Shared Hosting vs Managed WordPress Hosting: The Definitive Guide

Choosing the right hosting is one of the most crucial decisions you‘ll make for your WordPress website. It‘s a choice that affects everything from how fast your pages load to how much time you spend troubleshooting issues. While shared hosting can seem attractively cheap at first glance, investing in managed WordPress hosting is a much smarter move for any serious website.

In this in-depth comparison, we‘ll break down the key differences between shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting. We‘ll look at performance, security, support, and more, with data to back up the benefits of managed hosting. By the end, you‘ll see why managed WordPress hosting is worth every extra penny.

Shared Hosting: The Bargain Basement of Web Hosting

Shared hosting is the most basic and cheapest form of web hosting. Your site shares a server and all its resources – RAM, CPU, disk space – with hundreds or even thousands of other websites. It‘s the equivalent of renting a room in a packed hostel.

Sure, the cheap cost can be tempting, with plans often starting at just a few dollars a month. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. With shared hosting, you‘re getting the bare minimum in terms of resources, performance, and service.

The Problem of Overselling

Most shared hosting is oversold, meaning providers cram far too many websites onto each server to maximize profits. While a single server could reasonably host around 100 websites, many budget shared hosts will put 500+ sites on a single server.

The result? Speeds slow to a crawl whenever your "neighbors" see a spike in traffic or consume more than their fair share of resources. In fact, if your site exceeds resource usage limits, your shared host may even take your site offline until usage drops! Forget about consistent uptime and performance.

As WordPress consultant Robert Abela explains:

"With shared hosting you‘re sharing space and resources with hundreds of other people. Your host doesn‘t actively manage these resources, so there‘s no way to prevent what is referred to as the ‘bad neighbor effect‘. You‘re much more likely to see slower speeds and downtime in a shared environment."

The Security Risks

In addition to poor performance, shared hosting also comes with increased security risks. A single compromised site on the server opens the door for hackers to attack every other site.

As security expert Tony Perez of Sucuri notes:

"The challenge with shared hosting is that you don‘t have separation of the hosting environment from other customers. If one site on the server gets hacked, it means they all have the potential to get hacked."

Shared hosts are often slow to implement new security patches and updates as well. So while managed WordPress hosts are always running the latest, most secure versions of PHP/MySQL/WordPress, many shared hosts are stuck on older, more vulnerable versions.

The Lack of WordPress-Specific Support

While many shared hosts offer "one-click installs" of WordPress, that‘s often where the WordPress-specific support ends.

When you run into an issue with your site, you‘re lucky if the support agent has a basic understanding of the WordPress software, let alone the ability to help troubleshoot your specific theme, plugins or custom code. You‘re left spending hours Googling for answers yourself or paying a developer for help.

Managed WordPress Hosting: Concierge Service for WordPress

If shared hosting is a hostel bunk, managed WordPress hosting is more like a room at a five-star hotel with an concierge ready to cater to your every need.

On a managed host, your WordPress site still shares a server with other sites, but that server has been finely tuned just for WordPress. You get ample resources allotted to your site and a support team of WordPress experts ready to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

WordPress-Optimized Servers and Performance

A good managed WordPress host will have its servers configured specifically to run WordPress at peak performance. We‘re talking PHP 7+, HTTP/2, proper database configuration, built-in caching, and a content delivery network (CDN) to serve your pages quickly around the globe.

Some managed hosts even separate their customers‘ sites onto different servers based on traffic levels and resource usage to ensure consistent high speeds. For example, WP Engine puts sites receiving under 25,000 visits/month on its shared servers, but sites with higher traffic are moved to dedicated resources to maintain top performance.

All this technical optimization results in dramatic page load improvements over shared hosting. In a performance benchmark test, WordPress hosting expert Review Signal found that managed WordPress hosts delivered page load speeds 3-6x faster than shared hosts.

via Review Signal

As you can see, every managed WordPress host tested loaded pages in under one second, while sites on shared hosting took 3-6 seconds to load. With data showing 40% of visitors abandon sites that take over 3 seconds to load, that improvement in speed alone could have a huge impact on your site‘s success.

