Behind every successful website is a powerful hosting provider, and WordPress sites are no exception! If you want your website to have blazing-fast performance, rock-solid security, and stop causing you and your team headaches, you need to move it to a managed WordPress host.
In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about managed WordPress hosting, including:
Ready to become an expert in managed WordPress hosting? Let’s dive in!
What is managed WordPress hosting?
Imagine a world where you don’t have to think about servers. A place where you can unravel yourself from the hassles of web hosting, and focus your time on the things you’d rather be doing: designing sites for clients, developing custom WordPress themes, or growing your agency.
That’s what managed WordPress hosting allows you to do.
This type of web hosting is focused on WordPress sites (as you might’ve guessed from the name). That means everything a managed hosting company does is optimized for WordPress, the best content management system (CMS) in 2019. From the way they structure their servers to the people they hire for support, you can trust that a managed WordPress host is truly an expert in your site’s CMS.
On top of the hardware and WordPress-expertise, a managed host typically includes additional services and features designed to simplify the burden on site owners. (That’s where the “managed” part comes into play.)
I’ll dive into those specific advantages in the next section, but at a high level, managed WordPress hosting is ideal for anyone building a business on WordPress (such as creative agencies, freelancers, or eCommerce owners) or anyone who’s ready to free up their time by trusting in a reliable hosting partner. Managed WordPress hosting is a great solution for enterprise sites and in-house brands, too!
The benefits of managed WordPress hosting
Choosing the top WordPress hosting for your WordPress site may seem like an overwhelming task, but once you know some of the pros and cons, it’ll start to get a lot easier!
Here are 11 reasons why managed WordPress hosting is the best choice for your website:
- Support from WordPress experts
- The best WordPress security practices
- Faster sites and better performance
- One-click staging sites and local environments
- Features that go beyond server setups
- It’s easy to add SSL certificates
- The ability to resell hosting
- Easy site management
- Quick access to development tools
- You won’t need as many plugins
- They focus on hosting, so you can focus on your business
1. Support from WordPress experts
Most hosting companies offer some type of support, but with a managed WordPress provider, you can trust that their support team fully understands WordPress. And not only understand it, but are experts in it.
This means they’ll be able to recognize the difference between a potential plugin conflict, a tricky theme, or a server-level issue. They’ll know exactly what settings a WordPress site needs to run at optimal performance. And they’ll have reputable recommendations if you have other WordPress-related questions.
Because a managed hosting provider is focused on a single CMS, the people behind the product will be more experienced in it and able to help with a wide variety of WordPress questions. That’s not to say you can’t find great support with other types of hosts, but your odds are a little better when working with a company that knows WordPress inside and out.
Plus, managed hosts tend to prioritize the support they offer their customers, meaning you’ll find things like 24/7 chat, in-app ticketing, or community forums. Using a managed WordPress host is kind of like having an outsourced IT department full of experts that you can tap into at any time. A pretty nice perk when you’re running a business!
2. The best WordPress security practices
Even if your website has never been hacked before, security is something that should always be on your mind. While using a managed WordPress host isn’t a fool-proof way to protect your site (spoiler: nothing is!), you’ll reap the benefits of built-in security enhancements. For one, most managed hosting providers offer nightly backups of your site that you can easily restore, should something go awry. On Flywheel, you can access these backups right from your dashboard and restore with a quick click.
Beyond backups, managed hosts also optimize their servers for WordPress security, so you never have to worry about security plugins again! You’ll also find features like strong password enforcement, two-factor authentication, and limited login attempts.
Perhaps the most important security feature a managed host can offer, however, is their ability to remove malware. If your site does get hacked, often a managed WordPress host’s support team can help you clean it up. (Something you probably want done quickly, but don’t want to learn to do yourself.) Just make sure you know the process for malware-removal, so you can act quickly when it happens. Some hosts charge for this as an extra fee, while others like Flywheel actually include it for free with any hosting package.
