WordPress websites require constant care and attention, especially when the site has a large number of daily visitors. "Managing" WordPress includes optimizing WordPress for Speed, Security, Efficiency, Fault Tolerance, Scalability and even Disaster Recovery. This means ensuring that the WordPress website is always available to visitors and there is minimum downtime. This article discusses whether you really need "Managed" WordPress Hosting or any ordinary shared hosting will also suffice. The aim of this article is to introduce a newbie or a novice WordPress Webmaster from deciphering the jargon and hype created about "Managed" WordPress Hosting.
What is Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress Hosting is when you outsource the management of your WordPress installation to your hosting company (or to a specialized agency, which will handle it for you). It may be called a special type of hosting which may have been optimized for WordPress or special tools which will enhance the overall WordPress experience.
Most "managed" hosting providers provide services specially fine-tuned for WordPress which can broadly be categorized as Caching Tools, Web Application Firewalls, Version-Control Tools, Content Delivery Network (CDN) routing, Staging Areas and more.
Is there a difference between ordinary shared hosting for WordPress and Managed WordPress Hosting?
Yes and No. Some hosts who provide managed WordPress Hosting indicate the exact distinction between their WordPress Plans and ordinary hosting plans. They also mention that you can add more features for a price. They often sell features like CDN and Version Control as add-on packs which you have to pay for. If a provider has not specifically mentioned that they offer "Managed" WordPress hosting, you can assume that their WordPress plans have minor variations from their regular shared hosting plans.
Can you "Do-It-Yourself" for WordPress Hosting
The short answer is Yes but with certain limitations. Lets take a look at some options which the "Managed WordPress" providers sell and also list the alternatives which are available on ordinary shared hosting.
Content Delivery Networks (CDN) cache the static parts of your website like images and directly provide the visitor with the images from their servers. You can always purchase a CDN solution to boost your website's speed and availability. This can be purchased independent of your shared hosting account. Options like CloudFlare, Photon, MaxCDN can be purchased separately as and when you need them.
WordPress also includes great plugins like W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache and WP Fastest Cache which will do the caching in your hosting account. This will be a similar technology used by the Manage WordPress Providers. However, some providers will have their own proprietary software to do the caching, which maybe significantly faster or use a different technology. Many of them also use HTTP Accelerator's like Varnish to speed up pages at the Web Server level, something which you maybe able to achieve only if you have your own server.
Most hosting providers have multiple levels of security implemented by default on their servers. This means that Web Application Firewalls are implemented by default. You can also use reverse-proxy services like CloudFlare to enhance the security level.
Developer Tools and Aids
While you may not be able to setup a professional staging area for your website, you can make do with a couple of plugins for WordPress, which will be able to provide you some limited functionality for staging. An ideal plugin is SitePush which can easily move content and code between WordPress sites and also pull your site's database to a development site or push new code to a staging site. The same applies to version control tools like git as well. However, some of these software's may need you to have server level control, which maybe possible only if you have your own server. This maybe an expensive affair and taking the managed solution maybe worth it.
Do you really need Managed WordPress Hosting?
Managed WordPress services hand-hold you and perform routine tasks on your behalf. They may also have some unique technology to offer. They do come at a price, but if you feel that you cannot handle your website on your own, you are better off with such a service. If you are even a little tech savvy and have a bit of programming knowledge, you can Do It Yourself and achieve reasonably good results without having to pay a fortune. Having a managed service on a very high traffic site will definitely show some performance improvements. But if your daily visitors are in the thousands, then you will notice only a marginal difference. Be sure to do a cost-benefit analysis and take a trial account before you actually put your money into it.