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8 Little Known Tradeoffs of Managed WordPress Hosting That May Surprise You

Let’s face it. The process of getting a website up and running, especially a WordPress site, can be a little overwhelming.

  • A domain name has to be selected and registered
  • A website hosting plan has to be purchased

Important questions have to be asked, such as

  • Will a domain email address be needed?
  • Will the site need to handle electronic sales?
  • Are membership features needed?
  • What about branding and logos and all of the design aspects?

To be sure, there’s a learning curve.

More...

Shared Hosting

To save money most people start out with the cheapest hosting option they can find: Shared Hosting.

Who can turn down three or four bucks a month, free domain name, automatic DNS management, unlimited everything, cPanel to manage it, and 24 hour tech support?

You can’t go wrong! Where’s the checkout button!!

Even after the hurdle of getting the site up there’s still more to do.

On Shared Hosting sometimes things break unexpectedly, usually because of an update. This necessitates not only having a backup solution in place but also being able to restore from it when the need arises.

And, then there’s site security. Gone are the days when only your desktop computer might get a virus or malware. WordPress sites are just as vulnerable and if the right security measures are not taken - well, you know the story. Google flags your site as being infected and it seems like it takes forever to clean up the mess.

But not to worry. There’s a new type of hosting provider on the scene.

They only host WordPress websites. As a matter of fact they specialize in it. To boot, they manage the messy bits for you including regular backups, updates, security, and even specialized tech support specifically for WordPress users.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Googling the term “Managed WordPress” will likely show some older articles that use the term in a different context than it has come to be known today.

Some companies that offer traditional cPanel based hosting might be referred to as Managed WordPress in older reviews.

Also, some traditional hosts offer plans that seem to be WordPress specific, but are really just specialized shared hosting.

Be sure to read carefully. The web hosting world is changing.

Some of the more popular “Managed WordPress” providers include:

  • Flywheel
  • WPEngine
  • Web Synthesis
  • Page.ly
  • Rainmaker
  • and recently GoDaddy has started offering their own version.

Managed WordPress hosting comes at different price points and different options because there are several companies in the space. Typically, the cost is several times higher per month for a Managed WordPress plan than for shared hosting, but you get a very specialized product.

So it may seem like a no brainer to pay a higher price, switch from traditional Shared Hosting, and enjoy this new magical world where it’s all taken care of while you focus on building your website, right?

Hmmm… Not so fast!

While Managed WordPress providers have many very happy customers and for good reason, there are some gotchas that those considering taking the leap should be aware of.

And some of the gotchas may surprise you...

Full Disclosure

Just to be fair, I have never been a customer of any managed WordPress provider such as those listed above, although I have provided technical support and assistance for clients using such hosting.

Managed WordPress Hosting vs Shared Hosting

Tradeoff #1: Cost

Whilst Managed WordPress Hosting can be a great solution, it is not without tradeoffs. One of those is cost, and the cost can be several times more than Shared Hosting.

That said, many people incorrectly let price be their guide post when it comes to website hosting. In fact, it should be the last thing considered - especially if it’s for a business.

If that surprises you, then consider that most business owners spend more in a week for coffees and snacks than what they pay for monthly website hosting.

Also consider hidden costs such as SSL certificates which are highly recommended for e-commerce and membership sites.

Some Managed providers limit you to their SSL certificates and charge a higher fee than could be obtained elsewhere.

Tradeoff #2: Plugin limitations

Shared Hosting plans typically do not limit or forbid which plugins can be installed on WordPress sites.

Most Managed WordPress hosts, on the other hand, use a different type of hosting technology that is optimized for speed and security. This technology doesn’t always play well with other plugins.

Additionally, certain tasks such as backups and security are taken care outside of WordPress by the host. As such, most do not permit certain plugins to be installed at all.

There is no single list of exclusions that applies to all Managed WordPress providers because no two are exactly the same. Each has custom architected their hosting environment in a particular fashion.

Fortunately, most provide a plugin exception list, sometimes referred to as a blacklist, on their website to serve as a guide.

This is a must-check before deciding to move to a Managed WordPress provider.

Tradeoff #3: Multiple WordPress sites

Most Shared Hosting providers permit an unlimited number of websites to be hosted in a single plan. There are pros and cons to doing it, but many people do it for a variety of reasons.

