Liquid Web are a well-established and popular managed WordPress hosting provider with some attractive plans. But are they the right option for you and your website?
To help you to answer that question, this review includes the results from various performance tests we ran on our WordPress websites hosted with Liquid Web.
As well as using data from paid tools to give you an idea of how fast your website might load and how well it could handle surges in traffic, this review also breaks down the main features — going beyond the sales content to find out what it’s really like to be a Liquid Web customer.
On the surface, Liquid Web may seem to be a managed WordPress web host like any other. But by the time you’ve read this review you’ll know exactly where they’re better than the competition, as well as the areas where there’s room for improvement.
If you’re looking for the best host for your website, Liquid Web should definitely be on your shortlist. But, armed with the information from this review, you’ll soon know whether they meet your requirements, or if the search should continue.
Let’s get started…
About Liquid Web Hosting
Liquid Web are a privately held company with headquarters in Michigan, US, and, unlike many other managed WordPress hosting companies, they also wholly own the data centers where they host their customers’ websites. Therefore, if you’re looking for a web host that’s in control of its entire network, Liquid Web should be especially appealing.
To give you an idea of the size of this company, here are some quick stats about Liquid Web:
- A million sites under management.
- Over 30,000 customers in more than 130 countries.
- Over 500 hosting professionals employed to deliver the services.
- They host sites for big brands, including National Geographic, FedEx and Motorola.
- The Net Promoter Score of Liquid Web ranks it as one of the world’s most-loved brands.
A few years ago, Liquid Web stopped offering shared hosting, so they could focus on delivering high-end hosting for site and store owners with more complex needs. This is good news for anyone looking for managed WordPress hosting and seeking a company that’s investing all of its resources in offering premium hosting, rather than spending time and effort trying to compete in the world of low-cost shared web hosting.
The design of the Liquid Web website is a little confusing and overwhelming at times, with a great deal of information to digest.
However, by the time you’ve finished this review, you’ll have everything you need to decide whether Liquid Web are the right host for your project.
WHAT MAKES LIQUID WEB DIFFERENT?
They’re not a WordPress-only hosting company, though, with VPS, cloud and dedicated hosting packages in their portfolio.
One benefit of this is that the Liquid Web staff and resources aren’t consumed by capturing and supporting basic website owners. Instead, they can invest more of their time and energy in delivering a premium service to those with more complex hosting requirements and demanding expectations.
Another potential benefit of choosing Liquid Web is that, unlike when you sign up with a company that only provides managed WordPress hosting, you should get access to staff with a broader range of knowledge, covering a wider variety of high-end hosting services and solutions — not just managed WordPress hosting.
Because of this, if the Liquid Web staff see that your WordPress website may be better served by dedicated or cloud hosting, they should be able to recommend a more suitable plan from their portfolio, without having to worry about you going elsewhere to find such a product.
With a large team focused solely on providing premium hosting, there’s a good chance your website will be looked after by staff with a higher level of knowledge and expertise than you might get at companies that also offer hosting at the lower end of the market.
It’s not only that, though — as you’re about to find out, there are a few other areas that make Liquid Web different from the competition…
Liquid Web Managed WordPress Hosting Plans
The Liquid Web managed WordPress hosting plans start at $19 a month, or $190 a year if you choose to pay annually, and all plans include a monthly bandwidth allowance of 5 TB:
- Spark: $19 a month for one WordPress website and 15 GB of SSD storage.
- Maker: $79 a month for up to five WordPress websites and 40 GB of SSD storage.
- Builder: $149 a month for up to 25 WordPress websites and 100 GB of SSD storage.
- Producer: $299 a month for up to 50 WordPress websites and 300 GB of SSD storage.
- Executive: $549 a month for up to 100 WordPress websites and 500 GB of SSD storage.
- Enterprise: $999 a month for up to 250 WordPress websites and 800 GB of SSD storage.
As well as the managed WordPress hosting plans, Liquid Web also have managed WooCommerce hosting (read our dedicated review) for anyone creating online shops with WordPress. While you can install WooCommerce and other ecommerce plugins on the regular managed hosting plans, the main selling point of the WooCommerce plans is that they’ve been optimized especially for ecommerce stores and their often-large libraries of products, while also including a few extra ecommerce-related features.
For all WordPress plans, there’s a discount available for those who choose to pay annually instead of monthly, which effectively means you pay for ten months instead of 12 when paying for a year of hosting upfront.
