Let me break this to you right out the gate: not all managed WordPress hosting is worth the price tag.
Even worse, some so-called managed platforms are only managed in name, with very few actual benefits to the user once you start looking under the hood.
In this post, we break down the pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting, debunk many of them, and help you decide whether you should get into managed WordPress or not.
What is managed WordPress hosting?
That’s a good question.
There’s no consensus on this – neither among hosting companies, nor users.
More or less, nothing is stopping a hosting firm from putting the “managed” badge on any random hosting plan they offer. That’s why we really need to have a good look at what’s actually in the package when considering signing up with a managed host.
Managed WordPress hosting should give you specific extra features and benefits that you don’t get with standard hosting setups. In short, instead of you having to manage your setup, it’s the host that manages it for you. Hence the name.
Now, what “manages it for you” actually means changes from host to host. They usually mention benefits like improved security, backups, peace of mind, etc. However, at the end of the day, those benefits can still remain relatively unclear.
- Does the hosting company actually perform any actions on my server regularly?
- If I need anything done to my site (like a plugin installed), do I ask them?
- Do they tweak my site settings to improve speed or security on their own initiative?
The honest answer is no.
Even on managed WordPress hosting, it’s still you who has to do all the hands-on work.
From the user’s point of view, the main difference in managed WordPress hosting vs standard modern web hosting (even the cheap ones at $4 / month) is the control panel, how easy to use it is, and how tailor-made it is for WordPress-specific tasks.
Granted, I’m oversimplifying things a bit, so let’s have a more in-depth look into the pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting below.
💡 If you want to learn about the most popular managed WordPress hosts in the market, read our comparison here.
👍 The pros of managed WordPress hosting
Here’s a list of the common pros of managed WordPress hosting vs how things actually play out in practice:
Pro #1: Servers optimized for WordPress
All managed WordPress hosting companies will tell you that their servers are specifically optimized for WordPress. This may be true to some extent, but I wouldn’t go crazy about it and make this the only reason to sign up with a managed WordPress host.
WordPress can run on any web server as long as it supports PHP and a database engine, which all hosting setups do these days.
In other words, there are no specific server settings that WordPress requires in order to run properly.
That being said, managed WordPress hosts often offer more modern server setups overall – with more powerful hardware (sometimes hosted by outside providers like Google Cloud) and more up-to-date server software, such as Nginx, latest versions of PHP, and more efficient VPS configurations.
Pro #2: Easier to use with a better user panel
This is where managed WordPress hosting comes into play. Most hosts that offer managed plans also give you access to their own custom user panels. Those panels are usually easier to work with and give you quick access to the features that you’re likely to use the most.
The one downside is that the scope of what can be done through those panels is limited when compared to something like cPanel.
For example, here’s what things look like at Flywheel:
And here’s the user panel at Kinsta:
Each of them lets you quickly find things like backups, staging sites, WordPress software updates, stats, and so on.
Pro #3: Reliability and peace of mind that everything works
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
With our platform, instead of having to worry about your server, you can focus on what matters most – creating content and getting new clients for your business.
Every managed WordPress hosting company has a version of this story somewhere in their marketing material.
The only problem is that managed hosts aren’t really much more reliable than shared hosts, if at all. I’ve been monitoring the uptimes of a handful of popular hosts in the market for more than a couple of years now, and I see no significant differences.
Even cheap hosts will give you 99.99% uptime these days. Of course, not all of them, but uptime is overall not something that cheap hosts struggle with any more.
Pro #4: Everything is managed for you
Sorry, but “you don’t have to manage your server” is an empty promise. Even with cheap hosting, you still don’t have to perform any server management tasks anyway.
It’s the hosting firm that handles the core tasks involved in making a web server run, no matter if you’re on a cheap shared setup or a managed one.
If anything breaks down with cheap shared hosting, it’s still not you who has to look under the hood and fix it. All you do is contact customer support, and they get it fixed for you.
Pro #5: Better performance / website speed
Managed WordPress hosts try to sell you on the promise of improved performance over shared hosting. It really makes sense that this should be the case – after all, the servers are promised to be optimized for WordPress.
As much as I would like this to be true, based on multiple performance experiments I’ve done on test setups, there’s really no huge difference to write home about.
