Kinsta Managed Hosting Review: Blazingly Fast and Solid Features
Kinsta is a relative new-comer to the WordPress managed hosting scene, but since launching in 2013 has quickly become a force to be reckoned with.
Marketed as “Better, faster, stronger managed WordPress hosting,” the web host uses Google’s Cloud Platform to provide fast speeds from the web giants secure and reliable data centers, paired with Kinsta’s simple and intuitive hosting panel.
We get asked all the time for web hosting recommendations and do our best to point members in the right direction, but who you go with ultimately comes down to your site’s needs – and also how much you’re willing to spend.
To help make the decision a bit easier, we’ve put some of the biggest WordPress managed hosts to the test, with a focus on customer experience. There are already plenty of reviews out there that look at speed and stability, but the ease of use and support capabilities of a company are just as – if not more – important because you’ll run into trouble sooner or later and a great host will always go above and beyond to help you out when disaster hits.
With all that in mind, this is the fifth of eight reviews, this time putting Kinsta to the test.
Check out the other posts in this managed WordPress hosting reviews series:
- WP Engine Managed Hosting Review: Feature-Packed and Hard to Fault
- SiteGround Managed Hosting Review: Excellent Support, Not Really for WordPress
- Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Beautiful, Functional Solution for Designers
- Pagely Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Solid Service, Shaky Communication
- GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Budget Hosting, Poor Features
- Kinsta Managed Hosting Review: Blazingly Fast and Solid Features
Kinsta was built by developers who worked with WordPress clients and after becoming more and more frustrated with the available hosting options, they created their own beta service in 2013, before officially opening their offices in 2014.
In two years they have tripled in size, following the strategy of using the most modern available technology available – something that their small size (their CEO helps answer support tickets) makes a lot easier.
My first impressions put Kinsta somewhere in the middle of what’s starting to become a crowd managed WordPress hosting space. I like the boldness of the opening section of its website and the images used, but I don’t like the fact that there is a CTA to the contact page instead of a link to the registration page – even though the page exists.
That aside, one of the biggest pros is that the pricing is super-clear and Kinsta offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to scaling plans, which I’ll go into more detail later. One of the cons, however, is that there isn’t a lot of information about what users are buying. For example, while I found information about the stack used (Ubuntu, PHP 7, MariaDb, etc.) I couldn’t find any hardware specifications. Kinsta uses Google Cloud so they are definitely using their machines, but you don’t know the exact configuration.
Just like with our Flywheel review, time to contact support…
After some discussion, I found out that the machines are constrained to 2-6 CPUs per VPS, but they allow the container to scale to 32 CPU when there is a surge. These machines have 208GB RAM, which is allocated dynamically as needed. The support team member was very helpful – I’ll talk about more support below.
Plans and Pricing
Kinsta offers eight plans in addition to a possible custom solution if you need anything out of the ordinary.
The web host is one of the most expensive solutions available with its account coming in at $100 per month.
Kinsta offers $200, $300, $400, $600, $900, $1,200 and $1,500 per month accounts. The equation is pretty simple: The more you pay, the more resources you get. It’s all laid out very clearly and I particularly liked the rounded pricing. No “.99” and no “until your first renewal” price discounts.
What I love about Kinsta’s pricing is that I am a big fan of the bandwidth-based model. It seems unfair to me to penalize someone for a popular site (billing based on visitors), especially since visitors alone don’t cost the host anything. It’s bandwidth that incurs the cost, so passing that on seems the most straightforward route to me.
That said, you may want to pause to think before choosing a host. If you have a video streaming website it may be better to go with unmetered bandwidth. But if you have a lightweight site I’d recommend bandwidth-based billing instead.
According to Kinsta’s support team, the web host is in the process of creating a new admin interface, which will feature better content for new visitors. But until it’s released, buttons take you to the contact form where you can speak with a member of the team. That said, you can register for yourself, and once you do you can take a look at the admin interface.
To get going with a site your first order of business is to add a payment method and grab a plan. This can be done in the billing section. It would be better if there was a wizard or some sort of direction, but the process is straightforward enough.
Once you are past this point, creating sites is extremely easy. Go to Sites, and click the Add New button. This was the first place where I really started liking Kinsta. The form is easy to understand and includes some features not available elsewhere. It doesn’t allow you to use “admin” as your username (it must be eight characters long) and forces you to create a strong password – yay security! It allows you to choose a language other than English right off the bat and sets up Multisite or WooCommerce for you if you need them.
After a few seconds your new site will be created and assigned a temporary URL you can use to set things up. You can then add your own domains at any time and use the DNS management to set everything up as needed.
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Ease of Use
The experience of the Kinsta dashboard doesn’t come close to Flywheel’s, which I really love. However, it does do a good job of giving you the tools you need – which is the most important thing – even if it doesn’t look as polished. Once you spend some time using Kinsta, though, you’ll appreciate some of the little things on offer.
