Hosting with WordPress.com (product review)

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This product review is based on our own experience of hosting with WordPress.com for the past year.

When we launched GravityRanger.com we were in a hurry to get the site up and running, so I didn’t follow our normal procedure. And for the first time decided to try hosting with WordPress.com and signed up for the Business plan.

What’s our “Normal Procedure”?

Usually, we’d set up a new install on WP Engine (where we host all our sites) and connect WordPress.com through Jetpack.

But this time I figured that since it was going to cost about the same, it actually worked out to be a bit cheaper (I’ll outline the saving below), and because GravityRanger was a test niche site, we’d give it a test run.

Hosting with WordPress.com (first-timer)

Outside of hosting a free blog/site back in 2007, this was the first time I have used WordPress.com to host a website.

I’ve been using Jetpack for several years to take advantage of some of the WordPress.com features like Stats, VideoPress, and WordAds, but this was a whole new experience.

One that was mostly positive and as a result, we will continue to host GravityRanger.com there for the time being.

Summary

Overall the experience of hosting a site with WordPress.com was a good one.

There were a few things I liked not having to worry about, but there were also a couple of things that are pretty annoying if you’re used to self-hosting WordPress sites.

For example, the dashboard menu is a bit different, there are several pages that have a different UI, (i.e the Pages list screen and the Plugins main screen), and the admin bar has none of the functionality I’m used to (i.e Edit Page/Post).

The frustration created by the interface was a minor inconvenience that I was willing to deal with so that I could take advantage of more important things like security and performance.

Was it Really Cheaper?

Let me try and break this down, but be forewarned, I’m not that great with math 😉.

If I would have set this site up with WP Engine, I would have paid $300 for a year (with a $60 discount for paying annually).

We use Jetpack on our sites to connect to WP.com for Stats, Akismet, Video hosting, and WordAds. With the plan we would normally purchase (Jetpack Premium which is no longer available), that is an additional $99 per year (pre-tax).

Total Cost to host with WP Engine: $399/yr

Hosting with WordPress.com eliminates the extra cost of Jetpack because it is built into the hosting plan.

The Business plan costs $300 per year (when paid annually), but we were fortunate to be offered a discount when initially signing up so the first year was even cheaper 🥳.

Total Cost to host with WordPress.com: $161.70 the first year

Obviously, we will be paying the full $300 when we renew, WordPress.com does not give discounts on renewals or upgrades, but we’ll still be saving $99 per year.

How to Improve Pricing – just an idea

I think being able to tailor the plans based on what you actually need would make the experience that much better.

As it is there are features in the Business plan I didn’t need or want, like the SEO tools, 200GB of storage (overkill), and I would have been fine with the WordPress.com branding.

But because I need the ability to install plugins, I had to get the Business plan. I would have preferred to have been able to select the Premium plan and select the Install Plugins feature as an add-on, paying just a little more for that.

With the changes they’ve made to the Jetpack plans and pricing, this, build-your-own plan, isn’t that far of a stretch!

Pros & Cons of Hosting with WordPress.com

I want to bullet point as many aspects as possible, but I’m only going to expand on what we believe are the key aspects of a quality hosting solution.

This list is based on the Business plan.

Pros

  • It’s WordPress Hosting
  • Built-in Security
  • Great Performance
  • Awesome Support (chat & email)
  • Access to SFTP and phpMyAdmin
  • Built-in domain email (additional fee)
  • Jetpack enhancements included
  • Video Hosting

Cons

  • Different UI
  • Less effective Admin Bar
  • WooCommerce can not be removed from menu
  • When viewing the site, it renders in the admin first.
  • Conflict with Jetpack performance features and another Automattic plugin
  • WP Core update guinea pig

Overall Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m not willing to give it a five-star rating because the things on the Cons list are overly annoying to me, so much so, that I have considered moving the site off WordPress.com.

However, overall, I think that for most users, hosting with WordPress.com is a great option.

Breaking Down the Pros

I believe all the items listed in the pros section are essential for a quality hosting solution.

It’s WordPress Hosting

After 15+ years in, I would expect that engineers behind WordPress.com would have figured out how to properly scale hosting a massive amount of WordPress websites.

On top of making WordPress.com a great hosting platform, they have also built WP VIP, an enterprise-grade hosting solution, that starts at $2000/month.

