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WordPress hosting Australia: which is the best?

I've worked in the WordPress hosting space over two years. Here are my thoughts on who to consider and who to avoid.

The first thing you should do before reading this piece, or any other web hosting review, is to hover over links pointing to providers mentioned in the post and see if they are of the affiliate type. That is, featuring parameters such as ref=12345 appended to the URLs or nicely formatted redirect path such as /go/hosting-co-name. These are the tell-tale signs that you’re about to click on an affiliate link, and if  you go on and sign up for a plan the author will get a cut.

If you want to see real ones scroll down to the footer and hover over the Elementor and ActiveCampaign links there. Indeed, I’m doing the same, but at least I’m not posting 2,000 word long articles promoting (crappy) brands that pay the highest commission.

Not all affiliate links are bad. I follow plenty people who share great content and are transparent about their affiliation, and more often then not are just recommending tools the use and love – as I do.

Which completes lesson #1: most web hosting reviews are there to make their authors money. They are advertorials pushing the highest paying brand, which will happily pay those that generate the higher volumes over $100 for each new customer. The most successful affiliates are making a ton of money.

WordPress hosting: it’s complicated, expensive to service and you get what you pay for

Let’s qualify the product too.

You don’t see IT Managers shopping around for the cheapest solutions for their infrastructure, do you? Imagine having this conversation with the COO…

“Yeah, well, we opted for the solution XYZ because it was half price and we never imagined that they would lose all our data…”

Here’s a real-life version of a similar scenario, with the hosting provider trying to explain what went wrong.

 

The lesson here is an old one: you get what you pay for.

Infrastructure isn’t cheap and those clever SysAdmins that look after it all aren’t either, so think twice when you’re promised a Series 3 for the price of a Corolla. My rule is this: if the entry level plan is cheaper than three Capuccinos… then stay away from that provider.

Web hosting only becomes cheap when you have tens or hundreds of thousands of customers in chicken-farm infrastructure and can afford losing 100 clients in a day because you’re going to sign up 200 the next (many of which via the aforementioned affiliate programs). Pricing is set by a bunch of accountants and analysts that pull multiple data points into some BI tool and figure out the lowest you can go considering the chances of folk renewing, buying more products, etc…

Enter the small operators. They don’t have volume nor the marketing budget but still having to compete on price. Having worked for one, I can assure you that the tech is complex. You have servers, networking, and software designed to keep your site up, running fast and secure. The value is not only in the quality of tech but in the design of the system. – their IP.

But you know what the most expensive line item is in the end of month reconciliation? Support.

It needs to be available 24/7.

They need to know WordPress inside out to figure out those pesky plugin issues.

They need to drop everything and focus on your critical issue until its resolved.

The challenge for the operators selling a more premium product is is that expectations are higher too. A customer of a cheap host is aware that their 5 bucks a month plan won’t buy them much more that a bunch of canned responses and an escalation path similar to climbing Mt Everest. However, if they’re paying 4 times as much with a specialist provider they’re expecting Web Dev / Sys Admin level of support. With this in mind consider that if a customer is on the phone with support for 30 minutes there goes the profit for the year. So, if you’re with a small provider give them a virtual hug next time you touch base with them, OK?

Hosting in Australia Vs anywhere else

My opinion is formed looking at three criteria here:

  • Performance
  • Support
  • Data sovereignty

I’ll start with the last point as chances are that you haven’t heard this argument before: should customer data reside in a country where a foreign authority has jurisdiction over it? Personally,  I don’t want data to be physically located in Australia.

Performance is typically better if you’re hosting here in Australia. That said, if your website is hosted in the UK the ‘hop’ data needs to make there and back isn’t going add too much to the overall page load time; say 200ms, if that. If your page is loading in 6 seconds there are other issues at stake, including how quick the web host is. You can also use CDNs to speed things up. The only other consideration is that the cables connecting Australian data to the rest of the world do experience issues occasionally, and when they do (as there aren’t many of them), connections are routed longer distances, which impacts speed. Personally, I’m more concerned about data sovereignty than performance.

