Managed WP Hosting And Peace Of Mind. What’s the point?

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I decided to write this article as a go-to page for the answer to the question

  • what is managed WordPress hosting, how it’s different from a regular shared hosting,
  • why it costs more than other types of hosts,
  • whether it’s more powerful or better in any other way than shared hosting plans,
  • and to help you find out whether it’s good for you after all.

From time to time I discuss, suggest or recommend hosts to my readers via private emails. And in many cases we touch the topic of managed hosts. And I want this article to facilitate the information that I share in my emails. Let it be the “go-to” article on the topic of “is there any big deal in managed WP hosts at all”.

By the way, I do reply to all private emails, I do it ASAP and I do it for free, although hoping to earn an affiliate commission if people choose one of the hosts from my recommended list. And indeed, in many ways it turns out that people want to express their gratitude for my time as I help them making a hosting decision. And they want me to earn affiliate commission with their purchase.

I really want to thank you all who have rewarded me this way for my genuine efforts to make the hosting things clearer to you.

Alright. In my emails I try to be as short as possible. But almost every time I catch myself on writing long email responses since I want to explain a lot of things. I want this article to help me make some of my emails shorter after all 🙂

In this article I will try not to miss important subtle things so that you understand better whether managed hosting is worth spending money on in your particular case.

Many website owners do NOT need managed hosts which may appear to be overpriced. On the other hand, the same hosts may indeed provide value so that the additional costs for “managed” absolutely makes sense.

Okay, that’s enough for the sporadic intro. Let’s bring in some structure.


 

So why paying more for a managed WP host and how hosts smoother the higher prices?

 

Peace of mind (the first, foremost and the most misleading)

Peace of mind is both very important and the most misleading aspect of managed WP hosts. It’s the biggest selling point which can persuade you buying it. And if you choose the right host, then you get what is promised. So in this case peace of mind is not just an illusion that you pay extra for.

I’ll put it the simplified way by emphasizing probably the most sensitive aspect for users – the price. There are two types of legitimate managed WP hosts. It’s not an official classification as there are no official classifications whatsoever of this marketing buzz phrase “Managed WordPress Hosting”.

  1. Managed WP hosts which bring advantages for beginner users for a very attractive price (before renewal)
  2. Managed WP hosts which focus on a long-term high-quality relationship for a competitive price

There are also managed hosts which do not precisely fall into one of the categories above. There are several fields where the hosts can cut the corners and compete with each other by performance, scope of support and other factors I mention below in this article.

In general, managed WP hosts make it easier for users to handle their websites by providing more advanced tools (more handy backups, more enhanced security, better development tools etc). Also, better (and faster) support is the vital advantage of managed WP hosts compared to regular hosts. Altogether you feel like these hosting guys give you a better technical environment and a helping hand. As a result, it makes you feel more peace of mind.

In further section of my article I will expand on the mentioned aspects of managed WP hosts, as well as the differences between the two categories of the hosts that I’ve pointed out. Also, I will share my thoughts on the caveats where the hosts can cut their corners. And why peace of mind can be misleading.

 

Let’s talk a bit about support of managed WP hosts

Before all, support is a very expensive part of managed WP hosting. Unlike with regular hosting plans, with managed WP option users get more attentions and care. Consider how much the time of a support specialist costs (perhaps $15 per hour if it’s 1st tier, and $50 and more per hour on higher tiers). And many managed hosts do not have support tiers (i.e. all support staff are highly qualified and expensive).

Assume, you (or anyone else) hang out for 15 minutes with the support per month, and a big portion of your monthly hosting cost is “eaten” by this chat.

Besides, each WP managed hosting should arrange the support the way that not only user requests and handled in a timely manner, but also the issues are handled in an efficient way. It means that the support should not be in a waiting mode (hosting money is wasted), but at the same the support should not be overwhelmed by running lots of simultaneous support threads (lower quality of support).

Distributing the requests among the different support tiers is a part of hosting strategy. The 1st tier can annoy serious users by incompetence, whereas leaving one highly professional tier for all user requests can be comparatively more expensive if there are many beginner users abroad.

You may think that the same thing should apply to any regular hosting. Yes. But with managed WP host you get more expensive support and more support time. You can’t get equal support quality if you pay say $7/mo or $25/mo for your hosting.

