Liquid Web doesn’t aim to provide average hosting at bargain prices. It’s expensive, period. But if you don’t mind paying more to know you’re going to get high-quality service, Liquid Web’s premium hosting plans are worth it in my opinion. This host guarantees you the stability that shared hosting services simply can’t.
Liquid Web and Nexcess – What’s the Difference?
Liquid Web claims to offer very high-quality managed hosting, with somewhat high prices to match. But technically… it doesn’t provide shared hosting,which makes this review even more interesting.
That is, the original company known as Liquid Web sticks to premium hosting solutions like VPS and dedicated servers. To provide shared hosting for regular consumers, Liquid Web bought another company called Nexcess, and that sub-company provides shared hosting from different data centers, with a separate support team.
So… can this dynamic duo provide the quality, high-end, managed hosting you need? I personally tested Liquid Web as part of Website Planet’s huge web hosting comparison project to find out if it’s the right host for you, though things became a bit complicated along the way. Look, I’ll explain that below. It’s a story.
It All Starts With a Spark – and You Can Get Started for Free
I signed up for managed WordPress hosting on the cheapest plan, called “Spark” – which also has a 14-day free trial. With Spark, you are limited to building exactly one website, but it’s otherwise a fairly generous plan. You get 15GB of storage, a whopping 2TB of bandwidth, backups, unlimited email accounts, and more.
You even get access to some extra WordPress plugins by default, including iThemes Security Pro, to… well, keep your website secure.
This kind of resource allocation is more than good, it’s excellent. If you just need to run one single site, the Spark plan will keep you going even as your site gets more and more popular.
What’s more, Liquid Web / Nexcess has a reputation for excellent performance under high-traffic conditions. You shouldn’t need to upgrade your plan until you start making some money from those limited edition sci-fi cowboy hats you’re selling. (Look, sci-fi westerns are a thing, and they should be respected.)
All plans come with free SSL certificates, which means that your website won’t be leaking any credit card information, because that’ll all be encrypted. That’s just a good standard feature, and any company that charges what Liquid Web does has no right to not include it… so it’s included.
Additionally, everything is managed through Nexcess’ own proprietary control panel, which provides a clean and seamless hosting management experience. If you get lost in that control panel, well… this is managed hosting. That is, all server maintenance and some site maintenance is handled for you, including free website migrations.
But this is where we get to a potential downside of using these shared hosting plans.
If you use a host with cPanel and the Softaculous installer, you can install any one of hundreds of CMS options with a couple of clicks. In that way, you’re free to use your hosting however you like. Keeping that software running, on the other hand, is up to you.
Since Liquid Web / Nexcess’ shared hosting plans are managed, they are more specialized. You can’t buy this shared hosting and use it for anything you want, as only certain CMS options are supported.
Those options include:
If you need any other kind of CMS, then Liquid Web’s shared hosting plans aren’t for you. You’ll either need to go for a Virtual Private Server, or just choose another host entirely – like Hostinger, which doesn’t limit your choice of CMS.
All that said, let’s take a closer look at some of Liquid Web’s stand-out features.
Backups are Automatic and Glorious
I mentioned backups before, but I want to emphasize the importance of this feature, and the sheer brilliance of the way Liquid Web handles it. Backups are automatic, and go back for a full 30 days. That’s 30 older versions of your site, easily accessible, at any time.
You can restore your site from any of these backups on demand, as well as create your own backups manually. While many other hosts do offer backup solutions of some kind, this mix of automated management and personal control over your backups is not common. Liquid Web is doing this right, and doing it better than most competitors.
Especially if you’re a business or enterprise customer, this is essential.
Nginx Provides a Performance Boost
Okay, slightly nerdy time: Liquid Web’s servers are all based on Nginx (instead of the more common Apache server technology). Nginx is specifically designed for speed, and to handle more users with ease through caching and performance acceleration.
The bottom line for you, the user? In extremely technical terms, your website will go ZOOM! Again, this is fantastic for anyone who’s running an online business, as you can get more use out of the resources provided by your hosting plan.
VPS, Dedicated Servers, and Cloud Hosting are All Managed Too
As mentioned before, this is the stuff that Liquid Web handles itself, not Nexcess. Where many hosts will just rent you a server and leave you to your own devices, or try to upsell you on managed servers, all of Liquid Web’s servers are managed.
That means you don’t have to handle updates, security, or backups at a server level, and can focus on just building the massive, massive website of your dreams. If a client asks you to build “the next Facebook,” well… you almost certainly shouldn’t take that job, but if you do, this is the kind of server hosting you should go for, at least to start.
(I mean, Facebook has its own data centers, so, you know. A VPS won’t last forever under that kind of traffic.)See full list of features
Ease of use
A Smooth Experience… Once It Lets You In
So, Liquid Web’s general ease of use is a bit of a mixed bag. Overall, I’d say the hosting is fairly simple to manage, and beginners will do alright. You’re just likely to run into a few hiccups along the way to actually making your site run, and that’s not so great.
