When Nexcess first launched their WooCommerce Hosting platform in the beginning of 2018, I was excited to give it a spin. After meeting a few team members at a local WordCamp, and finishing up a few other priorities, they were gracious enough to provide me with a free test account to try it out for myself.
One thing I can say for sure is that it’s unique. They’ve cultivated some partnerships with notable WooCommerce products, and built some interesting features into their platform. These products & features, along with their somewhat proprietary performance enhancements, add immense value.
However, they still have some work to do to make their WooCommerce hosting the ultimate, 5-star experience. Most of what I’d consider cons are smaller in nature, and can be overlooked or ignored without too much effort. If you’re after performance, analytics & premium ecommerce plugins for the price of “included,” Nexcess should be at the top of your list.
- Pros & Cons
- Unique Features & Perks
- Initial Setup
- Security & SSL
- Stencils (site templates)
- Other Features
- Users & Collaboration
I like to start off hosting reviews with the pros & cons, focusing on the things that make Nexcess’ WooCommerce hosting platform stand out… for good & for bad. Let’s dive in.
Pros & Cons
When I first learned about Nexcess’ new WooCommerce hosting product, I was pretty stoked. On paper, it has all the makings of a 5-star hosting platform for WordPress shop owners.
While there are some really impressive features & perks, the cons I explain below are why I could only give it 4/5 stars.
- WooCommerce, and some other Woo plugins, come pre-installed
- Tons of extra perks & plugins (worth over $1,000/yr.)
- Stencils (site templates) to quickly launch a new project
- Automatic plugin updates (and a visual comparison tool)
- Easily search or use tags to organize multiple sites
- Free WooCommerce video tutorials right in your WordPress admin area
- No CDN included
- Only 2 server locations (US & Amsterdam)
- Tons of potentially unnecessary plugins installed & activated
- Somewhat outdated management/admin control panel(s), and a slightly confusing initial setup
Unique Features & Perks
Arguably the best feature of Nexcess’ WooCommerce hosting has nothing to do with their hosting. It’s all of these bonus plugins & services that they include at no additional cost. They’ve partnered with the following companies to offer you a ton of extra goodies.
- Astra Pro (premium theme) – $59/yr value
- Jilt (abandoned cart recovery) – $348/yr value
- AffiliateWP (affiliate marketing tool) – $99/yr value
- Beaver Builder (page builder) – $99/yr value
- WPMerge (staging/sync) – $147/yr value
- Glew Analytics (“Standard” plans & above) – $2,388/yr value
- IconicWP (WooCommerce plugins)
- iThemes Security Pro – $52/yr value
- iThemes Sync Pro (multiple site management) – $300/yr value
- WP101 (tutorial videos) – $99/yr value
Upon checkout, you get emails from Nexcess’ partners on how to set up accounts and/or start using these bonus perks.
I didn’t receive all the emails I expected, but I’ve reached out to Nexcess about what might have caused this, and will update this when I hear back.
Learn more about Glew’s WooCommerce analytics:
Learn more about Jilt’s abandoned cart recovery:
Visual Comparison (after plugin updates)
Nexcess has a unique way of keeping your WordPress plugins up-to-date. I haven’t seen this from any other host in the industry. Here’s how it works:
- They check your site every 24 hours for new plugin updates
- If any updates are available, they make a separate staging copy of your site (it won’t override your existing staging site, if you have one)
- They take screenshots of the current version of your site, before any updates. The homepage, single post & archive page are all captured.
- They update one plugin, take another picture, and compare it side-by-side to the original.
- If no visual differences are present, they push the plugin update to your live site
- If a visual difference is found, they don’t push the update, and keep the plugin at its current version
- Either way, you get to see all the screenshots their system takes, and compare for yourself.
If their tool identifies a visual difference, but you’d like to update the plugin anyway, you can simply click a button to push the update to your live site.
Here’s a quick video that walks you through it:
One of the downsides of Nexcess’ Managed WooCommerce hosting is that they only offer 2 server locations:
- US Central (Michigan)
- EU Netherlands (Amsterdam)
It appears as though there company as a whole has 5 server locations, but for managed WooCommerce, they only use 2. This may or may not be an issue, depending on where a majority of your customers are located. Servers located closer to your user’s physical location can speed up the loading time for those users.
Server location is chosen during checkout and I don’t see a way to change it once you’ve set up your site.
⚙️ Control Panel(s)
After you’ve completed your purchase, it takes 10-15 minutes to set up your account. You’ll see the above message while it’s being provisioned, and receive an email when it’s ready.
The login process & multiple control panels was a bit confusing at first. There are two control panels:
This is where your main account is managed. Payments, billing address, all of your hosting accounts, support requests and a few other things.
