So, you’re interested in setting up a WordPress site.
Who can blame you? WordPress is enormously popular, to the point of being the most popular content management system.
It’s popular because it’s very flexible/customizable, is generally user-friendly, and is free (WordPress.org is, anyway—WordPress.com is another story).
What’s the problem?
Well, although WordPress has been getting easier, it still involves setup. Depending on your host configurations, you may need to mess with WordPress settings.
Plus, you have to set it up/install it on your host in the first place. WordPress also gets updated all the time, and so do the plugins and themes—it can be a pain having to update all those things.
Some web hosts offer managed WordPress plans:
This means the host will basically take care of all the WordPress set-up, and even hosting settings, so you can just focus on managing your website.
Liquid Web is one of the most notable of those hosts:
It’s big, but not an enormous conglomerate. And it’s especially known for its managed website solutions.
Here are a few companies that like Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting specifically:
So if you’re wondering whether or not Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting is right for you as well, or even if managed WordPress hosting is right for you, you’re in luck!
I’ve tested it personally, and I’ve got a lot to say about it.
I’ll start us off with the thing I know you’re all wondering about:
Yep, performance is key for hosting.
But it’s especially key for YOU, if you’re interested in a managed WordPress site.
People seeking managed WordPress hosting solutions are often (though not necessarily) looking for it to power really important websites.
Websites that handle business, a lot of traffic, or are just generally integral to a project or goal.
So having solid uptime and good speeds is extra important.
Luckily for us, Liquid Web is a company that specializes not just in managed solutions, but supporting important websites like the ones I mentioned.
Now it’s important for me to note something here:
In September, Liquid Web partnered with a company called Nexcess for its managed WordPress product (well, Liquid Web, but whatever).
The core focus of Nexcess is to provide managed solutions, so this hopefully would mean that Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting is top-tier in performance.
Liquid Web is SUPER confident in its ability to deliver uptime. It’s so confident, that this is what it guarantees:
Most hosts have an uptime guarantee.
What FEW hosts have, is a 100% uptime guarantee. For most hosts, the guarantee is 99.9%. You might think that difference isn’t much, but it is:
Over the course of a month, 99.9% uptime means 43 minutes of downtime. 100% uptime, of course, means NO downtime.
So that’s an impressive goal.
And the honest truth?
Far as I can tell, Liquid Web sticks to its guarantee. I haven’t seen any downtime on my site, and it’s been pretty fast as well.
That’s not a surprise, of course:
I’ll talk about it a little more in the features section, but aside from having the latest tech and protocols, Liquid Web automatically scales resources with your site as it takes on more traffic.
So all in all, things look pretty good on performance.
Liquid Web has up to date infrastructure (physically and digitally), has features that boosts performance, and in my experience, these all work great.
So as far as uptime, speed, and general site performance go, I’ve gotta say…Liquid Web is fantastic.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is generally always important (even if some people don’t think so).
But it’s VERY important with managed hosting plans, for a fairly obvious reason: the point of a managed hosting plan is to make life easier for the account holder.
The best way of telling you how I found Liquid Web’s ease of use, is to show you.
Here’s what it looked like when I got started:
As I described earlier, the managed WordPress solution is brought to you by Liquid Web and Nexcess.
But you’ll mostly create your account through Nexcess’ site:
Once I entered in my domain, contact info, and card, the plan was created almost immediately:
It’s pretty easy to go from the list of plans to specific plans (in my case there’s only one):
Clicking that little menu on the side reveals some quick options. You’ll see more of the site dashboard later, but here’s a little snippet of some performance tools:
Notice how simple it is: there’s an explanation of what the tool or setting is, and then a very simple “on/off” button.
It’s also like this for the central part of the hosting package, the WordPress setup:
The whole point of a managed WordPress plan is that your host has already configured the WordPress software and manages it for you, so you only need to take care of your site’s content.
And as you can probably deduce from what I showed you, the moment you set up your account, Liquid Web will have WordPress updated and set to automatically update.
Liquid Web automatically generates a password for your WordPress account for immediate use (you can change it, of course), but it can only be viewed a limited number of times.
