The Best Free eCommerce Platforms & Shopping Carts

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Restaurant Delivery Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Implementing In-House Delivery

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GreenGeeks Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at GreenGeeks Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

GreenGeeks Hosting Review

GreenGeeks is an independent, rapidly growing hosting company based in California, but with data centers across the US and Europe. GreenGeeks positions itself as a more environmentally friendly host with a focus on customer support.

See GreenGeeks’ Current Plans & Pricing

What is GreenGeeks Hosting?

GreenGeeks is a traditional web hosting company that offers a range of hosting services, including Shared, VPS, and Reseller products, along with complementary products such as domain registration, website builder, and (nominal) WordPress hosting. Here is their pricing chart.

GreenGeeks Pricing

GreenGeeks was founded in 2008 by a veteran of the hosting industry with a then-novel promise of environmental friendliness in an increasingly dirty industry.

GreenGeeks also has a unique focus on simplicity in an increasingly complex industry. Along with InMotion, HostPapa, A2, and SiteGround, GreenGeeks is one of the fewer remaining large hosts that is not owned by Endurance International, the GoDaddy Group, or the Web.com Group.

I recently had a couple of small websites that needed their own hosting accounts. Since I’ve had readers ask about GreenGeeks, I decided to give them a try.

Here’s my GreenGeeks Hosting review structured with pros, cons, and alternatives based on my experience as a customer.

Pros of Using GreenGeeks

There are a lot of GreenGeeks Hosting reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach. Like I mention in all my hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering GreenGeeks Hosting.

Speed & Performance

A hosting account can be a lot of things to your business, but the core function of a hosting server is to serve your website files whenever someone requests them. But – the implied adverb there is to serve those files quickly.

In an age of global audiences and multi-device connections, speed matters more than ever. While there are a lot of variables in play with website speed, it’s primarily your hosting server’s job to send the requested files to the visitor’s browser as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

GreenGeeks Hosting makes a lot of claims about their speed.

Some of those claims are just marketing claims that are true across all hosting providers (we’ll cover in the downsides).

But overall, GreenGeeks Hosting does live up to their promises.

One of the main factors of site speed is Time To First Byte (TTFB) – ie, how quickly the server sends the first byte of the first file in response to a request. Here’s how my GreenGeeks Hosting website tested out with a standardized install

GreenGeeks Speed

Their TTFB was much better than some of their big brand competitors like Bluehost or GoDaddy and competitive with other companies that focus on speed. For example, here’s my TTFB report from tests that I did on my SiteGround website.

SiteGround Speed

A bit faster – but in the same ballpark – especially given the variance that can happen with TTFB tests. And of course, if you have a good server setup, you can do even more (with GreenGeeks Hosting or any other fast hosting company). For example, here’s my TTFB test with an optimized InMotion server.

Overall, GreenGeeks Hosting excels in one of their main claims to fame – speed & performance. If that’s your priority, then they are certainly in the running with other direct competitors.

Company Structure & Mission

First off, I don’t think that a company is “good” or “bad” simply due to its size or customer focus. It’s all about tradeoffs.

There are a lot of major advantages to using a big company. They usually have the resources to provide big comprehensive solutions. They typically have lower unit costs that can be passed to the customer. They are also usually more stable than small, upstart companies.

That said, small companies are usually able to be more agile, closer & more responsive to the customer, and less likely to view customers solely through the lens of a Net Promoter Score.

In the world of hosting – it really depends on your goals & preferences. There is no right answer.

That said, GreenGeeks does have two things going for it.

First, it’s a big advantage that GreenGeeks Hosting is a founder-owned, independent company – simply because that is so rare now. Most hosting companies are brands of Endurance International, GoDaddy or the Web.com group.

And not only is GreenGeeks Hosting independent, but they are also stable and growing and really use their independence to promote transparency and accessibility that a big brand simply can’t match.

If you are someone looking for a hosting company rather than a hosting brand – GreenGeeks Hosting will tick that box. If not, you can ignore this section and keep focusing on your priorities.

Second, is GreenGeeks’ sustainability mission that is built into their business & corporate mission. Web hosting is a pretty carbon-intensive industry. It is responsible for an increasing amount of carbon emissions at a time when our carbon use needs to go down.

GreenGeeks purchases 3x the electricity that they consume in the form of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation – in addition to conservation measures at data centers.

Now – carbon accounting is outside of the scope of this review. However, RECs are pretty legit from a climate perspective compared to the iffy accounting of the more common “carbon offsets”. Here’s the difference if you’re interested. But the short version is that even though GreenGeeks’ data centers are powered in states with pretty dirty grid power, they purchase 300% of the equivalent electricity consumed from clean grid sources. The end result is that they are putting more clean energy back into the grid than the dirty energy that they are consuming.

The short version – GreenGeeks is an indie company that is more environmentally friendly than other hosting companies. They aren’t merely greenwashing for sales.

Product Simplicity & Transparency

GreenGeeks is simple. They have a few different plans. They have few, if any, upsells. The WordPress auto-install creates a blank, default install with no additional plugins or anything.

GreenGeeks Simple Install

GreenGeeks is as transparent as they can be about what equipment you are receiving and why you are getting what you are getting.

GreenGeeks has some elements of marketing-speak that I’ll cover in the downsides (e.g., WordPress hosting vs. Web hosting), but by in large, they run a simple, straightforward operation. As a customer, it’s refreshing and…nice. Big upside for GreenGeeks.