This is where you manage your specific hosting account. I only have one account but you would get unique sub-domains for each new site you manage.
They also have login.liquidweb.com/user to manage your user account & password. My password there didn’t appear to be the same as the one for manage.liquidweb.com. So I went into the Account section of manage.liquidweb.com, updated my password, and then used it to login to app.1a2b3c.liquidwebsites.com.
All of this to say… they actually have a new account management tool in beta, my.liquidweb.com, which I’m hopeful will smooth over some of this process. It’s a small inconvenience at the beginning, and then it’s not much of an issue after that.
Set Up Your Primary Domain
Once you’re ready to go live, you’ll want to change your primary domain name so that you’re no longer using your temporary store.1a2b3c-liquidwebsites.com domain.
It’s a very simple process that took less than 5 minutes. It does, however, require a DNS change if you didn’t buy your domain name through Nexcess.
Nexcess will send you an email with your WordPress admin login details. It will contain a secure password, but they recommend you change it as soon as you can.
The first time you login, you’re met with another pleasant surprise. They ask you to set up two factor authentication. I believe this is powered by iThemes Security Pro. Either way, it’s a nice touch for helping keep your account secure. You can skip it if you’d like.
Another thing that makes Nexcess’ WooCommerce hosting different from the competition is the plugins that they pre-install for you. Whether you see this as a pro or con might depend on the type of user you are.
- Advanced users might appreciate all the value packed into the premium plugins they give you access to. And they’ll know how to set them up & get the most out of them.
- Beginner users could be overwhelmed with all the extra menu items in the admin area, and unsure of how to apply the appropriate settings for their particular site.
- Minimalists & performance hawks might also take issue with the number of additional plugins pre-installed.
The plugins they provide for free would cost hundreds of dollars on their own (likely, $1,000+). In theory (and possibly in practice, too), this is an incredible value. But… it could also be overwhelming for new users and/or simply unnecessary, depending on your needs. I suspect some users won’t need or want at least half of them.
If you’re going to offer that many additional plugins, I think there needs to be a better onboarding process that explains what they are, and gives you the option to say yes or no.
When I first logged in, right after my account was created, I had 7 updates available for plugins that came pre-installed. I find it odd that they offer automatic plugin updates in the control panel, yet brand new installs don’t come with all of their plugins up-to-date. 🤔
- 28 plugins came pre-installed. 23 were active.
- Some also say they can’t be updated because of missing or invalid license keys
Here’s a list of plugins that come pre-installed:
- AffiliateWP & AffiliateWP – Direct Link Tracking
- Akismet Anti-Spam (inactive)
- Astra Pro
- Beaver Builder Plugin
- BJ Lazy Load
- Classic Editor (inactive)
- Compress JPEG & PNG images (inactive)
- Custom Product Tabs for WooCommerce
- iThemes Security Pro
- Jilt for WooCommerce
- Lazy Load for Comments
- PayPal for WooCommerce (inactive)
- Pretty Links
- Purchased Items Column WooCommerce
- Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder
- WooCommerce Custom Thank You
- WooCommerce PDF Invoices & Packing Slips
- WooCommerce Stripe Gateway (inactive)
- WP All Import Pro & WooCommerce Add-on
- WP Disable
Interestingly, iThemes Sync Pro is listed in the control panel, but the plugin to connect my new site is not pre-installed. And I didn’t receive any email about how to set up my account.
If I wanted to use Elementor, I have 2 Beaver Builder plugins that I need to remove.
There are 5 separate performance plugins. I’d much rather see them partner with WP Rocket, which does what all 5 of these plugins do, and arguably does it better.
If I’m starting a brand new site with a few products, I have no need for the 2 WP All Import plugins.
Not running an affiliate program just yet? There’s 2 more plugins I need to disable.
A few of the WooCommerce plugins make sense, and those I would keep. As well as WP101, which offers a nice series of tutorials directly in the admin area. 👍
While I love the concept of pre-installing well-built, must-have plugins, especially for WordPress beginners… this process could use a lot of refinement. However, all of these plugins can easily be deactivated & removed without much effort.
All new Nexcess WooCommerce sites start with the Astra theme, which also comes with the Astra Pro plugin installed & activated (your license key is already active 🙌). This is a nice $59/yr. add-on that packs a ton of nice features, particularly for WooCommerce.
🔒 Security & SSL
Your SSL certificate is installed & set up instantly. There are no settings in the control panel, and your site is automatically forced to use https across the board. 👌
📋 Stencils (aka: Site Templates)
Stencils are Nexcess’ name for site templates. You can use any existing site as a template for creating new sites in the future. This is especially helpful for agencies & those managing multiple WooCommerce sites. Install your go-to theme, all the plugins you typically use (and their specific settings), and you’ll have a huge head start when it comes to your next project.