Let’s do details.
Great: The Control Panel Is Seamless and Streamlined
First, the good stuff. Nexcess’ own control panel is, as previously mentioned, fantastic. Most hosts use a combination of their own control panels and cPanel or Plesk. That means you’ll often end up looking through two or three different control panels for the exact features and settings you want to change, opening multiple tabs… it’s just not ideal.
The control panel here is proprietary, but it does everything you need it to do, all in one place. No muss, no fuss. The only other host that I’ve found with a better control panel is Kinsta – that’s how rare this sort of experience is.
Not So Great: Your Domain Isn’t Set Up Automatically
For some unknown reason, when you get started with Nexcess, your domain won’t be automatically set up. You’ll either need to learn how to input DNS records, which can be an absolute nightmare for beginners, or contact the support team, who are very happy to do it for you themselves.
Why it isn’t automatic is beyond me. It really seems like this should be one of the things that gets “managed” in your “managed hosting.” Just saying.
REALLY BAD: Sign-Up Was an Absolute Nightmare
It’s one thing for a company to have some sort of fraud prevention system, to make sure that only real customers are signing up. That’s good.
The fraud detection system here is bonkers, ridiculous, and blocks everything. That’s bad.
When I tried to sign up, my account got canceled, and two weeks of phone conversations with support yielded nothing. It was suggested that I send in a copy of my passport, ID, life story, and some pictures… and nothing. The “system” said that I wasn’t cool, and the system’s word is apparently what counts.
The only way I managed to get on this service was to ask my brother to sign up for me, on the off chance that it would go better. His account also got immediately canceled, but talking to support did help in his case. He sent in copies of his passport and driver’s license, and got accepted.
What can I say? It was ever-so-gracious of Liquid Web to allow my brother to give the company his money.
I am happy to report that Liquid Web / Nexcess’ server performance ranges from “pretty good” to “darned impressive.” Again, for the price you pay, it really should – but I was still very happy to see it.
To run my tests, I set up a test site at https://www.autonomous-shoes-c.com/, and it’s still up if you want to play with it. It’s a full page with HD images, a fair bit of text, animations, all that good stuff, so it’s a fairly close approximation of what an actual live site looks like, and how it would perform.
And how’d that go? Well… complete page loading time averaged at 1.82 seconds. Worldwide site loading time was around 0.665 seconds (note the zero before the decimal point). And the uptime reached 99.998% over four months. All in all, this is fantastic.
It might not be the absolute fastest, but Liquid Web’s performance has been super reliable. Its data centers are in the US, the UK, Netherlands, and Australia, with multiple data centers in the US and the UK. This lets you target audiences in specific locations.
After several tests, GTmetrix reported a 1.82 second average complete page loading time, with the fastest being at 1.3s, and 2s being the slowest. You generally want to keep page loading speeds under 2 seconds, so this is absolutely solid performance.
On Sucuri, the fastest international average page load time clocked in at 0.211 seconds (again, note the zero before the decimal point), while the slowest managed 2.215s. 0.665 was, as previously mentioned, the total average over all international tests.
Okay, for context: that’s amazing. Almost no other host actually pulls this off, because it’s just a fact that longer distances mean a longer loading time. The averages seen here are absolutely staggering in their nerdy beauty, and speak to the quality of Liquid Web’s servers.
And this was all done without a CDN.
On Liquid Web, my site’s uptime over 4 months reached 99.998%, so that’s phenomenal. What’s possibly even better about Liquid Web is that it has an amazing uptime guarantee of 100%.
I know what you’re thinking – it didn’t (quite) meet that while I was testing. However, the best news is that Liquid Web gives you 1000% compensation. That means you get credited 10x the amount of time your server was down. I mean, with 99.998% uptime my website was down for less than a minute anyway, but if it had been down for longer, the compensation is pretty great!Check Out Liquid Web Performance
It Sure Would Be Nice to Get Some Help Before I Retire
Overall, Nexcess’ support team did what they could to help me with the issues I had, but they weren’t always equipped to deal with some of the quite severe problems that came out of nowhere.
Live Chat (for Sales Only)
Nexcess’ pre-sales support uses the same live chat system as Liquid Web, which is the only place these services come together. The agent was super nice, super informative, and really helpful about explaining the differences between the plans and why I might want to choose each one.
Full score for the presales team.
Phone Support Can’t Help with Everything, and Tickets Take Hours or Days
The problems started after. As previously mentioned, nobody managed to help me with getting my account verified, which resulted in two excruciating weeks of me begging to sign up and nobody really knowing how to get me on board or verify me, because of the “system.”
There is no live chat for actual site support. Phone and ticket support are 24/7, but tickets take hours, sometimes days, to be answered, even when labeled “urgent.” Phone support is better, of course, but only the actual tech support is available 24/7… and not the team I needed to help me with getting verified.
