Pagely Managed WordPress Hosting Review: Solid Service, Shaky Communication
Pagely launched as the first managed WordPress hosting service in 2006, was rebooted in 2009, and has been an actively growing venture ever since.
With a company mantra that espouses integrity, communication and transparency, Pagely promises to exceed the needs of media, business and enterprise customers alike.
We get asked all the time for web hosting recommendations and do our best to point members in the right direction, but who you go with ultimately comes down to your site’s needs – and also how much you’re willing to spend.
To help make the decision a bit easier, we’ve put some of the biggest WordPress managed hosts to the test, with a focus on customer experience. There are already plenty of reviews out there that look at speed and stability, but the ease of use and support capabilities of a company are just as – if not more – important because you’ll run into trouble sooner or later and a great host will always go above and beyond to help you out when disaster hits.
With all that in mind, this is the fourth of eight reviews, this time putting Pagely to the test.
Check out the other posts in this managed WordPress hosting reviews series:
Low-end servers don’t offer enough features and resources
Very low bandwidth on all plans compared to other hosts
Ease Of Use:4.5/5
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that I had multiple bad communication experiences with Pagely, which made me shy away from them completely.
Aside from that, I wouldn’t go for their low tier accounts because other managed web hosts offer more for less. The service itself is just fine but Pagely’s bandwidth allowance is not great and you don’t get staging sites.
Once you get to Pagely’s load balanced plans, however, things get a lot better. Very few managed WordPress companies offer direct SSH and WP-CLI access at all, getting that plus database access, version control, the cache/DNS/CDN trifecta and other features along with load balancing for $999 is not bad at all.
In a nutshell, Pagely is the reverse of SiteGround. I wouldn’t migrate my low-end sites to Pagely. Instead, I would rather get a $29/month WPEngine account or a $75/month Flywheel account. However, if I had a site with a huge number of visitors and a need for strong, state-of-the-art technology, Pagely would definitely be a good candidate.
Pagely: Company History
Pagely was the first company to introduce managed WordPress hosting back in 2006. I wasn’t really interested in hosting back then but I’m sure I would have been excited at the prospect of a company focusing on a single application.
This proved to be a highly successful idea and many others followed suit shortly after. While Pagely is probably no longer the largest host of its kind (WPEngine probably passed it a while ago), it is still a prominent player in the industry.
While researching for this review, I found the host’s values to be somewhat generic, but I was pretty hopeful because they sound pretty good!
“The Customer is always the most important person in the relationship… Communication is paramount to our success and we shall remain proactive… we promise to be transparent… Integrity is the core of our business.”
Support: Just Words on a Piece Of Paper?
To be honest with you, my optimism was basically shattered by my first communication with the company’s CEO Joshua Strebel. Before we move on (I’m going to be saying not so nice things…) I want to stress that I found Pagely to be a pretty good host from a technical point of view. The speed is fine, the backend is great and everything works nicely. However, Pagely failed on every single promise on the company’s About page.
It all started with my initial communication with Joshua. I asked if the company was willing to provide a free account so I could review the service. Joshua said: “We have never given out a free account for use as a review.” This is not really true. In another correspondence with someone in sales they said: “We very rarely, if ever, grant free accounts for the purpose of reviews. We feel like it is unfair.” This is a bit closer to the truth although it seems a bit arbitrary since they have a paid review in tuts+.
I don’t mind not getting a free account, not all hosts offered one when I enquired for this web hosting review series, which is just fine, and I respect these policies. What I did mind was the way this was communicated.
What was a big issue for me was the aftermath of this email. At this early stage in the review process, I had initially planned to test VPS solutions for this series. Pagely’s cheapest solution is $399, which is not easy money to throw around (or away). According to Joshua, you can sign up and cancel within 30 days for a full refund.
I’m sure that this is true, but Pagely’s Terms of Service specifically states there are no refunds, only on a case-by-case basis. To make sure, I got back to Joshua to double-check that I would be able to get a refund. I received the following response:
“Oh, so you are testing a VPS server. That is a little different. Tell me more about your testing plans.”
Just as you can’t judge a host based on one day of performance, it is somewhat unfair to judge 2-3 days of communication. I’m sure many of you have had great relationships with Pagely but I wasn’t really won over. They failed on their communication, transparency and integrity promises – at least towards me.
OK, after that initial aside, back to our regularly scheduled programming!
Pagely has a great website! The visuals are starting to show their age and there are some minor perplexing issues, but it is great for finding information about the company’s services and getting started.
Ironically, I found the front page to be utterly useless. The main hero image and call to action directs me to contact sales. This is not something I really want to do when signing up for an account. I don’t really hold this against Pagely though, as I assume that this is a better way to land larger clients or to funnel people toward their more expensive accounts, which is what any host wants.
Then there’s a case study, a bunch of logos I don’t care about, then a weird blocky thing with the top left block inexplicably missing, then some short reviews, which I don’t particularly care for either.
Once you get to the sub-sections of the website it’s a completely different story. The Plans page is one of the best I’ve seen. It doesn’t use a pricing table, which is odd, but it somehow works better for me. It’s easy to browse because the content is not restricted by horizontal space like it is in a table – everything is very clear and obvious.
There’s a huge plan comparison below, which is a table and shows all the information you need to geek out on stats. From WP-CLI support to SSH access support, Multisite support and staging sites, all the features are listed nicely.
All-in-all, I liked Pagely’s website. I’m sure the home page is the result of research and it works for the target audience. What matters is that I was able to find the information I needed easily and I could sign up quickly.
Pagely is not the cheapest solution out there, but I quite like that and here’s why.
All hosts have to deal with a lot of websites, which are badly configured, badly secured and waste resources. If hosts have very cheap plans there will be a lot more of these sites, which means that their network will be more stressed. With the lowest plan clocking in at $64 a month, perhaps some of these issues can be mitigated.