Clicking the “app admin” button takes you to the WordPress application itself:
Even within the WordPress dashboard, Liquid Web/Nexcess has a presence. They recommend you install certain plugins when you get started:
This is a part of WordPress dashboard that’s just for Nexcess. Allocating plugins to this section will let Nexcess update plugins automatically, a key portion of the managed WordPress experience.
Believe me when I say that these are FAR from the only examples of Liquid Web’s user-friendliness.
You’ll keep seeing it throughout the rest of this review.
But hopefully by now, you’ve gotten a pretty clear picture of how straightforward it is.
It’s fast and easy to setup an account and plan, and Liquid Web does basically all the work for you, so you can get straight to working on your site the moment you’ve set up your account.
Plus, Liquid Web walks you through a lot of steps, and the user interface is SO simple (so full of simple on/off or yes/no options) that it can sometimes feel a tad limiting.
I only have one real complaint: if someone is new to hosting, or new to more advanced hosting, it might be kind of complicated.
Sure, Liquid Web explains things…but those explainers might only make sense if you already know what some key terms mean.
In the example of those performance tools, what if you don’t know what “micro-cache” or “auto scaling” means? The explanation provided only helps so much.
I mostly grant Liquid Web a pass here:
That’s because managed WordPress hosting is supposed to make life easier for people who already have advanced needs.
So from that perspective, Liquid Web is spectacular on ease of use. If you’re a total newbie, it’s tougher, but you can still figure things out.
I think that’s a natural lead-in to all the features Liquid Web offers in these plans:
Pricing and Features
And of course, we can’t talk about features without price. So let’s cover both at once!
These are the four plans available for managed WordPress hosting:
I’ll be the first to admit that Liquid Web’s managed WordPress plans are on the pricey side.
Managed WordPress hosting has a range, as you’d expect, but the lower end can be roughly the same price as regular shared hosting: $3-$4 a month or even less.
But starting at $29 a month is not too unusual. To give some perspective, Dreamhost’s plans range from $16.95 to $71.95 a month and WP Engine’s range from $29.17 to $241.67 a month.
So while Liquid Web’s pricing range is definitely on the higher side, it’s nothing too unusual.
What matters at this point, then, are the features:
The first tier gets one site, 20GB of SSD storage, and 5TB of bandwidth.
The 5TB stays constant throughout each tier, if you didn’t notice.
“But why?” you ask. “Shouldn’t it get higher?”
Well…Liquid Web could say that the highest tier gets 7 or 10TB, for example. But most people, even if they’re using 25 sites, would be fine with 5TB of bandwidth.
So it’s a more honest resource allocation.
This is also great news for people managing just a small number of sites (or just one site): it means they’re basically free to take as much bandwidth as they want without being forced to upgrade to a higher tier.
So from the perspective of someone who may only get the first or second tier, the bandwidth is pretty generous.
What IS important is that the storage is SSD, which is more secure and better performing than old-school hard drives, and that the storage DOES increase significantly across plans.
Is it the most generous SSD storage allowance ever?
But is it good enough for the VAST majority of users?
Then there’s iThemes Sync. This is a feature that’s pretty unique to Liquid Web.
iThemes is actually a company that Liquid Web acquired, and iThemes Sync is pretty much a WordPress manager.
It’s a pretty simple idea:
You use one dashboard to manage all your WordPress sites. You can do a ton of stuff to your sites with it, like monitoring uptime, managing plugins and themes, creating backups, and more—all in one place!
It’s only available for the second tier onwards, but that makes perfect sense:
The first tier only allows one site anyway, so it’d be a waste to have iThemes Sync.
You already saw the core feature of WordPress and plugin auto-updating in the last section.
But there’s something pretty nifty about how Liquid Web handles plugin updates:
They make a copy of your site and test the plugin updates on it every night, automatically. So if something goes wrong, your site won’t be affected, and it will always be up to date.
On that note, you can make backups of your site manually, at a whim:
But that doesn’t mean you HAVE to do this manually every day:
Liquid Web automatically backups your site, every day, and keeps it for almost a month. And if you want to restore your site to a specific backup version, you can just ask support and they’ll do it for you.