These two facts make it easy for me to put a lot of faith in the WordPress.com hosting platform.

Built-in Security

All hosting companies have some sort of server-side security and protection, but here again, this is a hosting platform that has been scaled to support hundreds of thousands of WordPress websites, so it has to be massively secure.

This security is available without the Jetpack features, but the Business plan includes a ton of security enhancements.

Access to SFTP and phpMyAdmin

I was honestly surprised by this aspect of the WordPress.com hosting solution. I did not expect to have any type of server or database access.

However, you can access your files via SFTP and have access to the database via phpMyAdmin.

Breaking Down the Cons

None of these items are deal-breakers by any means, but when you’re editing content and creating new content, and managing stats, these types of things can get annoying and slow you down.

I have believed for a long time that Automattic uses WordPress.com users to test ideas and new features.

And hopefully, some of those things never make it to future releases 😳.

Buyers Guide

If you’ve gotten to this point you might be trying to decide if you should move your site to WordPress.com managed hosting, or stay where you are.

In some cases this should be a no-brainer, for example, if you host with GoDaddy (or any of their brands), Bluehost, HostGator, Dreamhost, or Siteground, you should seriously consider making the move.

Pricing

As mentioned above, we got a great deal when signing up for WordPress.com hosting plan, but even without the discount, $300 per year is a pretty competitive price for everything that you get.

On the surface, the price might seem a bit high if you’re currently paying five to twelve dollars a month for your current host.

If you’re fine with putting your website or business in the hands of a $5 per month hosting provider you should probably read this article, Who’s Backing Up Your WordPress Website?.

The Discount

If I remember correctly, the discount was a result of an abandoned cart email. I had added the Business plan upgrade to the cart but wasn’t ready to pull the trigger so I sat on it for a few days.

Maybe give it a try and see if it works for you!

Who Should Host with WordPress.com

While the WordPress.com hosting platform has proven to serve our needs for this niche site, I’m not sure I would be willing to host my main business website there.

Because it’s a hosted platform you are limited in your control and access and like building a business on Facebook is a bad idea, there are risks in having your site on WordPress.com.

That said, if we were to out-grow the platform or get booted for some reason, it would be relatively easy to take a backup of the site and get it set up on WP Engine, and be back online within an hour.

Now to address the question, I think if you can answer yes to most of the questions below, hosting with WordPress.com is a valid solution for you.

  • Do you prefer to let someone else dela with the technical aspects of hosting?
  • Do you like using the WordPress auto-update feature?
  • Are you new to WordPress?
  • Would you like a free domain name?
  • Would you like to manage your email from the same dashboard used to manage your website?
  • Do you sell physical or digital products?
  • Are you using Jetpack, or want to take advantage of those features?
  • Looking for a solution that works and gives you peace of mind?
  • Are you a creator that prefers to not deal with the tech stuff?
  • Prefer a done-for-you system that’s ready to go so you can get launched fast?
  • Are you experiencing perfomrance issues with your current hosting provider?

Alternative Solutions

If you’re in the market for a better hosting provider, but don’t feel like WordPress.com is right for you, these are the top Managed WordPress Hosting providers in the market. I recommend you use one of these.

WP Engine

WP Engine was the first truly Managed WordPress hosting provider in the market. With excellent uptime, a high-performance hosting environment, real-time threat detection, and numerous premium hosting features, WP Engine is the best WordPress hosting service for managed hosting. 

Checkout WP Engine

Nexcess

Nexcess hosting is pretty impressive. You get a massive amount of storage and resources at very competitive pricing. They offer what is probably the best hosting solution for WordPress sites running WooCommerce. If you have a growing e-commerce business, you should consider Nexcess.

Checkout Nexcess

Option Three

If either of those options doesn’t look like the right fit, you might consider Pressable, which is another Managed WordPress hosting company that is owned by Automattic, the same company that owns WordPress.com.

Checkout Pressable

The Wrap Up

Our overall experience hosting with WordPress.com has been a pleasant one. The GravityRanger site has never had any downtime, the performance has been outstanding, and the few times we had to contact support it was quick and effective.

It’s not a solution for everyone and every situation, however, it is one that we believe is worth the expense. I have complete peace of mind hosting GravityRanger with WordPress.com.

Fortunately, the first year’s revenues for the site have been enough to cover the cost of hosting with WordPress.com for a few years.

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