Support Access & Options

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, reviewing customer support is tricky. Just like your local restaurant on Yelp, the most positive and most negative reviews are generally worthless.

You never know when issues are customer-caused or when someone simply encountered that one amazing/horrible employee.

I’ve had a good experience with GreenGeeks Hosting. But that’s very anecdotal. So, I also like to look at “proxies” for customer support. In other words, things that indicate something about the culture & processes of customer support.

First – GreenGeeks Hosting provides a lot of different channels for customer support.

GreenGeeks Support

They have a phone number front and center. They have an extensive knowledgebase, and live chat. They do well triaging requests via social media.

Second, GreenGeeks’s reps are pretty hands-on – they’ll log into your account and attempt real fixes before having to escalate the issue. While some customers may or may not like that option, it does signal that they see customer support as an investment rather than a cost. That’s the type of general conclusion that I look for – and the one that I think matters in the long-term over a one-off experience.

Like their independent competitors in InMotion and SiteGround, GreenGeek’s customer support is a major pro to choosing them over a big brand hosting company (like GoDaddy) that may or may not prioritize support in the same way. This point segues into another big advantage for GreenGeeks Hosting.

Data Centers & Industry Contrasts

On a related but different note than speed & performance, GreenGeeks scores well as a globally oriented host that can efficiently serve websites around the world.

While there are lots of factors in website speed (like TTFB), the physical location of your server matters a lot. Requests for information travel over physical wires to a physical server. Even at lightspeed, distance matters, especially if you own/maintain a site or if your visitors need to load up many different files.

If you and your audience are on one side of the globe, it’s good to host your files near both you and your audience.

*Note – if you are in one country, but your audience is spread out, most sites solve this problem with a CDN.

Until recently, most cutting edge hosting companies were based & focused on the US market. If you were in Asia or Europe -then you might be stuck with lackluster local hosting and/or slow connection times.

GreenGeeks Data Centers

GreenGeeks allows you to select your datacenter among the four that they operate in the US, Canada, and Europe. As long as you aren’t in Austral-Asia, you’ll be set with GreenGeeks.

But second, GreenGeeks is incredibly transparent and normal compared to industry peers. Part of this relates to the simplicity that I already mentioned. But, they are refreshingly straightforward. You can see in the screenshot above that they tell what their data centers’ IP addresses are. They tell you what they can and cannot do.

They provide an ad and upsell-free WordPress auto-install.

GreenGeeks Simple Install

Their account management is so simple that it’s boring.

GreenGeeks Account Management

And it’s not really about the simplicity that is attractive per se – it can also have downsides – but it’s about what it says about the company.

GreenGeeks seems to be the type of company that sells a good product. They are proud of it. And that is all. For a product like web hosting, that type of company is usually good to work with.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using GreenGeeks

Like any web host, GreenGeeks has disadvantages. There are plenty of GreenGeeks complaints online. But remember, that like the pros, these are all in the context of your goals & priorities. With that said, here are the cons that I found while using GreenGeeks Hosting.

Price Point

Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, comparing pricing across hosting companies can be maddening. It’s very difficult to compare apples to oranges because plans generally come with various caps.

That said, I try to look at compare pricing based on the 3 “D’s” of core hosting features –

  • Domains – how many websites you can run on your account
  • Databases – how many software installs you can run
  • Disk Space – how many files you can upload to your account

After looking at “core” hosting features, I like to factor all the possible “bonus” features. Bonus features are features that you should only factor in if they pertain to your goals.  For example, if you plan on running Google Ads, then a credit there might be worthwhile, but if not, then it’s something to ignore completely.

Either way, GreenGeeks Hosting has 3 main tiers for shared Linux hosting – the Lite ($9.95/mo at renewal), Pro ($14.95/mo at renewal), and Premium ($24.95/mo at renewal).

GreenGeeks Pricing

With heavy discounting, their plans are not too bad compared to both competitors and discount brands.

That said – they are definitely pricier than most hosting companies that I’ve looked at for a few reasons.

First, their promotional pricing is only valid for 3-year plans. If you only want to pay annually – their renewal pricing is much higher.

GreenGeeks Monthly Pricing

Second, their Lite plan is pretty heavily capped. It’s really suitable for literally one website with no additional use cases.

Third, while they do provide some bonuses, they all have some strings attached and may or may not be worth the price jump between tiers.

Now – to be clear, that’s not a bad thing. Price is not a particularly good metric. Every customer should look at overall value for their needs. But either way, GreenGeeks Hosting works at a higher price point than other hosts, and I’m not sure their raw features meet the price point….which segues into the next section.

Product Selection & Feature Set

GreenGeeks keeps their product line-up simple. Even their “WordPress Hosting” is just plain Shared hosting with dedicated support reps.

They don’t have cloud hosting or managed WordPress hosting, or multiple flavors of shared or VPS hosting.

Among their features, they don’t have NGINX, built-in staging, or their own CDN network. They don’t bundle plugins or brand-name SSLs. They use a standard off-the-shelf cPanel and Softaculous installer.

GreenGeeks cPanel
GreenGeeks Web Apps

And they set pretty low default memory limits on new WordPress installs.

GreenGeeks Memory Limits

The ironic thing is that this lack of product features is simply the flip-side of their simplicity and straightforward approach. Most of these features can be changed (like the low default memory allocation) or can be solved in other ways.

