What is Static WordPress Hosting? Pros/Cons and How to Get Started
Heard of this thing called “static WordPress hosting”? Wondering whether going static is right for your site?
Whether you have no idea what static WordPress hosting is or you already know the basics, this post will help fill in the details, as well as help you figure out whether or not static hosting is right for your site, and how you can get started.
Let’s dive in…
What is Static WordPress Hosting? Explained in More Detail
Let’s start the beginning (with a super simplified version of how WordPress works)…
How Your WordPress Site Works
WordPress is written in PHP. When someone visits your server, your web server executes that PHP and queries your site’s database to dynamically put together the HTML content to deliver to the visitor’s browser.
That dynamic nature is helpful because it means, for example, that your WooCommerce site’s server can deliver a cart page that contains the actual items a person added to their cart.
However, that process is also resource-intensive because your server needs to dynamically “build” the content and query your database for every single visit.
WordPress page caching is a popular performance trick that “caches” the static HTML (the end result of the dynamic process). However, even with a caching plugin, your WordPress site is still right there behind the cached version of the file.
Here’s Where Static WordPress Hosting Comes In…
Static WordPress hosting takes things one step further by completely removing the WordPress backend.
Essentially, you’ll add your content and build your site using WordPress. Then, once you’ve finished, you’ll generate a 100% static version of your site and deploy it. No more PHP. No more database. This image from Strattic does a good job of showing the difference between regular hosting and the static approach:
The way most static WordPress hosts do it is that your actual WordPress site lives in a separate container that’s not accessible to the public.
You use that WordPress install to add content and manage your site. Once you’re finished making changes, your host will generate the static HTML files and deploy those HTML files to the front-end environment that your site’s visitors will experience.
So most of the static WordPress hosts that you’ll find are actually two things:
- A static site generator (this is what turns your WordPress site into static HTML)
- A host (this is what actually serves those HTML files up to visitors)
Pros and Cons of Static WordPress Hosting
While there are some big benefits to static WordPress hosting, it’s definitely not the right approach for many (maybe most) WordPress sites as there are also some big cons.
Let’s start with the good stuff, first, though!
Pros of Static WordPress Hosting
The two big benefits of static WordPress hosting vs traditional WordPress hosting are:
- Security – because your site is static, there are no vulnerabilities for people to exploit in your site itself. This makes it about as secure as possible.
- Performance – your site is going to load lightning fast because there’s no more server-side processing or database queries.
Beyond that, because a static site eliminates much of the load on your server, you can save a ton of money. Even with just a $5 per month DigitalOcean droplet, you’ll be able to serve billions of requests per month.
Finally, many WordPress plugins work just fine with static WordPress. For example, you’ll still be able to use your favorite page builder to design your pages (as long as you’re not using Elementor Pro’s dynamic content functionality, that is).
Cons of Static WordPress Hosting
The biggest con of static WordPress hosting is in the name – it’s static! One of the reasons WordPress is so popular is because of how easy it makes it to create dynamic content.
When you go static, that goes away. And that’s a big deal for a lot of sites! As soon as you go static, all of this stuff will stop working:
Now, there are definitely ways around this. For example, you could use:
But the basic idea is that a lot of the plugins and features you love will either stop working completely, or require a workaround for you to keep using them.
Additionally, there’s also a bit of added hassle in that you’ll need to re-deploy your site whenever you add or edit content, instead of just clicking the Publish button like you do on a regular WordPress site.
Who Should Use Static WordPress Hosting?
Static WordPress hosting is a great option if your site doesn’t change a lot and doesn’t rely on dynamic content.
For example, if you just have a simple brochure website that doesn’t change much, going static is a great idea. Or, if you have a blog that you update a couple of times a week, static might make sense for you, too.
However, if you do rely on dynamic content, static hosting is definitely not for you.
Three Dedicated Static WordPress Hosts to Get You Started
The easiest way to go static is with a dedicated static WordPress host. These hosts will handle both making your site static and hosting those static files for visitors.
Typically, they’ll put your WordPress dashboard in its own separate container that you can turn on/off as needed. Then, when you want to deploy, you can just click a button to have the host build your static site.
Shifter is probably the most well-known static WordPress host, and it also has an interesting twist in that it offers a limited free plan (though you can’t use a custom domain). The cool thing, though, is that this lets you see whether you like static WordPress hosting before you make the jump.
Shifter includes an integrated CDN (Amazon CloudFront) and an SSL certificate with all plans.
HardyPress is another popular WordPress static hosting option that starts at just ~€4/month.
One cool thing about HardyPress is that it includes Contact Form 7 support, which means that you can still create forms with Contact Form 7. It’s not exactly the same as a dynamic WordPress site, because HardyPress is actually making some tweaks and you need to configure Contact Form 7 in a certain way. But that’s still pretty cool!
Beyond that, HardyPress also adds its own site search feature so that you can still let visitors search your site.
You can see an example below:
Strattic is a newer static WordPress hosting option that’s still in beta at the moment. I’m not sure about the final features/pricing, but it’s another good solution to keep your eye on.
How to Create Your Own Static WordPress Site With WP2Static
As I mentioned above, all those static WordPress hosts are basically a combination of two things:
- A static site generator to turn WordPress into static HTML files
- A host to serve those static files
As an alternative, you can generate a static site yourself and then host those files anywhere you want.
That’s what the WP2Static plugin from Leon Stafford does.
From your WordPress dashboard, it lets you generate a static version of your site and deploy it via a variety of methods including:
- Amazon S3
The free version lets you deploy your entire site, and then there are premium add-ons that let you only send files that have been changed, which will be much more efficient for a large site.
The core free version is available at WordPress.org, and the premium add-ons cost $50 each.
Another good option is the Simply Static plugin, which is also available for free at WordPress.org.
Final Thoughts on Static WordPress Hosting
Static WordPress hosting is definitely not the solution for all sites, but it is a viable option for a lot of non-dynamic sites and can make your WordPress site faster and more secure.
The easiest way to get started is with a static WordPress host like Shifter, HardyPress, or Strattic. Or, if you’re more of the DIY type, you can also use a plugin like WP2Static or Simply Static to convert your site to HTML and host it wherever you want.
Any questions? Ask away in the comments!