You can find Managed WordPress described as anything from a basic hosting service with WordPress installed to a “champagne” service where all of your hosting, security and maintenance needs are catered for. The result is that the term itself can seem meaningless because just about any hosting platform that offers the capacity to install WordPress can define itself as “Managed”.
For us, at Unbranded Space, we lean towards the “champagne service” end of the scale. Our Managed WordPress Service aims to offer quality hosting, service and maintenance for all of our clients. However, even the service we provide isn’t necessarily for everyone. As we look at some typical WordPress hosting & service setups below we will identify who might benefit the most from each one.
What Every WordPress Website Should Have.
To maintain a healthy, secure and fast WordPress website there are some fundamental requirements that you can’t afford to ignore. Every WordPress website should take into consideration the following:
We will explain a little about what each of these means and how each of them should be implemented as we go. In doing so we can measure how “Managed” each Managed WordPress setup actually is. We’ll look at some typical situations and rate them accordingly.
WordPress + Hosting does not equal Managed
Just about any basic hosting service will allow you to install WordPress with the click of a button. However, this falls very short of ever being described as a Managed service. Beyond providing the ability to install WordPress there are no additional features that relate to running and maintaining a WordPress website. We would call this an Unmanaged WordPress Hosting service.
With an Unmanaged WordPress service, the hosting server is unlikely to be optimised for WordPress, it is just provided “as is”. Some hosting services will give you access to tools that will allow you to configure the server for optimal performance. The learning curve can be steep but with considerable research, it may still be possible to achieve good performance for a WordPress site. Presuming you have this ability to change settings and even with all settings fully optimised you may still be limited by the servers hardware resources.
Often Unmanaged WordPress hosting is cheap, and this usually translates to low-grade server hardware resource allocation. The website will likely be hosted on a shared server with very limited storage, bandwidth, CPU and/or memory allocation. Shared hosting in itself is not necessarily bad, however, there are degrees of sharing where cheaper setups usually mean you are sharing your website with lots of other websites on a server with low resources. More expensive shared hosting setups, with a lower number of websites on the server and higher hardware resources, are usually more than adequate for any small to medium-sized businesses or eCommerce Store.
Why You Might Choose Cheap Unmanaged WordPress Hosting
Due to the low cost of basic hosting, it is often a good option if you are keen to learn about WordPress and want somewhere to host a website for experimentation. A web developer may also choose to opt for Unmanaged WordPress Hosting. Able to make informed decisions about the hosting environment they can choose a service that provides them with the right tools for configuring the server for WordPress. Even so, they would probably still only choose this kind of service for their clients who are on a tight budget because of the typically low hardware resources allocation.
When it comes to maintaining your WordPress website you will usually find that there is quite a bit that you will need to attend. Backups of the entire server should be included, but this is done at the server level with all websites on the server included in the backup. So if the server crashes, your website will be safe because the entire server will be restored at no expense to you. However, if your website is compromised in any way, then you may have to pay extra to access a backup of just your site. You will need to perform manual backups or find a WordPress plugin that will do this for you.
Most hosting services will provide access to free SSL certificates, which are essential for WordPress security, but you may have to install and maintain this yourself. The downside of WordPress being such a popular platform is that there are frequent security issues that may arise. Running a security plugin is essential, and again you will need to research to find the best choice.
Performing regular updates to WordPress and any plugins installed is also essential. This is easily done by clicking a few buttons in your WordPress dashboard, but it is something that you must remember to do on a regular basis. There is also the risk that updates to WordPress may cause plugin conflicts to occur, and this means long drawn out support requests with the plugin developers.
All of this research into plugins or performing maintenance tasks manually can take a big chunk out of any business owners day, week or month. Many of the plugins themselves may actually cost extra to purchase a license, so while the hosting is cheap, the cost of plugins can add up. This is especially true while you are trying out different plugins, you may purchase several before you find the one that works best for you. The hosting service provider will not help you, as although they may provide access to WordPress, their Service Level Agreement will not include support for it.
Unmanaged WordPress Hosting Summary
Who Benefits From Unmanaged WordPress Hosting
Not Recommended For:
Managed WordPress Hosting Will Boost Your Website.
Managed WordPress Hosting refers to the fact that the hosting service is optimised for WordPress. Unfortunately what is considered “Managed” can vary wildly from one hosting provider to the next. Some providers claiming to provide Managed Hosting would border on what we would consider to Unmanaged. With WordPress powering nearly 30% of websites the market for WordPress hosting is highly competitive. The term “Managed WordPress Hosting” sometimes gets used for its competitive keyword advantage, rather than as a true reflection of the service provided. So it’s recommended that you do your research and never hesitate to ask the hosting provider questions before making a final decision.
So what should you expect from a Managed Hosting Service?
A managed Hosting service should be optimised for speed and security and you should look for the following:
- A selection of hosting plans that vary according to server hardware resource allocation. Higher Plans will be more expensive but will have better resources. This provides some flexibility in terms of budget and size of your website. You don’t necessarily have to buy the most expensive but rather choose according to the anticipated size of your website and your audience.
