Over the past ten years or so WordPress has played a huge part in democratizing the web. These days, just about anyone can create a blog in minutes with the world’s favorite content management system without having to worry about any potentially confusing technical matters.
However, there are many important things that happen “under the hood,” so to speak. Those back end issues impact many sites. Other people find that updating WordPress and its plugins is a hassle. While WordPress is an awesome content management system, managing the manager can be a hassle.
Luckily, a market has sprung up that will take care of that responsibility for you – managed WordPress hosting. In this post I will explain what it is, who might need it and why. I’ll also feature a few companies that are in the managed WordPress hosting business.
What Is Managed WordPress Hosting?
In a nutshell, managed WordPress hosting deals with all of the backend tasks related to running a WordPress blog so that you don’t have to. That way, you can focus on what truly matters: selling your products and/or services to customers.
They will host your site, of course. Beyond that, they also bring specific WordPress experience and work to optimize your site in many areas: speed, security, uptime, updates to the WordPress core and plugin compatibility. Sean O’Brien, Director of Marketing at Pagely, summarizes what he sees as the key benefits of managed WordPress hosting:
Security, Speed (SEO), and Updates. We work exclusively and seek to maximize all three.
Who Should Get Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress hosts help on a variety of fronts. But the option is not for everybody. For example, Pagely’s plans start at $24, with more expensive options offering more features. The cost is not crippling, but it also is not anything to sniff at. Personal bloggers would probably be better off without managed hosting.
On the other hand, small businesses and big corporations should definitely consider it. The cost of managed hosting pales in comparison to that of hiring a system administrator. Purchasing a managed WordPress hosting plan will be cheaper than paying someone to work for your company and solve the issues.
Also remember that managed hosting is geared specifically towards WordPress. If you want your site to be on the cutting edge, having a provider focused on your content management system can pay off. Jerod of Copyblogger Media, which runs the managed WordPress host Synthesis, argues that exact point:
WordPress is a wonderful piece of software, but it also has its idiosyncrasies that must be addressed. If you do not choose a managed WordPress host, you will not be getting the best performance, security, and support possible. Period. So if your site means a lot to you, then having a host who specializes in delivering the best experience to you and your readers should mean a lot to you too.
How Hard Is It To Switch?
With normal hosting, migrating a site from one provider to another can be frustrating. Managed WordPress hosts aim to take that painful process and make it painless. The results are great. You can generally expect to have a migration with minimal downtime – most managed WordPress providers will test your site on their servers and let you see a preview before they switch the DNS information.
The key is giving people the ability to preview their sites before changing any DNS settings. This allows the migration to occur “in the dark” without the live site being affected … thus, no downtime.
The details vary from provider to provider – some managed WordPress companies will move any site for free, while others charge an additional fee. Chris Piepho, founder of Lighting Base, describes his company’s approach:
A big selling point for Lightning Base is that we offer free site migrations, and are able to complete most transfers within 24 hours of receiving login information. Reassuring customers is not generally a big issue — no downtime is involved with a migration, and we check out sites for errors on our system before helping to make the DNS change.”
You should, of course, always research how different companies handle (and charge for) site migrations. Sean O’Brien summarizes Pagely’s policy:
…we assist with migration for free on Professional and Enterprise accounts, and we offer migration for a fee on the other plans. Cost varies based on complexity. We move sites all the time so there are rarely any issues.
What Will I Get From Managed WordPress Hosting?
While it comes at a cost, managed WordPress hosting has some key advantages, and many of these are reasons why WPExplorer is hosted on WP Engine.
- Increased site speed
- Bolstered security
- Reliable uptime
- Updates to the WordPress core
- Checks for plugin compatibility.
Security is key. With WordPress powering about 18% of the web these days, it is a big target for spammers and hackers. Managed hosting services take security very seriously. Jerod details the Synthesis approach:
We provide daily malware scans from Sucuri for every WordPress install we host. And in the event of any breach, we take full responsibility for cleaning it up and locking the site back down. In addition, we have been among the most proactive in the business in preventing the scourge of WordPress: brute force login attempts … We also take daily backups of every WordPress install as well, so no Synthesis site is ever more than 24 hours removed from a complete restore.
Other services offer similar security features to protect your site.
These companies also take faster speeds as a point of pride. One thing to note, however, is that increases in speed will vary depending on where your site is at right now. Chris Piepho writes:
There is no real way to state an average – I’ve seen some advertisements regarding this and find it incredibly misleading…for sites that are already fast, there might be a small change, but you can’t improve much on really good … For sites experiencing slowness, there is a very real chance they can see a large improvement.
What About the Alternatives?
There are always other options, so which one you choose depends on your needs. WordPress maintenance companies claim to have superior service, but it comes at a price. I explored this in an earlier post here on WPExplorer. Virtual private servers and dedicated servers are another option, but you should keep in mind that they do not specialize in WordPress. Chris Piepho weighs in:
Compared to a smaller VPS, our services are generally price-competitive while taking care of all the management headache. Compared to a dedicated server, Lightning Base will be more expensive, but clients benefit from our experience in running large numbers of WordPress sites — if they need to hire someone to get similar expertise, it will be much more expensive than our service.
As always, managed WordPress hosts stress their expertise. Sean O’Brien continues:
Our service is far superior if you’re running WordPress. Our techs are well versed in all details of WordPress including plugins, themes, and upgrades, whereas a typical tech at a standard hosting company may not know anything about WordPress.
Is Managed WordPress Hosting a Good Investment?
Should you ultimately choose managed WordPress hosting? You know your individual situation the best, so only you can decide. Hopefully, the information that I presented here will help you with your choice.
The pricing of managed WordPress hosting seems fairly reasonable, especially for businesses who would normally have to pay someone to deal with these issues. Some people feel that they can handle their own WordPress issues on the back end. If you are one of those people, it may be a good idea to stick with what you are currently doing.
Whether or not to get managed WordPress hosting ultimately comes down to a logical analysis of costs and benefits – will the time you save and the features you gain end up saving more money than you spend on managed WordPress hosting? If the answer is yes, then it is hard to justify not making the switch. If the answer is no, you can take a page from Dory’s book and just keep on swimming.