active site. If Flywheel added support for git, it would make things a lot simpler and encourage use of version control on even the simplest sites. If VersionPress pans out as intended, it will be the drop dead simple silver bullet for database merges and would be an awesome tool to link live, staging and local sites with or without a hosted repo. Flywheel will have to add support for git to make that possible however.

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  3. I’m in love with SiteGround too. Best host i’ve used. Always available, friendly and very skilled support. Tons of reviews prove it

  4. I’ve been using Atlantic.net cloud VPS for my WordPress hosting recently and that has been going great. Price point is a little bit cheaper than some of the shared and managed WP hosts.

  5. Thanks a lot for this article. And all of the replies and followup comments from your readers. I was zeroing in on these three hosts already, and searching the names led me hear.

    Will be going with FW or SG after a bit more investigation. WHM/Cpanel backends w/email included is all I’ve every known, but the “separate email” rec has me thinking that over now as well.

    Finally, not to sound all fawning or anything, but I’ve been searching/reading for over two hours and this is the first genuine “for real” seeming review and site I’ve found. Lot’s of suspect “reviews” out there nowadays, and yours seems authentic, and helped me feel better about the hosts I was closing in on already, so thanks.

    1. Finally, not to sound all fawning or anything, but I’ve been searching/reading for over two hours and this is the first genuine “for real” seeming review and site I’ve found.

      Thank you so much for that – I do my best to share the good, bad, and ugly. 🙂

  6. Hey Carrie,

    I am finally ready to move from the “Gator” aka Hostgator. I gave them 4 years and ready to move on due to their poor customer service.

    I have a quick question though. Do you think that SiteGround is good enough when it comes to dealing with eCommerce websites with about 10,000 products?


    1. Hi Lily,

      I don’t have experience running a large site with SiteGround. Do you have significant traffic? If so, I’d lean toward one of the managed solutions – you’ll get better performance.


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