A wizard-based setup process makes getting started easy with this flexible hosting plan for WordPress-based sites
- Excellent onboarding process
- Proxy system to integrate external content
- The more sites you host, the cheaper it gets
- Not the cheapest, but still good value
We’ve already reviewed 34SP’s Professional Hosting platform. However, with dedicated WordPress hosting becoming more popular – and with 34SP having recently updated its offering – we wanted to see how its plans for hosting the popular CMS stacked up.
Today, around 40% of all websites are built using WordPress, so dedicated hosting makes a lot of sense. You can delegate responsibility for keeping it updated to your host, and the host itself can optimise the platform for the CMS, helping to keep the sites it powers light and fast.
While this may mean that what you can do with your web space is limited – you couldn’t, for example, write and host your own PHP web apps – 34SP has gone further than some rivals and implemented a proxy function to draw in external content and present it as an integrated part of your site. So, if you’d rather not use WooCommerce to integrate your store with WordPress, perhaps because you’re already running a print-on-demand operation elsewhere, you could set up a proxy to render the externally hosted site in a subdirectory. This is a hugely flexible solution that greatly enhances the appeal of 34SP’s offering.
34SP WordPress hosting review: What do you get for the money?
34SP has several WordPress hosting plans, distinguished by the number of sites each one can host. The single site plan we tested here costs £9.95 per month, for which you get unlimited bandwidth and 25GB of storage. You can host three sites sharing the same resources for £20 a month, or you can increase that to five sites sharing 35GB, or ten sites sharing 50GB, for £30 or £50 per month, respectively. All prices include VAT and you’re only committed to a month at a time – you can pay for a year up front, but there’s no discount to be had.
Every plan includes free SSL certificates and, if you’re already hosting your WordPress site elsewhere, 34SP offers a free managed migration service to bring it across.
The main benefit of choosing dedicated WordPress hosting over a freeform hosting account is the way the package can be tailored to its intended use. Here, WordPress command line tools are included, and so is staging, which lets you design the next version of your site while visitors continue to see your current iteration, only switching them over once you’re happy with what you’ve produced.
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34SP WordPress hosting review: How easy is it to set up?
It couldn’t get any easier, as the whole process is driven by a wizard. First, it asks which industry your site would fit. The complete list is dizzying, but simply typing a few letters quickly shrinks it down. However, we were looking for “artist”, but, while “art” brought up “art classes”, “art consultant”, and “art schools” (as well as “kARATe” and “text prepARATion”, despite neither of them containing “art”), the closest we could get to what we wanted was “painter”.
Fortunately, that’s not too much of an issue. This is only to get an approximation of what you’re after before you tweak your site through the dashboard – you can always skip the wizard entirely.
Then, after giving your site a title, you choose from a selection of boxes to define your goal (or goals, as you can select more than one). This could be selling products, gathering donations or growing your traffic by making sure the site is search optimised. Having done so, you’re presented with a handful of templates, each represented by a large thumbnail to give you an idea of the layout, colours, and fonts.
What’s really clever is that the highlighted templates appear to have been selected to match your specified industry, and so too has their placeholder text. Having chosen “painter” earlier in the process, our templates had a distinctly “handyman” feel, with placeholder text focused largely on home improvements. Stepping back and changing our industry to “photographer”, we were presented with a new set of templates, this time with headlines such as “Lights. Camera. Action.”, “Capturing the beat of the moment”, and “A picture is worth 1,000 words”.
We’d clearly chosen the wrong kind of painter, but mistakes made at this stage don’t really matter. The whole point of using a CMS, rather than building a static site, is that your design and your content are kept separate. So, if you decide later on that you don’t like the template you chose, you can change it and the content will be rejigged to fit. The wizard is just to help get you started, and you can use other tools to build exactly the kind of site you envisaged as you become more familiar with WordPress.
Once you’ve picked a template, you can untick the pages you don’t want to include. Again, each page is shown as a thumbnail, and any parts that don’t fit into the holder scroll automatically to give you a more comprehensive overview. Rather neatly, some of the placeholder content, such as the site name, is personalised to include the information you gave earlier.
After this last step in the process, you’re presented with a summary of your options and a list of plugins that will help you meet your goals. Having said, in our example, that we wanted to optimise our site for search as well as selling products online, it was set to install Yoast SEO, Hubspot and WooCommerce, although we could skip any we didn’t want by unticking their boxes, then use the WordPress dashboard’s integrated plugin installer after logging in if we preferred alternatives.
The whole process is very slick, user-friendly and entirely unthreatening. For anyone setting up their first WordPress site, we couldn’t imagine a better experience.
The help doesn’t stop once you’ve launched, either. The WordPress dashboard has been tweaked to place common tasks – such as uploading a logo, adding a page or writing a site description – just one click away. Again, for beginners, this is far more preferable to being presented with an overwhelmingly comprehensive set of options, panels and menus, and not knowing which way to turn.
A separate dashboard section links to a knowledge base, which is hosted on your own domain so you’re not sent out to a third-party site, and a series of overlay tours. The tours are particularly helpful, dimming the larger part of the interface to draw attention to specific elements. The plugins tour, for example, steps directly into the plugins panel, then picks out important points, such as how plugins are listed, how to add new ones, and how to disable any that are already up and running. None of it should be unfamiliar to seasoned WordPress users, but it will likely be very useful for first timers.
34SP WordPress hosting review: Is email included?
Yes. All plans include email, running on 34SP’s in-house Mercury Mail platform. This delivers both POP and IMAP access, filters and spam filtering, webmail, antivirus and a CALDAV calendar. You can set it up to work with your regular email client, or you can log in through the Roundcube webmail client.
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34SP WordPress hosting review: How much do other options cost?
As well as the four WordPress plans described above, 34SP offers a complete range of template-based, freeform and reseller hosting packages.
The cheapest of these is its template-based website builder, which offers drag-and-drop design of desktop and mobile-friendly sites, including e-commerce stores, for only £2.95/mth.
Professional Hosting is 34SP’s freeform hosting option for anyone who wants to build a site from scratch, with weekly backups, email and webmail thrown in. At £7.95/mth, it’s £2 cheaper than the single-site WordPress hosting plan, yet you can still use it to host a WordPress site, if you want, by installing the CMS yourself. While this is an easy way to save a little over two months’ hosting per year, you won’t benefit from the simple setup, nor the speed and ease of running the CMS on a platform specifically tailored to its needs. So, if you care about search engine performance and keeping your visitors loyal, the WordPress plan’s additional £2/mth may be money well spent.
34SP’s reseller hosting option is aimed at freelancers and agencies who act as an intermediary for their own customers. For £40/mth, it can be used to host an unlimited number of sites, and includes 2GB of RAM, 25GB of storage, and uncapped bandwidth, databases and mailboxes.
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34SP WordPress hosting review: Should you sign up?
There’s a lot to like here. While £9.95/mth isn’t the cheapest WordPress hosting on offer, it’s fair value for money when you consider what you get. It includes email, a super simple setup and the proxy tool that lets you build a larger site with multiple components by drawing in resources hosted elsewhere.
We’ve also had good experiences with 34SP’s tech support team over the years, which has consistently been knowledgeable and quick to respond.
If we were on the lookout for a dedicated WordPress hosting package, this would have a guaranteed spot on the shortlist. It’s flexible and easy, and, with monthly pricing on offer, you’re not being forced to make a long-term commitment.