Another nice attraction to these plans is that although managing WordPress is supposed to reduce the amount of work on your end, you also get opportunities to manage file transfer protocol permissions:
This isn’t too uncommon in hosting products, but it’s good that Liquid Web has it.
It means that if you have another team member working with you, you can make sure they can or can’t access more secure files.
Regulating file access goes hand in hand with being able to regulate database permissions:
Database access isn’t uncommon, and in fact many cheap shared hosting plans include this.
But it’s nice to have it in the managed experience, because it means the option is there if you want to take back the reins.
Now, let’s talk about staging and stencils, because they’re a major feature of these plans.
A staging site is basically a test site: you make a staging site and then experiment away with design, site features, etc.
It’s pretty easy to set up:
Your main, live site won’t be affected at all, so you can create without fear of consequence. And the staging site has basically all the qualities of your live site, so you get the full experience of your tests when you view it.
Related to the staging environments are stencils:
If you like the design of a website you made, and want to use it for another site, you can create a stencil site:
It’s a copy of whichever site you have that you like, and can be used as a template for your other site without redoing all the customization work.
This isn’t just useful in saving you time in general—it’s good for saving you time in the short term. If you realize you need to get Website B up and running tomorrow, for example, you can do that easily.
There are also some quick tools for boosting your site performance. I showed you this in the ease of use section, but take a second look:
The cloud scaling makes sure your site always has enough resources to accommodate traffic. But if you’re worried that it could negatively affect your site’s setup, you can turn it off (most people leave it on, of course).
There’s also some caching management options, which keeps your site delivering quickly as well.
These aren’t really tools you need to do much with—leaving them on is fine for most people. As you can see, they’re super simple, so you might be a little annoyed:
“Isn’t there more than an ‘on’ or ‘off’ setting?”
That’s a valid grievance, even in a managed hosting product. But at least you have those performance enhancers in the first place.
One last thing that I like…managing team permissions:
Yes, it’s kind of empty because for now it’s just me. And yes, plenty of hosts have settings for adding and managing team accounts.
I just like the setup of this team management tool in particular.
Okay, I think we’ve covered the bulk of the features by now!
So how well do the features match the price?
Well, like I said before, the prices are on the higher side, even for managed hosting.
But in the general context of the managed WordPress market, they’re not THAT high.
And in my opinion, the features alone make the prices pretty reasonable.
It’s certainly true that, to an extent, the features are limited. The NUMBER of features is fine, but the level of control you have over those features is more of an issue.
But at the end of the day, you can manage your databases, staging environments, stencils, team members, and much more. So overall, I’d say Liquid Web is pretty strong on features!
Now, onto the next thing:
Like ease of use, customer support is something many people brush off.
And like ease of use, customer support is much more important in the context of a managed hosting plan.
Although you want the software to be easy enough to handle most of the basics, you also need to trust representatives to address issues quickly and the informational content available.
Liquid Web makes some big promises on customer support:
That’s a pretty big promise to make.
But I figured, “oh, they just mean I’ll get an automated response within 59 seconds.” Which isn’t that big of a promise.
Well, I tested the live chat to find out.
I certainly did get an automated response within seconds…but I also got a REAL response almost immediately as well:
As you can see, the whole process didn’t take very long. And before you laugh, I had a bit of a brain malfunction, and skipped an obvious bit of information on the website.
But you can treat it as an extra unique test of the live chat. However you frame it, I got responses very quickly and resolved the issue in only a few minutes.
Now, the only thing that bugs me about the live chat is that it’s kind of out of the way if you’re using the managed WordPress plans.
That’s because you access your WordPress plans on Nexcess’ site. And Nexcess has buttons for making a support ticket all throughout the site:
So that’s very easy to access and handy.
But live chat buttons aren’t on Nexcess’ site, so you have to go to Liquid Web’s website to access the live chat…even though everything else about your plan is on Nexcess.
Whatever, minor issue. At the end of the day, here’s what matters most:
Representatives are easy to access, are responsive, and are helpful.
In fact, the representatives are usually better than what you’d get at most other hosts. Liquid Web devotes more resources to customer support, and this is something plenty of customers have noticed.
