Which of Liquid Web’s Brands is Right for You?

In this article I’m going to layout details about each of Liquid Web’s brands, with the intent of helping you identify which brand is right for you and your business needs.

If you’re confused by the title, and my use of the word ‘brand’, let me explain.

Liquid Web is a hosting company, that has expanded over the years by acquiring additional companies (and their products/services) and adding them to the Liquid Web brand.

Their first acquisition was in January 2018 of iThemes, a major WordPress plugin development and training company.

Their second acquisition was September 2019 of Nexcess, a leading provider of hosted eCommerce solutions.

Making both iThemes and Nexcess part of the Liquid Web brand.

My Role In This…?

To be completely transparent, we, me personally or my company, have not used all of the Liquid Web brands.

Of the three, we have only ever directly used iThemes products. However, I believe, in this case, that is going to be an advantage for you.

Not only have I not used Liquid Web hosting or Nexcess hosting, I am a strong advocate of WP Engine, since they have been my go to for the past 10 years.

So as I have done the research and signed up for trials with the Liquid Web hosting platforms I have compared those experiences to my WP Engine experience.

What I’m trying to say is, you’re getting my honest review and observation based on my years of experience in this space. And I think you’re going to like what I’ve discovered.

Let’s get started!

Liquid Web

The best way I can describe my initial impression of Liquid Web in a couple words or be, high-end or enterprise level.

I mean, this employee in his t-shirt looks high-end, right!?

Not really sure what lead to that assumption, however many years ago I developed it, but keep reading.

After digging into a couple key aspects, which I’ll outline below, Liquid Web isn’t just for the enterprise level user.

They are actually better suited for a small business that needs a dedicated or semi-dedicated (VPS) solution.

That said, they do offer a few solutions that are ideal for an enterprise that needs high-end networking and hosting solutions.

What They Offer

There are really only three product lines offered by Liquid Web.

  • Dedicated Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • VPS Hosting

If you don’t know what these different hosting options are, I’d recommend you start here: VPS Hosting – What You Need To Know

If you look through the list of products, you’ll see that they offer an additional solution, “CMS & eCommerce”

However, I am not including those products with the Liquid Web review, because those products are actually provided under the Nexcess brand and I will be discussing them in that brand review.

Basic Product Overview

Each of the available hosting services, dedicated, cloud, VPS, are all a variation of isolated or dedicated hosting solutions. The difference is in the environment itself.

Dedicated servers are physical server boxes that are made available for a single tenant. The tenant then can do whatever they’d like with that server.

There is such thing as a Cloud Dedicated Server, which Liquid Web offers, these servers are intended for a single tenant, but instead of just a physical box that is limited to it’s preconfigured resources, the cloud server offers resource scaleability and flexibility.

Cloud servers are a mix of physical and virtual servers networked together making the environment more flexible. With cloud servers you can easily install or adapt additional technology and resources as needed to support growth.

VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. Unlike a dedicated server, where you are the only tenant on that server, a VPS is a dedicated server divided into virtual environments that are isolated (private) for multiple tenants. A VPS tenant won’t have “parent server” access, but their VPS does offer them access to control their own isolated “virtual” server.

Let’s Talk About Price

Liquid Web, which I was surprised to see, is more affordable than more “well known” companies like GoDaddy (who you should never host with) for example.

Take a look at these price comparison charts (first chart is dedicated hosting, second is VPS)

While the VPS is an identical product offering, Liquid Web still comes out on top because of GoDaddy’s Fully Managed pricing. I’ll add that GoDaddy’s Fully Managed support team has an even tighter scope of support than Liquid Web.

Notice the dedicated options are drastically different in the product offering, GoDaddy is still charging $55 more per month and $110 more per month for the managed option.

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use Liquid Web?

Not everybody needs a dedicated server to run their website. In fact, most people don’t. Which means the main products offered by Liquid Web are not a fit for everyone!

