One question we at WP Site Care\u00ae get more than any other is \u201cwhy do I need a website support & maintenance plan if I already have managed hosting?\u201d It\u2019s a question that is asked more and more frequently as an increasing number of web hosts introduce their particular flavors of managed hosting. Before I dive in, let me tell you a story. Story time! I remember the first time I tried Airbnb six years ago. After I got past the initial weirdness of sleeping in someone else\u2019s bed and seeing their family photos on the walls, it ended up being a nice way to stay in a comfortable place at a pretty reasonable rate. I definitely still preferred hotels, but it was fine enough. One of the biggest challenges was having three kids and being in someone else\u2019s house. Not only was I unfamiliar with the layout of the home, I was super anxious about someone else's stuff getting damaged. There was a general feeling of discomfort that I couldn't really shake the entire time we were there. At any moment, my kids could pull the TV off the wall or run through a sliding glass door. There was an underlying sense of dread that I couldn\u2019t shed. To top it off, the host family was in an entirely other country so if something did go wrong (thankfully, nothing did), I would have felt really helpless. Let's fast forward two years later when I tried Airbnb a second time. This time, our welcoming Airbnb host, Claire, lived right next door. If at any point during the stay we needed assistance, Claire was right there to answer questions or give us guidance. Claire gave us the inside scoop on all the best places to eat and the interesting places to visit (that won\u2019t show up on TripAdvisor). And when we needed to know which urgent care was open on Sunday night without Googling every option in town, Claire knew right where to send us for that too (it was a bad tummy ache, nothing serious). It was an infinitely better experience because not only did we have a great place to stay, we had Claire serving as a concierge to help guide us along the way. Claire was a truly phenomenal host and my kids still talk about that vacation and ask to go back all the time. You Can\u2019t Scale Claire Now, imagine WP Site Care is your website's Claire. While it\u2019s true that a managed host can provide a framework or the physical place for your website to live, their ability to enhance the WordPress experience for you is going to be limited. Partially because it\u2019s very hard to provide that level of service at scale, and partially because it doesn\u2019t make sense from a financial or liability standpoint. Think about what it would take for a web host with a million customers to provide Claire\u2019s level of assistance. That type of 1 on 1 guidance at any kind of scale is essentially impossible to recreate. Not to mention that even if a web host decided they wanted to pursue a true concierge experience, the amount of money and talented individuals required to make it a reality removes it as an option for most hosting providers. And assuming those high-ranking C-level executives decide they\u2019d like to pursue providing the best support experience in the history of web hosting, how do they convince a customer to spend over $100 per month for an add-on, when the primary product is only $39?\u00a0 At best there\u2019s some pushback from the marketing department, and a mutiny is a lot more likely. But let\u2019s assume for the sake of argument that all of these things get figured out, why would it still make sense to work with SiteCare when you have managed hosting? Challenges Facing Managed Hosting Providers I\u2019d say the biggest challenge facing managed hosting providers is that most of their decisions must be made on a very large scale. From an organizational standpoint, they don\u2019t really have the ability to provide a customized experience for their customers, even if they really wanted to. Some scrappy new providers are able to offer a more boutique experience, but those options inevitably end up fading away as their customer base grows. One of the key components of providing a \u201cplatform\u201d is that it\u2019s the same for every customer across the board. Sure, short-term exceptions can be made, but accommodating the unique needs of every web hosting customer simply doesn\u2019t scale.\u00a0 The burden of scale is a necessary evil in the web hosting world. Without a consistent focus on growth, it\u2019s impossible to serve investors and their desires. And even for hosting providers that haven\u2019t taken outside investment (there are very few), it simply isn\u2019t feasible from a logistics standpoint to provide the "full Claire experience" for everyone. Here are some of the other key challenges that face managed hosting providers: Scaling quality support is hard\u00a0 There will always be limited expertise on the front lines Hosting companies have no motivation to refer elsewhere, even when it\u2019s better for the customer Lack of redundancy and failsafes Managed hosts can\u2019t spend time troubleshooting\/debugging issues Meanwhile, a service like WP Site Care can help fill in these gaps and enhance the overall experience from a customer\u2019s perspective (which is what matters most in all of this). Not All Managed Hosting Providers Are Created Equal This is an article for another day, but I see the phrase \u201cmanaged hosting\u201d being used pretty liberally these days.