Considering the above points, you can understand why a high-quality support (which is expected at managed WP hosts) is a vital part of hosting costs management. And now it’s time to recollect the two types of managed WP hosts (for beginners and for more professional users).

The beginner-oriented managed WP hosts should either:

  • invest more in support (and it means cutting the costs somewhere else), or
  • decrease the support quality (in many ways the beginner users may not even notice that), or
  • have a sneaky marketing plan (a commonly working approach is to attract new clients with small prices and setting the renewal prices very high).

By the way, I’ve touched mostly the pricing aspect right above. But in fact all the aspects are interconnected.

As a super short resume, a high-quality support adds up a huge part of peace of mind. That’s why managed WP hosts emphasize its extra helpful and efficient support as one of the core component of the service. But you need to pay for it one way or another.

 

Performance

I’d say, providing brilliant performance is technically not a very big problem. The more server resources are allocated with proper load balancers, caching within servers and of course proper server management, the better performance users get. In other words, the more a hosting costs the better performance. However, the problem is to balance the performance costs and all other aspects with each other, so that the total price does not scare off potential (and existing) clients.

And again, I’m pointing you to the two types of the managed WP hosts (i.e. for beginners, and for long-time users).
Beginner-oriented hosts often attract clients by insanely low prices for the first billing period, and increase prices significantly after the renewal, so that the final prices go overboard in many ways. Otherwise, there is not enough budget to cover the hosting costs for those who just started using managed host for a insanely discounted price.

Hosts for long-time users do not have such flaw. But the core dilemma stays the same – how to distribute costs. In particular, hosting costs on performance are bounded by the strategy of distributing hosting costs among all hosting departments (performance, support, development, marketing etc). Every host solves this dilemma in their own way.

Anyway, as a rule, the performance of managed WP hosts is significantly better compared to shared hosts.

 

Tools and features at managed WP hosting

Compared to regular shared hosts, managed WP hosting usually offer customized tools for more and easier control on website and hosting features. Most common tools include:

  • Advanced security options including cleaning up your website in case of malware contamination (more on that in the next section),
  • More backup options (not just regular daily backups), including on-demand backups and convenient restore options,
  • White label and other options (e.g. billing, multi-website management of your clients etc) that enhance agencies managing their clients websites,
  • CDN and advanced (expensive) or custom cashing solutions at your disposal,
  • Integrated monitoring tools that give you more control of how exactly your sites perform and profiling performance bottlenecks to improve performance,
  • Easier scalability (i.e. less issues when you suddenly or by schedule need more traffic),
  • Convenient staging area (no need to create a clone site in order to develop or test the changes on your site),
  • Advanced DNS options (more reliable way to serve your website visitors),
  • Development integration options (version control systems, handy tools for managing IP, SSH, WP-CLI).

These options are the examples of what can be included in a managed WP host. Not all of them are in high demand by beginner users (e.g. agency stuff or development things). So, sometimes it may seem like you overpay for something you don’t use.

At the same time all things included make it a huge bargain for the managed WP hosting package even if you use just few of these features. Sometimes using a regular host and buying a particular third party tool or software may be even more expensive (and more cumbersome) than going with the managed WP host at the first place.

Although developing handy tools and maintaining them costs quite a bit for a hosting company, it pays off well. Even those customers who don’t use the tools, still find it more reliable to go with a host which is well-equipped from a technical point of view. This is another argument about what makes people feel that managed WordPress hosts bring greater peace of mind (you remember, it’s probably the first selling point for Managed WP hosts).

 

Security

Before all, in my opinion, many people think too much about extra security. Moreover, they don’t really know what exactly they want. I understand that their striving for as much security as possible may have a reasonable point. But in most cases “I want more security” is just a subconscious response to threatening marketing.

In other words, well-established hosts provide necessary security by default. And in many ways it’s actually all you need as regard server security. Although, for more important sites (e.g. e-commerce, websites processing sensitive data etc) additional server security may be justified. But again, well-established and reputable hosts which offer e-commerce plans do provide the necessary level of server security.

Another story is a service that guarantees free unlimited cleanups in case of contamination. However, it’s not really security thing, it’s rather a post-hack service. Hacks can happen to a website regardless of how well server is secured, since the weakest access point is your website. Hosting simply can’t handle your website security in many ways. Anyway, perhaps this is the option that can give you the greatest peace of mind in regards of extra security.

