Today I’m going to review a very particular service which is offered by a giant in the WordPress business. I’m talking about Envato. The service is called Envato Hosted and it’s a relatively new WordPress Managed Service and in the case of Envato, It’s fully managed in all the sense of the word.
What is Envato Hosted?
Envato Hosted is a curious service for several reasons. At first sight it seems like the worst idea you could come up with. Having all sort of hosting services out there, Envato service seems extremely simplified to the point of being almost a pain to use for experienced users, but don’t let that fool you. Behind this mask of extreme simplicity hides a very powerful service with one big bonus… actual people helping you out all the time.
But before we get started with Hosted here’s a quick summary of what is and isn’t included:
- Included with Envato Hosted: Your $16 per month month (per installation) includes 1 premium WordPress theme for free (we of course recommend the popular and powerful Total WordPress theme, but there are tons of designs to choose from), free site migration, managed updates & support, 100k visits, 5GB disk space, 100GB bandwidth, daily backups, security and great customer support
- What’s Not Included: With Hosted there is no email platform, no multisite support, and you will have to purchase your domain name/SSL separately
Signup with Hosted
If you want to see a full walk-through of the signup process, checkout our guide on the Envato blog. But it’s pretty straightforward. Just find a theme you love on Themeforest and see if it comes with Hosted. Click the button to signup.
In this post we’re going to assume you can handle that portion on your own and get into reviewing the quality of Envato Hosted.
Getting Started with Envato Hosted
The dashboard is so simplified it’s almost problematic because the first thing you notice is a basic UI, this coupled with the fact that they won’t allow you to tweak anything besides your domain may give you all the wrong ideas about the service.
Envato Hosted will let you use your own domains but aside from that you won’t be able to upload your own database, you won’t have any mail service whatsoever except configuring Google Apps and you’ll be unable to handle files for a lack of a file explorer. It’s like Godaddy WordPress service but even more basic.
The DNS settings allows you to handle all the related tasks in case you host the domain on Envato. As I stated before, one good thing about this service is that they will let you use your own domain and will help you configure it properly. The service does have an SFTP access and Backup settings too.
Domain registration is pretty straightforward and will let you do all the first steps with ease. The Envato Hosted service seems primarily geared towards new users and specially those that plan on buying themes and plugins from Envato, so the process is optimized for registering a new domain and having your new WordPress installation setup in no time.
You can check the stats on this easy to access stats page which will give you the exact numbers allowed by your plan. With a Disk Quota of up to 5GB per $16 plan. This is not cheap so take into consideration that the service is indeed pretty expensive.
But I Want to Migrate My Current Website
Sure enough if you already have a site, Envato Hosted will make your life easy as the migration is absolutely free on this service, you just need to request the migration with information about your current WordPress login.
Once you input all the information you’ll be taken to the support page and you’ll have to wait sometime between 1 hour and up to 10 depending on the site complexity. Just take into consideration that the service is not automatic and will need human interaction on their part so this may not be the best alternative for those that know how to do a migration and want to do it themselves because that’s just not possible here.
The same problem will arise with emails, in case you handle the domain with Envato, there is no mail service whatsoever. They will allow you to configure MX entries for Google Apps services but it is extremely limited in it’s scope. Users relying on custom emails for their sites will have better luck elsewhere.
Once Migration is done…
Once your site is ready to rock, you’ll be able to point your domain to the CNAME related to the service. It’s important to remember that Envato does not have a proper way of showing up the temporary domain that you’ll have to use for a CNAME in case you want to use your custom domain and you have to find out what it is by trying to login to WP-Admin. The routing subdomain can then be pointed as a CNAME to your original subdomain. They use routing subdomains as a way to dynamically balance their service so, be aware not to use IPs when assigning your domain.
Once your site is finished migrating you’ll be greeted with a Welcome Message and a short survey. A little intrusive for my taste but easily avoidable in which Envato will ask what kind of site, type and business kind you have. Once this is done your site is ready to rumble.
Tech Support: The Heart of the Service
Having to install or migrate your site and put it up online takes no action on your part whatsoever because the vast majority of stuff is handled through tech support. The service is completely and fully managed, they take care of performance, databases, security and everything about WordPress so you won’t have to edit a single file nor work on the database or assign users and permissions to it. Although this is wonderful news to non-techie crowd, people like myself may feel frustrated by this. Take into consideration that you’ll loose your ability to handle issues and server-side features yourself. This service is truly managed.
Tech support is the heart of this service. As the UI is extremely limited and there is nothing you could do most of the time, the service will need to have an extremely good tech support if it wants to succeed and they seems to be doing so as I have zero complains about this interactions. Not only did they answered all my questions, they are extremely transparent about the service limitations and this is not something that you’ll see on other services. They also respond in kind. If they see you’re a techie person, they will explain in detail why they have such limitations in place.
No matter how good a UI panel is or how cool the new automatic install really is. If tech support service is not good, the service can become quite useless, specially when you need it the most. This does not seems to be the case with Envato Hosted.
Nevertheless, if performance is no good either, tech support alone won’t be able to balance the service. This is also a good point about Envato as it’s performance is quite good.
The First Time to Byte is outstanding and the site loads pretty fast overall.
As you can see, the webserver only took 70ms to respond with a total FTTB of 216ms which is extremely good overall.
Loading the website from Sweden does give you a very good result too.
Loading it from Australia on the other hand is not a good idea and the service does seem to benefit users from North America and Europe the most.
As I’ve examined the header you can clearly see they are using nginx as their backend with a Cache Structure that does dynamic routing in case something fails. This is good because your site will stay online no matter what. Having a routing structure that dynamically allocates your site to a different network without you having to worry about it is something to consider when getting this kind of service.
What I Liked
Envato Hosted service is completely novice friendly, plus you get a free theme (like Total) when you signup. You don’t have to do anything to have your site up as almost everything is handled through a tech support ticket. Likewise, tech support is extremely friendly and willing to help in each step of the way. I can feel the love the tech staff has for the service and they will do whatever they can to help you. This means that even if you need something special, they’ll be there to assist you. If you’re one of those guys/girls that love a good tech support and don’t want to deal with anything technical yourself, Envato Hosted is perfect.
What I Didn’t Like
The poor UI implementation and complete lack of options makes this service feel even worse than GoDaddy Managed WordPress for advanced developers and techie people. The high price is another point in question as all the routing/dynamic structure and extra tech support is not cheap. Having to pay $16 for such a small storage space is no good for big websites either as growing in size will cost you a lot.
If you’re techie guy/girl or an advanced developer you won’t like Envato Hosted service as it will render your expertise useless by not being able to do anything yourself, plus you’ll be needing to wait for each change as tech support need to assist you in every step. But Envato Hosted is a service that is still in development and they are willing to add new features. They accept all the criticism for things that needed to be improved and have an extremely friendly attitude towards customers so you actually feel special hosting with them.
Having such a good tech support is almost paramount to sell their service. I can easily see a new developer having a new website with them and not wanting to deal with plugins/themes installations whatsoever, in that scenario, Envato Hosted is an ideal service. You’ll feel at home knowing that actual human beings are making sure your site runs like it should be.