The benefits of managed WordPress hosting can be simplified to saving you configuration and maintenance effort, dramatically increasing your page speed, and increasing your sites security and reliability.
This comes at a cost, of course – managed WordPress hosting is 10 times more expensive than basic plans from GoDaddy or 3 times as expensive as developer-friendly Webfaction (I personally recommend and use Webfaction for hosting other apps, such as Rails or Django). And managed WordPress hosting often doesn’t give you the flexibility you may crave. Many plans don’t offer shell access, for instance.
Let’s go through each of the pros and cons. First, the pros.
Benefits of Managed WordPress Hosting
Your Page is BLAZINGLY Fast
Most providers offer a combination of caching and CDN. Most of your gains will come from the caching – the CDN (which isn’t at every package / price level) is merely icing on the cake. But either way, page load speeds can be 5-15 seconds on traditional shared hosts. Those long load times drive away visitors and also hurt your Google Ranking. Making your site as fast as possible means happy visitors and better SEO.
If you’d like to see how fast your current website is loading, check the page load speed with Pingdom’s free page speed tester. When one of my pages was on a shared hosting site, it loaded in 10-12 seconds – painful. Granted, it had tons of plugins, but that same site now loads between .7 and 1.4 seconds because it’s on a managed WordPress host.
Config and Maintenance Efforts are Reduced
The greatest thing about Managed WordPress Hosting is the reduction in time consuming tasks. For instance, you never have to update WordPress again – it’s done for you by almost every provider we list. This benefits you two ways. One, you don’t have to remember and then update your sites – especially important if you have more than a few. Second, you can rest assured knowing that if a security release comes out, it will be applied to your site right away, reducing the risk of malware attacks.
Active Security is Protecting your Site
Even if your site is ever hacked by malware, many of the managed WordPress hosts actively scan for these attacks and can remove them in real time. I can’t even begin to imagine how much effort it would take me to code this myself.
Backing up is easy. It’s the restores that hurt. Not with many providers. Want your website back to how it was 3 days ago? A single click can do that.
Need to work on your site but don’t want to affect what the public is seeing right now? With staging areas (offered by WP Engine) you can copy your current, active site to a staging area with a single click. Work on it, or test a plugin on it, and when you’re ready to deploy, a single click copies that over to your production site. And allowing SFPT access on a per-user basis to either staging or production further increases security, especially if you have third-party consultants working on your site.
Downsides of Managed Hosting
I would argue that you’ll pay more in time and suffering without managed wordpress hosting, but that said you will pay more cash directly to the hosts. Some people value money more than their time, and for them this will be a no-go.
Most managed hosts will not offer shell access, so everything is through SFTP. For some people who love to tweak, this may be an issue. Furthermore, you cannot install certain plugins with some hosts.
It’s Just WordPress
You can’t use your hosting environment for anything else. If you had Webfaction you can host WordPress Multisite, Ruby on Rails, and Plone on a single account. With managed hosting, it’s just WordPress.