WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) for building a wide range of websites. eCommerce, News sites, and even specialty sites with optimized services can be built on the WordPress platform. When using WordPress there are some specific server optimizations that can help your website run faster, as well as many other considerations. The best managed WordPress hosting will help handle all these considerations for you and let you get back to producing quality content.
Better Security, Better Performance, Fewer Worries
Managed WordPress hosting is one of the simplest ways to ensure your WordPress website performs well and handles potentially dangerous situations like hackers, DDoS attacks, and annoying bots. In addition to addressing these common concerns, managed WordPress hosting commonly offers automated backup solutions, staging websites, and often free SSL. Familiarizing yourself with some of the specific benefits can help to pick out the best WordPress hosting for your site.
Custom Management Tools
Many managed WordPress hosts are built on custom management platforms to help streamline your interaction with databases and other potential sticky actions. As a general rule, managed WordPress solutions are going to put a layer between you and your website’s backend. This means no SSH access or other server config operations. This is bad for those that like to control everything, but great for those looking to focus on their content and front end rather than the backend nitty gritty. Having direct access to your database tables is still a common task so many managed WordPress hosts have custom, easy-to-use management tools for such operations.
Enterprise Level Services
In addition to custom website management tools, many managed WordPress hosts will provide complementary licenses to enterprise management tools like the ARM toolset from New Relic. For those working on larger sites with higher demand for optimized functionality, these tools can be a godsend. There are some specific webhosts mentioned below, but one that stands out in this regard is Pantheon.io. These types of tools can help analyze your sites performance on a very basic level and help to identify potential issues. For most smaller websites, such as an affiliate website, these types of tools are going to be overkill and a likely waste of money.
Custom Backup Solutions
WordPress has many incredible advantages over most other CMS solutions. Arguably, this has come about from the massive ecosystem of high quality plugins. There are many plugins that can help your website backup to third party servers such as Amazon or even Dropbox. Additionally, most self-managed WordPress hosting solutions come with a licensed version of cPanel—also providing single-click backup solutions. With managed hosting, these actions can be done much in the same way except that the performance impact (copying you files, zipping them, storing them) is on another server. In addition, most all Managed WordPress hosting solutions will provide super easy one-click restores to previous site states.
Better Qualified Customer Support
Many website hosting companies have built their empires on customer service purported to be the best in the business. This is an easy claim to make yet often beyond the reach of many companies. There will always be hiccups along the way, as well as unforeseen issues, but as a general rule of thumb managed WordPress solutions are going to provide better customer service. Managed WordPress hosting eliminates a lot of the backend interaction that you’ll be doing, thus reducing the degree of things you can screw up. This immediately removes many issues that might throw a curveball your way, and helps customer service immediately eliminate many potential causes. Managed WordPress hosts also, in most cases, only deal with WordPress websites and their specific needs. Working with the customer service department of a managed WordPress host is like calling a plumber instead of a handy-man to help fix your kitchen sink. They’ll be more likely to know exactly what’s wrong with your site because they spend more time looking at WordPress-specific issues.
Finding the Best Managed WordPress Hosting
There are plenty of webhost reviews out there that account for technical comparisons between nearly every webhost out there. That’s not what this article is meant to be, and you shouldn’t regard our recommendations to be based on anything other than our personal experience. In a word, these reviews are biased because we’ve used these hosts over the years and love them. Each of the following webhosting companies specialize in WordPress hosting and do not extend themselves into the full spectrum of webhosting services. Below you’ll find some recommendations for managed WordPress hosting solutions that we believe to be top-tier.
Flywheel is in what we consider to be the golden stage of company size. They’re big enough to be considered an enterprise solution but not big enough to have an overextended support staff. Flywheel offers managed WordPress hosting starting at prices around $15/mo. which includes free SSL configuration using Open SLL, backups, and custom database management tools. We have had to contact them on more than one occasion to help diagnose problems that other hosts simply wouldn’t have been able to handle. For those that like to develop websites locally, Flywheel has even developed a free local development software package known as Flywheel Local that can serve in place of other premium options such as WAMP or MAMP pro. Yes, they have one-click pushes to their live servers!
