Have you ever experienced something new that made you realize the way you've always done things is...bad?
That’s the feeling I had when I signed into the Kinsta dashboard for the first time. I’ve been hosting sites for ten years now, but during that whole time I’ve never used a host that didn’t rely on cPanel for its dashboard.
I always assumed that was normal. Sure, cPanel’s interface looks like it hasn’t been touched since the 90s, but it works…
Unfortunately for my reality, I now know that’s not normal. There are better ways of doing a hosting dashboard, and Kinsta is one of the hosting providers who recognizes that.
In today’s review, I’m going to be digging into Kinsta hosting. Since 2013, Kinsta has been providing high-performance managed WordPress hosting to businesses and enterprises. They're not the cheapest host out there, but if you're looking for quality and service rather than latte-priced shared hosting, you should keep reading.
Key Kinsta Features (for humans)
- Managed hosting. That means Kinsta handles the tech while you focus on the other stuff.
- Optimized for WordPress. Obviously - it’s what they do!
- Built on Google Cloud. Kinsta's infrastructure is powered by the Google Cloud platform.
- 3 different data centers. Choose from USA, Europe, or Asia Pacific. This is great for allowing you to locate your server where your primary audience is.
- Free site migrations. Migrations are easy to initiate from inside the dashboard.
- Easy staging areas. Make changes to your site in a staging area and only push them live when you know they work.
- WordPress-specific security features. Kinsta monitors for malicious attacks, DDoS, and other security issues.
- Unlimited visitors. You’re charged by actual server usage, not visitors like some other managed hosts.
- Automatic backups. It’s super easy to restore to a backup - you just need to click a button.
- 24/7 Uptime Monitoring. They seriously check your site every minute to monitor uptime - that’s awesome!
- Expert support. Get support via tickets, Intercom, and an awesome knowledge base.
- Scalability. Never worry about going viral or other traffic spikes.
- Free SSL. Kinsta has integrated Let's Encrypt, so you can have free SSL with Kinsta Hosting.
Key Kinsta Specifications (for robots)
I've told you before...I’m no dev - but if you’re interested, here are some of the specs Kinsta is running with:
- PHP 7, HHVM, NGNIX, MariaDB
- SSH, WP-CLI, Git
- 32 CPU Google Compute Engine servers
- LXD-based container technology
The Kinsta Hosting Dashboard
Here’s what I went all googly for in the introduction...the Kinsta dashboard:
Compared to cPanel, it’s a breath of fresh air. You’ve got everything you need right there. It's easy to check your usage metrics and manage all your sites.
Adding a site to Kinsta
If you want to add your own site, rather than take advantage of free migrations, it’s easy to do. Just click the Add site button and choose your desired data center:
Then select if you want a fresh WordPress install or not. If you choose yes, you can have Kinsta automatically install WooCommerce or set up multi-site:
If you want to opt for a migration instead, you just need to fill in the form details and you should be good to go:
The dashboard is definitely a huge plus. Usable, uncluttered. A huge upgrade from cPanel’s gaggle of icons.
Managing an Existing Site
The interface is just as slick when it comes to managing your site.
When you click to manage a specific site, the first thing you’ll see is all the relevant info.
You can get FTP details, manage databases, and configure SSH. All the nitty gritty stuff:
Clicking over to the next tab, you can handle any domains associated with the site. You can also go straight to the wp-admin panel for any of the domains:
The next tab houses all your backups. Kinsta automatically backs up your site every day. You can also create a manual backup whenever you want by clicking on the Backup Now button. Restoring to a backup is as easy as clicking on Restore:
Kinsta stores the last 14 backups for your site, including both automatic and manual ones. 14 backups should be more than enough to ensure you never lose your data.
One thing I think would be nice is an option to download these backups to your own computer. Sure, it’s doubtful that Kinsta ever loses your backups, but extra security is always nice when it comes to data.
The Tools tab lets you do things like clear your cache and restart PHP:
You can also change from PHP to HHVM, or change your PHP version:
The only thing I could ever see myself doing is clearing the cache, but I imagine the other options are good for more hands on people.
And finally, the last tab lists all the plugins installed on your site:
Setting up a staging site
Testing site changes on a live environment is a bad idea. But I think most WordPress site owners are guilty of it at some point (I know I am!). With Kinsta, you never have to fall prey to bad practices again.
Setting up a staging area is as easy as clicking a button. Then, whenever you want to switch from your live site to your staging area, you just choose from a dropdown in the interface and are instantly switched over:
All the interface options I listed above are duplicated for your staging site.
When you browse to your site, you’ll see staging in the URL:
That means nothing is happening live - it’s all contained in the testing environment. You can make as many changes as you want without any fear of breaking things.
Then, when you’re happy with your changes, just push a button to push the staging area to your live site. Kinsta will backup your live site and then completely overwrite it with your staging site. The backup is nice so that you can always revert if necessary.
Great support when you need it
I was impressed with the support Kinsta offers.
They use Intercom for in-dashboard support, which I like a lot. So rather than having to jump out to a ticket, you can chat directly from the page you’re on:
They also have a great knowledge base that can answer a ton of questions. And I’m told they average about a 8-minute ticket response time, which speaks for itself.
Ok, awesome dashboard, fast servers, great support…
What’s the catch? Well, Kinsta is high-performance managed hosting. To get all those features, you shouldn’t expect budget-bin shared hosting prices.
Kinsta’s cheapest plan starts at $100 per month for a single WordPress site. Their plans go up in price from there.
Kinsta have changed their pricing (Nov 2017) and added plans from $30 and $60 /month that make their hosting accessible for anyone who is serious with their WordPress site. Kinsta has changed their pricing model from bandwidth-based to visitor-based. Each plan includes free CDN and SSL as well as free site migrations (except for the starter plan).
Is Kinsta worth it? If you’re hosting a hobby blog about knitting sweaters for cats...then no, Kinsta isn’t worth it. Stick with cheap shared hosting.
But if you’re running a business, and you want good service, an easy-to-use dashboard, and great performance...then yeah, you should give Kinsta a look. You probably know the value of paying for quality…
Going back to my cPanel home will be tough, but I know it’s the right decision for my current sites. But if you mean business, I was impressed with the hosting product Kinsta has put together.
The dashboard is well-designed and easy to get around, they offer plentiful support at every corner, and, at least from my understanding, their hardware specs are more than competitive. Happy hosting!