If you can check the box for any of the items listed below, you probably need and are qualified for a dedicated hosting solution, and should contact Liquid Web support for help picking the right solution for you.

  • Mid to High Level Expert
  • Have IT Staff or Outsourced Team
  • Have a High Trafficked Website
  • Run a Large eCommerce Website
  • Need to Run Several Websites with Mid to High Traffic
  • Need to Host Enterprise Level Software (i.e QuickBooks)
  • Need to Host Your Own Organizational Email System
  • Need Hosting for a Mobile Application (probably want Cloud for this)
  • If You’re a Web Pro Offering Hosting (Liquid Web has a killer reseller program)

If anything on the list below rings true for you, then you should NOT use Liquid Web’s dedicated solutions.

  • You Need Hosting for a Basic Website
  • You Have NO Tech Experience
  • You Do NOT have the Budget for IT Staff or Outsourcing
  • Hosted Email Works Great for You (i.e Google Suites)
  • NO Interested in Learning to Manage a Server

If you’re not a fit for these Liquid Web solutions, you might be a fit for the Nexcess brand hosting solutions so keep reading.

The Exception When You’re NOT a Fit

If you absolutely need a dedicated environment, but do not have the experience or expertise to manage and configure a server, you could take advantage of Liquid Web’s Fully Managed services.

This service gives you access to a team of server experts to help you with the management of your server.

This is not the same thing as having access to a server tech that can just do anything and everything you need. They can not do everything for you.

The Managed team will migrate your site and help with the initial server configuration. So if you want/need a dedicated environment and lack the expertise to manage one, this is potentially a good solution for you.

The Enterprise Level Offering

As I mentioned above, Liquid Web also has a suite of Enterprise level hosting solutions that won’t replace your IT team, but will make operating your IT infrastructure more affordable. They’ll also provide dedicated Account Executives to work with your IT Team.

Because it’s unlikely those reading this article on this blog will be Enterprise level customers, I’m not going to focus my review on those services. If you’re in need of enterprise level services, you’ll know it.

Nexcess

To put this brand in perspective I only need a couple words. WordPress, eCommerce, and scalability.

My first impression of the Nexcess brand was that they would be more expensive then your average WordPress hosting provider, however I was wrong, at least for anyone doing 500 sales an hour or less…Yeah! Keep reading for more on that!

In this section I am going to focus on the three products (core offering) shown above, Managed WordPress, Managed WooCommerce, and Managed Magento.

They do offer additional solutions such as; Drupal, BigCommerce, Craft CMS, ExpressionEngine, and some high-end enterprise level hosting, but I’m not going to cover those things in this article. Our viewers are primarily WordPress users, so we prefer to stay focused on that.

That said, if any of the Nexcess products reviewed here could be a fit for you, then you could very well be a fit for any of the other stacks listed above.

In full disclosure, I have never personally used any of these Nexcess products or supported a site hosted by Nexcess. I did however, signup for a trial and I might have annoyed a couple of their chat sales/support team to get more insights.

I am happy to report the chat rep was exceptional and both helpful and knowledgeable.

What They Offer

One of the first questions I had about these hosting environments was, “are these dedicated or shared hosting plans?”.

The short answer, Shared.

However, the long answer is worth the read!

They use shared environments so that they can use a clustered environment. Which means they spread the load of hosting across multiple physical machines instead of using a single physical machine to host several services.

One benefit of a clustered environment is that the different hosting services; FTP, email, database, etc., are on different machines instead of all on one, making it less likely that these different services will affect any of the others.

Another benefit is the increased availability of resources. In this case, if you have a burst of traffic, the system will automatically adjust (when the feature is enabled) to fill the need so that you don’t miss out on sales or other opportunities.

This setup also enables them to offer email services with their hosting, which is hard to find among Managed WordPress hosting providers. And each of their plans provided unlimited email accounts.

Let’s get into the three products we’re focusing on:

Managed WordPress Hosting

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find things to talk about in regards to Managed WordPress products. There are so many companies offering a similar product and most do the same “managed” things.

