Thinking of trying headless WordPress for yourself? It’s definitely not for everyone. You have to do a lot of confusing setup while working with a technology that isn’t very well documented online. But the real difficult part may be finding hosting suited for headless WordPress.
While you can host a headless instance on any server, a specially configured one will help you tackle common issues without needing to handle it all on your own. And thanks to headless WordPress’ growing popularity, there are quite a few hosting providers ready to accommodate you.
Each of the eight hosts below are perfectly configured to work with headless WordPress, so you can skip a lot of the difficulties that come with getting it up and running.
Static vs. Headless WordPress
If you’ve been researching headless WordPress, you may have come across the term “static WordPress”. These two terms are often mentioned together, sometimes even used interchangeably. But while they are somewhat similar in concept, they’re not exactly the same.
The way headless WordPress works is that it detaches the back end from the front end, allowing you to keep the CMS and use an API to connect it to other services.
Static WordPress also detaches the front and back end. The difference is that it leaves your dynamic WordPress site intact, but hidden, while pushing its content to a static HTML version of your website that loads much faster.
Both have similar concepts, but the implementation is a bit different. Yet, many hosts support both static and headless hosting, or even combine them together.
What to Look for in a Headless WordPress Host
When it comes to headless WordPress hosting, there’s a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
First, you may need separate hosting: one server for your headless back end, and one for your front end website or app. The first server will need to of course support WordPress and PHP. The other server will need to work with whatever technology you’re using.
This usually means a lot of setup and possibly working with two entire different hosts. But specialized headless WordPress hosts are optimized to work with your setup and eliminate a lot of the snags you’d face normally.
Headless WordPress hosts need to be flexible enough to work with different technologies and frameworks, as well as supporting the REST API. And of course, the usual hosting needs apply: fast speeds, affordable pricing, and helpful support.
Here are eight headless WordPress hosts that fit your specific needs.
1. WP Engine
WP Engine is a well-known hosting platform, already serving as the stable hub for over a million websites. Going off reputation alone, it’s a great choice for any WordPress installation, be it headless or not.
WP Engine works with a variety of setups, headless WordPress included. If you encounter issues with the API or other unique headless problems, the 24/7 support will be there to help. Pricing starts at $25/month for Managed Hosting, $28/month for Managed Hosting Plus, and $44/month for Secure Hosting.
A Managed Hosting plan will usually be good enough for headless WordPress, as Managed Hosting Plus focuses on plugin support and Secure Hosting is ideal for eCommerce sites. But there are features such as an extra layer of DDoS protection that may appeal to you.
If you go with WP Engine, you’re looking at these general features:
- Daily backups for your WordPress install
- Secure infrastructure and threat detection to keep your CMS safe
- Free automated migrations
- Helpful support when issues crop up
- SSL and SSH support, plus other developer features like WP-CLI
- An activity log and user permissions to go with it
- A one-click staging site to test things out
Yet, like with all web hosts, there are also a few minor downsides.
WP Engine is configured for PHP and WordPress. Consequently, you will need to seek out a different host for the front-facing end of your website, if you’re using incompatible technologies or making an app. And compared to other hosts it is a bit pricey, especially since you’ll likely need a second web host.
On the other hand, you do get what you pay for. WP Engine has a stellar reputation in terms of stability and its blazing fast speeds. If you need a reliable WordPress host, they’re the ones to go with.
Shifter is a modern platform that allows you to create either a static or headless WordPress site. This solution is feature-rich and designed specifically with headless WordPress in mind, so you know you’re getting hosting optimized for you.
The host has two sets of plans: Shifter Static for generating static HTML WordPress sites, and Shifter Headless, which aims at Jamstack developers. The headless plan starts at $48/month, but there is a free seven-day trial so you can make sure it’s worth the investment.
Shifter is packed full of features. Here’s just a bit of what you’ll get.
- Create a new WordPress instance from the dashboard
- Maintenance-free: Security issues are taken care of
- Automated scaling to eliminate downtime
- Team features for easy collaboration
- Shifter API, error reporting, and plenty of other dev-friendly features
- Automated backups to keep your site safe
- Unlimited media storage: Stop worrying about hosting all those images and videos
For the cons: Shifter only has one-site plans available. If that’s a problem, you’ll need to use a different host. It’s also pretty expensive with a high monthly cost. But the price is balanced out by the variety of headless-focused features and a team of engineers that knows how to optimize for you.
Strattic is a headless and static WordPress solution focused on maximum optimization, and getting the most out of your alternative WordPress instance. Their CEO spoke about static WordPress at WordCamp Europe 2020. While Strattic focuses especially on generating static sites, it does support headless with its serverless architecture.
Pricing is simple: it starts at $45/month for solo sites, and $250/month for the Business plan. Purchase annually to get two free months, and there’s also a custom enterprise plan if you need it. Plus, here’s what you can get in every plan:
- Easy static site generation, with room for both your website and a seat for your back end
- Heavy focus on security with DDoS protection and a locked down admin
- Support for dynamic elements (like site search and certain plugins) that many headless servers don’t have
- Full, helpful support
- An isolated runtime environment for your back end that shuts down when not in use
You can start a free trial which gives you one website on a Strattic domain. A downside here is that Strattic’s focus is more on generating static sites, and less on using headless WordPress for other purposes.
