For your business to succeed online today you have to juggle all sorts of things; everything from marketing, hosting, social media, advertising, content creation, etc. This can all become quickly overwhelming and very stressful. Today we want to explore why choosing a managed WordPress hosting service, as opposed to a shared host or small VPS, can be one of the most important decisions you can make as it pertains to your website.
Your business deserves the best and a managed WordPress host gives you that competitive edge. 💪
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
So first off, what exactly do we mean when we say managed WordPress hosting and how is it different than shared or do it yourself (DIY) hosting? To best explain this let’s first break down the general online population into the three hosting scenarios we typically see:
1. Shared WordPress Hosting
The first crowd is typically people just starting out who choose to go with low-cost shared WordPress hosting. These include hosts like GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgator, SiteGround, etc. Usually, these are people who are:
- Building their first website.
- Migrating away from WordPress.com.
- On a strict budget and need to keep things as cheap as possible.
- Someone that doesn’t understand the differences between the different types of hosting, and therefore is simply making a decision based on price (hint: this is not good!).
Shared WordPress hosting plans usually range anywhere from $3 to $25 a month. There is nothing wrong with starting like this, but there are a few things people should be aware of:
- No matter how you do the math, after expenses, $3 a month isn’t actually generating any revenue for the hosting company. Especially when you attribute support into that. One support ticket and they’re already in the red. The way a shared host makes a lot of their money is on upselling and hidden fees. These upsells include things like migrations, domain registrations, renewal fees, SSL certificates, etc.
- To make money most hosts offer what they call their “unlimited resources” plan. You have probably all seen this. Well, there is no such thing in the real world as unlimited resources. What hosts will do is throttle the clients using up a lot of the resources. This, in turn, ends up with those angry clients leaving, making room for more clients that don’t use a lot of resources. In the end, you have a vicious cycle of the hosting company pushing cheap plans, signing up customers who they hope won’t use a lot of resources and will purchase upsells. It’s all about volume.
- Also, because the plan is so cheap this usually forces the host to overcrowd their servers to consolidate resources. So even though you don’t know it, your website might be on the same server as 500+ other people. Any performance issues that pop up with other sites can, in turn, affect your site.
You combine everything mentioned above together and what do you get? You get slow performance and bad support. Shared hosts have to spread their teams way too thin, which results in long ticket times and subpar customer service.
Make sure to check out our in-depth article from our CFO on the shocking truths about how cheap WordPress hosting really works. Some of it might shock you.
2. DIY VPS WordPress Hosting
The second crowd of people is typically bootstrap startups and people with a little more development or WordPress experience. They are the DIY crowd. These folks are typically still trying to save money, but they are also usually concerned with performance and realize its importance in the success of their business. Commons setups might include using Digital Ocean, Linode, or Vultr VPS; and possibly a tool like ServerPilot to manage it more easily.
A small VPS from DigitalOcean starts at $5 a month and the popular plan at ServerPilot starts at $10 a month. So depending on your setup you could be looking at a cost of between $5 to $15 or more a month. The DIY approach can definitely cut costs, but it also means that you are responsible if something breaks, and for optimizing your server for performance.
The DIY approach can be great, but it can also backfire on you if you aren’t careful. Don’t go this route just because you want to tinker! Your time is worth money and you should be spending it on growing your business. Take advantage of more than a decade of experience the Kinsta team has fixing WordPress issues on a daily basis.
3. Managed WordPress Hosting
The third crowd of people are typically small to medium-sized businesses, high traffic blogs, and companies looking for specialized enterprise WordPress hosting. This crowd realizes that a managed WordPress hosting is a good investment because it saves them manpower, time, and usually offers better performance since it’s fine-tuned for the CMS.
Plans for managed WordPress hosting typically range anywhere from $25 to $150 a month or more depending on the size of your site and needs. Some popular managed WordPress hosts you are probably familiar with, or maybe also are currently using include Kinsta, WP Engine, Flywheel, Pressable, Media Temple, Pressidium, and Pagely.
Large companies like jQuery, Plesk, Dyn, and NGINX are all using WordPress to host their website. Check out our in-depth post on 130+ top WordPress sites dominating the web to see more examples.
Why You Should Choose Managed WordPress Hosting
Now just because we separated people into three different groups above doesn’t mean it is necessarily always the right way to go. You should do your research to make the right choice for your business. Perhaps you start with the DIY method and upgrade to managed hosting after you grow.