However, Managed WordPress plans typically limit each account to one WordPress instance. Additional instances can be added for an extra monthly fee. Page.ly is one exception in that they provide up to three instances of WordPress for each account.

If you require multiple instances of WordPress the limit imposed by Managed WordPress Hosting can significantly increase the monthly expense.

Tradeoff #4: Bandwidth and storage limits

Shared Hosting plans usually offer unlimited disk storage and bandwidth - at least in their marketing materials. To be fair, the fine print on most such plans explains that while the amount of data is unlimited, the speed of access will be throttled after a certain amount of usage.

Managed WordPress plans offer limited bandwidth and storage.

It is important to choose a plan that meets your bandwidth and storage needs.

Tradeoff #5: Domain name, DNS configuration, and email

Unlike Shared Hosting, Managed WordPress providers require that your domain name(s) registration and renewal, DNS hosting and configuration, email configuration, and any aspect that is not specifically WordPress be purchased, hosted and configured separately from the WordPress provider.

While technical support may provide advice and guidance on how to configure those aspects, they are (most likely) not going to do it for you, although, they may provide knowledge base articles specific to the topic.

Those important hosting requirements and their costs are your responsibility when hosting a WordPress site with a Managed WordPress provider.

Depending on your existing Shared Hosting setup, migrating to a Managed WordPress hosting provider can become a complex task.

Pre-planning is essential to a smooth transition.

Tradeoff #6: Support hours and accessibility

Another important piece to factor in when considering Managed WordPress Hosting is the hours that tech support is reachable:

  • Are they available by Phone or Live Chat?
  • Do they have a support ticket system?
  • Are they available weekends and holidays?
  • What is the typical response time?

ASK these questions. Making a presumption about support is not advisable.

Tradeoff #7: File access and editing

Most Shared Hosting plans provide direct access to all the files and databases that make up your website(s) but this is not the case with a lot of Managed WordPress providers.

If you have specific needs that require direct file access, check to see if there are any restrictions.

Some Managed hosts may not provide file access at all, whilst others provide limited access.

Tradeoff #8: Third party support

Many people use Google searches and social media as their go-to source when it comes to their WordPress website, whether it is design tips, what plugins to use, or just understanding how things work.

However, most how-to articles and social media hangouts are filled with tips for Shared Hosting of WordPress, but few know or write about Managed WordPress hosting.

As such, many of the third party resources you may use may not be helpful for a Managed WordPress site. The same goes for when seeking advice from social media outlets.

While there will be some who will know the specific differences, it is not a good idea to assume they do.

Always disclose where your site is hosted when asking for tips, plugin recommendations, or other questions in social media or other forums.

Who manages your website?

Every website needs to be managed properly.

The question is: "Who will do what parts of it?"

Thankfully, the WordPress component has become easier, albeit more costly, with the arrival of Managed WordPress providers.

Who manages the rest is up to you...

Wrapping Up

~ Thanks to Mark for challenging us on the subject of Managed WordPress Hosting.

~ What are your thoughts on this topic?

~ Do you prefer to manage your sites yourself or have you handed over to a Managed WordPress Host?​

~ Please leave your comments below...

Join me as I continue my WordPress Web Hosting Series.

I've called in the cavalry. I have some great guests lined up to share their experiences with you on WordPress Hosting.

Coming soon:

The Magnificent Seven ~ "7 Sharp Shooting Professionals Reveal Their WordPress Hosting Secrets"
Mark Conger
 

Mark has been a systems analyst for over 30 years in both the private sector and federal government. He loves problem solving and helping people. Mark’s been building websites since there was a web. He and his wife Colleen design, develop and manage WordPress websites at Think.Web.Go. A self diagnosed ambivert, Mark’s also an avid coffee aficionado, beach lover and Mac junkie.

  • Hi Mark,

    Congratulations on being the First Guest Author at Byte of Data!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to put this challenging post together for us. It really compares and contrasts the newer Managed WordPress Hosting against the more familiar Shared Hosting, and I’m sure it will help readers to weigh up the differences.

    Let’s see what folks have to say on the topic.
    – David

    • Mark C.

      Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to Byte Of Data.

      There are a lot of web hosting providers competing for our business today, and it is very easy to compare apples to oranges without knowing it.

      Hopefully, this article will help keep the fruit separated.

  • Another great part in the series David. Thanks for the write up Mark, you sure covered the details very nicely.