It also means that you can get more out of the reps, often for free—think of backups, which I mentioned earlier.
You can just contact a representative whenever you want your site restored to how it was on X day within the last month. That’s pretty neat, and it’s not the only thing they can do.
So customer service through reps, as far as I’m concerned, is awesome.
It’s a little different for the onsite information.
The onsite info is mostly all in the knowledge base:
As you can see, there are a few different types of support article.
Whenever you click on one of the main categories, you’ll be shown a sidebar menu of all the other types of articles:
That’s generally a great feature for people who are browsing, and it’s not one I’ve seen much on other knowledge bases.
As far as the quality of the articles themselves go, they’re solid.
But if you check the sidebar, you might notice something:
There are only 33 articles in the managed WordPress section.
While it’s true that plenty of articles in other sections could still be useful to you, I wish there were more for managed WordPress.
I’ve got one other complaint:
Some of the articles are out of date.
That might not sound like a big deal at first, and it’s not unique to Liquid Web. But what I have noticed is that many articles are written before September of 2019.
Why does that matter?
Because that’s when Liquid Web officially announced its acquisition of Nexcess. And as you’ve seen, the managed WordPress product is mostly managed through Nexcess.
So a lot of the articles related to managed WordPress hosting are outdated, and it matters more than it would if more generalized articles were outdated.
Having looked at them, though, it’s not too bad. They’re usually still accurate because although the interface has changed, the tools and options are largely the same.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of Nexcess—Nexcess has its own knowledge base and FAQ pages. And it can sometimes even be more useful than Liquid Web’s.
But this can quickly get confusing and even time consuming—how do you know which knowledge base has the best, most updated article for you?
So that’s frustrating. Liquid Web’s knowledge base is still a solid resource, but it’s kneecapped because of out-of-date articles, a small selection of articles just for managed WordPress, and there being basically two help centers.
To its credit, Liquid Web offers some other support resources aside from representatives and the knowledge base.
Here’s an example:
These are tools that let you quickly check certain site fundamentals.
Another is the WooCommerce Resource Center:
It’s exactly what it sounds like. There are tons of articles that cover a range of topics.
Some are kin of niche and technical how-to articles, like the article in the middle above. But there are also a lot of articles
While it’s true not every managed WordPress customer is using WooCommerce, you can bet a LOT are, so it’s super useful to have a wealth of info solely dedicated to WooCommerce.
And as far as I’m concerned, this resource balances out some of the aforementioned knowledge base problems (though not entirely).
When you put everything I talked about together, this is the result:
Pretty good customer support.
I would say that Liquid Web has superb customer support for MOST of its users. It just so happens that some flaws in the knowledge base hold it back for managed WordPress users specifically.
But aside from that, the onsite information is pretty good and the representatives are great. Whatever flaws it has, it’s definitely an industry-leading customer support.
But…can it lead the industry in our last factor, as well?
Security’s always important for hosting, and especially if you’re doing an online store.
No point in dilly-dallying. Let’s get to what Liquid Web has going for its security.
Here’s a great point in favor of Liquid Web:
Liquid Web runs its own data centers. It’s not like a larger hosting conglomerate that shoves the servers for a bunch of different companies in a single center.
This is generally more transparent, and reduces the number of parties involved…which means it reduces the likelihood that mistakes happen.
But that’s not the only good thing about Liquid Web’s servers:
Each data center has industrial temperature regulation, on-site security, and plenty of backup power.
These things are sort of industry standard for data centers, but I’m still glad Liquid Web has them.
Plus, there are 3 data centers, two in the United States and one in Europe—so that’s also good backup.
Another great point in favor of Liquid Web’s managed WordPress security is that the SSL comes automatically.
You might be thinking, “wait a minute—don’t most shared, entry level hosting plans come with SSL? What’s so special about Liquid Web?”
The difference is that a lot of shared plans have SSL that expires after a year, and even if it doesn’t, a lot of the times the SSL certificate needs to be configured with your site.
Here, you never have to worry about it. It’s part of the ease of use, and part of the features, but it’s also a security point: it makes sure you won’t mess up some basics of your site’s security.
