Page.ly Review: Blazingly Fast Managed WordPress Hosting

Page.ly

WPMU Rating

4.2/5

The Good

  • Blazingly fast.
  • Offers automatic WordPress core and plugin upgrades, taking the hassle out of managing your site.

The Bad

  • While the automatic updates are convenient for some, they might not be a good idea for those who like to have more control over their WordPress install and plugins.
  • Support is only available during Pacific Standard Time – not great for people living in different timezones.

Our Verdict

  • Price: 3.5/5
  • Usability: 5/5
  • Customer service: 4/5
  • Speed: 5/5
  • Features: 3.5/5
  • Overall: 4.2/5

The Bottom Line

While Page.ly may not be for everyone (i.e. control freaks who want to manage their own upgrades and like having the ability to refine their control panel settings), they offer a fast and friendly option that provides a practical and forward-thinking approach to managed WordPressing web hosting.

Page.ly is ideal for users with growing site traffic looking for a host who can scale to their needs and provide hassle-free reliability and security. Occasional bloggers with basic needs might want to check out other hosting options.

EDIT: This review has been updated to reflect new information from Page.ly regarding FTP and outages on July 4, 2013.

Page.ly: A Bit of History

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Page.ly website
Page.ly’s website is easy to read and navigate.

Headquarters: Chandler, Arizona, USA

Employees: 6

Created in 2006 and rebooted in 2009, Page.ly, according to its friendly looking website, is the “largest and most trusted managed WordPress web hosting provider”. It’s run by husband and wife team, Joshua and Sally Strebel.

Page.ly offers managed WordPress hosting especially designed and built for WordPress users, meaning once you sign up you will never again have to upgrade your own plugins or core install because Page.ly does all that for you.

Page.ly uses Codeigniter as its framework and has partnered with cloud hosting company FireHost.com to manage is servers. Firehost has been around since 2009 and has built a reputation as a solid and secure cloud provider.

According to the careers section of the host’s website, which is currently advertising work for Inside Sales/SMB and Enterprise, PHP Application Developer, WordPress Development Engineer and a WordPress Support Engineer, the company is: “a bootstrapped and profitable company that is growing very fast. We got that way with hard work and a deep commitment to quality of product and service. We adhere to a talk less, do more mentality; Old school work ethic like your grandpa taught you.”

CEO Joshua Strebel talks more about this in his blog post, Our Lean Startup, which gives an honest and interesting insight into how the company started – and how Page.ly was coded and designed entirely on ‘an ageing 15″ 2.16ghz Macbook Pro with 3GB of ram and an old analog 19″ 4:3 dell monitor for some added screen real estate.’

Joshua and Sally Strebel
Sally and Joshua Strebel run Page.ly.

The Strebels regularly post on the company’s blog and I was impressed with how open they are about the company’s growth, even going into detail about how their company has grown and developed, as well as how it operates. It’s a smart move putting their faces to their brand because it gives a friendly front to their business and helps customers feel like they know who they are dealing with.

Page.ly’s contribution to the WordPress community is its Pressnomics conference for company’s that power the WordPress economy. The second annual conference will be held in Phoenix, Arizona.

The host also donates 1 per cent of all its profits to charity, specifically, St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Recently, Page.ly bought out BlogDroid, a competitor on the managed WordPress scene. According to a Page.ly media release, BlogDroid was an “attractive acquisition for Page.ly due to their impressive growth in a short period of time, a more polished brand than most competitors, and the “customer-first” approach made by Karen Jackie, co-founder of BlogDroid.”

Page.ly also recently launched its new CDN service, PRESSCDN.

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Cost

Page.ly offers four different hosting plans:

  • Personal – $24 a month, ~25,000 visitors, 10GB bandwidth, 5GB storage
  • Business – $64 a month, ~200,000 visitors, 50GB bandwidth, 15GB storage
  • Professional – $149 a month, ~750,000 visitors, 100GB bandwidth, 35GB storage
  • Enterprise – request a quote, millions of visitors, $0.17GB bandwidth, $2.5GB storage

Each plan includes the same core features:

  • Automatic upgrades to WordPress core and plugins
  • PRESSARMOR, a comprehensive security architecture developed by Page.ly that details its approach to network, hardware, and application security
  • Nightly backups that are fully managed with 14-day retention
  • Enterprise network security with real-time malware scanning and removal
  • Superior speed with advanced varnish caching later for millisecond load times
  • Extendable use of almost any plugin or theme
  • File access – FTP access

Page.ly web host review
Arizona-based Page.ly has been on the web hosting scene since 2006.
Pro features are attached to each of the plans, depending on what kind of account you want to buy. The enterprise account includes:

  • Enterprise DNS
  • Free migration assistance
  • Edgecast CDN
  • Dedicated IP(s)
  • WordPress Multisite
  • Private VPS
  • Load Balancing Available
  • Scale as needed with +Cores/Ram
  • Shell Access
  • Secure VP and direct database access

A five-day trial period is available if you want to try out Page.ly’s hosting plans and features.

