Thanks to the massive popularity of the platform, many hosting companies have started to create special packages exclusively for WordPress-based websites. These managed hosting offerings promise advanced features as well as dedicated support.
Premium features, however, come with a premium price tag. They’re often double the price of basic shared hosting packages or more. For example, DreamHost’s shared hosting is only $8.95 a month, while their managed hosting plan is $19.95 a month (their dedicated service, by contrast, starts at $149 per month).
The cost of a managed WordPress site can add up to hundreds, even thousands of dollars per year. So, is opting for managed WordPress hosting really worth the cost?
In this article, we’ve weighed up the pros and cons of the various options and gone over the most popular features on offer to help you decide if it’s worth it.
Let’s start with speed.
How Deep is the Need for Speed?
The biggest attraction, by far, of managed hosting is the promise of increased speed. Hosts offer dedicated servers for your WordPress website which means it won’t be sharing resources with other customers.
They also claim that with their advanced features (including security tools, custom installation, and plugins) the performance of your WordPress site will always be optimized.
But with all this talk of speed, it’s easy to avoid the question of whether users actually need it. If your shared WordPress site is already pretty fast, how much more speed do you need? What is fast enough?
In an age of improved bandwidth and LTE mobile connections, most websites enjoy fast loading times. Then there are also the standard steps a WordPress site owner can take to improve performance such as caching static site files, limiting plugins, and making regular updates to WordPress.
The major difference in speed comes when comparing shared to dedicated servers. In independent testing (from codeinwp and WP Site Care) the average loading times for a shared WordPress page were between 700 milliseconds to 1.5 seconds. A study by ReviewSignal found that for managed WordPress hosting, the average loading times were between 300 milliseconds to 1.3 seconds.
The differences here are almost razor thin. Our general feeling is, if you’re interested in speed alone, managed WordPress hosting may not be worth the extra cost.
How Secure Is Secure?
There are a multitude of threats that can bring down a WordPress site. From DDoS attacks to viruses and malware, you need to ensure your site is protected across the board. A popular attraction for managed WordPress hosting is enhanced security. Most providers promise a level of protection that the users will struggle to match on their own.
These features include regular scans on the server level for malware and potential threats. Each host also offers specific features that further secure your WordPress install. DreamHost, for instance, offers an isolated MySQL database on a virtual private server, where it cannot be tampered with. If your site does suffer from an attack, a managed host can quickly fix the problem and restore your site through a backup.
There are benefits and drawbacks to this approach. Regular scans, a secure server, and the attention of a dedicated staff are definite advantages. However, a managed host means you may have less control over your WordPress website. You will be unable, in many cases, to make certain changes to your site files, themes, or plugins. This is often the case for hosts that handle the WordPress install and maintenance themselves such as WP Engine, though the restrictions in place are clearly explained and eminently sensible.
A survey of basic shared hosting plans shows that very few offer any kind of extra protection at all (see list below for more details). At best they offer minimal malware scans and removal.
So is the added security of a managed WordPress host worth the cost? If you’re concerned about viruses and vulnerabilities, you won’t get better protection than with managed WordPress hosting. This is especially true for larger websites that cannot afford any down-time, or simply want peace of mind.
When you factor in the potential cost in terms of both additional man-hours and hassle that a security breach could result in, the added security of managed hosting is a huge plus point.
The Promise of Full-Time Support
When you’re running a WordPress site, there is a potentially mind-boggling amount of things you need to keep on top of. It can sometimes feel like a juggling act trying to keep up with the various ongoing innovations in the ecosystem. With managed WordPress hosting, much of this burden is taken off your back.
Your host will offer comprehensive support for your WordPress site. This often begins with the install: from setting up the MySQL database to the transfer of WordPress core files. Providers often offer professionally designed themes for your website which help raise its profile. In some cases, they’ll even select the best plugins and tools to keep your site running smoothly (including those social media touches everyone loves).
In addition to all this, managed WordPress hosts promise regular updates to WordPress core, frequent backups, and live, hands-on support when you have trouble. For the higher price, they make you feel like a VIP.
This kind of attention is like having your own team of WordPress developers at your disposal. The downside is you are often dependent on them to make the most basic changes to your WordPress site. For a technology originally built to be accessible for the user, you may feel locked out of your own website.
Deciding to go with managed hosting for the support is a trade-off. It will ultimately depend on how much time versus money you want to spend on your WordPress site. If you are comfortable with working on WordPress, you will save money by avoiding managed hosting. However, time spent tweaking your site can amount to money wasted when you could be relying on a team of dedicated support experts to take care of things for you.
