Do you need managed WordPress hosting that offers advanced features but costs more, or will shared hosting that meets the basic requirements, and costs less, suffice? Discover what each of this hosting types offers, and which of them will be the best fit for your website.

Trying to choose between managed WordPress hosting vs shared hosting for your WordPress site? Or maybe you’re just confused by the difference in the first place and not sure what these two terms even mean?

As the foundation of your WordPress site, your website’s hosting is going to play a big role in your site’s success. It will determine how fast your site loads, how secure it is, how much effort and maintenance you need to put into keeping the lights on, etc.

Because of that, you want to make the right decision for your needs and budget, and that starts with understanding the difference between shared vs managed WordPress hosting.

In this post, we’re going to help you figure out the differences between these two methods and which one is right for you. We’ll start by introducing both shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting. Then, we’ll discuss the key differences and pros and cons of each approach. To finish things out, we’ll recommend a few of the best shared and managed WordPress hosting providers to get your search started.

In this article, we’ll be talking about the free software provided by WordPress.org. Read our article on the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, if you’d like to learn more. 

What Is Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting is an affordable way of hosting websites where your sites “share” the hosting server’s resources with other websites on that server. This keeps costs down, which is why shared hosting is the most affordable way to host a website.

Most shared hosts let you install any software, from WordPress to Joomla to Drupal, etc. You’ll also typically see the word “unlimited” a lot when it comes to how many websites you can host, your storage, etc.

Overall, you can think of shared hosting as the budget, entry-level way to host a WordPress website.

What Is Managed WordPress Hosting?

Managed WordPress hosting is a WordPress-specific hosting product that comes with performance optimizations, security rules, and convenient maintenance features all geared towards helping you successfully host a WordPress site.

You’ll get WordPress-specific caching at the server level, WordPress-specific security rules, and WordPress-specific features, like automatic updates.

Overall, you can think of managed WordPress hosting as more of a premium, concierge service that goes above the bare minimum needed to host a WordPress site.

Shared vs Managed WordPress Hosting: Key Differences

Both shared hosts and managed WordPress hosts help you host WordPress sites. However, that’s usually where shared hosting stops, while “hosting your site” is just the beginning for managed WordPress hosting.

Performance

For example, consider performance. If you want to speed up your WordPress site on shared hosting, you’ll be responsible for installing a caching plugin, setting up a content delivery network (CDN), optimizing your database, etc.

A managed WordPress host, on the other hand, will do all of that for you. It’ll set up server-level caching, build in the CDN, optimize your database for you, etc.

Managed WordPress hosts also usually have more optimized environments, with cloud infrastructure and load balancers to make sure your site always has the resources that it needs.

Site Maintenance

It’s the same for maintaining your site. With a shared host, you’ll need to set up a backup plugin if you want your data to be safe. A managed WordPress host will automatically back up your site for you and store the backups off-site, which means you never need to think about it. 

Managed WordPress hosts are able to offer all these goodies because they only work with WordPress sites. For example, a shared host can’t optimize its tech stack around WordPress because it needs to be able to host other software too. But because managed WordPress hosts don’t have to worry about other software, they don’t have that limitation.

Of course, the trade-off for all those helpful features is that managed WordPress hosts cost more than shared hosts.

Let’s discuss some of the other pros and cons…

Benefits of Shared Hosting

  • You get the lowest prices possible – the main benefit of shared hosting is its affordability, especially if you need to host multiple websites.
  • Most shared hosts give you “unlimited” resources – you’ll find lots of plans with unlimited websites, storage, and bandwidth (though there’s no such thing as a truly unlimited plan).
  • You don’t need separate email hosting – most shared hosts include email hosting as part of their prices. This means you can set up your own [email protected] email address.
  • Your hosting isn’t limited to WordPress – if needed, you can install other software on your server. For example, you could use Sendy to manage your email newsletters.