Most reputable providers will perform well enough. Unless you’re a big brand or have eCommerce you shouldn’t worry too much about page load speed (as long as you’re able to get close to the 2 second mark with the plan you’re on). Which leaves us the third criteria to consider: support.

The quality of support is independent of location, of course, and you’re more likely to get a better level of support from a specialist WordPress hosing provider.

Local providers will have better knowledge of the local market and infrastructure and that is useful sometimes. What is more important, assuming support is readily available at the times you’re more likely to need it, is the level of expertise and how deep into a WordPress issue support is willing to dive into and help resolve:

Will support just help with hosting related issues and keep out of WordPress altogether?

Will they take a look, run a few tests and recommend a fix?

Or will they roll their sleeves up and fix an issue that is WordPress related?

You should also ask if they will help you optimise your website to speed it up and secure it, perhaps when they are migrating it in.

And as I said, all of the above is independent of location

So, to recap the key points…

  • Don’t trust WordPress hosting reviews — do your own research
  • Low prices are only sustainable if the overall product is low quality too
  • Consider data sovereignty and what the legal implications are if a foreign entity has access to your customer data
  • Support is expensive and a major value-add

The best Australian WordPress hosting (and ones I would stay away from)

Let’s look at my my WordPress hosting black list first.

Top of the bunch are a) any large provider and b) any hosting provider that is owned by big groups such as EIG, Dreamscape and Hostopia. This excludes, sadly, some Australian hosting brands that were bought up and saw the quality of their service suffer, such as Digital Pacific, Crucial and Panthur.

Special mention for c) MelbourneIT (aka Arq Group) brands which are both poor and over priced. They’re not doing too well as a business either, which is cause for concern. So keep away from Netregistry and Webcentral.

Finally, a couple of words about WP Engine. Their marketing is all over the place and you may well have attended one of their events related to some study about Gen X’s use of the Xbox or TikTok or something of other that ties into ‘Experience’, which itself relates to ‘Digital Experiences’, which is what they sell (and not WordPress hosting). WP Engine hosting is good but overpriced for what it is, which is shared hosting (unless you’re paying top dollar for a custom solution). Indeed, they’ve packaged up tools and freebies that provide value, but you’re ultimately paying for their Sales & Marketing machine. They’ve had a recent cash injection from a VC and are going full steam ahead towards an IPO that will make (a few of them) very rich. I would rather give my hard earned cash to a smaller provider.

Next, my top 3. Don’t forget to hover over the links to check if I’m trying make a buck from this piece 🙂

A little bit of context first. I worked two years at WP Hosting and are currently collaborating with Convesio, so you can argue that there is a degree of bias involved. Also, I don’t consider myself an expert (and are certainly not technical enough to deserve the label) but working in the industry gives you an inside perspective that, I think, has value.

So, WordPress hosting providers that I think are the best options for Australia, in no particular order, are:

  • WP Hosting – As I mentioned, I worked there two years and therefore know them well. They own their own tech and offer a premium product (not oversubscribing their servers). They are perhaps the best option for smaller businesses and those that can’t live without cPanel (which I’m not a fan of anymore). Support is very good but the team small, so there is a bit of risk to consider there. The other thing that I like about WP Hosting is that they’re not playing the commodity game. They don’t offer free trials and I doubt you’ll  see a WPHOSTING coupon code any time soon.
  • Conetix – They have been around a long time and offer a Managed WordPress hosting product that is based on Plesk. They are similar to WP Hosting operationally but bigger and support is top notch too. They are not married to WordPress so not a specialist, but have the resources in place to take good care of their WordPress customers.
  • Convesio – I moved my sites to Convesio late last year because of their different approach (sites are hosted on Docker containers deployed to Google Cloud Australia) and speed (and managed to get some consultancy work off them too). The way I see it is that I’m getting a VPS-like product for the price of shared hosting.

Notice how I’ve only included independent and smaller providers? That was a conscious decision as I value the relationships you form with them too, which isn’t quite possible with a larger host.

So that’s it. I’ll finish off with one suggestion: do your own research and keep away from recommendations affiliates are making. Ask around too, both online and offline. Spend a few dollars to try them out.

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