Even though iThemes just recently started to offer hosting, the company has a long and proven track record of working with WordPress. iThemes has a lot of useful tools, but the catch is its steep price and lack of managed services.
iThemes Looks Great on Paper, but Is It the Right Choice for Everyone?
With excellent reviews for both its hosting and WordPress plugins, iThemes is a web host you should definitely consider. The US-based service has a reputation for developing excellent WordPress software. In fact, you might have heard of BackupBuddy or iThemes Security, which are now running on nearly 1 million websites.
However, I’ve thoroughly researched iThemes’ web hosting plans, and I found several noteworthy drawbacks that you should know about beforehand. I also fine-combed the company’s Terms and Agreements, and came across some things you won’t like.
iTheme’s main strengths are its powerful WordPress tools and high-performance infrastructure powered byLiquid Web. That said, iTheme’s hosting is fairly expensive for what you get. In addition, its WordPress plans are not fully managed, and there are a couple of important resource limitations.
To compare the best web hosts, we hosted the same WordPress website on each one and tested performance, customer service, and value for money. Check out the results here.
If, on the other hand, you’re a developer of a small business, iThemes could be right for you. Read on to find out why.
iThemes Has Great Features and Performance to Match, but It Will Cost You
iThemes may advertise itself as a WordPress hosting service, but there’s no fully-managed experience here. This can be misleading, especially for those who are new to WordPress.
The good news is that iThemes includes three of its best WordPress plugins in all hosting plans.
With iThemes’ WordPress plugin suite, you’ll be able to do a lot of complicated, yet crucial WordPress setups on your own. This includes 1-click updates of the WordPress CMS, easy uptime monitoring, securing your website and preventing hacking attempts, creating complete backups of your website, and more.
That said, you still have to do all of these things yourself.
Despite the value you get from these tools, iThemes is an overall expensive web host. Each plan accommodates a limited number of websites, email hosting is not included, and you can’t choose where your websites are hosted.
To be fair, the company does have a generous buyback program for those who are switching from a different host. This can lower its cost quite a bit, so let’s take a closer look at the features you get for your money.
Easy Multi-Site Management
iThemes’ landing page makes it obvious that this is a service aimed at businesses and developers, especially those who own more than one website. To this end, one of the best tools you get with your WordPress plan is the iThemes Sync Dashboard.
This control panel has a series of ease-of-use features that can save you a lot of time and hassle. It’s a central dashboard that gives you fine-grain control over all your WordPress installations and the value you get from it is outstanding. Here are some of its stand-out components:
One-click WordPress updates for all your websites, as well as for the plugins you’ve installed on each.
In-built theme and plugin manager. WordPress developers love it because you can do bulk-installations across multiple websites.
Changelog for plugins and files that shows what was added and when.
SEO checker integrated with Google’s Search Console and Analytics platforms, as well as with the Yoast SEO plugin.
With it, you can also manage other peoples’ websites. Sync lets you automatically send detailed activity reports to clients, give them access to a simplified, client control panel, and basically stay on top of everything using a single dashboard.
This comes as an extension to the iThemes Sync suite, it’s too important to bundle it up with everything else. A big reason behind WordPress’ popularity is its versatility. You can easily build on your WordPress website and add more functionality as you go.
iTheme’s Sync supports seamless integration with some crucial WordPress tools that contribute to the versatility of this CMS. Aside from Google Analytics and Search Console, both of which give you access to key metrics for your website, you can install themes and plugins from the WordPress repository straight from your dashboard.
If you want to increase your social media presence, you can add a Twitter button that will help you instantly share pages and posts to a Twitter account. If you’re running an ecommerce platform, you can work with ExchangeWP to keep track of all sales, transactions, and orders.
There are more things to speak of, but you get the gist. This is a great choice for professional WordPress devs.
Premium Security and Backups
The iThemes Security Pro bundle and the BackupBuddy software sweeten the deal in a way that few WordPress hosts can.
iThemes Security is one of the oldest, most trusted security packages for WordPress. With it, you can protect your websites against brute-force attempts, get email alerts if someone is modifying your files, add two-factor authentication, enable HTTPS and more.
