What happens if you stop paying for WordPress hosting?

Not sure what happens to your WordPress website when you stop paying for hosting? In this post I explain why you need to make a copy of your website and what your alternatives to paid hosting are.

Owning and maintaining a self-hosted WordPress website comes with financial investment.

As well as purchasing a domain (your website URL) you also need to purchase hosting (the space online where your website files and database live).

But there may come a time when paying for a website is no longer a priority for you, or maybe you can’t afford it anymore.

So what happens when you stop paying for hosting? What happens to your WordPress website?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what happens to your website and it’s content once you stop paying for your hosting, and I’ve seen people lose their entire websites because they haven’t fully understood the consequences.

In this post, I am going to explain what happens when you stop paying for hosting for your website.

Firstly, how do self-hosted WordPress websites actually work?

First thing first, let’s talk about how WordPress actually works. This should help you to better understand why hosting is such a crucial component of a self-hosted WordPress website.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS).  It is an open-source platform which means it is openly shared and anyone can use it.

In order for the WordPress CMS to work, you need to install it on a hosting package, that you have purchased from a web host, and then connect it to a database. This database will end up containing your website content such as your posts, pages, categories, tags, comments users, data from plugins, settings, etc. You will also need a domain, and you will need to connect this domain to your hosting package in order to view your WordPress website online.

Once you have installed and set up the WordPress CMS on your web host, you will have a standalone website that is powered by WordPress. It is not actually connected to WordPress, other than for retrieving updates.

It’s also not connected at all WordPress.com. WordPress.com is essentially a hosting service provided by WordPress and it uses a modified version of the WordPress CMS. Self-hosted WordPress websites are completely separate from WordPress.com.

For more information about the difference between self-hosted WordPress websites and WordPress.com, I recommend checking out this post.

Essentially, your website will disappear!

If you stop paying for hosting then your web host will take your website offline and you will no longer be able to access your website. If you try to visit your website URL, you will not see your website.

Not only will you not be able to access your website but you also won’t be able to access your WordPress admin area, your website files or your database.

What happens to your website files and database after you stop paying will completely depend on who your web host is. Some hosts may keep a copy of your files and database for a certain amount of time after you stop paying, but if a host does retain your website files then there may be a fee to pay to return those files to you.

However, some hosts may not keep a copy and there will be no other way to obtain your files and database. Your website will be lost forever. This is why it’s so important to consider your next move once you decide to stop paying for hosting.

So what should you do?

If you no longer want to pay for your hosting but you still want to keep your website and it’s content, the very first thing you should do is make a copy of your website.

You should make a copy of both your WordPress files and the database that powers your WordPress website. Your WordPress files contain things like your themes, plugins, images and other files that you have uploaded to your website. Your database contains your website content such as your posts, pages, categories, tags, comments users, data from plugins, settings, etc.

As long as you have a copy of these then you still have your website, even if it’s not online. This means that if you want to start up your self-hosted WordPress website again in the future then you can.

If you still want an active website then I recommend that you migrate your content over to a free platform such as WordPress.com.

As I previously mentioned, WordPress.com is a hosting service provided by WordPress. It is commonly referred to as the free version of WordPress, although you can pay to upgrade your account to unlock more features. However, if you are going to pay for WordPress.com you might as well set up a self-hosted WordPress website. 

Alternatively, you could look for a cheaper hosting provider. You don’t have to pay hundreds and hundreds of pounds a year for hosting. I highly recommend you look at Krystal (affiliate link) for affordable and reliable hosting that has better customer service (in my opinion) than some of the more expensive hosts out there.

Your website will not automatically transfer to WordPress.com!

There is a common misunderstanding that when you stop paying for hosting your self-hosted WordPress website is automatically transferred to WordPress.com. This is not the case!

WordPress.com and the WordPress CMS that powers self-hosted WordPress websites are separate entities and the two are not connected.

Yes, there are plugins like Jetpack and Akismet that allow you to connect your self-hosted WordPress website to WordPress.com, however, your website content is never automatically shared between a self-hosted website and WordPress.com.

You can move your content from a self-hosted WordPress website over to a WordPress.com website but this is not done automatically. You must manually export your content from your self-hosted website and import it to your WordPress.com website.

What about free hosting?

You may or may not know that there are free web hosting options available. While this might seem like an attractive option, I suggest you proceed with caution!

I tell this story a lot but many, many years ago, I opted for free hosting and it didn’t well. My website was deleted for no apparent reason and without warning. If it weren’t for backups I would have lost everything.

Free hosts have strict rules and regulations, and they can (and will) delete your website without any notification. For example, if you aren’t actively logging into your hosting account they may remove your account. I also had issues with free hosts adding pop-up adverts to my website.

Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the risk, and I’d rather just use a free platform like WordPress.com rather than wasting my time with free hosts. But if you do opt for a free host, make sure you are backing up your website frequently just in case something goes wrong.

To summarise…

  • Hosting is an essential part of a self-hosted WordPress website.
  • If you stop paying for hosting your website will disappear, and you won’t have access to your WordPress admin area, your website files, or your database.
  • You may or may not be able to retrieve your website files for your host. And if you can retrieve them, you may have to pay for them.
  • If you do decide to stop paying for hosting, make sure you make a copy or your website.
  • Your WordPress website and the content will not automatically be transferred across to WordPress.com…
  • …however, you can manually move your content over to WordPress.com if you wish.
  • Free hosting is an option but definitely a risky one!

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