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Managed WordPress Hosting and What to Expect

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO.

Over the past couple of years, it seems like every hosting company has launched a hosting plan for WordPress users. Some have created new environments intended to support the resource requirements and security necessities WordPress demands, others just create an illusion of Managed WordPress hosting by putting a new product name on their site, “WordPress Hosting” when really it’s the same as their other hosting, just WordPress comes pre-installed.

Most WordPress (WP) hosting products are called “Managed WordPress” and in the hosting world, “Managed” can mean a couple of things.

  1. The environment, things like; security, performance, resource requirements, and related needs such as SSLs are included and managed for you.
  2. The same as 1, but with an added measure of support. So not just hosting support, but also WordPress help.
  3. Some use the word “Managed” because it’s become an industry standard and they want to appear to offer the same solutions.

I’ve been building websites for 10 years, and in that time I have tried several different hosting companies, especially in the early days. I wanted to find the best solution, one that didn’t require a slew of effort or maintenance on my part but allowed me to feel confident that my business and those of my clients wouldn’t suffer because of bad hosting.

My first go at real Managed WordPress hosting was in 2009, and I was sceptical. I had already tried “WordPress Hosting” and it never seemed to be any better, in fact, in some cases, I didn’t even have the ability to access or edit the database.

HOWEVER, WP Engine completely changed my expectation for Managed WordPress Hosting.

Now before I jump into the expectations, I understand that not every company can or thinks they should offer the same scope of support WP Engine does.

But with that said, if you’re selling and offering Managed WordPress Hosting, I would hope that your scope of support does cover helping your customers with WP.

I mean common, most of their calls are going to be issues with WP, not their hosting (as long as the hosting product is any good).

Managed WordPress Hosting: What You Should Expect

Resources

WordPress is, in my opinion, the best CMS available. And 27% of the web agrees with me.

However, not all developers are created equal, and there are hundreds of developers out there creating plugins and themes for WP users, therefore, you could very well experience a bunch of different issues with performance when you’re using plugins or themes with bad or bloated code.

Bottom line, WordPress and the Plugins you use require resources. If your hosting isn’t prepared to handle the processes and request then your site is going to time out and/or crash. Either way, it’s a bad user experience.

In most cases, when this happens, your hosting company will first try to sell you more resources, and then tell you to optimise your performance. And some have a service for that too!

A legit Manged WP environment will have CDN, content delivery network, installed and enabled. This increases load times by storing your website files on several different servers across the world. Delivering your website content from the server location that is closest to the individual visitor.

One last step a really good Managed WordPress hosting provider will take is to have caching technology installed and running.

Security

It’s no secret, hackers seek out WP websites because not all developers are created equal. If a plugin or theme has a vulnerability hacks are looking for any and all sites using those bad plugins and themes.

A good hosting solution forces you to update the core WordPress software and if you don’t, they will. They also force you to keep your plugins up to date and even restrict plugins they know will cause problems.

Beyond that, they run malware scanners – daily – and have multiple firewalls to prevent hacks and the associated results. They might even leverage credible companies like Sucuri, who do this as their core service, to do some of this for them.

I would even suggest that there are built-in protocols for removing the malware and instantly patching the holes.

The standard FTP port 21 isn’t going to cut it for WordPress security. You should have the ability to use SFTP and a secure port.

One final piece for security is backups. You should have backups running daily. Not just backups when there are modification, I mean full site backups, that’s files and database. And it’s not enough to just have the backups, it should be easy to restore from a backup. You should have the ability to run your own backup and download it to your machine as well.

WordPress Help

This should be obvious. If you offer a product that is specifically for WordPress, why wouldn’t part of your scope be to help people use it?

In my experience with those hosting companies that do NOT support WP, they would do better to support it then try and convince people it’s out of scope and to get them off the phone. This can turn a happy customer into a disgruntled customer pretty quickly.

Take a lesson of 911 Emergency dispatch. The calls that occupied their lines the most were calls from people calling to know what the weather was for the day. I know WHAT! SERIOUSLY! It’s true.

The operators tried to explain to the caller that it was “out of scope” and not the purpose for 911, but that took too long, the line would stay tied up far too long. So they tried just having the forecast available and quickly telling the caller and ending the call. Saved time and freed the lines up much faster.

I’m not suggesting you walk a customer through building their entire site, but when they call because they need to know how to change the background image or the font or edit the homepage which could be controlled by widget or a page, things like that are fast, and provide an opportunity for the rep to say, “you know we have a WP 101 class you can sign up for or you can sign up for a 1-on-1 training with a WP expert for $Xxx”.

Solutions

For a customer to call their hosting provider and be told, “it’s not the server it’s your code, good luck”, is an example of NOT providing a solution.

In the same scenario, to hear, “hey it looks like the server is running fine, I did a quick scan you’re free from malware, but when I disabled your plugins the site comes back online. So I recommend you install them one at a time to find the one causing the issue. Once you do, you should reach out to the developer to see if they have a fix for it.”

While that may not be a complete solution, it gets the customer moving in the right direction with some clarity. They should at least feel good about leaving that support call knowing they have a clear path on how to get to the root of the problem.

Why not be available to kick around ideas? I’ve contacted my hosting provider before because sometimes I just need a fresh set of eyes. Although they didn’t necessarily provide the solution, they always provide enough brainstorming and troubleshooting to help me figure things out. And that is good enough for me.

What You Should Expect, Developer Edition

This article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t drop this section in.

If you’re a WP developer, you should expect a few extras from a Managed WordPress hosting provider. I’m not going to go into a bunch of details on these because you probably already know what they are.

Staging

A separate environment that allows you to modify, rebuild, update, etc without interrupting service to the existing site.

Local

Easy integration for migrating from your local machine to the hosting environment. Flywheel just released a piece of software that is absolutely amazing, it’s called Local!

Migration

Easily migrate your WP site from one hosting provider to another. Forget about the manual download, upload, export/import. Just a seamless transfer.

Billing Transfer

Build the site in your hosting account then simply transfer the billing to your client once the site is launched.

Reselling

Most will have an affiliate program and that can be really lucrative.The really good Managed WP hosting services have a “bulk plan” which will allow you to pay a flat fee for X amount of hosting accounts which you can then “resell” to your clients. Combined with billing transfer, it’s almost like a complete reseller program.

Pricing – because it’s important!

Bottom line, you get what you pay for.

But that said, you don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to get the things I’ve listed above. Should you pay more than $6.99 per month, hell yeah, more than $30/month, not necessarily for a single site.

Wrapping This Up

Ultimately, I wrote this article for the same reason I published, “The WordPress Hosting Dilemma” and “WordPress Hosting: Why Not GoDaddy“, to help you make smart decisions about where you host your site. Don’t let price be the decision maker, there’s too much at risk, especially when it’s your source of revenue.

While there have been several changes since writing and publishing those articles, my recommendations have not changed. For the best Managed WordPress Hosting, use WP Engine or Flywheel (in that order).

Do you have a Managed WordPress recommendation? I’d love to hear it! Use the comments below.

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