While there are no visitor or page view limits, there is a 5 TB bandwidth allowance on each plan. However, Liquid Web don’t charge overage fees, and this allowance is just there to stop abuse. If you exceed that amount, in most cases, according to the support staff, nothing will happen.
HOSTING PLANS SUMMARY
The managed WordPress hosting plans from Liquid Web are priced in line with the plans from other providers in this space. However, when it comes to choosing a home for your website, price isn’t everything. Features, performance and customer service are equally important areas to take into account.
So, to help you to decide if this is the right option for your website, the rest of this review, including the technical details section later on, covers exactly what you get access to with these plans. But, to summarize, the provision of CDN access, free auto-enabled SSL certificates, and 24/7 live chat and telephone support make Liquid Web a competitive option.
Now that we have an overview of the managed WordPress hosting plans, including how much they cost, it’s time to explore exactly what features you get access to, as well as how they’ve been implemented.
Let’s start by taking a quick look at the hosting environment and the features that will help you to manage your website more efficiently.
WORDPRESS OPTIMIZED SERVERS
The WordPress hosting environment has been specially built and configured to deliver a fast and reliable service for websites created with this software. By using Nginx, PHP 7, a custom caching solution and image compression, Liquid Web hope to have created a stable and performance-focused platform for all types of WordPress websites. We’ll find out if that really is the case in the performance-testing section.
WORDPRESS WEBSITE MANAGEMENT
To take some of the load of managing a website off your hands, the core WordPress software is automatically updated by default. However, you can pause this feature if you’d like more control over when the updates take place, giving you a chance to test new releases before applying them to your site. Liquid Web will also update your plugins, but not before they’ve tested them for compatibility with the rest of your site.
AUTOMATIC WORDPRESS WEBSITE BACKUPS
Another feature of the managed hosting service is the automatic daily website backups. These backups are safely stored on the Liquid Web servers, but in an area separate from your site. They’re held there for 30 days, but you can download them for longer-term safekeeping. Accessing and restoring the backups is very straightforward: Simply log in to your Liquid Web dashboard, navigate to the relevant area and click on the backup you’d like to restore.
If you download one of the backups to your computer, you can extract it and access the individual website files and database, enabling you to restore part of your site, rather than the entire backup.
If you’d rather have a more feature-rich backup system, perhaps with real-time backups and the ability to perform partial restores through a web interface, then you can install your own choice of WordPress backup solution, such as the premium VaultPress plugin, or subscribe to the Jetpack Professional plan.
A useful feature is the ability to create a staging site, or a copy of your live site, where you can test out new plugins, themes and other changes. Liquid Web includes this feature on all of their managed WordPress hosting plans, although some competing hosts, such as WP Engine, offer more feature-rich versions.
Creating the staging site and copying the content of your live site to the testing environment is easy enough, but when it comes to copying the test site to the live environment there isn’t a push-button approach. Instead, the recommended method is to use the Migrate to Liquid Web plugin — a tool that’s based on the popular BlogVault migration plugin.
As well as creating a quick copy of your site for testing purposes using the staging feature, you can also create a copy of your site for use as the starting point for a new project.
Maybe you really like the design and configuration of your current WordPress website, or you have a combination of theme and plugins that you like to use as the foundation for new sites. Either way, with the stencils feature, you can quickly create a copy of your site and transfer it to a new site — all through the visual interface of the Liquid Web account dashboard.
If you plan to create multiple WordPress websites for yourself or your clients, then the stencil feature could help you to save time and effort when starting a new project.
ITHEMES SYNC PRO
To simplify the process of managing one or more WordPress websites even further, the managed WordPress hosting plans above the entry-level Spark plan include access to iThemes Sync Pro, which would cost you $11 a month otherwise. With this tool connected to your websites, it’s possible to update themes and plugins through the central iThemes Sync dashboard for all of the sites you’re managing.
You can also monitor downtime, install new themes and plugins, and perform some other admin tasks on multiple sites, either individually or at once, through the iThemes Sync dashboard. There are also some database optimization features that could help your sites to run more smoothly.
ITHEMES SECURITY PRO
Since Liquid Web acquired iThemes, iThemes Security Pro is also included on all of the managed WordPress hosting plans above the entry-level Spark plan. The free version of this plugin is very popular, and the Pro version builds on the success of that tool by adding even more ways to keep your site secure.
