I started using WordPress a few years ago to build sites, first for myself and later for clients.
The first hosting solution I used was Gandi, because it was the easiest to configure for the domains I was buying on their platform.
Gandi Web Hosting
Their shared hosting plans used to be called Simple Hosting. They're now presented as Gandi Web Hosting, starting at £3 per year for the first year (hosting prices are usually discounted in Year 1).
The main difference between each plan is the amount of CPUs allocated to your site(s), from 1 to 8 (you'll need more CPUs to process more complex queries for a larger amount of simultaneous visitors).
In the early days, I didn't really pay attention to the performance of my sites, since I had no point of reference and little experience in the field. It seemed ok, nothing to worry about. But after working on multiple projects, I had the impression that the WordPress admin wasn't that responsive, that things could have been improved.
I ran a few performance tests (using Google PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix and Pingdom) and results weren't that great, usually under 70/100 on Google PageSpeed Insights. I started experimenting with caching plugins, CDNs and other solutions to try to improve the results. It worked for a while but the performance was slowly deteriorating (I was on the M plan and even on the L one for a while, so not the cheapest offering, with enough processing power). I started researching other options...
DreamHost WordPress hosting
The first alternative I tested was DreamHost, in VPS mode (isolated resources to avoid having your performance hindered by other sites on the same servers). It's currently priced $10 per month. I don't know whether it was mainly the consequence of change but I had, in the first few weeks at least, the impression that the performance was slighly better, mostly on the front-end side.
But I still experimented painful loading times on the admin part. It's worth noting that there can be a significant difference between the user experience on the front-end and on the back-end (for instance, you will never benefit from caching behind the scenes). It's also worth mentioning - and we'll get back to this later - that the theme (& plugins) you're using have a major impact on the performance of your site.
Most of my personal experience with the providers listed in this article comes from projects involving Divi by Elegant Themes, except for the last configuration (SiteGround + GeneratePress & Elementor).
In a nutshell, DreamHost VPS offering wasn't delivering anything special compared to Gandi's shared hosting plans. I decided to move on.
A2Hosting Turbo WordPress plan
Which brought me to A2Hosting after reading good reviews about their services. They have a dedicated WordPress hosting offering. So I decided to go for it, choosing their best option, Turbo, presented as Blazing Fast, starting at £5.45 per month.
I've been using A2Hosting for a few months, only for staging purposes (not for production websites) and, to be honest, the performance of the sites I host there relies more on the caching plugins and other optimization tricks than on the Turbo settings at A2Hosting...
I've also noticed that the resources allocated to my sites required a booting phase when I opened the project after a quiet period, with first opening loading times above 20 seconds (then much less, after warming up). Quite annoying but acceptable in staging mode. But it didn't give me much confidence to launch production-grade projects on A2Hosting (I also read a few negative comments about the way they handled long downtimes on their platform).
SiteGround WordPress hosting + new theme & visual builder
Recently I embarked on a new creative project and wanted to find a long term hosting solution to ensure the best performances.
I also wanted to find a visual builder which would offer a faster response on the admin side. After tens of projects on Divi, small and large, I was somehow frustrated by the loading time of their visual builder. Following the advice of experienced WordPress developers, I decided to decouple the theme from the visual builder (which would be a plugin).
Let's say it loud and clear: I wished I would have taken that decision earlier... Elementor is MUCH (much) faster to use than Divi. There was almost no learning curve (basic principles are the same). I'm really impressed with their tool and even if I have a lifetime plan with Divi, I'll probably stick to Elementor Pro in the future.
On the hosting side, SiteGround is a breeze.
The UI gives you immediate confidence in the product's reliability. It's not the usual old school CPanel. The UI is modern, easy to navigate, really sleek (I'm tempted to say that the worst part of the interface is probably... their logo).
There's no need to add any caching plugin to a WordPress install on SiteGround. You're covered by their in-house solution, SG Optimizer. I chose SiteGround's GrowBig plan which includes their SuperCacher feature (Memcache, great to store frequently executed queries), priced £4.95 per month (excl. VAT) in year 1.
I've implemented on my new site WP OffLoad Media Lite, to host the images on Amazon S3/CloudFront, which reduces the load on the WordPress server by separating media queries from the core application.
I usually get 90+ on Google PageSpeed Insights with this setup. It won't beat a static website but it's pretty good for a WordPress project. In my experience, a comparable site running on Divi on another hosting platform would have usually loaded in 1.5+ second. Using Hello + Elementor on SiteGround, it loads under 0.5 second (tested with PHP Query Monitor plugin).
Working with WordPress has been a long learning process (I've been involved on the scene for 5 years), sometimes frustrating when trying to figure out how to improve a specific setup, but very satisfying when I finally implemented a great stack.
I think I'll stick to this combination for the next 5 years (with some optimizations along the way): a lightweight WordPress theme (Hello), Elementor Pro (the visual builder plugin) and SiteGround (hosting), my best trio so far.
Don't hesitate to share your own experience in the comments below.