Why Choose Pantheon for WordPress Hosting [Review]

Managed Hosting Review

Pantheon Hosting
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Price: Starts at $25/mo

Currency: USD


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Early in the year 2015, team TechVise decided that it was high time to take this little blog seriously, which meant choose a good self hosted WordPress platform to match our growth requirements; and we chose Pantheon.

You want to know how and why we made this choice?

Well, the first step for most blogs is content followed closely by monetisation and of course visitors. Unfortunately, in order for a blog to truly encompass this trifecta, it needs to have:

  1. Awesome content
  2. A self hosted WordPress platform
  3. A very good WordPress hosting that scales easily

Awesome Content

This is not difficult since we know whats trending and what’s not. All we really need is churn out great content and tell people the various services, apps, tools and devices that are out there. This is very much in our control and is really ours to lose.

Self Hosted WordPress Platform

Self hosted WordPress platform means that we need to have total control over our website; from the site’s theme to the plugins.

Hosting that Scales

Self-Hosting WP means equally good solution for hosting.

Ever since TechVise was launched, which is to say, for 4 years we have hopped from BlueHost to GoDaddy (they have improved their WP Offering, review here) to Westhost to WP.com and now finally we have found the perfect matchPantheon. How?


The Search for Premium/Specialised WordPress hosting

In the last 2 months, we have actually looked at the likes of WordPress Business, WPEngine, Pressable, Siteground, WebSynthesis and Page.ly. I left out AWS since even though its free for 12 months in Sandbox and great for full time developers, their pricing is complicated and not for everyday users and despite our considerable technical skills, we do full range web consulting and development so we really needed a long term solution not just for us but for our clients. Here’s a high level recap on what we discovered:

WordPress.com Business: Starts at $500/month if you want your own choice of Analytics and Plugins.

WP Engine: Starts at $29/month for 1 site and supports upto 25,000 visits

Pressable (formerly known as ZippyKid): Starts at $25/month for 5 sites and supports upto 15,000 shared pageviews. You can check their pricing here.

Siteground: Starts at $3.95 / month and they do WP, Magento and Joomla hosting specialisation

Synthesis: Starts at $47/month, supports 10,000 pageviews per day and built specifically for Genesis Framework. Provides built in SEO and Marketing tools.

Pagely: Starts at $499/month $24/month, and is now essentially for media publishers and high volume sites only. It wasn’t three years ago (when this post was originally written).

During the comparison analysis, we would drop by at Pantheon and wish that they did WP hosting since that’s what we really wanted; WordPress on Pantheon.

Pantheon starts WordPress HostingPantheon Logo

Our stars were finally aligned. Just when we had made a decision to go ahead with Pressable we received an email from Pantheon announcing WordPress support and invitation to signup for Early access.

We filled out the form and received an acknowledgement from Pantheon’s Josh Koenig (their Co Founder and Head of Developer Experience) that we were on the list! Two days later and after a couple of email exchanges with him we had access to Pantheon for WordPress.

At the time we went ahead with Pressable for WordPress hosting anyway and our personal and company websites are on Pressable but nothing beats Pantheon for a growing technology website such as TechVise (for which we truly started the hunt). Since Dec 2017, we finally moved to Kinsta as it made better sense for TechVise’s growth. However, we stand by our earlier assessment; its the best platform for a new blog that you want to grow quickly, not worry about sudden upticks in traffic and don’t want to be bogged down by system administration.

What Pantheon Offers:

  1. Separate Dev, Test and Live environments with easy commits, push/pull code functionality with access to cache clearing
  2. GIT and SFTP support
  3. Free HTTPS via Let’s Encrypt
  4. Global CDN via 40+ points of presence
  5. New relic pro monitoring
  6. Built in cache (Varnish with the option to upgrade to Edge Cache on higher plans)
  7. Scheduled and manual backups
  8. PHP error logs
  9. Environment clones, export, import and ability to wipe clean an environment
  10. Private and Public access to any of the environments.
  11. Easy to develop and setup the sandbox environments which are free to host and develop till the site is ready to be live, which starts for as little as $25 / month / website.
  12. Multi-Dev environment (available on Business plans of $400) for different teams to work independently and merge changes only when ready. If you want MultiDev on plans under $400, signup via this WP Offer page.

In an email, I asked Josh if the pricing for WordPress was the same as for Drupal, here’s what he had to say about it:

The pricing is the same for WordPress and Drupal. We know that makes us more expensive than a lot of WordPress hosting, but we think our service offers a lot more value, and hopefully clients and customers should be able to see that too. If we save one developer hour a month, it should more than pay for itself.

That statement above pretty much sums it for me and others at TechVise (part of QZ Consulting), we don’t want to spend our time on figuring out where the problem is because most issues that we run into derive from small customisations and are generally because of a typo or a missing syntax etc.

We also wanted an environment in the cloud that our customers could see when we wanted them to (Pantheon provides both Public and Private environment access options).

And we want to be able to make changes to the code on the fly and then push them to ‘test‘ environment so that internal customers could approve and play with it, without getting in the way of our developers.

We also get to test out new updates, plugins and generally anything in the dev before pushing them to test and then go live with it.

Last but not the least, there is no way to make any accidental changes via SFTP or GIT in the test or live environments. Yes, you read that right. You cannot create folders randomly, accidentally delete files, or have a poorly configured cron job that will remove important site content. Yes you can upload new files via WordPress media uploader but thats about it. Its pretty much hacker and idiot safe.

We start off all client websites on Pantheon so it remains the platform of choice for us. Some clients stay on it because it just makes things easier and saves them the headache of system administration. 

Some considerations when choosing Pantheon

As with most specialised hosting solutions, there are considerations when choosing a platform. Here’s what you need to be aware of:

  1. Pantheon doesn’t natively support session directory. Yes thats right, any theme or plugin that uses session_start() function will just not work with their platform – out of the box. They have a separate plugin that sorts out the issue to run your themes and plugins that use PHP sessions.
  2. No PHPMyAdmin access to Database. Yes, you can download / export and import databases and also connect to it using your own Native MySQL client. This may be a point of consideration with your existing developers. You should take a look at their post on accessing MySQL Databases on Pantheon for more information.

Thanks a lot to Brian from Pantheon for bringing the Varnish Cache + Woocommerce fix to our notice as well as the recent release of their PHP Session handling plugin. These fixes definitely make a stronger case to move to their platform especially if you dont want to worry about security, cache management and troubleshooting.

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2 Comments on "Why Choose Pantheon for WordPress Hosting [Review]"

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Brian MacKinney
Thanks for the great review! We’ve addressed some of the considerations listed. 1. Please see our article and plugin for native php sessions: http://helpdesk.getpantheon.com/customer/portal/articles/1505741-wordpress-and-php-sessions and https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-native-php-sessions/ 2. Last week we fixed WooCommerce and BuddyPress varnish issues and both now work on the platform. 3. Instructions for accessing your database are… Read more »