managed wordpress hosting review

Managed WordPress Hosting: Who’s Best in 2019?

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Managed WordPress hosting uses custom technology tweaked to make your site load fast and keep it safe from hacking. Plans typically offer perks like automatic software updates, daily backups, and access to WordPress experts.

Managed WordPress hosting isn’t for everyone. But for those who want to scale up successfully and outsource some maintenance work, these plans can be a great choice.

Quick Takeaway: Our Managed WordPress Hosting Choices

In this article, you’ll learn what managed WordPress hosting is, and which hosts are among the best. However, if you are short on time, here are our picks:

  1. SiteGround’s GrowBig plan
  2. WP Engine’s Startup plan
  3. Bluehost’s WP Pro Build plan

Want more information? Read on!

What is Managed WordPress Hosting?

Managed WordPress hosting typically uses a technology platform designed to provide optimal speed, performance, and security for your WordPress website.

It often includes specialized services like automatic updates of the WordPress core software, plugin updates, code review, custom dashboards, staging environments, and premier customer support.

Note: hosts often differ in what they include in their “managed” hosting plans.

Here are some of the features you may want to look for in managed WordPress hosting.

Automatic Daily Backups and Restoration

By backing up your website at frequent intervals, you can restore your website in case something ever happens to it. Some hosts will back up your site automatically for you.

wp engine backups
WP Engine’s dashboard displays “Backup Points.” Select a backup and click restore to roll back to a previous version of your site. Or create an on-demand backup at a time of your choosing.

If you need to restore your site, some hosts will also help you with this process.

Manual WordPress website restoration is a multi-step process, and, depending on how much data needs to be restored, it can be a fairly lengthy process. Having assistance with this would be a boon.

Speed and High Performance

WordPress offers something for everyone when it comes to features and functionality. The downside of this is that the underlying code gets increasingly bloated as time goes on. That can bog your site down.

Furthermore, as you add plugins, change your theme, and add customization to your theme, you are increasing the number of resources that need to be served and fetched before a visitor can see your website.

Does this mean that you should strip everything from your WordPress site?

3 seconds or less: that’s how fast Google says your site should load on a mobile device.

Absolutely not. But, you’ll want to make sure that the site you have worked hard on loads quickly for people.

Research by Google and others shows that visitors are impatient with slow loading sites: If your site takes too long to load, visitors will bounce away and many will not return.

How do you optimize your WordPress website for performance? There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Opting for Nginx (pronounced “Engine X”) web servers instead of Apache web servers.
  • Installing and using caching plugins.
  • Using a plugin that “minifies” your code. (Essentially, this removes the “white spaces,” which enables your code to load quicker)
  • Implementing server-side caching.
  • Using solid-state drives (SSDs) for data storage.
  • Using HTTP/2-enabled servers.
  • Using a CDN — a content delivery network.
  • Upgrading to the latest technologies, such as version 7.0 of PHP.
  • Using a plugin to automatically compress your images so they load faster.
  • Using a “lazy load” plugin to render content “above the fold” first.

Remember, you don’t need to implement everything that we’ve mentioned. However, to do nothing to improve your site’s performance could be problematic.

Security Optimizations

As one of the most popular content management systems in use, WordPress gets its fair share of attention from hackers.

In 2018, 90% of hacked CMSs were WordPress websites, according to Sucuri research.

There are many ways for a WordPress site to become compromised, especially given the popular usage of plugins and themes.

For each theme or plugin you use, you’re generally adding access points to your website.

The steps required to keep your WordPress site safe include things like setting up multi-factor authentication, turning off file editing, and hiding your WordPress version number.

google manual penalty
This is an actual notice from Google to a WordPress site owner, informing them that their site had been hacked. As a result, Google posted a warning in search engine results too. A single hack can lower your traffic and harm your SEO.

However, keeping track of these action items can be challenging. Some managed services monitor these items for you, alerting you if there’s any anything that might compromise your site and helping you make the appropriate changes.

