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Shared vs Managed WordPress Hosting: The Key Differences and How to Make Your Decision

Shared vs managed WordPress hosting has been a hot-button topic in the WordPress community for a long time now. And we’re no strangers to it either – in our multiple hosting reviews, comparisons and surveys, we’ve always come across many interesting points of view and opinions coming from each side of the barricade.

However, pitting shared and managed hosting against each other might not be as simple as it at first seems.

In this article, I’ll look into what both developers and everyday users mean when they talk about shared vs managed WordPress hosting.

Then, I’ll get into the specific differences between the two and recommend the option that’s better in a given scenario.

Shared vs managed WordPress hosting
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Shared vs managed WordPress hosting in a nutshell

The shared vs managed WordPress hosting debate comes down to the added WordPress-specific services and performance tweaks you get with managed WordPress hosting.

Managed WordPress hosting is like a concierge service for your WordPress site, whereas regular shared hosting leaves much of the work to you when it comes to backups, WordPress optimization, and more.


Shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting aren’t inherently different things

When people talk about shared hosting, they’re usually using the phrase interchangeably with “generic cheap hosting.”

But here’s the thing:

You’ll actually find plenty of shared hosts offering a “managed platform” or “managed services”, and these hosts are often counted among the list of managed WordPress hosts.

  • Shared hosting is just a type of hosting plan where your site “shares” resources with other sites on the same server.
  • Managed WordPress hosting is a set of added services and performance tweaks that sits on top of regular hosting.

That’s why you can have cheap shared managed WordPress hosting – like Bluehost at $2.75 per month – and expensive dedicated managed WordPress hosts – like Pagely starting at $499 per month.

Shared vs managed WordPress hosting - example from Bluehost
expensive managed WordPress hosting example from Pagely

In fact, you’ll find managed WordPress hosts powered by all types of different underlying architecture – shared, VPS, dedicated, cloud.

Despite that caveat, we’re going to go with the common parlance in this article and treat shared vs managed WordPress hosting as different entities. Even though it might not be technically correct, it is correct when you take into account how most people use the two terms.

The main differences between shared vs managed WordPress hosting

Shared hosting in a nutshell

Shared hosting is all about hosts trying to keep their costs down by cramming lots of different websites onto a single server. That sounds negative – but it’s really not. Shared hosting serves a purpose.

If shared hosts didn’t do that, none of us would have the ability to host unlimited sites for the same amount of money we spend at Starbucks each month.

For example, shared hosting is a great solution for a proof-of-concept type of site or for a hobby site. And maybe even for a small business site provided that what’s needed is a simple “online business card.” If you were to opt for a professional managed WordPress hosting setup for each such project, you wouldn’t be able to test out more than 1-2 at a time. With shared hosting, you can run 10 such sites on one server.

TL;DR: We’ve also created a quick summary video of what shared and managed WordPress hosting are, plus which is going to be more suitable for a casual user. Check it out:

Also, you’ll share your server’s resources with tens or hundreds of other sites which means that your site might slow down because of something happening on someone else’s site. Quality shared hosts will avoid overloading their servers to stop this from happening – ultra-budget shared hosts will usually oversell the space.

Beyond that, you’ll typically use a generic cPanel dashboard to manage your site(s).

cpanel dashboard

While cPanel has some WordPress specific features – like an installer tool – it’s not designed specifically to make your WordPress life easier like managed WordPress hosts’ dashboards.

Managed WordPress hosting in a nutshell

Managed WordPress hosting is a set of services, performance optimizations, and other value-adds. These added features:

  • Can help make your site load faster because every configuration is specifically set up to be optimized for WordPress
  • Give you tools that make it simple to install and manage WordPress, as well as tools like staging sites to help you safely make changes to your WordPress site
  • Help maintain your site for you with features like automatic updates and automatic backups
  • Better secure your WordPress site with security rules and features that are specifically focused on WordPress

Beyond those features, you’re usually able to manage your site in a custom designed dashboard (though this is not always the case at budget managed WordPress hosts).

For example, here’s what the custom dashboard looks like at Kinsta:

kinsta UI

In addition to just plain looking better, you’re also able to perform tons of helpful WordPress actions right from your hosting dashboard like:

Managing your plugins:

managing plugins

Viewing automatic backups or manually taking a new backup:

automatic backups

Not all managed WordPress hosts’ dashboards look like Kinsta’s – but most offer a similar upgrade over the cPanel option you get with shared hosts.

