An Experienced Developer Weighs in on the Best WordPress Managed Hosting
As of today, I’ve been designing and developing websites for 22 years.
I have worked with countless hosts. There was a time when basically all hosting was a wretched, dreaded part of the process of being a webmaster, as nobody ever actually said. Then MediaTemple came along and made things just better enough that it seemed the Internet might not dissolve into an endless tunnel of 404 pages and 502 errors. Then MediaTemple decided they were going to suck, too.
A decade and a half or so later, we’ve got a plethora of options. For most of us, our self-hosted websites will be backed by WordPress. You’ll probably get your domain name from a company like GoDaddy, which is fine, but for the love of HTML, don’t use their hosting. I’ve made enough money to pay my truck off helping people get un-hacked after GoDaddy screwed the cat photo on that one.
You’ll want to grab a decent plan from a reputable company. Today I’m going to look at the best — spoiler alert, it’s SiteGround (and that”s an affiliate link, because I use them myself for over 50 websites) — and some of the alternatives.
Why is SiteGround the Best?
Okay so WP Engine is a fine host as well. They charge $20 / month to host a single website.
SiteGround charges $15 / month for a single site, or $25 for unlimited sites.
What Does SiteGround Offer, for Less, that WP Engine Does Not?
Most importantly, SiteGround’s SG Optimizer plugin. This is a straightforward-to-configure plugin that just works. Here’s what it gives you, that companies like WP Engine and Flywheel don’t have an answer for.
- Perfect caching. While WP Engine’s caching is great, for whatever reason the company they acquired in 2019, Flywheel, has dangerously atrocious caching. Well, dangerous if your life depends on your website. They don’t even clear the cache when you publish a new post, so any time sensitive posting isn’t going to work.
- Media optimization. Lazy loading, Webp images, automatic image compression…none of that is included in the other host’s plans mentioned here. It’s free at SiteGround. Plugins that handle this for you run from free for Imagify (up to 20MB / month, $10 / month for unlimited) to $40 / month for Optimole. Again, SiteGround’s offering is free for essentially unlimited image optimization.
- JS & CSS minification and optimization. You’ll need a separate plugin for this, or you’ll have to code it yourself. Not super difficult if you’re a developer, but a pain nonetheless. There are likely free plugins that do this, but knowing that my host is able to be contacted should an issue arise, rather than relying on a developer or paying an extra $59 / month per site for something like WP Rocket, just makes sense to me.
- Support. Two guys walk into a bar, the third one ducks. That’s a joke I made up in the ’90s. It’s not funny, I know, but it is synonymous with FlyWheel’s support. That is, it’s a joke, and it’s not even funny. WP Engine has better support but it’s pretty hit or miss and they really try hard to get you to not chat with someone (I don’t believe you can even call someone if you wanted to) with their chat bot that is most definitely not “AI.” SiteGround makes you hunt for the chat option, which is lame, but their support techs are always super knowledgable and exceptionally friendly.
- Unlimited websites. At the $25 / month plan, SiteGround doesn’t limit how many websites you can host. You are limited by server space (“Inodes”) and computer processing time, but I have 50 sites spread over three plans and it’s rarely an issue for me. Those same 50 sites would cost me around $2500 / year with WP Engine (and I paid that for a couple of years when I was a dumb sucker too who believed only one of these fancy big “Managed WP” hosts could get me the performance I wanted.) Flywheel lists 30 sites at $2900 / year. If you sign up for 2 years at a time with SiteGround, for their highest WordPress plan, you get all this better service for $384 / year (because it’s 20% off). Even if you do need 3 accounts, like I do, to accommodate 50 sites, that’s still only $1152. Half the price and ten times as nice!
But WP Engine and Flywheel Have Nicer Interfaces!
False. Maybe this was true a few years ago, but SG has upped their game. And I can set up my own CRON jobs, and create websites that aren’t just WordPress sites too. You can’t even access wp-config.php with Flywheel.
But I Need to Charge My Clients Way More Money!
Good for you, but I think my clients appreciate paying less. I charge $500 / year to host and maintain my clients sites, and that’s kind of a steal for them, but many are small businesses and I don’t want to be a nasty www.slum.landlord. It’s good to make money, but do you want to give it all to WP Engine for less than you’re getting from SiteGround?
But is Flywheel Actually a SCAM?
I don’t know if scam is perfectly accurate, but when I used them, my initial yearly bill was $2250. Then, despite having written confirmation from them that it would stay the same, it was bumped up to $2750 the next year. And did I mention no access to wp-config.php?
I think that about wraps it up for today.