Considering using Flywheel as your WordPress hosting provider of choice? In our Flywheel review, we’ll go hands-on with this popular managed WordPress host and show you the experience, performance, and support you can expect and more…
- Performance, with real performance and load tests on a Flywheel test site.
- Hosting experience, with lots of real screenshots of Flywheel’s custom hosting dashboard.
- Support, with a real look at how long it took us to get help and how friendly the support staff was.
In general, we found Flywheel to have:
- Good load times, loading our test site in under two seconds for North American and European visitors.
- An easy-to-use custom hosting dashboard, with nice-to-have features like automatic backups and staging sites.
- Friendly, competent support staff that were available in about four minutes on live chat.
Keep reading our Flywheel review for a deep-dive into why this might be the managed WordPress host for your business…
Flywheel Review: The Overall Experience
In this first section, we’ll take a look at three important hosting considerations:
- Dashboard (e.g. the backend area where you’ll manage your site/server)
The Quick Rundown on Features
You can find a lot of this on Flywheel’s landing page, so we’ll keep this brief to avoid rehashing Flywheel’s marketing copy. That being said, here are some of the most relevant core features that you get when you host with Flywheel:
- Google Cloud Platform infrastructure – your site runs on the same network that powers Google’s own products.
- Server-level caching – no messing with caching plugins – Flywheel does it for you.
- Built-in security features – firewalls, login hardening, plus Flywheel will fix your site for free if it gets hacked.
- Automatic backups – Flywheel automatically backs up your site every night.
- Free SSL certificates – powered by Let’s Encrypt and easy to enable.
- Helpful development tools – like easy staging sites and integrations with the Local local development tool.
- 10 data centers to choose from – with multiple locations in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Flywheel Performance Tests – Pingdom, GTmetrix, and Load Impact
Features are nice – but at the end of the day, a host’s core function is to make your site load quickly and reliably for your visitors.
So, before we take you into nice-to-haves like Flywheel’s custom dashboard and development workflows, let’s take a look at Flywheel’s performance with some real test data.
To simulate a real WordPress site, we’ve imported a full landing page template from Elementor. Beyond that, we haven’t made any changes or done any performance tweaks (other than Flywheel’s built-in performance enhancements – like server-level caching).
Then, we ran performance tests with:
- Load Impact (to get an idea of how Flywheel performs under scale)
For our Pingdom test, we tested from three different server locations on three continents:
|Washington, DC (North America)||London (Europe)||Tokyo (Asia)|
|1.66 seconds||1.96 seconds||2.55 seconds|
Even though our Flywheel site is hosted on a USA data center, it still sported stellar page load times around the world, coming in under two seconds for North America and Europe, and not much higher for Asia.
Next, we put it through GTmetrix, where our test site loaded in 1.4 seconds and scored 99% in PageSpeed with no tweaks on our part:
Finally, to see how Flywheel performs when we put it under some stress, we used Load Impact to simulate 50 users visiting at the same time:
In this chart, you can see that even as the number of active visitors increased (blue line), our test site’s load times were pretty steady/fast, coming in between 360 ms and 480 ms (green line).
Basically, this test shows that your site will load just as fast for your 50th active visitor as it will for your 1st visitor, which is a really important consideration if you have a busy site. Even cheap shared hosts can load fast when there’s a single visitor, but the load test is more applicable to how your site will function in day-to-day life.
Flywheel Custom Dashboard – A Big Improvement Over cPanel
Ok, so our first hands-on test in our Flywheel review showed that Flywheel does a pretty good job of making your site load fast.
Now, let’s get into the other features you get with Flywheel, starting with the custom dashboard.
With Flywheel, you can wave goodbye to the generic cPanel dashboard that a lot of shared hosts offer.
Instead, you’ll manage your site from Flywheel’s own custom dashboard:
Overall, this dashboard makes it really easy to access and manage key areas of your site.
For example, the Backups tab lets you view all the automatic backups and manually create a backup if needed.
