WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting: Which One to Choose?

Web hosting is a service that lets you rent web server space to publish a website. WordPress hosting is a specialized type of web hosting built for the content management system or CMS known as WordPress.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences as well as similarities between WordPress hosting and web hosting, and how to choose the best one for your website.

What is WordPress hosting?

WordPress logo on a cellphone WordPress logo on a cellphone

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WordPress hosting is a subset of web hosting that comes with the CMS WordPress pre-installed on a web server. You can use WordPress to design a website without using code. Beyond basic site design, WordPress lets you create, manage and organize content like landing pages and blog posts.

WordPress is open-source, so it can be installed on the servers of any third-party web host for free. The software’s open-source nature also allows any developer with an interest to build tools like themes and plugins. Many of these tools, including almost 60,000 plugins, are available for free.

Thanks to this flexibility, WordPress is the most popular CMS, powering 43% of websites. Many web hosts have responded to this popularity by creating WordPress hosting plans.

All WordPress hosting plans come with WordPress pre-installed. Most offer automated updates to the core WordPress software as well. Companies offering these plans usually also hire specialized WordPress experts who can help you if you encounter CMS issues.

WordPress hosting plans may offer other WordPress-specific features:

  • Automated updates to themes and plugins
  • Pre-installed plugins for things like marketing and e-commerce
  • Custom themes
  • LiteSpeed or other specialized caching tools for WordPress to speed up websites

Most WordPress hosting plans use shared hosting servers, meaning your site will share a web server with other websites, limiting your access to resources like storage space and bandwidth. The limits are typically high enough to accommodate most small websites and some medium-sized websites.

Shared WordPress hosting plans are also affordable, often starting at $2-5 a month and rising to $10-30 a month on renewal. As an example, here are the shared server WordPress hosting plans from Bluehost, a popular hosting company recommended by WordPress itself:

A comparison of WordPress hosting plans from web host Blue Host A comparison of WordPress hosting plans from web host Blue Host

Screenshot/CNET

The most affordable plan starts at $3 a month and rises to $12 a month, while the most expensive plan starts at $10 a month and rises to $27 a month. Each plan comes with at least 10GB of storage and customer support from WordPress experts. In addition to having WordPress pre-loaded on the server, each plan also comes with custom themes.

Some companies also offer other types of WordPress hosting, such as cloud hosting or VPS hosting, but this is less common and more expensive. As a general rule, if someone’s talking about WordPress hosting, you can assume they’re talking about shared hosting.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

Something many people find confusing is that there are two WordPress sites: WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

WordPress.org is the nonprofit organization that creates the core WordPress software. The site includes directories of themes and plugins and the Learn WordPress area, where you can learn how to perform various tasks in WordPress. You cannot buy hosting or anything else on WordPress.org.

WordPress.com is a for-profit company that uses WordPress software as a website builder tied to its hosting plans. In terms of functionality, WordPress.com is similar to Squarespace; you won’t get the ability to use all WordPress themes or plugins, and e-commerce functionality is limited to certain plans.

When I refer to WordPress hosting, I’m talking about using the WordPress.org software with a third-party web host.  

Pros of WordPress hosting:

  • The server comes with WordPress pre-installed, so you can start building your website right away
  • Your hosting company generally handles updates to the core WordPress software
  • You can access 24/7 tech support from experts who understand WordPress
  • Servers are optimized for WordPress, sometimes with advanced tools like caching to improve site speed
  • You may also get things like pre-installed plugins, custom themes and automated updates to plugins and themes

Cons of WordPress hosting:

  • You’re locked into using WordPress
  • Plans might cost $1-2 more per month than regular shared hosting plans

What is web hosting?

Web hosting is a service that stores your site on web servers so it’s accessible from the internet. There are several types of web hosting, including WordPress hosting.

Here’s a quick roundup of other popular hosting types:

  • Shared hosting, where your website shares a server with many other websites. You’ll get enough resources to run a small-to-medium-sized website and pay $2-5 for your first term. Renewal pricing is usually $10-30. You can install any CMS on this hosting type.
  • Website builder hosting, where your server has a pre-installed website builder for simplified website creation. Website builders don’t require installation for themes or extensions. The host also manages software updates for you. This can be shared hosting at the usual shared hosting prices or cloud hosting at $15-50 or more a month.
  • Cloud hosting, where your site is stored on multiple servers to increase uptime and improve loading speeds. It is also great for scaling your business, as your site can pull resources from more servers if it receives more traffic. Some hosts offer modular cloud hosting starting as low as $5 a month, but most plans cost $30 or more each month.
  • Virtual private server, or VPS hosting, where one physical server is divided into virtual servers, and each customer gets one virtual server. You’ll get dedicated resources so your site can handle more data and traffic, plus some server customization options. Pricing ranges from $10-145 a month.
  • Dedicated server hosting, where you get an entire physical server to yourself. You’ll get dedicated resources capable of handling large amounts of data and traffic; often 1TB or more of data with up to millions of monthly viewers. Pricing ranges from $80 to $700 a month.

