Selecting a hosting provider for a MediaWiki-based website
This article is part of a series compiled as a guide to encourage and assist those building a MediaWiki-based website in a hosted environment.
Each article links to relevant documentation from the MediaWiki.org website and the Wikimedia.org website. Where the official documentation does not adequately cover the issues for a hosted site, or is too 'advanced', additional information, explanation and advice is provided.
After deciding to build your website with MediaWiki the next major decision is to select a hosting provider.
Some of the issues to consider are outlined below.
Types of Web Hosting Providers
There are two types of web hosting available for MediaWiki.
- Hosting Services which provide a pre-configured wiki managed on a wiki farm. Some services are free.
- Web hosting service providers which enable you to perform a 1-click install of MediaWiki from a selection of software applications. These service providers generally offer to register your domain name and then host your own website.
A comparison between wiki farms and commercial web hosts on the wikiindex.org website (see adjacent) discusses advantages and limitations of wiki farm hosting.
It is not necessary to host your website or wiki with the same service provider that manages your domain registration. Separating the two roles can be beneficial.
Some web hosting services provide no support, so choose your service provider wisely! Here are some points to look for:-
- support email address: test it and see how long the response time is. Anything less than 24 hours is frustrating.
- user guides: FAQs, a knowledgebase, help articles, user guides should all be accessible and professional.
- support tickets: sometimes it seems that all the documentation is there in the hope that you will solve your own problem, but you cannot lodge a support ticket if you need seek further help. Or maybe it is possible but so buried that it's a discouragement.
- local phone number: contacting a hosting provider at international call rates can get expensive! Look for a local number, at least in your own country!
- technical support: the hosting provider support staff may have no personal experience or knowledge of MediaWiki so support for the application itself may be limited. But you may need their help with DNS issues, compatibility issues, performance problems, connection issues, FTP access, and other how-to's.
Some hosting providers have a custom interface. It may work well for Wordpress users and others but will it suit your needs?
The two main commercial interfaces are Plesk and cPanel. The benefits of selecting a hosting provider based on whether they offer either of these user interfaces is discussed in the article Plesk and cPanel.
Popularity is not an indicator of excellence
Look at Reviews and Forums. Search the Internet for phrases like 'best web hosting provider' or 'worst web hosting provider', and read the comments.
But be aware of how that information can be skewed:-
- computer magazine articles reviewing hosting providers may have limited their selection to those which provide sponsorship
- some hosting providers run affiliate programs so it would be natural for participants to make recommendations from which they may earn a commission
- companies that promote low cost domain registration may also advertise web hosting but their core business is the domain registration and up-selling related products. Support for users may be limited.
- reviews which list and then promote the most popular hosting providers are actually only focusing on the companies with largest market share. The apparent popularity of a hosting provider may be a result of attracting customers by offering cheap domain registration and is not a measure of customer satisfaction
It is worth paying more for hosting if you can get a higher level of customer service. Choose wisely and 'don't follow the crowd'.
The information or advice provided in this Guide is based on, or links to, official documentation for MediaWiki and was accurate when this article was created. However, some variation may occur between versions of MediaWiki; and the specifics of web hosting varies by service provider. Consequently, you should always create an effective backup before making any changes; ensure that you can restore your database and website; read the Release Notes before upgrading; and apply best practices to the management of your website. Any action that you take based on information provided here is at your own risk and the author accepts no liability for any loss or damage.