LiquidWeb Review: Is Managed WordPress Hosting Worth It?

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you how important web hosting is for your online business.

Without it, your digital empire comes crashing down like a Jenga stack.

And these days, in a world of choices, choosing the right hosting company can be a challenge in itself.  There are just so many of them out there to choose from.

So, following on from our recent review of Kinsta, we’re going to take a deeper look at another popular web host, called LiquidWeb.

LiquidWeb Review

Last updated: August 28, 2018
Initially published on: August 28, 2018

tl;dr Summary
LiquidWeb is a premium web host that provides reliable, fast plans with excellent customer support.

Visit the website

In this LiquidWeb review I will specifically cover their managed WordPress plan, but keep in mind they offer traditional web hosting packages as well.

What is LiquidWeb?

LiquidWeb is one of the most well known web hosting companies out there, and they are known for their reliability, speed and support.

The company started in 1997 and is based out of Lansing, Michigan.

LiquidWeb maintains 5 data centers, and they currently have over 30,000 customers and 500,000+ sites hosted on their servers.

Part 1: What are some of my favorite features of LiquidWeb?

Cool Feature #1: Never lose sleep with their 100% uptime guarantee

I know, right? Very bold.

LiquidWeb is one of the few hosting to guarantee your site NEVER goes down, not even for the briefest of moments.

LiquidWeb Uptime Guarantee

In fact, if your site does go down for whatever reason, you’ll be entitled to 1000% compensation for the duration of that downtime.

Basically, if your site goes down for an hour, you get 10 hours worth of compensation, which translates to credit on your account.

That’s not to say LiquidWeb never goes down (like any host, they do), but this guarantee means that it’s more cost effective for them to ensure it happens as infrequently as possible.

Awesome thing #2: Quickly build out new sites with Stencils

If you ever find yourself repeating the same actions for brand new sites, you’ll be pleased to know LiquidWeb feels your pain.

Their solution? Stencils.

A Stencil is essentially a stored copy of a site that can be deployed to new installations in a single click.

This option is easily found in your site dashboard, and you can make a Stencil from any of your existing sites. (Assuming they’re hosted with LiquidWeb, of course)

LiquidWeb Stencils

Once you’ve created a Stencil, you can select it from the Stencils menu which will not only prompt a new installation, but also apply your template.

This action copies everything over. Your core settings, theme, plugins, pages, posts, media library… everything.

If this means I never have to install another ‘clone post’ plugin, I’m happy.

Awesome thing #3: It prevents plugins from breaking your site

Ok, I was super impressed by this one.

LiquidWeb has a tool called ‘Visual Comparison’, and it regularly checks your WordPress plugins to make sure they don’t mess up your site.

This is available in the site management options:

How does it work?

Basically, before it updates your plugins, it automatically creates a test (or staging) site and it runs the updates on that installation first.

If the tool notices any visual changes to your site, it will allow you to review them side-by-side before approving the live update.

Here’s an example of the email report:

LiquidWeb email report

Of course, if there aren’t any visual changes, the plugin updates will run without the need for your approval. It only triggers if there’s a potential problem.

It’s an awesome safety net and something that would have saved me on more than one occasion.

Awesome thing #4: Create staging sites in 1-click

I talked a lot about 1-click staging in my Kinsta review so it’s only fair to mention it here as well.

You’ll be pleased to know the process of creating a staging site with LiquidWeb is just as butter-smooth.

From the site management screen, you can choose ‘Staging’ from the navigation:

LiquidWeb staging

Clicking the blue button will create a copy of the live site.

From there, you’ll be able to log into your staging site and make any number of changes, just as you usually would with a typical WordPress installation.

In fact, LiquidWeb treats this much like a live site, in that you have all the same settings available under the management options.

You can also overwrite your staging site with a more current version of your live site if you wish.

Pretty impressive, but there is one drawback to this that I’ll cover in the next section.

Part 2: What I don’t like about LiquidWeb

Annoying thing #1: Push staging to live requires a plugin

One of the great things about modern staging solutions is that you can push changes to and from a live site with ease.

With LiquidWeb, however, the ease part only works in one direction.

In order to push changes from your staging site, you need to use their Migrate to LiquidWeb WordPress plugin which adds a few layers of complexity to the process.

And the plugin is actually a migration tool, so it’s not specifically designed for this purpose:

Not a huge problem, but it’s hard to understand why they didn’t just add an extra button in the dashboard.

Apparently this is something that’s “being considered for future updates”, but right now it’s a bit of a hassle.

Annoying thing #2: Chat support has tech issues

If you’ve read any of me previous reviews, you know I’m all about live chat when it comes to support.

First thing I noticed about LiquidWeb was that they still use an old school approach instead of a more modern solutions, like Intercom.

Here’s what the chat widget looks like:

LiquidWeb chat widget

Might not seem like a big deal at first, but I run into multiple issues.

The first being that I struggled to open the chat in my browser because it was apparently being blocked by an extension.

I turned off Adblock but it still wouldn’t work, so I ended up having to use a different browser. Very annoying.

