Managed WordPress hosting is tempting. After so many years of low-quality shared hosts reigning supreme within the WordPress industry, more and more quality hosts have stepped up to the plate to offer better hosting solutions for WordPress.
Flywheel is one such host. They promise quality cloud hosting with WordPress-specific features at an affordable price. In this post, we examine everything Flywheel has to offer for the average blogger and professional web designer alike.
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Flywheel Hosting Review: Infrastructure, Performance, Security and More
Overview of Flywheel’s Hosting Infrastructure
Once a managed WordPress host powered by a virtual private server infrastructure, Flywheel now offers cloud hosting powered by Google Cloud Platform. This means they now offer fully-private servers where each site has its own individual set of resources despite offering VPS hosting in the past.
Flywheel hosts WordPress sites exclusively and optimizes every aspect of them, from performance to security. Their target market consists of busy creatives and design agencies, though their plans and services are just as suitable for the average blog and WooCommerce shop as well. You’ll see this in the way their custom dashboard is easier to use when compared to cPanel or the typical shared hosting control panel.
Flywheel: The Ultimate Choice for Web Designers
Along with hosting individual sites and ecommerce stores, Flywheel is the ideal choice for web designers in need of a host that will allow them to build and manage client sites on the fly with very little technical input from themselves.
For starters, the free, 14-day demo site is available for every new project you create with Flywheel, not just your first one. This gives you time to design your client’s site and get it up and running before handing over the responsibility of paying for hosting to them. No more taking care of these costs yourself before payday.
The dashboard you have access to as an agency customer is also quite extensive. It’s called “Growth Suite,” and it’s essentially a client and revenue management portal.
You’ll create client profiles, create and send invoices, collect payments via Stripe, and manage revenue reports. You can even set up recurring and one-time services with tiers. Flywheel can even generate professional performance reports for you to showcase to clients.
On the development side of things, you can create what Flywheel calls “Blueprints” to save specific WordPress configurations for repeated use. For instance, if you use the same theme and set of plugins for every site you create, create a Blueprint out of it so it’s always ready to go for new projects.
Web developers, on the other hand, may certainly find these features useful, but the host’s restrictive nature may also prove to be too frustrating for some. You aren’t able to use certain plugins, for instance, though this feature is to be expected as it has now become common nature among managed WordPress hosts. Examples include caching, backup and security plugins.
Flywheel does allow you to use certain plugins, such as backups plugins that store backups offsite exclusively and caching plugins that use minification features (W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket). You simply need to disable their caching functionalities.
Furthermore, while you have SFTP access, you won’t be able to edit your wp-config file yourself. This is great for security purposes, but you’ll need to get in touch with support and have them add new lines for you, which can be a hassle for developers who prefer to be more hands on with their projects.
If you’re migrating an existing site to Flywheel, be sure you have a copy of your wp-config file beforehand as the one they generate for you may delete your own configuration of it.
Fortunately, you can enable and disable WP_DEBUG and WP_CACHE from Flywheel’s dashboard.
The Flywheel Hosting Dashboard
Flywheel’s dashboard uses a clean and modern user interface that simplifies the creation and management of your site. If you don’t want to pay straight away, use Flywheel’s free, 14-day demo option. It’s designed as a free trial for new customers, but developers and design agencies can use it to build client sites before asking them to pay for hosting.
You’re given a temporary domain, and after inputting your site title and desired admin username and password for WordPress, you’ll be to use Flywheel’s hosting dashboard. The installation process wasn’t as quick as Kinsta and Raidboxes‘, but our WordPress site was ready to go in under 10 minutes nonetheless.
The dashboard is divided into a small handful of sections designed for you to manage your account as a whole. They include sections that let you view all of the sites you host with Flywheel, manage your organizations (categorization for projects), and manage the add-ons you purchase.
The dashboard for individual sites is much more extensive. It’s distributed among the following tabs:
- Overview – Manage collaborators and domains linked to your site (Flywheel is not a registrar).
- Plugins – Manage plugin updates alongside Flywheel’s managed core updates.
- Performance – Analytics and reports on performance metrics for your site plus recommendations on how to improve your site’s performance. This tab is blank unless you purchase Flywheel’s premium add-on for it.