Meanwhile, the BackupBuddy plugin gives you an effective backup strategy for your WordPress website. The failsafe includes not just database information, but the entire WordPress install, from pages and posts to widgets, comments, theme files, everything in your media library, and more.
BackupBuddy also lets you migrate as many WordPress websites from one host to another, and even schedule automatic backups for some added peace of mind.
Great Savings with the Buyback Program
WordPress website owners who switch to iThemes from a different host may be eligible for a significant buyback discount. This is a great option for people who have already paid a full-term with a service, but would now like to switch to a better one.
Some terms apply, though. Your hosting plan cannot exceed a certain cost per month, you’ll need some proof of purchase, and you won’t be able to buyback more than 5 months of hosting. Even so, the buyback has the potential to turn into a great deal and lower the costs of migration by a lot.
Ease of use
iThemes Is Easy to Use, but You Have to Do-it-Yourself
The software included in all of iThemes’ WordPress plans simplifies and speeds up the process of building and maintaining your websites. The problem is that you’re on your own. Support is limited to infrastructure maintenance and there are few channels available for contact.
The lack of managed WordPress hosting services means that you have to handle your own CMS updates and backups. If something goes wrong with either of these, you won’t be able to call support and have them provide you with a version of your website.
You also don’t get help debugging any faulty plugins. You can write a ticket to support, but you’re more likely to find help from other WordPress users. No matter how you look at it, this is not an ideal situation for beginners.
A Plugin for Everything
WordPress is a highly versatile CMS and iThemes builds on that flexibility to bring its customers even more value with its Plugin Suite. This is a software package that contains more than a dozen WordPress solutions to help make your life easier.
In addition to Security Pro and BackupBuddy, you get Landing Pages and Content Upgrades. The first makes the creation of landing pages more straightforward, while the second will help you grow your list of subscribers with the help of lead magnets.
With Content Upgrades, you can offer your visitors the chance to get free access to exclusive content on your website if they sign up to your newsletter.
Although not as impactful, the other plugins can improve the way your WordPress site looks and works, with features such as video showcase, image slideshows, custom notification bars, and more.
iThemes Web Designer’s Toolkit
Another reason why I consider iThemes a less than ideal choice for beginners is the lack of… well, themes or helpful builder tools. If you want to create a WordPress website with iThemes, you’ll either have to buy the expensive iThemes Builder Tool or install a free builder on your own.
Most managed WordPress plans include at least several themes to get you started, but this is not the case here. Which is odd, given the name of the service. On the other hand, the proprietary iThemes Builder tool is easy to use and has numerous helpful features to help you design websites without any knowledge of coding.
While you’re at it, you might as well go with the iThemes Web Designer’s Toolkit, which offers much better value than the Builder, not to mention unlimited access to all the company’s plugins and themes.
Top-Notch Loading Speeds Driven by Liquid Web
iThemes Hosting was acquired by Liquid Web in the late 2010s, so it’s unlikely you’ll have any problems with your website’s performance. Liquid Web’s own managed WordPress plans are hosted on a server stack built from the ground up specifically for this content management system.
Among other things, Liquid Web’s machines run the latest version of PHP on the Nginx web server software. But there are some differences between iThemes and its parent company. For example, Liquid Web, does not limit traffic to your website like iThemes does. The former also includes a fully managed service and excellent support to boot.
I could talk about how great Liquid Web is for WordPress all day, but the problem is that iThemes doesn’t say anything about its servers. For all we know, there can be other limitations in place that are not immediately visible. One aspect that’s clear during checkout is that you cannot chose your server’s location.
Customers and third-party reviewers claim iThemes’ plans deliver excellent page loading speeds. This may very well be the case, especially given Liquid Web’s reputation, but it does not address the lack of performance-related information on this host’s website.
You should also know that iThemes has no uptime SLA. In fact, the terms expressly state that the company does not guarantee uninterrupted service, among other things. This means that you won’t be compensated in any way if your website experiences any unforeseen downtime.
There’s a Single Tech Support Channel and It’s Not Amazing
As far as support goes, iThemes is less than amazing. Its plans might say “24-hour support,” but there’s no response-time guarantee. If you need help from the iThemes team, you fill out a request via the website’s helpdesk and then wait to be contacted.