There are third parties which provide the unlimited cleanup service (e.g. Sucuri Antivirus). It’s comparatively expensive service (starting from $200 per year for one site). So if you consider having this option, then managed WP hosts which offer a free cleanup is a worthy option just from this perspective alone.

At the same time, the weakest link of security is the WordPress users themselves. WordPress itself is a secure thing. Users’ actions (e.g. installing not safe plugins or using easy-to-guess passwords) make it insecure in most cases.

After all of this have been said, more security provided by hosting makes people feel they are under a safer wing. Is extra security is really that important for a regular user? Well, it depends. But it definitely adds a lot to the peace of mind in a general case.

 

It’s time to talk about price (again)

First and foremost, if you want to go long-run with a managed WP hosting, I recommend choosing the host which does NOT have discount for the first billing period (it can be a year or more). I have a few hosts selected that I can recommend (see this article). Such hosts have a more fair pricing strategy that will not rip you off as you stay with them for a long time

And otherwise, if you just start out, you may not be ready to invest into expensive options from the start. You also may not be sure whether you need a managed WordPress host, or a regular host could be enough for you. In this case you have an option to go with a higher than regular host’s quality host for a very attractive price during the first billing term (it can be a year or more). After that initial period you can decide what you want – to go long-term with a managed WP hosing, or to go with a more regular host which focuses on high performance and sufficiently great support.

That‘s why for beginner users who is on tight budget I suggest going with a hosting like A2 Hosting (my affiliate link). For the first billing term you pay a very affordable price like a regular host, but you get more value that a regular host can provide.

If you decide to go with a “very attractive initial price hosting”, then after the first billing period the much high renewal price may appear to be too big for you. And at that time, with enough experience gained, you can choose whether you really need the advantages of managed WP hosting, or you just need several aspects of the WP managed host (like better performance, support, security etc). And according to your budget you can now choose more wisely. If you are in such position, then I suggest reading this article in which I recommend particular hosts depending on your price preferences.

 

Conclusion

Managed WP hosting does NOT obligatory encapsulate a particular set of features, tools and characteristics. But managed WP hosts focus on providing more value than regular hosts, making users’ life easier and more equipped with expensive tools and features.

There are hosts which totally focus on providing managed WP services. Also, there are regular hosts which offer managed WP plans. Should you go with one or the other depends on specific aspects which particular hosts have.

Anyway, the main idea of managed WP hosting is to provide you with as much as you need (support and other services, tools and options) for a reasonably high price. As a result, this comes to the point that you feel more peace of mind and you have less hassle managing your website with a managed WP hosting rather than if you with a cheaper regular host.

P.S.: I’d like to give two links to my other pages I’ve already mention above. The first one contains some more details about managed WordPress hosting (and featuring my recommended selected hosts). And the second one is the recommendations on your next hosting if you want to quit managed WP hosting plan which has become too expensive after renewal (several recommended alternative hosts are featured).

You can download a PDF version of this article (473 KB):


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Comments

  1. My distant friend,

    In a humourous way I think that I have created some extra work for you…. (Ha Ha Ha)!!! Oh dear!
    Thanks for the extended explanation… but this time I am still unsure of your description of “Hosts”.

    My “logic” is that…
    a Host (generic) provides a client with a plan (that includes access to software & programs at a cost) to build and maintain a website… within tiered cost relative arrangements.

    Some Hosts can provide the client with access to a dedicated server that may be “shared” by other clients…. as in my case where my Host provides myself and his other clients protection from past overloadings. So in this example my Host shares his server with me… through my interaction with WP and Cpanel activities.

    But I am not sure what you mean by “shared plans”?

    I do understand your description of the “additional dimensions of hosting classifications”.

    In retrospect we might be talking about the same thing (!?) and I may not have comprehended your perspective… if so forgive me.
    In this case think of me as a student (in your class) that has put up his hand because he has missed a point… or two!!!

    I look forward with enthusiasm as to your response.
    kind regards
    Bruce
    Melbourne

    • No worries, Bruce! 🙂

      Your questions make a lot of sense.
      I’ll try to cover them in the comments and then I will use them to write a new article then.