Or you could invest in managed hosting, to begin with, and focus all of your efforts on growing your business. There is no right or wrong path, but let us share with you 9 reasons why managed WordPress hosting can benefit you today.
- You Get Superior Support
- Optimized for High-Performance
- Strategically Located Data Centers for Global Reach
- Automatic Backups (Never Lose Your Data)
- One-Click Staging Environments
- Developer-Friendly (SSH, Git, WP-CLI)
- Security Is Taken Seriously
- Built with Scalability in Mind
- Premium DNS (Reliable and Faster Lookup Times)
The number one reason you should choose managed WordPress hosting is superior support. Typically managed WordPress hosting providers only deal with the WordPress platform. This means they don’t mess with Drupal, Magento, or any other type of platform or software. Typically support teams that focus on one area will become experts in that area, even if they aren’t to begin with!
The support team here at Kinsta are all WordPress developers and Linux Engineers, contribute to WordPress Core and other open source projects, and use WordPress on a daily basis. As a result, the expertise of our support department is second to none. Nothing is worse than launching a chat session and feeling like you know more than the person on the other end. This will never happen at Kinsta!
When Kinsta first began, we knew the industry was broken in terms of how WordPress support is handled. This is why our team is structured completely different. We don’t have separate levels or tiers. The support team member that helps you is fully qualified to fix every type of problem, all the way to resolution. There is no bouncing around between different reps, as we think this is a huge waste of time. Everyone gets to chat to the same support team members that back our Fortune 500 and enterprise clients! 👏
I’ve tried many different hosts – LiquidWeb, SoftLayer, WP Engine, Web Synthesis, Rackspace, etc. Out of all of them, Kinsta has been the best in terms of support, speed, and pricing. I’m very impressed with the knowledge and skill of the support team, as well as response times and not having to deal with your typical ‘level 1’ support. Expert support fast, what more can you ask for? WordPress site runs really fast with Kinsta and it was very hard to find the necessary expertise with these other companies. Additionally, I love the fact that I can up-scale a server for a week during peak traffic times to handle the load. Amazing.
WPMU DEV reviewed Kinsta without us knowing, which makes for a great unbiased opinion. Here is what Raelene thought of our support team.
My experiences contacting the support team were excellent. I received detailed and honest answers to all of my questions. When I enquired about their hardware I didn’t expect an answer like this:
“We use Google Compute Engine servers, which ensure high speed and automatic scalability which means that instead of being constrained to 2-6 CPUs per VPS as with other providers we actually let the site’s container to scale to as many CPUs as needed when there’s a surge, and for load-balanced clients an infinite number of CPUs as our system dynamically spins up more machines and scales back when the traffic wave subsides.”
I tried to quiz them with some common WordPress related site issues and got all the right answers, so top marks!
Kinsta uses a ticket-based support system via Intercom. It feels like a real-time chat but in the background, it isn’t. I got a response within 5 minutes when I tried to talk to them a 3 pm. I also tried at 5 am (I happened to be up early while writing) and got an answer within 3 minutes. I may have just picked two low-support times by chance but impressive nonetheless!
Prior Managing Editor, WPMU DEV
Like Raelene said, we have used Intercom since day one here at Kinsta and it has worked very well for us. Nobody likes the old-fashioned ticket systems and many companies are now migrating to more innovative solutions such as Intercom. It has provided an easy way for us to integrate chat and support tickets into our dashboard so customers know we are always one click away, 24/7 365 days a year (as seen below). Our average response time in Q3 2019 was 1 minute and 19 seconds! Check out some other SaaS products we use.
So when it comes to choosing a host with a reliable and knowledgeable support team, managed WordPress hosts typically will be a level above the rest, simply because they live and breathe WordPress on a daily basis. Kinsta also includes premium uptime monitoring for all clients via New Relic. We check the status of all the websites we host every 2 minutes. That translates to 720 checks for each of your sites every day.
This means that if your website goes down, we will be the first ones to be notified and our support team will hop on it! We also have support for your own custom New Relic tracking.
The second reason to choose a managed WordPress hosting provider is that their environments are typically fine-tuned to work with WordPress.
