What You Need to Know About Nexcess WordPress Hosting

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 Nexcess (a Liquid Web brand). 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 Nexcess 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.

Nexcess Managed WordPress Hosting Review (report card style!)

Nexcess hosting supports a number of applications (WordPress, Magento, WooCommerce just to name a few) and varying services such as cloud hosting, containers, colocation, etc. Note that they do not offer shared hosting services, so if you’re looking for lower budget options, I like SiteGround.

They also offer custom solutions for enterprise-level clients. In short, Nexcess is in the upper tier of web hosting.

The following is a managed WordPress hosting review since that’s my only experience with Nexcess so far. Here’s a quick overview of how they stack up – I’ll get into the details as we go on.

Area of FocusScore
Site Management ToolsA-
ServicesA-
SecurityA+
Developer FeaturesA
PerformanceA+

Site Management Tools

Dashboard (A)

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 Nexcess does indeed have a custom dashboard for managing your sites. And it’s pretty!

The layout is intuitive and friendly.

Liquid Web dashboard for Managed WordPress hosting

Site Staging (B)

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, Nexcess 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 Nexcess 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. I’m 99% sure this is on the short-list of features to improve, but that’s the story for now…

Update: Nexcess now offers a Staging & Production sync feature. Woohoo!

Automatic Updates (A)

Nexcess 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.

That’s badass.

Screenshot of email Liquid Web sends if automatic update fails

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.

Services

Automatic Backups (A)

Nexcess 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 Nexcess 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 Nexcess? Ask for a free migration and BOOM. It’s done.

I manually migrated my sites to Nexcess (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 Nexcess, 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.

Support (B)

Heroic support mascot
The heroic support mascot was a giveaway at a WordCamp. He lives on my desk and I squeeze him regularly.

Nexcess 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 Nexcess’ 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 Nexcess makes such a big deal of their support, they need to address this issue.

Security

Free SSL (A)

Fun fact: Every site on Nexcess 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 Nexcess puts the sauce on top of the awesome by automatically installing this on every account. No need to ask for it – it just is.

If you’re not sure why HTTPS is a big deal, here’s why: Google hows security warnings for non-secure websites with pages containing sensitive data (e.g. password, credit card info, etc.) that don’t have an SSL certificate. Also, Google just announced that beginning in July 2018, Chrome will start marking all HTTP sites as “not secure.”

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.

Developer Features

All-level access (A)

It really bugs me when a host limits file or database access. LET ME IN, I SAY! With Nexcess 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)

Nexcess has Git version control on its servers. This is available when you SSH into your box. (Pretty much similar to how you can use Git with WP Engine, if you’ve tried that.)

Performance

Scalability (A)

This is where Nexcess 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)

Nexcess 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 Nexcess 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 Nexcess.

If you use your website to make money go with Nexcess. You’ll pay a bit more (unless you’re on their entry-level plan), but then, it’s not meant for hobby sites. Between the performance and security features Nexcess 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.

25 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About Nexcess WordPress Hosting”

  1. Victoria Elizabeth

    I recently went through a site audit for my food blog and was recommended to switch to Cloudways for hosting. I’m curious if it’s even comparable to Liquid Web or FlyWheel for someone like myself who is (for some) reason attempting to do this on her own?

    1. Hi Victoria,
      I personally have not tried Cloudways yet. I’ve heard good things, but my impression is that it’s geared more toward the technical user. If you go that route, I’d recommend looking to their managed WordPress offering specifically.
      Cheers,
      Carrie

  2. I have heard really good things about LiquidWeb for a number of years now, and it seems that their WordPress presence is starting to grow as well.

    Plus, they are Michigan based, so you know they are good people. 😉

  3. Hi Carrie,

    Great detailed overview! I use LiquidWeb for my development (just VPS), for my biz site WP Engine, and I have a client on the Managed WordPress plan. We got on in the early days of LiquidWeb’s Managed WordPress and were put in the cPanel version of it. I’ve been using them for about 10 years.

    I’m delighted to read backups now go back 30 days instead of 10, that is helpful.

    A note on two issues we have experienced. The caching can not be toggled by the account user, you do need to ask LW to help out with that. I miss that from WP Engine, occasionally you need to flush the cache.

    The SSL certificates are not both “www” and without “www”. When activating the SSL certificate in the dashboard, it will set you up without “www” version of your domain. Personally I never type in the “www” but there are always folks out there who do so I manually ask for SSL certificates from LiquidWeb so the website is reachable and not producing an error for example in Firefox because it can’t be used with the “www” in the domain address.

    And of course, also agree being in Michigan a good thing (I’m biased I’m from there.) Oh and hey LW owns their servers, it is not farmed out to a third party. That means they instantly fix hardware and they also have a mirror site out west.

    Customer service is highly technical, they are used to dealing with heavy duty tech people so you don’t have to do layman’s language with these guys.

