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Flywheel review: managed WordPress hosting for busy creatives?

flywheel review

In this Flywheel review, I decided to analyze its prices and features, test ease of use, performance, security, and customer support to see what it’s really all about. Flywheel is a managed WordPress hosting provider operating its services on powerful Google Cloud servers. It promises to take all the burden of hosting management from you so you can focus on the business.

Tools like staging and caching available in a click. The rest of the services are also managed with just a couple of clicks. No complex knowledge is needed as technical stuff is done in the backend by the provider itself. That’s what’s meant by managed

But lately, I’ve been seeing quite a big chunk of awful Flywheel reviews. People claiming it limits them, is down all the time, or that support is pretty much useless.

That was not my experience with Flywheel just a couple of years ago. So what changed? I know it was acquired by another big WordPress provider WP Engine… Is that what’s stopping this cheeky company from being the best self?

Well, I decided to give Flywheel a chance to redeem itself. So I took its services to the test. I analyzed the prices and ease of use, tested performance, checked out security, support, and all the features offered. At the end of the day, it’s a big read, so feel free to skip straight to the verdict too.

Rating:4.2
Price:Prices start at $13/mo
Uptime:100%
Current deal:Start 14-day free trial

Pros and Cons of Flywheel

Pros

  • 99.95% uptime guarantee backed by SLA
  • Tools for workflow management
  • Modern and user-friendly interface

Cons

  • Domains are not provided
  • Limited access to the backend

Flywheel pricing

Flywheel has 4 hosting plans that start at $13/mo and range to $242/mo with an annual subscription. Additionally, you can pick 2 of the most expensive plans with a Growth Suite – client management tools. This increases the price up to $275/mo.

Managed Hosting ($13-242/mo)A standard set of tools for easy WordPress management. Start 14-day free trial
Growth Suite ($113-275/mo)Additional tools for client management, billing, and revenue insights.

Mind you, the plans are the same in terms of resources, but Growth Suite comes with additional tools that would help manage business operations.

In that case, I focusing on the standard packages today. 

All 4 of the plans are equipped with free SSLs, daily backups, staging, caching, and a content delivery network powered by Fastly.

Flywheel hosting prices
  • Tiny ($13/mo) provides 5GB of storage space for 1 website and 20GB bandwidth for up to 5 000 monthly visits. It’s the best plan to host your portfolio or services landing page.
  • Starter ($25/mo) comes with 10GB storage for 1 website and 50GB bandwidth for up to 25 000 visits monthly. This gives enough space for a popular blog or a small online store.
  • Freelance ($96/mo) allows you to host up to 10 websites with 20GB storage and 200GB bandwidth for up to 100 000 visits/mo. As suggested by the name, it’s the best plan for freelancers that are hosting their clients’ sites. Growth Suite is available, increasing the plan price to $113/mo.
  • Agency ($242/mo) comes with 50GB storage for 30 websites and 500GB bandwidth for 400 000 visits/mo. It’s the plan for growing businesses. Growth Suite is available, increasing the price to $275/mo.

In my opinion, the resources included could be more generous, especially when talking about storage space. Nonetheless, knowing that an average WordPress site doesn’t take more than 5GB of space, Flywheel might be very logical. 

Nonetheless, not all plans are equally as valuable. My personal favorites are:

  • Starter – it gives more than double resources for less than a double price when compared to Tiny. But it’s only a good option if you actually need and will use those resources. If you are hosting a portfolio or just want to display your services – Tiny is an affordable way to go.
  • Agency is great for hosting your clients’ websites. If you’d host all the 30 websites, it would be $8 for each. However, if you don’t have that many clients just yet, Freelance can do the trick too.

From what I can see now, Flywheel targets a specific audience. Its prices might look expensive, but for a service like that, they are actually average. Compare it to Kinsta, which starts at $30/mo for similar services.

But that’s not all. I also checked out the terms of service and other billing-related information to see if there’s anything else we need to know.

Pricing need to know

The advertised prices are available with yearly subscriptions. Monthly billing is available, but it will increase the costs by around 20%. Also, Flywheel does not limit how many resources you use but will charge an overage fee.

Best Value

To get the cheapest price with Flywheel, pick Tiny with a 1-year billing option. This way, the plan will cost the advertised $13/mo, and the total will be $150. The renewal price does not increase.
Check Flywheel Pricing Now

It’s refreshing to know that Flywheel does not increase renewal prices. No matter where you point – providers will do that.