How Stencils Work
1. Create a new stencil from an existing site
2. Navigate to the “Main” dashboard of your control panel, where you can access all your stencils
3. Click the “Create Site from Stencil” button
4. Enter details about your new site & click “Create Site”
Nexcess backups work as follows:
- automatic backups, once a day
- store the last 30 days worth
- manually create a backup at any time
It would be nice to have the ability to include a note on manual backups, especially when making changes & updates, so you know which backup is which. Perhaps they’ll add this feature in the future.
For all backups, you also have the ability to download and/or restore the backup.
Any decent WordPress host these days offers staging sites, and Nexcess is no different. You get one staging site for every live site on your account.
One of the biggest differences, and an unfortunate downside, with Nexcess’ staging is that you can only copy your live site to staging… and not the other way around. Many other hosts provide the option to copy all of your staging changes back to your live site.
With Nexcess, it appears as though you’ll have to manually make the changes on your live site. This could be an intentional decision to prevent you from losing important customer data from WooCommerce transactions that occurred while you were making changes on staging, but it’d be great if they had a way to address this.
Perhaps it’s something they’ll offer with their partnership with WPMerge, but that has yet to be seen.
Almost all of the same features available in the control panel for lives sites, are available for staging as well.
- switch PHP versions
- automatic core WordPress updates
- password protection
- SFTP & SSH credentials (different from live)
- cache options
- access & error logs
There are two ways you can migrate an existing site to Nexcess.
All Standard, Plus and Pro plans come with a free white-glove migration from their dedicated migrations team. I would highly recommend you take them up on the offer if you’ve selected one of those plans.
They also offer a free migration plugin, which you can download from wordpress.org, or install directly from the WordPress admin area.
Visits/Bandwidth & Plan Limits
In terms of plan limits, Nexcess takes a much different approach than most other WordPress hosts. They don’t limit you at all on visits or bandwidth. Instead, each plan is limited by PHP workers & RAM (memory). The “Beginner” plan is limited by # of orders or # of products. And they also offer plans specifically for dropshipping & creating a marketplace.
Learn more in the pricing section ↓
I set up a new site on Oct 30th, 2019 and have been monitoring it closely. At the 1 month and 3 month marks, I’ll update this review with some actual data.
Nexcess prides themselves on support, offering “24/7/365 Heroic Support® available via email, telephone, and chat.”
We aim to put the human back into hosting—and our casual, inclusive, and fun culture reflects that.
- Available 24/7/365
- Phone, email or chat. Pick your poison.
I noticed some of my plugins were not automatically updating so I started a live chat Sunday afternoon (U.S. time). Within a few seconds, I was talking to an agent and he immediately addressed my issue. He provided clarification on how plugin updates work, but when I told him I’m still having an issue, he created a ticket to have their operations team look into it.
The ticket was immediately tied to my account so I can track it’s progress, and I’ll get an email as soon as there’s an update. I’ll update this post about how the story ends 😉.
Disclaimer: I haven’t run any true performance tests on a live site receiving any kind of traffic, so most of this is anecdotal. I just don’t have the resources at this time. But I’ll include as much as I can about Nexcess’ WooCommerce set up and how it relates to performance.
Nexcess’ Managed WooCommerce platform uses page caching (storing pages as HTML) & object caching (storing queries in the database) to speed up your site. Each can be turned on or off via a toggle in the admin portal.
This is fairly standard for most WordPress hosts, and I couldn’t find anything unique about Nexcess’ implementation. However, the next feature I’m going to explain is quite unique, and could add a serious performance boost to your site.
Custom Orders Database Table
One of the biggest contributors to ecommerce site slowness is how WooCommerce stores orders in the database. Up to 40 records can be created in the
post_meta table for a single order. The database was initially designed for blogging content, not ecommerce.
Nexcess partnered with MindSize to develop a plugin to store orders in their own database table, drastically improving performance for your WooCommerce site. They’ve open-sourced it and made it available to everyone.
“We’ve built a different set of tables to store order data that reduce query loads by 95% and increase your capacity (without upgrading plans) by more than 75%.”
Chris Lema, Nexcess’ VP of Products, explains it like this:
PHP Workers & RAM (memory)
The more PHP workers you have available on your server, the more PHP code your server can run at one time. A WooCommerce site has to run more code than a standard portfolio website or blog, mainly because many WooCommerce-related pages cannot be cached. So PHP workers are important. (Kinsta explains it better than I can)
And most of you probably know that the more RAM you have, the faster things run. This is the same for a smartphone, a laptop and your website’s server.