Cons of Shared Hosting

  • You need to beware of misleading promotional prices – most shared hosts advertise discounted promotional prices that only apply to your first billing cycle (usually one-to-three years). Always make sure to look at both the promotional prices and the “regular” prices when making your decision.
  • Your site can experience the “bad neighbor effect” – because you’re sharing resources with other hosting accounts, one “bad neighbor” who’s abusing the server’s resources could have a negative effect on your site.
  • The host may overload its servers  – this doesn’t apply to all shared hosts, but some hosts will overload their servers to cut down on costs. Because the server’s resources are spread over too many accounts, your site will suffer from poor performance.
  • The host might shut off your site if you use too many resources – despite advertising “unlimited” resources, most shared hosts will shut off your account if you’re using too many resources. Typically, this means your site goes down. Managed WordPress hosts won’t shut off your account if you exceed your limits (though they will charge you overage fees).
  • You don’t get very many “convenience” features – many shared hosts don’t offer convenience features like secure off-site backups, staging sites, etc. However, this is changing, and you now can find some shared hosts that do offer these features.
  • You’ll be responsible for WordPress performance optimization – most shared hosts don’t put in place any WordPress-specific performance optimizations, so you’ll be responsible for setting up page caching plugin and implementing other performance best practices.

Benefits of Managed WordPress Hosting

  • Your site will load faster – all things equal, managed WordPress hosting offers much better page load times.
  • Your site will be more secure – because these hosts only host WordPress, they can tailor the security of the environment entirely to WordPress, which makes your site more secure. Usually, this includes firewalls, malware detection, and other rules.
  • Your host implements page caching at the server-level – most managed WordPress hosts implement page caching with Varnish or Nginx, which offers an improvement over caching plugins because you can completely skip the WordPress application.
  • Your site will handle traffic spikes better – most managed WordPress hosts use cloud architecture that lets them easily “scale up” to add resources during a traffic spike (like going viral). This means your site will keep working, instead of crashing like it usually would on shared hosting.
  • Most managed hosts offer a built-in content delivery network (CDN) – this will speed up your site’s global page load times and eliminate the complexity of implementing a CDN by yourself.
  • Your host handles key maintenance tasks – your host will take automatic off-site backups, update WordPress, scan for malware, optimize your database, and perform other important maintenance tasks for you. This lets you focus on growing your business.
  • You’ll get expert WordPress support – because managed WordPress hosts only deal with WordPress sites, all of their support staff are knowledgeable in WordPress.

Cons of Managed WordPress Hosting

  • You’ll pay higher prices – the biggest “con” of managed WordPress hosting is that it’s more expensive than shared hosting. Managed WordPress hosts typically cost $25+ per month for a single site.
  • You’ll have lower website limits – you won’t find managed WordPress hosts that allow “unlimited” sites. Typically, you’ll be limited to just a few sites unless you’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars per month.
  • Most managed hosts use “per visit” billing – most managed WordPress hosts charge you based on “visits” to your site, rather than the actual resources that your site consumes. While you won’t get shut off for exceeding your limits, you will need to pay overage fees.
  • You can only host WordPress – for example, want to use Sendy to manage your emails? Can’t do it. Want to install the self-hosted version of Matomo for web analytics? Can’t do it. You can only install WordPress.
  • Your host might ban some plugins – many managed WordPress hosts ban some plugins. Typically, this is because those plugins overlap with the host’s features (like caching plugins). However, some hosts also just ban plugins that are resource-intensive.
  • You’ll need separate email hosting – most managed WordPress hosts don’t offer email hosting. If you want to use a custom email like [email protected] you’ll need a separate email hosting service like Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365.

Shared vs Managed Hosting: Which Is Right For You?

In general, the only reason to choose shared hosting over managed WordPress hosting is the price. If you wanted to create the fastest, most reliable hosting environment for a WordPress site with no concern for price, you would never configure it to share resources with other sites “just because”. The only reason to configure it this way is to reduce the cost.

However, there’s a reason why shared hosting is still the most popular way to host a website – cost is a powerful motivator! We all have to stay inside a budget and it doesn’t matter how great a host’s performance and features are if you can’t afford that host in the first place.

