There are four common options for hosting your WordPress site. You can host your WordPress site on:
- A sandbox
- A web server
- A local server on your computer
Choosing the best place to install WordPress is important, so here is an explanation of the difference between the three options.
Option #1. In a Sandbox
What is a Sandbox? Good question. A sandbox
is a safe, isolated, testing environment that enables you to run programs or execute files without affecting your live site (or in our case, without creating a live site
). Software developers use sandboxes to test new programming code. Cybersecurity professionals use sandboxes to test potentially malicious software. We are going to use this Sandbox to testdrive and learn WordPress.
Spinning up a WordPress site in a Jurassic Ninja Sandbox environment has many advantages, but here the most important ones:
- Pay nothing! It’s FREE & Fully Featured (you can install plugins or themes, write posts, change up settings, etc)
- Spin up a site super easily (literally is 3 steps and a few minutes)
- Access the site from anywhere because it’s cloud based
- Download nothing onto your local networks or computers
- Relocate your sandbox site to a hosting company later very easily (using help such as the Duplicator plugin)
The only disadvantage is that the site expires 7 days after initial spin up
. HOWEVER, you can extend this by logging out on day 6 and logging back in to the site again. Your 7 day limit will start over everytime you log out and log back in using the credentials they provide you with on your WordPress Dashboard.
- Click the “Create” button.
- Wait a few minutes while your WordPress site is being created.
- Click “The new WP is ready to go, visit it!” text link.
- Hover over “Bewildered Donkey” link in the Admin bar at the top of your screen and Click “Dashboard”.
- NOTICE your custom url, user login info, and password info in the main Dashboard area (this is important information – you will need this to log back in to your site).
Congrats! You are now ready to start the exercises in the WordPress Explained book.
Option #2. On a Web Server
Hosting your WordPress site on a web server has some significant advantages:
- You can access it from anywhere.
- You can easily share the site with other people if you have questions or get stuck.
- When you’re ready to launch your site, your site is already in the perfect location.
The only real disadvantage to using a web server is that it’s likely to cost you a few dollars a month.
You will need to choose a hosting company that uses PHP and MySQL. You need PHP because that is the language WordPress is written in, and MySQL because it is the type of database WordPress normally uses. These are the minimum versions recommended:
- PHP: 7
- MySQL: 5.6 or above
Most hosting companies now support WordPress, but it’s worth choosing carefully. Some hosting companies are much better than others.
Here is some advice before picking your host:
- Search WordPress.org Support for other people’s experiences with that host.
- Contact the hosting company’s customer support and ask what it knows about WordPress. One of our training students actually called the phone numbers of several hosts and timed their response. After all, in an emergency you don’t want to be on hold for an hour or to be talking to someone who knows nothing about WordPress.
You can install WordPress on almost any server that has PHP and MySQL installed. However, there are hosting companies that specialize in WordPress. Some companies will only host WordPress sites.
There are many advantages to choosing WordPress-specific hosting services:
- They are managed by WordPress experts who know exactly what WordPress sites need to run well.
- They can keep your web server up to date, which greatly increases security. Some also keep your WordPress site up to date for you.
- They provide extra features that make it easier to install and manage a WordPress site.
If you choose this option, we have detailed instructions on how to install WordPress on a web server
Option #3. On Your Computer
There are some advantages to installing WordPress on your computer. However, we do not recommend this option for beginners.
It can be tempting to choose to have WordPress on your computer. Advanced users do find several useful advantages to this choice:
- Working offline: You can work without an Internet connection.
- Privacy: Your WordPress site will be safe and private, accessible only to people who can access that computer.
- Free: There are no fees to pay.
- Fast: You don’t need to connect to a remote server.
However, there are also several important disadvantages to using a computer:
- Extra installations needed: You need to download and configure special software for your computer.
- Difficult to get help: You can’t easily show it to other people and ask for help.
- Only one computer: You can access it only from the computer you used to install it.
- Need to move to launch: When you’re ready to make your site public, you need to move everything to a web server and adjust for any differences between the two locations. Moving a WordPress site is not easy for beginners.
Because of these disadvantages, installing on your computer can present significant obstacles for a beginner. Do not take this route until you have more experience.
However, if you do feel comfortable overcoming these obstacles, you can find instructions on how to install WordPress on your computer
Option #4. WordPress.com
There are two official WordPress websites: WordPress.com
WordPress.com is the easier, but more basic and limited version of WordPress.org.
There are some advantages to using WordPress.com. For example, the WordPress.com team will always keep your site up-to-date for you.
However, there are some significant limitations to using WordPress.com. For example, you don’t have access to make any changes to the core WordPress files.
Plus, although WordPress.com can be free-to-use, most of the more advanced options require you to sign up for a paid plan. For example, if you want to install any plugins or themes, it will cost you at least $25 per month.
Also, it isn’t possible to use your own domain name, or to add extra features (called “plugins” in WordPress) without upgrading to a premium plan.
None of this is to say that WordPress.com is a bad choice. If you want a simple site that’s easy to maintain, then WordPress.com is a great option. It’s reliable, easy-to-use and even if you pay for extra features, it’s significantly cheaper than many alternatives. About 50% of WordPress users choose WordPress.com.
We have an explanation of how to set up a site on WordPress.com at this link
. However, please do not use a WordPress.com account for the exercises in this book. You will not be able follow along on WordPress.com.
In the rest of this book, we’re going to focus on WordPress.org, which gives you complete freedom to build the site you want.
Get Help with Installing WordPress
There are three places you should go to for help if you get stuck at any point during the installation:
- The WordPress Forum: It’s almost guaranteed that someone has experienced the same WordPress installation problem as you and has asked about it on the WordPress.org support forum. It’s a great place to search for solutions and ask for help.
- The WordPress documentation: There’s an official installation guide at the WordPress codex.