    I looked at wordpress type hosting once and noticed they limited the number of installs, and looked no further. Maybe I have a different model, but I have many installs.

    Although, after reading the post, looks like they have quite a few limitations and restrictions. Course sure they vary per service.

    I’ve stuck with managed VPS for many years now. Does all I need. Thought about dedicated a few times but has always been some what over kill. Maybe some day. But hosting for me has always been managed. I don’t know never enough about servers and everything they entail, to be able to manage them, and I don’t want to. I know just enough to break them 🙂

    Always wondered though, what do hosting companies dedicated to wordpress hosting offer that a good VPS doesn’t? Can’t imagine it would be much more? Have to wonder if it’s an excuse to charge more for almost the same hosting?

    As for Domains, hosting and domains should ALWAYS be separated. It’s only smart business.

    Enjoyed the post 🙂

    Hey, David, you forgot something at the end of the post.

    • Mark C.

      Managed WordPress hosting does have a market – typically for users who either do not want to bother with management tasks or need more assistance than a cPanel host can provide.

      That said, there are many who use the service but do not understand it’s not for every circumstance. That’s the purpose of this post – to educate those looking for new hosting who are seeking advice from friends.

      • But that’s my main question, what do these services that are dedicated to hosting wordpress sites offer that a good cPanel type host does not?

        • Mark C.

          The primary advantages of managed WordPress over traditional hosting are:
          – Automatic backups
          – Automatic security
          – WordPress updates
          – Optimized environment (CDN, caching)
          – WordPress technical support

          In other words, they are attempting to take what is perceived to be the lion’s share of technical and somewhat scary aspects of hosting off the site owner’s plate.

          My argument is that in exchange for peace of mind regarding those areas, the site owner is forced into managing the other aspects such as domain and DNS management, email configuration, etc on their own.

          • Okay, that makes sense. They do seem to provide “more”. It is also nice not to have as much to worry about, or often forget about.

            As for domains, DNS and email, to me that’s too much of a big deal. That is usually only done once, set it and forget it. Well, except for the initial set up or a move. And as for DNS, I want to be the only one in control of that anyways.

            On a side note, I recently moved hosting, a good VPS, cpanel type, and the host moved everything for me, including all settings, email, everything. As you said, peace of mind in that aspect sure is nice!

            Appreciate the clarification Mark 🙂

    • Hey Ron, you’re right I did miss something…I think I might add it in now…

      I think your circumstances do dictate that Managed WordPress Hosting would not work for you as you have so many installs for your business. I don’t know exactly what support you get from your VPS Host, but I would suspect that a Managed Host offers WordPress support as well as Hosting support, plus you get the added benefits of Security and Backups built-in.

      Glad you’re enjoying the series Ron – will we see you next week? Its the turn of The Magnificent Seven…what do you say?

      Cheers
      – David

      • I am still just so curious what services dedicated to WordPress hosting offer that a good VPS does. Maybe it is worth paying more, I don’t know. Always wondered the big advantages.

        And seems like your a little locked in, as your limited. Can’t just be throwing up wordpress here and there. I am being to negative now.

        Magnificent Seven? LOL I have not seen that movie in FOREVER. I will be there next week. Spurs and all. 🙂 Been a while since I rode a horse though.

        • You might get a little ‘saddle-sore’ so go easy on the first few days!
          I think Mark has covered your queries below.
          It all comes down to individual needs. Knowing your business Ron, I don’t think Managed would work for you. But for our friend Richard it is the perfect solution.

  • Jay

    Very informative, I feel I`m gaining more confidence in managing my own sites. Although there has been times where I wish I didn`t manage them at all, now I realise I have a choice. Thank you for the enlightenment

    • Thanks Jay, good to hear you are enlightened by Mark’s post!

      We always have a choice – its just a case of weighing up the facts and making the right choice. Stick around for the next couple of weeks to catch the rest of the series on WordPress Web Hosting and I’m sure you will have more information to make that choice.

      Cheers
      – David

  • Thanks Sunday, Glad you liked the Tradeoffs that Mark discovered for us!

    Security is a very important area that we need to manage whether we have Shared Hosting or Managed Hosting. But a Managed Host will most likely have a more secure way of protecting a site.