Once I finally got it open, there was little indication a chat agent was present, and there was no mention of the typical response time.

I also couldn’t see when someone was typing so I would go several minutes without knowing if my question had even been read.

Finally, when I was passed over to another chat agent, they were unable to see the previous conversation which meant I had to explain my question all over again.

I guess aged tech is just a side-effect of being an older company.

Either way, Intercom (and services like it) are just wayyy more convenient and I think LiquidWeb needs to get with the program in this regard.

Annoying thing #3: It’ll set you back a pretty penny

I won’t talk too much about this here since I have a whole section on pricing at the end of this review.

That being said, LiquidWeb isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive dedicated hosting companies around.

If you just want the best possible service and performance regardless of price, this won’t be an issue for you, but if you’re even remotely on a budget, you might not be able to tolerate the expense.

Oh and there’s only a partial money-back guarantee on some plans, which don’t cover dedicated servers. So, yeah…

Part 3: A Look Inside LiquidWeb

Setup & Management

LiquidWeb offers a variety of hosting services, from dedicated servers to VPS hosting, as well as managed WordPress plans.

LiquidWeb web hosting plans

For this review, I decided to run with the managed WordPress plan since it’s a popular use-case and one that could easily be compared to my Kinsta review.

So where do we begin?

Setting up and registering the account was easy enough, though I must admit, the checkout form made me a little uncomfortable…

LiquidWeb checkout form

The credit card popup just didn’t flow with the rest of the checkout process which somehow made it feel less secure.

I mean, it was fine in the end, but it definitely made me think twice.

Once I got over my paranoia, LiquidWeb soon sent me a success email containing my login credentials.

Here’s what the WordPress managed hosting dashboard looks like on first login:

LiquidWeb managed wordpress login

That’s more like it. Clean, modern and intuitive.

At this point it started to feel more like my experience with Kinsta, in that it also replaces the default cPanel controls for an easy-to-use custom dashboard.

Within just a few clicks I had my WordPress site installed and ready to go, and even fewer clicks to get into the management options.

LiquidWeb management options

Aside from being able to trigger automatic updates for WordPress core and plugins, you can also choose your PHP version, view logs, enable caching and apply a stencil.

The left navigation is where the real fun stuff is, including staging, backups and visual comparisons.

LiquidWeb management navigation

The top corner has direct links to your WordPress database and admin area.

Clicking this gives you the option to jump to specific areas of your WordPress dashboard, which is a nice little touch.

LiquidWeb quick navigation

Overall, despite a minor complaint about the checkout process, getting my WordPress site setup couldn’t have been easier.

Website Security

Hackers never stop developing new ways to get access to your data, which makes security an ongoing process for hosting companies.

Aside from being compatible with tools like WordFence or Sucuri, what steps do the folks over at LiquidWeb take to secure your online empire?

The first, and perhaps most important topic is backups.

LiquidWeb take a complete backup of your site every day, and they have a pretty generous backup time-frame of 30-days.

You can also see these backups and restore them directly from your LiquidWeb dashboard:

LiquidWeb backup and restore

Of course, restoring a backup isn’t always the best approach.

Not only can it be hard to pinpoint exactly when things went wrong, but it also wipes out any recent comments or posts.

Fortunately, LiquidWeb offer a full site scan on request and will attempt to fix a compromised site first, so backups aren’t always a necessary step in the recovery procedure.

In terms of detection, I’m told that servers are monitored for intrusion attempts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Checks are made about every 7 minutes.

Like Kinsta, they also disable commonly exploited PHP functions from the PHP7 engine that aren’t necessary for WordPress sites.

Another interesting security measure is that LiquidWeb only allow HTTPS, meaning non-SSL connections cannot be made to your site nor the platform.

Fortunately, managed WordPress accounts come with free SSL certificates by default, courtesy of LetsEncrypt.

LiquidWeb automatic ssl

Overall, there’s clearly a focus on security here, though I had trouble finding documentation for most of these security features.

In other words, much of this information rests largely on the word of a LiquidWeb support agent.

Speed & Performance

Google LiquidWeb and you’ll have no trouble finding stellar reviews.

Among the most common reasons has to be the speed of the platform, and you’d expect no less at this price point.

Warning: This is about to get pretty technical.

Unlike Kinsta, which runs on the trusted Google Cloud Platform, LiquidWeb runs on a proprietary in house system. (That’s not inherently good or bad, but it’s worth noting.)

In terms of caching, LiquidWeb uses an open source solution called Varnish Cache, which comes with a rather technical description.

Here it is straight from the horse’s mouth:

“Varnish Cache is a powerful open source HTTP engine/reverse HTTP proxy that can speed up a website by up to 1000 percent by caching (or storing) a copy of a webpage the first time a user visits.”

And don’t worry, you don’t need to understand how it works in order to benefit from it. In fact, you can easily enable or disable this from your LiquidWeb dashboard with a single click:

So far so good. Let’s talk about the CMS.

Since WordPress is a PHP-based platform, it can only function as fast as the PHP code can execute.