Here’s another one:
Liquid Web gives you some more control over security by letting you manage API tokens:
API tokens let you secure your integration setup: creating one lets you make a unique identifier for an application/integration you want to add.
You don’t have to bother with it, but if you’re concerned, it’s a great option to have.
And last but not least, Liquid Web has several security certifications.
I should also mention that Liquid Web has extra security packages and tools available for purchase.
But those aren’t default security features so I can’t value them too much here. They’re good if you have them, of course.
Put together, it doesn’t seem to me like Liquid Web has crazy-good security. It seems above the industry standard, but not much more so.
Honest truth, that’s probably fine. To my knowledge, Liquid Web has never had a significant hack (at least thus far) which is potentially good news.
So looks like security is overall pretty solid! Ready to keep up the positivity?
- Excellent performance.
- Excellent ease of use in terms of simplicity, user-interface and navigation (which should be the case).
- Good set of features, with a good balance of things that make life easier for the customer and things that allow the customer to get more advanced (if they want to).
- Pretty good customer support overall, especially the representatives.
- Good security, though nothing exceptional.
Nothing’s perfect though. Here are some of the flaws:
- Although overall easy to use, those inexperienced with hosting may have a tough time figuring out what different features do.
- On the pricier side.
- Although the list of features is good, some of them can be limited in practical use.
- Some of the help articles can be outdated, especially as the more recent merger of Nexcess and Liquid Web changes the layout of the dashboard for your site.
- Also, there are basically two knowledge bases to consult, which is more of a hassle than a benefit.
Conclusion: Do I Recommend Liquid Web?
It’s time to wrap this up, folks. The ultimate question: do I recommend Liquid Web?
The answer is…
As usual, I have to qualify that answer:
If you want a managed WordPress solution, but you want to keep costs down, I can’t say I recommend Liquid Web.
If you go to a cheaper managed WordPress package, on another platform, you may lose some of the quality.
But as long as the basics are done, having top-tier management won’t matter to a lot of you. So yeah, if you’re looking at price the most, I can’t say Liquid Web is your best bet.
Additionally, if you’re a total newbie to hosting, Liquid Web is a mixed bag. Yes, the customer service is really good, and yes the user-interface is simple.
But a lot of the features won’t make sense if you’re a beginner.
It’s nothing killer, though. And if you find Liquid Web’s prices reasonable, then I’d say it’s a pretty easy recommendation.
I don’t like everything about Liquid Web, but I can’t deny that it provides top-tier managed WordPress hosting.
If you’re still not sure where you stand, I’ve got an easy solution for you:
Pay for a month of managed WordPress hosting, and if you don’t like it within a few days, they’ll refund you!
If you’re wondering if Liquid Web, in contrast to its money-back guarantee, also has a free trial option wherein you can test the software BEFORE purchasing it for a period of time…
No. It’s just the refund policy.
But they stick to the refund policy, so don’t knock it!
The important thing to note here is that the refund only applies to monthly purchases. If you purchase a year of service, you’re paying for all of it, which is pretty fair.
No, it’s on you to purchase and connect website domains. Far as I know, Liquid Web doesn’t even sell domains, so you’ll have to figure that out separately.
It’s not as bad as you might think. A lot of hosts sound good by offering “free” domains, but these are usually only free for the first year and renew at cost. Some are even pricier than normal.
So it’s better for most people to find a registrar they like, especially if they’re planning on buying a significant number of domains.
Don’t worry, it’s not so hard. Here’s a list of the best domain registrars.
This is actually a really big question, big enough to warrant its own article.
But I can be brief!
My general line of advice is this:
If you’re an individual or a small team that doesn’t have a ton of resources, I think you can probably get by with regular WordPress, or even an easy website builder application.
Managed WordPress hosting could be useful to you, but it’s better suited for people who 1) have the resources to afford it, 2) are more strapped for time, and 3) have more advanced website needs.
I’m not saying you can’t check off those boxes, or that someone HAS to fulfill all three requirements to “deserve” managed WordPress hosting.
A good tip is to just try and manage a WordPress site on your own. See how workable it is for you to install updates, make tweaks, keep things working with your host, and so on.