Flywheel was started in 2012 by three web developer/friends Dusty, Tony, and Rick. As web developers themselves, they knew the struggle you often face when operating in between a client and a hosting service. Flywheel was started as a solution to try and provide freelancers or resellers with a platform that makes it easy to use a workflow-centric approach, include clients in the process, and collaborate on a project.
They have since rounded off their offering with other plans more suited towards either individuals with modest needs or large-scale enterprises. They currently provide:
- Three single-site plans for anything from small, individual sites to large businesses
- Three multi-site plans mostly for freelancers or resellers
- A custom enterprise plans for e-commerce giants or enterprises
For customers all over the world, WordPress can already be used in almost any language, you’ll just need to contact Flywheel support to make the necessary config file changes for you. They also have global data centers located in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Europe, and Asia (Singapore).
Note: Flywheel also offers a downloadable version of their software that you can use to host locally from your own computer. However, for this review, I’ll be looking at Flywheel’s hosted service.
A Flywheel product comes with almost everything you need to host your website successfully. Each plan comes with a free SSL certificate (via Let’s Encrypt), daily backups, free pre-installed WordPress, and a pre-installed caching engine. They also offer free migration services from a number of other hosts or from archive files. You can also add-on paid CDN services (for better page load times), SSL certificates from other providers as well as a WordPress multi-site installation.
Flywheel also provides a number of more unique features. Most of these are geared towards helping you maintain a healthy and streamlined workflow when creating websites. People with multi-site solutions such as freelancers and resellers will probably find these the most useful:
- Blueprints: Blueprints is a great feature if you have a standard design, theme, or set of plugins you use with most of your sites. You can create a “Blueprint” of one of your WordPress sites that saves all these settings. You can then create a new WordPress site based on that Blueprint which will allow you to quickly build a site without having to repeatedly apply standard features/settings manually. It can easily be done from your Flywheel dashboard with no additional setup required.
- Staging Environments: Developers or intensive WordPress users will love this feature. It allows you to effectively make a copy of your live site, make your changes to it, and only launch it live when you are happy with it. This will minimize any downtime as well as help you ensure you don’t break your existing site.
- Collaborators: Flywheel makes it very easy to add collaborators to your sites. This is particularly interesting to freelancers or agencies with reselling services as it can also be used to add clients to view your work and become part of the process. You only need to provide an email and collaborators will be given their own logins.
- Cloning: Cloning is a new-ish feature by Flywheel that allows you to make an exact copy of a website. This may sound similar to Blueprints but it’s different in the sense that you literally clone the entire site to either create a new one or add to a new bulk site plan. With Blueprints, you only save the settings to reuse later. This is very useful if you want to base another site completely on an existing one and make tweaks later.
- Flywheel Cloud Platform:
- Backups: Flywheel themselves will make nightly backups of your website that they’ll keep safe for 30 days. You can also make backups yourself as well as restore them at any time. You have the ability to choose between a full restoration or individually restoring the database or site. The interface is extremely easy to use with the trademark Flywheel dashboard style.
- Database access: Instead of going for some standard control panel with database access (or phpMyAdmin) like most hosts, Flywheel stuck to their superb user interface. This makes accessing your database completely user-friendly and unthreatening
Ease of use
WordPress is all about making creating and managing a site as easy as possible. As a WordPress hosting service, Flywheel obviously doesn’t want to stand in the way, and it’s clear they do their best to merely be a stepping stone to your WordPress site by being exceptionally easy to navigate and use. By providing their own unique user-centric interface, and keeping it consistent across different aspects of their hosting, they also provide an accommodating environment.
- Migrate a Site: Flywheel provides a free site migration service. You can select to migrate your site during the signup process. The free migration takes 1-3 business days, but you can speed it up for an extra charge. They will create a WordPress/Flywheel version of your site for you. Because they can create a copy of your site while you’re still hosting the original, you don’t have to take your site down in order to migrate it.
- One-Click WordPress Install: WordPress will be spun up on your hosting solution during the signup process. You don’t need to lift a finger except for it to finish, after which you can log in to your WordPress dashboard.
- Flywheel’s Dashboard: Flywheel’s dashboard itself deserves mention. During the signup or site creation process or when you manage your sites/account, the way forward is always clear and intuitive. The design is modern and straightforward with the most essential functions highlighted. It might not have all the same features, but it’s a huge improvement on the dated and bloated interfaces of most hosting panels, like cPanel.
Creating a New Account
Before you can buy into a Flywheel pricing plan, you need to register an account. They claim that you can sign up and have your site ready in 60 seconds. However, this is only really the case if you opt for a demo site, don’t count the actual duration of Flywheel setting up your site, and know precisely what you want ahead of time. It’s still a swift and painless process and only took me about 15 minutes to complete.
It doesn’t matter what plan you click on the pricing page before registering an account as it will still take you through the whole process first before you actually choose a plan at the end.
To create an account, you need to provide your name and surname, email, a username, and password – pretty standard stuff. You could optionally tell them more about yourself and why you need a website.