- Stats – A graph showcasing the number of visitors you’ve received in the last month.
- Backups – Manage backups by downloading, creating and restoring them.
- Advanced – Connect SSH, flush cache, export logs and reset login attempts. You can also enable staging, development mode and debug mode.
Some parts of the dashboard, such as plugin updates, performance metrics and site staging, are unavailable for demo sites.
Speed & Performance with Flywheel Hosting
Not much is known about Flywheel’s server technology in terms of how many CPU cores each plan offers, which operating system they use or how much RAM is available. We do know that their servers are powered by Google Cloud Platform, meaning your site will not share resources with other sites and will be able to scale when necessary.
Outside of server technology, Flywheel handles multiple performance tasks for you as a managed WordPress host. These are tasks you’d typically need to take care of yourself with code and third-party plugins and services.
Two of these tasks are caching and CDN services powered by a proprietary caching solution called FlyCache and third-party CDN service Fastly respectively. These are designed to interweave with one another so that the server-side caching offered by FlyCache serves cached content from several global points of presence within Fastly’s network.
FlyCache also applies exclusions for common WordPress plugins automatically and uses smart refreshing to ensure your visitors always see the latest versions of your pages.
Furthermore, Flywheel’s seamless integration with Fastly allows you to utilize full-page caching on your site. Whereas most CDNs only cache CSS and JS assets, FlyCache works side-by-side with Fastly to cache every HTML element on each of your pages.
Our test site fully loaded in 205ms with GTmetrix’s new Lighthouse-powered test. We used a popular WordPress theme, minification, asynced JS and lazy loading for images. FlyCache and Fastly were enabled as well.
Security is a mostly hands-off task when it comes to hosting with Flywheel. The most you’ll need to do is hide the WordPress login page if you feel it’s necessary, add a CAPTCHA form to the login page, and ensure you use a strong admin username and password.
Free SSL certificates are provided via Let’s Encrypt, and all you need to do is click a few buttons within Flywheel’s dashboard to enable it for your site. The host also uses brute force protection to keep hackers at bay on the login page, and its integration with Fastly’s network provides much needed DDoS protection.
Should something get through, which can still happen via non-secure third-party themes and plugins, Flywheel will detect it automatically and erase it from your site with its free malware scanning and removal service.
Staging is available on all plans if you want to test updates and other changes before you push them live. Flywheel is also the original creators of Local, a local server environment application designed exclusively for WordPress. You can even push sites created in your local server to your host’s server when you use it alongside Flywheel and the host’s parent company WP Engine.
A couple examples of minor security features Flywheel enables for your site include disabling WordPress’ XML file, which is known for being outdated and prone to vulnerabilities, and creating a unique name for your site’s database.
Backups are taken on a nightly basis and stored for up to 30 days. You can also restore your site to any of these backups with a single click.
Unfortunately, managed plugin updates are only available as a premium add-on for $25/month no matter which plan you have. Many managed WordPress hosts include this feature for free in at least one of their plans for comparison. Plus, WordPress now includes support for automatic theme and plugin updates natively. This makes paying an additional fee on top of your usual hosting fee a little difficult to justify.
Flywheel is a quality host capable of powering any project you want to build with WordPress. Its dashboard is simple enough for anyone to figure out, and although they do restrict a few things, they’re still a fantastic option for developers and design agencies who want to build and manage client sites without the hassle that normally comes from using other hosts.
Aside from a free, 14-day demo site, you can get started with Flywheel’s Tiny plan for $15/month or $150/year. This plan gives you access to up to 5,000 monthly visits, up to 5GB in storage and 20GB of bandwidth. Multisite and phone support are only available for high-tier plans.
Flywheel also offers two add-ons: one for managed plugin updates and another for performance insights. They both cost $25/month each for your first site and $5/month and $7/month for additional sites respectively.
Pricing for Flywheel’s freelance and agency hosting services are $135/month for up to 10 sites and $330/month for up to 30.
Again, you can get started today without a credit card by creating a free, 14-day demo site.
- Fastly – CDN Map: Fastly