Another good thing is that you’re not limited by the resources assigned – you can easily upload more files or accept more visitors without slowing the service down. However, overages will be charged, but they are quite affordable:

  • 1GB of extra storage is $1.
  • 1000 extra monthly visitors are also $1.

That’s a great practice that does not force you to upgrade the plan in case you are a little bit over of what is included in yours.

What if you don’t like Flywheel? 

You can cancel 30 days after the purchase if you bought a yearly plan. Meanwhile, monthly subscriptions can be canceled within 72 hours to get a full refund.

Good To Know

By the way, before purchasing a plan, you can try out the services for 14 days free of charge. Not even a credit card is required.

To be honest with you, I’m very happy with Flywheel terms when it comes to billing. It is not as aggressive as most of the other companies.

In the end, Flywheel pricing is on the premium, more expensive end, and it does not provide excessive server resources. Nonetheless, it’s still quite affordable when comparing to other managed WordPress services.

Hosting management – is Flywheel easy to use?

All Flywheel’s services focus on ease of use. It’s actually the primary goal of this company – you should not need to do anything yourself in terms of hosting management, just focus on your business.

This approach seems to be very attractive for creatives such as website designers. If the platform deals with every technical detail, it’s very efficient. So in this part of the Flywheel review, I went through setup and management processes to see how easy it actually is.

The first thing you see when you create an account with Flywheel is this cheeky interface:

Flywheel hosting main interface for new accounts

This is your main management area in which all of your created sites will appear. But before you even get access to more tools, you need to create a new site. 

Clicking on Create a new site takes you through a quick setup process. There you can immediately pick a plan or choose to create a Demo website. That’s what I chose.

All I had to do was enter the site name, pick a temporary domain, and data center. Available locations are the US, Canada, UK, Belgium, and Australia.

Creating a new demo site with Flywheel hosting

Flywheel got the installation ready in a couple of minutes, and I was able to reach my website through that temporary domain that I chose.

But you wouldn’t use a temporary domain for business, right? That brings us to the next step.

How to add a domain to Flywheel?

Flywheel does not sell or provide free domains. You have to own one with another registrar and point it to the server. It’s very easy to do and only requires finding your server IP and pasting it in the domain registrar where you own a domain.

When we created a new site, the management area for it was unlocked. It shows all the management options. But the most important thing for us right now is the box on the right with Domains

Website management area in Flywheel hosting control panel

This is where you can find your IP address for pointing your domain to Flywheel and click on Add another domain to assign it to your website.

Doing that is as easy as just entering the URL.

Adding a domain to Flywheel

Just check that Primary box if the domain you entered will be the main one for your site.

Once you’ve done that, you can log in to your domain registrar and update your DNS. This might sound complicated, but you just need to create A record for your domain and paste the IP of your server. Flywheel actually has a tutorial that covers the majority of popular domain registrars.

This procedure is very simple and very standard for web hosting. Even the managed ones – you can’t expect the provider to log in to your domain registrar and make the required changes. Well, actually, you can – just contact support and ask for help.

The last step of setup is to activate SSL.

How to activate SSL with Flywheel?

SSL activation process involves 2 clicksEnable SSL button in your site management area by the Domains box and Complete SSL setup button in the following window.

Securing website with free SSL in Flywheel hosting control panel

Once you do that, it might take a couple of minutes (or up to an hour, according to Flywheel) for the SSL to activate. 

And that is it, your site is ready for work.

Overall, initial hosting setups with Flywheel are quite standard, but it is not the majestic managed experience that was promised. So what else does the provider have in store?

What does Flywheel control panel look like?

Flywheel does not separate its main dashboard from the control panel, and everything is joined into one coherent interface. However, you can manage each website separately with the tools assigned.

The main website management area for each website is quite minimalistic. We already saw the overview section that lists server information and domains.

The main area of interest is the small menu just below your site name. This is where you can manage plugins, performance, stats, backups, and advanced settings. Also, to the right, you can reach your WordPress admin panel.

  1. Plugins – this area shows all the plugins installed on your site and notifies if some of them need to be updated.
  2. The performance section is reserved for a paid feature – Performance Insights ($2/mo). It will analyze your site and provide insights for improvement.
  3. Stats show how many visits your website had. 
  4. The backups section lists the 30 most recent backups that you can download or restore. It also allows you to take a backup manually.
  5. The advanced area has settings for CDN, caching, and staging. This is also where you can get SSH and database access.
Flywheel control panel interface

One thing that concerns the majority of negative Flywheel reviews is that you cannot reach your core WP files such as wp-config.php. This might be a big drawback for advanced users, but it actually works as a security measure. So before you fall for that cheeky Flywheel marketing, consider your needs. If you’ve never even touched wp-config.php – there’s a huge possibility that you will not need it here too.

