Why you need to use WordPress management software
As a freelance WordPress developer or owner of multiple WordPress sites, you will become overwhelmed trying to stay on top of all the plugin and theme updates that are released almost daily. Plugin and theme updates have become more frequent over the years and, in many cases, more critical. When a security vulnerability is found in a WordPress theme or plugin, the vulnerability is published in detail on various security websites. These details can be used by hackers to write bots to automatically attack sites with these vulnerable themes and plugins.
As a result of how quickly these new vulnerabilities are found, performing timely updates on your WordPress site is absolutely essential for keeping your website secure. It is the single highest security risk your website faces and the single most important thing you can do to keep your WordPress site from being hacked. However, manually updating 10 or more sites can be onerous. Manually updating 100 or more sites can ruin your entire day. This is where WordPress management plugins and software come in handy. What WordPress management software will help you do is manage all of your WordPress sites through one central dashboard or control panel. You will be able to update all plugins on all 100 sites you manage with the click of one button. Done and done.
How often do you need to update WordPress plugins and themes?
You typically need to update WordPress themes and plugins (and core) as often as there is an update — which can mean every day or every week. WordPress management businesses who offer to update your site monthly or quarterly are only taken advantage of your naivety. If a security vulnerability is found in a WordPress plugin, your site can be hacked within a number of hours or days. Updating once a week, therefore, is not frequent enough. If the update is less critical, you can plan some time when it is more convenient to test your update before performing it on the live site. Updates that contain security patches and functionality fixes can and should be done as soon as they are available.
Types of WordPress management plugins and software
There are two flavors of WordPress management tools:
- Hosted – You login to WordPress management software website to add and manage your WordPress websites
- Self-hosted – You host the WordPress management software on your own domain or locally on your computer
The hosted solutions are good for people who are less technically savvy or don’t want to have to worry as much about security of the tool itself. Though, some would argue, the self-hosted solutions are more secure since you can install them on your local computer and as a result can’t possibly be accessed by the outside world.
The self-hosted solutions take more responsibility on your part to be sure that you have the software installed and hosted securely as well as updated as needed. They are good for WordPress developers who are savvy with how to address bandwidth issues and security in a hosting environment.
With all the solutions, you will install a plugin on the client’s site that will connect the site to the WordPress management software. Following is a summary of the most popular WordPress management solutions available.
Hosted at WordPress.com – login with your WordPress.com credentials
Jetpack’s site management feature allows you to manage your site and other sites from a single Dashboard. You can update multiple plugins on multiple sites at once or set selected plugins and themes to auto update. It’s free and simple to use. Simply install the Jetpack plugin and connect it to your WordPress.com. (Note: multiple users of the site can be connected to Jetpack with their own WordPress.com account.) Activate the Centralized Site Management tool under the Jetpack > Settings or when prompted. Jetpack is entirely FREE, so it’s a great solution for people who want to set auto updates or check all their sites at a glance and not have to a pay a large price.Read More about Jetpack Manage
Hosted at iControlWP.com – secure, two-factor login authentication
I really love iControlWP’s management tools, including integrated backups with one-click restores, ability to automate updates or lockdown a plugin to prevent it from being updated, security scanning, database optimization, Google Analytics tracking (no need for a plugin!), manage users, configure security from one location, Cloudflare integration, and more! The price is right, too! At about $1/site, it’s a total winner!
iControlWP is a hosted management solution, meaning you don’t have to install any software. There is no set up involved, and you can securely manage your sites from any computer. You simple need to install a plugin on your WordPress site, and enter the unique key into the iControlWP interface. Done! Enabling backups is also very easy and included in the monthly fee. The backups are very reliable. If you don’t want to babysit backups any longer, iControlWP is the most affordable hosted backup solution out there.
View All iControlWP and WorpDrive Features
Self-hosted either on a hosting account or on your local computer
I’ve used InfiniteWP for years and really love the flexibility of its updates and that it is free with optional paid addons for reporting and more! This is a self-hosted solution requiring you to set up the InfiniteWP software on your hosting account or local server. Adding sites to the InfiniteWP interface is quick and easy. Just install the IWP Client plugin and copy and paste the credentials into your InfiniteWP control panel.
InfiniteWP addons range from $50-$100 and include uptime monitoring, security scanning, client reporting, broken link checker, Google page speed, and much more. It’s definitely a nice package, though all the add-ons cost $400 per year.
My favorite part of InfiniteWP is the ability to multiple-select plugins across sites to update. iControlWP and Jetpack interfaces don’t have multiple select option, so you either need to update all plugins across all sites or update each plugin across all sites individually. InfiniteWP’s interface is just very simple and intuitive. There’s a certain Zen to it that’s very appealing as a developer. I’ve never had any issues with it. I think they’ve hit a home run with the interface, whereas the other solutions feel a bit more sluggish.