However, I think there are two things you need to consider when choosing a Managed WordPress hosting provider.

  1. Support
  2. Environment

Support: You need to make sure that (a) they support WordPress, and (b) they know more than you do!

The best way I have found to determine this is by signing up for free trials, when available, and start using the chat and email support to get help, right away.

If you started getting responses like, “we can’t help you with that, here is some documentation”, or the answers they give aren’t correct, and you know because you actually know, then you‘ll want to run away.

Environment: Will their hosting product meat your needs? The worst thing is when you get into a new system, setup or migrate your site thinking you’re set, to only hit the same issues you had at the last place.

Tackle this the same way. Use the chat feature on the front of site. It’s usually used for sales purposes anyway, so just drill them until you get the info you want/need.

From my experience, Nexcess can check off these two requirements. They’ve got it covered.

Nexcess Managed WordPress plans starts at $19/month for 1 site, but supports 15GB of storage and 2TB of bandwidth. If you’re not sure what that means, that means you can host a huge site, with tons of traffic.

Managed WooCommerce Hosting

Nexcess was one of the first, if not the first, hosting company to offer a “hosted” WooCommerce solution. Meaning, once your hosting account was setup, you already had Woo installed and access to tons of extensions.

Managed WooCommerce is still kinda new. There are other hosting providers starting to offer similar services, but I’ve reviewed some of those, and they don’t compare when it comes to the hosting environment.

Here are the highlights of Nexcess Managed WooCommerce hosting.

  • Cluster Environments for scaling and performance

This I’ve explained above, but you can learn more about that here => https://www.liquidweb.com/blog/what-is-server-cluster

  • Extensive resources

Even with the Starter plan, Nexcess’ Managed WooCommerce hosting starts with an insane level of resources. They measure this by sales per hour. And the Starter plan (yes, the starter plan) is measured at 500 sales per hour!

Compare the different plans here => https://www.nexcess.net/woocommerce/

  • Builtin image compression

When you’re running a commerce website each product is going to have several images to help sell the product and you want those images to be high res, but large and lots of images will impact the performance of your site. With Nexcess you won’t have to use a third party plugin to handle the compression of your images. This upgrade will save you $60 per year (based on the pricing of Smush Pro).

With IconicWP you’re going to get access to 14 extensions that are designed to drive conversion and close sales. This upgrade saves you $500 a year!

You can check them out here => https://iconicwp.com/products/

  • Astra Pro theme (“fastest theme for eCommerce”)

Astro Pro is one the most popular theme for building WooCommerce sites and offers a ton of features for page builders like Elementor and plugins like Woo. This upgrade saves you about $275 a year.

You can check them out here => https://wpastra.com/pro/

  • WP101 WooCommerce Tutorials

WP101 offers some of the most advanced WordPress product tutorials. They have a very extensive and detailed WooCommerce training to help you excel with Woo. And it’s built right into your Nexcess dashboard. This upgrade saves you $49 a year.

You can checkout the course details here => https://www.wp101.com/course/woocommerce/

  • iThemes Security Pro

I’ve reviewed this plugin, The Best WordPress Security Plugin, and for the details you can read that article, but this is a must when you have a commerce site. With ever bit of data you’re collect and storing, your risk and liability grows. With iThemes Security, your site will be locked down and customer data secure. This upgrade saves you $80 per year.

You can check them out here => https://ithemes.com/security/

  • Abandoned Cart by Jilt

This is not available in the starter plan, but all the other plans include this upgrade.

Jilt is an email marketing platform built for ecommerce sites. This specific integration is to help with the recovery of abandoned carts in your WooCommerce store. This upgrade saves you $350+ per year.

You can learn more here => https://jilt.com/product/automations/abandoned-cart-recovery/

These are just the key factors (a small part) that stood out to me when researching this brand.

Nexcess Managed WooCommerce plans start at $19/month for 1 site, but supports 30GB of storage and 3TB of bandwidth and great for stores doing 500 or less sales per hour.