\u00a0 For the purposes of this article, we\u2019ll say managed hosting is a provider who maintains not only the server software stack (PHP, MySQL, Apache, NGINX), but also maintains WordPress itself at some level. The degree to which WordPress is supported varies greatly from one host to another. Some hosts claim to manage updates for themes, plugins, and WordPress core, but the majority don\u2019t make any promises beyond the WordPress core. And from what we\u2019ve seen, the ones who offer the fully-managed experience have a good deal of caveats and exceptions too. But like I said, that\u2019s an article for another day\u2026 Scaling WordPress Support is Hard I\u2019ve consulted with a number of hosting companies who want to provide the \u201cSiteCare experience\u201d to their entire customer base, even if it requires additional investment. They see it as a great opportunity from both a goodwill and customer satisfaction standpoint, as well as a new revenue stream standpoint.\u00a0 If there\u2019s one thing we all understand, it\u2019s that web hosting companies love adding new lines of revenue. One of the major sticking points is the talent acquisition piece. In order to match the level of service and quality that we\u2019re able to provide at SiteCare, these hosting companies essentially need to have developers in all of their support positions. And even if they decide they can pay developer rates for support roles (I\u2019ve never met one who was willing), finding a group of developers large enough that\u2019s also willing to work support full-time is nearly impossible. Not to mention the internal investment for training and continuous education. At SiteCare, we have WordPress pros with at least five years of experience in all of our customer-facing positions. More experience means we\u2019ve \u201cseen it all\u201d, and the benefit for our customers is faster resolution times, true solutions (no duct tape jobs), and direct access to a true WordPress professional for all interactions. Because we don\u2019t have the burden of a massive customer base at WP Site Care, slow and steady growth gives us the ability to find the right people to work on our support team without facing the same scaling challenges that would exist immediately with a large hosting provider. Limited Experience on the Front Lines I\u2019m not really sure why this is, probably because of people\u2019s inherent need to graduate in their prospective job roles, but in my experience, the most junior people are always on the front lines at a web hosting company. To me, that\u2019s a little counter-intuitive from a customer experience standpoint, but I also understand that the best opportunity for support agents to learn is on the front lines too. It\u2019s a tough balance to strike, no doubt. Another major advantage of working with our support team is that we have direct Tier 2 or Tier 3 access to many of the major hosting providers. This means that if we identify an obscure issue with your hosting provider, we can jump directly into conversations with more experienced technicians for faster resolutions for our clients. We \u201cskip the line,\u201d so to speak, which allows us to start working on fixes without a bunch of unnecessary back and forth. They know that if it\u2019s the SiteCare team bringing the issue to the table, all of the troubleshooting best practices have already been exhausted. What if You\u2019re Not With the Right Web Host? There are a number of factors that go into choosing the right web host, and in my experience, hosting companies are rarely the ones to recommend a change. They definitely don\u2019t have Cole\u2019s Santa Claus mentality of sending you to the best host to meet your specific needs, even if they\u2019re not the right fit. Most web hosting companies have just enough bravado to believe they\u2019re the best option for pretty much anybody. If you\u2019re having performance issues, \u201cjust upgrade your plan.\u201d\u00a0 Or if you\u2019re paying an exorbitant amount of money in overages every month, you \u201cjust need to reduce the footprint of your website.\u201d Rarely, if ever, will your current web host make a recommendation to move to a competitor. But the reality is there are very few "one-size-fits-all" providers, and we can help you navigate that decision process. With our uptime and performance tracking, we can be a watchdog and advocate for all of our clients. If your hosting provider is price-gouging, has less-than-stellar uptime, or isn\u2019t loading your website as quickly as another host can, we can make smart recommendations to help you find the best fit. We\u2019re intimately familiar with the current hosting landscape (as well as its history), and call help you get to the host where your website is fastest, best protected, all while keeping your budget constraints in mind. Infrastructure Concerns Allow me to share a few horror stories from personal experiences I've had with managed hosting providers. I've seen everything from extended downtime to fatal errors, to total loss of customer data. I still won\u2019t