Page.ly ultimate hosting offering is the El Pollo Diablo – or The Demon Chicken – a WordPress-specific private VPS or cluster that scales to your needs. Customers can start with one node or cluster multiple nodes with load balancing and redundant databases. Pricing starts at $1050 a month.

For this review, I signed up for a Personal account via the homepage. Registering is easy – just choose the type of plan you want on the website and fill in your details. You’ll receive an email with your login details after signing up.

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Features

As a managed host, Page.ly’s biggest selling point is that it provides automatic WordPress core and plugin updates. There are pros and cons to this. On the one hand, automatic upgrades ensure your WordPress install and plugins are up-to-date, plugging any holes that hackers could exploit. On the other hand, if your plugins or themes rely on a particular version of WordPress, you’ll be left with broken functionality.

In any case, it’s best to keep your WordPress site running on the latest versions of software to ensure its security.

Atomic Hosting Panel
Page.ly has developed its own custom hosting panel, Atomic Core.

Other features include:

  • Automatic nightly backups with restore
  • Secure cloud WordPress hosting using FireHost
  • Redundant firewalls
  • Expert WordPress Support
  • Cancel anytime, no long term contracts

WordPress is automatically installed on your site after you sign up. When I logged in for the first time I found the Akismet, W3 Total Cache and WordPress SEO plugins had already been installed and just needed to be activated.

Unlike most web hosts who use cPanel as the hosting control panel, Page.ly’s custom panel, Atomic Hosting Panel, is integrated into each WordPress install. I really like this feature because it means you can send support requests, check your account and billing information and check your site’s stats all from within your WordPress admin area, rather than logging into a separate site. Customers who have used cPanel with other hosts will no doubt notice how basic the hosting panel is – I know I felt a bit lost when looking for settings because there’s nothing to click! This is because Page.ly looks after everything for you. If you’re a power user you might find this lack of control frustrating, but users who don’t want to fuss over settings will enjoy the simplicity of the Atomic Hosting Panel.

If you want FTP access you will have to fork out a one-time $5 fee, which is ridiculous when you’re already paying for top hosting. I tweeted Page.ly to find out why and didn’t get a response, but according to Art of Blog, it’s so the host can “save inexperienced users from themselves.” This response is a cop-out considering FTP access is general a standard feature among web hosts.

Page.ly Director of Marketing Sean O’Brien contacted me after this review was published to say only 30 per cent of customers activate FTP.

“So our method of creating a low barrier to entry works in keeping people that don’t need it out,” O’Brien said.

“Also it is a security thing… one less point of attack for 70 per cent of our customers.”

FTP
Page.ly charges $5 for FTP access and doesn’t offer email hosting.

Page.ly doesn’t offer email hosting. Once upon a time they did, but according to Sally Strebel “it can be a full-time job” and Page.ly may revisit offering email in the future if it benefits clients.

A free migration service for larger sites is available when you buy a business plan or higher, while smaller sites will need to fend for themselves and migrate the old-fashioned way by exporting their old site and importing it to their new Page.ly-hosted site.

A Google search for instances of hacking at Page.ly came up with scratch – so if you know of any let us know in the comments below.

Just this month Page.ly launched its new PressCDN service. A CDN, or content delivery network, stores copies of your images and site files in locations around the world, allowing them to be downloaded to your site visitor’s computer faster and speeding up the overall load time of your site. The new service costs $9 a month and for a limited time includes 50GB of CDN.

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PRESSCDN uses up to four major providers – edge cast, Amazon Web Services, Akamai and MaxCDN – and monitors site traffic to choose the most appropriate providers for a customer’s needs. It also works with W3TC, WP Super Cache and any other CDN WordPress plugin.

Page.ly also offers a UK and Europe service. It’s primary DataCenter is in Texas, but there are nodes in a UK facility.

According to The Blog Herald, instead of maxing out their servers to save money, Page.ly servers have 70 per cent breathing space, though I haven’t been able to verify this. If it’s true, it’s a very different approach to other hosts who skim close to using 100 per cent of their resources and is great for customers who unexpectedly discover they have been featured on a major news site and hundreds of thousands of visitors descend on their site.

Customers whose site traffic consistently increases can expect a request to upgrade their hosting plan.

Usability

Logging into your account, or Atomic Core, is easy peasy. There’s an easy to spot “Login” link in the top right-hand corner of Page.ly’s homepage, like you would expect on any other membership site. The account admin screen includes six main areas – Account, Billing, Sites, Stats, Support and Referrals.

