I make no bones about the fact that I use multiple web hosting companies. This experience gives me a baseline to compare different hosts and decide which is best for what situation.
The newest host on my list is Liquid Web. They’re a long-time player in the web hosting space and more recently have added managed WordPress hosting to their lineup. In this post, I’ll specifically review Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress hosting. I’ll also share how it stacks up against my other favorite hosts and who I think would best benefit from their service.
Don’t be scared, but note that there are affiliate links in this post. I only recommend products I use and enjoy. You can read more here.
Liquid Web Review (report card style!)
Liquid Web hosting falls into five primary buckets: dedicated servers, VPS hosting, dedicated cloud, cloud sites, and managed WordPress. Note that they do not offer shared hosting services, so if you’re looking for something cheap, you can quit this article now.
They also offer custom solutions for enterprise-level clients. In short, Liquid Web is in the upper tier of web hosting.
The following is a managed WordPress hosting review since that’s my only experience with Liquid Web so far. Here’s a quick overview of how they stack up – I’ll get into the details as we go on.
|Site Management Tools||A-|
Site Management Tools
I don’t mind if I never see a cPanel again. I’ve yet to run across a managed WP host using cPanel, but I’ll confirm here that Liquid Web does indeed have a custom dashboard for managing your sites. And it’s pretty!
The layout is intuitive and friendly.
Site Staging (C)
Site staging is basically a way to make (and test out) changes to a duplicate of your live site. This feature is quickly becoming a de facto standard for managed WordPress hosting. I’d consider it a deal breaker if a host didn’t offer it. Fortunately, Liquid Web does.
With one click you can copy a live site to staging and you get access to both the staged version of the files and the database. Where Liquid Web falls short here is the ability to push a site from staging to live. You quite literally only use the staging site to test out changes. Once tested, you’d need to go make those changes again to your live (production) site. Boo.
Automatic Updates (A)
Liquid Web offers automatic updates for WordPress core, which is nice. But they take it a step further and offer automatic updates for your plugins as well.
And here’s the very coolest part: They take a snapshot (image) of before update and after update for your home page, a single page, and an archive page. If their algorithm detects a visual change, the updates are rolled back and you’ll receive an email asking you to manually review those changes to see what’s going on.
Bulk Site Maintenance (A)
Every WordPress install automatically includes the iThemes Sync Pro plugin. This is a service similar to ManageWP that lets you manage multiple WordPress installs from a single dashboard. You can manage up to 10 sites for free with Sync – beyond that you’d need to buy a subscription that matches your needs.
Sync is a pretty robust tool with lots of great features on the roadmap, but since that’s beyond the scope of this post, that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Automatic Backups (A)
Liquid Web does beautifully in this category. There’s no need to configure backups for your account – they’re automatically scheduled to run daily. You’ll have access to a rolling 30-days of backups and can do a one-click site restore (no additional cost).
You can also manually run backups. All backups are stored on Liquid Web servers. (If you wanted to back up offsite, you’d need to use a tool like BackupBuddy, which integrates with iThemes Sync.)
Free Migrations (A)
Want to move an existing site to Liquid Web? Ask for a free migration and BOOM. It’s done.
I manually migrated my sites to Liquid Web (because I’m a nerd and that’s the way I like to do things). If you go this route, be sure to run a thorough check on your database for URLs. When you initially create a site in Liquid Web, you give it a name and that name is used as part of the URL structure for your install. When you manually migrate, you’ll just want to double-check that any references to that URL are updated to your custom domain.
Liquid Web prides itself on offering “heroic” support. They offer support via phone, email, and chat 24/7. I’ve had good experiences so far.
I’m not handing out an A here because there are still some kinks to work out when it comes to Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting support. For instance, if you start a chat or email a support request from within your customer dashboard, you’re routed to “regular” support. Once you explain you’re on a managed WordPress plan, then you’ll get bumped to the right support team.
Truly heroic support would be “knowing” that I was a managed WP customer based on the location of where I initiated my support request. This is a nitpick, but since Liquid Web makes such a big deal of their support, they need to address this issue.
Free SSL (A)
Fun fact: Every site on Liquid Web automatically gets a free SSL certificate. Don’t want SSL? TOO BAD! Seriously, though, this is awesome. I thought it was awesome when hosts started offering free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates, but Liquid Web puts the sauce on top of the awesome by automatically installing this on every account. No need to ask for it – it just is.
Malware Monitoring (A)
All sites include malware monitoring at no extra cost. The service includes regular scanning for vulnerabilities and protection from brute force attacks.
All-level access (A)
It really bugs me when a host limits file or database access. LET ME IN, I SAY! With Liquid Web you get direct access to your MySQL database via phpMyAdmin. You also have SFTP access to files and can even SSH into your server, if you’re really feeling nerdy.
Version Control (A)
Liquid Web recently added Git version control to its servers. This is available when you SSH into your box. (Pretty much similar to how you can use Git with WP Engine.)
This is where Liquid Web truly shines. Their managed WordPress service is built on a redundant cloud platform. For normal people, that means that even if your site traffic suddenly went through the roof, your site would stay online (no sudden charges for traffic spikes either).
Speed optimization (A)
Liquid Web servers are also configured for site-wide caching (you don’t have to install an extra plugin). They also include image compression for uploading images (though you should still do this before uploading images anyway) and lazy loading for images.
So, which WordPress host is right for you?
Now that you know more about Liquid Web’s services, I want to talk about it in the context of my other favorite managed WordPress hosts: Flywheel and WP Engine.
All three of these hosts are great in their own right, but I like them each for different reasons. I’m painting with some broad strokes here, but here’s where I think the best features match up with ideal customers:
Are you a designer? Use Flywheel.
Flywheel is beautiful. It was “made by designers for designers” and that’s evident all throughout the user interface. The service is tailored for the non-technical user that appreciates the lack of techy things.
Among other great features, it includes client billing transfer, site blueprints, and a simple dashboard.
Are you a developer? Use WP Engine.
Each of these hosts has feature overlap, but WP Engine stands out for its developer features. You have SSH access to your server and full database access. You can also take advantage of Git version control on their servers and deploy files to the server using Git push.
I’m not a huge Vagrant fan, but if that’s your thing you will love Mercury (HGV). It’s a single Vagrant for developing and deploying HHVM-based code that very closely mirrors WP Engine’s own software stack (excellent for testing in as close to a live environment is possible).
Are you a business owner, agency, or freelancer? Use Liquid Web.
If you use your website to make money go with Liquid Web. It’s the most expensive of the lot, but then, it’s not meant for hobby sites. Between the performance and security features Liquid Web offers, it’s the best option for keeping your money-maker online and speedy.
You don’t get all the pretty Flywheel offers or all of developer offerings of WP Engine, but you get a highly performant hosting environment that translates to better site speed and the ability to automatically scale up to meet traffic demands without surprise overage costs.