However, for customers who are expecting all the things to be pre-bundled and convenient – it’s a downside compared to other competitors.

Think about your local grocery store. Costco is able to keep stuff in stock and to keep low prices low because they have a shockingly low number of SKUs. You won’t find 26 brands of hot sauce in Costco. That would drive me nuts. I love going to my local Super Kroger with dozens of national and local brands…that might sometimes be out of stock or more expensive.

In the analogy, GreenGeeks is Costco. They have what you need, just don’t expect dozens of add-ons and bells and whistles. For example, they don’t have Bluehost’s super easy and custom cPanel and they don’t have InMotion’s custom WordPress plans. But that’s also not GreenGeeks’ thing.

Onboarding & Product Setup

In a similar fashion to feature simplicity, GreenGeeks has a pretty plain, vanilla process of onboarding and product setup.

Sure, they don’t have lots of upsells and clutter, but it’s also more old-school than other hosting brands. Here are their account setup emails.

GreenGeeks New Account
GreenGeeks New Account Info

As you can see, it’s solidly fine. They give you what you need. But there’s also no hand-holding. That’s great…unless you find hosting to be daunting and need some help / pointers.

Bundles & Bonuses

Lastly, and on a very similar note, is their lack of bundles and bonuses. Most hosting companies are racing to become “platforms”. And part of that is a push to bundle products to keep your customers around.

WP Engine bundles high-quality themes. InMotion bundles high-quality JetPack plugins and caching plugins. Bluehost has an entire theme / app marketplace. HostGator has a top-notch drag and drop builder.

And even among other hosting companies that aren’t bundling, they are providing more bonuses or carving out a unique position. SiteGround has a suite of developer tools. HostPapa has a range of international support options, etc.

GreenGeeks’ “thing” seems to just be their sustainability pitch. That’s great – and I certainly applaud that. But as a customer, it’s important to be aware of what you need & don’t need before you make that tradeoff. Individual action on climate is a must, but society-level action is still the most critical piece. I bought a used Nissan Leaf even though it has less range and less space than a petroleum powered car. But also…I don’t need lots of range or a lot of hauling space for my day to day use. The consideration should be the same with GreenGeeks.

GreenGeeks Alternatives & Comparisons

Out of all the hosting companies that I’ve used myself or via a client, here’s how GreenGeeks compares with a few select ones.

GreenGeeks vs. SiteGround

SiteGround is one of GreenGeek’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitors. They both have a focus on speed with reputations for solid support. SiteGround shares many of GreenGeek’s positives (including speed, support, and data centers) with some of the same downsides. You can read my full SiteGround Hosting review here. If you are in Asia or Africa are looking for more hosting bonuses, then I’d use SiteGround. If you are in the US or Europe and want a straightforward host (or like GreenGeeks’ mission), then I’d go with GreenGeeks.

GreenGeeks vs. Bluehost

Bluehost is one of Endurance International’s most well-known brands. They beat GreenGeeks on pricing and onboarding. However, GreenGeeks does somewhat better with performance and core hosting features whereas Bluehost has better “bonuses” and onboarding. If GreenGeeks’ mission or independence matters more to you – then pay a bit extra for GreenGeeks Hosting. If you’re just running a project on a budget or need better Getting Started guidance, then go sign up for Bluehost.

GreenGeeks vs. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the giant of the web hosting world. In fact, they have tried to go beyond hosting to become more of a platform. Their actual hosting products are sort of buried among all their other offerings. But in general, they’ll have better short-term pricing and better complementary products than GreenGeeks. But they’ll lag on customer support, core hosting features, performance, and long-term pricing. They also have a history of brand controversies that directly contrasts with GreenGeeks’ brand and transparency. Unless you have a specific reason to use GoDaddy, you should sign up for GreenGeeks.

GreenGeeks vs. A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting is one of GreenGeek’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitors. They both have a focus on speed with reputations for solid support. A2 Hosting shares many of GreenGeek’s positives (including speed, support, and data centers) with some of the same downsides. You can read my full A2 Hosting review here. A2 Hosting has some additional upsides like Windows hosting, but also many more downsides like upsells and complexity. If you are in the US or Europe and want a straightforward host (or like GreenGeeks’ mission), then I’d go with GreenGeeks. If you have a reason to use A2 Hosting (ie, sale pricing or Windows hosting), then A2 Hosting would be fine.

GreenGeeks vs. InMotion Hosting

InMotion Hosting is one of GreenGeeks’s big independent (ie, also not owned by a big holding company) competitors. GreenGeeks offers global data centers and a simplicity in plan structure that InMotion does not. Beyond that, I’ve found that InMotion provides all of GreenGeeks’s benefits (even some of their environmental commitments & a cleaner grid source) without the downsides. InMotion has very involved support and a solid pricing structure. You can read my full review of InMotion Hosting here, but unless you need European data centers or GreenGeeks’ structure, I would recommend signing up for InMotion Hosting.

Next Steps & Conclusion

There’s a reason GreenGeeks is one of the fastest growing independent hosting companies. They have a solid product and a great support.

If you are looking for a full service hosting company with solid support, good performance, and a green mission, then – See GreenGeek’s Current Plans & Pricing

If you are looking for a hosting company with all the benefits of GreenGeeks Hosting – but with better pricing and product bonuses, I’d go with InMotion Hosting. See InMotion’s plans & pricing here.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

GreenGeeks Reader FAQs

What is GreenGeeks?

