Managed Hosting and Custom Solutions for Businesses
Liquid Web offers higher-end hosting solutions for businesses that require extensive resources and have specific needs.
Founded in 1997, Liquid Web has quite the track record to look back on, with a mostly positive reputation that it’s maintained since its inception.
It now hosts over 500,000 websites for a customer base of 30,000 spread across 130 countries. And, considering the endorsements from organizations like Inc. Magazine and Cloud Spectator, Liquid Web certainly seems to have a good thing going on.
However, you never really know a web host until you’ve invested a great deal of time and money trying it out. It’s also a sad fact that many veteran hosting companies lose their way when the bottom line becomes more important than providing high-quality service.
Since you’re going to be paying a premium for your Liquid Web hosting, I’ve made sure to test it out thoroughly. Does it actually deliver on all its promises? Are there are any hidden costs? And how about customer support?
One claim of Liquid Web’s I was particularly eager to test out was their trademarked “The Most Helpful Humans in Hosting.”
Let me tell you that despite its flawless presentation, Liquid Web is not the best host for everyone. And there are a few very good reasons why.
Liquid Web specializes in multi-site managed hosting and custom solutions for businesses — meaning you won’t find the typical shared hosting plans here.
You will find an array of cloud VPS, dedicated servers, and managed WordPress/WooCommerce plans that are fully customizable for any purpose.
A Comprehensive Feature Set for Every Business Need
Developers, designers, and agencies will appreciate Liquid Web’s collaboration and management features.
Liquid Web is known for its custom-built solutions, making it popular with organizations dealing with exacting requirements such as HIPAA compliance. But for this review, I’ll focus specifically on Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting services.
Many other providers will simply take a regular hosting plan and market it as WordPress hosting. Liquid Web, however, is a premium managed WordPress host. This means it’s got the specially-optimized infrastructure to help you build and maintain your WordPress website smoothly and efficiently.
Of course, all the basics are also covered, such as domain registration, SSL certificates, managed security, and website migration.
Liquid Web’s staging feature (called “stencils”) allows you to create a copy of your WordPress website, so you can work on it offline without affecting the uptime or operation of your live website.
Although this is a feature offered by many hosts, few have made it as easy as Liquid Web has. You can create a stencil with one click, and you get a distinct dashboard for your staging sites.
All Liquid Web websites automatically come with full SSL certificate protection.
The entire network, power, and cooling infrastructure are also fully redundant, so you’ll have multiple failsafes to give you a wide safety buffer for your mission-critical websites.
You’ll also be glad to know your websites will be hosted on extremely secure servers with 24/7/365 on-site security.
State-of-the-Art Data Centers
While many hosting providers simply lease a space or a few servers in another company’s data center, Liquid Web owns and operates its core data centers. These five facilities are located in Central and Western United States as well as in the Netherlands.
This ensures that the company can offer superior service, especially in the rare event of any hardware faults. Liquid Web has on-site technicians available around the clock to diagnose and resolve any issues quickly.
These facilities are also SSAE-16, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, AMS-IX, and ISAE 3402 compliant as well as ISO9001, 14001, and 27001 certified. All this means that the company has done a stellar job making sure it can accommodate even the strictest and most complex requirements.
Liquid Web lets you sign up for and manage the Cloudflare CDN from its in-house dashboard: a rare perk and huge plus. With most other hosts, you’ll need to sign up for the Cloudflare platform separately and there’s limited support available to help you set it up for your websites.
Whether you’re a freelancer or part of a big agency, Liquid Web does a good job of providing you with the tools you’ll need. On top of SSH, Git, and WP-CLI, you also get full server access.
Liquid Web will even accommodate special requests for anything your project may require, such as a database server.
Ease of use
Managed Hosting Makes Your Life Easier
Liquid Web provides a fantastic UI with powerful tools, but it’s not the most beginner-friendly and it will take some getting used to.
As a premium hosting provider, Liquid Web has to balance its powerful features with an easy-to-use interface. Although the process to connect your domain and set up your CDN is slightly complicated, Liquid Web provides an excellent user experience once you’re settled in.
With Liquid Web, you’ll have one dashboard to manage your account and other background services such as DNS zones, and another Managed WordPress Portal where you’ll create and manage your WordPress websites.
The two separate dashboards mean both are simplified and the Managed WordPress Portal is clean, polished, and streamlined. I have to admit that I liked the whole setup once I got used to it, even though it took me some time to figure out how to use it.
Automatic WordPress Updates
It can be a pain to make sure all your WordPress websites are always up to date. However, Liquid Web takes care of this for you on the backend, even making sure none of your plugins conflict with each other before they’re implemented on your live website.
From your Managed WordPress Portal, you can also easily enable or disable automatic updates to WordPress as well as to your plugins. Liquid Web provides a handy Visual Comparison tool that shows the difference (if any) after an update.
Automatic Daily Backups
Liquid Web automatically backs up your website(s) on a daily basis and saves these backups for 30 days. You’ll be able to easily restore or download them right from your Managed WordPress Portal, saving you the hassle of requesting the service from support staff.
Creating an Account
Overall, it’s quick and easy to create an account with Liquid Web. The whole process takes only a few minutes from the moment you choose your plan. You can see just how fast and simple it is in my step-by-step guide.
