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WordPress Hosting Review – Choose The Best Web Host For You

Posted on February 24 by in Resources | 83 comments

WordPress Hosting Review – Choose The Best Web Host For You

When you’ve invested thousands into having a site made, it’s only fitting that you opt for great hosting to optimize site experience. Not doing so would be like parking your new Porsche under a tent, when it belongs in a garage.

While quality of hosting can vary out there, you can always put a safe bet on managed WordPress hosts when going live with a WordPress site. Why? The answer is simple: they know WordPress inside-out and are specialists in making WordPress perform at its peak.

Plus, when you contact support, they’re not likely to say things like, “we don’t support WordPress, you need to contact WordPress support” (which some hosts out there will tell you, even if the problem is not with WordPress).

Specialized WordPress hosting is a niche that is steadily growing in popularity. This is great because more competition means a better marketplace, as in any industry. Here is a curated list of some of the options we have today, though we know this list is by no means all encompassing and is likely growing. If you have suggestions of others we’ve missed, feel free to mention them in the comments below!

Note: The features mentioned below may change and are based on our research at time of writing! Also, this article is not going to cover large scale, enterprise-level needs (which is its own topic), only ‘run of the mill’ WordPress website hosting.

Synthesis

synthesis-hosting

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes
One-click restore: no
E-mail hosting: no
Integration with Git: only on Professional plans and above
Staging area: not yet
Phone support: no
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: no
PHPMyAdmin access: yes
SFTP: yes
SSH access: only on Professional plans and above

Note: see their comparison table here.

This is a WordPress hosting service brought to you by the creators of Copyblogger Media and StudioPress themes (among their other e-marketing products). Perhaps the main differentiator they offer compared to other WordPress hosts out there is that you can get “step-by-step on-page optimization advice, plus content development guidance that builds site authority and helps your pages rank well – directly from your WordPress admin panel.” In addition, they’ll also give you a keyword research tool within their system, to use as you compose pages or posts.

They also offer something called “Site Score technology” that helps you find other blog contacts to cross-promote with. Another neat feature is their uptime monitoring tool, which is often something you’d have to sign up for as a separate service from companies like Pingdom.

Their data centers are in Virginia and Amsterdam.

The limitations:

They operate best with the Genesis and WooThemes Frameworks and you need to contact them before setting up a plan with a third-party theme, to make sure it will perform well on their servers. For example, they can’t support Thesis 2.0 or newer versions as of yet.

They also don’t use HTACCESS files, which can mean having to go through them every time you want to make a customization with rewrites.

Multisite and BuddyPress installations are “subject to review” or approval.

While they don’t technically disallow plugins, they will ask you to remove plugins that are causing “performance issues.” These are usually common ones that are known to slow down your site or are not needed on their servers, since they already take care of the functionality on their site (e.g. plugins like Broken Link Checker and WordPress Firewall 2).

WP Engine

wp-engine-hosting

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes
One-click restore: yes
E-mail hosting: no
Integration with Git: yes
Staging area: yes
Phone support: yes (for non emergencies on ‘Professional’ plans and above)
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: yes
PHPMyAdmin access: yes
SFTP: yes
SSH access: no

This is a very popular option that you’ll hear come up in many conversations about WordPress hosting. Through extensive marketing and even just showing up in person at WordCamps all over the U.S. to speak to their target markets directly, they became well known in the managed WordPress hosting space. They made speed and security their bedrock, which was much needed in the WordPress market, as the platform got more and more popular. Testimonials on their site abound with positive reviews and they boast client brands like HTC, FourSquare, MaxCDN and Buffer. They also have backing from Automattic, the company behind WordPress itself.

An added bonus is that they have three data centers around the world. So if you’re in Europe, you can opt for the UK servers instead of the U.S. ones for even faster speeds.

BuddyPress is allowed on all their packages.

The limitations:

They have an extensive list of plugins they won’t allow on sites hosted by them, which can be a deal breaker for some.

Flywheel

flywheel-hosting

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes
One-click restore: yes
E-mail hosting: no
Integration with Git: sort of, by using DeployHQ
Staging area: not yet
Phone support: yes
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: not yet
PHPMyAdmin access: no, but they do give access to their own “Database Manager
SFTP: yes
SSH access: no

This is a company positioning itself as being made for designers and agencies. To that effect, their selling features include things that make life easier for the workflow of multi-person projects and clients. For example, you can set up a development ‘demo site for a client, and then ‘push’ that site to a client’s own billing account once it’s done. You retain access to the client’s site, so you can still work on it. They don’t charge for the development site – payments are only charged when the client sets up their account.

You can also create “collaborators” on a site project, the same way you can have “users” on a WordPress site, or “managers” on your Google Plus page or Facebook page. The idea is that if you don’t want them someone to have access to the account anymore, you can remove them, rather than having to change all your passwords, which is a pain. Other hosts offer this too, except with Flywheel, the only thing needed to set this up is an e-mail address. You don’t have to create separate SFTP accounts manually for each user on each site.

This company has data centers in New York, San Francisco and Amsterdam.

The limitations:

This company also has plugins it won’t allow on its servers. They also lock down your wp-config file and making some of their allowed changes may require contacting them to get it done. Like Synthesis, they also don’t use HTACCESS and you’ll need to contact them for making complex redirect rules.

Their free demo sites expire within 14 days. This means you either have to be a really fast developer, your client is really fast at getting back to you so you can do your job, or for most of your project, you’re going to have to use another development server. Granted, they do allow extensions on the 14-day policy if you email them when time is running out.

Multisite is available only on plans that start at $40 an above.

