We tested the load time, Speed Index and Time to First Byte of several popular hosting companies to find the best WordPress hosting service.
Last updated: 30th April 2016: Finding the best WordPress hosting service can be a hassle. If you’re new to web hosting, it can sound confusing, overwhelming and no one has time for that. This is why we have taken the time to test several popular WordPress hosting providers to find who truly is the best WordPress hosting company.
Our tests took about 5 months to complete with many technical issues along the way. We paid for all the hosting accounts and development setup.
Our initial tests included 6 popular hosting companies. We plan on expanding into more tests and we will also include results for managed WordPress hosting.
For those who just want the winners, here are the results.
SiteGround is our Winner!
SiteGround performed excellently in our tests, but it was the ‘will it scale’ test that confirmed it. Save 60% on your SiteGround plan
A2 Hosting Comes in Second Place!
A2 Hosting performed very well with excellent TTFB and load time scores.
For these tests, we thought about the average customer and not the tech geeks that want an extra 0.2 seconds in speed. This is why we tested with an active website that mimics a real-life situation. It is reported that the average size of a web is now just shy of 2MB.
With the average user in mind, we made the websites we made our tests 1.6MB; just short of the average web size. These tests will then give you more of an idea of the results you’d expect if you signed up for them.
We didn’t realise how tricky this would be when we started. We had many, many issues and it took us about 5 months to finally get the test sorted.
- Each website we tested used the same WordPress version (latest)
- All websites used the same PHP version (5.6)
- All websites used the same WordPress theme -Thrive Themes using the Squared theme
- All websites had the exact same content
- All websites used caching – W3 Total Cache with the exact same settings
- All websites were tested from the same location – Dulles, VA – USA
We used caching since we wanted to give the average user an idea of the expected performance when using it. We have plans to repeat this test without caching.
What We Tested
We used a web performance tool called WebPageTest and tested the following metrics. Each website was tested a total of 5 times over a 20 day period and the fastest results are shown in the charts below.
The Speed Index is perhaps one of the most important aspects to consider when thinking how fast apps/websites load. A Speed Index is not the same a load time instead, it looks at how quickly the majority of the page gets painted to the browser. Because of this it’s a better metric than load time for how a user perceives how fast a web page is loading. The lower the score, the better.
Time to First Byte
The Time to First Byte (TTFB) is an important metric and measures how long it takes your browser to receive the first byte of a response from a web server when you request it. There have been studies and tests showing a correlation between a faster TTFB and higher rankings in Google. View the study here. So using a web host with a fast TTFB may help increase your rankings.
The load time of a webpage is simply when a user visits a web page and the time it takes for all of the content to fully download when a user visits a webpage. However, as discussed above the Speed Index is a much better metric of perceived user experience.
So Who Is The Best WordPress Hosting Company?
Finally, here are the results from our tests. The graphs below show our data. Please note that you can click on the data points to verify the tests on Webpagetest.org.
Speed Index Test Results
As you can see from our tests, SiteGround have the fastest speed index with Web Hosting Hub coming a close second, followed by A2 Hosting and Inmotion. After Inmotion the gap starts to increase with Bluehost and then there is a big drop for Hostgator.
While the top four results are pretty tight, SiteGround has the fastest speed index over the 21 day time period.
HostGator performed the worst by quite some way with a Speed Index score of 2371.53.
From these tests, we can see that with a web page size of 1.6MB, SiteGround has produced the best results for how the user perceives how fast a web page is loading. This may result in a lower bounce rates, more time spent on your website, more pageviews and more.
Note: You can click on each of the results. This will take you to the results from the WebPageTest.
Time to First Byte Results
A2 Hosting are the fastest hosting company for the Time to First Byte metric with an impressive score of 0.14 seconds. SiteGround are a close second with a score of 0.17 seconds.
There is a big drop off for third place with Inmotion and Web Hosting Hub having a joint score of 0.23 seconds, with Bluehost coming a close fifth with 0.24 seconds. Hostgator came last with a score of 0.83 seconds.
