If your site runs on WordPress, you might be asking why you should get managed WordPress hosting as opposed to ordinary shared hosting.
Since I started using WordPress in 2008, I have used many different hosting companies. Sometimes they were my hosting accounts, and sometimes they were the hosting accounts of long-term clients. I’ll list some of the ones I’ve used.
- Blue Host
- Media Temple
- A Small Orange
Are Hosting Reviews Potentially Misleading?
The problem with hosting reviews – including mine – is that there is no hosting company that has a 100% perfect record. So if I advise you to get hosting with company X, you will always find someone else who can tell you how terrible they were.
For example, you will hear many good reports about LiquidWeb. However our experience with them hit rock bottom when their support spent weeks during a long series of support tickets not helping us to solve a problem we believed LiquidWeb themselves had created.
It was a very draining and negative experience. So we left LiquidWeb.
Despite the fact that many other people have nothing but praise for them, but because of what happened to us, we’ll never go back. Because our negative experience with them was ours, not some second-hand experience from an unhappy blogger.
Given the number of good reviews that Liquidweb get, I’d expect you to ignore my negative experience with them. Which is what I am not even going to tell you the details of what happened.
Hosting is an expensive, difficult and extremely technical business. I’d put it right up there with rocket science. All hosts are capable of mistakes and massive screw-ups.
That said, I am advocating that you use the same host I am now using, the one where this site is hosted. I’ll try and explain why.
Hosting Horror Stories
Just because this or that blogger had a poor experience, doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a poor experience. Look past the stories and judge the likelihood of the same thing – or some nasty variation of it – happening to you.
Factor in that many happy customers are not writing long blog posts about their positive experiences.
Hosting Companies Change
Bear in mind that a hosting can start well, in a flurry of newness and enthusiasm. In the early days they may go the extra mile for customers and this in turn generates a buzz winning them new customers quickly. But later, things fall apart under the pressure of quick success. So they end up losing customers.
It can work the other way around too. A host may go through a period of growing pains, then come out the other side all the better for it.
Equally, a successful host can be bought out by a ruthless, asset stripping organisation who eventually sacrifice customer service and quality for massive profit. This has happened. So they end up losing customers.
Or, customers may be put off before even trying a particular host due to blog posted opinions espoused by clever guys and gals. You know who I mean – the clever ones who can ruggerdize a bare-bones Apache server at the same time as hacking code for Anonymous.
They advise never to touch a managed WordPress service because THEY don’t need a managed WordPress service. The general gist being that if you need a managed host, and if you’re prepared to pay for one, you must be a fool.
In case it isn’t obvious, for various reasons, 99.9% of WordPress site owners need to ignore that kind of advice.
Sometimes It’s Not Them, It’s You
You might be unhappy with your current host. This is normal and will happen sooner or later wherever you host. The question is will your current host resolve any issues, or just infuriate you with poor customer service.
Often you’ll find that customer service is excellent when your issues are trivial. It’s only tested when something big and negative happens. Then the happy and shiny, “have a nice day” punctuated chat boxes were great. Really your day had just turned nice when they half convinced you of their sincerity given all you needed to know was how to do a 301 redirect.
The same customer service is terse and suddenly very Teflon-shouldered, when your site’s response time is in the toilet and no-one can be bothered to figure out why.
Or you yourself may find out that external factors, like the hosting company’s ex-CEO and current board member is a sexist, elephant-shooting, gun-toting right-winger which may make you want in, or out, of the hosting service, depending on your point of view.
Or you might simply find your site has become too popular for the ordinary, low-cost, shared host that got you started. It’s time to move on.
The truth is you might be put off, be unhappy or be ready to change for any number of reasons and in because of this we are all moving hosting all the time.
But one things remains constant. For a non-technical person hosting can turn into a bit of a nightmare if you do not have access to knowledgeable help.
This Is My Take On Hosting
My husband is one of those people who can run bare bones servers. For years he has run our servers and locked them down hard to deter hackers. He has also made code edits to other people’s WordPress plugins if he considered them a considered security risk. The way he runs hosting takes a lot of technical skill. OK if you have it.
Whenever I have a hosting issue I ask him to sort it out. I therefore have sites on low-cost shared hosts, and un-managed VPS – and he regularly handles any technical issues I have on any of those platforms. I just have to ask.
But our business has changed and my husband no longer has the time to deal with this for me. It’s a waste of money. Time is limited and he would rather use it to relax or earn a lot more doing something much more useful than impressing me with his server management skills.
In order to free him of this technical part-time job, I went looking for somewhere to offload all my sites. I wanted a reliable, fast, secure host that maybe started off as shared but could scale when necessary.
So Where Have I Been Hosting
For small sites and those that are just experimental, I advise using SiteGround. SiteGround are pretty secure, but they cannot prevent denial of service attacks or brute force attacks, nor apparently explain any random hacks when they happen. And of course they cannot prevent you from being hacked.
If you are unable to fix the hack yourself they are not going to help you. They might pass you onto a third party security company but you’ll have to pay them extra for help. If you suffer a denial of service attack, they definitely won’t help you.
We ended up moving all our sites away from SiteGround because we suffered a series of hacks that we could not explain. They appeared to have been compromised from within the SiteGround network, but we could not prove it and when we asked them, they naturally said it was nothing to do with them.
My frustration was that when things got seriously difficult they did not help. That is not to say they were not furiously trying to resolve the issue behind the scenes.
That doesn’t mean you should not use them. It may not happen to you. And if we were correct in our belief that it was a Siteground issue, they are bound to have fixed it by now.
No matter where you host, something will happen. It is how it is dealt with that will decide if you stay.
Where Am I Hosting Now
I moved all my sites to WP Engine. So far, the experience has been very good.
If you’re a geek you probably love the sight of a naked, full-frontal cPanel interface. Personally, I can’t stand it and the fact that WP Engine gives me a much cleaner, less cluttered interface suits me just fine.
If I need to change say, my .htaccess file, I can start a chat and the WP Engine engineers will do it for me.
Now don’t get me wrong. You can’t be completely clueless to work with WP Engine. Their support engineers are just people like you and me and sometimes they will answer a question in such a way as to not give you the whole picture.
You have to know enough to know when you haven’t got the answer you need. You may have to dig a little and do a bit of research before you ask them something. Especially if it’s a complex question.
That said, the advantages of WP Engine are many. The only disadvantage I can think of is the extra charge you’d have to pay should your traffic spike or start to exceed your plan. There are steps you can take to minimize this however, or of course upgrade.
Here are the advantages I see by hosting at WP Engine.
- Spend no time whatsoever worrying about hackers
- Free un-hacking in the event is it needed
- 24/7 support via chat
- 24/7 support via phone
- Help desk ticket support
- Fast hosting which means you will have a fast site and if it can be made faster, by doing something at your end, WP Engine have page performance monitoring system to help you identify any issues you can address.
- No requirement to install caching plugins. All caching is automatic and at the server.
- Secure – minor versions of WordPress auto applied
- Real time security threat detection including DDoS and brute force, these are no longer your problem.
- Instant backups
- Staging site – so you can easily test a plugin or a new setting without hurting or affecting your live site.
- WordPress only hosting – so they care about little else.
If you pay for a year of hosting up front, WP Engine give you two months off the yearly price. They have also given me a discount coupon for a further 20% discount off your first payment.
This means that if you pay for a year of hosting up front you get two months off. But using my coupon will give you a further two months off, making a total of 4 months off the yearly price in the first year.