There are a lot of companies out there offering managed WordPress hosting now, but the question is, who’s the right company for your needs?
I’ve been working with WPEngine, Flywheel, GoDaddy, and Kinsta managed WP hosting for a few years now, so here’s my analysis of the companies and why they would or wouldn’t be a good choice for you. All of these companies have multiple levels of plans, so I’ve selected the plans most useful for a typical small business website.
First Disclaimer: The below opinions are our own, you should always consider multiple sources when choosing a provider.
Second Disclaimer: All hosting companies offer a referral program, if you found the information here valuable, please consider clicking on my links – referral programs help pay for the time it takes to write up these in depth articles.
Summary of Managed WordPress Hosts
Let’s get right to it, the following is a summary table comparison of the different hosting companies. I’ve put together not just the information that these companies list publicly, but also the information they don’t tell you – such as real wait times, and how many sites are actually on your server.
*Note there are many other cheap hosting companies jumping onto the managed WP bandwagon — we’ve written about GoDaddy here because we’ve used them the most.
*We also recently had the misfortune of working with a site on HostGator’s managed hosting, and the experience was a nightmare. Their caching is so aggressive it took DAYS before changes even showed up on the website to normal visitors. I literally have nothing good to say about the experience.
|1 website||1 website||1 website||1 website|
|Ultimate – $19.99/month||Tiny – $15/month||Personal – $30/month||Starter – $30/month|
|Failed migrations||Free migrations||Free migrations||Free migration|
|1 click staging site||1 click staging site||1 click staging site||1 click staging site|
|No local environment||Local desktop environment integration||Git integration||No local environment|
|Scheduled + 1 click anytime backup||Scheduled + 1 click anytime backup||Scheduled + 1 click anytime backup||Scheduled + 1 click anytime backup|
|Downloadable backups||Downloadable backups||Downloadable backups||Downloadable backups|
|Malware scans & removal||Malware scans & removal||Malware scans & removal||Malware scans & removal|
|“unlimited” visitors||5,000 monthly visits||25,000 monthly visits||20,000 monthly visits|
|“unlimited” storage||5GB storage||10GB storage||10GB storage|
|“unlimited” bandwidth||20GB bandwidth||50GB bandwidth||50GB CDN|
|Multiple server locations||Multiple server locations||Multiple server locations||Multiple server locations|
|NO PCI Compliance – NO eCommerce||PCI-DSS Compliant||PCI-DSS Compliant||PCI-DSS Compliant|
|Free SSL||Free SSL||Free SSL||Free SSL|
|N/A||Free CDN||Free CDN||Free 50GB CDN|
|Offers many other services||WP only||WP only||WP only|
|Add delegate access to GoDaddy account||Add extra users per site||Add extra users per account (with various permissions levels)||Add extra users per account (with various permissions levels)|
|Phone support (5 – 45 min wait times) Chat is sales only||Email & phone support (15 min/email on urgent, 10-20 min phone/chat)||Chat & phone support (10-45min wait – chat & phone)||24/7 Live chat support (0-10 min/chat)|
|5,000 – 75,000 sites per server||30 – 100 sites per server||30 – 100 sites per server||30 – 100 sites per server|
|strictly limit processing time||doesn’t limit processing time||loosely limit processing time & plugins||loosely limit processing time & plugins|
|99.9% uptime (down < 5/hours/year)||99.99% uptime (down < 1/hours/year)||99.99% uptime (down < 1/hours/year)||99.99% uptime (down < 1/hours/year)|
Plans & Companies
Each of these 3 hosting companies offers multiple levels of plans. All of the plans are for 1 website, and the prices don’t reflect any starter offers or yearly plan discounts.
GoDaddy has recently been doing a big push towards WordPress. More than half of their new sites are WP and they are making a lot of changes behind the scenes towards that end.
While their cPanel services have been known for years to be buggy and allow cross-site contamination (if someone else’s website on the same server as yours is hacked, your site can get contaminated), their managed WP service is mostly just buggy.
500 series errors are very common with the managed WP hosting, especially when you are trying to edit a page or post. Also, due to how many sites are loaded on an individual server, you’ll frequently experience site slowness. Additionally, do not use their importer, it’s very error-prone.
With GoDaddy’s managed plans, I’ve seen dashboard upgrades, some new feature rollouts, and they are actually doing some server maintenance.
Since this service is new and still being defined, a lot of the changes mean every couple months you have to completely relearn their dashboard and features.
Overall, GoDaddy you pay a little less, but you get a lot less service.
Flywheel has a very easy to use interface, and has rolled out a few enhancements to it, but nothing that would make you completely relearn it. They are putting a lot of investment into more customer service and improving the development experience.
They have branded themselves as a company for designers & developers, and they are really continuing that trend with agency friendly plans that come with dedicated IP addresses and adding new & useful features. They do listen to customers and add informational ebooks and features accordingly.
Over the last year, Flywheel has really beefed up their caching system which now yields much faster site load times. My sites on Flywheel I use Autoptimize to compress, but I don’t have to worry about any caching plugins because Flywheel takes care of all of that for me.
Flywheel also has a local development environment which makes life for us developers so much easier. And the local environment is completely free, regardless of if you use Flywheel for hosting.
WP Engine was the first to come out with managed WP hosting and they are riding on their laurels. Their dashboard has had almost no changes in the past year, they’ve increased their fees and significantly decreased their support.
If you are a Genesis fan, they do include Genesis free as well as the StudioPress themes. If you aren’t a Genesis fan, this makes no difference to you.
Kinsta used to be an enterprise-only hosting company but has become friendlier to smaller folks with their recent plan additions. In general, you’re going to pay more for resources here, but they built their brand on rock-solid enterprise hosting, so this is definitely a company that can scale with you.