Access to WordPress Experts For Technical Support

Most hosting companies come with technical support. But most managed WordPress hosts offer tech support from staff with WordPress expertise.

It’s also common for their support team members to travel widely and participate in WordCamps where they meet with and mentor customers.

siteground live chat interface
SiteGround offers mobile-friendly live chat, which you can access from your control panel. You can see a photo of the support team member helping you and their customer rating.

Automatic Updates

Previously in this article, we have mentioned that WordPress, due to its popularity, is a target for malicious attacks.

One of the best ways to protect your site against this is to keep your WordPress core, the technologies you rely on (e.g., MySQL databases and PHP), and all of the plugins and themes you use updated to the latest available version.

However, updating these items can be a lot of work. Many managed WordPress hosts offer automatic updates to the core, as well as updates to supporting technologies to MySQL and PHP.

Some will also offer to update your plugins and theme as well.

Staging Sites/Environments

Staging sites and environments allow you to test and view changes to your website before you publish them.

The staging environment should mirror your production environment as much as possible so that you can accurately see whether a given change will result in errors.

Once you verify that the change is not problematic, you can export a copy of your environment and move it to production.

Uptime Guarantees

Because having your website available as often as possible is so important, some hosting companies offer uptime guarantees (or “service level agreements”).

In short, an uptime guarantee is a promise from the host that your site will be available at a predetermined percentage of the time (this value is typically 99.5% or greater).

If the host doesn’t meet this promise, they will compensate you. Compensation is typically in the form of credits toward future months’ hosting.

Note that hosts will typically exclude scheduled downtime, such as for maintenance periods.

Developer Features

Some hosting companies offer specialty features that developers might be interested in. For example, WP Engine offers Git integration for version control and deployments.

“Managed” Features Vary

Note that different hosts mean different things when they offer “managed WordPress hosting.” This makes it difficult sometimes to compare offerings from different hosts.

Also, some hosts include a large number of services with their plans, while others offer a smaller number (or a completely different set) of features.

Some hosts might even charge extra for services that another host bundles with its managed hosting package. It all depends.

The Best Managed WordPress Hosting Plans

Now that we’ve covered some of the features that you might want to consider when looking for a managed WordPress host, let’s take a look at some of the top companies for those looking for this type of hosting.

Comparison Table: Managed WordPress Hosts

Here’s a quick overview of some key features that characterize our recommended hosts.

Feature Bluehost SiteGround WP Engine
User rating 3.5 stars 5 stars 4 stars
Price $29.99 $19.95 $35.00
Site migration $149.99 Free Free
Marketing services offered?
Location-based personalization?
SSDs
Daily backups?
StudioPress Premium Themes
Staging?
Uptime guarantee? No Yes: 99.9% Yes: 99.95%
Our Discount price* $19.95 $5.95 $31.50

*Using our special discount links or codes. Bluehost & SiteGround discounts applied automatically. WP Engine coupon code: blogging20

Here’s an in-depth look at each of these plans.

SiteGround’s GrowBig

SiteGround’s GrowBig plan is not, strictly speaking, a specialized WordPress plan. Rather, it is SiteGround’s mid-tier shared hosting plan.

Because all of SiteGround’s plans include at least some managed WordPress services, we feel comfortable recommending this option to you.

siteground managed wordpress

SiteGround’s GrowBig option offers a balance of performance, security, and support expertise at a budget-friendly price. It’s suitable for websites with 25,000 or fewer visits a month.

SiteGround developed an AI “bot” to prevent brute force logins. It blocks up to 2 million attacks per hour.

SiteGround’s GrowBig plan includes:

  • WordPress installation
  • Use of the WP Starter site-building wizard
  • Managed and automated updates of both the WordPress core and plugins
  • Automatic daily backups, free restores, plus the option to create on-demand backups
  • Site migration
  • Caching tools
  • A free CDN (content delivery network)
  • HTTP/2-enabled servers (a speed factor)
  • SiteGround’s proprietary “SuperCacher” (speeds up your website)
  • Staging environment.