Proactive Security and Updates

In addition to faster speeds, managed WordPress hosting also offers better security.

Managed WordPress hosts proactively monitor their servers for malware and hacking attempts and have rigorous security measures in place to stop attacks. They‘re also diligent about always running the latest, most secure versions of the WordPress software and server software like PHP and MySQL.

Most managed WordPress hosts also handle WordPress core updates for you. This takes the burden of staying on top of security updates off your shoulders. On shared hosting, if you neglect an update, your site could be vulnerable until you remember to install it.

Wordfence, a popular WordPress security plugin, found that 66% of hacked WordPress sites were running an outdated version at the time of infection. Managed hosting eliminates that risk factor for you.

via Wordfence

Should your WordPress site be compromised, most managed hosts even offer malware removal and cleanup services. On shared hosting, you‘re left to deal with malware and hacks yourself.

As Kinsta CEO Mark Gavalda explains:

"Managed WordPress hosts handle all the nitty-gritty details of security – firewalls, malware scanning, WP updates, etc. We‘ve processed over 2.5 million hack attempts and malicious requests so far in 2020. That‘s a lot of extra security work we handle so our customers don‘t have to."

High-Quality, WordPress-Specific Support

One of the biggest benefits of managed WordPress hosting is getting 24/7 access to support from knowledgeable WordPress experts. These support agents deal with WordPress sites all day, every day, so they know the platform inside and out.

Whether you have an issue with your theme, a plugin conflict, or your site is just running slowly, managed hosting support teams have seen it before and can resolve it quickly. Even if you have questions about WordPress features or best practices, they can advise you.

In contrast, shared hosting support teams may have only basic WordPress knowledge, if that. They‘re trained in general hosting tech support issues, not WordPress itself. You‘ll spend a lot more time explaining your issue and waiting for a resolution.

Automatic Backups and Easy Restores

Even if you‘re diligent about security, accidents can still happen or you may just want to roll back changes. That‘s why backups are essential for any WordPress site.

Most managed WordPress hosts handle backups for you automatically, with daily or even real-time backups securely stored on external servers. Many also offer on-demand backups before you make a major change.

If you need to restore your site, it‘s as simple as a push of a button right from your hosting dashboard. No messing with database imports or FTP required.

On the flip side, automatic backups are often an added fee on shared hosting, if they‘re an option at all. You‘ll be responsible for configuring and managing backups yourself using a WordPress plugin or manually creating backups.

Staging Sites and Easier Site Management

Here‘s another nice feature you‘ll often find in managed WordPress hosting: one-click staging sites.

A staging site is an exact replica of your live site that‘s not accessible to the public. You can use it to test out new themes, plugins or custom code before pushing those changes to your production site. It‘s an easy way to test changes without potentially breaking your live site.

With one click, managed hosting platforms can clone your live site to a staging environment. You can then deploy your changes back to the live site in one click once you‘ve verified everything works. No need to mess with copying databases or files between servers.

Many managed hosts also give you other handy tools like simple SSL setup, domain mapping, developer tools like SSH access, and password protected logins for sites in development. They centralize all your site management in one user-friendly place.

When to Choose Managed WordPress Hosting

Given the clear advantages in performance, security, and support, when does it make sense to choose managed WordPress hosting over shared hosting?

Managed hosting is ideal for:

  • Business websites – If your website is an important part of your business, investing in managed hosting ensures it will run quickly and stay online. Downtime and slow speeds mean lost leads, customers and revenue.
  • High-traffic blogs – Once your blog starts receiving more than 30,000 visits a month, it‘s outgrown shared hosting. Managed hosting will keep it loading quickly and smoothly scale to handle more traffic as you grow.
  • Ecommerce stores – Online stores can‘t afford poor performance costing them sales. Managed WordPress hosts will keep your WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads store running optimally and securely.
  • Anyone who values their time – How much is an hour of your time worth? Even with a small website or blog, the time you‘ll save by not having to troubleshoot performance, security, and update issues is well worth the cost of managed hosting.