Page.ly automatically installs WordPress on a temporary staging site when you set up a new domain – it’s just a matter of adding a new site in the “Sites” section of your Atomic Core. While everything is setting up, Page.ly sends you emails to let you know how the install is going as well as your details for your new WordPress site. Sweet!

Every WordPress install includes a built-in Atomic Hosting Panel that is a replica of the Atomic Core on the Page.ly website.

Page.ly’s WordPress install also comes with WordPress SEO and Akismet pre-installed. Unlike some other web hosts, Jetpack is not pre-installed.

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Support

Page.ly Support
Page.ly offers only email support, but also interacts with customers on Twitter and Facebook.
Like most web hosts, Page.ly has an FAQ where customers can browse through popular topics or search for a solution to a query. Customers can also submit a request ticket as well as check on existing tickets.

Customers are encouraged to get in touch directly with support members on Twitter. Page.ly also has a Facebook page which feature’s the company’s blog posts. Unfortunately (for US-based folk, anyway) Page.ly doesn’t offer telephone support.

My first encounter with the support team (there are just two staff members and both are referred to as “Customer Success Engineers”) was after I tried to login to the Atomic Hosting Panel and my details were rejected. I tried again, and then again. Nothing seemed to work and I knew my details were spot on.

I emailed a quick request at 3.18pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) on a Tuesday, or 1.18am (PST time) on a Tuesday.

Unfortunately, as I’m based in Australia and Page.ly’s normal support hours are 10am-8pm PST, Monday to Friday, I knew I was in for a bit of a wait – not really helpful for customers in different timezones.

Page.ly Support Timezones
If you’ve got a question for Page.ly, you’ll have to wait for support hours to open if you’re in a timezone outside the US.
However, a helpful Page.ly support member got back to me just 5 minutes after support officially opened the next day. I got a straight forward response, telling me it was probably an issue with Safari. I tried a different browser and it worked, making me feel like an idiot. As annoying as it was to have to wait so long for a response to an easy request, I was impressed that I received a reply so quickly after support opened.

I opened a second support tickets a few weeks later to test how quickly the support team responded during support opening hours. After 30 minutes I got an email back from a support member who had looked into my site and quickly resolved the matter.

Page.ly has been criticized in the past for its poor support, but overall – and despite the US-centric support opening hours – I was impressed with the straight-forward and polite responses I got from the support team.

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Speed

After setting up the test site for this review I began monitoring it with Pingdom. The slowest average response time was just 313 milliseconds during the lifetime of the account. The overall average was 277 milliseconds and the fastest average time was 236 milliseconds. During the past seven days the average load time was 294 milliseconds, with a slowest average of 583 milliseconds. The stats for the past 30 days are below:

Page.ly response times

When it comes to speed, Page.ly blew other hosts I tested out of the water.

However, Pingdom’s uptime report for the site showed some random downtime. On July 4 the site went down for 5 hours 2 minutes. Other than this Independence Day glitch (did the site decide to go off and party somewhere?), the site had almost 100 per cent uptime (it went down another time for 4 minutes). Very odd. I contacted Page.ly to find out what happened. O’Brien also sought to resolve this matter when he emailed me after the review was published. He said when Amazon AWS crashed on July 4, about 8 per cent of customers were impacted when one particular cluster was knocked out.

“It was resolved fairly quickly but the caching layers held onto the 500 status page longer than they should have. So the actual problem only lasted 30 min or so, but appeared to last longer due to the cache holding the bad response from earlier,” O’Brien said.

Page.ly Uptime

Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our Page.ly review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let Page.ly in on the fact we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.

Have you used Page.ly? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

To read the reviews in this series:
To read the reviews in this series:

Image credits: Kris Krug, Wikimedia Commons, Jeff McNeill.

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Comments (26)

  1. How many concurrent page views were you getting on the site when you tested the speed? I know from experience that it will affect the speed, a lot. My sites are fast on weekends with low load (under 15,000 views a day) to slugs at 3000+ visitors/hour. (and yes, I’m looking for a faster host.)

    • First of all…I dont work for page.ly or I get any commission from them.

      But i have to say that after being on a VPS for 2 WordPress websites with plenty of resources my websites were nor speedy enough.

      I made a small test between WPEngine, websynthesis and Page.ly Hosting sites using webpagetest.org and pingdom tools and page.ly won, also sent at the same time 3 questions and WPEngine answered me 4 days later, websynthesis 2 days later and Page.ly 4 hours later..

      Before switching I was using Google Speed Services as a CDN with a VPS and with page.ly and Amazon I got the same speed and better qualification 97/100. They have their own CDN but I haven’t use it.