Flywheel also shows the basic stats for each backup to help you remember what stage your site was at. And to work with a specific backup, you can use the drop-down to:
- Download the backup to your local computer
- Restore the backup to your site
If you want to get your hands dirty, the Advanced tab lets you:
- Clear your cache
- Disable caching
- Enable WordPress Debug mode
- Work with your staging site
- Access your site’s database
Later on, we’ll show you some of the other Add-ons that you can enable via this dashboard.
Flywheel Development Workflow: Easy Staging And Local Development
Beyond the performance and custom dashboard, another area where Flywheel excels is its WordPress development workflows.
By “development workflows”, we basically mean tools to help you more effectively build and test WordPress sites.
With Flywheel, you have a lot of these tools in your toolbelt, including some features that are great if you build WordPress sites for clients.
First off, there’s the easy staging functionality…
Flywheel Staging Sites
Excluding the cheapest Tiny plan, all Flywheel hosting plans come with staging site functionality.
If you’re not familiar with this term, a “staging site” is basically a copy of your website on which you can safely test changes.
You can quickly “push” and “pull” your site between the staging site and live site. For example, you can:
- Copy your live site to the staging server
- Make some tweaks or updates on the staging server
- Thoroughly test your site on the staging server
- Push the version of your site on the staging server to your live site
Another nice feature is that, whenever you move your site between staging and live, you have the option to back up your site:
This ensures that you can always roll back the change(s) if needed.
Local Integration – Easy Local WordPress Development
Beyond their hosting services, Flywheel also owns a popular local WordPress development tool called Local (creative name, right?).
If you’re not sure what “local development” means, it’s basically a tool that lets you “host” a WordPress site on your own computer, which gives you a safe, offline sandbox to build and experiment with your site.
Now, Local is available for free and you don’t have to be a Flywheel customer to use it.
However, if you are a Flywheel customer, you can integrate your Local development sites with your live Flywheel hosting.
Here’s how it works:
When you finish building your site on your own computer using Local, you can push it to your Flywheel hosting server with the click of a button.
Or, you can also go the other way and “pull” a site from a live Flywheel server onto your local computer. This is another alternative to using a staging site to test new changes.
Helpful Features For Freelancers And Agencies
Though they’ve recently toned down this aspect of their branding, Flywheel previously marketed itself towards creatives and agencies who build websites for other people.
And while their new motto is “built for anyone creating beautiful sites”, you can still see the vestiges of that positioning in a lot of agency and freelancer-focused features.
Basically, this means that if you are building sites for other people, you’ll also get access to some extra features that make it easy to manage teams/access, finish out the tail-end of your development cycle, and handle billing with your clients.
Ok…so what are those extra agency-focused goodies? Let’s go through them…
- Billing transfer – you can set things up yourself and then transfer billing to your client so that you don’t have to worry about collecting money for hosting.
- Collaborator – if you add a client as a “collaborator”, they’ll be able to preview your sites while under development or manage certain aspects of a live site.
- Team management – add new team members and control exactly which permissions they have.
Flywheel Price: A Bit Cheaper Than The Competition
Flywheel offers different plans depending on whether you’re hosting a single WordPress site or multiple sites.
All the plans primarily vary in price based on:
- Monthly visits
- Disk space (storage)
You can view the single-site plans and prices below:
And here’s what the multiple site plans look like:
WP Engine’s cheapest plan costs $35 per month and supports:
- 25,000 visits
- 10 GB storage
- 50 GB bandwidth
Kinsta’s cheapest plan is a little more affordable at $30 per month. It also has slightly lower limits, though, with support for:
- 20,000 visits
- 5 GB storage
In comparison, Flywheel is cheaper than both of those competitors.
First, Flywheel’s Tiny plan gives you a chance to get started for just $14 per month, which is well under the entry cost for the other hosts.