So, in general, the control panel is both very functional and easy to use. Most of the stuff is managed with just a click of a button – how much easier can it get. However, if you want to manage advanced stuff like core files, Flywheel might not be the right option for you – it focuses on simplicity and has these files locked away for security purposes.

All in all, Flywheel does achieve great simplicity with its hosting management tools. Initial setup of the domain can be a hassle if you’ve never done that, but there’s little the provider can do about it. The rest of the processes are pretty much automated – the definition of managed hosting.

Performance – is Flywheel fast?

In terms of performance, Flywheel stays true to its name. The provider is fast and never stops spinning – the uptime in 2 weeks remained at the perfect 100%. This, together with the power that can handle relatively big traffic waves, is what defines good performance.

Let’s take a more detailed look into the reliability, speed, and stability tests that I’ve done.

Flywheel uptime and response time

For this Flywheel review, I have monitored it for 2 weeks. Throughout that time, Flywheel had 0 outages which resulted in a whopping 100% uptime. Honestly, I love seeing this number. Believe me, when I say this, this is not as frequent as I’d like it to be. More so, the average response time was at 371ms. That’s what I call truly reliable!

Flywheel uptime and response time

Flywheel promises a higher than the standard, 99.95% uptime backed by the SLA agreement. So while 100% uptime over a short time is great, it’s good to know that it will stay very close to that over the long term.

As for the response time, apart from one jump, it remained between 300ms and 400ms. Very much below the hosting market average of 600ms.

These results proved that the provider’s services are reliable even beyond what it promises.

Now, let’s look at the website’s loading speed. 

Flywheel speed

In the following batch of testing, I used GTMetrix to measure how fast Flywheel loads websites. In the first run, I compared the speed in 3 locations – the US, Europe, and India. 

As Flywheel has CDN (content delivery network) automatically configured, it should load all 3 locations quite fast, even though my server is located in the US.

Not exactly. The provider showed excellent results in the US (598ms Largest Contentful Paint) and slowed down for other locations accordingly. London was 822ms, and India was 2.2 seconds.

Website's loading speed test from different locations

The Largest Contentful Paint is the most important measure in this test. It shows when the biggest chunk of content (e.g. hero image) loads. Visitors usually take this as a sign that the website is functioning fast. The same goes for Google, which considers LCP up to 2.5 seconds as good.

Unfortunately, Flywheel’s content delivery network did not work to even out the load times as well as I expected to. While all locations pass the speed test, the provider’s result is not much different from others that don’t use CDN.

Good To Know

To tackle the page load speed question even better than any CDN could, there’s server location choice available. You can choose from 5 locations – the US, Canada, Europe (London and Belgium), and Australia. Pick the one that is closest to your target audience, and they’ll be the ones to take advantage of the fasted speed.

But that’s just a lab test. Next up, I loaded up my website with demo content and a beautiful theme. This increased the page size quite a bit. And the heavier the size, the longer it takes to load.

This didn’t cause any trouble for Flywheel. It loaded LCP in 881ms which is just a slight increase.

Flywheel hosting page loading time

By the way, we can now look at speed visualization too. It shows all the steps in which the site loads. 

The server was very quick to react to the request to open the page (TTFB), 68ms quick if you will. But the visitor actually saw the site loading only at 608ms – up until then, the page was blank. Meanwhile, the Fully Loaded Time is the same as LCP – once the biggest piece of content loads, that’s all – the website is 100% ready to be scrolled and clicked on.

Overall, Flywheel’s loading speed is fast. While CDN did not efficiently reduce the load time of other locations, servers still did a very good job in loading both a very small and quite a large page.

Flywheel stress testing

For the last and one of the most important tests, I’ve put 50 virtual users (bots) on my website. This shows if the provider can handle traffic in case there a big surge. 

The cheapest plan is capable of handling around 5 000 monthly visitors, which is not a lot. 50 users at the same time every day would mean at least 20k or 30k visits/mo. 

And 50VUs was a bit too much for Flywheel. If you’d look at the graph, you’d see the red line – it represents failures, and we don’t want it there. 

Flywheel hosting failed stress test

Basically, Flywheel was not able to handle all of the requests that were sent to the server. Out of 11 572 requests, over a ¼ (3628 reqs) have failed. 

No good.