      Shared server – it is the server that is shared among a comparatively big number of users (i.e. “shared” regards sharing among multiple users, not between you and the hosting). To put it very simplified, for instance, a hosting provider takes a server and puts a big number of clients. Depending on the ethics of the host, its strategy and its server management policy, some hosts put a lot of users on the same server (oversell the server), some hosts put less users on a server. In general, the less users are on the server, the better performance all users on this server experience (and the more expensive the hosting plans for the users are). By the way, the hosting plans in this case are called shared hosting plans.

      The shared plans can differ by how much server resources are allocated for each user (e.g. disk space, guaranteed RAM etc), as well as how many users a hosting provider puts on the same server. Also, they ca differ by a scope of support, features and tools available, but let’s ignore it for a while.

      So, a hosting provider may offer different shared plans (also known as “shared hosting plans”). If a hosting offers only shared plans we call it shared hosting.

      By the way, sometimes people say “shared hosting plans” and “shared hosting” interchangeably for simplicity. So please don’t be confused here. I also used this term (“shared hosting”) in my article, and I meant actually “shared plans”.

      A hosting may offer both shared plans and other types of plans (e.g. VPS, dedicated servers etc). There is no precisely determined classification of hosting plans (or even hosting types). Each host may invent its own terminology for marketing purposes. That’s why there are many names of different plans that you can find at different hosting providers.

      Although there’s sort of “agreement” on what plans to call which way. For example, historically there are following hosting types (or the types of hosting plans): shared hosting (or shared plans), VPS (managed/unmanaged), dedicated server, cloud hosting and managed WP. Also there is a whole spectrum of the hosting plans (and types) between them and overlapping each other (it’s done so for marketing purposes mostly).

      Anyway, here’s a short and very simplified classification of the hosting types:

      Shared plans are considered to be the least powerful (from server resources point of view allocated for each user) and the cheapest. VPS as a rule is considered to be more powerful from a server resources point of view (and about more technical control). Dedicated server is even more powerful (and even more control, sort of the complete control that you can ever get remotely, there are no other users execpt you on this metal-bare server). Cloud is different from the previous types because it’s easily scalable and adjustable for different load (although “cloud” is a buzz word to a great extent and in some cases it’s more about a marketing and less about technology). Managed WP is about more additional features, services and performance added to a regular shared hosting.

      But again, this classification is just a sort of commonly acceptable agreement and it’s only an attempt to provide some initial guides for a client what to expect. In real life and because of the marketing realms it can be confusing and misleading (especially as regards shared/cloud/managed WP types of hosting). For example some shared plans of one hosting can be more powerful that VPS provided by another hosting. Also, sometimes it just does not make sense to use this kind of classification because you need, say, particular performance and set of features tools and scope of services; and never mind how this sort of plan is called by a hosting.

      Hope it was not too confusing 🙂

      • OK Mike,
        Now I have a better understanding…
        To be honest you actually said what was going through my mind and your explanation merely reinforced what my own understanding was – thank you.

        You a kind hearted patient man of worth.
        thank you.
        sincerely yours
        Bruce

  2. Hey Mike,
    I trust your well…
    I am seriously considering hosting my own sites and hosting as a business for others…
    so your article was very timely and worth downloading.

    What do you mean by the term “shared hosts”?
    are you referring to servers?
    Plans?

    as always
    I appreciate your timely articles.

    Bruce
    Australia

    • Hey Bruce,

      Thanks for the question. Indeed I did not specify the term “shared hosts” precisely.

      By shared hosts I mean hosting plans (and correspondingly servers). But the managed WP plans also can be shared to a certain extent as regards servers, the point is that with managed plans (or more powerful shared plans) each user gets more server resources.

      For simplicity, by shared hosts I mean entry-level hosting for mass user in the affordable pricing segment. At the same time, keep in mind that different shared hosts are not equal. And there are no strict and unambiguous borders between shared hosts, high-performance (aka semi-dedicated) hosts and even managed WP hosts. However, usually you can more or less easily determine to which category (shared, semi-dedicated, managed/unmanaged VPS, dedicated server, managed WP, cloud solutions which is an additional dimension of hosting classification) the hosting plan refers to.

      P.S.: I think I will write an article about hosting types classifications 🙂 It looks like self-explanatory topic in many ways, but the nuances can be interesting.

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