GreenGeeks is an independent web hosting service based in Los Angeles. They offer products ranging from Shared to Dedicated servers in addition to complementary products such as domain registration and website builders.

Is GreenGeeks Good?

GreenGeeks has strengths in product performance, customer support, simplicity, and their environmental commitment. They are a bit pricier and lack advanced hosting plans of some competitors.

How do I install WordPress on GreenGeeks?

After purchasing a plan (shared, VPS, or WordPress) on GreenGeeks, access your cPanel (server software) via your account dashboard. Browse to web apps, select WordPress QuickInstall. Fill out the fields, and wait while WordPress is auto-installed on your account. Explore screenshots at this WordPress set up guide.

Who owns GreenGeeks?

GreenGeeks was founded by and privately held by Trey Gardner since 2006.

GreenGeeks Hosting

GreenGeeks is a solid, independent hosting company with a focus on product performance, customer support, and environmental sustainability.

Application Category: Web Hosting

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Stripe VS Authorize.Net: Which Is Better?

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How Inventory Financing Works & When It’s Right (Or Wrong) For Your Small Business Funding Needs

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Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales

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Stencil App Review: Pros & Cons of Using Stencil

This post originally appeared at Stencil App Review: Pros & Cons of Using Stencil via ShivarWeb

Stencil App Design

Stencil is a web-based graphic design tool built for anyone trying to quickly create digital design assets (aka social media & website images) with few to no graphic design skills.

See Stencil’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’ve been a Stencil customer for years – back from when they first launched as Share As Image. I got a lifetime plan from a re-brand promotion years ago.

Every “featured image” that you see on this website was made with Stencil. I’m a big fan…but I’ve also been a user for a long enough time to see & get frustrated with a few built-in limitations.

Stencil App Backend

Here’s an overview of Stencil along with some pros, cons, ideal use cases, and direct alternative tools.

What is Stencil App?

Stencil is a graphic design tool focused on creating digital images for sharing. Unlike direct competitors, they are focused exclusively on image sharing rather than ad creation, offline images, etc. Here’s a brief overview.

The core function of the tool is an editable image with clickable layers where you can quickly edit background, layout, text, color, typography, and visual qualities of an image, all while resizing it quickly for image sharing.

Stencil maintains a library of stock images, illustrations, icons, and fonts for free commercial use. They also have built-in storage for settings, uploaded images, and custom templates.

Background on Stencil App

Stencil started life years ago as Share As Image. It began in a super-crowded multi-purpose design tool market. There were hundreds of image editors in addition to desktop image editors.

But the web, and social media especially, were becoming much more visual. And every DIY tool out there focused on the image editing part rather than the *sharing* part. So resizing and resampling was a huge problem that was made much worse by every social network changing their image specs every month.*

*again, the emphasis is on DIYer. Adobe users had this functionality already, but even then you really needed some basic graphic design skills and an Adobe subscription.

Share As Image focused exclusively on creating images for social media and websites. I found them after spending way too much time on Pixlr, Mac Preview, and many others creating, deleting, and getting frustrated with basic website images.

After a surge in popularity, Share As Image re-branded as Stencil with an expanded stock image and font library along with a better pricing plan.

How Stencil App Works

Stencil is super-simple and intuitive to use. They offer a free plan with limited features for anyone to try.

After signing up, you can either use their web editor or use their browser extensions or use their WordPress plugin.

All three use locations use the same tool; it just depends where the tool is loaded. I prefer the Firefox / Chrome extension. It allows me to work quickly without closing out my window. The WordPress plugin is useful, though I would rather use my browser’s memory than my website’s memory with all things equal.

The tool shows a clickable image with layers. You click and edit on each layer. The layers all together make up your image.

You can save as a template (for images that will be used over and over) and/or download the image for use and/or share the image directly to a social media account.

Pros of Using Stencil App

There are a lot of Stencil reviews online. These are all based on my use over the past 5+ years.

Also, before getting to the things I like about Stencil – the biggest pro of Stencil is their free plan. You can sign up and test it out yourself. Everyone has slightly different workflows, so it’s great to get to use a tool with zero obligation. And they have a 7 day free trial of premium features.

Ease of Use & Onboarding

Stencil is super-easy for non-designers to use. Stencil uses an intuitive editing setup and avoids graphic designer language for plain language (“size” vs. “dimension” or “element” vs. “layer”).

Every feature has a little question mark that provides a pop-up help box so that you are never guessing, even with obvious features like the save button.

Stencil Download

When you sign up, there’s a useful tour and onboarding sequence. Each section of the tool has use cases, suggestions, and examples built-in. There is very little that is buried or a user bottleneck.

Stencil Settings

Versatile Features

Every editing feature is versatile with multiple uses. You have the ability to save an image as a template for future images. You can download it in different formats and share directly to a social network.

The editing tool syncs well with the stock image library so that you can quickly test different design ideas without committing to a single direction.

There are helpful suggestions throughout the editor such as element lines to keep the image centered & aligned. You can also upload and use your images and design assets.

Stencil Watermark

There has never been a time when I was trying to make a particular design edit and couldn’t because the tool was missing. So far, Stencil’s features are versatile enough to meet all the sharing image design needs that I have.

Pricing Value

Stencil has a free plan, a pro plan, and an unlimited plan. All three are a solid value, especially when you factor your time value into the equation.