But with its great technology and plenty of features, plus its very helpful assortment of static-friendly plugins, it’s a great choice if you’re looking to make a static headless site.
NorthStack promises a lot for headless WordPress hosting. The premise is simple: the workflow you’re used to, easy configuration with React and Vue, and an elastic autoscaling payment plan so you only pay for what you use.
Here’s what you get with them:
- Flexible, scalable infrastructure
- A pay-what-you-use plan that won’t overcharge you for unused resources (and no set minimums!)
- Compatible with both React and Vue
- Support for static WordPress as well as general headless installations
- Full managed hosting: Backups, WordPress updates, caching, and security all inclusive
The issue is that it’s currently in beta. So if you need something definitively reliable, it might not be the one to go with. But you can join the beta and get some free usage credits for your help testing the program. So if you’re just experimenting rather than launching an important product, it might be worth a try!
This static site generator opens with a bold claim: make your WordPress site run up to ten times faster. According to its performance reports, it does live up to the hype. If compressing your website to the maximum is your goal, then HardyPress has what you need.
Billed monthly, it starts at only €5/month for a single website and 500MB of storage. Upgrading to professional for €25/month gets you more storage and unlimited websites, while the €80/month VPS plan gets you even more storage and access to the REST API. All this comes at an annual discount, and enterprises can get a more expensive but fairly affordable plan tailored to them.
- Maximize performance and get your PageSpeed score up to over 95% by creating a static version of your site
- Pause or shut down your back end WordPress at any time
- Continue using Contact Form 7 and site search, plus any back end plugins
- Free SSL certificate included
- One year of backups
- Extensive documentation to help you get your bearings
HardyPress is built as a static site generator. While it is headless as it keeps your back end on its own server, it isn’t meant to be used for multichannel publishing or working with non-PHP web technologies. You can’t even get access to the REST API unless you have at least the €80/month VPS plan.
What HardyPress does is create a separate, static version of your site that loads lightning fast, and this is what it’s best at.
Managed WordPress hosting for big brands and large enterprises: That’s what Pagely is all about. Used by brands like Disney, Comcast, and VMWare, this is definitely premium hosting. Consequently, it also comes with a high-end price range: Business-class hosting starting at $499/month, and fully customized enterprise hosting from $42k/year.
On the other hand, the features you get are well worth the price.
- Custom solutions tailored to your business’ needs
- Fully scalable infrastructure you’ll never outgrow; never switch hosts again
- Top-end support
- Custom plugins and modules to enhance security, caching, image compression, and more
- Automatic backups, WordPress upgrades, and more
- Pageviews and visitors uncapped and always free
- Staging sites, Git, SSH access, and other dev-friendly tools
Pagely has no qualms working with headless WordPress, supporting both the REST API and GraphQL. They’re ready to accommodate whatever front end framework you want, and extra feature tailored precisely for maximum headless security and performance.
Gatsby is not technically traditional hosting, but it’s worth mentioning solely because of how well it integrates with headless WordPress. It’s a framework for building front end websites quickly and efficiently. You can then deploy them through the free-to-start Gatsby Cloud and port to a hosting provider of your choice afterwards.
You will need to host your back end WordPress installation somewhere else, but this can be on any host you want, whether it’s on cheap shared hosting or one of the hosts from this list. Gatsby also works with APIs, so connecting the two is easy.
One of the best ways to host with Gatsby is actually using Netlify.
Netlify provides serverless hosting that works with a variety of other Jamstack platforms, including Gatsby. It works perfectly with WordPress, including headless and static versions. And you can use any framework you want, from React to Vue to Next.
The great thing about Netlify is that it’s free to start with a plan especially tailored for personal projects and experimental sites. So if you want to try it out, or are just testing the waters with headless WordPress, it’s totally risk free.
From there it’s $19/month for a Pro plan with better starter features, and $99/month for even more helpful development features. All this is per member, so teams will be paying double. Here’s what you get in exchange:
- Developer-focused serverless hosting with the features you need to efficiently deploy your projects
- Extremely high performance thanks to the Edge network
- Work with your framework of choice
- A plugin ecosystem to enhance and expand your site
- Unlimited websites on every plan
Netlify’s features are a dream come true for many, but remember that it’s developer-focused and best for those who know their way around web development already. If that doesn’t describe you, you might have trouble adjusting.
Final Thoughts: Headless CMS Hosting for WordPress
One of the hardest parts of setting up headless WordPress is finding the right host for it. The eight hosting providers above all have their pros and cons, but each one works well to help you set up a headless WordPress environment.
Netlify and Gatsby make a good pair for developers who need a more efficient way to deploy their headless sites, while NorthStack and Shifter are also great for devs. Pagely is perfect for enterprises who need quality and have the money to pay for it. Strattic and HardyPress are best for static site generation. And if you just need an all-around headless WordPress host that’s easy to use and works flexibly with your setup, WPEngine is your best choice.
Which host are you most interested in? Let us know what you think in the comments!