What’s The Best WordPress Management Tool For Multiple Websites?
As a customer, you always want to feel assured that your WordPress support provider is using the absolute best possible technology to manage and support your websites.
And in our industry, the most popular app for administrating multiple websites from a single dashboard is ManageWP.
Demo of the ManageWP Dashboard
But “most popular” does not equal “best”.
You see, most of the WordPress Care Plan providers out there are just copying each other.
And almost all of them use ManageWP. Hmm…
That made me wonder whether or not any potentially superior alternatives exist.
So when we found out about MainWP we got really excited!
MainWP as an Alternative to ManageWP
MainWP is a competitor to ManageWP.
Demo of the MainWP Dashboard
MainWP immediately caught my eye because it seemed to align better with our company philosophically.
- It’s based on WordPress so it’s open source
- You can customize / extend it as needed
- You have complete ownership over your data
- It’s free, although you can pay to get access to premium extensions
- It isn’t owned / operated by a company I distrust (ManageWP is owned by GoDaddy)
While that all sounds great in theory, we needed to be sure that MainWP is a superior alternative to ManageWP in practice.
So we got to testin’!
MainWP Pros and Cons
When I told our design partner, Lesly—who sells care plans of his own—about MainWP, he was as excited as I was!
He immediately started testing the core plugin and the various extensions.
Unfortunately, the results he then shared with my team were rather disappointing…
1 – The child plugin got disconnected randomly and when hidden from the plugin list it’s impossible to reconnect it.
You need go FTP to remove/reinstall.
2 – When disconnected the child plugin reverted to the MainWP branding even though I ticked the “keep my branding” option.
3 – You need to install additional third party plugins for:
- Speed test
Which is for me a big “no go”, as with ManageWP there is no need to install any other plugin besides the sole ManageWP Worker plugin.
4 – You need to create and retrieve API keys to use several features, including:
- Speed test
- Security scan
With ManageWP you don’t need to jump through these hoops.
5 – To use the security scan option for MainWP, you need to get a WPScan API key (WPScan is their security partner).
Furthermore, it gives you only 50 scans, which you will use up super quickly…
They have a limited free tier.
Then the paid tiers are:
- 50 API calls for $5/m
- 250 API calls for 25$/m (which is still nothing when you manage more than 5 websites)
- Enterprise level – X$/year, contact us
ManageWP has a deal with WPScan where we can scan all of our websites with no limits and at no additional cost.
6 – In order to perform speed tests you need to install the Google plugin and put in an API key.
7 – In order to perform backups you need to use a 3rd party plugin like Updraft, Backup Buddy, etc…
They then need to be configured on a per-website basis, and linked to an offsite storage provider like AWS / Dropbox, etc.
Lots of friction…
8 – The reports are fugly but can be spruced up with some CSS.
ManageWP Pros and Cons
Not only did Lesly test MainWP vs ManageWP, so did our Technical Sales Lead and Sys Admin expert, Marko.
To top it off, Marko is Serbian and has actually been to ManageWP headquarters in Serbia (it’s a Serbian owned / operated company that was acquired by GoDaddy).
Even after their acquisition by GoDaddy, which gave him the same suspicions as it gave me, he was impressed by the caliber of their operations.
Still, Marko decided to run some tests of his own.
Here are his conclusions:
1 – The fact that MainWP is open-source is indeed attractive.
Perhaps in the future when the product ecosystem is more mature it will be a viable alternative to ManageWP.
2 – I was able to install the MainWP dashboard on one of my test domains along with the child theme plugin.
The installation process for MainWP is straightforward.
3 – From the beginning it looks like MainWP give you a lot of options to choose from, even on the free version.
With ManageWP—as we know—you log into the Orion dashboard and add a site by entering the username and password of your WP back-end, and it will install their own worker plugin.
Conclusion: Much less hassle to get started with ManageWP.
4 – Then, there’s a question of the functionality that you need for your customers (and expect as a customer).
As Lesly mentioned, MainWP requires you to use a third party backup plugin.
This creates “plugin bloat”, which we want to avoid.
Then, if the plugin doesn’t have remote backup functionality, you would probably need to add yet another plugin that does.
When you use WordPress based backup plugins, the backups that you create will first go on your server’s local disk.
While on a solid cloud host like CloudWays this generally isn’t a problem, in shared hosting / low spec hosting environments, taking even a single backup and storing it locally could put you over your allotted resource limits (backups are very large files).
With ManageWP you have good and stable incremental backups offloaded from the site with a reliable method of restoring the site, and they developed and improved that solution over 3 years ago!
Conclusion: running backups with MainWP would be a huge headache. With ManageWP it’s easy peezy!
5 – Diving deeper still, we found that MainWP has a history of security problems:
That’s not necessarily a black mark against them because WordPress is open source and even the most popular, well-maintained plugins and themes have vulnerabilities from time to time.
But we can see that only 5 people are working on MainWP development vs 40 for ManageWP!
And this does have an impact on the pace of improvement.
6 – To echo Lesly’s comments, for many of the additional functionalities you want, you would need to install an additional plugin.
That creates a clear overhead, and both performance and security questions.
For instance, you need to have the premium (paid tier) of MainWP in order to create client reports, while in ManageWP you have them even at the free level (though they carry the ManageWP branding).
7 – You need to be on the premium tier of MainWP to add collaborators, while you have that for free with ManageWP.
Plus, as the number of websites you manage grows, you can also purchase ManageWP’s “bundles” to further reduce your already-low monthly bill. 🙂
8 – For security checks, ManageWP is superior.
It will show you directly in the Orion dashboard if some plugin or theme is vulnerable.
ManageWP is partnered with WPvulndb.com and you don’t have to pay extra to see vulnerable plugins / themes.*
On the other hand, if you were to sign up to use WPVulnDB’s API on your own, it would cost you a pretty penny.
*We also use WordFence central for extra protection.
9 – Who gives you more control?
MainWP beats ManageWP in the flexibility / control department.
You have all the control you need for your dashboard, including logs etc.
But this alone isn’t enough to make it a viable solution.
Consider that if you are going to host dozens or hundreds of client websites, you need to protect against security threats on the server where you host your MainWP dashboard.
So if your server or site (where you dashboard lives) get hacked, you would have to ensure that you don’t expose all of the websites you manage to a security threat.
That’s a big red flag from a risk management point of view.
ManageWP, however, utilizes a non-WordPress based platform with enterprise level security and a dedicated team that monitors the central hub.
If a client’s site gets hacked while on ManageWP, it will cause less overall damage as only the worker plugin from ManageWP would be there, compared to an entire basket of plugins with MainWP.
10 – With your server/site as a dashboard location for MainWP, you need to make sure that the server’s IP address is not blacklisted or blocked by various firewalls for the connection dashboard and child plugin.
ManageWP on the other hand, has established various partnerships for whitelisting their IP addresses including SiteGround, GridPane, WordFence plugin etc.
ManageWP vs MainWP: ManageWP is the Winner!
I really love the idea of MainWP.
It’s a very promising project and already very far along.
Many folks are already using it to manage their client’s websites.
But based on our own research and testing, I would suggest that you reserve it solely for your own side-projects and tests.
The reality is that it’s too immature a product to deploy for a serious business use case.
ManageWP, on the other hand, is a stable, well-established, and widely used solution.
And so we declare ManageWP as the clear winner in the MainWP vs ManageWP face-off!