Stencil Pricing

The free plan allows a surprising amount of use to be, well, free – especially since you can upload so many of your images.

The pro plan is a bit limited compared to the unlimited plan. However, it’s well crafted for users who have a predictable schedule of images that they need to create (50 social media images per month is a decent amount).

The unlimited plan is the best value…assuming you are actually going to use the tool. If you look at how much your time is worth or how much you’d have to pay for this type of design work, Stencil is an absolute no-brainer productivity tool.

And if you make social media or website images for a living, Stencil can dramatically increase your productivity – even if you do some design work in Adobe – simply with the resizing and direct sharing tools.

Included Graphic Assets

Stencil has a *huge* library of graphic assets. When I created the image for this post, it was up to 2.2 million images and illustrations.

Stencil Templates

I used to comb through the Internet to find Creative Commons images…but now I just hand that work over to Stencil and use their search engine to find commercial use, non-royalty images. It’s amazing.

Stencil Icons

Ditto with their icon and quote libraries. It saves a lot of time and makes for great images.

Product Focus

One of Stencil’s biggest pros is its product focus. They aren’t building an all-in-one do everything design tool to compete with Adobe. Instead, they focus on rolling out new features that make their existing product focus better.

They focus exclusively on helping DIYers make images for sharing on social media and websites. That’s it.

The newest features have all revolved around adding new stock images, increasing resolution, and tightening up the direct sharing tool.

Stencil Image Share

They deliberately disown any feature that would be out of scope (like links in image).

Cons / Disadvantages of Using Stencil App

Now, Stencil has a lot of pros, but I’ve also found a few downsides over the years. All of these downsides aren’t really negatives about the product. Instead, they are more downsides with a mismatch between the tool and the person using it.

In other words, Stencil isn’t made for everyone. And some people will be frustrated by some of the limitations.

Pricing & Caps

Stencil may be a good value, but their unlimited plan still costs more than $144/year, and their free and pro plans still have pretty hard limits.

Stencil Pricing

Stencil’s unlimited plans are a bit more expensive than some graphic design tools like Canva (see the alternatives section) that have even more features – and it’s not that much cheaper than an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.

Now, some of these pricing comparisons are apples to oranges since Stencil is unique with its product focus. However, if you need something broader than Stencil, buying them plus another premium tool will add up.

And if you are using Stencil’s free or pro plan, you will likely hit the caps much sooner than expected due to how they count images.

Design & Branding Tools

On the same note as pricing, Stencil simply does not have an extensive feature set that includes things like palette makers, gradient editors, logo generators, and offline graphic designs.

I think that this product focus is a huge advantage, but for some users, it can be frustrating. There are tools out there (see Alternatives section) that include many of Stencil’s features plus some. They might be harder to use and/or have a steeper learning curve…but at least they have those design features.

Team Sharing

A Stencil subscription is for a single user (though technically a single login). While you can share a login with an assistant, there’s no real ability to share among teammates or collaborators.

You can’t login from different IP’s at once, and you can’t share work on one account with another account.

If you are on a team – or even in a situation where you are collaborating a lot, this limitation is pretty significant.

Again, this downside comes from Stencil’s product focus. It’s simple and straightforward, but if you need something that has these features, they won’t be a good fit.

Stencil App Alternatives & Use Cases

There are a lot of graphic design tools on the Internet. Here are a few alternatives to Stencil, along with a few use cases that I think are *perfect* for Stencil.

Solo Blogger / Website Operator

If you are a solo website / social media account operator, then Stencil is an perfect fit. It saves time, saves money, saves frustration, increases productivity, and creates a more professional image. There’s no need to balance work between assistants or multiple tools. It’s easy to add to your browser and quickly handle design work yourself. Check out Stencil’s plans here.

Sole Team-member

Even if you are part of an organization, Stencil would be a good fit if you are basically a solo team member (or the person responsible for social media images). Similar to a solo operator, the simplicity and product focus of Stencil makes it worthwhile. Check out Stencil’s plans here.

Social Media Manager

If you are a social media manager with a team, Stencil might still be a fit if only for a couple of specific features like its resizing features.

Here are a few direct competitors with Stencil and how they compare.

Stencil vs. Canva

Stencil and Canva are both excellent web-based graphic design tools. They both have a different focus & different business model, though. Stencil is focused on social media and website images. Canva is focused on graphic design in general – it’s meant to compete with Adobe, but online. Canva has more features for a cheaper price…but also prices a lot of their images / assets at a $1/use. Stencil is unlimited and all inclusive. Canva is also more team friendly, but also has a steeper learning curve due to all the additional features. Use Canva if you prefer features & price. Use Stencil if you prefer speed & simplicity.

Stencil vs. DIY Tools

There are enough free design tools on the Internet & for download that you can easily get all of Stencil’s features for free. The catch is that you will likely be unable to get them all bundled together in a seamless experience. You will also need to search out royalty-free images & assets to use yourself. Use Stencil if you are looking to save time. Go DIY if you are looking to save money.

Stencil vs. Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is part of a wave of logo design tools that automatically integrate your brand & look across all your graphic design assets. In many ways, Stencil and Tailor Brands complement each other. But Tailor Brands’ tool suite is made to create assets that align with your brand & logo. Stencil is made to create good looking images for social & websites. While Tailor Brands can do what Stencil does, they don’t have the library of graphic design assets that Stencil does. If you are more concerned about keeping your branding consistent across your social media & websites, look at Tailor Brands. If you just need to create images quickly, then go with Stencil (or both if you have the budget).