forget the time a friend of mine sent me a panicked text message because his managed host was hit by a DDoS attack and was offline for the first 72 hours of a major product launch. They estimated losing roughly $100K per day because their website was offline. As I tried to help him get the site online elsewhere, we found that the backups for the website were stored in the same datacenter as the website that was under attack. That meant we couldn\u2019t even download the site and restore it elsewhere. We just had to wait until the attack was mitigated. Had external backups been happening, we could have had the site back online with another provider within 3 hours, not 3 days. Of course, that's an extreme example but there are plenty of similar examples that we see all the time: Web hosts made a big push for PHP 7 two years ago and we saw a big uptick in new customers because sites had strange errors or were completely offline because of the PHP upgrade. Hosts made PHP upgrades across the entire platform, and if that upgrade broke websites, site owners were stuck until someone (us) could correct the issue for them. This resulted in lost sales and frustrated customers for the businesses we assist. Beyond assisting in crisis mode, our team helps our clients by staging updates for major changes like PHP versions before there's a problem. Themes are frequently overwritten due to automated updates. This is usually due to ignoring best practices like child themes, but once the theme has been overwritten, the website almost always has display issues and hosts are reluctant to get involved once things are in disarray. Our team can prevent automated updates from wrecking websites and can also assist with setting up child themes. We want to set you up so things don't break in the first place. In 2017, we had a client hosted with a very popular managed host. Due to a support technician error, the server cluster where our client's site was hosted was completely obliterated. Years of content and images were lost in one failed keystroke. One technician with permissions beyond their skill level could have ruined our client's livelihood in an instant. It was an amazing feeling to confidently reply to our panicked client that we'd have their site up and running again in no time. That\u2019s why when people look specifically at the fact that we have some overlapping services with managed hosting providers and wonder why they should pay for them again, I'm quick to point out that it's an additional level of protection. In the same way I wouldn\u2019t trust all my computer backups to iCloud, I won\u2019t trust all of my website backups to my web host either.\u00a0 A SiteCare plan is another level of redundancy to protect your online business. Should your webhost\u2019s datacenter completely melt and disappear, you\u2019ll still have a backup with SiteCare that can be restored at a new provider. Support Is Always Going to Be Limited One of the unspoken secrets of managed hosting is that support is always going to be limited. In fact, we have a number of customers who come to us because they were told by their hosting provider to \u201ccontact their developer for help\u201d.\u00a0 While it\u2019s true that many providers have automated processes for updating plugins, and can restore your site should an update cause a failure, that\u2019s typically where the support experience ends \u2014 with a recommendation to contact a WordPress developer for an actual solution. I\u2019ve assembled the help articles and FAQs from a number of major providers and they all have pretty similar language. In Airbnb terms, if the faucet only puts out cold water, you need to call a plumber. WP Engine's Scope of Support What GoDaddy's Premium Support Won\u2019t Do Where Does Pagely Support Draw the Line Bluehost Policy RegardingScripting, Coding & Third Party Produce Issues Pressable: What We Do, And How We Can Help The gist of all of them is that their support typically ends with applying WordPress updates, with a few minor exceptions. The great thing about working with WP Site Care is that we can take care of much more advanced troubleshooting. You get two hours of development and troubleshooting time included in our Pro plan, and even on our basic WP Site Care plan you can add as many hours as you need for resolutions of especially sticky issues. We\u2019ll stay with you until the problem is taken care of for good! Managed Hosting and SiteCare are Better Together We recommend managed hosting to pretty much all of our clients these days. There are clear benefits to managed hosting over shared hosting and even most VPS options. It\u2019s a great value and does solve a lot of common issues we see with other types of hosting.\u00a0 But, that doesn't mean there aren't holes in what's being offered to customers. We want to bring you the full Claire experience. We want to make the headaches of uptime, performance, support uncertainty, and the general frustration that can come with working with WordPress a thing of the past. Simply put, SiteCare and Managed Hosting are better together. If you'd like to learn more about how we can help you get the most out of that managed hosting plan that you're paying for, contact our team and we'll be happy to show you the way.