3. Faster sites and better performance
With a managed WordPress host, you’ll find a major benefit in the fact that their entire tech stack is tailored to the WordPress experience. This means your site will likely have better uptime, load faster, and see less hiccups than it currently does.
Take Flywheel’s Cloud Platform (FCP), for example. It includes FlyCache, our custom caching engine that takes into account the most common WordPress themes and plugins for an optimized setup, with absolutely no work on your end. It’s common for other types of hosting providers to talk about caching, but it’s not common for those caching tools to actually take into account the specific needs of WordPress sites. With a managed WordPress host, you’ll see major benefits from the fact that they understand how to properly optimize your servers based on the types of themes and plugins you’re running.
Managed hosting providers will also offer performance enhancements like a CDN, server locations around the world, and even instant-scaling technology (if you choose a provider powered by the Google Cloud Platform, like FCP).
Overwhelmed from all those terms? Don’t be. Since you’re working with a managed host, these powerful features (that are traditionally tricky to configure) will be super simple to set up! (And there’s always that knowledgeable support team you can turn to, should you get stuck.)
While you can certainly optimize your WordPress site on other types of hosting providers, it requires a lot of tinkering on your end. This is where the value of a managed host really to starts to show itself, because it’ll help you avoid the hassles of server maintenance and instead, allow you to focus on your clients and your business.
The security and performance benefits alone make a managed WordPress host worth it. Between reliable infrastructure and accessible experts, your brand will be protected from the pitfalls of downtime or hacked sites.
4. One-click staging sites & local environments
Hopefully you’ve heard the golden rule that you should never edit your production site. To avoid the risk of a white screen of death, you should always make small changes in a staging environment.
What is a WordPress staging area, you might be wondering? It’s a copy of your website in a development environment, making it a great place to safely experiment before pushing changes to production. It’s a great addition to any site owner’s workflow, even if you don’t label yourself as a developer.
Most managed WordPress hosts include a staging site with your plan or offer it as an additional add-on. Typically, it only takes a few quick clicks to set one up and take changes live, making it easy for anyone to keep their production site safe.
Like a staging site, a local environment is another piece of the development workflow that allows you to make important site updates outside of the production server. Ideally, you would:
- Develop your site in a local environment
- Push it to a staging site for testing
- Push it to production when you’re ready to go live!
Managed hosting providers understand this ideal development workflow, and will provide you with the tools to help you follow it while also collaborating with teammates and clients.
5. Features that go beyond server setups
While fast and secure servers are critical for any high-performing website, one of the major benefits of a managed WordPress host is all the other things they can do for your business. This includes workflow tools, collaboration features, and even educational resources. A managed host is much more than a server provider; the best ones are more like a partner for your business.
Often, managed WordPress hosts will have features to help you:
The specific features of each managed WordPress host will vary, but finding one designed to support your ideal workflow (instead of simply being a service provider) can make a huge impact on the value you get out of it.
6. It’s easy to add SSL certificates
You know that little green padlock you see in the browser next to a URL? (Or, alternatively, maybe the “connection is not secure” warnings Google Chrome displays?) That’s all based on whether or not a website has an SSL certificate installed. And managed WordPress hosts have made it incredibly easy to add one to your site.
Traditionally, the process to install an SSL certificate involved a bunch of back-and-forth communication between your hosting provider and the certificate provider. With a managed WordPress host that offers SSL certificates (usually thanks to a partnership with Let’s Encrypt), this process takes a few clicks – that’s it!
Managed hosting providers actually played a big role in helping to make SSL certificates easy to install and accessible for all site owners. Since it’s seen as an online best practice, many managed WordPress hosts decided to offer free SSL certificates (instead of charging for them). If you need an advanced SSL certificate (like wildcard or EV), a managed hosting provider can also help you get that set up!
7. The ability to resell hosting
Okay, you can technically resell other types of web hosting; it’s not limited to managed WordPress providers. But I’ll let you in on a secret: WordPress powers over 30% of the web. That means there’s a huge industry of clients out there that need hosting, making WordPress one of the best areas of opportunity for you to explore when thinking about reselling.