The Main Managed Hosting Providers Compared
Below we’ve compiled a list of companies offering managed WordPress hosting including a run-down of their features, pricing, and what kind of customer is right for their services.
The grand old man of managed WordPress hosting, WP Engine was one of the first to offer dedicated WordPress features to site owners. In addition to a custom install of WordPress files, they offer attentive customer support, and a tier of hosting packages. Great for large businesses that can afford comprehensive support and do not wish to managed the backend themselves.
- Pricing: Starting at $29 per month. Professional tier starts at $99 per month.
- Features: 24/7 Support, Daily Backups, and CDN ready.
- Security: Multiple firewalls, malware scan, 1-Click Backups and other security features.
- Unique Features: Evercache, their proprietary caching technology.
- Best for: large businesses or rapidly growing websites.
Flywheel is another host that focuses exclusively on WordPress solutions. They specialize in providing support for designers and creative agencies, customers with front end skills but who lack coding or technical expertise.
They offer scaling features which are ideal for customers who want to start small and grow over time. Their pricing structure is simple, focusing on fewer plans with more options. Flywheel also offer an excellent set of resources for WordPress site owners which are worth a look whether you choose their services or not.
- Pricing: Starting at $15/mo for basic features.
- Features: Built-in caching, auto-backups, managed WP updates and a range of further features.
- Security: Malware monitoring, intelligent IP blocking and other security features.
- Unique Features: One-click staging, free demo sites, and collaboration tools are all available.
- Best for: individuals and agencies looking for tools suited to their businesses
Quickly growing in popularity, Pressable market themselves as “Rated #1 in customer satisfaction” and offer many of the standard managed WordPress hosting features such as live support and improved performance.
In addition, they offer specific tools aimed at different clients such as freelancers, marketing teams and even government agencies. Their standard price plan provides support for five sites while their highest package goes up to 20.
- Pricing: $25/mo for 1-5 sites
- Features: Auto updates, traffic scaling, nightly backups are all available.
- Security: Intrusion detection and malware scanning come as standard.
- Unique features: catered customer packages, advanced hosting options (VIP, Private Cloud)
- Best for: large organizations needing comprehensive or varied support
Media Temple boasts that its plans are “made by WordPress designers and developers, for WordPress designers and developers.” They offer a variety of scaled plans from individuals to corporate accounts but focus on their speed and design.
Their strong points are the scalability of the packages. A customer can start with a basic package and add on more resources at anytime without changing plans.
- Pricing: Starts at $20/mo for Personal plan
- Features: Quick setup wizard, daily backups, developer tools.
- Security: Malicious plugin removal, malware scans (for Studio plans and up)
- Unique features: Booster packs that add more features to basic plans
- Best for: individuals in need of managed support, or small companies looking to grow
The Alternative: Shared Hosting
If you decide the suite of features offered by managed hosting isn’t for you, we’ve provided a list of popular shared plans. They offer less advanced features but more affordable packages.
- Price: Starting at $3.49/mo (regularly $5.99).
- Features: Live chat support, scalability options, enhanced cPanel
- Security: Resource protection for shared servers
- Additional features: Migrations service and quickstart (at additional cost)
- Price: Starting at $5.56/mo for 3 Year agreement
- Features: Website builder, auto WordPress installer, app hosting
- Security: 24/7 support, automatic data backups
- Additional features: “Green” hosting, HostGator Community forums
- Pricing: Starting at $6.99/mo
- Features: 1-click install for apps, database backup/restore
- Security: 24/7 monitoring and DDoS protection
- Additional features: 1-click setup for registered domains, unlimited bandwidth for all plans
- Pricing: Starting at $3.95/mo (regularly $9.99/mo)
- Features: 1-Click setup, Live assistance, user-friend UI
- Security: 30 backups of website
- Additional features: SuperCacher, Joomla & WordPress caching
Final Consensus: Worth It, for the Right Features.
After looking over all the features that shared and managed WordPress hosting provide, it’s clear there’s a big difference between the two.
For the extra cost, managed WordPress hosting is the right choice for large businesses with growing websites, or users who expect their sites to grow rapidly. The key is in finding the right host, one which focuses on the features that are most important to you (speed, security, or support).
If you’re not ready to take on the added cost, or are comfortable managing your own WordPress site, then you should stick with a basic, shared hosting plan for the time being.
We hope you found our guide helpful. What kind of hosting do you prefer? Have you chosen managed hosting over shared? What are the extra features you cannot live without? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or ask any questions you might have.
Article thumbnail image by Macrovector / Shutterstock.com.