A lot goes into the development and maintenance of a WordPress website.
There is of course the design, content and marketing — the big three. But websites need more than that. They need maintaining.
A conscientious webmaster recognizes the importance of keeping a website ticking on the back end and often spends a considerable amount of time updating plugins, themes and the WordPress core, scheduling backups, monitoring for Malware and so on. The alternative is to risk malfunction, or even worse, to be hacked.
In recent times, a small niche in the WordPress market has sprung up that caters to webmasters who want to relieve themselves of the sometimes onerous duty of website management. Whether it’s because they feel that they don’t have the expertise to keep a site properly maintained, or because they want to free up time to work on areas in which they can have a greater impact, they have found refuge in the digital arms of WordPress maintenance companies.
In this post I am going to introduce you to a few companies out there who offer WordPress maintenance services and explore what they have to offer and how they can benefit WordPress users.
Who Are WordPress Maintenance Services For?
WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System, and as such it attracts a huge variety of people — everyone from personal bloggers to big corporations use WordPress.
That means many things, but for the purposes of this post the conclusion should be obvious: There are a huge number of WordPress website owners out there who don’t know how to properly maintain their site. Whether it is due to ignorance or simply a lack of knowledge, they do not have the know-how or the inclination to keep their site up to date.
One of the service providers I spoke to, Michelle Anderson, put it like this:
…over time I realized that clients were not updating their websites at all. Some were afraid to do it. Some did not have the time to do it. Some clients did not think it was important at all. It became crystal clear to me at that point that WordPress website owners need help in this area. Otherwise, their websites could be one or two years behind in maintenance which could lead to numerous functionality problems not to mention being vulnerable to attack.
A natural need for WordPress maintenance services has grown out of user neglect. Many agencies who work with clients who use WordPress in any number of ways (web design, content marketing, etc.) will understand this fact, because many of them will already offer maintenance services “on the side”.
As such, it is only natural that standalone WordPress maintenance companies have risen out of such a strong need. Curiously, both service providers I spoke to said that they deal with just about every type of WordPress users. As Shayne Sanderson from Maintainn put it:
Our clients are on both ends of the spectrum. From small personal blogs to large enterprise-level MultiSite installations — we cover them all.
WordPress maintenance services aren’t for everyone, but it would seem that a proportion of representatives from every different “type” of WordPress user has a need for them.
What Can I Expect From A WordPress Maintenance Service?
The answer to that question is: It varies.
Depending upon who you choose to go with, the breadth and depth of service you get (as well as the cost) varies. You can pay as little as $10 per month, or upwards of $100. For example, Maintainn offers a four-tiered service, with the cheapest “Basic” package setting you back $35 per month and the most expensive “Enterprise” package costing a whopping $325 per month. (I was informed however that their pricing structure is soon to change.)
Generally speaking, you can expect the following services from a WordPress maintenance service:
- Periodical updates of the WordPress core, themes and plugins
- Scheduled backups
- Security scanning
Potential additional services include (but are not limited to):
- Email support
- Uptime monitoring
- Website migration
- Spam cleanup
- Database optimization
The choice is potentially overwhelming, especially when you take into consideration the potential quality of the service.
Take Michelle’s service as an example. She doesn’t just one-click update themes and plugins like many similar services might do — she takes a more bespoke approach:
I provide a detailed service that includes taking precautionary measures before any updates are processed. Instead of running all updates at once, they are processed in a piece-meal fashion with close attention paid to the display and functionality of the site during the process. If problems were to arise during an update, I can isolate the problem pretty quickly and resolve the issue.
It is not to say that there is anything wrong with one-click updates, but is clear that Michelle’s service includes a little more TLC than some of her (cheaper) competitors.
That aside, the key underlying selling point to WordPress maintenance services seems to be, quite simply, peace of mind. That’s exactly how Shayne put it:
Peace of mind I think is the biggest selling point. We handle everything from backups to security to updates and most everything in between. This allows our clients to focus on their business and producing content on their site without worrying about everything else. If they need help or have a question we’re available (response times are usually within 5-15 minutes).
I have to say that there is a lot of sense behind that way of thinking.
What About Managed Hosting?
The likes of WPEngine will host your website and automatically handle updates and backups all for an extremely reasonable price (from just $29 per month in WPEngine’s case). By means of comparison, WP Maintainer seems to offer no more than WPEngine but charges $99 per month. There is no obvious justification to this.
When questioned about the relevance of managed WordPress hosting solutions compared to their services, the answer I got from both WordPress maintenance companies I spoke to was identical: Service. Michelle’s answer was short and sweet:
Typical managed hosting services do not offer the attention I give to my clients and the detailed services I provide. It’s that simple.
Shayne had a little more to say on the matter:
There are a lot of Managed WordPress hosting services available now that weren’t around just a few years ago and with that there are some services that overlap. Managed WordPress Hosting is great but at the end of the day most of them keep their support limited to “hosting” and that’s where we’re different. We handle support for everything from installing plugins to providing assistance with writing/implementing code, etc., so while there are some similarities we (for the most part) go beyond what a host will offer regarding support.
Even if one were to accept that managed WordPress hosting is a far better deal, there are still circumstances in which WordPress maintenance services would still be needed: for instance, when someone is unwilling to switch hosting providers.
Is Managed WordPress Maintenance Worth the Cost?
I think that WordPress maintenance services are probably considered invaluable by many people. But just like with any industry, there are companies of every shape and size.
If you pick your service carefully you may well get a very reasonably-priced service offered by conscientious WordPress experts. On the other hand, setting up a WordPress maintenance service requires little in the way of capital investment or expertise, so you should be very careful about who you hand your money (and your website) over to.
What do you think about WordPress maintenance services? Let us know in the comments section below!