One of my clients is with ProntoMarketing. They’re awful. I loathe working with them. (Pronto, not the client.) I basically said, “It’s them or me.” Rather than leave a great client in the lurch like the prima donna I sometimes aspire to be, I’m helping them look at managed WordPress hosting options. If you’re impatient, you can just skip to the chart.
Pronto Marketing Sucks
What’s wrong with Pronto? I won’t dig into the abysmal non-hosting side of Pronto Marketing here; that hole’s too deep and dank. But even if their other aspects were acceptable, their hosting platform isn’t.
Pronto hosts all of their clients on a single multisite WordPress install. Both ssh and sftp access are therefore off the table for all of their clients. So there are things you or your web team can’t do. Conveniently, Pronto’s business model includes access to an expensive, on-demand team of unqualified non-experts to do things for you! …I spent far more time checking and correcting Pronto’s work than if I and my team did it ourselves. Enough about them.
Comparing Managed WordPress Hosts – Which Ones?
Sure, I went overboard when comparing rank tracking solutions or when trying to choose which tap tremolo pedal is best, but not this time. I kept it simple. Here are the four contenders and why I picked them.
WordPress.com – They’re the oddball in the field. Owned by Automattic (owner of WordPress,) and more tightly controlled than other options. Not to be confused with WordPress.org, the self-hosted version of WordPress. (This blog is hosted on WordPress.com, and I’ve been impressed with their services.)
WPEngine – Probably top-mind or near it when most people think of managed WordPress hosting. I worked in their platform several years ago.
Pressable – They don’t tout it much, probably to avoid complaints from their other host partners, but Automattic owns a majority stake in Pressable. If that’s not and endorsement, I don’t know what is.
BigScoots – Who? Yeah. Not a big name. But I host 99% of my sites with them. After EIG bought and destroyed yet another host I used, I spent a good chunk of time finding BigScoots. I don’t use their managed WordPress hosting, but I’ve been nothing but impressed by their other services.
“What is managed WordPress hosting?” (My Criteria)
My expectations of a manged WP host are that they’ll largely or wholly take care of:
- Core WordPress updates
- Plugin updates
- Speed and other infrastructure concerns
- Providing full access to the CMS
- Giving me backrubs and making coffee
Spreadsheet Comparing WPEngine, WordPress.com, BigScoots, and Pressable
This isn’t exhaustive. I.e. your criteria might be different than mine. And there are definitely other players in this space (Kinsta’s name pops up a lot.)
Want a narrative of the findings?
I won’t deprecate any contenders; I think most sites would be fine hosting with any of them. But two stand out in positive ways which may or may not matter to you.
BigScoots and Pressable both offer tangibles the others don’t:
- more domain/site capacity (in case you want to host more sites)
- more free migration of existing sites
- control over whether or not you auto-update plugins
- the only one with full ssh/ftp access (which might not matter, really)
- the only one with email (you have to use a third party for others, which is advisable, anyhow. GSuite FTW!)
- …but costs more.
- Is the cheapest
Pressable and WordPress.com:
- are owned by WordPress’ parent company, which might be worth something?
- The biggest hurdle here is their migration cost. It’s not unreasonable, but it doesn’t compete with other options.
- There are several notes in the spreadsheet for WordPress.com, not b/c they’re worse, but b/c their biz model is different than the others.
- Migration cost is unknown. E.g. What if their plugin fails on a customized theme? Do I have to pay somebody hourly?
- Some of the notes in the spreadsheet for WPEngine will likely turn more positive as they continue to roll out new services.
- …but is the most expensive
Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO and makes noise in several bands. He enjoys sketching, films, games, beer, and doing stuff with his hot wife. He plans to turn his front yard into a two-hole miniature golf course. She’s on board with this.