If the Starter plan, is ideal for stores doing 500 sales per hour! These plans are built for serious scale!

Which means if you’re just starting out, you have some solid growth available in the Starter plan, but if you’re currently doing 500 sales an hour and you’re selling a one dollar product, you could pay for 2.5 years of hosting in one hour!

Managed Magento Hosting

My experience with Magento isn’t good. This eCommerce platform is either loved or hated.

I think it gets a bad rap because it’s complicated to install, configure, and manage. Pretty much all the things!

Which is where Nexcess comes in!

With their managed Magento hosting, all three of the biggest pains are covered!

I’m not going to spend much more time on this. Again, if you’re reading this article you’re not likely a Magento user, and besides, WooCommerce is still easier to use, even with the aid of Nexcess managed hosting.

What I will say. If you use or want to use Magento, give Nexcess a try. Their plans start at $49 per month. If it doesn’t work out, it’s a business write off!

You can learn more here => https://nexcess.net/magento

Let’s Talk About Price

I’ve outlined the price ranges for each of the products in the respective sections above, but I want to reiterate something important here.

These plans, maybe with the exception of the initial level of each product, are for sites with a large amount of traffic and reasonably high sales volume. Which pretty much justifies the price.

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use Nexcess

While the starter plan is a fit for most anyone just starting out or with a small commerce store, Nexcess is most suitable for an online business that is growing fast and needs the flexibility to support their growth.

You should consider using Nexcess if:

  • You have an online store that does 50+ sales per hour and growing
  • You have one or more large WordPress sites that have a large amount of traffic
  • You host multiple sites that require extensive resources and support

You should not use Nexcess if:

  • You don’t have a WordPress site
  • You don’t need an commerce website

The Exception When You’re Not A Fit

The entry level plan for both Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce are subtitle for almost anyone needing to host a WordPress site and store.

These plans are $19 per month, and offer more resources and scalability then most websites need.

If you’re small, have little to no knowledge or experience running a website or online store, but want a reliable hosting service that offers a great product and outstanding support and like to save money, use Nexcess.

iThemes

I think the acquisition of iThemes was a great move for Liquid Web. So far we’ve covered two brands that are more ideal for higher level users. What Liquid Web needed was a brand to fit the other side of the market without compromising brand equity.

Technically, iThemes isn’t a hosting company. They started as a premium theme provider, then started developing plugins, and eventually rolled out their hosting service.

Over the years iThemes has become a go-to for WordPress professionals. Their plugins have been making it easier for them to provide quality services and their training is outstanding.

What They Offer

iThemes has four categories of products.

  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Hosting
  • Training

As I mentioned, they started as a premium theme provider, but that product seems to have faded into the background while their plugins have taken center stage.

Let’s take a look into each of these categories.

Themes

Thinking back, I would say iThemes was one of the first premium theme companies to offer a theming framework. Theirs is called Builder.

While the latest update for builder and all related child themes was on August of 2020, this product seems to have been moved aside for more populate products.

They are highlighting Responsive Support as the newest feature on the product landing page which links to an article written in 2012.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use Builder, just that it doesn’t appear to be a core focus and not likely exploding with great new functionality. They are most likely just maintaining for current users.

One thing I did like about their theme solution was they were the only company, that I am aware of, that built themes for focused use. Meaning, instead of just building themes that could be adapted to fit any type of business, they built themes for specific business types and uses.

They might possibly have 100+ child themes. https://ithemes.com/find/builder/

Plugins

Chances are you’ve heard of, and possibly even use some of iThemes plugins. Some of them are market leaders.

  • BackupBuddy
  • iThemes Security Pro
  • Restrict Content Pro

These are just a couple of the plugins iThemes offers, but they are likely the most widely used.

BackupBuddy is handy tool for performing regular site backups, but also makes migrating your site a much easier task.

iThemes Security Pro, I’ve done a full write up on this one titled, The Best WordPress Security Plugin, and it really is the most advanced security plugin available.