They will also send you an email verification after this step which can be actioned by clicking the link.
You don’t need to verify your account unless you aren’t paying right away as there is a verify by credit card option. For example, I never verified and went straight through the payment process that automatically verified me. However, you only have 30 minutes to do this before your demo site is deleted.
Next, you will need to give Flywheel more info on your website, such as assign a site owner (you can add others through their email to collaborate), site name, and your domain. Below that, you need to provide a username and password to log in as an administrator in your WordPress dashboard. Note: as Flywheel does not provide domain registration you will need to select a temporary Flywheel domain but you can change this later.
Below that on the same page, you need to choose when you will pay. A super handy feature for freelancers is the “my client will pay later”. If you want your data center situated in a particular location, make sure to choose the best option from the drop-down. You can then go and create the website over a 14-day period before handing it over to the client to pay for the hosting.
Now you will select your pricing plan.
After that, you will select whether you prefer annual or monthly billing as well as choose any of the add-ons if you are interested. Remember to use your coupon code if you got a discount from somewhere.
On the next page, you’ll be asked to add a payment method
You can choose to either link your credit card (VISA or MasterCard) or PayPal account. If you use your credit card, expect to provide all the usual information like your credit card details, billing address, etc. PayPal only requires a log in to your account as well as a permissions check.
Once you’ve added a payment method, you’ll be presented with the ‘Purchase Now’ option. If you click this, you’ll be charged for the purchase.
Flywheel will now create your site, this may take a few minutes after which they will send you an email once it’s completed. When you go back to your dashboard it will look like this with your site listed:
The process will be slightly different if you create a free account first. You will be taken to the above dashboard with no site listed, then click the ‘CREATE A NEW SITE’ button and go through the same process.
Connecting Domain and Installing WordPress
During the step where Flywheel is ‘setting up your site’, it already creates a WordPress site for you, complete with an admin account. To access a site, you just need to select the site you want to work on from the dashboard.
Here is where you connect a domain to your site. From Flywheel’s side, it’s very simple: just click the plus icon and enter your domain. There is a ‘Primary’ tick box if you want this to be your sites main domain. Only tick this if you’re ready to point your domain to Flywheel as you won’t be able to access your site otherwise.
The steps to change your DNS to point to Flywheel will be different based on your registrar. If you look below your domains on the dashboard, Flywheel provides you with the IP address to use to connect your domain to the DNS at your registrar.
The ‘Privacy Mode’ feature by Flywheel allows you to block visitors from accessing your site if you’re not ready for it be publicly available. E.g., while you are still working on it. If you have this mode turned on, Flywheel will provide you with an extra username and password needed to access your website. Some values will be randomly generated for you but you can change it if you want.
So, to access WordPress, just click the WP Admin button. If ‘Privacy Mode’ is enabled, you will need to provide the details in the panel. Otherwise, you can log straight into the WordPress admin dashboard.
Once again, Flywheel outdoes itself in how easy it is to set up and access your WordPress site. The only slight hiccup I had was that I didn’t see the ‘Privacy Mode’ box at the bottom and didn’t know what to do when I was presented with the extra login. However, I soon saw it when returning to the site dashboard.
Setting Up CDN
If you want to increase the loading speeds of your website pages, you probably want to set up a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Flywheel does provide this service; however, it’s a paid for add-on on the Tiny, Personal, Freelance, and Agency (discounted) plans.
The CDN service is located under the ADD-ONS tab in the dashboard.
You will then be taken through to a quick billing summary. With a CDN, if you use over 100 GB of bandwidth, you will be charged per extra GB used so indicate whether you are OK with this. If you click ‘Complete Payment’, you will immediately be charged using your default billing method.
The CDN will be inactive as you have a limited amount of bandwidth. However, it was easy to figure out how to enable it via the gear icon.
Wrapping Up Ease of Use
So, as you can see, the process is really quick and painless. They do a great job of guiding you through the process and limiting upsells or other distractions. Including connecting my domain, accessing WordPress, and installing the CDN it took me about 45 minutes to complete everything. However, a portion of that time was spent on my domain registrar, GoDaddy, connecting my domain that was registered there to my FlyWheel web site.
A few things I really appreciated in the signup process were:
- There are only two add-ons: CDN and SSL Certificate support. They didn’t automatically check add-ons which is still a very widely-used trick by hosting companies
- They always clearly display what your total cost will be from the moment you choose a plan
- There is no “hidden price” when you back out of the purchase to lure you back in
- The most crucial and frequently used features, such as creating a site, adding a domain, etc. are always prominently displayed in logical areas
Flywheel doesn’t provide their own data or guarantees on uptime. However, Flywheel seems to consistently score 99.97% to 100% where reviewers have tested their uptime using tools like Load Impact. I’ve also seen Flywheel keep loading times consistently low even under stress tests. One reason is that they focus on WordPress hosting and use software like Varnish caching to optimize their platform.
