5 Best Drupal Web Hosting Services of 2017

A review of the top Drupal web hosts for self-hosting your own drupal website. Your 2017 guide to Drupal and how to find the best Drupal web hosting.

Our official guide to the best Drupal web hosting

Finding the best Drupal web host is key to the long-term success of your Drupal website. Most web hosts support Drupal, but performance is often the primary issue because it requires higher server resources than other CMS platforms. In fact, we recommend hosting Drupal on a VPS hosting plan, although it is still of course possible to host it on a shared plan. Regardless of which hosting plan your site may need, here’s a list of the best Drupal web hosting companies that come highly recommended by us and the Drupal community:

The Best Drupal Web Hosts at a Glance

Here’s a quick overview of the top choices for Drupal web hosting. We’ve listed the different purposes we would recommend each one for:

Web HostStarts at:Recommended for:Learn more
InMotion Hosting$3.49/moBest value Drupal hosting for businessesRead Review
HostGator$6.95/moCloud based Drupal hosting for uptime & reliabilityRead Review
Bluehost$2.95/moPopular choice for Drupal and #1 recommended on Drupal.orgRead Review
Web Hosting Hub$3.99/moAffordable, Drupal shared hosting for those on a budgetRead Review
A2 Hosting$3.92/moFast, high performance Drupal web hosting for developersRead Review

About Drupal and web hosting

Finding the Best Web Host for Drupal

One of the most important decisions for using Drupal is to determine what type of web hosting is required to support its functionality. Some of the main questions that need to be answered are:

  • Does the web host meet the minimum Drupal CMS system requirements?
  • Does the web host provide Secure Shell (SSH) access?
  • What are the custom development requirements of the website?
  • What is the expected user traffic the website will need to manage?
  • What performance optimization software will be used to run the Drupal site?

Typically, most small business owners start out on a shared hosting account and then move to a VPS or cloud solution if the web traffic increases past the point that the server will permit. Drupal will consume a lot of processing resources on a shared hosting account which becomes more problematic when more simultaneous users are present on the site. Development requirements such as the use of Drush and Git with Drupal require command line access using a Secure Shell (SSH) account, which not every shared host will allow. The Drupal CMS will scale to meet the most demanding user traffic environments on the web, but only if the server architecture is properly configured for resource allocation. Cloud optimization software like Nginx, Varnish, Memcache, and APC are recommended by developers for high traffic enterprise sites and web apps, but invariably will require a server with custom configuration.

Drupal Hosting System Requirements

Drupal will run on both Linux and Windows servers, though the vast majority of sites run on the LAMP stack using Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. The advantage with shared hosting over VPS and dedicated server solutions for small business sites is that the web hosting company will manage the server software, which includes the regular patching of scripts for security upgrades. Thus, shared hosting with cPanel is cost effective in getting started with a Drupal site, as the site owners will not usually be required to employ a dedicated systems administrator to keep the server configured and secure.

Drupal runs on a MySQL database, which is the default standard on almost all shared Linux and Windows hosting platforms. PostgreSQL and SQLite are also options with Drupal, as are the MariaDB and the Percona database frameworks, but these are normally not recommended outside of custom development requirements.

The most important thing to confirm with a shared web hosting solution is the PHP version support. In summary:

  • Drupal 8 requires PHP 5.5.9 or higher
  • Drupal 7 requires PHP 5.2.5 or higher

We recommend PHP 5.6 or higher as the fine folks who maintain the PHP project have stopped supporting PHP 5.5. With VPS or cloud solutions, developers should easily be able to install and configure the PHP version they prefer with the Linux or Windows install. However, some shared web hosts run PHP as a CGI process instead of as an Apache module, which can occasionally cause performance issues, module conflicts, or other issues such as lack of customization possibilities. It is recommended to confirm that the web host supports the appropriate PHP version required for the Drupal installation before beginning development of the website.

Drupal hosting php version requirements

HINT: Site owners using cPanel on shared hosting may be able to login and change the version of PHP running on the server as well as enabling or disabling extensions. Look for the “Select PHP Version” icon. If this option is unavailable, you can contact your host and request they make the desired changes for you.