The variety of web hosting options means there’s something for everyone, from folks starting their first blog to large businesses building an online empire.

Pros of web hosting:

  • You don’t have to use WordPress — most plans let you use any CMS you want, including Drupal and Joomla — through website builder plans will require you to build your site with a specific website builder
  • You can choose a plan that fits your exact needs
  • Most web hosts make it easy to upgrade your plan to a different hosting type, such as upgrading from shared hosting to VPS hosting, when you need more space

Cons of web hosting:

  • You’ll have to install a CMS yourself unless you’re using website builder hosting
  • Most web hosting types require you to manage updates to your CMS and related software yourself
  • You may not have access to experts who understand your specific CMS

Which hosting type is best for your WordPress site?

WordPress hosting is a great choice if you’re 100% certain you want to use WordPress to create your site. It doesn’t cost much more than shared hosting and you get access to automated updates and other support from WordPress experts. Some companies may not charge more for WordPress hosting versus basic shared hosting at all

There are some instances where you may want to choose a different type of hosting even if you’re using WordPress, such as:

  • If you’re confident in your ability to learn new software — or you’re already familiar with WordPress — and you want to manage every aspect of the CMS yourself rather than choosing managed hosting.
  • If you need the resources associated with a more advanced type of hosting, such as VPS or dedicated hosting.

For WordPress hosting, I normally suggest skipping WordPress.com plans because they get pricey fast — especially if you want to sell products on your site.  

If you don’t want to use WordPress hosting, you can figure out the best type of hosting for your site by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How much traffic are you expecting? Shared hosting is great for sites expecting fewer than 400,000 monthly visitors. If you expect more than that, you’ll want to choose cloud hosting, VPS hosting or dedicated hosting.
  • How much data do you plan to store? Many shared hosting plans limit your data to 100GB or less. You’ll probably want to choose VPS hosting or dedicated hosting if you need more than 100GB of storage.
  • How sensitive is your data? If your website will store highly sensitive data like private health information, you might want to avoid shared hosting. The most secure option is dedicated hosting, as your server won’t be connected to other sites at all, but it’s only safe if you properly configure and maintain your server.
  • How comfortable are you with tech and how interested are you in learning? Shared hosting is the most welcoming non-WordPress hosting option for newcomers. Cloud hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting tend to be more complicated.
  • How many customization options do you want? If you’re tech-savvy and want to customize your server with things like a specific operating system, you’ll need VPS or dedicated hosting.
  • What is your budget? Shared hosting is the most affordable option. Cloud hosting can also be highly affordable if you choose a company with modular plans.

Personally, I recommend:

  • Shared hosting for blogs, for-fun hobby sites, small business websites and any other website not expecting large amounts of traffic and/or needing to store large amounts of data.
  • VPS hosting for medium-to-large business websites or complex sites that require a specific operating system or other server customization.
  • Dedicated hosting for large business websites or complex sites that require more advanced server customization than you can access through VPS hosting.

WordPress hosting vs. web hosting: making the right choice

WordPress hosting is a specific type of web hosting that comes with the WordPress CMS pre-installed. It’s designed to make life easier for anyone building a WordPress site. If you want to use WordPress and you don’t want to deal with installing or updating the CMS, you’ll want to invest in WordPress hosting. You may also want to choose WordPress hosting for other WordPress-specific features like pre-installed plugins.

There are many other types of web hosting, most of which can be used with WordPress, but they don’t necessarily come with it pre-installed or offer WordPress-specific features. You can choose these plans if you want to manage WordPress installation and updates yourself and/or if you need more resources than you can access through WordPress hosting.

You can check out our lists of the best WordPress hosting and the best web hosting to find the right hosting package for your needs.

WordPress hosting is a type of web hosting built specifically with the WordPress CMS in mind, WordPress comes pre-installed. Web hosting is an umbrella term that includes WordPress hosting, shared hosting, website builder hosting, cloud hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting.

You can technically create a local WordPress installation on your computer. If you want to make your website available to the online public, you’ll need web hosting. 

WordPress hosting is typically shared hosting, which means your site shares a server with many other websites. Your server space comes with pre-installed WordPress and may be optimized for WordPress in other ways.

Dedicated hosting gives you an entire physical server to store your site on. You get a lot more storage and bandwidth, but you typically have to configure the server’s operating system and other software yourself. You’ll also need to install and manage WordPress yourself.

You can’t host your website through WordPress.org, as it is a software non-profit that doesn’t offer website hosting directly. Instead, the software must be installed on a third-party server.

You can host your website through WordPress.com, a for-profit hosting company that uses the WordPress.org software to create an experience similar to website builder hosting.