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I aim to use WordPress to build an e-commerce website, however it's not clear if the hosting plans offer genuine difference or it's just marketing to make a plan seem more advantageous.

For example:

1&1 provide WordPress hosting and a Linux plan.

Are there any advantages in terms of site performance, flexibility, etc between the plans?

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    It sounds like a type of managed hosting where they control your website software as opposed to "dedicated hosting" where you just get the box and have to install everything yourself. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 14 '17 at 11:47
  • @StephenOstermiller More or less. These plans cater to people who don’t know how to install/manage things like Varnish, CDN, and WordPress security. – JCL1178 Nov 15 '17 at 5:17
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I think in many cases the only difference is probably "marketing", as you suggest. However, this may differ from host to host.

Specifically, with the 1&1 offering you mention. The WordPress hosting option has some differences / "benefits":

  • Easy WordPress installation / more up-to-date versions than offered through standard cPanel installations.
  • Automatic security updates
  • Pre-installed plugins
  • WP Expert Support

However, if you are creating a large custom built / e-commerce WordPress site then these might not be "benefits" - as you'd want to control everything yourself. Also, glancing over the specs, the WP hosting offered by 1&1 appears to offer half the storage capacity (50 vs 100GB) and fewer databases (1 vs 25) than the basic "ordinary" hosting at the same price, although the WP hosting appears to use SSD, whereas the Linux hosting does not explicitly mention storage type.

I can't help but feel that advertised "WordPress Hosting" is targeted more towards the "lower end" that would benefit from a more automated experience. (At 1&1, this is described as "Managed WordPress" - which does suggest you may not be in full control, as someone else is managing WordPress for you?) Beyond a certain size / level of customisation then I think it's the same for any website with regards to finding the appropriate hosting... How to find web hosting that meets my requirements?

Obviously, if you are using WordPress then you don't have need for the 1&1 "easy drag & drop editor" etc., which doesn't appear to be included with the "WP Hosting". (But most developers probably wouldn't use this anyway.)

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  • They claim that wordpress package servers are faster as they are more 'optimized' . That's my only concern. – Computing Corn Nov 14 '17 at 12:58
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    Seems a bit vague IMO. The only difference I can see regarding the "optimization" between the WP and Linux hosting offered by 1&1 is the use of SSD (no mention of this on the "Linux hosting" page AFAICS), which they say makes it "up to 50% faster" (very debatable). Many hosting providers offer SSD as standard these days, whether it's being used specifically for WP or not. – DocRoot Nov 14 '17 at 16:57
  • Varnish is usually running on managed plans. That’s the big difference between “WordPress” and “non-WordPress” – JCL1178 Nov 15 '17 at 5:14
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While DocRoot is correct in that sometimes the only difference is marketing, in general there are some concrete improvements that most hosts make to the WordPress and server environment) that are used for these plans.

On the low end (DreamPress, GoDaddy, 1&1, et al) you will likely be placed on a VPS that has Varnish configured to run somewhat optimally with WordPress. The “managed” aspect usually means that the server is monitored for performance and the host makes sure the core is updated (which is less important that it used to be since it became a default). If a hosted site slows down or begins consuming too many resources, the host usually will notify you and/or take steps to reduce the server load.

The next tier up from these basic plans usually includes some form of security assistance and preventative features and some will also claim to have a better database server (exactly how is hard to quantify). For example, I believe GoDaddy struck a deal with Sucuri not too long ago to integrate Sucuri’s firewall and server checks into the GoDaddy WordPress hosting plans. Dreamhost use to use StopTheHacker but I haven’t seen mention of it recently so I don’t know what went on there. Other extra features would include some form of basic CDN or valet support for the site.

Beyond these basic plans are the Dedicated WordPress Hosts, such as WP Engine, Page.ly or WordPress’s own VIP service. These services are roughly similar to the basic ones but tend to have more features (staging environments, better security, backups, etc.), way better support and a much more thorough approach to optimizing and securing WordPress and will also cost a ton more. WP Engine is famous for curating plugins and themes that have known performance and/or security issues and won’t even let you install those on their site. Whenever you attempt to install or update something, they prompt you to create a snapshot backup for rollback purposes and have live chat and phone support if something goes sideways. That’s the kind of service you get for the upper end tiers.

Are these things any better than a “standard” *nix hosting plan? Depends. If you have shell access to your server and enough permissions to install your own stuff or change how PHP is deployed AND you know what you’re doing with hardening WordPress, then the answer is “probably not” as you have the experience and expertise needed. If you don’t know how to manage the hosting environment to that level or don’t know/understand the security ecosystem around WordPress, then you probably should opt for whichever managed setup gives you the best bang for your buck.

For your particular case, you very well may want to explore the higher-end tiers of managed hosting as speed and security are more critical to e-commerce than other types of sites but it all depends on how much time and energy you want to dedicate to the environment instead of the site itself. If you can do both, great! Save yourself some money and get a good vanilla VPS or dedicated box. If you are better with WordPress than server stuff, go with managed hosting or a dedicated host.

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