Drupal Auto Installation with Fantastico, Softaculous, & Mojo QuickInstall

Some small business owners on shared hosting will use the automatic installation features of Fantastico, Softaculous, or Mojo QuickInstall to expedite the process of getting their site online. Generally, the Drupal installation process requires uploading a zip file or tarball of the Drupal core files to the domain folder on the server, unpacking the files, then creating a database through cPanel with the user name and password. When navigating to the domain homepage, the Drupal installation script will automatically run, prompting the input of the database name, user, and password information.

The automated script installation with Fantastico, Softaculous, & Mojo QuickInstall is similar, with the exception that the script will complete the process of creating the user database and uploading the files to the domain without the user needing to go through the MySQL Database Wizard or using FTP to upload the Drupal codebase. While generally this process is fine for getting a quick view of Drupal and testing out the functionality of the script, it can be problematic during the upgrade process. Some questions to consider when using shared hosting automated scripts to install Drupal are:

  • Is the script installing the latest security version of Drupal core?
  • Will the site require the uploading of third-party modules and themes to the “/sites” folder?
  • Will the Drupal site admin be using the automated script process to upgrade the site?

Site owners who use an automated script to install Drupal and then upload additional third party modules and themes to the “sites/all/modules” and “sites/all/themes” folders can risk losing these files if using the cPanel upgrade process to apply the core security changes to Drupal. Typically, these scripts have no way to check the changes that have been made in those folders, and may not preserve the files during a version upgrade.

Drupal auto installation via Softaculous

HINT: Softaculous and Fantastico can be a quick and easy way to compare the features between Drupal 8.x, 7.x, & 6.x versions – but use a manual installation for the production site & upgrades.

Drupal Development Issues

Installation is only the beginning of a Drupal site. New users who have viewed the amazing design and functionality of the enterprise, news, and media industry sites running Drupal listed above might be disappointed when Drupal is unpacked to display only a simple homepage and the Bartik theme. Many site owners buy custom themes with installation profiles that already include the required third party modules needed to run a complex site, plus an advanced theme with CSS customizations and model content. This can streamline the deployment process of getting a site started for small businesses and save money on developer costs. Drupal development is complex and the method that is chosen for programming the site is also an important part of determining which web host is required to deploy.

Drupal development requires working with modules, themes, custom code, text, images, and other multimedia files. Some of the process can be done communicating through the Drupal administration panel using the web browser. For example, in constructing single pages—whereas the architectural aspects of the codebase changes must be done manually through backend development. Generally, there are two main development methods for this process:

  • Drupal development using FTP to upload new modules, themes, & file changes
  • Drupal development done using the command line (SSH) with Git & Drush

Drupal development using FTP can be done directly on the main site domain or on a subdomain. For example, a dev.sitename.com subdomain can be created on a shared host in cPanel, and then File Manager and PHPmyAdmin can be used to transfer the site files and MySQL database file to the live domain when the development work is completed.

Drupal development using the command line (SSH), Git, and Drush can be done from a local installation of the CMS using WAMP or Acquia Dev Desktop on the local computer. Changes in the Drupal codebase can be pushed to the live or production site using version control, allowing multiple developers to work on a project simultaneously and to synchronize code changes.

Acquia hosting for Drupal

HINT: Acquia Dev Desktop 2 allows developers to install a local version of Drupal on their computer using Apache, MySQL, & PHP – as well as to automatically publish sites to Acquia Cloud hosting.

Until recently, most shared hosts did not offer SSH access to clients, requiring site owners who needed command line access to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server. However, now more and more web hosts are offering this service, with the exception that it must be specifically requested from customer support on a verified user account. Some questions related to Drupal development that should be confirmed before making a decision on web hosting are:

  • Does the web host allow SSH access to support Git & Drush development?
  • Does the shared host have cPanel with File Manager and PHPmyAdmin?
  • Will the web host support performance optimization with Nginx, APC, Memcache, & Varnish?