As discussed above, TTFB may lead to higher rankings in Google so A2 Hosting and SiteGround would be your best bet in this case.
Load Time Test Results
A2 Hosting have the fastest results for load time. Remember that the load time is for when all of the page has downloaded for a 1.6MB sized web page. So if you have a similar sized web page, these are the speeds you would expect to get.
The load time is not an accurate measure of a user’s perception but it’s interesting to see how they perform.
SiteGround came a close second with 4.38 seconds with Web Hosting Hub and then Inmotion getting third and fourth, respectively.
Bluehost follow with a big drop for Hostgator.
Will it scale?
While it’s important to understand these results we have a problem. The sites I tested them on have no traffic. Will they perform as well if we had 20 visitors on our website at all times?
Ever wonder what would happen if an influencer tweets one of your blog posts? Will your hosting company be able to handle the extra traffic? Which hosting provider will provide the best experience for your users?
This is what we will test now. We will use a tool called loadimpact.com which measures how your server handles a rush of traffic.
Due to the tests already completed, we will test only 3 of the top WordPress hosting companies for this.
They are – A2 Hosting, SiteGround and Web Hosting Hub.
We tested 75 consecutive users over a time period of 10 minutes. We tested each site 3 times and the fastest results are shown.
Web Hosting Hub
Web Hosting Hub had a great performance and held steady during the test. However, the response time never dipped under 1 second. But overall they did pretty well with the test.
Link to the test here
Another strong performance was seen with A2 Hosting. They held together well right until the end of the test. Performance-wise, they had response times of around 750ms which is excellent.
Link to the test here
SiteGround did well in our tests, while not as steady as A2 Hosting, they did perform the best with response time about over 200ms less than A2 Hosting.
Link to the test here
So now that we understand the sort of speeds we will get for each hosting company for an average sized web page, lets look at the uptime for each site. The uptime simply measures if your website was down. While we have good data of the performance of each hosting company that is useless if they are constantly down all the time.
We tested Hostgator and their last downtime was over 1123 hours ago which lasted for only one minute. Results over the last 30 days have been 100%. Overall the results were excellent with only a 1-minute downtime recorded. However, even with the good uptime results, they performed the worst in our tests.
Bluehost has a 99.87% uptime score over the last 30 days. It has been up consistently for 113 hours. Most WordPress hosting companies have a 99% uptime guarantee so this is still a good result for Bluehost.
Another good performance from Inmotion with 100% uptime recorded in the last 30 days. The last downtime was 280 hours ago but only lasted 2 minutes.
Web Hosting Hub
Another pretty good performance with 99.96% uptime in the last 30 days but the last recorded downtime was 620 hours with a time of 17 minutes. This was the largest downtime we found.
Unfortunately, we reset the test by mistake while writing this and lost the time it last went down. However, we can see that SiteGround has 100% uptime over the last 30 days with a 5-minute downtime on the 26th Feb 2016 making over 800 hours uptime which is excellent.
Another excellent result from A2 Hosting with 100% uptime over the last 30 days with only a 1-minute downtime which was 558 hours ago.
Which shared WordPress hosting company was the best?
Our top two WordPress hosting companies have been SiteGround and A2 Hosting, both have performed excellently.
As discussed above the load time is not as important as the speed index which SiteGround won so this makes SiteGround the winner of the best WordPress hosting company in our tests with A2 Hosting coming a close second.
SiteGround is our Winner!
SiteGround performed excellently in our tests but it was the ‘will it scale’ test that confirmed it. Save 60% on your SiteGround plan
A2 Hosting Comes in Second Place!
Although A2 Hosting performed very well SiteGround they were only a fraction faster than SiteGround. Save 51% off your first month
What to Consider when Picking a WordPress Host
Best WordPress Hosting Packages
WordPress is one of the best content management platforms in the world today. Millions of websites and blogs that are currently top rated in various search engines were developed using it. Unlike the traditional systems, this is very user-friendly and offers numerous tools that you can use to customise your website. For instance, there are over one hundred themes to choose from and other tools such as widgets that you can incorporate in your website to enable readers to access content easily.