Restrict Content Pro is actually new to the iThemes product line, but it’s a very popular membership plugin, I’ve also done a complete write up here, iThemes New WordPress Membership Plugin.

Other plugins they offer include:

  • List Building Combo
  • Featured Post
  • Boom Bar
  • Carousel
  • Rotating Text
  • Slides
  • Slideshow
  • Video Showcase
  • Tipsy
  • Rotating Images
  • Billboard

The thing I love about iThemes plugins, much like their theme strategy, they build plugins to solve a very specific problem, then go all in!

You can buy most of iThemes plugins individually, however, they have put together some really nice bundles like; The Plugin Suite, Agency Bundle, ToolKit, & Course Creator. I’ll break each of these down in the pricing section below.

Hosting

This is a fairly new product to the iThemes catalog. However, it was a logical next step for them. They have been offering all the tools a web professional needs to help build, manage, and secure their websites, hosting just puts it all in one place at one price.

Unlike the other brands, iThemes hosting is for WordPress only.

Their product is a Managed WordPress hosting solution, more competitively priced then the other brands discussed.

These hosting plans include iThemes core plugins, Security Pro and BackupBuddy. They also integrate with Sync, which I cover below, but Sync makes it easier to manage WordPress and plugin updates for multiple sites.

Prices as of Nov. 14, 2020

As for the hosting platform itself, you can feel confident that they didn’t skimp on the hardware. These plans are fast and reliable.

iThemes offers a very unique program called the “Buy Back Program”.

This is pretty awesome, I know of no other hosting company that offers such a great deal.

It works like this. iThemes will give you a credit for up to 5 months (at $15/mo) on your current hosting plan when you switch to iThemes WordPress hosting.

So if you are currently hosting at GoDaddy (you’ll really want to take advantage of this) and you have 5 months (or less) left on your current annual hosting plan that you paid $15/mo for, iThemes will credit your iThemes hosting account with $75.

I suspect that if you have more than 5 months on your plan and you paid more than $15/mo, they would still allow you to use this program, they just wouldn’t buy back any more than 5 months at $15 per month.

Interested? Learn more more about the buy back program.

Sync

Sync is a great tool to have if you have more than one WordPress site that you use and or manage.

Instead of having to login to each site individually to handle updates and backups, etc.., you can login to your Sync dashboard and manage all of your sites from one location.

Sync connects to your site through a plugin, but once installed, you can do all the things from within the Sync dashboard.

This is likely more impressive to the WordPress professional that is managing multiple client sites or provides hosting services for their client sites.

Training

When it comes to WordPress there is a lot to learn. And that is true for any level of user.

We have come to rely on the training resources iThemes makes available. They offer webinars, courses, ebooks, tutorials, and other documentation. Most of it is free and archived from years back. Some of it is paid and included in the Toolkit subscription which is targeted at web professionals.

You can can get a good look at their training resources here

Let’s Talk About Price

The most important thing to note here, iThemes is priced competitively in each of their product categories. They’re not taking advantage or grossly over priced compared to their direct competition.

I’ll break this down by product category first, then walk through the different packages they offer.

Bottom-line, all of iThemes products will fit any budget!

Plugin Pricing

iThemes Security Pro and BackupBuddy start at only $80 a year, that’s less than $7 a month. Restrict Content Pro starts at only $99 a year. Most of the other plugins start at only $39 a year.

Like most premium plugins available for WordPress, the price changes based on the number of sites you can use the plugin with and in some cases the number of add-on features you get.

Overall, iThemes plugin pricing stays very competitive and affordable.

Themes Pricing

The Builder core theme plus 5 foundation themes (child themes) starts at only $80 a year. The developer package, which includes the Builder core and all 100+ foundation themes is only $150 a year. The pricing is extremely low in comparison to some of their competitors.

It could be because the themes have been set to the side (so it seems) to focus on their plugins, but they still sell them, so they’re still supporting them!