Self-hosted on an installation of WordPress running the MainWP plugin
The MainWP WordPress Management plugin is a free, self-hosted, open-source solution for managing multiple WordPress sites. MainWP is unique in that it is a plugin that runs within a WordPress installation as opposed to Jetpack, iControlWP, and InfiniteWP which all have their own, unique interface. The MainWP addons are also added as plugins, so the interface overall should feel very familiar. One nice thing about MainWP is that they are very open source friendly, therefore they do not charge for the number of sites you use with it. They’ve teamed up with some great partners for their addons, including WooCommerce, BlogVault, UpdraftPlus, Yoast SEO, Rocket, and others to provide valuable add-ons.
MainWP offers the ability to perform bulk settings on sites, set up Rocket caching, manage links, and includes a favorite plugin list. For $400, you get all the addo-ns and lifetime membership! No renewals! So, it’s definitely a winner price-wise over InfiniteWP.
Hosting is a big consideration for MainWP. From Andrea Whitmer’s review: “If you use shared hosting, you will likely not be able to use MainWP. I can’t see a shared host allowing the type of resource usage I’ve seen in a week of use on my own server. It’s not outrageous, but it does heat things up a little, especially when intensive tasks like backups are running.”
Learn More about MainWP
Hosted at WP Remote
This is an entirely free service, and like many free services is not as sustainable as many would like. When a service starts as purely altruistic it rarely lasts more than a few years. There needs to be a money-making business plan behind any WordPress plugin or software to make it enough of a concern among developers to give it the attention it deserves. As of November 2015, the current hosts are looking to give it a new home. WP Remote does allow you to manage multiple sites at once, but it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles that other sites have such as backup archives, cloning, copying and publishing to multiple sites from one location. It does one thing well and that is allow you to do plugin, theme, and WordPress core updates from a central dashboard all for FREE.Add Your Sites to WP Remote
Hosted at ManageWP.com
ManageWP is a hosted solution like Jetpack and iControlWP, so there is no set up time or need to figure out where and how to host the software. It has a monthly fee based on the number of sites you are using it on. Here’s a great review you might want to read about the pros and cons of MainWP versus ManageWP.
ManageWP has tools for monitoring, notifications, backing up, and reporting, though people have reported in the past some issues with backing up as well as the reports not being that great. However, it’s always good to see what’s new. The big comparison now is between iControlWP and ManageWP for hosted solutions, so review them carefully to see which service would best meet your needs in terms of cost and features.
Learn More about ManageWP
Which WordPress management plugin / softare should you use? InfiniteWP versus MainWP versus iControlWP versus ManageWP versus Jetpack
- Jetpack – You are a solo entrepreneur/blogger/business owner: I would recommend setting up auto updates of trusted plugins with Jetpack and signing up for VaultPress for backups.
- MainWP – You are a hard-core WordPress geek and open-source enthusiast: If you can pay $30+/month indefinitely or $400 one-time to get started, I would go with MainWP. Backups must be set up with one of their extensions and go to a third-party service, like Amazon S3. While that’s another consideration of both time and money and possible babysitting task, you do get to set your own backup schedules. You need to consider the cost of self-hosting MainWP each month and what kind of bandwidth it is going to take up. You can run MainWP locally using MAMP or XAMPP or WAMP. Here are instructions for setting up MainWP to run on DesktopServer.
- iControlWP – You are a WordPress website builder or entrepreneur with many sites to manage and absolutely hate dealing with backup issues: For about $1/site each month, you get all the site management features plus 30 days’ of free backups on a remote server with ZERO plugin setup. Since iControlWP does not rely on PHP interaction for backups, they don’t time out or fail, and you don’t have to do anything other than provide FTP credentials.
- InfiniteWP – You are a web developer with a Zen frame of mind and don’t mind managing things yourself: InfiniteWP is by far the cleanest, fastest, simplest interface. It is free, but you are responsible for hosting. The full addon package is $400 for the first year and $200 subsequent years. While you can use it for backups, you need to set those up and monitor them.
I love InfiniteWP for its quick and simple interface, but I am moving toward iControlWP because I am just tired of monitoring and managing backups. While my backups might be more limited (30 days), I don’t have to worry about them not running on the myriad of shared web hosts my clients come with. I would probably consider MainWP as an excellent choice, but, again, I don’t want to even give a second thought to backups. I just want to set and leave it. Many of my VIP clients are on WP Engine and Flywheel, so I don’t have to worry about backups with them either. I certainly prefer the InfiniteWP interface over all others.