There’s one caveat, though. The test setups I run are what you’d call entry-level. They’re not very complex and don’t receive a lot of traffic. This performance balance can indeed change if you have a high-traffic site with thousands of visitors every day.
Another thing worth pointing out is that web hosts often improve their performance metrics by integrating your site with caching mechanisms and CDNs right out the gate. This is a nice perk since you don’t have to bother setting these up on your own, and you can be sure that everything is configured correctly from day one.
Pro #6: Better security
Improved website security is often advertised as one of the key benefits of managed WordPress hosting.
This is kind of true, but not always, and not with every host.
On the one hand, managed WordPress hosting platforms indeed tend to be more secure compared to cheap shared hosting solutions, but this fact has little to do with the hosting being “for WordPress.” It’s rather due to the use of a higher-quality hosting setup overall (no matter if it’s for WordPress or not).
Managed platforms often offer DDoS protection mechanisms that are ready to absorb attacks at both network and application layers, or deflect them with the use of a Web Application Firewall (WAF).
Moreover, some managed WordPress hosts will give you access to premium versions of plugins like iThemes Security (Liquid Web), or CodeGuard (Bluehost WP Pro). These solutions have been purpose-built for WordPress and offer additional protection, malware scans, and easy restorations in case of trouble.
Pro #7: Automated updates and backups
Every self-respecting managed WordPress host will give you automatic updates and backups.
The idea is simple – you don’t have to worry about keeping your site up to date because the host does it for you.
That being said, one could argue that clicking on the update button isn’t that hard of a task anyway, so paying for this feature alone doesn’t make much sense.
Backups can be a bit tricky, though. When picking your managed WordPress host, make sure that they have some form of easy restoration alongside their automated backups.
Basically, a backup is only good if you can use it to restore your site quickly. In other words, simply getting your host to give you a SQL dump of the database is no bueno. What you want is to be able to click a single “restore” button and have everything be brought to normal.
Here’s how it’s done in Kinsta’s panel, for example:
Pro #8: Automated WordPress installs
Every managed host will let you install WordPress with a couple of clicks during signup.
Sounds good, but, to be frank, you get this feature with even the cheapest shared hosting as well, so it’s nothing impressive.
Pro #9: Guided or concierge site migrations
Most users changing hosts will also want to move their existing sites. Managed hosts will try to help you with the transition. Some even offer free migrations.
However, these migrations mean different things from company to company. Some will only do the migration if you’re coming from a select few other companies. Some will give you full concierge migrations no matter where you’re coming from. Be sure to check what the terms are with the host you’re considering moving your site to.
Hint: Moving a classic WordPress site from host to host isn’t too difficult anyway. You can get the whole thing done in less than 10 minutes with a tool like Duplicator.
Pro #10: Better customer support
Every host will want you to believe that they have the best support (experts) out there. However, very often, it’s just marketing talk. From my experience, things are not always this awesome.
Granted, you will generally get help quicker on a managed plan than on a shared plan, but the quality of that help isn’t always there, or at least it seems like there’s some gap between the promise of what you’ll get from your host’s support vs what you actually get.
For example, it’s a common practice among managed WordPress hosts to try to send you over to a knowledge base article rather than solve the problem for you.
For example, while Kinsta support is knowledgeable about their platform, they know where everything is and how to configure things, they seem like they won’t jump into your account no matter what. While they will guide your hand all the way through and tell you where to go step by step, they won’t do anything for you on their own. In short, Kinsta support is mostly “go there, read that” -kind of help.
WP Engine, on the other hand, will help you configure things and do some of the work for you if you ask them to. They still try to educate you first, but if you’re not receptive, they will do the work for you. I was also similarly surprised by the support quality at Bluehost WP Pro (the managed section of Bluehost’s). They, too, are willing to help out and do the work for you.
Pro #11: One-click staging
WordPress is the ultimate DIY website platform. And as such, it invites you to do a lot of customization, testing, and tweaking. WordPress sites are basically in a constant work-in-progress stage. The only problem is that working on a live site can cause a lot of problems.
This is where staging sites come into play. Whenever you want to test something, just launch a staging site – a carbon copy of your working site. That staging site is basically your sandbox. You can do your tweaks there without distorting the live version of the site. When you’re done, you can either delete the staging site or deploy your changes to the live version.
