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Is Managed WordPress Hosting Really Worth The Price?

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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?

Overview

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.

Security

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.

Server Optimization

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.

WordPress Troubleshooting

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.

Conclusion

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

Sufyan is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, Linux, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. He is a published author, coffee lover and the guy behind CodeCarbon.com. Learn more about his works on this page.

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3 responses to “Is Managed WordPress Hosting Really Worth The Price?”

  1. Ana says:

    WordPress hosting is just marketing BS, same way as the “unlimited” one.
    All the analyzed features can be addressed by the webmaster who, using the endless tutorials available online, can take care of those aspects without paying the $10-15/mo more.
    Definitely not worth the price, in my opinion.

  2. ReviewHell ReviewHell says:

    Are Managed WordPress Hosting Plans Really Worth The Price? https://t.co/l3PeavdrrX #managed #wordpress #hosting— Review Hell (@HostReviewHell) March 23, 2016

    • phil barton says:

      As one of the lead developers for a Managed WordPress Hosting product, I would like to offer some of the not-so-obvious advantages to using a Managed product. Take this as you will, but I certainly take pride in the platform we offer. (Not mentioning the company I work for, as this is purely an informative post off my own back and not necessarily the views or opinions of my employers. Although, to be fair, I think they’d agree with every word.)

      For starters, we have the advantage of having hundreds of sites using the stack. This means that we see many edge cases that a single site developer or sysadmin may not come across. We see which Plugins and Themes cause issues with speed or code errors. The knowledge gained from dealing with such a number of WordPress sites is invaluable in itself. You’re not just paying for a support tech to look after you if you have a problem, you’re paying for thousands of hours of experience with WordPress.

      With this knowledge, we optimise the stack and fine tune it to push every ounce of performance out of your resources, through management of HTTP server threads, memory allocation and caching in a stack that’s perfectly suited to WordPress. Believe me when I say that we have sat there for hours running benchmark after benchmark with minute changes to configs until we’re happy.
      Certainly, a sysadmin can apply some of these improvements. Possibly even more finely tuned than ours, as they are only optimising for one case, not a general set of sites. But if you don’t have the best of the best sysadmin at your disposal, why not use the knowledge of your web hosts?

      We are able to see circumstances where a WordPress plugin isn’t doing the job as well as it could do, (for example, a cache clearing plugin) and have the dev time and coding knowledge to then implement our own solution to give customers the best experience. An un-managed product would not be able to offer such enhancements.

      Managed WordPress hosting (in some cases, shop carefully) can offer tools such as (for example) a Staging WordPress environment – a clone of the site or database or themes/plugins – which you can update and dev on before pushing the changes to a live site. With a managed stack this can be automated with simple control panel tools. A dedicated product with one use case can have features such as this which are specific to WordPress.

      Lastly a managed WordPress stack has the advantage of being exactly as complex to use as you’re comfortable with. This really depends on who you choose to host with but on our stack as an example, A small business owner can one-click login to a WordPress admin account, install some plugins, publish some pages and have a site running with no coding or tech knowledge; the more experienced developer can utilise SFTP and Staging to work on a site remotely; or if you really know what you’re doing, we include as default SSH access with WP-CLI and Git preinstalled, with a Yum update running automatically every night.

      The choices are endless, and whilst some managed WordPress products may purely be a shared hosting product with an install of WordPress thrown on, other products can really offer you a huge advantage into having the speed, reliability and usability you’re looking for.

      Basically I’m trying to say that despite the results of this survey, you may be better off not discounting a managed WordPress hosting product until you’ve looked around and checked out what they can REALLY offer you above and beyond a vanilla server.

      Cheers,
      Phil.

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