Next Steps & Conclusion

Stencil is not for everyone, but for a solo operator like myself, it has been a no-brainer not only in terms of time saved, but also in the presentation of a consistent, professional look.

  • If you fit any or some of the use cases above, be sure to sign up for Stencil.
  • And if you aren’t sure, then be sure to get a free plan anyway and see how it works.
  • Otherwise, check out my post on commercial images or my review of Tailor Brands or Canva.
Stencil App Review

Stencil is a web-based graphic design tool to help create images for social media & websites.

Application Category: Graphic Design

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How To Create A Successful Email Marketing Strategy For 2020

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WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

This post originally appeared at WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives via ShivarWeb

WPMU Dev Hosting Review

WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordPress hosting product.

See WPMU Dev’s Current Plans & Pricing

I’m currently a WPMU Dev member and had free access to the new hosting product. The WordPress & web hosting world is constantly evolving with new & interesting products.

Given that I use & love some of their plugins, I tried out the hosting product as well. Here are the pros, cons, use cases & alternatives for WPMU Dev hosting.

What is WPMU Dev & WPMU Dev Hosting?

WPMU Dev launched their first major plugin years ago. They became best-known for their multisite & network plugins.

A couple of years ago, they open-sourced most of their smaller, outdated plugins and doubled-down on a suite of premium plugins focused on agencies, web consultants, designers & developers.

The suite includes security, backup, SEO, and form plugins. They all work well and integrate together. I personally use the Video Tutorials plugin and their Forminator Pro plugin.

Their hosting product is just another part of that product suite. In the flight to platforms, hosting is WPMU Dev’s flight to be the platform of choice for premium WordPress developers and site owners.

Background on WPMU Dev Hosting

Like most WordPress plugins & theme makers, WPMU Dev has been constantly reworking their business model to keep up not only with the Internet but also with software and open-source trends.

Years ago, they sold premium plugins a la carte for a support subscription.

Then they moved to a library subscription model. Then they made all their small plugins free and switched to a subscription for plugin services model.

As hosting companies moved in on plugin & theme makers’ territory, WPMU has moved into hosting companies’ territory by bundling hosting with their plugins.

Whatever the business model, WPMU Dev has always focused on super-high quality code & support. They have always focused exclusively on the WordPress world. I use their plugins for critical parts of my website, and lean on their support for especially tricky code questions.

How WPMU Dev Hosting Works

WPMU Dev hosting, though, is a bit of a hosting hybrid. It’s hard to compare the product to anything else on the market.

When you sign up for WPMU Dev, you get 3 hosting accounts bundled with unlimited access to their plugins. A WPMU Dev subscription is $49/mo.

Their hosting product is neither true cloud hosting, nor true WordPress hosting, nor true web hosting. I’ll get into all these in the pros & cons, but here’s the short version.

They use Digital Ocean’s cloud to actually run your website. But it’s not true cloud hosting….because, well, it’s a flat rate and you don’t run the containers.

They have it pre-configured for WordPress. But it’s not true WordPress hosting…because, well, there’s no real definition for WordPress hosting. It’s one way to host some WordPress websites for sure…but the point of WordPress is that it can run fine in a variety of environments depending on your needs & resources.

And they have it marketed as web hosting. But it’s not true web hosting…because, well, it’s managed cloud hosting with all the limitations that come with it.

But it does have some upsides & use cases, especially in a world of platforms. So let’s look at the pros.

Pros of Using WPMU Dev Hosting

WPMU Dev hosting has a lot going for it. They are a bit of a hidden gem. They aren’t the biggest brand on the Internet, and not even a big brand in the WordPress world. But their size & focus creates a lot of advantages.

Platform Quality & Performance

WPMU Dev is already known for their high-quality plugins. They are also known for their high-quality WordPress support.

Their hosting product actually lives on Digital Ocean’s cloud infrastructure. Digital Ocean is one of the “name-brands” of cloud hosting along with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

Between WPMU’s WordPress expertise and Digital Ocean’s performance, you really don’t have to worry about your website install. Here’s a speed test from the first, unoptimized install.

Here’s a screenshot of the backend. It’s clean and fast.

WPMU-Dev-Hosting

Overall, the quality & performance of the product itself is right on.

Total Platform Pricing & Value

WPMU Dev structures their pricing with hosting credits. To be a WPMU Dev member, you pay $49/mo. You get access to full-versions of all their plugins, plus support, plus 3 credits per month for hosting.

WPMU Dev Hosting Price

Now, $49/month for just a single managed hosting account is super-expensive. $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts is super-expensive. In fact, I’ll get to this part in the disadvantages. But WPMU Dev isn’t selling hosting. They are selling hosting as part of a platform.

So, looking at the whole platform, $49/month for 3 managed hosting accounts plus full versions of all their premium plugins plus support plus all the built-in services that come with their premium plugins brings the total value well past $49/mo.

For example, a subscription to a security plugin, backup plugin, and form plugin can all run ~$20/month. Competitive managed WordPress hosting can run ~$20/month – even more for 3+ sites. Add in a CDN, backup storage, etc – and you’ll likely end up well over $49/month.

Now, you might see where I’m going with this, and I will address the pricing assumptions in the disadvantages. But, for now, the hosting product makes WPMU Dev’s platform an excellent value.

