Managed WordPress hosting has become a hot product over the last few years.
The advantages of good hosting are that your site will load faster, making your customers happy, and helping you rank higher in search engines.
Many businesses start out with $10/month shared hosting, which generally sucks.
Cheap shared hosting makes money for the host by cramming as many sites as possible onto the same server. This results in slow, bogged down websites, which isn’t good for anyone.
Managed WordPress hosting seeks to solve that problem by concentrating on page speed, while offering amenities on the backend that make it easier to manage your website. Some of these extras may include daily site backups, malware scans, 24 hour support, white-label site migrations, free SSL certificates, and staging areas (so you can work on a duplicate version of your site for development purposes).
Defining the Different Types of Hosting
There are several basic types of hosting in the marketplace: shared hosting, VPS, cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting.
Why You Should Avoid Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is the cheapest hosting that you’ll find encounter. Shared hosting usually costs $10 or less per month. But the reason it is so cheap is because the hosting company is cramming your website into a server right alongside thousands of other websites.
Oftentimes, you’ll see shared hosting packages described as having “unlimited” bandwidth and resources. What they neglect to tell you is those resources are unlimited — as long as none of the other 5000 sites on that server are busy using them.
Consequentially, shared hosting is notorious for loading sites slower than molasses in an Antarctic winter.
Shared hosting is also a security risk, because if one site on the server gets infected, it’s possible for that infection to cross-contaminate other sites on the shared server.
Because shared hosting is so cheap, it also universally has the worst technical support.
99% of the time, your website will be up and running. Perhaps slowly, but still running.
But it’s that 1% of the time that your website is down, or experiencing technical problems, that you really need someone from the hosting company to help you out.
When you’re only paying $4 a month to host your site, that usually means that the hosting company isn’t spending money on support staff.
When you call up your shared hosting company for help restoring your site, or finding a backup (what backups?), or fixing something, they usually don’t deliver stellar service.
The bare minimum level of hosting you should have for your business site is VPS hosting.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting
With VPS hosting, you’re still sharing space on a server with other sites. But the big difference is each hosting environment is surrounded by a virtual partition. Your site has a set amount of resources allocated for use. You won’t be affected by other sites chewing up the server resources and slowing your site down.
Most managed hosting uses a similar type of setup, whether you are paying for a single site, ten sites, or dozens of sites. You are essentially renting out a large cluster of space, resources, and bandwidth on the server each month.
Different hosting companies may have different names for this, but it is similar in function.
VPS hosting is a big step up from shared hosting. And depending on who you host with, you can have considerable speed and performance gains.
Advantages of Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting is when you use the infrastructure of several servers, aka a cluster, to scale up when needed. Google Cloud and Amaon Web Services (AWS) are two examples of this.
What makes cloud hosting desirable is that instead of defining an “instance” (partition for your site) on a physical server for your site, cloud hosting uses virtual resources of many underlying servers. This results in better load balancing, meaning your server resources will not run out easily like they do with traditional shared hosting.
Dedicated Hosting: Made for Heavyweight Traffic
Dedicated hosting is when you rent out the entire server, or several servers. Dedicated hosting is for enterprise level companies or high-traffic sites.
As you can imagine, the performance gains are excellent. But stepping up to dedicated hosting also means a much larger monthly hosting bill. The traffic that comes with being a large-scale site means you have to have the proper budget and infrastructure to support that traffic.
What Is Manged WordPress Hosting?
The beauty of managed WordPress hosting is there is more emphasis on risk management, performance, and developer-friendly features.
The biggest thing you’ll see on the front-end is the top managed WordPress hosts are optimized for performance. Because the elite WordPress hosts are heavily involved in the WordPress community, they are up-to-date on how to optimize their servers to make WordPress run smooth and fast.
Managed WordPress hosts will automatically update your version of WordPress after a certain period of time, to avoid the security holes caused by not updating WordPress core.
Many of these hosts do daily backups of your site. It’s still a best practice to get external backups of your website on your own cloud service, so there isn’t a single point of failure, and you have an additional backup in case (god forbid) something happens to your hosting.
What Managed WordPress Hosts Do You Recommend?
More generalized web hosting companies are starting to offer managed WordPress hosting as an option. Since WordPress accounts for over 31% of all websites on the planet, there’s an opportunity here if you’re a hosting company.
Only a few managed WordPress hosting companies have been active in the space for over five years. These companies, for the most part, are the ones driving the innovation and setting the standard for managed WordPress hosting.
Disclaimer: Some links below are affiliate links.
WP Engine has been a market leader in managed WordPress hosting for several years.
Many of the features that are considered standard on other managed WordPress hosts (one-click staging environments, daily backups, easier migrations) first appeared on WP Engine.
Their servers are configured for speed, so that’s a positive. WP Engine also has features like malware scanning.
One thing to consider with WP Engine is they have some plugins that they won’t allow to run on your environment. Caching plugins like W3 Total Cache aren’t necessary, since they have server-side caching in place, and running a caching plugin is redundant. They also won’t allow certain plugins that put a lot of strain on the server like Broken Link Checker, because they can slow down the database to an extreme level on larger sites.
Since they are focused on performance, they makes sure these plugins aren’t available.
They don’t run a traditional cPanel, so if you’re migrating from an Apache server, and you have email accounts running through your current server, you’ll need to switch to a third-party email service like Zoho, Google Apps for Business, or Microsoft 365, and import your email archives.
On the positive side, WP Engine has automated migrations through their own plugin. They also take daily backups of your site, and allow you to take a manual snapshot of your site whenever you need to.