If you go with a shared host or the DIY route they will typically be on more barebone machines and you will need to spend time installing software and optimizing to obtain the same speeds that a managed WordPress host offers out the box. Or in some cases, on a shared host, there won’t be anything you can do to achieve the speeds you need.
We took a poll on Twitter, and with over a hundred votes, 63% of people chose “performance/uptime” as the quality they value most in a managed WordPress host.
When it comes to managed #WordPress hosting, what do you value the most? 📋 Whether you're a business owner, developer, agency or blogger, we'd love to hear from you!
— Kinsta (@kinsta) February 11, 2019
For example, lots of managed WordPress hosts including us here at Kinsta implement server-level caching and or full page caching. What that means is that caching is handled by us. There’s no need to hassle with figuring out what the fastest caching plugin is because you won’t need one. This alone can save you a lot of frustration as caching plugins are never fun to deal with. And in most scenarios, server-level caching is much faster than any plugin.
It’s crucial you deliver as many assets as possible from cache during surges of traffic. This reduces the load on the server and ensures things are delivered lightning fast. At Kinsta you can use our Cache Analysis report to make sure the bulk of your WordPress site is serving from cache.
A high-performance managed WordPress host should also provide you with the latest and greatest architecture and technology. This includes utilizing the latest versions of PHP 7, MariaDB, HTTP/2 and NGINX, which have all been proven to be one of the fastest combinations for WordPress.
If your WordPress host is taking ages to release the latest versions of PHP, they are holding you back! That doesn’t fly with us. In fact, Kinsta released PHP 7.2 and 7.3 within weeks of their final and tested release. This allows clients to start testing earlier and take advantage of free and instant performance gains.
How important is the version of PHP you’re running? From our PHP benchmark report, PHP 7.3 is on average 9% faster than PHP 7.2. Who doesn’t want a free 9% speed boost? 😉
And to take it one step further, we here at Kinsta were the first managed WordPress hosting provider to exclusively use Google Cloud Platform and its premium tier network. Kinsta was just recently named top tier once again in Review Signal’s annual 2018 WordPress hosting performance benchmarks. And we are in fact recommended by Google.
Here is an example below of load times significantly decreasing on a client’s site after we moved them to Google Cloud Platform. Before the move, they were getting spikes within the 3-4 second range, and after they stayed consistently under 1 second, and under 400 ms in the United States. Just by migrating them to Google Cloud Platform, they saw a 75% decrease in load times!
And here is an example of what happened when someone migrated away from Kinsta to shared hosting. Their load time went from 300 ms to 14 seconds! The shared host was just not able to handle the large traffic site.
Here is another example of our test site running on Kinsta. As you can see it loads in under 400 ms with a performance grade of 100. That is fast!
If we take a look at the HTTP header we can see it is being served up from Kinsta cache on a server-level and there is no caching plugin running.
Managed WordPress hosts fine-tune their environments specifically to ensure that WordPress runs as fast as possible!
Kinsta utilizes LXD managed hosts and orchestrated LXC software containers for each site. What this means is that every WordPress site is housed in its own isolated container, which has all of the software resources required to run it (Linux, Nginx, PHP, MySQL). The resources are 100% private and are not shared with anyone else or even your own sites.
We then use virtual machines located in one of Google Cloud Platform’s multiple data centers. Each machine has up to 96 CPUs and hundreds of gigabytes of RAM. In available regions, we utilize their compute-optimized (C2) virtual machines. These offer the highest performance per core that GCP offers on Compute Engine and are optimized for compute-intensive workloads. Hardware resources (RAM/CPU) are allocated to each site container automatically by our virtual machines on an as-needed basis.
Besides just server-level performance, managed WordPress hosting providers also typically have a larger infrastructure that is designed for global reach. Thanks to Google Cloud Platform, we have 20 different regions here at Kinsta from which you can choose to host your WordPress site. This includes locations across the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and South America. Strategically placing your site closer to your visitors and customers decreases network latency, TTFB, and ensures for faster page load times.
Latency refers to the time and or delay that is involved in the transmission of data over a network. The further the distance the greater the latency. For example, if you run a local WooCommerce shop in Sydney, Australia, you should be hosting your site in Australia. If you were to host your site in the USA, customers would see a much longer first-time page load. The initial DOC load comes from your host server, so having the ability to place your site where your customers are is very important!