Integrations & Simplicity

WPMU Dev has all the must-have plugins for WordPress taken care of. One of the biggest obstacles for running a self-hosted WordPress website is simply making everything work well together.

If you buy into WPMU Dev’s platform, all the plugins work together, which all work well on their hosting configuration.

You won’t have to worry about your SEO plugin conflicting with your backup plugin and both of them burning through your server limits.

Data Centers & Features

WPMU Dev has a whole suite of “sweet” hosting features. By using Digital Ocean, you get a choice of data center location for each website. That’s a huge appeal for anyone & everyone ex-US or with a global readership.

They have plenty of advanced developer-friendly features like staging. migration tools, free SSLs, etc.

If you build WordPress websites for clients, they are a very appealing option. All their features are a value-add for the client but don’t add to your workload at all.

Customer Support

Even though they do not have phone support…and their knowledgebase is still getting built out. They do have stellar chat & forum support.

Every interaction that I’ve had over the years has resulted in above & beyond support. All the support agents specialize in WordPress and have the actual developers who build the plugins on call.

Like I’ve said in other hosting reviews, support is a bit anecdotal. Usually, I try to look for a “proxy” for good customer support. Here though, I’ve been a customer of WPMU’s plugins for so long that I feel like I can say that their support is solidly top notch.

Cons / Disadvantages of Using WPMU Dev Hosting

Every product is going to have complaints online. Every product will have tradeoffs. Sometimes complaints & tradeoffs come from a poorly designed or executed product. But often it’s because the product does not fit the customers’ needs, goals & resources.

That’s especially true with WPMU Dev’s hosting product. The product is well-designed & well-executed. But…it has quite a few disadvantages when it comes to customer fit. Let’s dive in.

Use Cases & Pricing

Like I said in the pros section, WPMU Dev’s pricing is expensive for hosting. But their pitch is that they are more than hosting. They make plugins, have add-on services, and amazing general WordPress support.

But all of that assumes that you’ll actually be using their plugins and add-on services.

I’m a long-time customer, but I don’t use many of their plugins & services…because I don’t like some of them.

Their SEO plugin is solidly fine….but anyone serious about SEO will be using RankMath or Yoast at the very least.

Their Hummingbird / CDN plugin is solidly fine…but I find it to be clunky and not comprehensive. I pair WP Fastest Cache with MaxCDN / Stackpath.

I use JetPack for security & backups instead of WPMU Dev…because I use it anyway because they have a WordPress Android app in addition to Related Posts and more.

And I still don’t use their hosting, even though it’s technically “free” for me, because I just don’t like the limits or workflows…and I don’t want to get locked into a platform anyway.

Platforms are great…but the big reason I use self-hosted WordPress instead of a website builder or even WordPress.com is because I don’t want to be locked into a platform.

Once you start to add up WPMU Dev’s pricing with other services…it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And even for stand-alone pricing, it’s expensive. Hosts like InMotion have true, managed WordPress hosting with staging, developer features and everything else (including a JetPack subscription) for half the price of WPMU Dev’s member price.

There’s only one use case where WPMU Dev’s pricing makes sense – and that’s for a consultant, agency, designer (or solo site operator) who has several sites (ie, for clients) and wants to dramatically simplify site management.

In fact, if I was still doing pure-play WordPress web design for clients, I would likely just run the whole thing on WPMU Dev. They would allow me to white-label and bill out everything under my name, and it would reduce my workload.

That use case makes a lot of sense…but I don’t think that use case is too common.

But outside of that use case, the whole single price for a single membership to get bundled hosting is just not a good value.

Upgrades & Pricing

All that said, their hosting upgrades & pricing are still expensive regardless of use case.

WPMU Dev Hosting Price

You can get fully-featured managed WordPress hosting elsewhere for a much better price…or at least more flexible.

The sites that fit their hosting specs are pretty specific. For example, If you run a media-heavy blog, you’ll have to pay extra attention to your WordPress settings to keep your install in line….which leads to the next disadvantage.

Jargon & User-friendliness

To be “easy” and common website software, WordPress has a lot of jargon. Most hosts lean into removing that jargon and making it user-friendly.

WPMU Dev’s hosting product is clean and well-thought-out…but it still puts a lot of trust in their average user’s knowledge. I even had to look up terms when working with my install.

Additionally, since it’s hosted with Digital Ocean…and they don’t operate their own DNS…there’s an extra layer of setup to connect the domain to the DNS to the actual website.

Many of the features that could make operating a site for a non-developer or non-advanced WordPress use (like site staging) still come with prompts that assume knowledge or direct to a concise, but not quite comprehensive knowledgebase.

Like the value pricing, the product is user-friendly….for a certain type of user. For a broad market appeal, it has a bit too much jargon to truly be user-friendly.

Versatility & Usefulness

Since WPMU Dev’s hosting product is part of their platform and not a stand-alone product…it does not have the versatility or usefulness that a Linux web hosting account or even a stand-alone WordPress hosting account would have.

Since the entire product is built around the primary use case that I mentioned earlier, they prioritize the non-sharing of resources as the main priority. That’s fine and all, but it leads to tradeoffs that not everyone may realize. For example, here’s what they say in regards to the low storage limits.