Managed WordPress providers know this, and actually encourage you to resell their product. It’s common to find referral programs (giving you a kickback for bringing over more clients), partner programs (featuring additional resources to help your business thrive), or sometimes even add-ons specifically built to support the reselling workflow.
In other words, managed WordPress hosts usually make it really easy to start reselling hosting, which also makes it easier for you to add a new revenue stream to your business.
8. Easy site management
When you host your sites with a managed WordPress host, everything will be nice and organized in a single place. You don’t have to bounce between providers or struggle with different setups; it’s a single hub for all your sites. Especially if you’re starting to work with more clients or growing your agency, simplifying your providers will save you lots of time spinning up new sites.
Beyond a clean interface to access your sites, a managed WordPress host will also take care of updates for you. This usually includes WordPress core updates, PHP updates, and sometimes even theme or plugin updates. This can save you hours of time if you’re managing lots of client sites, leaving you with more bandwidth to take on new work.
Working with a managed host means a hassle-free setup, for both you and your clients.
9. Quick access to development tools
Whether you’re developing a brand new site or troubleshooting an existing one, a managed WordPress host makes common developer tools easy to access right from the hosting application. Some use cPanel, whereas others have actually designed their own custom dashboard to make the experience even more delightful and accessible.
Want to see the site’s slow error logs? No problem. Need to manually flush the cache? Easy. These tools (and more) are commonly accessible with a managed WordPress host. Here’s a quick list of some helpful actions you can perform!
- Flush the cache
- Toggle development mode
- Turn on wp_cache
- Turn on wp_debug
- Export logs
- Manage the database
- Access SFTP
Plus, don’t forget about the staging sites and local development environments that are also available with a managed host. When you add all these features together, it makes for an efficient development workflow no matter how many sites or clients you’re working with.
10. You won’t need as many plugins
Goodbye, security plugins! So long, caching optimizers! When you partner with a managed WordPress host, they’ll take care of these basic site optimizations for you, meaning you can get rid of a slew of plugins you had to rely on before.
While plugins aren’t inherently problematic, it’s considered a best practice to use as few as you need. Your site will likely see better performance (since there’s less code to load), plus staying on top of plugin updates will be a little easier. (And updated plugins means better site security!)
When you host your site on a managed WordPress host, you’ll likely be able to deactivate:
- Backup plugins
- Caching plugins
- Security plugins
- Performance plugins
And the best part? You’ll still get all the benefits those plugins provided (plus way even more)!
11. They focus on hosting, so you can focus on your business
All in all, the biggest benefit of managed WordPress hosting is the simple fact that they’ll handle all of this for you – and you can just focus on the things you actually enjoy doing. The entire purpose of managed providers is to simplify the process of hosting WordPress sites, that way you can work on furthering your craft instead of becoming an expert in servers.
On top of all the site benefits, the additional workflow tools will make your entire business more efficient and help you collaborate more effectively with your team and clients. While the cost may be more than the shared hosting plans you’re used to, I can promise you’ll get a lot more value from a managed host.
Who is managed hosting best for?
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it does include some common examples of the type of people/business/websites who find a ton of value partnering with a managed provider!
- Creative agencies or freelancers building sites for clients
- Site owners who don’t want to deal with the technical details of web hosting
- Bloggers and influencers whose reputation is dependent on their site
- eCommerce sites selling digital or physical products who need reliable uptime
- In-house marketing teams who want more control of their site (instead of going through IT departments)
- Enterprise brands who need reliability, scalability, and expert support
- Anyone reselling WordPress hosting
Again, this doesn’t mean these are the only people who will benefit from managed WordPress hosting; it’s simply a collection of common segments that managed hosts have built specific features for.
Cons of managed WordPress hosting
As you can see, there are a lot of advantages when it comes to managed WordPress hosting. And while it is a smart choice for a majority of websites and businesses, there are a few disadvantages to be aware of, too.
