For the past 18 months or so, I’ve relied on ManageWP to help me keep up with maintenance for my clients’ websites. (If you manage multiple WordPress sites and haven’t started using a similar service, you are truly missing out!) What used to take an hour or more each day – updating themes and plugins, making backups, running malware scans, etc. – became a matter of a few clicks. Life has been awesome.
Except I realized recently that I’ve paid ManageWP a LOT of money since I started using it. Even with low monthly fees relative to the number of sites I manage, I’ve spent close to $1,000 for the privilege of using ManageWP and that didn’t work well with my attempts at business budgeting. However, I also didn’t want to give up the ease of maintaining multiple sites from one place.
Then I discovered MainWP.
Much like InfiniteWP, which I’d looked at before, MainWP is self-hosted and doesn’t have monthly fees. Unlike InfiniteWP, however, MainWP’s premium add-ons are reasonably priced (InfiniteWP is outrageous if you didn’t get in on the lifetime all-access pass).
I decided to give MainWP a try and, despite being loyal to ManageWP for a long time, I canceled my ManageWP subscription the same day I installed MainWP on my server. A week later, I’ve decided I should review my decision in case it helps someone else (plus I’m a nerd and I love this kind of thing).
Here are the pros and cons of using both ManageWP and MainWP.
ManageWP: The Pros
A full list of features. Depending on the plan you choose, ManageWP offers a ton of features to help you manage multiple WordPress sites. One-click updates, backups, uptime monitoring, site cloning, and even SEO analysis are just some of the features offered. At the time I started using ManageWP, no competing service had the same features available.
No setup – just sign up and use. Since the ManageWP dashboard is hosted (securely) by ManageWP, there’s nothing to install other than the plugin for your client sites. When you add a site to ManageWP, you can install and activate the ManageWP plugin in a few clicks without leaving the ManageWP dashboard (requires entering admin login credentials).
Low pricing per site. The basic ManageWP plan is 70 cents per site per month, with the highest plan at $4.20 per site per month. If your clients pay you to manage their sites, the cost is very small compared to the time you save by managing everything from one central location.
White labeling. When I started using ManageWP, a few of my clients were utterly confused – I started getting emails asking, What’s this plugin for? Why did you install something new? With the option to white label the plugin (available only on the pricier business plan), I could give the plugin my company name, reducing panic on the client side (and making me look more professional in the process).
Content management. From your ManageWP dashboard, you can view and edit recent posts and comments for all your managed sites. Need to clean up databases or remove post revisions? No problem!
ManageWP: The Cons
Monthly pricing. The whole reason I left ManageWP is because of the monthly fees. While $55 a month (what I was paying at the time I closed my account) isn’t a huge sum, it just adds up over time. And as a business owner who shells out a lot of money each month for various services, it was one I couldn’t justify when there were other ways to accomplish the same tasks.
“Meh” support. I only had to contact ManageWP’s support a few times, and I always got the impression that their support team was…. not based in the US. I’m not inherently biased against anyone from other countries, but the language barrier made communication difficult at times. It was frustrating to explain something clearly and get a response that didn’t make sense.
Occasional bugginess. A few times, my white labeling randomly disappeared from client sites, and since I rarely logged into the actual dashboards, I didn’t know it had happened. (Saving the white label settings fixed the problem, but still.) Other times, sites would randomly disappear from the list and I had to add them again. Not a huge deal, but it was irritating.
Trouble with backups. Some of my clients have very old sites with tons of posts and images, which make for large backups. For those sites, I had to resort to my BFF BackupBuddy because ManageWP’s backups always failed no matter how I configured them. I didn’t mind, necessarily, but for what I was paying, backups should have worked. And I couldn’t troubleshoot because ManageWP hosts everything.
The client reports SUCK. One of the things I loved about ManageWP was the ability to send a report to each of my clients letting them know what tasks I completed every month. Except the stupid things rarely worked, the customization options weren’t great, and it ended up being more hassle than it was worth.
