How to Know If Managed WordPress Hosting Is Right For You
WordPress developers are a busy lot. If you’re a freelancer, your days are filled with writing new client proposals, hosting strategy meetings, and coding websites. If you’re scaling towards or already running a WordPress agency, then you’re entrenched in tasks focused on strengthening, growing, and promoting your business.
Whatever your situation currently is, I bet it would be nice to offload some of the tedious and time-consuming tasks you’re responsible for. For instance, how would you feel about relinquishing some of your WordPress management duties?
You know how important it is to keep a close eye on the CMS, especially as it pertains to security and performance. While you could realistically pencil in time for this every day, why would you do that if it costs a little extra (in some cases) to pay a managed WordPress hosting company to handle it for you?
That said, managed WordPress hosting isn’t for everyone. So, let’s take a look at the reasons why it may benefit you to make the switch from regular web hosting to managed. Then we can explore some of the best options currently available for managed WordPress hosting services.
Is Managed WordPress Hosting Right For You?
Finding a good web host isn’t too difficult. There are clear leaders in the space and, if you still can’t make up your mind, WordPress always has recommendations for web hosting companies you can trust. Of course, there’s a difference between what makes for a good web host and one that fits your needs near-perfectly.
When surveying the landscape of web hosting companies, there are a number of factors that should come into play in your decision-making process:
- Brand reputation
- Hosting plans available (e.g. shared, cloud, VPS)
- Infrastructure (including uptime guarantees)
As a developer, you also have to think about manageability. Is it reasonable to expect that you can fully manage every single WordPress website you’re responsible for? If not, then you may find that handing that piece over to a hosting company is a service worth having.
Here’s what you need to know about managed WordPress hosting companies and what makes them different from traditional web hosts:
Managed WordPress hosting companies only serve WordPress website clients, so you don’t have to worry about a mix of platforms sharing space on your server. And, because they’re WordPress-focused, support is provided by experts who understand the CMS inside and out.
Improved Backend Setup
Managed hosting companies have a good idea of what you need to do your job better and more easily. That includes things like setting up your control panel the way you need it, optimizing your database, and giving you SSH access for improved control on the backend.
In addition to providing a WordPress-friendly hosting environment and support team, managed hosting companies handle most (if not all) of the ongoing management and maintenance tasks that can take up too much of your time. For instance:
- They manage all updates so your core, plugins, and themes are never out of date.
- They manage security specifically from the viewpoint of a WordPress user, which will include things like vulnerability scanning and malware removal.
- They monitor your website’s speed and uptime for any performance issues.
- They automate backups and run them on a more frequent basis than you probably would.
Safety and Security First
These companies only serve WordPress sites, so their infrastructure tends to be faster and more secure with built-in caching, firewalls, a CDN, and PHP support. They also keep tabs on which plugins and themes you use. This is so they can ensure you don’t unintentionally add any blacklisted integrations into your site and put yourself or others at risk in the process.
And Some Drawbacks…
Of course, using a managed provider of any type will come with some drawbacks, depending on what exactly you want help with. The main ones you need to know about are:
- The additional cost (though you might be able to offload some of it to your customers)
- Less control over configuring and managing your server
- Restrictions on using certain plugins and themes
Managed WordPress hosting is great if you’re scaling your WordPress business and you need assistance managing the site maintenance piece of your service. It’s also a great option for implementers that want to provide a high-value WordPress development service to customers, but don’t have the technical expertise to manage the server or provide support.
6 Best Managed WordPress Hosting Providers
As I mentioned above, managed WordPress hosting companies usually serve only WordPress clients. That said, there are traditional web hosts who have made the leap into managed hosting services. If you’re currently hosting your sites with any of these companies, it might make sense to stay with them if you’re happy with the service.
Then again, if you’re looking for a truly optimal experience with managed WordPress hosting, your best bet is to go with one that specializes in it. This is because there’s nothing to compromise on or draw their attention away from the WordPress users who need their dedicated support. That’s all they do.
The 6 managed WordPress hosting services below includes a mix of managed WordPress hosts and traditional web hosts. This is mostly due to cost as some of the WordPress-dedicated hosting services can be very expensive and you should have more options available if you’re currently working on ramping up your business (and being smart about managing your bottom line in the meantime).
At first glance, it appears that Bluehost offers an especially pricey managed WordPress service for a company that doesn’t provide customers with automated core updates. That said, when you look at who the real target audience is–developers and agencies that build sites for the enterprise–you can see why this managed VPS hosting service is worth the cost.
- Infrastructure: Each VPS hosting account relies on a KPM hypervisor so you get your own dedicated server space too.
- Speed: Speedy features include advanced NGINX server architecture, PHP-FPM configuration, and a SiteLock CDN.
- Security: Bluehost relies on SiteLock for most of their security monitoring and management, including SiteLock Pro and SiteLock WAF (firewall). An SSL certificate is included with each plan as are automated backups.
- Support: 24/7 support.
- Manageability: They’ve included an enhanced and custom-designed cPanel for users, which makes it super easy to add more of what you need (CPU, RAM, SAN) with just one click.
Here is another great option for developers and agencies (the only audience Flywheel targets with this service) that want an affordable managed service, but more secure and fast VPS hosting built into it.