However, Flywheel’s Personal plan is probably a better comparison here when it comes to features/capacity. Here’s how Flywheel’s Personal plan stacks up to WP Engine and Kinsta:
|Storage||10 GB||10 GB||5 GB|
|Bandwidth||50 GB||N/A||50 GB|
Unlimited Free Migrations On All Plans
Finally, another perk with Flywheel’s pricing is unlimited free migrations. Many other managed WordPress hosts limit you to a single free migration, so this is a big benefit if you need to move a lot of sites.
Flywheel Support – Friendly Support From Real Humans
Flywheel offers 24/7 support on all its plans, as well as detailed in-dashboard help docs so that you can help yourself.
All users can get support via live chat and an in-app ticketing system. And if you’re on a plan that costs $250+ per month, you also get the option of 24/7 phone support, as well.
You can access both the live chat and the help documentation through an omnipresent widget in your Flywheel dashboard, which makes it very convenient to get help when needed:
When we tested Flywheel’s support at a very weird time (3 AM est), our estimated wait time was about 4 minutes (we chose a non-urgent issue – it might be faster if you pick an emergency help topic):
This estimate was pretty accurate – it took almost exactly four minutes to get connected to a human being.
Once we got connected, Flywheel’s support staff responded quickly and solved our issue. They also added a bit of personality, which we appreciated. With the popularity of chatbots, it’s always nice to know that you’re talking to a human!
Another nice thing about Flywheel’s live chat system is that you won’t lose your spot in line if you accidentally close it. Instead, you can minimize the chat window, go to a different page in your Flywheel dashboard, etc. – your live chat will always be accessible in the bottom-right corner.
Flywheel Add-ons – Free SSL, CDN, Plus More
To finish out our Flywheel review, let’s take a look at some of the extra features you get access to.
Beyond the core features like automatic backups and staging sites, Flywheel also gives you access to other helpful tools in its Add-ons tab.
Free SSL Certificate Via Let’s Encrypt
An SSL certificate secures your website and gets you that coveted green padlock in web browsers.
When you host with Flywheel, you get a free SSL certificate which you can enable with just a few clicks from the Add-ons area:
Built-in CDN (Not Free)
A CDN, short for content delivery network, speeds up your site’s global load times by “caching” your site’s content on a network of edge servers around the world. Then, visitors can download your site from the nearest edge server, which speeds up your site for visitors who are located far away from your site’s main datacenter.
Normally, implementing a CDN can be a little technical as you need to first get your files onto the CDN’s servers and then tell your WordPress site to serve up those files to visitors.
However, with Flywheel’s CDN add-on, you can start using a CDN with the click of a button, though it will cost you an extra $10 per month.
For that price, you get 100GB of CDN bandwidth per month. After that, you’ll pay $0.08 for each additional GB that you use.
Multisite Network (Not Free)
One downside of Flywheel is that it does not let you set up WordPress multisite by default.
Now, most people will never use Multisite, so you might not even care about this.
But if you do need to use a Multisite network, you’ll need to pay an extra $10 per month to enable the Multisite Network add-on.
Final Thoughts On Flywheel & How To Get Started
Flywheel puts a lot of effort into being more than just a place to host your website. From the custom dashboard to the development workflow improvements to the agency-focused features, it’s a platform designed to host your site and save you time while doing it.
Perhaps most importantly, it manages to accomplish that at a price point that’s still a little bit cheaper than its closest competitors.
No, Flywheel is not as cheap as budget shared hosting. But it’s also not trying to compete with those budget hosts.
If you’re the type of person who values convenience and time-saving features and is willing to pay a little bit extra for that, Flywheel is a great option that will also make sure your WordPress site loads fast and stays secure, to boot.
If you’d like to sign up and see what Flywheel has to offer, you can create a test site and tour the real dashboard 100% for free (no credit card required). You only have to pay once you want to make your site live and available to the public.
Beyond this free signup, Flywheel also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on annual plan purchases, so you really are at no risk to give it a try.
To try Flywheel, click below to create your free account and explore the features (again – no credit card required):