Pressable (formerly known as ZippyKid)

pressable-host

Common features list:

Daily backups: only the last two nights for files, and the last 2 weeks of the database
One-click restore: no, but support will do it for free
E-mail hosting: no
Integration with Git: sort of, by using DeployHQ
Staging area: sort of, by using Git
Phone support: additional cost
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: no
PHPMyAdmin access: yes
SFTP: yes
SSH access: no

Like Flywheel, this host also allows collaborators on accounts. However, its main selling point is probably it’s price. If you host 5 sites, you pay only $5 per site per month. That’s rock bottom for a managed WordPress hosting service, and allows developers to re-sell at a profit really easily (provided the pageview count is enough for each client, since those are shared among the packages).

Unlike most other hosts, they also include a CDN service free of charge in their plans. They also advertise that they’ve partnered with Google PageSpeed to apply performance optimization tactics to their sites. This is currently in Beta on some of their sites but will be a standardized service soon.

Their own website has some false statements, grammar errors and design issues. Most notably, they have been saying (until I called them out on it), that they are, “the only platform that allows users to collaborate with developers without sharing passwords.” They do claim they are the first to offer this.

Also on their “About” page, they say they are the “the first Content Publishing Platform (CPP).” Whether they believe they are the first to use this term, or the first to have this ever is not true (I checked). Kind of makes you wonder about their attention to detail and what other false claims they are making in the interest of marketing.

The limitations:

No MultiSite here folks. Not at all. No domain mapping either.

Since their servers use nginx and not apache, any changes you make to the HTACCESS file won’t do anything.

They won’t allow any caching or backup plugins. Here is a list of their other disallowed plugins.

WPCloud.ca

wp-cloud-ca

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes, but only 7 archives available for download
One-click restore: yes, with “Starter” packages and above
E-mail hosting: yes, with additional cost
Integration with Git: not yet
Staging area: yes
Phone support: only for “Enterprise” level packages
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: yes
PHPMyAdmin access: yes, with “Starter” packages and above
SFTP: yes, “on request”
SSH access: no

This is an interesting starter in the managed WordPress hosting space. They advertise their servers as being located in Canada, but they’re not limited to only Canadian customers. The thing that makes them intriguing as an option is they advertise being compatible with corporate governance policies required for Canadian privacy regulations. They also accept bitcoin as payment, in Canadian currency.

Multisite is allowed but only on Business or Enterprise level plans, which start at $89 per month, so it’s not too bad. BuddyPress is also allowed but only on the Starter plan and above.

The limitations:

There is no control panel of any kind with this host, which may be hard if you wanted more than just SFTP and PHPMyAdmin access.

Unfortunately you can’t opt out of automated plugin updates, which means if a plugin update breaks your site, you have to get it reviewed by their team, which can mean being out of commission for a while until that’s resolved.  But that being said, they do their site updates one by one and test them on a staging area for you, before deploying the updated version. If there is a plugin conflict, you’d be notified and would only be asked to update or remove it if were causing a security issue.

Their most basic package won’t allow a lot of features, such as being able to edit your own HTACCESS file or using PHPMyAdmin. But their starter package, the next level up, is competitively priced at $24 a month, which makes it a small deal to upgrade to get fuller access.

Pagely

pagely-host

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes, with a 14-day archive only
One-click restore: yes
E-mail hosting: no
Integration with Git: no
Staging area: no
Phone support: no
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: no
PHPMyAdmin access: only on VPS and Enterprise plans, starting at $400 per month
SFTP: yes
SSH access: only on VPS and Enterprise plans, starting at $400 per month

Pagely positions itself as being one of your “neighbors” rather than one of the “mega-corps.” They have their own CDN that you can opt for at an extra $9 a month on all their plans. They advertise that “nearly any plugin or theme” is allowed on their servers. “Professional” plans and above can use Multi-site, but those start at $149 a month, so there is a bit of a barrier to entry there. When it comes to security, they went as far as trademarking the name of their protective architecture, called PRESSARMOR™. One of the most unique pros of going with this company is that 1% of profits go to charity.

The limitations

Direct database access is only allowed on the “Enterprise” plan, which requires a custom quote (in other words, probably too expensive for the majority of WordPress users).

If you use e-commerce on the Personal tier plan, you are not allowed to accept payments on-site and always have to lead to a PayPal payment page, or other payment gateway on another URL (this is common anyway, but can be a turn off for the sites that want to appear more professional and high end, or use payment gateways that require on-site payment completions). The Business and Professional plans (starting at $64 a month) allow e-commerce transactions on-site after purchasing an SSL and dedicated IP as add-ons (which is always needed for this feature anyway).

They don’t only update WordPress core automatically, they also update all the plugins that are in the WordPress repository. This means if you are using a plugin that could potentially break the site, you’ll have a broken site for a little while until you manually restore your plugin to its former version.

Multisite is only allowed on the Business Pro plan, which is also their most expensive (before entering Enterprise level plans). But it can’t be set up without contacting them to make the request first.

They don’t allow backup plugins or statistics plugins.

The FAQ and knowledge base is really hard to navigate and seems incomplete. For example if you search for “restore” you get no results. If you search for “PHPMyAdmin” you also get no results. Even if the answer is that they don’t offer these things on their system, a hosting provider should still give answers to these on their site, since they are very basic questions. I had to personally write to them to find out if they have a staging area or what their disallowed plugins were.

Kahuna Host

kahuna-host

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes
One-click restore: no
E-mail hosting: yes
Integration with Git:  no
Staging area: no
Phone support: no
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support:  no
PHPMyAdmin access: yes
SFTP:  yes
SSH access: no

Kahuna Host is a little different in their offering compared to the other managed WordPress hosts out there. Their packages include what we’ve been used to with the lower cost hosts out there. For example, they give you a free domain (for one year), provide e-mail hosting and allow access to cPanel control panel.