Information for Geeks

Developers will appreciate the free SSH and SFTP access.

You can use either MySQL or PostgreSQL databases.

GrowBig vs GoGeek: How to Choose

How do you know if you need to bump up to the GoGeek plan?

  • If you’re running an online store or accepting payments you’ll need to use GoGeek because it’s PCI compliant.
  • If you have more than 25,000 visits a month you’ll want to choose GoGeek.
  • If you want Git pre-installed, select GoGeek

The GoGeek plan also provides “Advanced Priority Support.” This means you go to the front of the queue when you have requests for customer service or technical support, and your request is routed to the most experienced staff.

However, our experience of SiteGround’s regular customer service is that’s it’s fast and staffed by experienced and knowledgeable team members.

We tracked SiteGround’s performance over a six-month period, and we saw an average uptime of 99.99% and an average response time of 431.83 milliseconds.

Visit SiteGround Now

WP Engine’s Startup Plan

For those who might find SiteGround’s offerings limited, there’s WP Engine. WP Engine is a host dedicated to offering managed hosting services exclusively to WordPress users.

WP Engine offers advanced features designed to grow conversions.

The Startup plan is by no means inexpensive, and the company aims to work with those who have more established websites.

Advanced Features for Businesses

WP Engine offers top-notch customer service, and all hosting packages come with premium offerings, like caching tools, the Genesis Framework and accompanying StudioPress themes (which, alone, is worth over $2,000). Site migration is free as well.

More expensive plans provide greater bandwidth and the ability to host multiple sites on your account.

And location-based personalization is available as an add-on to the Startup plan. (This enables you to target content to individual visitors’ location.)

wp engine customers
WP Engine states that they have over 90,000 customers worldwide.

We’ve been keeping an eye on WP Engine’s performance, and in the six-month period we tested, we saw an uptime of 99.98% with an average response time of 321.83 milliseconds.

Visit WP Engine Now

Bluehost’s WP Pro Build Plan

For those with multiple WordPress sites, Bluehost’s managed WordPress plans, dubbed WP Pro, might be of interest.

bluehost managed wordpress

WP Pro’s “Build” plan gets you automatic updates to both your WordPress core and your server environment so that you’re always running on the latest technology stack.

Bluehost also offers digital marketing services.

The Build plan can also be considered an all-around package in that you’ll get marketing, SEO, analytics, and social media tools in addition to your web hosting services.

There are three WP Pro plans from which you can choose, but regardless of which option you choose, you’ll get support for an unlimited number of websites, unlimited bandwidth, storage, subdomains, and domains, and a staging environment.

Bluehost also maintains robust documentation, including a greater number of video tutorials than SiteGround.

In terms of performance, we saw, over a six-month period, an average uptime of 99.97% and an average response time of 444.17 milliseconds.

Visit Bluehost Now

server response times
This chart displays average server response times (listed in milliseconds) from our top 3 hosts. The example is from March 2019.

 

Other Alternatives

Interested in exploring further? Here are some more hosts with managed plans worth checking out.

Kinsta

Kinsta offers fully managed WordPress services using the latest technology and is an alternative to one of the industry’s leaders, WP Engine.

Kinsta’s strength is its focus on security and reliability.

kinsta dashboard
Kinsta boasts a custom dashboard with an intuitive user interface.

Flywheel

Flywheel offers managed WordPress hosting options aimed at designers and others in the creative field.

The company’s base plans are less expensive than those offered by other managed WordPress companies, making it a good option for those who are budget-conscious.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the fully hosted version of WordPress put out by parent company Automattic.

We wouldn’t consider this a managed option, though there are a lot of services you’d find in a managed plan included.

Liquid Web

Liquid Web is a provider of premium web hosting, including managed WordPress hosting.