I did open a few tickets to see if these guys could help me with DNS servers, domain connections, and other things, and it was always a very pleasant and helpful exchange. The problem is, I didn’t want a quick conversation to drag out over a day or two, so I ended up completely giving up on it.
The knowledge base was good, at least.
Liquid Web Is Expensive, but Worth It
Liquid Web is expensive-ish, to be sure. There’s no way around it. It’s a premium service offered at premium prices, and you’ll have to shell out $19.00 or more a month just to get on board.
Is it worth the money? Yes. It really is. You pay for a level of reliability and performance, ease of use, and features that shared hosting services just don’t provide. Sure, the support is sub-par, but what the heck. You might almost never need them after the initial setup – that’s how reliable the technology is.
You can only pay with your credit card, though. All major cards are supported, of course, but you should, in theory, also be able to use PayPal. In my experience, however, that simply wasn’t an option.
Payment terms are either monthly or yearly, with a discount offered for paying yearly. This is classic premium hosting, and it is good – and I like how the company keeps things simple and transparent. (Someother hosts will offer a confusing 4-year plan and leave you no choice but to sign up, because the monthly plan is 10 times more expensive.)
There’s no money-back guarantee, but Liquid Web will do you one better: there’s a 14-day free trial. That’s right – you don’t have to pay. Just try the service, and pay only if you decide you like it. After that, paying monthly is really as risk-free as you can get with such a great service.
I work with this company for quite a short time, 4 months, which is surprising-constant support, because I don't really pay for hosting, but the guys from the support are kind and prompt me. The price is satisfied, the site is stable. Thanks!
TERRIBLE COMPANY TERRIBLE SERVICE, IMPOSSIBLE DO CANCEL
THEIR SERVICE IS BELOW AVERAGE AND THEIR PRICE IS MUCH ABOVE AVERAGE. I CANCELLED THE SERVICE SEPTEMBER 2019 AND THEY KEPT CHARGING ME TILL MARCH 2020. I WILL HAVE TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION TO GET MY MONEY BACK.
THERE ARE MANY OTHER COMPANIES THAT PROVIDE A BETTER SERVICE AND PRICE. BE SURE YOU MAKE A WISE DECISION.
Hi Yuri, we have seen all of your reviews and have attempted to reach you but have been unsuccessful. Are you available for a call? We would like to help you resolve the issues. Please email us at [email protected] as soon as you are able to.
Liquid Web is the only hosting company we will use, period. After bouncing around looking for the best price, we found Liquid Web and haven't looked back. We've been with them for 9 years and prize the swift, efficient, HEROIC support & uptime! Seriously, we have never had better service or support from any of the other companies we used. We've been with Liquid Web for 9 years now, and it would take something cataclysmic to get us to switch.
3 chats with exact specs specified, not delivered. I was told the server would be set up with cpanel/whm, then after I paid, they told me no it would not. Canceled 2nd day, never used it, and was told they would refund. 30 days later and lots of non-response to my emails, still no refund. Horrible company to misinform and then hold on to someone's money this long. Just not acceptable.
The Best Hosting Company!
They take care of the customer 24/7 -365 days
All experiences have been great, since transferring our account from the previous hosting company.
Professional understanding and caring!
In today's Universe hard to obtain.JB
Kristin F (Krissy) at Liquid Web is an awesome example of the type of personal and expert service that I've come to love and rely on for the success of my business. When I called in today, she came through for me in a big way to day and I appreciate it and my clients appreciate it.I've been through the hosting gauntlet and seen past the marketing promises made by other hosting providers, but Liquid Web delivers on the hardware side and especially on the service side. When I have an issue with my hosting, I know I have someone in my corner who cares about my issue and understands the impact it can have on my business, so it's refreshing and encouraging to know that I'm not alone when something happens.If you like your host or aren't sure if you like them, I'd definitely call Liquid Web and see if they might be a good fit. They won't be for everyone, but I have no hesitation in recommending them.
Liquid Web’s strength comes from the fact that it never aims to provide a service at bargain prices. The premium plans are expensive, period. But that’s okay, because that money goes somewhere. It guarantees you the stability that shared hosts simply can’t.
So, if you have the budget, should you go with Liquid Web? That depends. If this is scratching the limits of your budget, then yes. If you can pay just a bit more, Kinsta is even better, in every possible way. It’s faster, more powerful, and with ready live chat support 24/7.
If you don’t have the money for this kind of service, Hostinger and InterServer are both good choices, but they’re a compromise. You’ll be getting less, in terms of features, and if you’re running a large website or an e-commerce store, they might not be enough for your needs.
Brent is a freelance web developer who loves experimenting with new technology and sharing his experiences with others. While his career life can get hectic sometimes, he always makes time for the important things in life: good coffee, good wine, and quality time with his twin boys, Aiden and Sean.