All their plans also allow Multisite. They’re not exactly WordPress-only though, since they allow other apps like Magento, and about 150 others. However, that may be a good thing for some developers and customers with specialized needs. On the other hand, with all else considered, this host is could be putting on the ‘mask’ of a WordPress hosting service, when in fact they are not truly dedicated to this one platform and its needs.

I think it’s worth noting that for a short period while I was browsing their site, it was extremely slow. So slow I had to leave the browser tab that was loading their site to do other tasks on my computer. Then I’d click somewhere else, and have to leave and come back again. At one point I got a “This webpage is not available” message from Chrome.

Their data centers are run through another company.

The limitations

There is no immediate access to your backups. If you want a copy of your site, you need to make a request with support.

There is no temporary IP with this service, and if you wanted to set up a staging area, it would need to be done manually.

Lighting Base

lightening-base

Common features list:

Daily backups: yes for database, weekly for files
One-click restore: no
E-mail hosting: yes
Integration with Git: sort of, through Deploy HQ, but it’s up to you to set up
Staging area: sort of, they have a “clone” tool that can be used this way
Phone support: no
E-mail/ticketing support: yes
Chat support: sometimes, when they’re not busy
PHPMyAdmin access: yes
SFTP:  only one per account, the rest are FTP
SSH access: not yet, but if you ask they’ll give it to you

This hosting company run almost exclusively by a one-man show. His name is Chris Peipho. The company allows Multisite on all their plans. A CDN configuration is also taken care of at no additional charge. There are no disallowed plugins and they use cPanel which is a familiar interface for those coming from other hosts. When you sign up, you are allowed to choose a data center from a Chicago or Frankfurt location.

Unlike other managed WordPress hosts, they also offer domain registration and e-mail hosting. They host their e-mail separate from their web hosting servers, which adds a layer of safety (if one goes down, you don’t want the others going down too). Multisite is allowed on all plans.

The limitations:

E-mail hosting includes 5 e-mail addresses. If you need more, you may need to pay extra or opt for another e-mail host.

To conclude: what to look for

Most of these WordPress-only hosts optimize their service by including pro security, malware de-hacking, included backup plans, automated (and pre-warned) WordPress core updates, caching for speed and other performance helpers, making them the crème de la crème of hosting. They’re not like the “unlimited” plans out there, but they are well worth their price when you consider the add-ons you’d have to buy with the ‘cheaper’ hosts to make your site safe (like a backup, restore or malware scanning service, for example).

Getting multisite may mean having to pay for a higher plan. But whatever you chose, keep in mind that the no-contract clause is a common one out there, so if you see a host trying to lock you in, watch out.

83 Comments

  1. So, please…what would be your favorite choice ?!

    • You forgot GoDaady’s Managed WordPress hosting. It beats wpEngine in speed at a much, much lower cost.
      It is new, the reason you missed it I am sure.

      • Based on what I’ve heard of GoDaddy services in general, I wouldn’t trust this. It’s like they’re just trying to steal market share in a niche that is not really their niche. And when something is too cheap for it’s value, it gives me concern. But these are just my thoughts – if some love GoDaddy and it’s service and speed, then why not stick with them. That’s their decision. I’ve been warned to stay away though.

        • Look at your comments, they are emotional and not researched. Through Wild West we are a reseller for GoDaddy – They provide great tech support, they were the first ones to announce when WP was hacked, they are cheaper (because they operate on volume), their Managed WordPress hosting is as the person above commented, etc

          • Go Daddy has the WORST service, support, and reliability. Not sure who is paying you to say otherwise. Only newbs and wanna be re-sellers use GD.

            See: reddit & antigodaddy.com/

          • You are right. their support is great and this is the only bright spot in my opinion. Their reliability is so bad that I actually give my clients recommendation: “Whatever you do – just don’t use Godaddy or Blue Host.

    • I particularly am fond of WP Engine, but I would consider Synthesis if they took out some of their limitations and added in one-click restores and a staging area. Get Flywheel looks interesting but I’ve never tried it myself.

    • I am a designer/developer. I was all about godaddy, but the experience left me wanting more. I have since chosen hostgator and am now reseller my site is http://hotrockhosting.com and it loads around 3 sec for almost a meg of information.

      tools.pingdom.com/fpt/#!/dfkriU/www.hotrockhosting.com

      I enjoy Hostgator a lot. Yes, their chat support leaves something to the imagination, but the ticket support is tremendous, they have done everything I have wanted and more. Further, I do enjoy cPanel. Line commands are not my forte’, nor are shells. I also use the phpmyadmin extensively. and the one thing I love the most is that unlike godaddy I donot have to pay for my email accounts, they are included.

  2. While I can’t speak for the others, we use synthesis for our blog at http://constructiondatacompany.com and LOVE IT! I have nothing but high regards for their hosting and their support team. They are very responsive, very smart, and very quick.

  3. What’s the value of WordPress specific hosting vs. general hosting companies (I currently use Hostgator) that include a C-panel with 1-click installs of WordPress?

    • Same question here Josh. I too am using Hostgator, but services have deteriorated a bit and I think sites are slowing down.

      • Hello Josh and Jan, the answer to your question is actually in the second third paragraph of this article. There are many more reasons though, and if you visit sites like that of WP Engine’s you’ll see where the value is a lot more. If you see Synthesis’s description above, and check out their site, you’ll see they offer e-marketing tools in their hosting packages as well. So the differences vary a lot.

    • I’m pretty happy with Host Gator, but for someone unfamiliar with server environments I can see how a managed WordPress solution would be painless.

      The lack of SSH is an immediate out for me, personally. I certainly don’t do everything via command line, but it sure is useful at times.