With that in mind, this section isn’t really about deciding which hosting approach is “better”. Instead, it’s more about answering this question:

When is it worth it to pay extra for managed WordPress hosting over shared hosting?

Basically, is the extra value that you get from managed WordPress hosting going to be worth the extra price that you pay every month? Let’s go through some examples of when it is and also when it’s not.

You Should Probably Use Shared Hosting If:

  • Your site is low traffic – if your site gets under, say, 300-500 visitors per day, a decent shared host will still give you plenty of resources. Basically, at this traffic level, paying for a managed WordPress host is usually overkill.
  • You need to host multiple sites (especially low-traffic ones) – if you have a lot of low-traffic sites (or are hosting low-traffic client sites), using shared hosting is going to be considerably cheaper than managed WordPress hosting.
  • You’re ok with “good enough” performance – if you put in the effort to optimize your site, a quality shared host can still get you “good enough” load times, especially if your traffic isn’t very high.
  • You’re willing to handle some website management yourself – if you’re happy to apply your own WordPress updates, back up your site with a plugin, secure your site, and perform other maintenance tasks, you might not need to pay a premium to have your host do those things for you.

You Should Probably Use Managed WordPress Hosting If:

  • You have a high-traffic, high-resource site – despite advertising “unlimited” resources, most shared hosts cannot handle a high-traffic site without grinding to a halt (or cutting off your account). As your site grows, you might need the extra resources that managed WordPress hosting offers.
  • Your site is “mission-critical” – if having your site go down will have a major negative effect on your business, you should probably invest in managed WordPress hosting. For example, a WooCommerce store where every minute of downtime means missed orders and lost revenue.
  • You’re willing to pay for convenience so that you can focus on your business – with a managed WordPress host, you can waste less time maintaining/optimizing your site, which lets you focus on growing your business.
  • You want the fastest page load times possible – all things equal, your site will load faster on managed WordPress hosting than it will on shared hosting. So if speed is paramount to you, you’ll want to skip shared hosting.

Best Shared Hosting Providers

If you’ve decided that shared WordPress hosting fits your needs, here are some of the best shared WordPress hosting providers.

SiteGround

siteground

SiteGround is a WordPress.org-recommended shared web host that sort of blends the line between shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting. In fact, SiteGround even advertises its WordPress plans as “managed WordPress hosting”, though these are just its regular shared hosting plans.

There’s no official accreditation for who can call themselves “managed WordPress hosting” so it’s tough to argue with them here. However, most people would still put SiteGround in the “shared hosting” bucket because SiteGround uses a shared environment and offers shared hosting benefits like “unlimited websites”.

Some of SiteGround’s key features on all plans include:

  • Automatic WordPress updates
  • Free SSL certificates
  • Automatic daily backups

The GrowBig plan and above offers more “managed” types of features such as:

  • Server-level caching
  • Staging sites
  • On-demand backups

SiteGround users can also benefit from the SG Optimizer plugin for performance.

SiteGround’s promotional prices start at $6.99 per month for a single site or $9.99 per month for unlimited sites.

A2 Hosting

a2-hosting

A2 Hosting is another popular shared host that offers solid performance and features for a shared host.

Despite offering cheap prices, A2 Hosting’s plans come with:

  • Free SSL certificates
  • Staging sites
  • Automatic backups (excluding the StartUp plan)
  • Option to pre-install Elementor

If you value performance, you should consider upgrading to one of the Turbo plans, which use LiteSpeed server to offer significantly improved performance over the cheaper shared plans.

A2 Hosting’s promotional prices start at $2.99 per month for a single site. The Turbo plans start at $9.99 per month for unlimited websites.

Bluehost

bluehost

Bluehost is another popular shared host that, like SiteGround, is also recommended by WordPress.org.

One of the areas where Bluehost really excels is in creating a user-friendly experience for casual users. The onboarding tool makes it very easy to get up and running with your first WordPress site. It can even pre-install Elementor for you so that you can get started building right away.

Beyond that, Bluehost’s plans come with unlimited websites, storage, and bandwidth (excluding the cheapest Basic plan) as well as free SSL certificates.