WPEngine is regarded by many as being the most popular managed WordPress solution. They’ve had a tremendous amount of growth in the past few years and have developed an ecosystem of website management tools that can help you stay focused on the content that drives your profit rather than technical details. Our personal experience with WPEngine is that their customer service has grown to the point that you don’t get as relevant an answer as you once would. Still, you will be talking to people that focus on nothing but WordPress—making them leagues above typical webhosts. WPEngine isn’t our first choice for managed WordPress hosting, but would still come as a recommendation before many other options. Their pricing is slightly more than Flywheel, though what we would consider comparable.
We don’t have a ton of experience with this webhost but we’ve worked with many people that have raved about them. This webhost is a bit pricier than WPEngine or Flywheel, with starter plans in the $25/mo. range. If you’re planning on working with a team of developers, want access to performance analysis software like New Relic, or plan on developing a really database-intense WordPress website—Pantheon.io is worth a serious look. This managed WordPress host offers a lot of consideration for larger websites that may receive hundreds of thousands or millions of visitors each month. One thing that we particularly love is their ability to bump a site up to a higher hosting plan during times of abnormal site usage, bump the plan back down afterwards, then bill you for the overage. This is great for websites that maintain a consistent level of resource consumption but promote in such ways that might cause huge spikes in traffic for a few hours or days. For example, if a link to your site were to make it to the front page of Reddit, or even just the front page of a major subreddit, having a site unable to handle the traffic could cost you a lot of money. We don’t have enough direct experience with their customer service to write a public opinion—though we’ve only heard good things.
Don’t Obsess Over Pricing Differences
Most webhosts out there are really resellers of hosting provided by larger companies such as Linode. While this may seem sketchy at first glances it’s just how business is done. Managed hosting—and even non-managed hosting—do this so engineering teams can focus on customer-side experiences rather than core network operations. What this means for you is that you’ll likely be getting access to the same types of hardware, maybe even from the same datacenters, regardless of which host you choose. For this reason, getting hung up on a few dollars difference isn’t really that important if you’re getting better support, better tools, and more confidence in your choice.
What to Demand
Managed WordPress hosts should provide you with a better overall solution than any regular webhost. They spend their time focused on WordPress-specific server optimizations and have support staff able to better address your needs. The market has evolved in such a way that you should expect a few options from a managed WordPress host that should be considered the bare minimum. That’s to say; if a managed WordPress host doesn’t have these features, move on to the next one. Here’s a list of what we regard to be essential features of any managed WordPress solution:
- Free website migrations
- Free backup options with one-click restores
- Free Open SSL encryption
- Optional CDN on basic plans, Free CDN on intermediate plans
- Live support available via phone or live chat for all plans
You’ll find that different hosts excel in different areas though all bring a better baseline experience to the table than regular webhosts. The above-mentioned features should be regarded as essential qualifications for any managed WordPress solution. After all, if you’re going to be paying more you should be getting more.
Managed WordPress hosting is a great way to allow yourself to focus more on the actions that will help drive revenue than the technical details of how your website works. If you’re a tinkerer or plan on using implementing custom server configurations yourself you’ll find managed solutions aren’t a good option. These types of webhosts are going to be more expensive with starter plans ranging from $15-$25 per month. This might seem like a robbery when compared to $1.99 hosting from non-managed solutions but can help your site perform better and be less likely to have issues. One big concern that comes with all managed hosting solutions is that you’ll have to find your own email hosting. For smaller sites, this isn’t an issue since places like Zoho offer free email hosting for a small number of addresses. If you plan on having a lot of user emails for your site don’t forget to factor that in as an additional cost.