To get maximum utility and achieve your web or blog goals and objectives, you need to choose the right WordPress hosting company and package. These days, there are hundreds of hosting companies and this makes it difficult for new website owners to select the right one. It is recommended to consult professional website developers who have a better understanding of the hosting packages before making your final decision.
Here are some facts to help you get a clear perspective of the website hosting industry:
The website hosting business is currently one of the most lucrative industries in the world today. The increase in the number of websites and blogs that are launched is one of the most plausible reasons for its success and high growth rate. While it is difficult to know the exact percentage of websites that are hosted on shared hosting packages, more than 50 percent is a reasonable guess, based on the fact that dedicated hosting packages are more expensive than the shared hosting packages.
What is Shared Hosting?
This is one of the most common questions that website owners ask when looking for a hosting company. It basically means that the website will be hosted on a server alongside other websites from different parts of the world. The number of websites in a particular server is basically dependent on the server’s capacity and the regulations of the hosting company.
What is Dedicated Hosting?
Dedicated hosting means that the website is hosted in its own server. This means the server resources are not shared with other website. It is an ideal choice for business that requires a high-security detail, such as financial institutions and companies that offer money transfer services online. It is also important to note that most of the online gambling sites use dedicated hosting packages due to sensitivity and nature of their business. They cannot afford to make mistakes; as such, errors can not only tarnish their name in the market but also lead to losses.
Let us proceed and look at the implications of having your website hosted on a shared server.
One of the main benefits is that you will not be maintaining or running the actual server yourself. This is an advantage to companies whose personnel do not have the knowledge and skills required to maintain a server. Purchasing and maintaining a server is also very expensive.
The usability and availability of your website is directly dependent on the overall usage pattern of the server that it is hosted upon. This means that if one of the users breaks the MySQL server or do any other activity that compromises the server, your website will be affected too.
According to APWG survey that was conducted in 2012, more than 50 percent of the phishing attempts originate form shared hosting servers. Therefore, having your website on such servers can compromise your reputation and credibility, as there are tools that potential clients can use to know the specific server that a website is using.
Who is Shared Hosting Package Ideal For?
When you launch a new business, your main objective is to introduce it to the ever-increasing online community. A shared hosting package can help you achieve this objective, as it is affordable, and it will only take you an hour or less.
Businesses that are on a Tight Budget or Have Limited IT Resources
As mentioned earlier, dedicated hosting packages are more expensive than the shared hosting packages. Hence, businesses that are on a tight budget are better off using the latter during the initial stages. Once the business grows and starts making profits, you can transfer the website to a dedicated server. In addition, to maintain a server, one needs to have special skills and IT resources. If you do not have them, avoid the hassle and expenses, by using one of the reputable hosting packages.
Reasonable Traffic Expectations
Did you know that an unexpected increase in traffic could affect your website negatively? If that happens, the website will load at a snail pace, and some of the users will not be able to access some of the pages. Based on this fact, you should only opt to use shared WordPress hosting if you only target a small group of users. If the website will be accessed and used by thousands of people from all across the globe, go for the dedicated hosting package.
Here are some of the main and common components of a shared hosting package.
Cost Per Month
In a bid to lure more customers, most hosting companies quote the standard monthly price. It is imperative to go an extra mile and calculate the total cost of using the server for an extended period such as 12-month or 36-month to know if it suits your needs.
This refers to the amount of storage space that will be availed to you on the server.
This term is used to quantify the amount of traffic that the server can handle on a monthly basis. Some companies are fond of using the word ‘unlimited’ when marketing their packages. It is important to note that unlimited is subject to or regulated by certain terms and conditions. Get to know these regulations beforehand to avert inconveniences down the road.
