Managed WordPress Hosting

WordPress is free, open-source software used to build millions of websites of all varieties. There are tens of thousands of free plugins and themes in the WordPress repositories. WordPress is just PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript so any LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack can easily be used to host a WordPress site. You can even create WordPress sites on your local computer.

Just because WordPress core is under 5 megabytes, takes less than 5 minutes to install, and runs on LAMP doesn’t mean hosting should be a minor consideration for a “real” website. WordPress extensions are the fun part and hosting is the necessary part, but hosting can also be fun when you understand the benefits of managed WordPress hosting.

Managed Hosting for WordPress.org

Premium WordPress Hosting Providers

Premium WordPress hosting, to me, means one thing – only hosting WordPress sites and doing it well. Since these providers host only WordPress sites, or have separate servers just for WordPress installs, they typically provide managed WordPress hosting. Managed WordPress hosting means different things to different providers, but it definitely means they handle the server administration and optimize it for WordPress. Other features that may or may not be included, depending on the provider:

  • Customer support from WordPress specialists, typically ticket-based with optional phone support
  • WordPress core (definitely) and/or plugin updates done for you (they won’t let you stay on an old version of WordPress core)
  • High-security server settings, including firewalls and certain PHP extensions turned off
  • Security-related items like SFTP (not FTP) access, malware detection, updating or removing known vulnerabilities (like the timthumb.php script that’s included in many themes)
  • Staging server for each WordPress install, a copy of your Production server to be used for testing and being click-happy
  • A black-list of plugins that are disallowed, due to redundant features (like caching plugins) or security concerns
  • A white-list of plugins the host likes and supports first-hand
  • Backups, lots of backups, including off-site backups
  • High-performance server settings, using NGINX and PHP optimizations
  • WordPress-friendly shortcuts in the hosting admin panels, like one-click install, one-click backup restore, and quick access to customer support
  • Excellent hardware and infrastructure
  • CDN usually included, might only be included on upper-level plans
  • Minimal downtime, usually with a SLA (service-level agreement, i.e. money-back guarantee)
  • Your site never gets taken down, they just charge you more if you go over your bandwidth or page view limits (so feel free to make the news and enjoy tons of publicity)
  • Generous trial period or money-back guarantee time period

What’s the big deal?

Do you have a love affair with Host Gator, Bluehost, Dreamhost, or GoDaddy shared hosting? Or does not managing your own VPS or dedicated server(s) give you nightmares?

Whatever side of the spectrum you’re on, I’d recommend premium WordPress hosting with an optional separate server for non-WordPress stuff, if needed. Personally, I use WP Engine. I like that they have funding from Automattic, WordPress.com’s parent company.

Each provider has pros and cons. If you’re considering WordPress MultiSite, make sure to get firm answers on how each sub-site is billed, if at all. Typically, you’ll need an upgraded plan to be allowed to use MultiSite and then each sub-site counts as an additional WP install on your plan.

With any of them, there will be a learning curve because each accomplishes similar things but in their own ways. Undoubtedly, the quality and security of hosting and support is, dare I say, unparalleled.

The Contenders

In no particular order, here’s a list of the best-known Managed WordPress Hosts:

  • WP Engine, starting at $29/mo for a single WP install, up to $249/mo for 25
  • ZippyKid, starting at $25/mo for 1, up to $100/mo for 10
  • Synthesis, starting at $27/mo for 1, up to $300/mo for 5
  • Page.ly, priced per site from $24.95/mo to $650+/mo, with each subsequent site receiving a 30% discount from those prices
  • WordPress.com VIP, starting at $3,750/mo for SaaS hosting (like the others here). It’s one of those “if you have to ask, it’s too expensive” things. Plus, you apply to host with them and they may or may not choose to accept you even if you have the money. It’s called a “curated” service. They also offer a $15,000/year “VIP Self-Hosted” support plan (i.e. support, not hosting). You can see some of the sites hosted with WordPress.com VIP in the WordPress Showcase.

Did I miss any? Do you have any positive or negative experiences with any of these or other companies providing managed WordPress hosting (i.e. hosting only WordPress sites)? Please share your comment below.