First of all, I haven’t experienced any performance issues from my side using my WordPress hosting. I also tested the performance myself as visitors would experience it. I chose my server locations in the U.S. so obviously my performance would be the best there. I did also set up a CDN for my site to improve performance. Using Sucuri, my site scored an A+ in page load times. A U.S. visitor would see my page load in about 0.085 seconds (or, 85 milliseconds). The average loading times for other international locations was around 240 milliseconds. The only outlier was India which took over a second. Two seconds is seen as the limit of what’s acceptable, so overall, performance is pretty good.
Live Chat Support
Because it’s so conveniently located in my dashboard, I made a bunch of interactions via live chat since it is so accessible when you encounter a problem. The shortest wait time I’ve had was instant, and the longest was about 15 minutes. I’m not sure what contributes to this large discrepancy in waiting times but it might be related to U.S./Europe office hours.
In the first case, I wanted to know how to set up my DNS correctly as you need to purchase a domain from a registrar. The support representative replied immediately giving a short explanation and supplied me with links to the documentation on the steps. He even recommended some registrars. Also, he informed me since GoDaddy recently updated their interface that the steps might not be 100% accurate, and was willing to wait while I finish the process in case I need help.
In the second case, I had an issue with my DNS where I switched to my GoDaddy domain but when I switched back to my Flywheel domain I couldn’t access my site. After asking for my domain, the agent asked me to wait while they fix it for me. It took about 15 minutes, but my domain was up and running once again.
Technically, Flywheel has ticket and email support rolled into one as you submit a ticket via the Flywheel website but get a response via email and can continue the conversation there. My last email interaction must have been at a busy time as both the U.S. and Europe customers would have been active.
However, I still got a reply under 30 minutes from the moment I submitted the ticket. It was regarding where I can find my total account billing (I was looking at the same place on my dashboard as for a website specific dashboard). I also had some more questions regarding when and how my add-on CDN will be billed. The support representative answered all three questions and included a screenshot of where to find my billing. As always, they were very courteous and friendly as well.
Flywheel offers three broad categories of WordPress hosting: single-site WordPress hosting, multiple-site WordPress hosting, and Enterprise WordPress hosting. You can contact them to set up either a custom multi-site solution that comes with plenty of perks (free WordPress multisite installations, staging sites, and CDN) and will be priced according to your resource needs or an Enterprise solution. You can opt for monthly or annual (with one month discounted) billing with any plan. There are no free plans but you can create a demo site for 14 days if you plan to switch billing to your client or want to pay later. They only offer two payment methods in the form of credit cards (VISA or MasterCard) and PayPal.
A great relief when it comes to Flywheel’s storage and bandwidth limits is that they won’t take down your website or automatically charge you for over usage should you exceed them. Instead, they will contact you if your account regularly experiences overages and give you the option to upgrade your plan.
Cancellation and Refund
If for whatever reason you want to cancel your Flywheel subscription, it’s a very straightforward process. Billing for sites is either done on an individual basis or as part of a bulk plan. If you have multiple single sites, you will need to cancel your subscription for each. If you have multiple sites in a bulk plan, you can do it in one go.
To cancel a site, go to the site’s dashboard and then to the billing tab. Under the ellipse, there will be a drop-down menu with the cancel subscription option.
Then you just need to fill out the following form. The text box is compulsory, but it won’t be followed up on:
After you have canceled, there will be a countdown on your dashboard with the time you have left until your billing period is over:
You will also receive this final email confirmation that will also tell you to email their billing team for any questions:
I just wasn’t clear on how the refund worked since there is minimal information on the documentation. So, I took the opportunity to take their ticket support for a final spin and to see whether they attempt any delay tactics to lock you out of the refund period. Luckily, they didn’t disappoint and replied within 5 minutes:
As you can see, no guilt-tripping or uncomfortable questions that I’m compelled to answer. The representative already forwarded my refund request on my behalf and told me to use this thread to enquire after it.
Later that same day, they emailed me regarding the refund request to make sure I understood applying for the refund meant losing my site:
The next day, I got this final email from their billing team letting me know that they have processed the refund on their end as well as that my site will be shut down:
I also got the following notice that i would be receiving the refund for my subscription:
Clumsily, I had completely forgotten about my CDN subscription. Luckily, they also automatically assumed that I required a refund for it (which I didn’t expect to get) and I was pleasantly surprised to see the email notice that it too will be refunded:
It wasn’t even 36 hours later until I had the refunds for both my hosting plan and my CDN subscription back in my bank account!
Ironically, Flywheel makes it even easier to cancel your subscription than to sign up. They never want to make you feel “locked in” and provide a stated refund policy of three days (72 hours) from your billing date. If you chose monthly billing your subscription will remain active for the remainder of the month, and with annual billing, it will stay active for the remainder of the year.
We all can’t help but cringe at the prospect of talking to staff when canceling a subscription. You just can’t help but feel a little guilty. However, Flywheel also follows a “zero questions asked” policy where you don’t have to give any reasons for cancelling if you don’t want to. The whole process (including the support email) took me less than 5 minutes.