    1. Thanks so much for chiming in, Nancy. I’d forgotten about the default to non-www. My domains were already https and non-www, so I didn’t think much about it when I did the migrations, but that’s a good reminder for folks.

      Interesting (and good point) about the caching. AJ Morris, if you’re reading this, put it on the feature roadmap? Ha!

      1. Hey Nancy –

        On our Managed WordPress cPanel product, you actually have to request the SSL be created. So it’s likely someone didn’t create the SSL cert for both www and non-www.

        With our Managed WordPress that Carrie is referring to here, as long as you point http://www.domain.com and domain.com to the server’s IP address, we’ll register a Let’s Encrypt SSL for both.

        Our caching has also greatly improved between the cPanel product and non-cPanel product. When you take cPanel out of the equation, we have many more freedoms. Currently we’re using Nginx microcache to provide caching on the managed WordPress product. We’ll be switching this out shortly for Varnish that will include the ability to flush cache.

        Definitely take a look at our new managed WordPress offering. I think you’ll find a lot of changes that we weren’t able to do when we had cPanel in the mix. You’ll also get all of the new features like Visual Comparison, Staging Sites and a few tricks up our sleeves!

        1. Thanks AJ. The SSL on managed WordPress does allow you to get a Global SSL certificate straight from the dashboard still. Staging would be great, glad to here it is available, I’ll check to see if my client has access to that as a Managed WordPress cPanel user.

  4. Thanks for a concise and informative article, Carrie! I’ve been looking for a good place to host and I am still researching. Liquid Web do sound very professional, but unfortunately their prices are painfully high for me.

    I’ve been doing a lot of research lately and I’m trying to find better deals and services. I’m interested in what you think of WPX Hosting in comparison to Liquid Web. have you heard of them? They seem to be on a similar level of quality but are less expensive.
    I want to hear more opinions from experts before committing to anything.
    As a WordPress expert, would you consider doing some more reviews of other WordPress hosts?

    Thanks again Carrie!

  5. Very good and informative review! Indeed, LiquidWeb has been improving and it might be one of the best options for business owners. Are there any feedback from the customers, who switched to LiquidWeb and can compare it with other hosting providers?

    1. My own experience has been a significant (50%) improvement in site performance. I just recently moved a client over to LW and, while the support and service are phenomenal, their onboarding process still needs a little work…

  6. Good stuff. Thanks Carrie! Personally, my top three (in no particular order) are Flywheel, WPX, and Pressidium. Flywheel is beautiful, but the costs can be frustrating depending on one’s needs. But the $100 bulk plan is a sneaky good option for people who need two to ten sites and are making a little money. WPX is about as “budget’ as I will go anymore, and their service, both performance and customer service, are very good. Finally, I started hosting a my father-in-law’s site (he is a popular author) on Pressidium in January and I’m very happy with them. The performance has been great, and the customer service has been a cut above.

    As a relatively novice user who doesn’t want to be a developer, but wants to focus on my own sites and mostly on my businesses, I look for four things: 1) performance, 2) customer service, 3) no “shutdowns” or surprises, and 4) someone who will take care of everything if my site is compromised in anyway. All three of these hosts go the extra mile to protect my site, and all three will clean up any problems for free in the very rare event of a problem. And none of them will ever shut me down or pause my site because of traffic spikes or billing mix-ups or anything else. I need that peace of mind. 🙂

    1. Hey Dan,
      Thanks for the comment! I especially liked hearing what things are most important to you. We all have differing priorities, but you pretty well hit it on the head.

      (Raising my glass) May your sites ever be up and your downtime ever be low. 🙂

      Carrie

  7. Hi Carrie,

    Nice review. But I’m afraid I have to report a most disappointing experience with LW.

    My husband chatted with their rep for pre-sale questions today after reading this review. Neither of us are tech savvy at all and my husband is also pretty bad at typing. Less than 5 minutes into the chat, LW abruptly cut the chat and showed us a screen that read something like .. our advisor is currently with other customers. We have logged your record. if emergency, please call us at xxxxxxx. Not verbatim but pretty much. I couldn’t believe they treated people this way. We have chatted with some really poor hosts prior but as awful as their customer service might be, nobody did this to us.

    We compared them to Flywheel before contacting them and found even though they are expensive, but their Managed WP $69 and $99 plans actually allow more storage and bandwidth than FW at the same price points. and LW use SSD while FW says “disk” so I guess that means hard disk.

    We’ve been building our very first wordpress site for 2 years and it’s a dynamic site with frontend users submitting posts, making comments, exchanging messages..upload photos, etc so we know our host must be able to sustain such a dynamic site with enough bandwidth and storage. We almost went with FW but after reading this review and compare their plan details, we were hoping LW would fit the bill.

    Now after this chat, plus someone commented here their Support don’t use layman’s language so that’s a red flag for us. And you also said “Liquid Web falls short here is the ability to push a site from staging to live.” So …disappointing.

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