While the WordPress.org open source project by Automattic has always been easy to host and install, the WordPress.com hosting service by Automattic* has come a very long way and could be considered the best option for hosting your WordPress sites.
WordPress.com represents the largest WordPress hosting service that exists and offers a wide range of options from free sites to business sites, even a VIP program.
In recent months the Business option for $299/yr* has expanded to support installation of custom and community themes and plugins. I recommend this option for most use cases. Here’s a few highlights:
- JetPack site statistics and Akismet SPAM statistics
- WP Pusher plugin can keep custom GIT projects updated automatically
- Daily backups are behind the scenes, but you can use the Export tool as well
- Support from Automattic’s “Happiness Engineers”
WordPress.com is a fully managed WordPress host. Most larger hosts claim to offer managed WordPress hosting, but this can be a gimmick. To qualify as fully managed, the platform must be all about WordPress. You will not see FTP or virtual server control panels, rather you will administer WordPress from the WP Admin GUI and from a control panel internal to the service.
Here’s some key items to consider when evaluating hosting:
- WordPress explicit support – will they be able to tell you if a plugin acts up?
- Security practices – you should find the administration reasonably restricting
- Performance – front end traffic needs to load pages in under 2 seconds
- Scalability – load test critical pages to ensure response time remains reasonable
- Growth – you get what you pay for, but ensure there is an expansion path
Also do consider having multiple sites. For example, to demo custom applications, consider serving those from another domain or subdomain connected to a less restrictive environment, so that your public facing site can be as secure / restricted as possible.