The good news is, PHP7 brought with it a significant speed increase over previous versions, and this is what LiquidWeb uses by default. You can also change your PHP version from the LiquidWeb dashboard if you wish.

LiquidWeb php version

There were a couple things I would have liked to see, however.

For one, you can’t select a server location for your site since everything is geographically hosted in Lansing, Michigan. This is something you can do with other hosting providers.

I also would’ve liked to see a native CDN integration from within the dashboard, similar to the caching toggle and much like what you see with Kinsta and KeyCDN.

Instead, LiquidWeb recommend using a third-party CDN which is more hands on than I’d like to see from a managed solution. Still, far from a deal-breaker.

Finally, LiquidWeb doesn’t automatically scale when it comes to traffic handling, meaning that sudden spikes could result in downtime.

I’m told this is something they are “in the process of transitioning to an elastically scaling infrastructure”, but for now, that could be an issue if virality is a factor in your business.

To wrap this up, I decided to run a quick speed test on a base WordPress installation running on both Kinsta and LiquidWeb.

This is the result from LiquidWeb:

LiquidWeb speed test

And this is the result from Kinsta:

LiquidWeb vs Kinsta speed test

As you can see, the results are almost identical with Kinsta having a slight (but not at all noticeable) edge over LiquidWeb.

It’s also important to remember that no further optimization was done on either installation, so these numbers will vary with some tinkering.

Support & Documentation

If raw speed is the number one reason people choose LiquidWeb, support is undoubtedly the second.

This platform smothers you in support options, and that’s always a good sign… but how well do they work?

Let’s start with the knowledge base.

Not only is this thing laid out in a way that makes it easily digestible, but it also covers every relatable topic I’ve managed to throw at it. (Barring some security-focused topics I mentioned earlier)

For example, a search for “SSL” brought back several pages of results that cover every scenario:

Of course, most people these days skip documentation because live chat has become so convenient.

And while I did point out some chat-related tech issues at the beginning of this review, that shouldn’t take away from the overall quality of the chat support.

I tested this pretty extensively, and I always got through to someone within in less than a minute. No waiting involved.

The agents themselves had no trouble answering my questions, though I occasionally had to pry for further answers or clarification.

LiquidWeb chat support

I was occasionally transferred depending on the complexity of my question, but I prefer that over someone who attempts to provide an answer when they don’t really know.

Now, one thing LiquidWeb has over other hosts like Kinsta is 24/7 phone support.

As someone who travels a lot, getting on the phone is usually a last resort for me, but it’s great to see diversity here either way.

Overall, I found the support of LiquidWeb lived up to the hype. It was only let down by the tech choices that were likely made years ago.

LiquidWeb Pricing

LiquidWeb Managed WordPress hosting comes with 3 different plans, Professional, Business and Agency.

The Professional plan lets you host up to 10 sites with 50 GB of space for $99 a month. You can host 25 sites with the Business and 50 sites with the Agency plans.

As you can see, LiquidWeb’s managed web hosting plans don’t cater to smaller businesses that don’t need to host that many sites. If you don’t need to host so many sites, you are better off going with Kinsta or even WPX Hosting.

If you search around, you can find various LiquidWeb coupons to get an additional discount. You can even find some on the LiquidWeb site itself, during various promotions.

For example, at the time of this review there is a 33% Off for 3 months promo going on.

Final Thoughts

If you’re not on a budget, then LiquidWeb is one of the better web hosting companies out there.

Whether you want to go with their Managed WordPress Hosting, or even their other web hosting plans, LiquidWeb stands out for their commitment to reliability, speed and support.

There’s nothing worse then having your web host go down, for any number of reasons, and having unresponsive support.

With LiquidWeb, you won’t have that problem.

And if like most businesses, you’re relying on your site be up 24/7, then it’s worth paying the premium price to host with a company like LiquidWeb.

Signup for LiquidWeb Hosting Today

LiquidWeb Pros

  • Clean, modern UI/UX
  • Easy 1-click WordPress install
  • 1-click staging sites
  • Optimized for speed (inc. Varnish caching)
  • Strong focus on site security with free SSL
  • Continuous uptime monitoring and attack detection
  • Free site malware scanning
  • Easily create full site templates using Stencils
  • Automatic daily backups for up to 30 days + 1-click backup restoration
  • Very responsive, 24/7 live chat and phone support
  • 100% uptime guarantee (10x compensation)
  • Huge index of knowledge-base articles

LiquidWeb Cons

  • Can’t push changes from staging site to the live site
  • Old, clunky technology used for chat support
  • Expensive relative to competitors
  • Can’t select your server geographical location
  • No direct CDN integration
  • No automatic scaling of server resources for traffic spikes
  • Only a partial money-back guarantee
Affiliate Disclaimer: I hope you enjoyed our LiquidWeb review. Please note that some of the links inside this article may be affiliate links for LiquidWeb hosting. That means that if you click on one of the links and sign up, we may get an affiliate commission for it. If you do happen to click, we really appreciate it! Any money we make keeps this site running smoothly and allows us to keep producing these high-quality reviews.
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