Kinsta is a managed WordPress hosting company focused on speed, and is quickly growing to become one of the powerhouses in the WordPress hosting space.
The hosting on Kinsta currently uses the Google Cloud platform as underlying cloud service, so you know that the resources will be there for your site. Kinsta offers many of the same amenities that WP Engine does: 24/7 support, free SSL certificates, malware scans, staging areas, daily backups, free CDN.
One thing that might be preferable to you is if you need to host one or two sites, Kinsta’s pricing is better than WP Engine. Kinsta’s one site plan is $30, WP Engine’s is $35. On WP Engine, if you want to add more than one site, you have to bump up to their five-site plan, which is $115/month. With Kinsta, you can have two sites for $60/month, or three sites for $100/month.
If speed is a priority for your site, Kinsta is an excellent choice for managed WordPress hosting.
Flywheel is another managed host that is similar to Kinsta and WP Engine.
They also offer daily backups, and have fast servers. Like Kinsta and WP Engine, you have to configure your email addresses through a third-party service if you’re moving to their hosting.
They offer a concierge migration service — most of the time, this takes about 24 hours.
Flywheel will automatically update your version of WordPress core (if you haven’t done so) after two weeks, for major releases. For minor releases of WordPress, they usually update within 24 hours.
While WP Engine just recently moved to 24 hour chat support, Flywheel has ticketed support, and offers phone support on the weekdays.
For the few times I’ve had to use their support on the weekend, they’ve been very responsive.
Where WP Engine is very business-friendly, Flywheel seems more geared towards agencies. To me, Flywheel another solid choice for managed WordPress hosting.
Siteground is a good managed host for businesses just starting out, or trying to validate an idea before ramping up.
They have three plans, and the most expensive one is about $15 a month (they charge in Euros, since they are based in Europe).
They also have staging areas like Flywheel and WP Engine, though not quite as seamless. They currently have four data centers: one each in London, Singapore, Amsterdam, and Chicago. New accounts are added to the European data center automatically. I advise US business to pay the $30 fee to move their installation to the Chicago data center, so the information has less distance to travel, and the site is bit faster.
For the money, Siteground is surprisingly good on performance, for smaller sites. The one thing you have to be aware of is because the base price of the hosting is so low for what you’re getting, there are small up-charges on anything extra, like SSL certificates or moving to a different data center.
Siteground is good about automatically updating to the latest version of WordPress. If you forget, they will update within a few days. There aren’t as many restrictions on what plugins you can use. They also have caching, but use Supercacher on the backend (in cPanel) to cache your site every day or so.
Siteground is a good solution for smaller businesses, but may not be the best for businesses looking to go to the enterprise level.
While the default web hosting (shared hosting) at GoDaddy is pretty atrocious, they just recently introduced managed WordPress hosting. This is supposed to be optimized for performance. I just started migrating a client over to their managed WordPress hosting, and so far it seems pretty good.
When you first set up your WordPress site, the GoDaddy managed WordPress hosting will walk you through a setup wizard, where it asks you certain questions, like is this for a business site, a blog, or both?. It takes this information, along with the contact and social information you provide, and puts it into a boilerplate site, with some of their pre-installed plugins (for social sharing, general help, and setting up your site).
The WP101 plugin also comes installed with their managed hosting, so this is very user-friendly, and seems geared towards the beginner WordPress user who needs some guidance on how to use the back-end.
I just started using this, so the jury’s still out, but a lot of prominent folks in the WordPress space seem to vouch for it. If you’re going to use GoDaddy for hosting, make sure you use their managed WordPress hosting.
Why Self-Hosting On Your Premises Is No Longer A Good Idea
At about the 46 minute mark in our Blab, a viewer in the chat room asked about companies that were interested in self-hosting their own sites on their own servers, on the business location site.
He mentioned that back in the day, businesses would get a T1 line, and self-host their website on a server on the business premises.
Now companies still do this from time-to-time. And even some web companies host their client sites on their own servers. (There’s two different reasons for this behavior, but neither one is in the best interest of the client business, if you feel what I’m saying.)
The reason most companies would want to maintain their own server on-site is control. Or rather, the illusion of control.
There’s a ton of reasons I think self-hosting on your own server is a greater security risk than trusting the experts to do it.
For one, on-site servers are usually maintained by a single person, not a team of system admins.
Let’s say you’re a business in a more rural area, and you’ve know the guy running your local IT company for twenty years. You don’t want to take business away from him. But the same problems can occur.
In the smaller, local hosting companies, all the system administration is usually handled by one person.
What if they get busy, and forget to update the server software? What if updating is just a pain to do, and they keep putting it off? What if they start to update the server software, and something goes wrong?
What happens now is your site, and perhaps a bunch of other people’s sites are down, for however long it takes to get the problem fixed. Depending on how your server is configured, this could affect your email as well. (This is another reason to keep your domain name, hosting, and email separated whenever possible.)
The truth is, your on-site server is not going to be any more safe from malicious attacks than a distributed server from a large scale managed hosting company. The managed WordPress hosts have automated tests in place to keep an eye out for malicious attacks, and keep an eye on uptime and server resources. It’s really difficult to replicate this with a single person on-site, or even down the street.
The large hosting companies have more than one data center, so it’s a bit harder to take your site offline.
Choosing a good manged WordPress host is all about reducing risk and maximizing benefit.
If you’re on a budget, Siteground is a great choice.
If you’re on a budget, and don’t mind handling all the developer setup (or you know someone who will), DigitalOcean is worth taking a look at.
If you need a dedicated hosting solution for an enterprise-level website, Pagely is who I recommend.