Managed WordPress hosts make staging as easy as can be. Most of them have one-click staging, which means that you can launch a staging site in seconds, and then move it to live or delete it with one click as well. This can be incredibly useful if you like to tinker with your site a lot.
Pro #12: Bonuses and extra features
Managed WordPress hosts often offer additional extra features and bonuses. The exact offerings change from host to host, but here are some of the more interesting things that are out there:
- Liquid Web gives you access to iThemes Security Pro, iThemes Sync, plus additional extras if you opt for their WooCommerce hosting package (a suite of plugins by IconicWP, Jilt, Beaver Builder Standard, and Astra Pro)
- WP Engine gives you all of StudioPress themes (including the Genesis framework), and Atomic Blocks Pro
- Pressable gives you Jetpack Premium
- Bluehost WP Pro gives you SiteLock and CodeGuard
👎 The cons of managed WordPress hosting
Con #1: They’re more expensive
Okay, this one is obvious, but it needs to be said anyway. Managed WordPress hosting is expensive.
More or less, you can get shared hosting from around $3-$4 a month. Managed WordPress hosting starts from $15 a month. That’s ~3-4x more.
If that’s not enough, there’s one more aspect to the whole pricing thing that’s not as advertised by web hosts: overage charges.
Some will cost you an arm and a leg:
- Kinsta charges $1 per 1,000 visits over your monthly traffic allowance
- WP Engine charges $2 per 1,000 visits
Better check what the overage charges are before committing to a host.
Con #2: No email hosting
For me, this is one of the biggest drawbacks of managed WordPress hosting.
Yes, you’re reading this right; that expensive managed WordPress hosting setup of yours won’t be able to handle your email.
So what can you do? Not much. If you want to keep your custom email address, you’ll have to find another company that will host your inbox for a couple of dollars a month.
Con #3: Number of sites is limited, heavily
Most entry-level managed WordPress hosting plans allow you to host only one website.
Installing multisite can also be a problem.
Con #4: Can be difficult to move out of
If at any point in time, and for whatever reason, you decide that you no longer like your managed WordPress host, you might find that moving out has its challenges.
It appears that some hosts like to modify the files in the WordPress directory to fit their server environments better. Of course, those modifications won’t play well with another host.
For example, WP Engine has a whole checklist of things that need to be done if you ever want to move out. That checklist consists of deleting a bunch of files, rolling back to a fresh config.php file, and a couple of other steps.
Of course, that’s not how things work everywhere, but unfortunately, you won’t find out until you actually want to move.
Con #5: Some plugins might be banned
Shared hosting platforms generally allow you to run any plugin you wish. Managed hosts are not always this understanding.
Con #6: Storage often limited
Browsing through the options out there, you’ll notice that managed WordPress hosts tend to limit the disk space they offer.
In the end, if your site uses some large files (usually large media files), you might run into problems.
Should you get managed WordPress hosting?
The big question remains. Considering all these pros and cons, should you actually get managed WordPress hosting? Is it worth the money?
The answer is both yes and no. It all depends on the type of site you run and what your needs are:
- If you run a simple WordPress website with little traffic then you probably don’t need managed hosting. Dealing with updates on your own is not such a pain, and you can set up automated backups and security checks via third-party plugins. Plus, you also get email hosting included. This means that you get all your hosting needs handled for a mere $4 a month or so.
- If you’re frustrated with your current host for whatever reason – be it performance, support, reliability – you’ll likely be happier with managed hosting. Both because those setups are usually of higher quality overall, but also thanks to the WordPress-specific features.
- If you have a WordPress or WooCommerce site on the rise, you’re probably going to be better off with managed WordPress hosting as well. Setups like that handle increases in traffic better, and you get faster-responding support.
- If your WordPress site is in constant development with lots of changes being done regularly, managed WordPress hosting will serve you well (pun intended). The fact that you can launch staging sites with a couple of clicks can be invaluable.
Overall, I’d say that the investment in managed WordPress hosting can be worth it, but you have to do your research and learn the quirks and limitations of the host. Pay attention to things like banned plugins, disk space limitations, the number of sites allowed, overage charges, etc.
If you’re ready to take the next step, check out this review comparison of the top managed WordPress hosts in the market and learn which hosts are our favorites.
What’s your opinion of managed WordPress hosting, do you think it is worth the price tag?