If you want to host an online business that will scale with your revenue, you’ll need total freedom. The freedom to choose a design theme that captures the brand of your business.
The freedom to increase your traffic without hitting artificially imposed caps or experiencing a degradation in performance as you grow (these are common issues with website builders).
The freedom to constantly add new functionality to your site to multiply your revenue streams. The freedom to integrate with any third-party system under the sun that can funnel even more cash into your bank account.
In short, what you need is the technology that powers 43% of the Internet: a self hosted WordPress website.
Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation at no additional cost to you to support this site that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my 10+ years of online business experience consulting for clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that offer the best return for your investment (for more details, read my Affiliate Disclosure).
What’s a self-hosted website? Unlike website builders, where you give a service like Wix full control over the operation of your site, a self-hosted website runs on a server that you get to control.
There are three main types of self-hosted solutions:
- Shared-hosting, where multiple websites time-share resources on the same server (lowering your costs)
- Virtual private servers, where you get a wall-gardened unshared “piece” of a server and all the resources that go with it dedicated to your website (higher cost)
- Dedicated hosting, where your website gets its own dedicated server (highest cost)
By having full control over your website you get to add features, functionality, and resources as you see fit (sometimes for free, other times at an additional cost), allowing you to scale your user base and grow your online revenue without limits.
Perfect candidates for self-hosted websites:
- Affiliate sites that deal with (or will eventually deal with) large amounts of traffic
- Websites that require multiple levels of menus and dozens or hundreds of pages (most website builders have a limited number of menu levels)
- Websites that require elaborate marketing funnels with multiple upsells and downsells that need to integrate with marketing automation tools
- Websites that sell information products and require advanced drip membership modules to deliver them
- eCommerce sites with a complex product mix that require rules with advanced automation
- Complex multilingual websites (website builders can only handle simple multilingual websites with mostly static information)
- Large blogs (100+ posts) with multiple categories and a large readership
Now, unlike website builders, self-hosted platforms do require a minimum level of technical proficiency and basic knowledge about the inner workings of the World Wide Web, such as domain name servers, domain forwarding, server file structures, server-based email, SSL certificates and so on.
While you don’t necessarily need to have all this knowledge in advance, you do have to be willing to put in the time required to learn it—there’s a wealth of information and tutorials readily available on the Internet for this purpose.
Here are our recommendations for the best self-hosted platforms for your needs, including the best option overall, the best budget option, the runner up and the system with the most generous free tier before monthly fees kick in.
What Are the Best Web Hosting Services?
When it comes to self-hosting your website, performance is key: search engines are known for penalizing slow websites because of their poor user experience.
Although most self-hosted platforms have good page loading speeds, there’s one that always manages to come up at the top of most benchmarks: A2Hosting.
This platform consistently delivers the fastest self hosted WordPress websites, and is one of the few that have a published uptime guarantee (99.9%).
It’s also one of the few that offers real-time 24/7 support via live chat or phone call with reasonably short waiting times (although the pandemic has caused some extra delays).
The base plans are already screaming fast, powered by 100% solid state drives, but the higher end packages take speed to the next level (up to 20 times faster) using industry-leading NVME drive arrays (non-volatile memory express) which approximate the insane speeds of flash memory.
Also—and this is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise over-marketed industry—A2Hosting is a product-focused and not a marketing-focused company (you know, the ones that always come up on every affiliate site).
While they offer fewer coupons and cross-marketing opportunities (e.g. discounts with search-ad platforms), the upside is that you’re not constantly bombarded with upselling offers.
A2Hosting Features that Stand Out
- One of the fastest server speeds in the industry
- 99.9% uptime guaranteed
- Free website migration from other platforms
- Award-winning customer service—24/7 phone, live chat and email support
- Server locations in North America, Europe and Asia (many popular platforms operate servers in the US only)
- 2-factor authentication for your account
- Free SSL encryption
- 24/7 monitoring service that checks for malware and other attacks
- Extensive knowledge base
Now the Cons...
- More expensive that competitors (although not by much)
- Prices double after initial heavily discounted period (this is a common practice in the industry)
In all honesty, it’s really hard to find negatives for such a great service.
Find Out More About A2Hosting here.
Best Budget Option: iPage
This self-hosting service is great if you’re budget conscious. While it’s not as complete or fast as A2Hosting, it’s still great value for the money.
For example, their servers are only located in the US, which means that you’ll need to set up a Content Delivery Network (CDN) in order to have worldwide reach at higher speeds (Cloudflare has a great free entry-level CDN).
Support is only available via email (the typical turnaround is 24 hours), and you won't get extra security and automated backups included in the base price.
But other than that, their performance is quite good (not as screaming fast as A2Hosting but still reasonable for most practical purposes).
This is a great budget option for websites that are more informational in nature, without a lot of complexity that demands expensive add-ons.
In fact, the main reason that iPage can keep its costs so low is by removing free add-ons and charging you for them instead. So, as long as you don’t require a lot of additional functionality, you’ll be able to keep costs to a minimum.