MainWP: The Pros
A full list of features. Like ManageWP, MainWP offers one-click updates, backups, cloning, uptime monitoring, SEO analysis, white labeling, etc. However, MainWP also offers extensions for things like spinning content across multiple sites (great for people who are managing their own sites in the same niche), storing and using code snippets, and integration with Piwik stats, with new extensions being released regularly. MainWP also offers API hooks for developers who want to create their own extensions.
Control. Since MainWP is installed on my server, I have full access to logs for troubleshooting any issues that might come up. I can also access MainWP on Github if I want to customize the plugins for my own use. MainWP’s transparency allows developers to contribute and help improve the service in ways that make sense for their needs, which is awesome.
Pricing. MainWP is free to download and use, with paid extensions to enhance its functionality. I needed to purchase 3 extensions at $18.99 each (you save a dollar if you pay with a credit card) to get the features I need, meaning I spent less than the cost of one month with ManageWP to get up and running. I don’t have to pay for features I don’t use and each extension I buy has lifetime support and updates.
White labeling that works. The white labeling extension was recently updated to allow white labeling of the entire WP dashboard, allowing me to rebrand my clients’ entire experience if I choose. The child plugin I installed on my client sites doesn’t lose my branding during updates, which was a problem with ManageWP at times. Overall, this part of MainWP has been great.
Auto updates. With MainWP, I can configure “trusted” plugin and theme updates that will update automatically across all my client sites with no intervention from me. While this option should be used with caution, there are some plugins that never cause problems and can be set on auto pilot with a few clicks, which saves me even more time.
MainWP: The Cons
Installation. Installing and configuring MainWP and the extensions I bought took a little over an hour. While I would assume that anyone managing multiple sites (especially for clients) could handle this, it did require some time and effort. The uptime monitoring extension in particular was a bear to set up and I had some difficulty getting it working.
Server load. As of right now, there is no way to control what time of day backups run. I’ve actually got backups running as I write this post, which is odd since it’s 9am. The server load jumps up considerably, slowing down my own sites, which is annoying. I could resolve this by setting up separate backups per site instead of saying “update ALL the sites every day” but who has time for that? Hoping this changes very soon.
Speaking of servers… If you use shared hosting,
shame on you! you will likely not be able to use MainWP. I can’t see a shared host allowing the type of resource usage I’ve seen in a week of use on my own server. It’s not outrageous, but it does heat things up a little, especially when intensive tasks like backups are running. No client reports. This wasn’t a deal-breaker for me since I wasn’t using ManageWP’s crappy reports anyway, but it would be nice to see this feature pop up as an extension sometime soon. I have a manual solution in place using Gravity Forms, but I can never remember everything I’ve done by the end of the month – I’d love to use MainWP to keep up with this for me. Edit: MainWP released a client reporting extension about a month after this post was published, and I’m now trying it out.
So Who’s the Winner?
For me, MainWP is definitely an improvement over ManageWP. I’m saving money, I can do the things I need to do, and I still save a ton of time managing sites for my clients. I don’t think ManageWP is a horrible service; it’s a great one! It just isn’t feasible for me when MainWP offers the same features with no monthly fee. Plus I’m a control freak and I like being able to see what’s going on under the hood.
MainWP’s website offers a handy comparison of its product compared to a number of similar services, including ManageWP, InfiniteWP, and iControl WP. While we can’t count on them to present a completely unbiased picture, the comparisons do show a number of features that are either more expensive or not offered by MainWP’s competitors.
Overall, I think MainWP is an excellent choice for designers, developers, and anyone else who needs to maintain multiple WordPress websites. If you have your own server and don’t want to pay monthly fees, yet find InfiniteWP’s extensions to be too expensive (like I did), check out MainWP for a cost-effective, feature rich solution that just works.
Are you using a service to manage multiple WP sites? Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you!