Yet not surprising when we remember the 5000/mo visitor limit.  So by decreasing the number by 5, I found out that Flywheel will be able to stand up if there are 30 VUs on the site.

Flywheel hosting stress test

No red line to worry about, so we can now look at other measures as well. The blue line is crucial here – it represents speed. It stayed relatively flat as the number of bots (grey line) increased.

This is what I mean by stability. Usually, traffic tends to slow down the servers. In Flywheel’s case, we don’t see that. So while it didn’t handle the maximum I asked for, it did remain very stable.

All in all, Flywheel’s performance confirms what was promised. The provider is reliable, fast, and stable. Unfortunately, it didn’t handle the maximum load, but it did prove that it can handle quite a lot on the cheapest plan. 

Security – is Flywheel secure?

As it is expected from a managed service, Flywheel takes care of security for you. It includes basic features such as free SSLs as well as more advanced security measures. In fact, Flywheel is so confident about its security that it advises avoiding 3rd party security plugins altogether.

  • Free SSLs are included for every domain that you connect. You just have to activate it in the main dashboard.
  • Malware removal is free in case your site gets hacked. Support agents will take care of the cleanup.
  • Traffic monitoring and blocking are on 24/7. It scans and filters all the incoming traffic and is able to block attacks before they reach your website.
  • Limiting login attempts is enabled straight in your dashboard, no need to install extra plugins. It will protect the website from brute-force attacks.
  • Automatic backups are performed nightly and stored on a separate server for 30 days. This means that you have access to the latest copy of your website in case a problem occurs with the live version.

That is a comprehensive set of security features that will protect your website from the majority of the most common threats. That being said, a lot of stuff is done in the backend – there’s little to no input required from you.

Will Flywheel customer support help me?

As far as my experience goes, Flywheel has one of the best customer support teams available. You can contact them via 24/7 live chat or phone (starting with the Freelance plan). Furthermore, an extensive and very much updated knowledge base is there too.

In the whole time of researching and testing for this Flywheel review, I only needed support once. And that’s because I was impatient. And this one time, I didn’t even need to chat with a real human.

My SSL, for some reason, wouldn’t show up on the website. So I went for the live chat. 

Live chat with Flywheel's bot

A very quick bot asked me all about the problem and even guessed most of my answers correctly. I usually hate when I need to explain my problems to bots, but this one is really smart.

And what did I tell you? I was impatient. As SSL was just activated, it needed up to an hour to work flawlessly. So I waited, and sure, the problem solved itself.

But bot, no matter how helpful, will not solve more technical problems. So I had to think of something. Imaginary or not. It’s difficult to do that when everything is working fine.

So I just decided to do some interviewing and see if agents are knowledgeable.

Once I requested technical help, the agent joined in less than a minute. Also, he was happy to answer my questions regardless that it wasn’t a technical problem per se.

Flywheel live chat with customer support

I asked if caching has more options and got a straightforward answer – some management is available, but more features are yet to be introduced.

Then, I also asked about PHP8 and got an answer that it was still being tested and only available in the local environment.

And the answers couldn’t have been better. This shows me that Flywheel knows about the needs of its customers and is trying to improve. I have no doubt that contacting the support about actual technical problems would be similarly efficient.

At the same time, you can also go to the knowledge base. As Flywheel uses a custom interface, there are explanations and tutorials for every tool. Plus, you’ll find WordPress management tips and more.

Flywheel hosting knowledge base

Articles are updated and nicely written. Everything’s illustrated and explained in a very simple way. Really great if you are not a technical person.

Altogether, Flywheel has my vote when it comes to customer support. Not only the agents are fast, helpful, and friendly, but they also have one of the smartest chatbots too! If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is. Plus, knowledgebase covers all topics that you might need to launch and manage a WordPress website.

Workflow tools

One of the unique things about Flywheel is that it has developed tools to make website management flow easier. Especially if you have several sites under your belt. It has website staging, cloning, and blueprint tools included for free. Meanwhile, a while-label panel for your clients is available with Growth Suite packages. 

Website staging

Staging is a tool that creates a copy of your website to test out changes and experiment. While it is becoming more common even with shared hosting, Flywheel surely makes it convenient.

To turn the Staging on, you just need to flick the Staging on in the Site Options tab. 

Choosing a website staging option with Flywheel

If the site is very large, it might take a couple of minutes, but a new URL will be generated to reach your staging copy. You’ll see it together with your domain names.

Once you are happy with the changes, you can push them live in the same Staging tab by clicking Move staging changes to my live site. It won’t immediately make anything major – a pop-up appears so you can confirm that you do really want to make those changes.