    • I wasn’t able to test with multiple concurrent page views, but from the testing I did do I was really impressed with Page.ly’s speed and uptime. Other hosts I tested just weren’t up to scratch. It you’re looking for a faster host you might want to check out Page.ly. Their Enterprise account might suit you, though you might want to wait and check my WP Engine review next week.

  2. I began to laugh when I read about the “ageing 15″ 2.16ghz Macbook Pro with 3GB of ram and an old analog 19″ 4:3 dell monitor for some added screen real estate” When I remembered “wait, that’s pretty close to what I’m using now…”

    • I haven’t seen anything like it before. The custom Atomic Core hosting panel is pretty basic but gives you all the options you need.

      As I mentioned in the review, I really like how it’s integrated into the WordPress admin panel because it makes your account details easily accessible without being logged in to multiple sites.

  3. I’ve been on WPEngine for almost a year and I have two beefs with them:
    No Multisite on a single install account
    My theme isn’t working properly with their framework and we’ve already been batting emails around about this for 3 weeks. I might have to leave them for someone else.

    On the flipside, they put off my August payment for a week to give more time to work out the technical issues.

    Anyway, I’m going to be reading your reviews since I might need to actually change hosting in the next two weeks.

    Nofyah

    • actually, it seems if I want to use the theme, which I bought from Themeforest, I am going to have to change hosting. Themeforest is refusing to give me a refund, because the theme is not compatible with my hosting.

    • “No Multisite on a single install account” Page.ly is not what you want then. They charge $149/mth to get a multisite install. ($99/mth on WPEngine)

  4. I have a client hosted with Page.ly. He does have an issue with a certain plugin being automatically updated, thereby breaking the plugin, but I’ve come to appreciate the tradeoff for security. My client is in California, so support response time is very good (although my client expects nearly impossible turnaround). I love that they do nightly backups and have super-secure servers.

    Only the price keeps me from moving my own 10-plus WordPress sites to Page.ly or other WordPress-only hosting service. I use BlueHost for unlimited hosting, but there are downsides in terms of security and speed.

  5. I wrote with the following question:

    Do you folks allow the use of the WPMU Multi-DB plugin for a 6,000 site multisite? TYVM.

    The reply:

    We would allow that on an enterprise account. Our enterprise accounts start at $850/mo and go up depending on what type of resources you need.

    ======================================

    Just a point of interest. FYI – WPEngine does not allow the use of the same plugin, at all – no exceptions.

    Cheers. – Frank

  6. I know it’s difficult to cover EVERYTHING but can you please make it a point to try to fit in:

    Details on support of Multisite. How that effects speed, etc.

    Wildcard DNS support (e.g., DreamHost doesn’t).

    Same for BuddyPress.

    Thanks!

  7. I don’t understand the plans for wordpress specific hosting companies. They all seem to set arbitrary resource limits. Page.ly limits your visitor traffic per plan; why? If I have enough bandwidth and other resources, I should be able to get as much as I can out of it.

    Other companies like WP Engine limit the number of wordpress installations you can have! That’s in addition to limiting your traffic. What’s up with that?

    I see no reason to limit traffic or number of installations. These WP hosting companies are just trying to create a sort of artificial scarcity to make more money. Now, if they were charging more and limiting resources because of some very special features they offer that are unique to wordpress hosting, then I get it. And most of them are offering such features and services, but that’s not why their plans are so arbitrary.

    I personally use KnownHost with a fully managed VPS. I pay $36 a month for more resources, and no traffic or install limits. I’d love to see a WordPress specialty host that offers normal managed hosting plans, without crazy restrictions, but capitalizes on their unique WordPress features and services.

    • I guess, Mark, they’ve got to have some way of making money as people scale up.

      Be nice though if it was a little more realistic.

      BTW **All** Page.ly accounts only allow one install of WP. To get multiple, you have to buy multiple (at 30% off per install).

  8. Really happy with Page.ly for the site I have hosted with them. Fast, secure and I know it’s going to be updated. Don’t like having to pay for FTP and Multisite not included but they have a UK server which is good. There is a Captcha on the login page which is a really good idea for security.

  9. One thing not covered by the review is migrating an existing site to Page.ly. Unless you buy the Business plan or above, you will need to recreate your WP site using Import/Export feature, rebuild all your menus and widgets, re-install and configure your plug-ins, etc.

    You will have to purchase the FTP service ($5 one time) to upload your media.

    HINT: It is faster to upload your plug-ins using FTP as well. Selecting them one-by-one from the public directory is very slow.

  10. In South Africa we have a few hosting companies, but one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is a Company called Hetzner with a Data Centre in Germany and South Africa, with their WordPress Database Hosting starting from $10 Per Month with stellar support.

    In the US, one is spoiled for choice with the myriad of Web Hosting Companies. For us, it seems Page.ly takes the cake in this competition – consistent and thorough Support means the world to a Website Owner, when “the sky is falling…”

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