In this week's managed WordPress hosting review, I'm going further back in history to when I first got into managed WordPress hosting.
My podcast network was growing fast, especially my Once Upon a Time podcast with its new forums. I was hosting on a virtual private server from HostDime, but that couldn't keep up with the large demands of my WordPress multisite and phpBB forums. Then I upgraded to a dedicated server for $160 per month.
But it still wasn't powerful enough for my sites. (Since then, I've learned a lot more about managing a server and know how to run my websites with fewer resources.) Thus, it was time to find a better host.
Around that time, I heard about Synthesis managed WordPress hosting from one of my podcast-consulting clients. Considering that I was already paying $160 per month for hosting, Synthesis's $147/month plan looked like it would save me some money and give me better performance and features. I also heard great things from my client, so I jumped in.
I stayed with Synthesis for over a year, and here are my thoughts on their service.
As a managed WordPress hosting provider, Synthesis would only host WordPress-powered websites. They designed their infrastructure specifically for this purpose, and also optimized their system for websites running the Genesis Framework (though it's not a requirement).
In addition to the backend technology, they also provided attractive extra features (on top of everything you would normally expect), like daily backups, SEO tools, uptime monitoring, and “Personal Backups” to my own Amazon S3.
When I joined, their site said they supported WordPress Multisite on the $147/month plan and higher. Since they are WordPress and Genesis experts, I could trust that my site was in good hands. They could recommend plugins, settings, and tweaks for my site performance or features.
Synthesis is very generous with its traffic limits—especially when you compare with other managed WordPress hosting providers, like WP Engine. Their lowest plan, $47/month Standard, allowed 10,000 page views per day. My sites required the Advanced plan for $147/month and supported 85,000 page views per day, which has always been more than enough for my needs (maximum 20,000 page views per day).
With Synthesis, I could also request SSH access and managed certain aspects of my site by myself, or perform certain actions faster.
Synthesis was designed for speed, and they provide W3 Total Cache (W3TC) Pro, fragment caching, and special optimizations for WordPress with Genesis-Framework-powered themes. On Multisite, they recommended their own server-side caching system instead of W3TC, but it would always cause more problems than it solved on my network.
Compared to my previous VPS and dedicated server, Synthesis loaded my sites quickly and could handle a large number of simultaneous visitors.
Synthesis introduced me to a different way of running a web server. Most regular hosting companies will use Apache. That software is designed to do many, many things. Nginx is the cool, new kid. Nginx doesn't have all the bloat that Apache has, but Nginx has what it needs to run most standard websites with popular content-management systems. Synthesis is naturally faster because of using Nginx instead of Apache.
Since Copyblogger makes both Synthesis and the Genesis Framework, Genesis is included with Synthesis hosting, which could save you a little money if you want to be just a Genesis child theme from StudioPress or Appendipity.
Synthesis's missing features
When I first started hosting with Synthesis, I wasn't too concerned with extensive features. I was impressed with the features Synthesis offered.
But after signing up and migrating my WordPress Multisite, I discovered that some of Synthesis's features don't work on WordPress Multisite: Personal Backups to S3, SEO Scribe (no longer offered), and their own server-side caching (at least with my site).
Synthesis has no built-in methods for version control, CDN, or staging sites. However, with the Professional and higher plans supporting more than a single WordPress installation, you could have a second WordPress installation function as a staging site. That would require your own synchronization (such as with WP Migrate DB Pro).
Why I left Synthesis managed WordPress hosting
My time with Synthesis was good, but I was becoming increasingly frustrated with memory errors (even though I think they generously gave me an extra 2 GB for free), caching problems, and stability. All of these problems are related to the complexity of my site and are not directly the fault of Synthesis.
I was also looking at the recurring $147/month fee and trying to find a way to reduce my business's operating costs. Now that I have more knowledge on running my own server, I went back to a virtual private server (VPS) to save a lot of money, but missing all the support that Synthesis could provide. (I'll detail my final hosting destination more in a future post.)
Of all the managed WordPress hosting providers, Synthesis offers the most traffic for the best price. My same sites would cost more than $200/month to host with other companies, but only $147/month with Synthesis.
If you choose Synthesis, I know you'll be in good hands and won't have to expect a high price in the managed WordPress hosting industry. (And if you sign up, I, unfortunately, won't receive any affiliate commission.)