Bluehost’s promotional prices start at $3.95 for the Basic plan. However, most people would be better-suited by upgrading to the $5.95 per month Plus plan for unlimited resources.

Best Managed WordPress Hosting Providers

If you think managed WordPress hosting is a better fit for your needs, here are some of the best managed WordPress hosting providers.

Kinsta

Kinsta is a well-regarded managed WordPress host that offers excellent performance based on infrastructure from Google Cloud. You’ll also be able to manage your hosting and websites from a custom hosting dashboard called MyKinsta.

You’ll get performance-optimized architecture with the following features:

  • Google Cloud Platform infrastructure
  • Nginx, PHP 7.4+, and MariaDB
  • Server-level caching
  • Built-in CDN powered by KeyCDN
  • Automatic scaling during traffic surges
  • Redis (paid add-on)
  • Elasticsearch to improve search performance (paid add-on)

You’ll also get other convenient features to make your life easier:

  • 24/7/365 live chat support
  • Automatic backups
  • Staging sites
  • Built-in uptime checks (every two minutes)
  • Automatic WordPress updates
  • Firewalls
  • Malware scanning and free malware cleanup
  • Free/easy SSL certificates

Kinsta’s prices start at $30 per month for a single website and up to 25,000 monthly visits.

WP Engine

By the numbers, WP Engine is the most popular managed WordPress host by a good margin.

Like the other managed WordPress hosts, WP Engine offers a performance-optimized setup with Varnish and Memcached, a built-in CDN, and the latest technologies like PHP 7.4+.

WP Engine also offers a lot of features to make your life easier:

  • 24/7/365 live chat support (and phone support on higher-tier plans)
  • Multiple staging environments (Staging and Development)
  • Automatic daily backups
  • Automatic WordPress updates
  • Free/easy SSL certificates
  • Firewalls and malware scanning

Just like Kinsta, WP Engine’s plans start at $30 per month for a single website and up to 25,000 visits.

Flywheel

flywheel

Flywheel is another popular managed WordPress host that markets itself primarily towards creative freelancers and agencies, though anyone can use and benefit from it. Still, if you are using WordPress and Elementor to build websites for clients, Flywheel does have some nice features to make your life easier.

All of Flywheel’s plans come with:

  • Server-level caching
  • Built-in CDN powered by Fastly
  • Free/easy SSL certificates
  • Automatic WordPress updates
  • Automatic daily backups
  • Staging sites
  • 24/7/365 live chat support (and phone support on higher-tier plans)

If you’re building websites for clients, you’ll also benefit from features such as:

  • Option to white-label the hosting dashboard to resell hosting to your clients using your own branding
  • Easy billing transfer to clients
  • A “tagging” feature to help you organize sites in your dashboard
  • “Blueprints” to help you quickly create new sites from templates – for example, you could save Elementor and the Hello theme as a “blueprint” to quickly spin up new Elementor sites

Flywheel’s plans start at $15 per month, but that plan only supports up to 5,000 visits. For 25,000 visits, you’ll pay $30 per month.

Note – Flywheel was acquired by WP Engine in 2019. However, Flywheel is still a separate company and, while the prices are now virtually identical, Flywheel uses different infrastructure and has a different feature list.

Conclusion

Shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting are both viable ways to host a WordPress site. Shared hosting is a basic entry-level option, while managed WordPress hosting is a more premium offering with better performance and more features.

In general, shared hosting makes a good option if you’re just getting started or if you need to host lots of low-traffic/low-resource WordPress sites.

However, as your site grows in traffic and importance, it starts to make sense to get better performance, more reliable infrastructure that can handle traffic surges, and convenient features that let you focus on the non-technical parts of running a website.

And no matter which option you choose, you’ll still be able to use Elementor to design your content using a visual, drag-and-drop interface. As long as your host meets Elementor’s minimum requirements, which all of our recommended shared hosts do, you’ll be ready to go.

Do you still have any questions about choosing between managed WordPress hosting vs shared hosting? Leave a comment and let us know! You can also check out our guide on how to choose WordPress hosting for some additional tips.