So, if you’d like to enable two-factor authentication, automatic malware scanning and file system monitoring on your site, these features and more are available as part of most of the managed hosting plans via iThemes Security Pro.
ACCESS TO OTHER PREMIUM PLUGINS
As well as access to the iThemes tools that are available on some of the Liquid Web managed hosting plans, customers also get access to a selection of other premium plugins. Thanks to this, you can use the premium Beaver Builder Lite page builder plugin (worth $99 a year) and the premium WPForms Lite online form builder plugin (worth $79 a year) at no extra cost, as part of the Liquid Web managed WordPress bundle.
LIQUID WEB USER EXPERIENCE
When it comes to joining Liquid Web, signing up and launching a new WordPress website is very straightforward. Therefore, if you’re looking for a host that will allow you to have your new site up and running without delay, Liquid Web meet that criteria.
If you don’t already have a domain name for your site, you can register one with Enom through your Liquid Web dashboard. Although at $30 for a one-year .com domain name registration, there are cheaper options out there.
CUSTOMER ACCOUNT AND WEBSITE MANAGEMENT
Once you’ve signed up, you can manage your account through the dashboard on their website. The details for your websites can be accessed through the dashboard, along with the settings for each site.
Some of the site settings you can configure through your account dashboard include enabling or disabling automatic updates, turning on password protection for your website, and purging the cache, as well as turning it on and off.
Switching PHP versions is another control you get access to, and you can also download a few logs for your site — including the access log and the Nginx and PHP error logs.
One nice feature is that you can easily create additional user accounts to give other people access to your dashboard. If you’re working as part of a team or have hired people to help with your sites, this could come in handy.
Although the Liquid Web account dashboard has some useful settings and controls, like most, if not all, managed WordPress hosts, they won’t let you manage your account through a control panel such as cPanel. Therefore, if you want the ability to install other software on your account, create cron jobs or set up URL redirections yourself, Liquid Web, and managed WordPress hosting in general, may not be for you.
THE WORDPRESS DASHBOARD
Depending on your plan, new websites created on the managed WordPress hosting plans come with a few plugins pre-installed, including iThemes Security Pro, iThemes Sync, WPMerge, and a few free image compression and optimization extensions. However, these can all be removed if necessary.
The only non-optional modification to the WordPress dashboard is the empty cache button on the admin toolbar, which purges the Liquid Web Varnish cache.
Unlike some hosts, such as SiteGround or WordPress.com, there’s no wizard to help you to set up your new website. Although, if you’d like access to a feature such as this, you can install the Jetpack plugin.
One way Liquid Web aim to differentiate themselves from the other high-end and managed WordPress hosting companies is by focusing on delivering excellent customer service. As mentioned earlier, this appears to be paying off — at least based on the high Net Promoter Score of their brand.
While claiming to go the extra mile for their customers is starting to become more common among managed WordPress hosts, with companies such as Pressable putting a large emphasis on helping their customers to get the most from their websites, Liquid Web do back up their claims with their support-related features.
LIVE CHAT, TELEPHONE AND EMAIL SUPPORT
All of the managed WordPress hosting plans include 24/7/365 access to the live chat, telephone and email support channels. Not only that, but they guarantee response times or (some of) your money back. This policy is outlined in their SLA, but if you’re not connected to the support staff via live chat or telephone within 59 seconds, or your email isn’t replied to within 59 minutes, you’re entitled to a partial refund of your hosting fees. There’s also a 100 percent uptime guarantee in place, too.
While using the service for this review, the Liquid Web support staff were easy to reach and were very helpful when contacted via email and live chat.
Downsides of Liquid Web
One thing that may put you off trying Liquid Web is the design of their website. While there’s nothing wrong with it exactly, it’s not as slick as some of the other hosts out there. However, the site does have lots of useful content, so, if you like doing thorough research before choosing a host, there’s lots of information to sift through.
LIMITED DATA CENTER LOCATION OPTIONS
Another area where Liquid Web fall behind some of the competition is the range of locations where you can have your site hosted. Liquid Web only offer three data center locations (two in the US and one in Europe), whereas hosts such as Kinsta and WP Engine offer many more options, located all around the world. Although, unlike most hosts, Liquid Web do own these data centers, rather than lease servers in them.
That said, as all Liquid Web plans include CDN usage, your website content will be distributed to locations that are (hopefully) near to your visitors.
