WordPress.com vs Traditional Web Hosting


WordPress.com provides completely managed websites to anyone, free of charge. Currently (as of December 17, 2017), they offer four basic plans.


The Free Plan costs nothing. As such, there are significant limitations that I will discuss later.


Their Personal Plan currently costs $4.00 per month. It includes everything needed for a basic website, including a domain name, hosting, support (email and live chat), 6GB of storage, free SSL, subscriptions, spam protection, social sharing, site stats, and no ads.


WordPress’ Premium Plan adds the ability to edit your site’s CSS, allowing users more flexibility in changing the look and feel of their website. It also adds more storage space, access to all WordPress.com themes, and the ability to monetize the site (using the WordAds program). Cost? $8.00 per month.


The Business Plan costs $24.92 per month. It adds unlimited storage space, and, interestingly, the ability to install custom plugins and themes which has never been allowed with WordPress.com websites. You can also set up an online store with this plan. You can use the WordPress.com store addon or WooCommerce.


Traditional Web Hosting

Many small businesses and bloggers use a web host for their website needs. They pay the web host to store their website files and broadcast their website to the world. They also pay a domain registrar for a domain name. For this website, I use a web host (Inmotion Hosting stores/hosts my website files) and I purchased my domain name from a domain registrar (Namecheap).

For more information on web hosts and domain name registrars, check out the FAQ.

With typical web hosting, users can utilize whatever website-building software they want. They can use Joomla or Drupal or write their own code. Their website can be anything they want it to be. There are very few limitations if you purchase traditional web hosting and a domain name.

Most web hosts provide email (using your domain name), free 24/7 technical support via chat or phone, unlimited storage and a variety of website builders (including the WordPress software). You can also host multiple websites on one account.

The cost for all this freedom? Usually about $5 per month (give or take a little) for shared hosting. If you want more power, expect to pay $20 to $30 per month for a VPS (virtual private server). And if you’re getting inundated with heavy traffic, you may need a dedicated server (your own server). Most folks do fine with shared hosting.


Which Is Better? WordPress.com or a Web Host?

As an affiliate for Inmotion, I use traditional web hosting. I recommend Inmotion to others so that I can make a commission. But traditional web hosting is not always the best option for everyone.

Why WordPress.com might be a better option for you.

WordPress.com offers everything under one roof. Hosting, website-building software, a domain name — it’s all there (as long as you’re not using the completely free version). Everything is completely taken care of for you. All websites include SSL, are backed up and kept secure, run fast, include free themes . . . it’s the easiest thing in the world. But E-commerce is not included with any WordPress.com plan except for the Business Plan (which is an excellent value for small businesses).

With traditional web hosting, nothing is taken care of for you. You have to do it. You have to make sure your site is backed up. You have to keep your website secure. If you get hacked, you pay for someone to fix it. And if your site gets busy, you end up paying significantly more for a VPS. Complexity also increases dramatically.

Why traditional hosting might be a better option for you.

Traditional web hosting means freedom. With even the most basic level of web hosting (shared hosting), you typically get unlimited storage space, freedom to use any website builder out there (or code your site yourself), access to the code to make any change imaginable, E-commerce capabilities, freedom to use any WordPress plugins (extending the capabilities of your website) or custom themes . . . If you want a website with endless capabilities and few restrictions, you’re going to want to use traditional web hosting.

For a comprehensive quick-glance chart showing the differences between WordPress.com plans and a traditional web host check out this article.

WordPress.com is like an apartment complex.

I call website builders like WordPress.com and Wix.com apartment complex systems because everything is included. In an apartment, you get a washer and dryer, appliances, a parking space, a swimming pool, free plumbing services, free paint jobs, a manicured yard, security . . . it’s all taken care of.

With WordPress.com, it’s just like that. Backups, security, SSL (https), professional design, site speed . . . it all just works. Life is easy because everything is included.

Living in an apartment complex has its limitations, however. You can’t knock out the back wall and build an addition. You can’t raise chickens on your back deck. You can’t plant your own trees. Your life is severely limited.