I’ve done a number of migrations and GoDaddy is the only company I have problems with. I think in over a dozen attempted migrations I’ve had 2 go smoothly. The others after a couple of hours I had to manually finish the failed migration and then call customer support to have them remove the “failure” flag from the site so it could load. Removing the “failure” flag then takes another hour or so to happen. GoDaddy does get most of the site imported, but needing to call and get the failure flag removed adds extra time and frustration.
1 Click Staging & Local
All of these offer relatively easy to use staging sites. GoDaddy gives you some randomly generated sequence as your staging site, while the others give you a nickname that a human could actually remember. Some cPanel companies are even starting to offer staging sites, so expect solid improvements in this area across all decent companies.
Local by Flywheel
Flywheel has gone beyond just staging to actually having an application for your desktop. You can run a full website server on your local machine and work on your sites there. It’s very easy to use and allows you to test out a lot of features.
Go check out Local by Flywheel, the application is free to download even if you don’t have them as your hosting company.
WP Engine & Git
WP Engine includes git functionality. There’s a bit of setup required which is going to be daunting to anyone who isn’t a developer. However, their customer service is friendly and will help you – but if you aren’t a developer I don’t recommend attempting it.
They all offer 1-click backups anytime you’d like as well as nightly backups. And with another click, they will pack up your entire backup so you can download it.
They all offer 1-click restore of any backup you’d like.
Malware Scans & Removal
They all offer free malware scans and removal.
However, I’ve found “removal” services to never actually get everything cleaned out. This means if there’s a problem you’ll need to get it cleaned out by someone who knows what they are doing.
When it comes to malware prevention, you need to take things into your own hands and get a security setup.
Visitors, Storage, Bandwidth & Locations
On Flywheel the visitors is a soft limit, they don’t actually do anything to your site if you hit this, but if you are going over expect them to contact you about upgrading your plan.
GoDaddy, WP Engine, and Kinsta both have options to charge you extra if you go over your monthly visitors.
Storage limits are all pretty fixed, however, very few small business websites actually need more than a couple GB.
For Bandwidth, if you have a small business website with only a couple GB of content, you are unlikely to have an issue with any of them.
Server locations, they all have options for choosing the best server location for yourself. If you move your server it generally requires a little work on your part with updating your DNS.
PCI (eCommerce), SSL & CDN
If you need an eCommerce site, then WP Engine, Flywheel or Kinsta. Do NOT use GoDaddy for eCommerce, they explicitly state they are NOT compliant.
They now all offer free SSLs and CDNs. An SSL is really required in today’s world. These are normally just a couple minutes to get setup correctly. CDN means content delivery network — basically it caches your website on servers around the world to speed up delivery.
GoDaddy is the only one here who offers other services. GoDaddy is known for their jack of all trades, master of none. So you can get a lot of other services all from the same company. And their phone support does generally know something about them all, once you reach support which can easily be a 20 min wait.
GoDaddy has been heavily pushing “support” towards their paid services — which means for many support requests they are going to push you purchase assistance.
Allowing others access to your site
Frequently you’ll want to add at least one other person to give them access to your account.
GoDaddy has been slowing working to allow more control over delegated services. As of this writing, you can delegate access to all of your products, but not to just your website (ie: if you give someone enough access to manage your web hosting, they have access to your domains, email, etc). You can decide if they are allowed to use your stored billing information to buy services for your account.
Flywheel add users
Flywheel allows you to add users to each of your websites. These users will only have access to the individual sites you give them access to. They will not have access to your billing.
WP Engine allows you to add users to your account and get a bit of control over what they can access and what permissions they have.
Kinsta allows you to add users to your account and control their permissions on sites/account access with a bit of detail.
A lot of people mistake needing to contact customer service with problems.
That’s not remotely true.
The more sites you have and the more complex your needs, the more you should be contacting customer service. And customer service should then solve whatever your need. That’s good service.
GoDaddy came out with GoDaddy Pro and their customer service for those of us with a Pro account is better but the wait times are still frequently 10 min or longer. For Pro users they have an easy email ticket system, takes about an hour for a reply which may or may not be of any help. GoDaddy has mostly moved to paid customer service and even that has a lot of limits.
Flywheel handles most of their support via email tickets. They are investing a lot of money into their customer service and expanding their phone & chat hours. Typically emails are handled pretty quickly. If you need urgent support, they have an emergency email address.
WP Engine and Kinsta have chat support 24/7, with WP Engine taking up to 45 min to connect to a human. Kinsta has much faster human connection rates. Their humans are generally quite knowledgeable and can solve your problems.
Sites per Server & Limits
This is a huge difference between these companies.
On GoDaddy, you are looking at tens of thousands of sites per server. That means they need to strictly limit the resources and types of plugins you can have. This also means that frequently your server may run slower and have lots of 500 errors, especially when editing on the backend.
Flywheel, WP Engine, and Kinsta have a lot fewer sites per server (under 100), this means that you’ve got a lot more resources available. Flywheel even lets you run 3rd party backup plugins without objection, WP Engine doesn’t.
The Bottom Line
Which managed WordPress hosting company is right for you really depends on what’s important to your business.
- If you want a blanket recommendation, then Flywheel.
- If you need an eCommerce site, then Flywheel, WP Engine, or Kinsta. GoDaddy explicitly states NO compliance with PCI.
- If what’s most important is keeping everything in one location and you don’t need the best service or want the best value, GoDaddy has all of the website services you will likely need.
- If what’s most important to you is customer service, then Kinsta.
- If you’ve got more demanding website needs, then Kinsta.
- If you want to scale to enterprise levels in the future, Kinsta.