    • We really enjoy Hostgator too. Their reseller support is great and their online knowledge base is extensive.
      I saw a negative review of Hosgator from Yoast SEO, but I’m using Yoast too, and have had no problems.

      • I used to be a Hostgator affiliate but have since been appalled at their service levels. It’s horrible (see story below, which actually happened to me more than once).

        I took down my affiliate links and no longer even mention them to my clients who want a cheaper host. Yoast is not the only one complaining about Hostgator. It’s true they like to put blame on a WordPress plugin or something when you know that’s not what it is.

        iThemes used to recommend Hostgator and now they recommend Site5, as another example. I think they wrote about why as well.

        So personally I see Hostgator losing a lot of customers and don’t think they can sustain themselves with their ‘go cheap’ attitude as of late. They also won’t give refunds for their services which is incredible. I won’t be renewing with them on my existing plans.

        • I also use to have all my sites on Hostgator, but their support and reliability has really dropped after they were sold in late 2012. As was mentioned above to others, I would stay well clear of Hostgator as there are better alternatives out there.

          I am now using MDDHosting and they are incredible!! I always get a response literally within 15 minutes. By far, they have the best customer support of any host provider I have used in the last several years and their plans are very reasonable.

          However, and in reference to this article…if one is looking for a WordPress hosting solution only, then I think what is listed in this article is the way to go!

        • The problems mentioned with host gator are emblematic of the hosting industry in general, and the scenario seems to play out pretty much the same every time:

          Step one. A group of talented, hardworking individuals start a hosting company and provide top notch support, fast servers and excellent prices.

          Step two. People rave about them and they build an excellent clientele.

          Step three. The original group executes their exit strategy, putting their hardware, wonderful service and vast userbase up for sale, quoting their outstanding sales figures.

          Step four. Greedy, money grubbing sumsabitches see those outstanding sales figures, but fail to understand (or don’t care) that the company was built on excellence. The greedies buy the company and get rid of every “expense” they can, sabotaging everything that was good about the original organization, but keep billing at standard rates.

          Step five. Quality of services is in the garbage, and customers slowly but surely begin to figure out that what used to be a gem is now a turd.

          Step six. The cycle is now complete. Customers are leaving in droves, lighting up the blogosphere with complaints about the demise of their favorite hosting company, a shell of its former self.

          I went through this process 2.5 times (one with horrendous service cost me several clients) before I found a good, small, reliable host, but I also hedged my bets by placing about 1/2 of my sites on GoDaddy services. I’ve been pleased with both over the last 8 years, no complaints with either one. I’m also going to look into GoDaddy’s Managed WP (Thanks Jquarton!) hosting, and I’d be interested to hear some specifics about being warned to stay away from them. Anybody have input into GoDaddy failing them in any way? I’ve only had sunshine and blue skies with GoDaddy.

          • I tried GoDaddy a few years ago for one of my new domains as figured it was a good price and why not give it a try! GoDaddy had everything set up for my account and I was ready to go within a few minutes of paying fr this service.

            However, I soon cancelled my hosting plan with them two days later within the first 48 hours. The issue I had was that their cpanel / backend was extremely slow and I had a really difficult time getting into my site and trying to manage it. I was just a nightmare trying to do anything and I decided to just give up on them and move on. It was not worth the hassle for me. That was a few years ago and things may have changed, but I do not know? Once I have a bad experience with a host provider I do not go back to them.

            On a different note; I still use GoDaddy for all my domain management as it is simple and quick as well as inexpensive.

            I agree with the lifecycle of many host providers. My view towards that is that I don’t mind. I mean what the heck…that is why people go into business…to make money!! But as you mention, at some point the service and support goes way down and then it is time to move on.

          • I had one client asking him to create a site based on GD platform. I had no choice since he already purchased the account. During the first week the hosting went down 3 times, I had to talk to supervisor and had to convince him to send my client an e-mail that explains to my client that the problem was with GD. After that I has extremely slow loading times, and had to explain to my client that this is not me, but its hosting. In the end of the day besides endless issues, GD made me look unprofessional since I had to explain to my client that the problems with his site have nothing to do with quality of my work.
            Exactly the same story happened again in a month when had a similar scenario with client who purchased an account with GD.

            After that I decided to stay away. I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m not eager to repeat the experience.

    • scalability (more page views faster and less resouser consumed since they ngix, apache uses an individual block of memory for each “thread”), speed and security, and better support.

      they are expensive…

      there are regulars hostings with sort of specialization in WordPress that may be an option. I use site5 and very happy with everithing specially support for wp. hear excelent reviews about smallorange wich is cheaper.

      you should try any of these two (or if you really need it some of the reviewed here.

      hope you understand this despite my poor english.

  4. I never really liked “managed WordPress” services. I feel it’s a ripoff – too expensive for essentially the same thing you’re going to get from a well-managed shared web hosting provider. I believe these managed WP services are just capitalizing on the fact that WP is a very popular platform right now and a lot of people are getting WordPress sites built because they heard “WP is awesome.”

    IMO managed WP hosting is just for people who are either too busy to upgrade WP core and take backups of their sites, and for those who are really new to all these that they don’t have a clue on what they’re supposed to do as far as security and maintenance are concerned.

    My 2c :)

    • I completely agree. Managed WordPress solutions are mostly for novices or people that would rather not handle—or hire a webmaster/sysadmin to handle—the particulars.

      • @brent, I agreed, the exorbitant price is a ripoff!

    • Agree with you. Can’t see any real interest and I find the title of this article misleading and very partial. “Hosting Review” means “Hosting Review” and not “managed WP hosting”.

