Manage Your Self-Hosted Sites on WordPress.com With Jetpack Manage (and the Pros and Cons)

“Jetpack 3.3 announces the death of the Multisite managers” one blog warned back in 2011 when Automattic introduced Jetpack Manage, a feature that offered centralized WordPress website management.

Such functionality has been available via third party applications (such as ManageWP) for years, but Automattic’s step into the fray was noteworthy to say the least. While companies like ManageWP didn’t cease to exist overnight, a new kid in town, Jetpack Manage, was direct competition from the biggest company in WordPress, no less.

In this article we’re going to take a closer look at Jetpack Manage, what it has to offer in 2015, compare it to the “competition,” and offer you our thoughts on the benefits it offers to self-hosted WordPress users.

A Brief History of WordPress Multiple Website Management

WordPress multiple website management was effectively birthed by WordPress developer Vladimir Prelovac in 2011 when he released the first beta of ManageWP. If you want all the gritty details, you can read the entire story direct from Prelovac.

ManageWP

ManageWP was the first application to offer some pretty fantastic functionality, such as one-click updates of themes and plugins across multiple WordPress websites. And it’s still going strong today, with much more planned for the future. Check out this rather slick promo video to learn more about their upcoming ‘Orion’ release:

Having noticed the exponential rise in popularity of ManageWP, other developers were quick to offer their own WordPress website management tools.

InfiniteWP

InfiniteWP’s basic package is free, but there are premium add-ons for increased functionality. All of the add-ons combined will set you back a not inconsiderable $759.50, but a number of websites you can manage are infinite (hence the name).

WPRemote

If you do a straight comparison of features, WPRemote only has 8 out of the 32 features that ManageWP offers. However, this is reflected in the price, with WPRemote only charging $5 per month for all features.

The guys over at OSTraining did a nice review of WPRemote:

All of these plugins have their own pros and cons, but in my opinion, ManageWP has the widest range of existing features and offers the greatest scope for the future.

So Where does Jetpack Fit In?

According to WordPress.com:

Jetpack Manage allows you to manage your self-hosted WordPress sites and your WordPress.com sites from a single dashboard on WordPress.com

But when you use Jetpack Manage for the first time, one thing becomes clear: The likes of ManageWP shouldn’t be too worried at this stage.

Jetpack Manage is clearly a continuation of Automattic’s efforts to better integrate WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress – a worthy cause to be sure (as long as you’re not into conspiracy theories), but not directly aligned with the goals of Vladimir Prelovac & Co.

A comparison of Jetpack with any similar application is more a case of (a) what feature-set is best suited for your specific needs, rather than (b) which solution does the best job of executing its chosen functionality.

In other words, Jetpack arguably isn’t competition at all.

That said, let’s take a closer look at what Jetpack Manage can do.

A Central Dashboard for All of Your WordPress Websites

As you would reasonably expect, Jetpack Manage requires that you have the free Jetpack plugin installed on your self-hosted WordPress website. You will also need a free WordPress.com account, which you will be prompted to set up as part of the Jetpack installation and activation process.

Once you’ve done the necessary, you will be able to explore Jetpack Manage’s features via wordpress.com/sites.

You’ll be presented with a selection of any and all sites associated with your WordPress.com account:

Jetpack Manage Dashboard
They’ll either be WordPress.com blogs or self-hosted WordPress websites connected to your WordPress.com account via Jetpack.

Clicking on any of the options will take you through to a central dashboard for the website you chose:

Jetpack Manage website dashboard

The list of functionality looks impressive, but in reality, a lot of what you see is simply a duplication of what you can already do from within your self-hosted WordPress website’s dashboard. In fact, many of the options – such as Media for example – simply link to the appropriate backend screen on your WordPress website.

Other options – such as “Settings” – simply provide a WordPress.com-ified representation of the options available to you from within your self-hosted WordPress website:

WordPress settings
Familiar self-hosted WordPress options, courtesy of WordPress.com.

However, Jetpack Manage does offer one intriguing function in particular. Let’s look at that now.

Plugin Management

Clicking on Plugins from within the Jetpack Manage dashboard gives you access to all of the plugins currently on your website (active or inactive):

Jetpack Manage plugins management

From this screen you can:

  1. Update individual plugins,
  2. Update plugins en masse,
  3. Enabled autoupdates for one or more plugins, and
  4. Activate and deactivate plugins.

The autoupdate feature is by far the most intriguing; for those who don’t mind the risk of plugin updates breaking things on their site, it makes keeping your site up-to-date far easier.

Other Jetpack Features

Jetpack does some other things ‘in-house’ (as opposed to redirecting you to your self-hosted site’s dashboard):

  1. Menu management
  2. Post/Page creation and publishing
  3. WordPress.com statistics

You can find out more about these features over at WordPress.com.

Other than the above, there’s nothing else particularly exciting on offer though. Yet.

How Does Jetpack’s WordPress Website Management Feature Compare with the “Competition”?

I was interested to know what the likes of ManageWP thought of Jetpack, so I reached out to Vladimir Prelovac, the aforementioned founder of the first ever WordPress multiple website management tool. His attitude towards Jetpack’s existence is so laidback, he’s practically horizontal:

ManageWP CEO Vladimir Prelovac.
ManageWP CEO Vladimir Prelovac.

“…I am not that familiar with Jetpack Manage. I took a glance at it when it launched in December but haven’t really checked it out since,” Prelovac said.

“The biggest distinction in my opinion is that WordPress management is our core business, and something we have been doing for almost five years now while gaining massive amounts of knowledge about the topic.

“Also, being more nimble, we are able to innovate at a much higher pace, which we are doing with ManageWP Orion. For Automattic, Jetpack Manage is just one of dozens of their projects; the recent acquisition of WooCommerce gives an idea of how broad they go. They do have more resources than us though, so I’m looking forward to seeing where they try to take it :-)”

In reality, I think it’s clear why Prelovac isn’t too worried about Jetpack:

  1. He has faith in the quality of ManageWP, and
  2. He understands that Jetpack doesn’t yet directly compete with the ManageWP platform.

The same goes for InfiniteWP, RemoteWP, and every other multiple WordPress website management tool out there. Their offerings are distinctly different to what Jetpack Manage currently provides. For example, here are a handful of key functions that the ManageWP platform offers that Jetpack Manage doesn’t:

  1. One-click plugin updates across all websites
  2. Theme updates
  3. Automated backups
  4. Uptime monitoring
  5. Website migration

As a fan of Automattic’s work, and Jetpack, in particular, I am interested to see how Jetpack Manage develops from here. However, I’m not feeling too concerned for the “competition” just yet.

Is It Worth It?

Jetpack Manage 3.3 – despite the hype from some corners – hasn’t come close to sounding the death knell for multiple website managers such as ManageWP. In reality, Jetpack isn’t really competing with them. Yet.

With that said, if you’re not a WordPress power user – with multiple sites and complex requirements – Jetpack is definitely worth a look. It is free after all and does some pretty funky stuff.

However, if you’re looking for more sophisticated functionality that can truly save you a great deal of time, you will need to turn elsewhere. Jetpack is less a productivity suite for über-fast website management, but more a highly polished interface for getting things done that you could generally do otherwise from within WordPress.

But watch this space. I have no doubt that there are bigger, bolder plans for Jetpack Manage’s future, and I for one will be interested to see where they take it.

What are your thoughts on Jetpack versus ManageWP & Co? Let us know in the comments section below.