It’s also important to understand that the speed, security and stability of WPMU DEV hosting relies heavily on a highly-structured server environment in which each member’s files exist in a dedicated virtual private server. When we refer to “your files” we’re not talking simply about your content, but also your WordPress core files, backups, staging sites, plugins, integrations and themes—all of which are protected in their own virtual world with zero shared resources.

Again, that’s fine. And it’s a pretty typical setup for cloud & VPS plans. But their plans are very low considering the price point that they are operating at ($49/mo)…that it’s hard to decide how much it’s truly worth paying.

Stand-alone hosting products have known limits that you can cross-compare. You can factor in offloading email to Google or running local scripts elsewhere…but since WPMU’s product is so focused and so specific, it’s hard to really judge versatility and usefulness with costs.

Product Novelty & Company Structure

While WPMU Dev has been around as a plugin and theme maker for years, their hosting product is very new. They launched it in 2019, and still seem to be making changes to the product based on customer feedback.

In fact, their system of hosting credits is even more recent than the product itself. Since the company is originally a plugin maker, not a hosting company, I would expect a continued learning curve as they understand the market better.

Additionally, WPMU Dev as a company has been continually moving upmarket and up the pricing ladder in the past few years. My pricing has been grandfathered in thanks to a Black Friday deal several years ago (I pay $19/mo for my plugins). Hosting seems to have been paired with a push to the $49/month pricing tier.

Again, I think the value is still there for many use cases but I am curious just how much further they will try to push the membership fee. Price increases and constant business model changes are part of any Internet business. But for a product like hosting where I just want it to work – and work for a long-time, it’s a bit disconcerting.

WPMU Dev Hosting Alternatives & Use Cases

Here’s who I think WPMU Dev is a good fit for.

WPMU Dev Fans & Multisite Owners

WPMU Dev makes some super-useful and high-quality plugins. I use & love the Forminator Pro plugin on multiple websites. If you are already planning on using (and paying) for their plugins, their hosting product makes sense – if only because it’s already bundled.

Just be aware of the limitations and tradeoffs.

WordPress Website Designers

If you run a WordPress shop and want a fast, standard, quality all-in-one package to present to clients, WPMU Dev’s hosting makes a ton of sense.

You can pay the single membership fee for your shop, but then sell a recurring all-in-one website hosting / maintenance / security package to your clients.

If you stick with WPMU Dev’s plugins, you could easily have a single client “pay” for the membership fee every month, while pocketing additional client retainers. You could manage all the sites from a single dashboard with auto-updates.

Now, for everyone else, I think there are a few other options that would give you all the benefits of WPMU Dev without the downsides.

Managed WordPress Hosting w/ Bundled Plugins

If WPMU Dev is a plugin maker that offers hosting, this alternative is to find a hosting company that offers bundled plugins. This setup is actually quite common, especially among hosting companies that offer “true” WordPress hosting, rather than just web hosting with WordPress trained support.

The upside is that you get all the managed parts of hosting, high-quality plugins, all bundled into a better price point.

The best alternatives here are –

InMotion Hosting – They offer managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more – just like WPMU Dev. They also bundle the JetPack suite of plugins (what I use for security & more). Their interface also offers a WebPro linking feature so that agencies & designers can resell white label hosting options. All this ends up at a much better price point than WPMU Dev. See InMotion Hosting’s WordPress plans here.

WP Engine – They offer highly managed WordPress hosting with built-in staging, CDN, NGINX, and more. They also specialize in highly technical support. While they don’t bundle any plugins, they do bundle the super-high quality StudioPress themes (which I use on this site). They also have unique tools for designers and white-label options. All this ends up being right around WPMU Dev’s price point but with arguably more value and less lock-in. See WP Engine’s plans here.

WordPress.com – Technically, this isn’t a hosting company. WordPress.com is a website builder platform that uses self-hosted WordPress software. This means that they have all the benefits of a full-platform with much of the versatility of WordPress software. Their Business Plan allows 3rd party plugins but also comes with a huge range of built-in functionality. They operate at a lower price point that WPMU Dev. See WordPress.com’s plans here – though do note that this option is not “apples to oranges”.

Bundled Plugin Maker w/ choice of hosting

This option is what WPMU Dev used to be (and technically still is). Here, you’d commit to a maker of a suite of plugins such as WPMU Dev, iThemes, OptinMonster, JetPack, Elegant, etc to keep you costs consistent and then pair it with a WordPress host that fits your budget.

Your costs will be your costs – they might be higher than WPMU Dev with hosting, but they will likely be lower and you’ll have the versatility to move & switch as needed.

A la Carte Everything based on Needs / Budget

If reading this has made you budget-conscious and worried about the costs of running your website, don’t worry. The beauty of WordPress is that the software is free. All you need is a good host that fits your budget, a domain name, and the wherewithal to build your site and purchase premium products as needed. There are more than enough free themes & plugins out there to run a solid website.

And if you are a budding developer or designer, note that you can give Digital Ocean a run on their own – or through a cloud hosting manager like Cloudways.

Next Steps & Conclusion

WPMU Dev hosting is an interesting & welcome addition to the web hosting world. If you fit in the right use cases, it’s an incredible product. But if you aren’t in their target market, you will likely find more affordable and more versatile options elsewhere.

Explore their product line here.

Check out other WordPress hosting options here and other premium plugin makers here.

WPMU Dev Hosting Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

WPMU Dev is a long-time member of the premium WordPress software community. While they are best known for their plugins, they recently launched a new WordP

Application Category: Web Hosting

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