If you have a small personal blog or website with minimal traffic and you‘re comfortable with some extra technical maintenance work, a shared host may suffice for now. But if you hope to grow your site, you‘ll be better off starting with a managed host that can scale with you.

How to Choose a Managed WordPress Host

If you‘ve decided managed WordPress hosting is right for you, how do you choose from the many providers out there? Here are a few key criteria to look for:

  • Performance features – The best managed WordPress hosts utilize server-level caching, CDNs, and the latest versions of PHP for top speed.
  • Security – Look for a managed host that monitors for malware/attacks 24/7 and is always on top of new threats.
  • Automatic backups – Choose a provider that performs automatic daily backups and stores them externally for safekeeping.
  • Quality support – Opt for a host with true WordPress experts providing 24/7 support via chat and/or phone for prompt help when you need it.
  • Scalability – Go with a host that makes it easy to upgrade resources or add servers as your site grows.
  • User-friendly tools – The best managed hosts offer a custom dashboard that simplifies management tasks like SSL setup, staging, and domain mapping.

Some of our favorite managed WordPress hosts that check all those boxes include:

  • WP Engine – With clients like AMD, Network Rail, and Mindvalley, WP Engine powers over 500K sites on its premium managed platform optimized for speed and scale. Plans start at $30/month.
  • Kinsta – Utilizing Google Cloud infrastructure and ultra-fast servers, Kinsta delivers incredible performance and expert support to big brands like GE, Intuit, and AdEspresso. Plans from $30/month.
  • Flywheel – Known for beautiful design and user experience, Flywheel offers a sleek dashboard for easy WordPress management, free migrations, and a slew of workflow tools for agencies and freelancers. Plans start at $15/month.
  • Pressable – Pressable serves billions of pageviews a year for big brands and agencies like Automattic, Rotary International, and Moz. With Jetpack Premium security and performance features built-in, even their entry $25/month plan is impressive.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, choosing between shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting comes down to how much you value your website.

If you‘re just tinkering with WordPress as a hobby and can live with slower speeds or downtime, go ahead and choose an affordable shared host.

But if your website is a valuable asset for your business or a major part of your income, investing in managed WordPress hosting is a no-brainer. You‘ll rest easy knowing that you‘re getting top-notch performance, security, and support, while saving yourself hours of maintenance time.

Here‘s a final comparison of the key differences between shared and managed WordPress hosting:

Criteria Shared Hosting Managed WordPress Hosting
Avg. cost per month $5 – $25 $25 – $150+
Hosting environment Overcrowded servers not optimized for WordPress Private or semi-private servers finely tuned for WordPress with controlled density
Avg. page load times 3-6+ seconds 0.5-1.5 seconds
Traffic limits Unlimited or very high (100k/month+) Varies, as low as 30k visits/month
Performance features Few, if any Server-level caching, CDN, latest versions of PHP/MySQL
Security Minimal, rely on user to install updates Proactive malware scanning, firewall, always up-to-date
Customer support Generic support, limited WordPress knowledge Expert WordPress support available 24/7
Backups Not included or add-on fee, DIY Automatic and on-demand, 1-click restore
Scalability Upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting to scale Easy upgrades and custom plans for high-traffic sites

While managed WordPress hosting costs more, the gains in speed, security, and support make it well worth the investment. When you consider the true cost of your time spent managing a shared hosting account and resolving issues yourself, managed hosting pays for itself.

As WordPress moves towards powering 50% of the web, now‘s the time to ensure your WordPress site has the hosting it deserves. You‘ll be in good company with the many major brands and high-traffic sites that rely on managed hosting.

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