Is Managed WordPress Hosting Really Worth The Price?
For the past few years, managed WordPress hosting has risen in popularity. There are various managed WordPress hosts that claim to offer, among other things, additional help with WordPress websites such as troubleshooting as well as security and maintenance services.
To make up for the extra bit of services being offered by such hosts in addition to web hosting, the pricing goes up, and a hosting configuration that might otherwise be available for $10 per month at a decent shared web host becomes $25 per month at a managed WordPress host.
Question is, are managed WordPress hosts worth the money? Does it make sense to host your WordPress website with a host that promises to take extra care of it? More importantly, are such claims of “managed” hosting really true, or are these just another marketing buzzword, much like “unlimited” web hosting?
In general terms, most managed WordPress hosts charge more because they offer an extra set of features. Such features, again speaking on a broader level, can involve:
- Security measures
- Optimized servers, with caching etc.
- WordPress troubleshooting
Of course, there are other factors involved too, but those vary from one host to another, and in the very basic terms, “managed” WordPress hosting implies the above three conditions.
Let us go step by step for each of the above points.
Many managed WordPress web hosts offer additional security features for the safety of your website. These can involve custom firewalls, security plugins, as well as server-side scanning for malicious activities and proactive cleaning of infected websites.
However, does that really live up to the claim?
Take up the case of WP Engine, a very reputed managed WordPress web host. I have used their services in the past, and I never had any complaints in terms of uptime or speed. But the security aspect always had me disappointed.
To begin with, owing to their own caching and security measures, WP Engine have disallowed some common security plugins, such as Wordfence Security. Personally, I rely heavily on my own “configuration” for WordPress security, and a good deal of that config rallies around Wordfence.
Of course, the fact that Wordfence is not preferred by WP Engine probably makes them a host not meant for me, whereas they might be ideal for many others. However, consider this: much like almost every managed WordPress host, WP Engine does not allow you to modify the default table prefix or database prefix while installing WordPress. So the wp_ is going be there, and anyone with an ounce of WP experience knows that the default prefix is a horrible security practice.
This is just one example scenario, and you might argue that it doesn’t matter much; but in cases when things go wrong, such as the recent WP Engine security breach, a generic database prefix is definitely not a good thing to have.
Most managed WordPress hosts claim to offer servers “optimized” for WordPress. Once again, I am not totally sold on that.
Truth is, any server that is optimized to perform well can run WordPress well. Sure, nginX helps, but that does not mean it will make a gigantic difference. In fact, “my servers are so optimized for WordPress” is a biased argument, much like “my SSD drives run faster than traditional drives” or “my LiteSpeed server is way better than your Apache”. All of these statements are true, but only if taken at face value. A website hosted on a well-configured Apache server can do as good as LiteSpeed or nginX.
Speaking of server-side caching: it’s definitely a great thing to have when it comes to speed and stability. But is it worth the high price? HawkHost, for instance, is offering memCache on their shared plans that begin for as low as $2.95 per month. Similarly, Namecheap has xCache on their Business shared plans, which are priced between the $15 and $20 per month bracket.
Furthermore, if your website really needs a paid CDN plan, you should get your own CDN from the provider of your choice. Relying on your web host for CDN is just like relying on your host for a free domain — it will save you some bucks, but will only hurt in the longer run.
This is probably the only reason why paying extra for “managed” WordPress hosting makes sense. If you run only WordPress sites, and need help for troubleshooting themes or plugins, having your web host in your corner is a great benefit.
However, such WordPress-specific help is ideal for you only if you are lacking in terms of technical skills or time, or both. If you can spare the time to fix that odd line of code, or if you are able to get your WP site out of a failed upgrade, just stay away from managed WordPress hosting.
WP Engine had a recent security breach, and while it was sorted by changing all the users’ credentials, it did show that things can go wrong, no matter how good a WordPress host is.
WP Engine is just one example, and the recent issue was also partly on account of their cloud infrastructure provider. However, many other managed WordPress hosts, such as Pressable, have had their share of issues too.
Now, web hosting is one field where even the best and brightest can have a bad time, so there is no point blaming a managed WordPress host for occasional downtime or security flaws. But what does matter is: if your web host faces an issue, what options do you have left for your own part?
Many managed WordPress hosts offer little to no access to phpMyAdmin, and some don’t even offer FTP or SFTP access. In fact, for the most part, the only access you have is to your client portal or WordPress admin. As such, if any issue happens, you can’t even migrate away from your host with ease.
Plus, since you hardly have any regular access to your database, you can make very little hardening measures of your own. Lastly, since nearly all managed WordPress hosts offer a custom admin panel, even if you do decide to migrate away from your current host, you will have to spend a lot of time setting up the migration process and moving your files to any other host.
As mentioned above, other aspects, such as caching and CDN, while really good to have, are not justifications enough for the hike in price of hosting. As many other web hosts have shown, server-side caching is not necessarily a costly commodity.
All said and done, sticking with your managed WordPress host makes sense only if you need someone to tweak your WordPress theme for you, or modify some plugin files, and you need those services on a regular basis. Otherwise, you might be better off running your WordPress site with a regular web host that offers good quality uptime and stable servers, sans the arbitrarily high pricing.
What do you think of managed WordPress hosting? Well worth the price, or just another marketing gimmick? Share your views in the comments below!
Sufyan is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, Linux, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. Learn more about his works on sufyanism.com