- Infrastructure: Each plan is hosted on VPS, so you’ll have dedicated server space for your site and your site alone. There is a 99.99% uptime guarantee included and customers can choose their own datacenter too.
- Speed: Flywheel uses fast NGINX technology and server-side caching to speed up users’ sites. For an additional monthly charge, you can also get the MaxCDN added on.
- Security: Flywheel’s security features include an SSL certificate, Sucuri security and malware monitoring, strong password enforcement, limited login attempts, IP blocking, free malware cleanup, and SFTP access. Backups are also covered nightly and they include one-click restore functionality.
- Support: 24/7 for emergency situations; 24 hours/5 days a week for minor assistance.
- Manageability: Because Flywheel was made for the developer and agency, it also comes with collaboration tools, a custom control panel, a Multisite add-on, and staging sites. As far as managing WordPress, they will automatically update the core and also provide free performance assessments on your code and setup.
Kinsta offers an expensive managed WordPress hosting service, so it’s really only going to be worth it if you intend on managing more than a dozen websites with them. That said, it’s definitely worth using once you scale into the enterprise and e-commerce space.
- Infrastructure: Kinsta’s built their hosting platform on Google Cloud and has a global network of 12 datacenters users can choose to run their site from.
- Speed: Because you’re working with Google here, speed is all but guaranteed with NGINX, PHP7, LXD containers, and MariaDB on your side.
- Security: This premium service does indeed deliver in terms of security with free SSL certificates on every plan, a CDN, uptime monitoring (every six seconds), malware scanning, DDoS attack detection, and hardware firewalls. Daily backups are included.
- Support: 24/7 monitoring and support is included and it’s often proactive, too.
- Manageability: This platform was definitely built with the WordPress developer in mind. It comes with Git, SSH, and WP-CLI development tools as well as staging environments and white-glove migrations.
A truly premium service meant for the enterprise, Pagely offers managed WordPress hosting services for big brands, major retailers, agencies, and educational institutions that have a big budget and big security and performance needs to match.
- Infrastructure: Pagely’s VPS servers live in the Amazon Cloud and generally realize 100% uptime, on average, due to their redundancy and high-availability (the latter is included with some plans).
- Speed: Enterprises don’t have room for compromise. That’s why Pagely has PHP7, NGINX, HTTP/2 SSL acceleration, proprietary caching software, and advanced speed and performance tuning built into their infrastructure.
- Security: Pagely offers proactive and reactive security services including a dynamic firewall; malware scanning, cleaning, and restoring; brute force mitigation; limited login attempts; two-factor authentication; spam prevention; chroot’ing on shared systems, automated daily backups, and more.
- Support: Offered 24/7.
- Manageability: Pagely is actually the only managed WordPress hosting company I found that updates customers’ core and plugins.
If cost is a concern, SiteGround is always a good cheap option. Though be a little wary about this one if you’re just trying to cut corners in terms of cost. If you need a super robust security and performance monitoring and management company, SiteGround might not be it as they’re clearly still focused on serving as a traditional web host.
- Infrastructure: SiteGround’s managed services put customers on shared servers, though each account is in isolation. Also includes PHP7 support and SSH access.
- Speed: Speed is actually very well-covered by SiteGround, including their SuperCacher software, a CDN, and HTTP/2-enabled servers.
- Security: They will monitor security at the server level and fix issues for you there. Other security features included are a WAF anti-hack system, SPAM Experts, automated daily backups, and one-click restore services.
- Support: They offer 24/7 priority phone, live chat, as well as ticket support.
- Manageability: The most expensive plan available is likely the one you want to use as it’s meant for developers that need flexible limits on the number of sites supported. It comes with developer-friendly features like WP-CLI, pre-installed git, and staging sites. This plan also provides automatic core updates.
While WP Engine has its faults–for instance, they only automate minor updates to the core (which is already automated by WordPress)–it does offer one of the most robust lists of security services of all the companies mentioned here today. If you need help managing security, WP Engine has all the bases covered.
- Infrastructure: Pricing is probably lower with WP Engine because customers are on shared hosting (this is for non-enterprise plans). WP Engine takes care to separate them at the kernel and filesystems levels though. It’s also good to know that their infrastructure is powered by Amazon Web Services.
- Speed: The hosting plans offered by WP Engine do a bang-up job in terms of speed, offering EverCache software, NGINX, PHP7+, and some premium plans include a global CDN network.
- Security: Security shouldn’t be a problem with WP Engine. Here are just some of the features you can expect: SSL certificate, firewall, threat monitoring, DDoS and brute force attack mitigation, intrusion detection and prevention, spam blockers, PHP tuning, disk write limitations, and vulnerable script monitoring. Daily backups are also automated.
- Support: 24/7 support is offered only on the premium plans.
- Manageability: WP Engine will automate all minor core updates. However, for major core updates, they will test each out upon release. They will then notify customers as to whether or not they recommend that the update is made. They also conduct and provide recommendations pertaining to code and security audits, vulnerability and performance scans, and speed reports.
Although managed WordPress hosting might seem like a luxury at this point–especially once you get a look at the pricing on some of the services above–I assure you that this is something you’ll eventually need if you intend on effectively scaling your business. Security, performance, and general maintenance of WordPress sites takes time and you’re going to find you have less and less of it as competing projects and business initiatives take priority.