Utilizing a content delivery network (CDN) can then help with speeding up the rest of your site’s media. Kinsta includes a free HTTP/2 CDN with 34 global pops to turbocharge your assets. Another great free alternative that many utilize is Cloudflare.
Everything at Kinsta is also interconnected over the highly reliable Google Cloud Platform’s “premium tier” network. This is designed to minimize distance and hops, resulting in faster more secure global transport of your data. Some hosting providers might opt for Google’s “standard tier” network service to cut costs, but we believe in only utilizing the best here at Kinsta.
How much of an impact does this have? Well, for data traveling across continents, the premium tier network is about 41% faster, on average, than the standard tier network. For data traveling to a nearby region (same continent), the premium tier is about 8% faster. While networking only makes up a fraction of your total page load times, every millisecond adds up!
What would you do if you suddenly lost everything? You should always be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and this includes always having backups of your WordPress site. A quality managed WordPress hosting provider should always include automatic backups for no additional charge. With shared hosts typically backups are included, but in the higher-cost plans. And if you go the DIY route with a VPS, usually you have to set up your own backup system as well as VPS snapshots which also cost extra.
We include automatic backups of all WordPress sites for free, no additional setup is required. 14 backups are accessible at any given time from right within the MyKinsta dashboard for an easy one-click restore. You can also always take manual backups with a click of a button. This is very handy if perhaps you are installing something new and want to ensure you don’t break anything.
Not only do we have automatic backups, but you can also download a full backup (files and .sql file) of your WordPress site at any time. And if you have a WooCommerce store or site with a lot of dynamic content, we have add-ons in which you can automatically back up your site every hour or every six hours.
Having multiple options for your WordPress backups can save you a lot of time as you don’t have to mess with backup plugins, Cpanel, FTP, or phpMyAdmin.
Testing, testing, testing. You can’t afford your website to go down so you should always be testing new changes, plugins, PHP versions, and updates on a development site, not your production site! With most web hosting providers however testing involves a complex and time-consuming process of copying your site locally, testing, and then figuring out how to migrate the changes back. A lot of managed WordPress hosting providers include one-click staging environments specifically to make testing a breeze.
One-click staging or dev environments are designed to let you clone your website with a single press of a button. Your dev site is then accessible via a test URL and you can also access via all the typical methods such as FTP, SSH, phpMyAdmin, etc. You can then easily push your changes to production from within the dashboard.
Another advantage that managed WordPress hosting providers is that you usually have access to additional developer-friendly features that you might not get with a shared host. This includes features such as SSH access, Composer, HeidiSQL, Sequel Pro, and Git. Normally shared hosts won’t give you SSH access, meaning you can’t use any of the above features. If you are using a DIY VPS, these can be usually set up, but it might require some additional work.
Here at Kinsta, you can easily access your SSH connection information via your MyKinsta dashboard, along with these additional developer features:
- Ability to run different versions of PHP between sites and staging sites. You can also one-click change the engine at will.
- Support for custom setups such as Bedrock and reverse proxy configurations.
- Faster performance and search with add-ons such as Redis, Cloudflare Railgun, and Elasticsearch.
WP-CLI is another tool that is becoming very popular in the WordPress community. WP-CLI is a command line tool for managing many-many aspects of a WordPress installation. It can add/remove users, posts, categories, insert test data, search and replace in the database, and much more. For a lot of developers, WP-CLI is a dream come true! And Kinsta’s architecture supports WP-CLI out of the box.
And you can’t forget security! Typically in shared hosting environments, they don’t provide any assistance if you’re hacked or if you encounter malware. This goes for the DIY VPS route as well. If your WordPress site is hacked, you’re responsible. A lot of managed WordPress hosting providers include support if your site is hacked and they have systems in place to protect you from malware.
We take WordPress security very seriously here at Kinsta and have implemented active and passive measures to stop attacks and malicious intent in its tracks. We even offer free hack repair and malware removal. If your site is infected our support team is most likely already cleaning it up. We also have software in place to detect DDoS attacks as they happen. Hardware firewalls are in place and have very tight software-based restrictions to protect your WordPress site.
The provider your web host uses is also important. We use Google Cloud Platform which means you get the benefit of a security model that has been built upon over the course of 15 years, and currently secures products and services like Gmail, Search, etc. Google currently employs more than 500 full-time security professionals.