This is the number of websites that one user is allowed to host on a server using the same package.
Get to know if the company offers free domain registrations.
These refer to marketing incentives such as Facebook advertising vouchers and free Google Adwords. You can use such tools to popularize your website online.
Let us proceed and look at some of the factors that one should consider when looking for a good web hosting company.
This is one of the primary factors you should consider when looking for a WordPress hosting provider. However, this should be the deciding or main factor. It is imperative to compare and contrast the price packages to find one that best suits your needs. Going for the cheapest offer that you come across is not a good idea, especially if you count on the site to make money. More often than not, the cheap packages are usually unreliable and can compromise your credibility in the market. Go an extra mile and consider the specific features that the host provides before you even start evaluating the price.
Hosting Company Specialty
Some of the shared server hosting packages do not provide reliable solutions to growing businesses while other are not ideal for small entities such as blogs that target a small grow of people. Based on this fact, it is recommended to take a closer look at the company’s area of expertise or specialty before buying. One way of doing this is by checking reviews and recommendations posted by other clients on the website. You can also consult the company officials to get a clear perspective of what they offer before making your final decision.
To know the limitations or technical specifications, you will need to take an in-depth look at the various packages offered. For example, if you intend to host an e-commerce website or a blog that will have huge amounts of content and videos, the cheapest hosting package will not do you any good. The right hosting company should be able to provide with enough RAM, disk space, processing power, and a reliable support team that can efficiently respond to issues in a timely manner. This will save on time that you would have spent dealing with issues such as load and downtime.
What extra incentives does the company offer to their clients? This is one of the questions that you need to ask yourself before making your final decision. For instance, there are hosting companies that provide multiple data centers, regular data backups, free domain privacy, energy saving practices, and the list continues. Such offers will great help you to achieve your goals and objectives.
If you are not a tech expert, some of the terms used to describe hardware might be a little bit confusing, but there are numerous free online resources that you can access to learn more about the hardware used by companies in this niche. What kind of servers does the company offer? Most of the reputable hosting companies do provide details of the type of servers that they use on their websites. However, if this information is not available, do not shy away from asking the support team. Having this information will help you to know if the servers have the ability to meet your website hosting needs and requirements.
User Interface/Control Panel
The control panel is a special platform that allows users total control of their websites. For instance, on this platform you can install WordPress, set up email, set up FTP accounts, and backup data. It should be user friendly and clear demarcated to avoid any confusion.
Once you select the right hosting company, you need to go an extra mile and look at the specific features that are needed to host a WordPress website. Let us look at these requirements for a moment.
PHP or MySQL Version Servers
From experience, any server that runs PHP or MySQL is perfect for hosting a WordPress website or blog. This is because they have the ability to support most of the features used to create a website using this CMS. Apache servers are also an ideal choice as they are very robust and support a wide array of business websites. There are some hosting companies that use Microsoft based servers, you should eschew them despite the fact that Microsoft is one of the technologically advanced companies in the world today. Studies have shown that this type of servers have some shortcomings that can in the end affect your credibility especially if you choose the shared hosting package. In addition, the process of hosting the site on that server is very cumbersome and stressful.
Access to Control Panel
Your preferred website developer will need to access your hosting provider control panel to set up the database.
The web developer also needs access to FTP in order to install the files on your server.
LAMP (Linux, MySQL, PHP, Apache)
If you intend to have a network of interconnected sites, ensure that the hosting companies have a LAMP server that has a mod_rewrite Apache module enabled. What is a mod_rewrite? In simple terms, this is an Apache module that is designed to build simple URLs that are easy to read.
Currently, the top five hosting companies according to our tests are SiteGround A2 Hosting, Web Hosting Hub, Inmotion Hosting Bluehost and Hostgator. All these sites have packages for a new blogger, e-commerce website, and educational sites that receive more than 100,000 visitors per month. For example, SiteGround has a special dedicated server package for e-commerce websites and shared hosting packages that are ideal for a new blog.