There’s no phone or live chat option, so if you have an urgent issue, you won’t be able to get a hold of someone to help you out as soon as possible. You can reach out to iThemes’ reps and ask about themes or plugins malfunctioning on your WordPress website, so long as they’re proprietary iThemes releases. For third-party software, troubleshooting or debugging is not guaranteed.
From this perspective, you’d be much better off with Hostinger’s managed WordPress plans, which include everyday live chat in addition to email and ticketing. The average response time is 1 minute.
I’ve tried to contact iThemes Hosting myself and I received an automated response that the team will be on leave for the 4th of July. I was worried I might not get an answer before the team goes on leave, but this wasn’t the case.
My ticket was answered in several hours, but even so, not all of my questions were addressed. For example, I couldn’t get a straight answer on whether iThemes offers SSD or HDD storage, nor any additional information on the lack of an SLA.
Fortunately, iThemes has a good knowledgebase of tutorials to rely on, most of them related to the company’s software and plugins.
If you encounter an issue you can’t solve yourself and really need to talk to a tech rep, you’ll have to be patient for someone to get in touch with you through the help desk.
High Prices Even for Managed Services
Overall, iThemes Hosting’s plans are quite expensive. Sure, you get a lot of value from the Security Pro, Sync Pro, and BackupBuddy licenses, but there are other trade-offs that balance them out. Furthermore, you can’t access better prices with long-term contracts.
There are significant savings for customers who transfer from other hosts or purchase additional services alongside a hosting plan. For instance, both the Plugin Suite and the Web Designer’s Toolkit will give you a discount equal to the cost of your hosting plan, which is no small sum.
Unfortunately, you’ll likely be forced to upgrade to many of iThemes’ proprietary WordPress plugins. Unlike other hosts, iThemes’ support does not guarantee debugging for software that is not their own.
Another aspect I’ve mentioned before, but is worth mentioning again (and again) is that you don’t get a money-back guarantee for plugin purchases. The rule of thumb is that you can apply for a refund only for services that are paid monthly. Otherwise, you’re in bad luck.
You can pay with MasterCard, Visa, Amex, or Discover credit cards, but also with PayPal. There’s no option for crypto or wire transfers, since all transactions must be made through the host’s online payment system.
Although iThemes Hosting includes no less than three of the best WordPress plugins the company has to offer, there are some major drawbacks. If you’re a small business or web developer with a good budget, it’s worth considering.However, if you’re just looking to make one or two websites for yourself, chances are that iThemes is not the best solution. In these situations, you’ll find that the costs outweigh the benefits.Given Liquid Web’s reputation, it’s likely that iThemes hosting’s servers will ensure good loading speeds for your websites. That said, the host does not offer any information in the way of data centers and server configuration. For an overall better experience at a more affordable price, you should consider Hostinger’s fully managed WordPress plans.
1. Is iThemes exclusively for WordPress websites?
Yes. You cannot host anything but WordPress websites with iThemes. Depending on the plan you purchase, you can host anything from two to 100 websites.
2. Does iThemes have managed WordPress hosting?
No. Despite offering WordPress hosting, iThemes does not have a fully managed service.
On the other hand, the company does include its Sync Pro dashboard, BackupBuddy, and Security Pro software in all plans. With these, you’ll be able to do everything that a managed service offers and more.
The downside is that you have to do it yourself. There’s no tech crew to help you out, and customer support is limited.
3. Does iThemes use cPanel?
No. However, iThemes does have a powerful dashboard in the form of Sync. The latter lets you do everything you can do with cPanel and more.
With its proprietary control panel solution, iThemes’ hosting brings more value. You can easily manage WordPress updates, but also themes and plugins, send maintenance reports to your clients, and more.
4. How can I get an iThemes refund?
iThemes has a strict refund policy. If you’ve purchased a plugin or plugin suite from the company, you will not be able to apply for a reimbursement.
However, if you have a recurring-payment type of service with iThemes, such as a WordPress hosting plan or a separate license of Sync Pro, you do get the benefit of a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Vlad started playing with software soon after his first encounter with the MS Office Dev Hunter game back in 2000. He writes on a variety of topics, ranging from technology to nutrition and health, digital humanities, and more. He spends his free time working out, replicating vegan recipes with his wife, and sharing Slavic memes on Reddit.