      • Hi John, my original title actually had “managed WordPress hosting” in it – I’m not sure why it was changed but it was changed at an editor’s level. I do agree the “managed” part of it would have made it more accurate as to what people would get in this article.

      • It says “WordPress Hosting Review” meaning a “review” of “hosts” that are tailored for “WordPress.” I am not sure how that is at all misleading.

        “WordPress Hosting Review” means “WordPress Hosting Review” not “hosting review.” Someone looking for WordPress Hosting is clearing looking for a WordPress-tailored solution and not a general hosting plan.

        • In my opinion, it is misleading as most hosting companies actually CAN host WP sites without any problem and this review does not include them. Rather, it reviews companies that offer managed hosting for WP. Which not a problem at all and is rather a good idea.

          No problem guys, simply put, if I read a title that says “managed WP hosting” I already know I’m not interested and if the article is about general hosting I’ll have a closer look. Frankly, not very important.

          Anyhow, I profit to say how well done are those posts here and I always appreciate reading them. Great job!

    • It seems like you’re ignoring the enhancements that this article is highlighting, things like CDNs, Git integration, speed optimization for WP, site level caching, hacking prevention and large file storage… in addition to YEAH, I DON’T want to handle or hire a webmaster/sysadmin to handle those particulars. Dollar for dollar, I’d rather pay an WP Expert host that’s watching my site 24/7 on a server farm, than hire an employee.

      I have a great non-WP host, but I’m on my own with any of the enhancements that a dedicated WP host provides. I’d rather run my business and create content for my site, than tinker with the mechanics that a managed WP host handles for me. It’s a great value for the cost, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do both.

  5. My 2 cents:

    I’ve been using Hostgator for 10+ years and BlueHost for just over a year. Both are running WordPress sites and non-wordpress sites.

    I had MediaTemple but they were good only for non-wordpress sites. Horrible speeds for WP.

    BlueHost has been extremely fast and generally reliable. Hostgator has been stable for years and years. Both though have spotty support. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Hostgator gives more control and options, but Bluehost has a nice way to easily have WP sites running in a subdomain to your main account so that you can quickly and develop before you transfer domains over.

    If I were to start over from scratch with my sites though, I would go with LiquidWeb Hosting. We use them at work and they are perfect and have great support.

  6. I work in the online marketing space, and chose WPEngine for my personal website at http://www.djdavidgallant.com Their auto backups, customer support, and sync’ing large files to Amazon S3(my podcast) automatically are amazing. Super impressed with their hosting and my Nimble theme from ET.

    • I’m with David… WP Engine is really the best.

      I’ve been with WP Engine for almost 2 years and I love them! =) As a professional blogger, wife, mom, and employee – I have little time left to worry about maintaing security, back-ups, upgrades, etc… Plus, with a CDN built in, my site is very fast and my ranking with google increased almost immediately. My site can also handle an unexpected surge in traffic at any time without crashing. An all in-on solution has freed me up to focus on what I do best… blog and spend more time interacting with people, not software.

      And for those who think managed Word Press hosting is for ‘newbies’ this is not at the case. I have a degree in IT; I have been working in the technology industry for nearly 20 years; and I’m married to an IT Director (yes, nerds do find love). We could easily do this ourselves – but I value my time to be worth more than the cost of hosting.

      Hope that helps! =)

      • Thanks Erika, I agree with you. I find it is the more technical people that love the managed WP hosts like WP Engine. It takes care of a lot for you and if you understand the technicalities behind why it’s so much better then you’d probably be a fan, and not think the price is that outrageous :)

  7. WRT Brent’s comments, if you are only designing, developing, and hosting one or two sites for yourself or a close friend, than getting any hosting provider is suitable. However, if you are a designer or developer for many sites (like we are), WP managed hosting is super important. For starters, backing up one or two sites is easy–doing so for 100 is crazy. Having folks who specialize in that service alone is worth the price of admission. Second: ownership–up until recently, we offered hosting plans for clients, but the question came up from one of my clients–what if I die? What happens to his site? Good question! We have contingency plans for our clients at the moment, but as our firm and client base grows, we need to make sure all our sites are updated, backed up, and secured. I’d rather be developing and designing hosts, not maintaining them!

    We did a lot of similar research as did Joyce (great job there, Joyce!), and the best fit for our firm is getflywheel.com. Their offices are in Omaha (great town!), they’re super friendly & responsive, and I love their client handoff ability. We may use some other of these hosting services as well, but as for bang for the buck and feature set, flywheel looks like it’s best for us.

    Of course, if you’re up for maintaining only one site, it’s difficult to beat bluehost, host gator, etc.

    • I maintain quite a number of client sites too (50+) but I’d rather keep the maintenance fee than pay a “WP host” to do simple tasks for me. I always refer my clients to a host which provides automatic backups (through r1soft) so that’s one less problem for me.. Although I also use an external automatic backup service just to be sure (much cheaper than wp hosts!). As for core updates well they’re not much of an issue. WP auto updates itself except when there are major patches. And it’s not like we get major updates very often.

      So yeah I guess it’s also a matter of preference. It’s natural that some people are okay with doing things that others may find inconvenient. :D

      • Hi Brent, if you want to manage your sites for your clients then your own hosting solution or reseller hosting might be worth it. I find that hosting is its own specialty and if I am going to focus on the web design and e-marketing side of things for my clients, I really have no time to start managing their hosting too. Plus if I am on vacation, the last thing I want to hear is that a site is down or there is some problem with a backup. Having WordPress specialists take care of that for them can’t be quantified. I think I would not be paid what I’m worth if I tried to manage hosting for all my clients. I’m not trying to go after those extra few dollars – I think the specialists should have it, since they do it best and they do it all day.