    Thanks for coming via kingged.com
    – David

  • I think it’s a very balanced review of the tradeoffs and offers a neutral opinion on the process. I realize that managed hosting is all the rage these days, but the reality is that it is not for everyone. Unless you fall into a certain subset of users, it’s either going to be ridiculously expensive for what you get, or it’s not going to offer the flexibility with things like SSH access, etc that more complex installations generally need.

    With that said, everyone should pay much closer attention to their hosting – it’s not only the lifeblood of their marketing/business, it’s also one place where it’s too easy to get complacent. If managed hosting is the only way you’ll keep your site updated and secured, then that probably means you should running managed hosting. 😉

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Kim.

      Mark has done a great job lining up all the pros and cons for us, and at least folks have something to use when weighing up their options. Managed hosting won’t work for everyone and its best to realise that before signing up!

      Glad you stressed the importance of hosting. Its all too easy to go cheap on hosting when you should be investing properly in the foundation on your online business.

      Have a great weekend!
      – David

    • Mark C.

      Thank you for that assessment.

      It’s definitely worth it to learn at least a little bit about the world of website hosting if you’re going to have a WordPress website.

  • Great post Mark!

    I had looked at managed WordPress hosting before I moved over to Site5, but the limitations were just too much. Site5 has had it’s issues, but a lot of them have to do with all the upgrades they’re doing. So, what I change and optimize one week is null the nest due to the upgrades.

    All in all I like the service and quick response time for tickets…I haven’t found a perfect host yet, but they’re making the effort to improve…and damn sight better than NoDaddy!

    Thanks for the post!

    • Thanks for your comment Izzy – Mark has done a great job here!
      Sorry to hear you’re struggling a bit with Site5 right now, I do hope they will come good for you when their upgrades are completed.

    • Mark C.

      Izzy – the perfect host is the one you can live with!

  • Mark C.

    That is probably an accurate assessment. However, it comes with a price. To achieve the security the hosts forbid certain plugins and themes, limit or prevent file access, and may limit database access as well.

    Site security can be easily achieved on traditional hosting by using best practices. The point here is that some site owners prefer the tradeoffs for not having to do those tasks themselves. And that is totally a valid choice.

  • An extremely informative post here Mark, David, thanks for introducing him here.

    Thanks for the nice explanation of ‘managed’ hosting as well! I have never really understood why it is called managed hosting. In fact even now, I think the industry has chosen a poor name that has different connotations to what it actually means.

    Good list there. When I moved to WPengine from Bluehost, one thing that caught me out was plugin limitations. None of the ‘managed’ hosts like ‘related posts’ plugins too much (something to do with the too many database requests or something techie like that). So it’s definitely wise to check that list.

    Thanks again for a detailed post – it’s definitely improved my knowledge in this area 🙂

    • Mark C.

      Great points, Richard.

      The word “managed” is tossed about quite liberally in the web hosting world and that makes it hard to distinguish the labels from their meanings.

    • Thanks Richard,
      Mark did a great job on this topic, and helped explain the meaning of ‘managed’ in the web hosting world. Now everyone can see the differences between ‘Shared’ and ‘Managed’ clearly laid out, no excuses!

  • Thanks for your comments here Greg and for sharing your experience of using a Managed WordPress Host: WP Engine. It seems clear that you weighed up the pros and cons of Shared and Managed Hosting and decided you would get the extra value from the extra investment. And I think that’s the nub of the discussion: everyone needs to evaluate carefully what is on offer with each service provider rather than going in blind.

    • One important thing to keep in mind is how you will be charged. When I was with WPEngine few months back, they charges me $250/month continuously for extra visits, calling it as an Overage charge. This is one thing which put me off, and later on I moved to somewhere else.

      • Thanks Harsh, great to see you here. I recall reading on your blog about the WPEngine ‘extras’. [http://www.shoutmeloud.com/wpengine-cons-picing.html].
        I guess that’s a reminder to us all that have to read the small print and ask for verification if things are unclear, before we sign up.

      • Mark C.

        Ouch!

  • Mark C.

    Greg – I’m glad you’ve had a great experience with WPEngine. We may not agree on the tradeoffs, but it sounds like you’re well versed in hosting and that is a good thing. The more you know about your host the better. Congratulations on your success!

  • Different people will feel more comfortable with different types of access, and your preference to have no access at all is perfectly acceptable. I can understand why some people want to just focus on their content and let somebody else worry about the back end.

    Thanks for sharing your preference Bigwas!