But the minute you begin to add extra modules and services, the price can go up pretty quickly. For example, to add malware and hacker protection, you'll have to pay anywhere between $1.99 and $24.99/month depending on the level of service you require.
Or, if you want to add a backup service, you’ll have to add anywhere between $1.14-$2.09/month to your bill. Site migrations will cost you $150 (for example, you get one free site migration with A2Hosting's entry plan).
iPage Features that Stand Out
- Lower cost
- Free SSL
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage
- Free email address
- Free domain registration for first year
- 30-day money-back guarantee
Now the Cons...
- No extra security and backup service in monthly rate
- Site migrations are not free
- US-based servers only
- Slower page loading speeds than higher-cost platforms
- Email support only
- No admin cPanel (industry standard), using the more limited vDeck instead
- Upselling pressure
Find Out More About iPage Here.
Best Runner-Up: DreamHost
A good runner up to A2Hosting is DreamHost. While they only have servers in the U.S., they do have very good page load speeds and uptime. In fact, they always score just a few positions below A2Hosting in speed tests.
They also have real-time customer support via live chat (no phone, though) and they offer unlimited bandwidth.
Like A2Hosting, DreamHost doesn’t force you to see an endless stream of up-selling offers, like many popular services will put you through (pro-tip: most times you'll be able to find a free plugin that does virtually the same thing as the paid upsells).
Interestingly, they’ve chosen to offer a rather peculiar money-back guarantee: instead of the typical 30-day period, theirs is 97 days.
DreamHost Features that Stand Out
- SSL included
- Excellent page load speeds and uptime
- Extensive live support (chat, no phone)
- Free automated self hosted WordPress website migrations
- On-demand backup and restore
- Unlimited bandwidth
- No upsell pressure
- 97-day money-back guarantee
Now the Cons...
- Only U.S.-based servers
- Starter plan has no free email accounts
- No phone support
- No 24/7 support
- Site migration is automated. Live tech support is available if you get in trouble, but it's not free
- Lower performance than A2Hosting
Find Out More About DreamHost Here.
Best Free or Freemium Option: Amazon Lightsail
If you're looking for the self-hosting platform with the most generous free plan before monthly charges kick in, you can’t go wrong with Amazon Lightsail.
Lightsail runs on Amazon’s powerful AWS platform, which is used by a large number of giant (and not so giant) companies to host their online presence (including Netflix, LinkedIn, Twitter and ESPN).
Since AWS offers the first year of service for free for all new accounts, this freebie is also extended to new Lightsail customers, which is hard to pass up if you’re bootstrapping and want to delay recurring charges as long as possible.
Now, there’s a caveat to this largess: AWS does require a respectable amount of technical proficiency, so this platform is definitely not recommended for tech beginners.
Although this isn't an insurmountable barrier if you're willing to put in the time to learn the ropes, there’s no free tech support beyond their knowledge base should you hit a serious roadblock.
If you're willing to pay, however, human help is available but it's not cheap. Email support costs a staggering $29/month and phone support an even more staggering $100/month, which are definitely not an option for most people.
But, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and happen to be technically savvy, you’ll be able to set up and host your self hosted WordPress website using Amazon Lightsail with minimal issues.
Lightsail Features that Stand Out for Online Earners
- Free hosting for the first year (caveat: you'll need to be technically inclined to set up your site without issues)
- You’ll be using Amazon's AWS, one of the most powerful cloud-based server platforms in the world
- Excellent page load speeds and an industry-leading 99.99% uptime (since AWS is cloud-based, it's practically impossible for your site to ever go down since AWS servers are super redundant)
- Choice to host your site from multiple data centers spread out around the world (you're basically piggy-backing Amazon's worldwide computing infrastructure!)
- Easily integrates with Amazon’s CloudFront Content Delivery Network
Now the Cons...
- Cost-prohibitive technical support ($29-$100/month)
- Not recommended for beginners!
- Requires a lot more technical knowledge to set up than their self-hosting competitors (very little is intuitive or push-button with AWS)
- Lightsail has no automated backup system, instead you'll have to use AWS's native backup options, but they can be quite involved to set up it you're not technically inclined
- Good solution for simple websites if money is an object, but it can get tricky for more complex sites if you don't have IT support (although this could be a great option if you happen to work in IT or are an IT enthusiast)
Find Out More About Amazon Lightsail Here.
How to Choose a Provider for a Self Hosted WordPress Website
When choosing a hosting provider for a self hosted WordPress installation, you'll want to consider the following factors:
- The type and amount of storage space and bandwidth they offer
- The number of domains or websites they allow you to host on your account for no extra charge
- Whether they provide a one-click WordPress installation or not
- Their pricing and customer support policies
- The uptime of their servers and the quality of their network infrastructure
What to Do Next?
Having a self hosted WordPress website is definitely the path to follow if you're planning on growing your traffic significantly, which goes hand-in-hand with scaling your online income.
Once you choose the best option for your needs, jump in with both feet and take advantage of the 30-97 day money-back guarantees offered by A2Hosting, iPage and DreamHost, or go all-in for a free year with Amazon Lightsail if you feel you have the technical chops.