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One of my favorites is the SSH access display. You use the following method to SSH into a server:
ssh [email protected] -p port. That’s three separate things, in addition to the password. SSH details are the most common things I look up and Kinsta doesn’t just have the information but the full code to SSH into the server right there on the site details page. Useful!
Another section where ease of use has been put front-and-center is the Backups tab. Due to the container-based system Kinsta uses, backups can be performed using snapshots. This means that backups are almost instantaneous – no more waiting around for the process to complete. Backups show up after a few seconds and can be restored at any time.
Note: Restoration time takes just as long as anywhere else. A nice touch I’ve noticed is that a backup is created whenever you restore a backup, just in case you need to go back and undo the restore.
The bottom line is that while I’m no fan of the design, the power and ease of use is there, which is what really counts when using your hosting service.
Since Kinsta is a managed WordPress host proper, features that make it stand out from the regular crowd are expected – and delivered. I’ve mentioned some of them already, but here’s a more extensive list:
- Free migrations
- Instant manual backups
- Automated daily backups
- 3 global locations per site
- Cache flushing
- Live and development environments
- Cache, backups and other features available in the development environment
- PHP Version switcher (5.6 and 7)
- Switch to HHVM from the dashboard
- PHP/HHVM Restart
- Manage SSL certificates
- Migration requests available from the dashboard
- Built in DNS management (uses Amazon Route 53 in the background)
- SSH access
- WP-CLI support out-of-the-box
- Two-factor Authentication support
- Basic collaborators
The list is surprisingly extensive considering that Kinsta hasn’t been around as long as some of the larger companies, like WP Engine or Pagely. I love how easy SSH access is and that I have WP-CLI at my fingertips. I also use the DNS management tool a lot and enjoy the speed boost that the server architecture provides.
As with Flywheel, you can manage your SSL certificates but not buy them. I would also love to be able to switch off caching altogether. I can flush it anytime and the site is uncached when logged in but for some tests it just makes sense to sidestep the cache completely. Support can do it for you buy a button would be nice.
Environment switching could also be a bit more obvious. I had to look hard to find it at the top of the site details page.
While Kinsta does allow you to give others access to your account it’s very basic at this time, and certainly not as refined as Flywheel’s system, which focuses on it a lot more.
Another omission is Git support. You can use Git through your SSH access, of course, but there is no Git-driven workflow as you might find at Pantheon or WP Engine.
Overall, I think Kinsta has a fantastic feature-set. Technically, the web host seems to be at least at the level of the older companies, like WPEngine, Pagely and Pantheon, even surpassing them in some cases.
My experiences contacting the support team were excellent. I received detailed and honest answers to all of my questions. When I enquired about their hardware I didn’t expect an answer like this:
“We use Google Compute Engine servers, which ensure high speed and automatic scalability which means that instead of being constrained to 2-6 CPUs per VPS as with other providers we actually let the site’s container to scale to as many CPUs as needed when there’s a surge, and for load balanced clients an infinite number of CPUs as our system dynamically spins up more machines and scales back when the traffic wave subsides.”
I tried to quiz them with some common WordPress related site issues and got all the right answers, so top marks!
Kinsta uses a ticket-based support system via Intercom. It feels like a real-time chat but in the background it isn’t. I got a response within 5 minutes when I tried to talk to them a 3pm. I also tried at 5am (I happened to be up early while writing) and got an answer within 3 minutes. I may have just picked two low-support times by chance but impressive nonetheless!
As with all the reviews in this series, conducted comprehensive speed tests. Despite what some may say, any test you run is highly subjective. Your site may be on a faulty box – perhaps the only fault out of hundreds – your local connection may be unstable, the software you use to run tests might have had a rough day, who knows.
I installed three websites:
- Vanilla Twenty Fifteen theme filled with demo content – 1.49Mb, 53 requests
- WooCommerce shop running on Twenty Fifteen, Shop Page – 0.479Mb, 55 requests
- Out of the box Avada installation using the Cafe demo – 24.3Mb, 134 requests
When uncached, the vanilla Twenty Fifteen site loaded in a staggering 983 milliseconds, the WooCommerce shop loaded in around 780 milliseconds, and the Avada demo loaded in 7.1 seconds.
When cached, vanilla Twenty Fifteen loaded in around 800 milliseconds, the WooCommerce shop took about 700 milliseconds, and the Avada Cafe demo clocked in at 3.1 seconds.
Again, these are casual tests and may not reflect your experience with Kinsta, keep in mind that website speed has so many factors it is difficult to accurately gauge it on a company-wide level.
Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our Kinsta review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let Kinsta in on the fact we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.
- Blazingly fast
- SSH and WP-CLI out of the box
- Instant backups
- Focused on speed and dependability
- You can choose a datacenter for each site
- Free SSL certificates (which is slowly becoming the norm for web hosts)
- No Git deployment
- Dashboard could use some spit and polish
- Highest entry level pricing
Stay tuned for the final article in this series coming soon, which will compare all eight web hosts side-by-side to decide which one is best.