WordPress.com is just like that. Each plan has significant limitations. All plans (except the Business Plan) have limited storage space. No plan except the Business Plan supports E-commerce. The support is lacking (it’s not 24/7 chat or phone support like a traditional web host; however, the live chat is excellent and it’s available Monday – Friday). You can’t significantly edit the look and feel of your theme until you upgrade to the Premium Plan or the Business Plan. And even with the advanced customization options in said plans you don’t have access to your site’s core code. You can’t use any other website builder. You can’t install plugins (it’s now possible with the business plan). You can have one and only one website with each account. And you don’t get personalized email ([email protected]).

A traditional web host is like owning your own home.

Using a traditional web host is akin to owning your own home. You can paint your house whatever color you’d like. You can build a mud room. You can have pets or plant a huge garden. You can tear it completely apart and nobody will complain.

A traditional web host is just like that. You can set up E-commerce on your website, regardless of which plan you choose. You can use whatever website builder you’d like (Joomla, Drupal, your own code, another website builder) to create your website (including the WordPress software — it’s open source after all). You can set up email with your own domain name. You can alter the look and feel of your website. You’ll have access to tens of thousands of plugins and themes to add functionality and style to to your website. You can have multiple websites on each account.

But owning your own home poses its own set of difficulties. Life becomes harder. You have to water your own garden. You have to fix your own toilet or pay someone else to do it for you. You have to re-paint once in a while. You have to maintain your yard. You have to pay for broken heater systems. You have to replace roofs. You have to figure out complex problems or pay someone else to figure them out for you! In short, owning a home requires more effort than renting an apartment.

A traditional web host is just like that. You have to take care of your own backups. You have to keep your site up-to-date. You have to make sure your site is secure. Whether or not your website looks good and runs smoothly is up to you. Yes, it requires effort.


Which Is More Expensive? WordPress.com or a Traditional Web Host?

The least expensive option is the WordPress.com free plan. You can make a pretty decent website that looks quite professional with that plan. I’ve made a bunch. But you won’t have your own domain name, you’ll have limited storage space, the support is lame, random ads will appear . . . It’s the least expensive, but the most restrictive.

The $4.00 WordPress.com Personal Plan comes next. For just $4.00 per month, you can have everything taken care of for you. You’ll get a free domain name (including free privacy protection), free backups, free SSL, free security, no ads . . . with some limitations. As far as your site visitors know, your site will look as professional as any other website out there. But you’ll be limited to only WordPress software and a couple hundred WordPress themes. You won’t be able to alter the look and feel of your site (not much). Support is still limited. You won’t be able to install plugins. You’ll only get one website.

Some shared web hosts cost about the same amount as the Personal Plan. For example, if you get Inmotion’s shared hosting plan (using this link), you’ll only pay $3.49 per month. However, you’ll still need to purchase a domain name (about $10-$15 per year) to be fully up and running. Some shared hosts may include a free domain name.

A traditional web host (shared hosting) comes next. It’s typically about $5 per month plus you’ll need to purchase your own domain name for about $10 per year. You will have unlimited freedom with this option but it will require more effort on your part. With great freedom comes great complexity.

After this, a VPS (virtual private server) with a traditional web host costs about $30 (or more) per month. This is similar to the WordPress.com Business Plan which runs about $25 per month. However, the VPS offers a much higher degree of flexibility. You can set up endless email accounts (with your domain name), you can set up multiple WordPress websites (or other websites), you can resell hosting . . . but the level of complexity increases exponentially.


Which One Should I Use? WordPress.com or Traditional Hosting?

Here are my recommendations (not in order of importance; there is no clear winner).

Option A – WordPress.com Business Plan

If you’re a business owner wanting one website that’s turn-key, dead-simple to set up and use and uses the WordPress software, go with the WordPress Business Plan. The majority of the WordPress.com limitations are lifted, including the ban on installing your own plugins or custom themes. It’s fully managed and everything is completely taken care of for you.

You won’t have personalized email but you can always set that up by purchasing a domain name through Namecheap (about $10-$15 per year including privacy protection) and using their Private Email Hosting service ($9.88 per year). All total that’s about $20 per year for the ability to have personalized email. Using the WordPress.com Business Plan with Namecheap’s Private Email Hosting service is the simplest option for building and maintaining your own professional website.

It’s like living in a nice apartment complex with some of the freedoms of owning your own home. It’s the best of both worlds.