The cost of managed hosting might be more than you’re used to
As mentioned, the price tag for managed hosting is probably a little higher than the cost of your current host, especially if you’re on a shared platform. While I firmly believe the benefits are worth the increase in cost, it is something to be aware of, especially if you’re looking at a tight budget.
If cost is a concern, never be afraid to reach out to a managed hosting provider for a custom quote. Their team can help you compare plans, and you never know – it might be more affordable than you think! (Especially with all the extra time you’ll have on your plate when you offload those tedious tasks to your host, or the extra income you’ll make from reselling hosting!)
Managed WordPress hosts only host…WordPress sites
There are some exceptions to this rule, such as providers that started with shared hosting and have since added managed, but generally you can only host WordPress sites on a managed WordPress provider. If your business runs solely on WordPress, that won’t be a problem, but if you have any old client sites that haven’t moved to that CMS yet, you’ll have to host those somewhere else.
Most managed WordPress hosts don’t offer email or domains
Having a server for a website is important, but there are two other big pieces of the puzzle: the domain name and email (if it’s a professional site, at least). Generally speaking, most managed hosting providers don’t offer these features; you’ll have to work with another company for those.
While that may sound inconvenient, it speaks to the fact that managed WordPress hosts are laser-focused on WordPress solutions. While they could offer these other services, they’d rather focus on building the best managed hosting platform for your site instead of spreading their company resources thin.
All in all, the advantages of managed WordPress hosting usually outweigh the cons. If you’re not quite sure yet, however, there are a few other types of hosting you can consider.
Alternatives to managed WordPress hosting
Beyond managed hosting, there are three other common ways to host a WordPress site: with an unmanaged provider, shared servers, or a VPS. Here are some of the key differences between these types.
Managed WordPress hosting vs unmanaged
In a way, these two types of hosting providers are like opposites. A managed WordPress host will provide the server for your site, plus a bunch of additional features to help you (as the site owner) “manage” it. Unmanaged hosting, on the other hand, just gives you the server with no additional features. This means you have to do everything yourself, including setting up WordPress and sometimes even installing PHP.
Unmanaged hosting can work well if you need a rare, custom setup and enjoy optimizing servers yourself, but especially for WordPress sites, a managed host will save you both time and headaches.
For more information on this, WinningWP has a great article on the differences between managed hosting and unmanaged.
Managed WordPress hosting vs shared hosting
Shared hosting is typically where most people host their first website. It’s attractive due to a lower price point, but that comes at a price. When your website is on a shared host, it’s on a server that’s shared with other websites. This means they compete for resources, and you could see performance and security issues simply because a different website on the same server sees a traffic spike or gets hacked.
With a managed WordPress host, you completely avoid the problem of shared resources, plus you get the benefits of a WordPress-exclusive provider. While many people start with shared hosting, it’s common for them to upgrade to managed WordPress hosting when they’re ready to offload the stress.
Managed WordPress hosting vs VPS
A virtual private server (VPS) is like a mix of shared and dedicated hosting. Your site will be hosted on a private partition of a shared server, which means you won’t have to share resources and processing power with the other sites on the server. You’ll get a lot of control over your server set up, but that also means you’re solely responsible for everything related to your site.
Hosting your WordPress site on a VPS can work okay if you’re passionate about servers and have the time to do everything yourself, but if you’re not technical or trying to run a business, managed hosting is likely a better solution.
How to compare the best managed WordPress hosting providers
So, you’re convinced. Or at least curious enough to start comparing the top managed WordPress hosting providers. Where do you start?
First, a quick history of the managed WordPress hosting industry
While WordPress was founded in 2003, the last 10 years have seen tremendous growth in the managed hosting industry.
- In 2009, Pagely was one of the first companies to focus on managed WordPress hosting.
- In 2010, WPEngine, Pressable, and Pantheon were founded; the increased competition started to validate the managed hosting industry.
- In 2013, Flywheel and Kinsta were created, Flywheel specifically to simplify the workflow of web designers and creative agencies.
