Why Do I Need a Maintenance Partner if I Use a Managed WordPress Host?

Managed hosting providers are a breed of website hosting that has emerged over the last few years as a popular option for hosting WordPress sites. Some—such as Pantheon and WP Engine—only provided managed hosting services and nothing else. Others—DreamHost, GoDaddy, and SiteGround, for example—offer managed WordPress hosting in addition to their other shared hosting plans.

As a whole, managed hosting plans cost a bit more than shared hosting, but is usually a good investment if your WordPress site is out there to make money for you. On the technical level, the servers are usually fine-tuned to max out WordPress’ performance with caching options and configurations that have WordPress in mind. They usually offer other goodies as well, such as a dashboard that gives you a birds-eye view of everything going on with all the sites you have on that host, backup options, maybe access to third-party performance tools, etc.

So if you’re paying out the extra bucks to run your WordPress site on managed hosting, you may be thinking you don’t need a separate maintenance partner. After all, what’s the value add?

While managed hosting is great, they don’t do everything your site needs to keep it running healthy and top-form. A good maintenance partner will fill in the blanks, and complement your managed hosting provider with services they don’t—or often can’t—provide.

Redundancy of Backups

Almost universally, managed hosts will perform regular, incremental, and staggered backups of your site, which is great. And if you’ve done something catastrophic to your site and need to roll back, it’s usually no more than a few mouse clicks and a couple of minutes’ wait and you’re back in business.

But what about if there is a massive failure of the hosting provider? It happens. As much as your better hosting providers build in redundancy into their systems, total outages can and do occur.

Having another backup in a system other than your hosting provider can provide peace of mind that if something really, really bad happens to that provider, your site and data can be restored somewhere else as quickly as possible. Remember Schofield’s Second Law of Computing: Data doesn’t really exist unless you have at least two copies of it.

Massive failures of hosting companies to the extent where an extra backup is needed are extremely rare, but they do happen. Maybe they cut off access to your account in some sort of legal dispute (think DMCA take down notice or a perceived violation of the hosting company’s terms of service). Maybe the host just goes belly-up and shuts down its servers in the middle of the night. Crazier things have happened; it’s best to be prepared.

Updates of Plugins and Themes

Managed hosts are usually very good about applying updates to WordPress core soon after they are available. Important, because some managed hosts block the mechanism by which WordPress can self-apply security patches.

However, they won’t usually update plugins and themes. There are good reasons for this: Plugins and themes—coming from a variety of developers—can contain bugs or breaking changes that could bring down a site. It’s much more important in this instance to have a human somewhere in the process independently verify that plugin and theme changes are safe by applying them to a testing or staging environment before they go live.

Uptime Monitoring

Many, but not all, managed WordPress hosts will notify you if there is some problem on their side that affects the availability (uptime) of your site. But there are many reasons a site will go down (or just become very, very slow) that their automated notification policies won’t pick up.

For example, if your domain name expires (many managed hosting companies do not provide domain name management services), the site will still be “up”, technically, but it will be unreachable because the global network of phone books that keeps track of what domain name goes to which site on the Internet will be directed to some landing page set up by your domain name management service, not your website.

Another possible problem is if your site is under a DDoS attack; some managed hosts will pick up that as a security issue, but others might not. Either way, the performance of your site may slow to a crawl, but because it’s not “down” in the technical sense, you might not see a notice from your hosting company. A third-party uptime monitoring service accesses your website in the same manner than human visitors do, making it more likely to catch slowness. If it doesn’t get a valid response in a timely fashion, it will warn the site owner of the problem within a few minutes.

At Taupecat Studios, we love managed hosting, and recommend one in particular (Pantheon) to all of our clients. We also realize that good managed hosting isn’t enough to take care of all the needs of your website hosting. Therefore, we offer a maintenance plan to perform all those tasks the managed hosting providers don’t.

Are you running on managed hosting, but need a little extra help for those tasks? Drop us a line and let us know how we can help!

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