Confirming staging changes

This is a great security measure as one click of a button can easily ruin your website. 

Just keep in mind that staging copy uses the same server resources as your live website, minus the bandwidth. So turn off staging once you are done working with it to prevent slowdowns.

Blueprints

Blueprints create a duplicate of all site settings, plugins, and theme setup. It is useful if you need several websites with the same initial setup. It’s like a pre-built foundation to boost the building process.

When creating a new website, you’ll be able to select that blueprint as a starting point.

Creating a new Blueprint with Flywheel

I think this is a great tool for designers. They can create different templates for different types of websites and speed up workflow.

Site cloning

Site cloning creates an identical copy of the website that can either be hosted on your plan, assigned a new one, or kept as a demo.

Creating site clone with Flywheel

If you are a freelancer, it might be one of the best ways to transfer a website to a client. By choosing to create it as a demo, you’ll be able to assign a new owner to it. The new owner will choose a plan (you can recommend the best fitting one!) and pay for it.

Growth Suite client management

Growth Suite is basically a reseller service for you. You can just resell the hosting or develop websites for clients and host them on your account. The service allows you to create subscription billing packages, add your own logo to the control panel, and send invoices.

Flywheel hosting Growth Suite features ΓÇô setting up a service

Your clients will get the same control panel that you use, except that it will be for their websites only and will have your logo instead of Flywheel’s.

This is a great feature if you’re building your agency or if your clients want you to host their websites. However, it is paid and starts at $113/mo with the Freelance package. 

If you have a use for these tools, they really make Flywheel one of the best options for agencies and creatives. Plus, everything is easy to use, so both you and your clients won’t have problems in that regard.

Flywheel review – the final verdict

While some Flywheel reviews bash this provider for a variety of reasons, I won’t be joining them. Personally, I found the host to be quite unique, and there’s definitely a market for this kind of service. Not to mention that Flywheel is fast, secure, and easy to use.

I’ve put all of my findings into this neat little table:

Feature4.2Fast and secure managed hosting
Pricing★★★When compared to most shared hosting providers, Flywheel’s cheapest plan ($13/mo) is on the pricier end. However, among managed hosting providers, its prices are quite low.
Ease of Use★★★★Flywheel uses an easy-to-use native hosting management system as most aspects are managed behind the scenes.
Performance★★★★★The provider is very reliable with an uptime of 100% with a guarantee of 99.95%. It also loaded websites fast and handle quite a large surge of traffic.
Security★★★★It provides security measures like an SSL certificate, automated daily backups, malware removal, and traffic monitoring. It is a secure provider, and most of the things are handled backstage.
Support★★★★★The support can be reached 24/7 via live chat and phone. The agents are very knowledgeable, helpful, and speedy. Plus, you get to use a big knowledge base as well.

Who do I recommend Flywheel to?

Flywheel targets the creatives, and I must agree. It’s best for website designers who want to offer a comprehensive service and grow their client list. The provider also has options to scale, so agencies are not left out.

Alternatives to Flywheel

Flywheel offers a very specific service, and not every user will be able to take full advantage of it. So if you do not fall into that category or simply need something else, I might have a couple of other options to recommend.

SiteGround

SiteGround is a managed WordPress hosting service that features great performance, easy to use control panel, and a variety of tools to help you out. That includes staging, adding collaborators, and billing transfer.

While similar to Flywheel, SiteGround is not as specific and is great both for businesses, individual users, or developers, and designers. Prices also start at a more affordable $6.99/mo.

Bluehost

Bluehost is an alternative for individual use as well as small businesses. Simple shared hosting is equipped with a modern dashboard. You won’t be missing out on the content delivery network or staging for WordPress here, either.

At the same time, Bluehost is not limited to WordPress only – you can host other apps too. On the other hand, performance will not be as impressive. But the price is also friendlier, starting at $3.95/mo.

Flywheel FAQs

What is Flywheel?

Flywheel is a managed WordPress hosting provider that’s focusing its services on freelancers and agencies that offer design services.

Where is Flywheel hosting located?

Flywheel is located in Omaha, Nebraska. However, it was acquired by WP Engine in 2019, which has headquarters in Austin, Texas. Nonetheless, Flywheel hosting operates data centers in the US, Canada, UK, Belgium, and Australia.

Who should use Flywheel hosting?

Flywheel hosting is focusing on web designers and developers – these users and their agencies will be able to take full advantage of the platform.

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