        • Hi Joyce,

          I totally understand. As I said previously, I think this managed WP thing is for people who are either too busy, or are very new to WordPress.

          I do have a reseller account however I don’t offer hosting services to my clients right off the bat. It’s only for the select few who need me to get everything done for them.

          I also “semi-manage” client accounts with different hosting providers but that’s not something I want to discuss in full detail here. I just want to point out that we all (including our clients!) have our preferences and we all go with the option that’s more convenient and/or practical for us.

          Thanks for writing this article though – I’m very interested in web hosting and I was kinda excited when I got an email saying a hosting-related post was published here.. :)

          Cheers

    • Thanks Erik, I agree. I want my clients taken care of even if I’m not available. The best security, support and speed for what they need is better handed off to the experts. Then the client owns it – if I fall off the face of the earth or they don’t want to work with me any more, they are not tied in. I don’t think they ever should be.

  8. The lesson I learnt in a really hard way – you also have to take into consideration who owns the hosting. Since this in some cases can be a game changer. If you don’t like BlueHost and decided to go to Host Monster instead – by doing that you actually stay with the same company that own both hosting platforms (Endurance International). And you actually stay in the saem datacenter in Provo, Utah.

    I wrote a post about it since I had to move all my sites from one hosting to another. http://skylark-studio.com/debunking-the-myth-of-independent-hosting-reviews/

    It was quite painful. And I do believe that this is an important ingredient in choosing your hosting provider – to figure out who is the owner.

    • Elijah, thanks for pointing out the need to see who owns the hosting company. Hostgator sold out a while back and they were down 2 days last fall — unheard of with truly reliable and independent hosting company. For several years, we have used NameCheap hosting and find their support super responsive when needed and features to be excellent.

    • Very good point. All my WP Engine installs went down today because of a DNS problem with their server provider – Network Solutions.

      This said I use a HostGator reseller account for the majority of my smaller client sites, WP Engine for the complex bigger installations/apps where I need WP experts on the server side (and where the plans are forgiving when it comes to memory usage), and Synthesis for Genesis sites that need a fast WP Admin but don’t do anything too customized from an app perspective.

      I’ve had failures with all, but the support has been great with all too. I do agree that HostGator seems to have taken a performance hit with last fall’s upgrades – but you get what you pay for. My profit margins are still best with HostGator reselling for most small business sites. However for clients that can afford it I will go with WP Engine or Synthesis every time.

      I have yet to really take full advantage of the additional SEO and copywriting features recently bundled with Synthesis, but I’m excited to explore them.

  9. Joyce, same question here…. (a couple of people asked it already). What’s the advantage of going with dedicated WP hosting instead of a ‘generic’ one – like Hostgator?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Elijah,

      This is answered in the article, however I can tell you why I particularly favour WP Engine:

      Speed
      Security
      Backups

      I ask my clients to purchase a backup plan always. If they pay $10 or so for a reasonable hosting plan on Hostgator, then buy a $15/month backup plan from VaultPress and then a security service from Surcuri – then the price is TOTALLY worth just going to with WP Engine. In fact it might come out cheaper.

      Then on top of that you get a staging area, integration with Git, AWESOME support that can answer WordPress specific troubleshooting questions and a whole lot more.

      The value far outweighs the price to go with a managed WordPress host.

  10. cwspace.net all the way. i have been hosting 29 domains on their server for more than 5 years. They are amazing!!!!!!

  11. Though I’ve heard a lot about WP hostings with their secure and fast platform, I still don’t get it why not using VPS. No limitations on installation, good support (managed VPS) and faster than shared hosting.

    To boost a site, playing around with CSS and CDN works well for me =)

    • I think you are right this is an option but to have someone specialized in WordPress performance and making it fast without the need to manage your own VPS would be a selling point for me. Plus I think VPS plans are often more expensive.

      I was once very annoyed with Hostgator because they took down one of my clients’ sites for extending CPU usage, even though their advertising said “unlimited” everywhere. It was so dumb because the client would have paid for whatever traffic spikes or CPU usage was needed – but instead of just charging him, they shut down the site. This was detrimental to sales. So then calling support wasn’t that helpful, it took at least a day to get back up, and they don’t help you identify the problem at all so you can fix it and get the site back up. They act like “this is your problem, go get your web developer to help you.” Their solution to me was to go for a VPS. I thought, man, what sleazy sales tactics. And I moved him to WP Engine, where they confirmed they would never shut down a site for exceeding whatever capacity their plan came with.

  12. I’ll pass on paying 3-4x what a good shared host is costing me right now. I offer my clients managed WordPress myself. It is easy to set crons for backups and there are services like Manage-WP that will alert you of each site that needs updates from core to template with a mobile device app and email. If you are a good researcher you can probably easily find most of the services offered through these companies for far less than $300-$3200/yr

    For $3200/yr I’ll personally check on your site every day. :)

    • Yeah.. I know right? I’d rather keep the maintenance fees my clients are paying rather than give “wp hosts” a good chunk of those fees.

  13. I started using Lightning Base last year and have been very happy. They live up to their name with Chris’ lightning-fast email response time. It’s perfect for a designer like myself. They take care of all the backend stuff so I can focus on design and my clients. Plus, the ability to “clone” a site makes creating a dev site super easy!