The only delay you might face is the required verification call with a support engineer. Because it’s up to them to call you, the timing is not in your control. Although longer delays are rare, it may still take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. Also, it can be inconvenient to have to talk to someone just to sign up for a hosting plan.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
This part of the setup process will make creating an account seem like nothing in comparison. Because Liquid Web caters to businesses with their own IT professionals, it assumes a certain level of know-how.
Especially throughout the beginning stages, I felt there was very little guidance or clarity on what to do next. You’ll need some knowledge on connecting domains and setting up CDNs to get through these steps.
The two-dashboard model also wasn’t much help here. You can see the Account Management dashboard below:
You’ll definitely need to spend some time chatting with support or studying the documentation. You’ll have to figure out a few pretty technical tasks, like configuring DNS records. If you’re not sure how to do that, you’ll find a lot of help in my step-by-step guide.
Depending on your level of experience, expect to spend no less than 30 minutes on this. It will be longer if you want to set up the Cloudflare CDN as well.
I’d say that Liquid Web is probably not the best option if you don’t have any web hosting experience. However, if you’re a fast learner or an experienced user, you’ll enjoy the freedom and control it gives you further down the road.
Performance that Favors Availability over Speed
Liquid Web will make sure that your website is (almost) never down, but don’t expect it to load with blazing speed.
If I had high expectations for Liquid Web in one aspect, it was performance. After all, it’s a premium hosting provider that caters mostly to business clients.
On top of this, Liquid Web offers a 100% network and power uptime guarantee backed by an unheard-of 1,000% compensation for downtime.
Of course, I wouldn’t take this statement at face value: it’s always best to have some form of verification. Fortunately, unlike most other hosts, Liquid Web actually publishes its uptime history on its website.
According to this detailed chart, it only had a single month with downtime (June with 99.84% uptime) for the entire year of 2018. This wasn’t too surprising, since one of Liquid Web’s chief selling points is providing uninterrupted availability for its business customers.
I also ran a Sucuri page load test. Surprisingly though, Liquid Web only scored an A grade instead of an A+ like a few of the other top hosts I’ve tested. However, this doesn’t translate to much of a difference in terms of actual loading times, with most U.S. locations loading in between 200 and 500ms.
Australia and India performed pretty badly, but this is the case with most hosts. What was particularly disappointing was that India actually crossed the two-second mark, which is statistically the point at which you’ll lose most of your visitors.
In summary, Liquid Web is one of the best hosts in terms of uptime, but just misses out on a top spot in terms of speed.
The Most Helpful Human Support?
Liquid Web certainly brags about its support on its website. The company seems very proud of its 24/7/365 availability of “100% human” support and has even trademarked the phrase “The Most Helpful Humans in Hosting.”
The company guarantees swift response times of under 59 seconds for phone call pickups and live chat responses and under 59 minutes for ticket support. It also provides an extensive knowledge base with step-by-step tutorials for just about everything.
Live Chat Support
My first contact with support came pretty early in my hosting relationship with Liquid Web: I couldn’t figure out how to connect my domain.
Connecting a domain is one of the first and most crucial things you’ll want to do when you sign up with a new host. I wanted a speedy response, so I decided to reach out to the live chat support.
I hit the Chat With A Human button in the bottom right corner of Liquid Web’s website. This will open a simple form you need to submit (your details are pre-filled) to initiate chat support:
My first impression was good, as I was connected with a support agent almost immediately.
However, at first, he misunderstood my request, which led to some confusion. He thought that I wanted to move my domain and DNS management to Liquid Web instead of keeping it at my current registrar and just pointing my nameservers to Liquid Web. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but it was slightly frustrating.
To the agent’s credit, he kept his cool and eventually gave me the answer I was looking for as well as links to the step-by-step instructions. Still, I would’ve preferred for him to give me the instructions.
My first interaction with ticket support was also a bit hit-and-miss.
The first positive was that I got a super-quick email response: it took only five minutes from the moment I sent the query. The second was that the email provided me with four different links to relevant documentation that explained how to sign up with Cloudflare and set up the CDN.
One thing I didn’t appreciate, however, was that I wasn’t given any kind of explanation directly from a support agent. I was only given the multiple links and left to go through them on my own.
Because I was busy and couldn’t do all that right away, I sent a follow-up email. This time, I asked about Cloudflare and what was included with my plan, as well as how to set up the one redirect. They replied to my email within 36 minutes, but sadly, my first question wasn’t addressed at all.
Premium Pricing for Premium Hosting
Liquid Web definitely isn’t the cheapest host out there. In fact, the lowest-tier plans are more expensive than the highest-tier plans of many other hosts.
One explanation for this is that Liquid Web doesn’t really target beginner webmasters. Instead, it focuses on providing solid, customizable infrastructure for businesses of a larger scale.
A nice thing about Liquid Web’s hosting plans is that packages tend to be all-inclusive, and the company doesn’t rely much on upsells.
Cancellation and Refund
Unfortunately, Liquid Web doesn’t offer any money-back guarantees for managed WordPress hosting.
However, it does offer contract-free hosting, meaning you can get a prorated refund for the unused part of your billing term. This applies only to the VPS packages though.
While Liquid Web doesn’t make it obvious how and where to cancel your hosting, I found out that you’ll need to submit a cancellation/non-renewal ticket to support. Considering Liquid Web only offers prorated refunds, this is understandable, as someone will have to calculate your refund.
It also took about a day for my refund to be approved and I was sent eight (!) emails in total. You can read more about my experience in this article.