I have been building and maintaining WordPress sites since 2007. Back then I also worked in Joomla, Drupal, or just plain PHP and MySQL. Once 2008 rolled around I decided to dive completely into one platform so I could be an expert there rather than just scratching the surface of serveral platforms. I chose WordPress and didn't look back. I still work in other frameworks, but for content-driven sites that need a user-friendly admin area, I usually turn to WordPress.
I've been privileged to work with a lot of great businesses, bloggers, designers, and developers during my time in web development. It has exposed me to many use cases, traffic patterns, and system demands and how WordPress fairs in different situations. This all plays into one of the most important choices you'll make if you use WordPress. Where do I host my WordPress site? You have several options. I'm going to give you some pros and cons for each, and some example scenarios where a particular option might be a good fit.
First, let's review the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress.org is the web site of the WordPress organization itself. It's a place where you'll find the community of users interacting about topics related to using WordPress. A directory of community-built plugins exists there. The team that actually build WordPress track their progress here. It's a good site to use for documentation and support forums.
WordPress.com is a blogging service based on WordPress. It's synonomouse with something like Blogger. But WordPress.com goes beyond just WordPress. It includes additional functionality that extends WordPress through the service. If you have a WordPress site on WordPress.com it is made unique by the WordPress.com services.
WordPress.com is perfect if you are a blogger who just wants to quickly launch a simple blog. You'll probably never have big traffic demands. You don't plan to monetize your blog or do any deeper customization. It's even okay if you have a simple website based on WordPress and a custom theme.
The thing to remember is that with WordPress.com you are part of the WordPress.com system. You get all the advantages that come with it, but you have to play by their rules and roll with the changes they make.
WordPress.com is perfect for the individual blogger or small business website that you have 2 hours to launch.
I am a long-time customer of Media Temple's. I first started using them as a host in 2008. Back then I had been through a long series of web hosts and had security problems with each. Media Temple isn't perfect, no web host is, but they were one of the first hosts I knew of using a distributed network which deployed updates to their servers in real time. With Media Temple you are hosted in an environment that is superbly well maintained.
Media Temple's administration tools are well organized and easy to use.
The real reason why Media Temple is special, though, is that they provide the highest quality support of any web host I know of. If you have a problem with your web site at 3:20 AM on Christmas, they'll still be there. Web hosting is mostly the same. Support is the key. If you want high quality, human interaction support … choose Media Temple.
In most cases Media Temple's (gs) servers are a great platform for WordPress. If your site doesn't have a lot of custom functionlity and doesn't contain many thousands of pieces of data, (gs) will serve you well.
If you are running a WordPress app, a site with many thousands of posts, or heavy traffic above 100,000 visits per month, you may need the (dv) server. It's a dedicated environment that is more powerful, but it may require an expert to configure.
I have a standing offer for all friends, acquantances, and business associates. Order Media Temple service through my affiliate link in this post and I'll move any WordPress-based site at no charge as long as it contains a usual configuration.
On October 15, 2013, GoDaddy bought Media Temple. It created quite a stir in the web community. A lot of us felt that Media Temple was above selling out. It didn't answer to shareholders and wasn't part of a big, nasty corporate agenda. For (mt) to sell to GoDaddy felt like a betrayal to a lot of us young, idealistic types.
At the time I was noisy and annoying about it. I admit that. Since then I've calmed down and accepted reality.
Ask yourself what you would do. The founders of Media Temple say they turned down offers for more money because GoDaddy accepted their terms to keep the business from changing. While I believe them to an extent, I don't think Media Temple won't change. Over time they'll crank down on the Media Temple process, focusing more and more on profits and less on providing the best service.
This is just my opinion, but we've seen it before. As the focus shifts to profit, I predict that Media Temple's service quality will diminish. Maybe they'll prove me wrong.
This doesn't mean, however, that I don't still suggest Media Temple for clients. As of today it's still the best service for the money with the best support. If that changes I'll revise my advice.
If you asked me what the best WordPress hosting is I would answer WP Engine. Hands down.
WP Engine is a host who does one thing: host WordPress sites. They aren't just a host, they have a whole complex of software that attached to your WordPress install hardening its security, backing it up, updating it, and making sure that it's working smoothly.
Their hosting provides built-in caching which means you don't have to worry about as much plugin maintenance and your site will run very fast without any additional setup.
For those who are running a business that depends upon WordPress, WP Engine is the logical choice.
Their support is very good and responsive. The only reason I don't give their support the grand prize is because I haven't had enough opportunities to deal with them. They very well may take over in this category soon. In the cases where I've talked to their support, they gave me solid answers within minutes.
WP Engine is not cheap. If you compare their pricing to other hosts, it probably won't immediately make sense. Consider that with WP Engine you won't have to call a professional to install updates or do any maintenance on your site. You will no longer need VaultPress if you have it, WP Engine provides real-time backups and security checks. Factory all this in and it actually start to sound cheap. But to get your money's worth out of WP Engine, you probably need to be doing some demanding work with WordPress. You run a business with your site and have a heavy traffic load.
To summarize, WP Engine is the high-end solution for WordPress hosting.
My same offer stands with WP Engine. Order their service through my link and I'll move most sites for free.
The last option I sometimes suggest is Digital Ocean. They are a company who provides VPS hosting. Essentially this is just a virtual environment with an operating system. All the configuration must be done from scratch in order to use Digital Ocean as a web host.
Digital Ocean is the option I suggest for web development experts because it's only what you actually need. You can host a site for as little as $5 per month with all the power you get for 5 or 10 times that amount of money with other hosts. What you aren't getting is a point-and-click interface for managing your server. You need to be very proficient in command-line Linux to go this route.
Another reason to use Digital Ocean is if WordPress is only one part of a very custom array of web services. I have clients who use WordPress for part of their site, but another part may be written in Rails or Node. Custom server hosting packages all end up being a VPS anyway, why not use a really cool company who charges a great price?
Digital Ocean is for experts and requires expert configuration. But when properly configured it's a great platform for any website, including WordPress-based sites.