  14. Interesting list. None of them seem to offer enough flexibility and performance at an affordable cost, except maybe Synthesis for which I consider like the best in town. Except that Synthesis can be seen like expensive for entrepreneurs who have multiple sites, plus they don’t offer cPanel Management by choice (while cPanel for many developers is a real life saver), nor Email services. Well, I never heard about the others except WP Engine. WP Engine looks like the type of hosting who only want to maximize profit without offering that much in my humble opinion. Plus, I don’t like the tone used to present their services. To just answer to one comment I’ve read above about “Managed WordPress Hosting” vs “Shared Hosting”, well both are not really the ideal solution if you look from a developer perspective. Managed WordPress Hosting are just offering a great solution for not-so-tech-savy users and small sites in general. But the price is quite expensive (although I understand the rational behind their prices). Well known and popular hosting companies are offering shared hosting solutions far less expensive but your site is hosted in the same server as thousands of other sites causing performance issues, downtimes all the time and it’s not flexible at all. The ideal solution is a combination of Virtual Private Server Hosting VPS with Custom Managed WordPress Services. And it should be very affordable:)

    • All these managed WP hosts offer affordable VPS+customer managed services — except for the WPE entry level plans which use shared servers.

      Managed WP hosting will save you the time and headache costs of working with any unmanaged alternative. The backups, staging systems, and hands-free caching pay for themselves.

      Those who are indicating they can only afford the $2 GoBlueGator special should reconsider their business model instead of complaining about managed application hosting as a “ripoff.” If $20-30/month will break you, you’re doing something wrong.

      • I also agree, thanks Dan. I don’t see the managed WordPress hosting as expensive, especially when you calculate what it would cost to buy all their services separately (see above comment).

        I also believe in the saying that in many cases, “you get what you pay for.”

        If you want $5 hosting, then that’s what you’re going to get. Don’t complain when your site speed is slow, your host shuts you down for exceeding limits, support knows less than you do, or support always tries to blame the problem on “WordPress” when you KNOW it is not a WordPress problem. It’s like they just see it’s on WordPress and want a way out of helping you.

        So I’m thinking well, these companies employ people, and have costs, and someone’s gotta eat. So why do we expect that we should get $5 hosting and also get all that they offer? Would we rather pay a full time employee to sit there and be ready for all our support needs? Would we want to spend hours of our own billable time manually configuring speeds, setting up staging areas, or doing malware checks? What if the site gets hacked? Hosts like WP Engine will fix it for free. Does my client want to pay $50+ an hour (likely more) to have a security expert come in and fix it all on billable time?

        So yeah, trying to penny pinch these hosts that provide value and great support is like expecting cheap goods but complaining that you don’t want them made in China.

        • Hi Joyce, have you calculated how much it costs for every single service you purchase separately? Well I did, it will cost you less than what WP Engine is offering or any other Managed WP Solution. If you’re referring to services like Security, BackUp, and Cache…it doesn’t cost you 1$ because with a root access and some of the best plugins available for free like WP Total Cache you’re all set.

      • What do you mean by affordable VPS + Customer Managed Service? If you’re referring to Synthesis it’s 97.00$ per month and you’re allowed for 2 WP installation. WP Engine is not offering VPS and the others I don’t think so. The real competition that these Managed WP hosting are having is the big Hosting Providers. It’s not about spending 2 or 5$ per month, it’s about real needs and flexibility allowed for people who rely on a solid hosting. Big hosting providers offer VPS and Dedicated Servers with more flexibility and less cost, plus all the services that these Managed Hosting provide and more. A hosting like Inmotion is offering VPS Plans starting 29.99$ for unlimited sites with email hosting, cPanel and 24H support (phone+chat). Synthesis is smart because they include some other services that nobody offer like their fabulous Scribe/SEO optimization and real personal support. The others I’m not sure…

      • “If $20-30/month will break you, you’re doing something wrong.”
        —- For most of the people who comment here it is not about them, it;s about their clients. And the approach you mentioned wouldn;t work for most of the clients.
        20-30$ bucks a month would about for a client to 200-300$ a year.

        Good luck with communicating “there is something wrong with your business model” to your prospective clients. It would take a lot of convincing :)

  15. Just to let everyone know… I am hosting all of my sites on a Site5 VPS server. Server is really fast and you can choose your server location. They also have a cpanel which is really a must for me. They also have really awesome customer service. I can recommend it ;)

  16. Hi Joyce, it’s nice to read a post by you! Do you have a way to subscribe to your various Web-, WordPress- and SEO-related posts? Not just here on Elegant Themes but elsewhere too.

    • Hi Chitu! Curious how you found me and recognized me here?! I don’t have a way to subscribe to them all in one place but I do try to keep my portfolio as updated as I can here: http://www.joycegrace.ca/vancouver-marketing/writer-for-hire/

      There are links to other articles I’ve written for other blogs there.

      I do try to post to my social media accounts when something new comes out too. @thoughtsofjoyce is my twitter handle and you can also see my updates on LinkedIn and Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/102455447757020684379/posts

      Thanks and do email to let me know how you’re doing! Or maybe I’ll just e-mail you…

      • I use Elegant Themes on a couple of the websites I administer, so I subscribe to their blog. Great stuff! I’ll follow up with you by e-mail.

  17. There’s no ‘cheaper’ hosting providers. There’s good or bad hosting. A good hosting offers enough flexibility, space and solid infrastructure to support its more demanding clients. Support is key. cPanel management is key. And VPS/Dedicated Server is the minimum requirement for a good infrastructure. Most providers offer advanced hosting solutions and services and I don’t see like many others, the real value of these managed WP hosting although I respect their business (it’s not easy I know). It’s great for people who have a limited experience in WP. By the way, is ET hosted on a managed WP Server? No.

  18. Seriously guys, I am SHOCKED.

    That list is full of OVER priced, Feature POOR services.

    Why would ANYONE select a webhost who restricts what plugins they use, will only allow 1 domain for a $30/mo fee?

    It looks to me like they are all capitalising on people who think a WP specific host is better than a simple shared account, where you will actually get much for for much less.