In exchange for those features, though, you usually sacrifice in the form of lower website limits and a maximum number of allowed visits per month.

Pros and cons of shared hosting

As you’d expect, most of the pros of shared vs managed WordPress hosting involve price and the cons involve features and performance…

Pros of shared hosting

  • You often pay a significantly lower monthly fee
  • Many shared hosts let you host unlimited websites for one flat cost
  • While “unlimited visitors” doesn’t exist, most shared hosts advertise unlimited and don’t have a hard cap on the number of visits to your site

Cons of shared hosting

  • Because the focus is often on cutting costs rather than boosting performance, your site will usually load a bit slower
  • Because you’re sharing resources, your site’s load times can also be affected by what’s happening to other sites on the shared server
  • You lack the value-added features like automatic updates and automatic backups
  • You won’t always have WordPress-specific performance and security tweaks

Pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting

The pros and cons of managed WordPress hosting are a bit more varied…

Pros of managed WordPress hosting

  • Server architecture that’s designed specifically for WordPress, which usually means better performance
  • Built-in server-level caching, which also means better performance
  • Automatic WordPress updates to keep your site secure and functioning
  • Automatic backups to ensure your WordPress site’s data is safe
  • WordPress-specific security tweaks, like firewalls, login hardening, and malware scans
  • A more convenient website management dashboard (though not on all managed WordPress hosts)
  • Helpful features like staging sites to make managing your site easier
  • All the customer support agents are WordPress experts

Cons of managed WordPress hosting

  • Managed WordPress hosts often cost more than shared hosts, though you can find middle grounds like Bluehost
  • Managed WordPress hosts usually also impose stricter website limits and/or visitor caps
  • You can usually only host WordPress sites (obviously)
  • In order to ensure performance, some managed WordPress hosts will put restrictions on the plugins that you can use

Shared vs managed WordPress hosting – which should you choose?

Thanks to hosts like Bluehost and SiteGround, choosing between shared vs managed WordPress hosting has become a lot less complicated.

In fact – no matter what your budget is, we recommend that you stick with a managed WordPress solution (if you’re planning to use WordPress, of course).

It’s now possible to find entry-level managed WordPress hosting starting at almost the same price as cheap shared hosts:

Company Price / mo. from Suitable for Disk space Free domain name Av. load time Go to
Bluehost $2.75 not disclosed 50GB 1.99s Visit | Read Review
SiteGround $2.99 ~ 10,000 visits monthly 10GB (SSD) 1.25s Visit | Read Review
InMotion $2.29 ~ 20,000 visits monthly 40GB (SSD) 1s Visit | Read Review

All three options also give you free backups and free SSLs.

You might miss out on some of the more premium managed features – like custom dashboards and staging sites – but you get many of the benefits of managed WordPress hosting at an affordable cost.

If you want a more “deluxe” managed WordPress hosting experience, then you can upgrade to some more premium options like:

Company Price / mo. from Suitable for Disk space Free domain name Av. load time Go to
Kinsta $30.00 ~ 25,000 visits monthly 5GB (SSD) 1.27s Visit | Read Review
WP Engine $20.00 ~ 25,000 visits monthly 10GB (SSD) 1.18s Visit | Read Review
Flywheel $13.00 ~ 5,000 visits monthly 5GB (SSD) 1.68s Visit | Read Review

These three options also give you free backups, SSLs, plus CDN.

As you can see, the pricing is kind of similar here, but you do get a bit less in terms of available disk space. In exchange, you get a more WordPress-optimized environment (allegedly).

That about sums it up! Do you have any other questions about shared vs managed WordPress hosting? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help you make your decision.

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. Learn more below:

Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
Colin Newcomer

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August 13, 2018 7:25 am

I’m not sure how Siteground is considered a managed WordPress hosting service. They host multiple sites on the same server and are extremely vulnerable to security attacks as I found out the hard way.

Luke Cavanagh
March 22, 2018 10:32 pm

Surprised Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress hosting was not mentioned.

Baldwin Jackson
March 22, 2018 8:14 pm

Excellent article. No doubt that shared hosting is an ideal solution for small level businesses or for testing out any new idea. However, the most common issue found during speed optimization is using a low quality server resources which undermines other marketing efforts. I was amazed to see that Cloudways didn’t make in this list as they are among the few providers that ease end-user experience by looking after every little technical aspects. Anyways thanks a lot for sharing.

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