Kinsta also uses Linux containers (LXC), and LXD to orchestrate them, on top of Google Cloud Platform which enables us to completely isolate not just each account, but each separate WordPress site. Each site container runs on virtual machines secured behind the GCP firewall. This is a much more secure method than offered by other competitors. On top of that, we employ encryption at rest to store customer data.
Beyond the server-level security, your account is also very important. You should ensure that no matter which hosting route you go that they offer two-factor authentication. If someone gets access to your account they could change your passwords, delete your websites, change DNS records, and all sorts of horrible things. We here at Kinsta partnered up with Authy and have two-factor authentication available from within your MyKinsta dashboard.
If you pick a web hosting provider that offers the above features, not only will it save you time, but it will also give you peace of mind knowing that if anything ever happens that the host has your back! It’s important to invest in secure WordPress hosting.
Another important aspect for any host is scalability. When it comes to shared hosting your only option when you outgrow your resources is to upgrade to a higher plan. And this is if they haven’t already suspended you. Eventually, with a shared host you are going to reach a point where they will simply force you to migrate to a dedicated server. This can simply be time-consuming in itself as you’re constantly having to worry about watching your limits. And moving to a better server might require time on your part.
With the DIY VPS route it’s a lot easier to scale, but sometimes this requires a little more server knowledge to expand disks, etc. With managed WordPress hosting providers they usually handle all of this for you. If you’re going over their pre-defined limits they will simply notify you, and if required, an upgrade is just a click away.
A very cool and unique feature we have at Kinsta is the ability to automatically scale your site due to the fact that we use Google Compute Engine servers. For example, other WordPress hosting providers are typically constrained to 2-6 CPUs per machine. We actually can let the site’s container scale to as many CPUs as needed when there’s a traffic surge.
With our isolated software container technology, hardware resources are allocated to each site container automatically by our virtual machines on an as-needed basis. No resources are shared between sites. The result is a hosting configuration that is secure and private by design while simultaneously allowing server resources to scale up or down as needed based on the demands of the site.
— ΛDΛM (@rockymtnadam) January 29, 2019
And last, but definitely not least, is that you should be using a premium DNS provider. You won’t get that with shared hosting providers or the DIY VPS method. You would have to sign up separately for the service. There actually aren’t a lot of managed hosting providers that even offer this, but Kinsta does! We include premium DNS on all plans via Amazon Route 53.
What is DNS? Well, think of it like a phonebook for the internet. Whenever you type an address into your browser this actually routes back to an IP address, even though you never see it. DNS servers do the mapping for you. Just like with web hosting, there are slow DNS providers and fast ones. Amazon has one of the largest networks in the world. By going with a fast DNS provider you will ensure faster DNS lookup times.
Typically the free DNS provided by domain registrars like GoDaddy and Namecheap is very slow. It also might not be consistent and lookup times can vary. Google domains is probably one exception to this rule simply because they have such a large infrastructure. The best DNS providers out there are companies like Amazon, Cloudflare, Dyn, and DNS Made Easy which all have very large infrastructures specifically designed for DNS.
Another reason a reliable DNS provider is important is to protect you from DDoS attacks. And you should know by now from the DNS Doomsday on Friday, October 21st, 2016, just how important DNS really is. This is a good example actually of why you need multiple DNS providers. Many companies’ websites on that day went completely offline because they relied solely on Dyn, the DNS provider under attack. Companies like Reddit, Twitter, Spotify, all experienced downtime.
One common issue though is that DNS providers typically set high TTLs, which to put it simply means that if one of those companies had added a 2nd DNS provider on that day, it wouldn’t have mattered much because the TTL was set to expire in days not minutes. This can be resolved by simply setting up multiple DNS providers ahead of time in preparation.
The community must work together to come up with commercial or open source solutions to make DNS configurations compatible between vendors (this is for complex DNS setups like failover, geo load balancing, etc.). This is a no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have. – Catchpoint
So get set up with a premium DNS provider now, not later!
As you can see there are a lot of benefits from choosing managed WordPress hosting over shared hosting or a DIY VPS. Yes, managed hosting costs more money, but you should treat this as an investment in your business. How much is your time, peace of mind, and data integrity worth to you? If you have any questions regarding hosting for your business or blog we are only one click away here at Kinsta. Let us help take you to the next level.