RELATIVELY BASIC BACKUP SYSTEM
Your website will be automatically backed up each day, but, as covered earlier, your options for restoring those backups aren’t as rich as they are with some other hosts, including the DreamPress plans from DreamHost and the WordPress.com Business plan.
INCLUDED WORDPRESS THEMES
Some hosts now include access to premium WordPress themes on their plans, such as WP Engine and the StudioPress themes their customers can use. Any plans that include a Jetpack Professional subscription also provide customers with access to more than 200 premium themes.
While the Liquid Web WooCommerce hosting plans include the premium Astra Pro theme — one of the fastest themes built for ecommerce — the regular managed hosting plans don’t give you access to any WordPress themes.
As you can see, there are a few areas where Liquid Web could provide a better service, but, overall, the features you get access to, not least the 24/7 access to the live chat, telephone, and email support, make them a competitive option.
Hosting Performance Test Results
To help you to get an idea of how fast your website might load if you host it with Liquid Web, as well as what levels of uptime you could experience, this section of our review has the results from our tests.
LOADING TIME TEST RESULTS
To find out how fast our test sites hosted by Liquid Web were, we used the premium Pingdom service to monitor their loading times over a seven-day period. During testing, the speeds of the sites were recorded every 30 minutes to find the average loading time.
LIGHTWEIGHT THEME SITE SPEED RESULTS
For our first test site, we used the lightweight Twenty Nineteen theme that’s enabled by default on new WordPress websites. The results of this test should be particularly relevant to anyone planning to create a basic blog or a simple website using a lightweight theme.
A sample page was created on the test site containing an image and some text. The speed of that page was monitored by Pingdom, and an average loading time of 358 milliseconds was recorded.
358 milliseconds is an impressive loading time for a site of this size. For context, some of the times of the other managed WordPress hosts we’ve tested in this price bracket include: Pressable, with 538 milliseconds; the DreamPress managed hosting plan from DreamHost, with 581 milliseconds; and the Business hosting plan from WordPress.com, which was 603 milliseconds.
HEAVYWEIGHT THEME LOADING TIME RESULTS
If you want to create a more feature-rich website, then a multipurpose theme such as Avada may be a better option.
For our second test, we installed the best-selling Avada theme and the required plugins, and imported its Agency website demo. After seven days of monitoring, Pingdom recorded the average loading time for the homepage of this website as 959 milliseconds.
This average loading time of 959 milliseconds is comparable with the speed of the same site hosted by Pressable, which had an average loading time of 958 milliseconds, and the WordPress.com Business plan-hosted site, which loaded in 1.06 seconds.
However, the homepage of the site hosted by Liquid Web was faster than some of the other hosts we’ve reviewed in this price range, including the site hosted by Kinsta, which loaded in 1.25 seconds; the WP Engine-hosted site, which loaded in 1.43 seconds; and the DreamPress-hosted site, which loaded in 1.89 seconds.
For those who plan to use a feature-rich theme such as Avada, but not install one of its pre-built homepages, we also tested the loading time of a blog post on our second test site.
After seven days of monitoring, the average loading time of the blog post was 974 milliseconds.
LOADING TIME SUMMARY
Both of our test sites had impressive average loading times, according to Pingdom. Because of this, whether you plan to create a simple website or a more heavyweight one, Liquid Web should be a suitable option in terms of site speed. Furthermore, these loading times compare well to the speed of the other managed WordPress hosts we’ve reviewed.
However, as our test sites don’t get any traffic, the results don’t give a full picture of the performance. So, with that in mind, we also ran a test to see how well our site hosted by Liquid Web was able to handle multiple virtual users accessing it at the same time.
LOAD IMPACT PERFORMANCE TESTING RESULTS
To find out how well sites hosted by Liquid Web could handle traffic, we used the premium Load Impact service to simulate multiple visitors accessing our test site using the Avada theme at the same time.
For this test, Load Impact was set to increase the number of virtual users accessing the site from one user to 200 over a five-minute period. While the test was running, the response time of the site was regularly recorded to see what impact these virtual users had on performance.
In the results below, the blue line represents the number of virtual users (VUs) that are accessing the site, while the green line shows the response time of the page being monitored.
As you can see from the chart, the number of simultaneous virtual users accessing the page did have some impact on the response time of the site.
However, it wasn’t until there were around 130 users accessing the site at the same time that the response time went up. Even then, the test site never became unresponsive, as has been the case in some of our tests of shared hosting, where the sites were unable to handle 50 simultaneous users.