- Free SSL Certificate either preinstalled or able to be easily installed with one click.
- Recommended Plugins for Security, Speed Optimisation & Backups. These may come preinstalled, which is fine as long as you have the option to disable them. You want this just in case they conflict with another plugin that you may decide to install.
- The options for automated core WordPress updates. This should be optional because you may prefer to check for plugin conflicts before updating.
- Automated plugin updates would be rare to find, but this is good because a plugin update can cause an issue on your website and if this is automatic the issue may go undetected for some time.
Managed WordPress hosting is a good choice for the DIY WordPress owner or website developer looking for a hosting service optimised for WordPress. The hosting service will take some of the pain out of maintaining the website, while still providing a fair amount of server level control. For the developer, you may not have full access to server configuration options, so must trust that the host service provider is running a WordPress optimised configuration.
For the business owner with little knowledge or time to dedicate to learning about the maintenance side of WordPress, it is still difficult to recommend a Managed WordPress Hosting service, unless they have someone on staff with the experience to perform management and maintenance. Proper Managed WordPress Hosting is a better quality product than Unmanaged, and some of the essential requirements have been taken care of. However, you will still most likely have to perform the manual maintenance task of updating plugins and may find yourself “out in the cold” when there is a conflict between plugins or a WordPress update causes a plugin to be obsolete. Managed WordPress Hosting providers service agreements do not extend to fixing problems with your website, so you will need to liaise directly with plugin developers to try and troubleshoot your issues. Some plugin developers are very helpful, but others may not be very responsive to requests for assistance – or may not even respond at all.
Managed WordPress Hosting Summary
Who Benefits From Managed WordPress Hosting
Not Recommended For:
A Managed WordPress Service - the "Champagne" Solution
A Managed WordPress service is basically a managed WordPress Hosting service with the ongoing benefit of a maintenance contract that provides you with access to a WordPress specialist.
WordPress is an amazing and incredibly popular piece of software. However, the greatest disadvantage is that it must be maintained. This means you either maintain it yourself or employ someone else to do it.
Self-maintenance is achievable but requires a considerable time investment. Not only must you learn about how WordPress works, you must also learn how to troubleshoot the problems that can sometimes occur with the compatibility issues of updates to plugins and WordPress.
Most business owners do not have the time to perform their own website maintenance. Just as they would pay a professional to design and build their WordPress website, they should also consider using a professional to perform the ongoing maintenance.
This is the bit where we bring it back to us – Unbranded Space – and the Managed WordPress Service we offer. Our Managed WordPress Plans combine hosting with an ongoing monthly management & maintenance contract. We source hosting for our clients and configure the server for optimal WordPress Hosting. We also source plugins that provide all of the fundamentals that any WordPress website should have ie. Backups, Security, Speed Optimisation and Regular updates to WordPress and Plugins.
It is in performing the WordPress and plugin updates that great value can be found. We have a suite of plugins that we recommend and that allows us to test updates prior to pushing the updates to our client’s websites. It translates to the best of both worlds for our clients because not only can they rest easy knowing their website is up-to-date, they also know that if there is an issue then they have someone at hand to fix it. In fact, in most cases, we detect and fix an issue before our clients are even aware that there was one.
At the start, we did say that a Managed WordPress Service isn’t necessarily for everyone. Our service is for people who want to focus on their business and aren’t interested in the mechanics of how the website works. Because we maintain the server for our clients, server level access is not provided. Everything a client needs to maintain their website is accessible through their WordPress dashboard including email & their domain names. If a client wants a plugin installed then they request this through us. We do this because often the features that are being requested are already provided through an existing plugin. It is also very difficult to limit plugin conflicts if we have hundreds of different plugins running.
The apparent lack of server-level control may be off-putting for some, but we have yet to find a client who has expressed any concern. We think of our relationship with our clients as a partnership. In most cases, we have been involved in the building of the website and know our clients business. This allows us to not only perform ongoing maintenance but also recommend new plugins and features as they are introduced. We don’t take over our clients business, we just provide the ongoing support so that the client can focus on what they do best – running and maintaining a business rather than a website.
Managed WordPress Service Summary
Who Benefits From a Managed WordPress Service
Not Recommended For:
Choosing the Right WordPress Solution
The choice comes down to why you want the website, and then becomes quite simple.
If you are a web developer or looking for some cheap hosting to dabble in WordPress, then Unmanaged or Managed Hosting are viable options. You should have access to server level configuration options as well as the freedom to experiment with plugins.
For a business that employs their own IT department it is feasible to opt for Managed Hosting and maintain the website in-house, provided the IT department has WordPress specialist knowledge. However few IT departments will also have the design and marketing skills & knowledge that a WordPress consultant can bring to the table. So partnering with a Managed WordPress Service provider can still make a lot of sense.
For any other business a complete Managed WordPress Service should really be the only option to consider. The time saved and peace-of-mind that a complete managed solution offers should far outweigh the slightly higher price tag. A good service provider, such as Unbranded Space, will not only perform regular maintenance tasks but can act as your WordPress consultant, advising you of new plugins or WordPress developments that can generate new opportunities for your business.