Option B – Traditional Web Hosting

If you want complete control over your website and freedom to alter it in any way possible, go with a traditional web host (you should try Inmotion; it’s the web host I use for this site and if you use this link you will get 56% off and help me earn a bit of cash).

This option will cost you about $3.50 per month. Of course there are a ton of other web hosts out there and you can choose one of them if you wish. Costs vary a bit.

This option costs significantly less than the WordPress.com Business Plan and offers significantly more freedom. You will have personalized email, freedom to advertise how you want, the ability to alter the look and feel of your site in any way imaginable, and, importantly, E-commerce capabilities with any plan. And you can still use the amazing WordPress software as your website builder. Keep in mind though that the learning curve is higher (if you need help, contact me).

With a traditional website, costs have the potential to rise. If your website starts to get a lot of traffic, a shared hosting plan won’t cut it for you. You’ll have to upgrade to a VPS (virtual private server) and this will run you, typically, at least $30 per month (it can be significantly more). You will know when this happens because your web host will email you and tell you that you’re using too many server resources.

Most small business websites and personal blogs are fine with shared hosting.

This particular site is hosted with Inmotion Hosting on a VPS.

Option C – WordPress.com Personal Plan

This option works well for small business or personal website owners who don’t want to get their hands dirty and who want to keep costs down. Develop a website that looks amazingly professional then sit back and watch it all be taken care of for you. Your site will always be up-to-date, will be secure, will run fast . . . it will just work without any intervention from you (all WordPress.com plans work like this).

The WordPress personal plan also works well for business owners who don’t need E-commerce. And that includes a lot of business. Auto repair shops, bakeries, restaurants, construction companies, landscapers, massage therapists, nail salons — any company that doesn’t plan on selling products on their website. E-commerce is nice, but not always needed.

6GB of storage space and unlimited bandwidth is plenty for most website owners.

Heavy traffic will never be a problem either, with this or any other WordPress.com plan. You won’t be asked to upgrade because of heavy traffic.

This is a pretty amazing offering for only $4.00 per month.

Option D – WordPress.com Premium Plan

Small business or personal website owners who want to spend more time tweaking the look at feel of their site but who still don’t want to really get their hands dirty could benefit from this option. Also, folks who want more storage than 6GB may benefit from this option. This plan offers 13GB of storage space (at the time of this writing).

Photographers or others with graphic-intensive websites (these types of sites need more storage) may want to consider this plan. However, if you want E-commerce, this plan is not for you. This plan also allows users to utilize WordAds; I haven’t figured out whether or not WordAds is worth putting any time into or not.

I think this plan is too expensive at $8.00 per month. You can get almost as much with the WordPress Personal Plan ($4.00 per month). The main difference is the storage space and the fact that you will be able to edit the look and feel of your site in ways not possible with the WordPress.com Personal Plan.

But if you need the extra storage space, want to tweak the look and feel of your site (edit your website’s CSS) and the ability to use WordAds you should consider this plan.


What Is the Difference Between WordPress.com and the WordPress Software?

You may be confused why I keep saying you can use the WordPress software even if you don’t use WordPress.com.

The reason is this. WordPress is open-source, free software. Anyone can use it, anywhere. It’s 100% free with no limitations.

WordPress.com is the apartment complex system I was talking about earlier. It includes the WordPress software, hosting, a domain name — everything! It’s more than just the software. That is why if you use WordPress.com, you cannot use any other website-building software. It’s an enclosed system. It’s fully managed and highly regulated.

Traditional web hosts allow users to use the WordPress software or any other website-building software out there. It’s one of the great beauties of WordPress. It’s practically universal. You can use the amazing software whether you’re within the WordPress.com apartment complex or not!

And that’s another benefit of using traditional web hosting. Developers like to create plugins and themes for WordPress. These custom plugins and themes cannot be used on WordPress.com websites (unless you have the WordPress.com Business Plan). They can only be used on WordPress websites hosted at a traditional web host.

If you want to read more about the differences between WordPress.com (the apartment complex system) and WordPress.org (the free software), check out this article.


Free Help For You

If you purchase your web hosting from Inmotion using this link I will gladly help you out for free. I won’t build your site for you, but I will help you!

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