Servers, backups, downtime, plugins, lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!

Website owners looking for WordPress hosting and maintenance companies may find themselves sifting through a lot of technical jargon that makes both services difficult to distinguish. When you’re looking for a service to keep your website running (and growing), the last thing you want to do is Google 20 things trying to figure out what’s what.

At Barrel Roll, we maintain websites for our members (we develop and market them, too – but that’s a different topic). Let’s look at the difference between WordPress maintenance services and hosting services that offer WordPress “maintenance” – and how you can be sure you’re getting the services you need.

First, let’s imagine you’re a new website owner.

You’re browsing through popular hosting services looking for one that offers the best value to cost ratio.

You’ve found a hosting company that prices their services at, let’s say, $15-$20 per month for a basic plan. Not too bad, right? Especially when they’re promising increased speed, extra security, and more all included in their monthly fee.


But then you read a little further, and they offer something like “extra security” or automated plugin updates for an additional monthly fee.

You’re thinking, okay, extra fees for extra services, that’s understandable.

But those automated plugin updates happen – you guessed it – automatically. It requires no extra work from the hosting provider so that extra fee you’re paying each month doesn’t equate to more effort put into your site.

Another up-charge you’ll see frequently (especially with bargain hosting services) involves SSL certificates.

Essentially, SSL certificates help keep your website secure. Every website owner needs one. Unfortunately, some hosting services charge their customers hundreds of dollars per year for a standard SSL certificate that should be included for free in any hosting plan.

The last thing to watch out for is the pricing structure. Many hosting providers charge you a discounted rate at the beginning of your term, only to double or triple that cost in the following years.

Those are only a few examples, but they show how a $15-$20 monthly hosting fee can easily start creeping higher and higher depending on the services your website needs – not to mention the price increase after the promotional period expires.

There’s another reason it’s so important to read the fine print when researching hosting plans.

You may assume that all WordPress hosts will include security, daily backups, and other services in all of their plans because those seem like pretty basic features. But those assumptions may very well prove to be wrong.

For example, if a WordPress host clearly states that they include backups in one of their higher-tier plans, but there’s no mention of it in their basic plan, does that mean that they don’t offer it? Is security not mentioned, either? What about customer support?

Sadly, we’ve seen worst-case scenarios where website owners had to learn the hard way that backups were actually not included in their plan. That’s a scary, stressful situation for anyone, and it’s something you can avoid by carefully reading through the plans.

But what about hosting services that advertise WordPress maintenance, too?

Several hosting companies have started advertising broader solutions and features to compete with comprehensive maintenance services. You’ll often see maintenance-like language used in their plan descriptions, but the truth about whether or not that’s really what you get requires some investigation.

Two words you’ll see frequently are WordPress “management” and “support.” Neither of them means maintenance – at least, not how we do it here at Barrel Roll. Sometimes it’s just another way to describe what’s already covered in their hosting plan. Other times, the hosting company does add some valuable services, just not to the extent that a maintenance company would.

In other words, if you ask a hosting company to help you with something like custom plugin development, they’d tell you to find a developer. But their service description may have led you to think otherwise.

Keep in mind that WordPress hosting services use language like “maintenance”, “management”, and “support” on purpose, because those terms add perceived value but can be interpreted in many different ways. That can make it difficult to figure out what they offer.

The best way to combat confusion is by asking some questions.

If you’re reading through a hosting plan that appears to offer maintenance, these are some questions that will help you suss out what’s really going on.

Will they install and update plugins and themes for you on a regular basis? Hosting companies sometimes offer automatic plugin and theme updates, but that can be dangerous. What if one of theme breaks your site? How long will it be broken until someone notices?

Will they edit and update your website’s content? This is something we’ve never seen a hosting company offer.

Will they do active performance optimization? That means proactively trying to improve your site’s performance – not just using a tool that tells them whether your site is running fast enough.

Will they monitor your site for malware, and if so, how often and what tools do they use? If any is found, will they remove it for you? Many hosts offer the basics like firewalls or IP blocking, but are they actively scanning your site for malware regularly?

Do they provide consultations for plugins and themes? If you ask them for advice, will they just tell you to hire someone else?

Do they perform active search engine optimization? If so, how do they do it and what tools do they use? Many hosts are now offering “SEO services” but that amounts to automated scans with less-than-useful reports that don’t help you fix the issues at all.

If the hosting company says that they’ll help you with things like plugins and theme updates, search engine optimization, and custom development, ask how much time per month they are willing to dedicate to your company. If they’re offering “unlimited” anything, chances are you’re being misled. Promising a defined level of custom development and maintenance service is something hosting companies will never commit to, even if they don’t mind bending the truth a bit about their services.

If the hosting company says no to any of these questions – or you feel even more confused after speaking with them – they don’t really do WordPress maintenance.

Partnering with a maintenance company is the easiest way to ensure your website is properly cared for.

We know there’s a certain appeal to having your hosting and maintenance plan all in one place (and payment). However, that rarely ends up being the best course of action for your site or business.

Websites aren’t as undemanding as they used to be. While simple hosting plans are probably fine for static web pages, even the top-tier plans never cover what professional WordPress maintenance companies do.

If you’re looking for a partner that:

  • Keeps your content and website design up-to-date
  • Communicates reliably
  • Offers customer support that goes beyond automatic updates
  • Actively tries to improve your website’s performance and search engine optimization
  • Is there to answer your questions and provide consultations and advice

It’s best to partner with a WordPress maintenance company dedicated to growing your website with you instead of relying upon a hosting service that advertises maintenance services but doesn’t deliver.

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