You can see the full details of this test, including an interactive chart, on the Load Impact website.
While being able to handle 200 virtual users at the same time is impressive, comparable levels of performance were recorded in our reviews of other similarly priced managed hosts, including DreamHost, Kinsta, Pressable, WP Engine and the WordPress.com Business plan. So, if you expect large numbers of visitors or sudden spikes in traffic, all of these hosts would be suitable options.
UPTIME TEST RESULTS
Liquid Web appear to take downtime seriously, as they guarantee 100 percent uptime, and, based on our 12 days of monitoring with Pingdom, no instances of downtime were detected for either of our two websites.
If uptime levels do drop below 100 percent, you could be in line for a refund on some of your hosting fees, according to the Liquid Web service level agreement.
While 100 percent uptime is the highest level possible, Liquid Web aren’t the only host to achieve this. Unlike some of the shared hosting plans we’ve reviewed, the majority of managed WordPress hosts we’ve tested have achieved a perfect uptime score.
Overall, our test sites experienced some of the best loading times we’ve recorded so far, as well as impressive traffic handling and uptime levels. Therefore, if you’re looking for a fast and reliable web host, Liquid Web certainly meet that criteria.
Before we finish our review, here are some more technical details about the managed WordPress hosting service from Liquid Web:
- Website caching: Liquid Web use Varnish caching, but customers can disable it and use their own choice of caching plugin or service.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): The managed WordPress hosting plans include access to a global CDN via integration with Cloudflare.
- PHP: PHP 7.2 is enabled by default, but customers can switch to 5.6, 7.0 and 7.1 through their dashboard.
- HTTP/2.0: HTTP/2.0 and Nginx are in use on all of the managed WordPress hosting plans.
- SSL: Free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt are automatically applied to your site, or you can use your own SSL certificate that you’ve purchased from elsewhere.
- SFTP & SSH: You can access your server space via SFTP and SSH using your choice of software.
- Server file manager: There’s no browser-based file manager for accessing the server space and its files.
- Database access: The WordPress website database can be accessed via phpMyAdmin.
- Email service: Liquid Web offer email hosting as a paid add-on service, starting at $1 a month.
- WordPress website management: As part of the managed service, the WordPress software and plugins are automatically updated. This can be turned off through the Liquid Web dashboard if required.
- Plugin restrictions: Unlike some other managed WordPress hosts, there are no plugins that are disallowed.
- Security measures: Liquid Web monitor their servers for security issues using an in-house service. While they don’t monitor the sites they host, iThemes Security Pro, which is included on all plans above the entry-level Spark plan, has this feature.
- Post-hack clean-up services: Liquid Web will perform site scans to help you to fix your site if it gets hacked, but they don’t offer a clean-up service.
- Data center locations: Liquid Web own the data centers where they host customer sites, with locations in Phoenix, AZ, and Lansing, MI, in the US, and Amsterdam, NL, in Europe.
- Staging sites: A website staging service is available on all managed WordPress hosting plans.
- WordPress website migration: Liquid Web will migrate any existing WordPress websites to their servers for free using a combination of automated tools and hands-on transfer.
- Uptime checks and guarantee: Servers are monitored for downtime, but not the sites being hosted. However, the included iThemes tools provide this service if you choose a plan above the entry-level Spark plan. There is a 100% uptime guarantee in place, with money off if this level isn’t achieved.
- Support channels: All of the managed WordPress hosting plans include access to live chat, telephone and email support that’s staffed 24/7/365. The service level agreement states that live chat and telephone requests are answered within 59 seconds, and email requests within 59 minutes, or customers get money back.
The above information should hopefully help you to make a more informed decision on whether or not to sign up with this host.
Liquid Web performed very well in the site speed and load impact tests, and the 100 percent uptime shouldn’t be overlooked either.
In fact, the ability to handle spikes in traffic and the lack of overage charges mean this host could be a good choice for anyone who doesn’t want to worry about what may happen if their audience grows quickly or their content goes viral.
The lack of access to premium themes may be off-putting to some, but, considering that even the best WordPress themes usually cost less than $100, this probably shouldn’t be a deciding factor if you only plan to host one or two websites.
Overall, the Liquid Web plans are priced in the same region as most of the competition, and they include nearly all of the features found elsewhere. Because of this and the performance scores from our tests, Liquid Web definitely deserve a place near, or at the top, of your shortlist.
Used/using Liquid Web? Thoughts?