The lowest plans are not VPS, which means that there is some potential for the bad neighbor affect. Managed WordPress hosts have far better tech for dealing with this – a shared service no longer means certain death for hosted websites and the $64/month plan also gives Pagely a lot more capital to invest in its servers.
There’s also a feeling of “it’s more premium so it must be better”. This may be completely false of course, but while I’ve heard Pagely is sometimes a bit raw with its users, I haven’t really heard serious complaints about its technology. Therefore, I’m assuming that the company’s increased price really does reflect an increased level of service.
The VPS solution clocks in at $399, which is pretty expensive. You get 3.75Gb of RAM, SSH, WP-CLI and a powerful server. This would all be just fine, but what I find laughable is the bandwidth restriction – you get 150GB of bandwidth, which is a joke.
I am currently involved in a site which generates 244,000 views a month resulting in 190GB of data. The site is well-optimized so it’s running on a server with 2GB of RAM and we only actually use less than 1GB of it. So while the 3.75GB of RAM seems like a small figure, the real bottleneck is the bandwidth on offer. There is another 750GB of CDN you can use, but that’s still nothing compared to Flywheel’s 1TB $75 account, WPEngine’s unlimited bandwidth (they do limit visits more, though) and Kinsta’s 3TB on their $287 plan.
Oddly enough, I found their Pagely’s higher tiers a lot better priced. The $999 plan gives you 500GB of bandwidth and 2.5TB of CDN (still a lot lower than the host’s competitors, but this is something you can work with), on two load balanced VPS1 machines. This really will serve millions upon millions of pages with ease, although you will run out of bandwidth at some point.
Grabbing an account is easy, just click “Select Plan” next to any of the plans and fill out a simple form. Your Atomic Core (Pagely’s backend) account will be created and by following the wizard you can select and pay for your account. It’s not the best flow I’ve seen of the bunch of web hosts I’ve reviewed for this series, but it’s straightforward and simple.
Ease of Use
The Pagely dashboard isn’t as beautiful as the Flywheel one but it is just as effective, easy and obvious to use which is the main thing.
Compared with SiteGtround’s initial dashboard view, which shows absolutely nothing of value, Pagely’s is packed with important information. The number of sites you have, your bandwidth, CDN and disk usage, recent invoices, estimated monthly billing, recent support enquiries and more.
Overall, the system feels like a tricked out HTML admin theme from Themeforest but this isn’t a problem because it works well.
Each installation has its own page which shows a bunch of relevant data and common tasks like cache purging, white screen of death elimination and others.
Creating New Installations
Adding a new installation with Pagely is ridiculously easy. Click on the Add New tab, enter a domain name and that’s it. It took a bit longer for WordPress to install compared to WPEngine and Kinsta, but everything was up and running within 3 minutes.
All the while I could already go in and set up aliases, configure caching and other general setup tasks.
The first thing I saw in the dashboard was the ability to enable two-factor authentication. This is a great addition and shows that Pagely is serious about security – a great trait in a hosting company. To get it set up, you need a mobile device and a QR code capable app. I tested with the Google Authenticator App for iPhone and it worked like a charm.
Quick side note: When deleting a site, you are forced to give a reason why you are deleting it. This is a bit weird and arbitrary! Also, deleting a site seems to take a while. I removed an installation to make room for a new one and I got the good old “Plan is at capacity” message for quite some time, 5 minutes or so.
The quick features for enabling FTPS access and purging the cache are great additions. If you’re not a coder or you just need a quick fix, the white screen of death eliminator is a hugely handy tool. It will disable your plugins and switch your theme to the default one, which should be enough to get rid of all but the nastiest issues.
The PressCDN, PressCache and PressDNS features serve to speed up your website considerably. PressDNS is basically a fast way to translate requests like “mywebsite.com” to IP addresses like “192.281.9.23.” It is powered by Amazon Route 53, which is great since Pagely’s infrastructure is all Amazon-based.
PressCDN and PressCache put your content on a CDN network and use advanced caching to serve your content quickly from the closest data center. All this comes together to create a speedy service indeed.
Everything is rosy so far, but there is a snag: All the really good stuff is only available from the first VPS tier, which would set you back $399 a month. I can understand that there’s no chat support, no private DB instances and no automatic dedicated IPs for lower tier accounts, but no staging sites. Really?
Here are some of the things you don’t get with lower tier accounts but you do get for VPS onward:
Some of these are fair enough. Giving SSH access to an account on a shared server is not a good idea. However, I see no reason why staging sites, database access and version control can’t be added.
That being said, you do get plenty with the lower tier accounts as well, it’s just a shame that some of the above features have been omitted.
As with the other tests in this managed web hosting series, I performed casual checks, which serve as pointers for speed potential. Even stress-testing doesn’t really provide accurate results over a host’s whole network – it would be unfair to judge Pagely based on a few arbitrary tests. Nonetheless, here are my results:
Out of the box Avada installation using the Cafe demo – 24.3Mb, 134 requests
When uncached, vanilla Twenty Fifteen loaded in about 3.1 seconds. The WooCommerce shop loaded in around 2.3 seconds, and the Avada demo loaded in 8.5 seconds.
When cached, vanilla Twenty Fifteen loaded in around 1.3 seconds, the WooCommerce shop took 1.2 seconds, and the Avada Cafe demo clocked in at 3.4 seconds.
Disclaimer: In putting together this review, we bought our Pagely review account just like any other customer – via the sign-up link on the homepage. We didn’t let Pagely know when we were reviewing their services to avoid any special treatment.
Stay tuned for the last article in the series in the coming weeks, which will compare all eight web hosts side-by-side to decide which one is best.
Have you used Pagely? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.