Most shared hosting accounts run a version of cPanel, CentOS Linux, and WHMCS which gives clients a wide range of easy-to-use options in the administration panel. However, some web hosts run a proprietary control panel that may lack a File Manager option or access to PHPmyAdmin. Also, many shared hosts still do not offer full Secure Shell (SSH) access to clients on basic accounts, making an upgrade to VPS or dedicated server mandatory for advanced development projects which require a custom server configuration for Drupal. It is recommended for site owners to consult a Drupal developer or Systems Administrator for the needed server requirements on custom coded sites. For best web security practices, it is recommended to use a SSL Certificate and robust web encryption over HTTPS when transferring any user data, especially in social networking and eCommerce contexts.

Drupal Performance Issues

After the development process is finished and the Drupal site goes live, there are still many performance and traffic related optimizations related to the web hosting environment that need to be addressed. As mentioned, Drupal sites running on shared hosting can use a lot of server resources. Therefore, site owners should confirm that the php.ini file and .htaccess file can be edited in order to change and optimize the PHP memory limit and max file execution times. This can also be done through the settings.php file, however it may not be possible to override the default settings on all shared web hosts.

Web traffic requirements and “slashdotting” issues remain as the most common reasons other than server resource usage forcing site owners to upgrade to VPS, dedicated server, or cloud offerings for Drupal site web hosting. For example, Nginx is a complete server solution that allows for the simultaneous connection of over 10,000 users at a time using load balancing and a HTTP cache. Proprietary Drupal cloud hosting solutions like Pantheon offer Nginx, Varnish Cache, Apache Solr search, and other solutions for scaling for web traffic “out of the box” as a default for all user accounts. However, there is not the same ability to customize these settings for fine tuning as on a VPS or dedicated server.

Pantheon web hosting for Drupal

HINT: Site owners looking for a Drupal Cloud Hosting solution with pre-installed, optimized settings designed to scale for web traffic and “slashdotting” should consider services such as Pantheon.

Many of the benefits of Nginx and Varnish can be accomplished on shared hosting with Drupal using a combination of third-party modules such as “Adv Agg” for CSS and Javascript compression, “Boost” for static HTML caching of pages for anonymous users, as well as “Views Cache” to avoid processing dynamic content on every page load. Some shared hosts even offer integrated CDN options which can also increase performance during peak times of high volume traffic spikes.

Summary & Recommendations

Most small businesses, SMEs, non-profit groups, and individual website owners without a dedicated web developer or systems administrator are recommended to start with shared web hosting and a Drupal 8.x installation, making sure to optimize the site as much as possible to use server resources efficiently. When the site grows to a larger traffic dynamic, then an upgrade can be made to a VPS, dedicated server, or cloud solution when required.

Some web hosts offer “hybrid” solutions of cloud server offerings on a shared basis at a slightly higher price than regular cPanel hosting accounts. Because of the convenience of cPanel, and the ability to host unlimited domains on a shared account with unlimited MySQL databases, it is often not worth the extra cost for the price with the loss of so many features in the administration panel. However, when a site has irregular traffic and occasional promotions that lead to “slashdotting” or the site being off-line at critical times, the mid-range cloud solutions can be a good option.

The Drupal-specific cloud hosts often come with pre-installations of the scripts, custom developer tools, and advanced configurations for optimizing Drupal installations for web traffic. They also have staff and customer support dedicated to the Drupal community, with an interest in innovation, keeping up with the latest development projects and security issues. Because of this, the Drupal-specific cloud hosts can be a much more valuable resource when compared to equally priced VPS or dedicated server options.

Most Drupal sites outside of the largest enterprise, Fortune 500, and media accounts will not require a dedicated server, as the cost is too high and the web traffic will not require it. For custom web apps using Drupal and websites which require a unique web configuration not supported by the shared or cloud hosts, a Virtual Private Server (VPS) can be an excellent solution as there is a lot of flexibility in choosing the operating system, amount of RAM, and disk space required.

Small business owners and web start-ups can save a lot of development time and money by giving advance consideration to the web hosting requirements of a Drupal site during the architecting stage, giving particular attention to the server configuration, development methods, and web traffic expectations. Using the Drupal CMS as a development framework allows site owners to easily scale through all levels of user community and web hosting environments.