- In 2017, GoDaddy (traditionally an unmanaged or shared hosting provider) started offering managed WordPress hosting.
While these are some of the most common managed hosting providers, there’s also been an increase in niche hosts and resellers. Altogether, this industry has become a healthy ecosystem furthering the growth of the WordPress community and generally making the internet a better place for site visitors.
Compare prices and plans
Now that you know some of the top competitors in the hosting industry, take a moment to compare their product and services to find the best partner (not just provider!) for your business.
Some things to look for:
- Price to host your current number of sites
- Price to host your future number of sites (if you’re growing a business)
- Are there overage charges for things like traffic spikes?
- Is there 24/7 support?
- Is malware removal included, or an extra fee?
- What features are offered beyond hosting?
- Will they move your sites to their platform for free?
Make sure you know the basics of the best providers’ plans, and remember: Don’t be afraid to reach out for a custom quote! Most managed WordPress hosts have a team of people designated to help you pick the best plan for your sites.
Read online hosting reviews
Once you have an idea of the top contenders, be sure to take a look at some online reviews! There are hundreds of great comparisons online between different hosts, which can help give you an idea of real customer experiences. Just be aware that many reviews earn the writer affiliate credit, so some may be a little biased.
Demo the platform
One of the best ways to see if a managed WordPress host is the right choice is to actually demo the platform. Most providers offer video demos, let you schedule a personal demo with a product specialist, or even let you sign up for a free trial.
Flywheel also offers free site migrations to our platform by making a copy of your live site. While this service is particularly useful if you’re a new client moving lots of sites over, it’s also a great way to actually put our hosting to the test! It’s not uncommon for someone to move one site over as an experiment, then move hundreds more once they see the full value of what Flywheel can offer.
When should you upgrade to managed WordPress hosting?
If you’re currently on a shared hosting setup, you’re probably wondering…when’s the right time to make the move to managed WordPress hosting?
If you made it this far in the article, then right now is absolutely the right time.
Unfortunately, a lot of people wait until it’s too late to upgrade to managed WordPress hosting. They finally make the shift because their site crashed on a shared server, or maybe their site has been down for two weeks because it got hacked. That usually means a loss in revenue, clients, or trust in your business – none of which you should have to experience.
Budget restrictions are a real thing that you’ll have to balance when you’re ready to move to a managed host, but if you’re experiencing any of these scenarios, I highly recommend looking into it:
- If your site performance is inconsistent or slow
- If your site experiences frequent downtime
- If your site is currently hacked
- If you’d like to prevent these things before they happen
- If you’re spending more time optimizing servers than you’d like
- If you have to jump through hoops just to update your site
- If you’re running a business and want a partner, not just a provider
Remember: An optimized, well-performing website can actually help you earn more money. (And on the flip-side, a slow or hacked site could lose you lots.) If you’re asking whether you need managed WordPress hosting, the answer at this point is likely yes.
How do you move your site(s) to a managed WordPress host?
If you’re ready to switch hosting providers, start by talking to your new host! If you’re looking at moving to Flywheel, we’ll actually do the work for you, thanks to our free migration service. (And yes, this still applies even if you’re moving hundreds of sites!) Most managed providers will also let you make the transition manually if you’d like, or you can look into a WordPress migration service like WordHerd.
And thanks to all the benefits of a managed provider, switching to a new set up couldn’t be easier. You can always start with a local environment, move your site to staging for final testing, take a backup before going live, or contact 24/7 support if you need help with anything!
Conclusion: Is managed WordPress hosting worth it?
All in all, managed WordPress hosting offers an easy solution for anyone operating WordPress sites, especially if you’re running a business with them. They offer a bunch of benefits with few cons, and will undoubtedly help you save time and skip the stress of manually setting up servers.
Flywheel is a managed WordPress host that’s been helping creatives do their best work since 2013. Trusted by over 70,000 designers, developers, and creative agencies, we’re happy to help you simplify site management, streamline your workflow, and scale your business.