    My advice is to look at a normal shared hosting service, you might be surprised at how many of the services listed above are included in your everyday run of the mill shared hosting service, for a much reduced price.

    Pay for what you can afford, but please don’t be silly, there’s no need for most installations.

    • Absolutely! Excellent conclusion to this article.

    • This article is about hosting companies with a focus on WordPress. Indeed, these services generally have a higher price tag, which I think might be due to their efforts in “hand holding” their customers. Thus the price shouldn’t be judged solely on their bandwidth or space allotments. There is a different, less tangible thing that they sell. They sell ease of use and piece of mind, as well as an expertise in WordPress itself.

      There is obviously a real need for these hosting companies and a real value in what they provide, otherwise they would not exist.

  19. Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments. I’ve never had an article published that got so many passionate comments and a discussion like this going. It kind of surprised me because I didn’t think this would be a topic people would get riled up about :)

    Part of me is laughing a little bit though – not in mockery of anyone at all, but just at the situation in general. The comments sections of content posted on the Internet is always amusing and seems to bring out the truest colours of humans :)

    It is really truly ok for you to pick whatever hosting service you want to use :) No one is telling anyone they have to use any service.

    And it’s really ok if you disagree with the hosting that other people chose to use. It’s each to their own and it’s part of a free market society we live in (at least in North America). You can evaluate the value of any hosting provider or product as you see fit.

    I do appreciate the great lengths people are going to to prove their points :) It actually enhances this post for those looking around. But I would say that if you want your opinion to be really noticed, it would be awesome if you wrote your own blog post about it. I’m serious, I’m not being sarcastic.

    Think about it: when people are searching for WordPress hosting solutions, the more articles there are on the web, the more resources people will have.

    And since many of you seem to care a lot what people chose to use for their host, why not do the convincing on your own sites too?

    This was only meant to be one of those resources.

    No one blog post is going to be able to cover every single hosting solution that exists on the planet. But it can give people a few options to look into. After all, this is an article, not a text book.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the article, or fell into the camp of people who didn’t enjoy it and decided to voice your opinion. Either way, it makes for a great discussion :)

    • Hi Joyce, two thoughts on how you could respond to some of the criticism:

      * The title and intro of this article should probably say “managed WordPress hosting”; then the scope and focus would be clearer.

      * It would be great for you to write a follow-up article on pros and cons of managed vs. non-managed WordPress hosting. This article clearly advocates managed hosting, but it isn’t clear why, and it doesn’t say anything for or against non-managed hosting, as far as I can see. I’d really like to see some reasoned arguments. Although there are a number of articles on the blogosphere that do treat this, they key question (which I see in some of the critical comments) is whether and how managed hosting justifies the increased cost.

      Regardless, thanks for the great article!

      • Thanks for the comment Chitu. I had “managed” in my original title but it was changed by my editor as you can see in one of the above comments.

        Managed vs. non-managed is a neat idea for a blog post. Will consider it. Though based on the responses to this article, I imagine there will be another great list of comments to respond to on that topic :)

        I don’t feel criticized or think people are (or should) be critical in these cases (in the negative sense – constructive is ok). I think comments are a great place for debate and exchange of ideas.

    • Great article and topic Joyce, you brought a sensitive topic:) It’s good for others to open the debate. It has nothing to do with the quality or opinion expressed on your post. I’m sure you can pretty well write about the cons. Nick has made an excellent conclusion. There’s a real needs for these hosting companies, it’s obvious.

    • Git it some time, it will go viral :)

  20. Why do all WordPress-specialized hosts have plans costing no less than $ 30-40/mo? And why don’t they say outright on their websites they are Managed hosts? That way, people who cannot afford to spend all that money each year on their sites – and we’re not talking about cents, these hosts cost like $ 350-400 a year – would immediately know if the host is in their budget or not.

  21. Great article Joyce!

    I find HeartInternet to be great for hosting WordPress websites.

    They make daily backups. There is a one-click install, they host emails, are very secure (Never been hacked!) and the support is very quick and reliable.

    It also uses the latest phpMyAdmin and the pricing is very competitive.

    Thanks

    Laurence

  22. Really valuable article and discussion! Thanks Joyce!

    Someone used DreamPress? Can we considerate it as a managed wordpress hosting like the ones listed here?

  23. Great post. I use the best I can get in my country for hosting blogs at a very low price pr. month, I get fast and stable wordpress hosting:-)

    Hans

  24. Joyce, if you can write a review comparing VPS offerings from different hosting providers, that’d be great.
    Thanks for the article.

  25. Great article. In my experience with WordPress hosting (now 2 years) I had the “perfect” experience of WPEngine: fast, flawless and awesome support.
    It´s not for “beginners” as some may think, once you get a complex set up (LEMP+varnish, etc) and security in a commerce site, it´s solution is cheap.
    Another great experience I had with A Small Orange, nice speed, no downtime and fantastic support (first time contact in minutes). I had
    bad experience with DreamHost (worst uptime, but very good support) and GoDaddy (slow, I don´t like it).
    Now I use Digital Ocean, great, but requires some knowledge. The 5/m plan is the best course in Linux you´ll ever will find :)

  26. To be completely honest, in looking at all the limitations, I don’t see any advantage in using any of the listed service providers. I personally prefer a well self-managed shared hosting provider.

  27. Has anyone tryed dreampress? I’m on a shared host with dreamhost and i’m really happy :)

  28. Hmm, I’m using byethost for my hosting, it is cheap fast and provides everything needed for a wordpress site…
    on Ultimate yearly you get unlimited space, unlimited bandwith, unlimited e-mail accounts, unlimited domains ( to add ) , unlimited subdomains, daily backup, no MU for wordpress, many other tools…
    80$/year…

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