Sync Pricing

With Sync, you’re paying for the number of sites you can manage. They have plans for 5, 10, 25 sites and the pricing starts at $7 per month to manage five sites.

There are other services like Sync, like the one we currently use that charges per active feature per site. For the same number of sites, our cost tends to be about twice as much.

If you prefer to save time and have a few extra dollars every month, you should seriously consider using Sync to help manage your sites.

They offer a 30 day trial, so if your interested give it a try!

Hosting Pricing

I provided a screenshot above with the pricing as of the time of this writing, so I just want to highlight the incredible cost savings when you use iThemes WordPress hosting.

Their first plan allows you to host two sites at $15 per month. That’s $7.5 per month per site, but with their hosting environment you’re getting $30 per month per site value.

Remember, if you host with iThemes, you also get BackupBuddy, iThemes Security, and Sync included for each site. That’s an incredible savings.

Training Pricing

As mentioned, MOST of what iThemes puts out in training is completely FREE.

Most of what they offer in their paid training is targeted at the WordPress professional. Which is defined as, someone who gets paid to build WordPress site, plugins, manage sites, market sites, etc…

However, anyone is welcome to join and partake. To be a member and get access to thousands of trainings, is only $39 per month.

They offer a 30 day trial, so I’d recommend signing up diving in and see what you can learn!

Plugin Suite Package

This package includes all of iThemes plugins for one low price. You can get all 14 plugins (and any new ones), and you get 10GB of Stash storage, which is great for storing your site backups from BackupBuddy.

This package starts at $499 per year for unlimited sites.

Agency Bundle Package

This package is a new offering as of this writing. This bundle is a step up from the Plugin Suite because it includes everything iThemes has.

It was created to better serve the Web Professionals that use iThemes to help run and grow their businesses.

You get all the plugins, all the themes, Sync account for managing 25 sites, 50GB of Stash storage, and access to all the training/courses.

It’s currently on sale for November 2020.

Toolkit Bundle Package

This is essentially the same thing as the Agency Bundle, so I am going to assume they will be fading out the Toolkit and it will be replaced by the Agency Bundle.

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use iThemes

Quite literally, anyone using WordPress could find a product they need or could use at iThemes.

I do believe iThemes has shifted more and more over the years to target more of the web professional. While they would never tell someone to not buy their products, I think they are in a very good position to be able to really help web professionals grow their businesses.

At the very high level, anyone with a WordPress website could at least be using iThemes Security and BackupBuddy, which you can get in the Essentials Bundle!

The iThemes hosting is probably the only product that I don’t see as a fit for everyone. While they advertise that their platform is built on enterprise level hardware (and I believe it is), these are managed WordPress solutions which means they are restricted to access and control.

You should consider using iThemes if:

  • You have a business using WordPress for a website
  • You’re a web developer/designer that provides hosting and management services
  • You want quality plugins that you can rely on

You should not use iThemes if:

  • You don’t like having restricted access to your hosting service
  • You don’t have a WordPress website

The Wrap Up

If you made it this far, congrats! 🤣

This was a long one, so let me see if I can sum this up for you in a couple quick sentences.

All of these brands offer incredible products and amazing support!

Liquid Web is a fit for individuals and companies looking for reliable dedicated hosting environments that are backed by the best technology and an educated support team.

Nexcess is a fit for an eCommerce company that is doing large volume and that is either growing quickly or plans to grow rapidly. While their main offerings are for WooCommerce and Magento, they do offer other software stacks.

iThemes is a fit for just about anyone using WordPress for their website. They are a perfect fit for the WordPress agency or developer/designer that offers a range of services and support.

Take note that some of the iThemes plugins are included in the hosting services provided by the other brands.

What should you do now?

If you have questions about any of the products or brands mentioned in this article, feel free to use the comments or chat to ask. While I’m not an expert, but after a couple weeks of research and writing I’ve got quite a bit of info I can share.

You can also reach out to each of the companies and use their chat options to get your questions answered.

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