Understanding VPS vs Shared Hosting for WordPress

There are two big ways that WordPress hosting breaks down: nerdy stuff for people who know what “a command line” is, and approachable stuff for people who don’t. That’s at the heart of the “VPS vs shared hosting” comparison. (VPS stands for “virtual private server”, by the way.)

Here’s the short version: If you know how to navigate around a computer using a “Unix command line” and are sure what those words mean, you’ll be better served by VPS hosting. If not, the relative power and convenience of shared hosting is likely to make you happier. There are a lot more details and options that most people should consider though, especially when it comes to making this choice for WordPress.

Related Categories from Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting

Before we go too deep, I want to add a few terms your likely to see when shopping for web hosting. The marketplace is littered with marketing terms which make this more complicated. Here are web hosting options similar to “shared hosting” that may also be a good fir for less-technical folks (or technical ones feeling lazy):

  • Managed (WordPress) Hosting — This is often a tier that offers some WordPress specific features that “shared hosting” doesn’t, as well as often being more performant for heavy WordPress sites than WordPress is.
  • Managed Cloud Hosting Platform — “Cloud” is the most overused term in hosting. So the core word here is “managed” not “cloud.” If general if you’re not a technical expert who loves Linux _____, you’ll be well served by a product that says “Managed” in its name.

And for those people who feel they have the technical chops to manage a VPS, you mat last want to consider these other types of marketing names for web hosting:

  • Dedicated Hosting — While the idea of just buying a literal server box and managing that hardware and everything else has fallen out of general popularity — too complicate, too fragile, hardware it plenty powerful — it remain an option for those with hundred or thousands to spend a much, and very custom needs.
  • Cloud Hosting — As I mentioned, “cloud” is generally an overloaded term around web hosting today. But I think that anyone who’s not adding qualifications is most likely to use this term for generic more-technical web hosting options.

I’m sure there are are other marketting terms floating around that generally fit more into one of these buckets than the other. And probably a few that aren’t either. If you’ve seen one you’re curious about, please leave us a comment 🙂

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First let’s understand a bit more about how WordPress hosting works. (WordPress is our specialty here, BTW. The long-version of our name would be “WordPress Shout.” Though we never say that 🤓)

How to Think About WordPress vs Web Hosting

So, WordPress hosting generally. You should know that WordPress is a “web app” that you’ll use by installing on a “web server.” It’s further worth knowing that WordPress web hosting and “web hosting” are nearly the same. Both give you access to a server that can serve a website, both leave a lot of responsibility in your hands, and either something sold as “web hosting” or “WordPress hosting” will run WordPress. I wrote a lot more about “WordPress hosting” in this article:

What is WordPress Hosting? Do I Have It? Or Need It?

Our focus here is to understand the difference between “shared hosting” and “VPS hosting.” So let’s get to that. To broaden it a bit, it’s the difference between the different types (or tiers) or web hosting.

How to Think About Types of WordPress Web Hosting

The buckets into which one can divide web hosts are numerous. While you’ll see a slew of marketing terms, there are really three types that matter for an average WordPress situation: one where you get a classic “cPanel” hosting account. This is most often called (both by us internally, and in the marketplace), “Shared WordPress hosting.” It’s called shared, because you share the server machine with hundreds or thousands of other websites, and so it’s often rather cheap. Shared WordPress hosting is great if you’re looking to do everything for a website from one interface. Most “shared” hosting plans let you register a domain with them, set up your email with them, and a whole lot more.

A step up, while staying rather user friendly, is what’s most often called “Managed WordPress hosting.” Here you’ll lose some of the powers (like domain management, and email) of a cPanel-based hosting account, but gain some optimizations and power tools for WordPress. Because this is a marketing term, things that are really cPanel based (especially SiteGround, who we like) sometimes sell their “shared web hosting” as “managed WordPress hosting.” While this is all a game, we think it’s fair because SiteGround has built and maintains some really powerful tools to speed up WordPress site. Other players in the space are Kinsta, Flywheel, and WP Engine.

The final class we consider is what we most often call “VPS” hosting. And in short, this is the kind of hosting for people who are wicked good at computers, specifically “ssh” and “command lines.” While there are helpful tools to make VPS and dedicated hosting a little less scary, these are often a steal on price-per-power, but very expensive in time sent to be a Unix system administrator.

What’s a Shared Hosting plan for WordPress?

With shared hosting, you’re buying space on an enormous web server that also hosts hundreds of other sites. Its benefits are that it’s generally the cheapest WordPress hosting category (usually $5 to $30 a month), and simple to use with cPanel and other standard tools. Its drawbacks are that it can be relatively slow, especially if neighboring sites on the same server experience traffic spikes, and tends to make relatively few server resources available to any one customer.

Our top recommendation for shared WordPress hosting is SiteGround. A true partner in the WordPress community, SiteGround gets almost everything about shared hosting right and very little wrong.

What does “Managed WordPress Hosting” mean?

flywheel managed wordpress hostingManaged WordPress hosts offer servers that are optimized for WordPress’s specific way of working. The benefits of managed hosting are that it’s fast thanks to those server optimizations, its support techs are generally WordPress experts, and it comes with bundled features like auto-updates, automatic backups, and staging sites. Its drawbacks are that it’s more expensive than shared hosting, with costs that ramp up quickly as your traffic grows, and that it gives you little control over the server itself.

Our top recommendation for managed WordPress hosting is Flywheel.

How do “Dedicated” and VPS WordPress Hosting fit in?

digital ocean | wpshoutDedicated and virtual hosting give you either an entire server to yourself, or a virtual private server (VPS), a partition on a larger server. In either case, you typically get way more server resources than with most shared hosting plans. The benefits of these forms of hosting are that they’re generally the fastest WordPress hosting available and are able to handle lots of traffic, and you get full access to the server. The drawbacks are that they tend to be the most expensive hosting options, and that you’ll need a strong understanding of server administration.

Our top recommendation for dedicated and virtual hosting is Digital Ocean: they’re well-established and reputable, and their “droplet” model scales up and down freely as your site’s needs change.

Which is Right for Me? VPS vs Shared Hosting vs Managed WordPress vs __________

Here are some useful questions to help you narrow in on the type of web hosting that is right for you?

  • VPS vs Shared Hosting: Have you ever heard of “the command line”? Do you feel comfortable using it? If  you answered “no” to either of the preceding questions your “shared vs vps hosting” answer is definitively “shared web hosting.” (Only exception is that someone else on your website team can say yes to both.)
  • Shared Hosting vs Managed WordPress: Are you looking to get the cheapest start in WordPress you can? Or the most supportive? This is tougher call. In general, you’ll get more support with the whole site-ownership experience from “managed WordPress hosting” than you will from “shared hosting.” This isn’t universal. And SiteGround is a great line-straddler there. Which is why we recommend them so much.
  • VPS vs Cloud Hosting vs Dedicated Hosting: Do you feel comfortable on a command line? If you’re a “no” to any of those, I’d think pretty hard before getting any. Between them, is closest to “pay for what you need.”

Hopefully you’re not feeling pretty qualified on answering whether VPS or shared hosting is best for your (WordPress) web project. If “shared WordPress hosting” or “managed WordPress hosting” seem right for you, check out SiteGround, and our review of them. If “VPS web hosting” sounds good for you, I always hear good things about both Digital Ocean and Linode. Good luck out there! Let us know if we can ever help answer other questions you have 🙂