If you’re looking for top-tier performance, all-inclusive WordPress management services, and great customer service, consider Liquid Web.

liquid web wordpress
Our testing revealed impressive server response times from Liquid Web. Their managed service includes plugin updates.

Pagely

Pagely is an enterprise-grade, managed WordPress hosting service.

Corporations responsible for large, highly-trafficked, resource-intensive WordPress websites would do well to look at Pagely‘s services.

How to Choose the Right Managed WordPress Hosting Provider

The right managed WordPress hosting provider depends on what you’re looking for.

What’s Your Budget?

Your budget is likely to be a major factor in terms of which options you can choose. SiteGround and Bluehost offer options that are on the less expensive side, but if you have a larger website, then you might have to opt for a more expensive option like WP Engine.

Furthermore, you can expect costs to go up the more the host handles for you. For example, Liquid Web offers some pricey options, but their hosting plans offer a lot.

How Much Storage and Bandwidth Do You Need?

Generally speaking, the hosting plans offered by the companies we mentioned will include everything you need to get your website online.

However, as your site grows, you’ll need to consider carefully how much storage and bandwidth you need to purchase to make sure your site stays online.

Not sure how much storage or bandwidth you need? Find out what your average monthly traffic is then speak to the hosting company you’re interested in. They’ll be able to advise you.

Which Services Do You Want?

Finally, you’ll need to decide what services you absolutely want when it comes to managed hosting. As we’ve mentioned, not all companies bundle the same services in their plans.

If you know that you want, say, automatic updates and automated backups, you can cross out plans that don’t meet these requirements.

FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about WordPress hosting — with answers. Have another question? We’d love to answer it. Simply leave it in the comments below this article.

What is the fastest hosting for WordPress?

One of the fastest web hosting companies dedicated to managed WordPress hosting is WP Engine.

When monitoring WP Engine, we saw an average response time of 321.83 milliseconds over a six-month period of time. You can get faster speeds, but you’d need to upgrade to more expensive options, such as dedicated servers.

What’s the difference between WordPress hosting and web hosting?

WordPress hosting and web hosting are almost the same thing.

However, WordPress hosting is a subset of web hosting in that such packages typically come with extra features and functionality catering to those using WordPress, such as access to themes, server optimizations to ensure that WordPress performs optimally, and so on.

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

WordPress.org offers the self-hosted version of WordPress. With this version, you’re responsible for finding the hosting services you need to make sure that your website is accessible to those on the internet.

WordPress.com, however, is the managed version of WordPress. You can use the WordPress platform to build your website, but you don’t have to worry about hosting.

Is GoDaddy good for WordPress?

GoDaddy is an option for those looking for basic WordPress hosting on a budget.

This host offers four different WordPress hosting plans with prices beginning at $4.99 per month.

Plans include 24/7 support, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and automatic updates to the WordPress core and security patch installation.

Which hosting is best for WordPress: Linux or Windows?

For most users, Linux is the better option when it comes to managed WordPress hosting. Linux is open source, which means it is free (and this is ultimately reflected in the cost of your hosting package), and it is capable of handling most tasks with ease.

However, if you use Microsoft technologies to build parts of your WordPress site, you may have no option by to spring for Windows hosting.

What is DreamPress?

DreamPress is the WordPress hosting solution offered by DreamHost.

The company offers three plans from which you can choose, with prices beginning at just $2.59 per month. However, if you want a managed hosting solution, you’ll need to upgrade to the pricier mid-range plan.

Summary

If you use WordPress, but you find the workload required to maintain a well-performing site a bit much, consider a managed WordPress hosting plan with Bluehost, SiteGround or WP Engine — they are all solid options with money-back guarantees.


Contributing editor: Sherrie Gossett

Webmaster, Juggler, Mom. Contributor to WhoIsHostingThis.com, Blogging.com and Digital.com and other sites for people who make websites.

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