Nexcess’ “Standard” WooCommerce plan offers 30 PHP workers & 4GB of RAM. This is considerably more than other WordPress hosts at a price point of $249/mo. This doesn’t necessarily mean your site will be blazingly fast (there are many other factors), but this is a generous offering for the price.
Their higher plans go up to 300 PHP workers & 32GB of RAM. I know there are other Enterprise-level WordPress hosts out there that can also provide this, but Nexcess clearly makes it a priority… which means they’ve gone all-in on performance.
CDN (or lack thereof)
It’s becoming fairly common for managed WordPress hosting to include a CDN. Some hosts partner with a well-known CDN provider (KeyCDN, StackPath, etc.), while others utilize the same infrastructure they use for hosting (Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, etc.).
This is one area where Nexcess falls short. With only 2 server locations to choose from, I really expected them to offer some type of CDN integration built into their platform. Especially for an ecommerce solution, not having a built-in CDN is a pretty big downside.
So while they provide powerful servers and have done some cutting-edge database work to improve performance, they left out an important piece of the performance puzzle.
Other Performance Notes
A few statements from their post when they released their Managed WooCommerce Hosting package in January 2018:
- You’ll be able to load test your stores before big campaigns
- You’ll see better order performance than normal installations
- You’ll get access to a large and realistic data set for testing
- You’ll be able to swap between simple and advanced UI
- You’ll be on a platform that auto scales for you, based on demand
Nexcess’ WooCommerce platform defaults to PHP 7.3 (which is great!), but you can easily switch PHP versions if you need to. The following versions are available:
When I tested this feature, switching from 7.3 to 7.2, I was pleasantly surprised. They run a compatibility check for you before making the switch. The whole process took less than 3 minutes. 👍
Automatic Core & Plugin Updates
Many WordPress hosting companies are offering automatic core updates, but many are still not offering automatic plugin updates. Not only will Nexcess update your plugins, but they take screenshots of your site before & after the updates.
This helps catch any inconsistencies that a plugin update might’ve caused. I covered this in more detail in the “Visual Comparison” section above.
Like most hosts, you have full database access to your site via phpMyAdmin. Nexcess provides a link in the control panel that automatically logs you in directly to your site’s database.
Server Error Logs
You’ve got access to three different types of server logs:
- a general access log
- NGINX error log
- PHP error log
You can’t view them directly from the control panel, but they are downloadable with one click.
Nexcess describes this feature in the following way:
“We keep a micro-cache of certain pages of your site. This cache should be transparent to you, but you can always purge the cache if needed.”
The Purge Cache button is available from the control panel, not the WP admin.
Work on a lot of sites in development? No problem. Simply check the box and Update Password Policy. Anyone trying to view the site will be required to enter a username & password (even to get to the admin screen).
Your username & password are automatically generated (and secure). But you can’t change them.
New Relic Performance Monitoring
This is available via the input of your New Relic API key in the Nexcess control panel. Nexcess does not pay for your plan; you need to sign up with New Relic on your own. They will just install the monitoring for you, if you want to use New Relic’s service.
iThemes Sync Pro
Nexcess purchased iThemes in early 2018 and acquired all of their products, including iThemes Sync. A link to Sync appears in the Nexcess control panel, but clicking it just takes me to the iThemes website.
I didn’t receive an email or any other information on how to set up an account, add the site to an existing account, etc. The Sync plugin also was not installed on the site. So perhaps I have Pro features available to use in iThemes Sync, but I don’t know how to access them… unless I set the site up myself 🤷♂️.
Users & Collaboration
From the main Nexcess control panel, you can add new users to the account. You must provide a username, email and first & last name.
There aren’t any further permissions to assign, so new users will get full access to the hosting account. (but they can’t change your info or modify billing)
The new user will receive an email asking them to create an account & choose a password, upon which they can login to the control panel.
Nexcess offers monthly & annual pricing. A yearly commitment gets you 2 months free 🤑.
Now let’s take a look at their plans:
They also offer 2 plans that are specific to the type of WooCommerce shop you’re running:
- Dropshipping store: $125/mo.: Support for AliExpress and 20+ Suppliers
- Marketplace: $149/mo.: Powerful Multi-Vendor Platform, Dokan, w/ Stripe Integration
- Founded: 1997
- Headquarters: Lansing, Michigan, USA
- Employees: 500 – 1,000
- Twitter: @LiquidWeb
- Facebook: Liquid Web
- LinkedIn: Liquid Web
They also have an extensive WooCommerce resource section on their site, complete with blog posts and a comprehensive ebook to help you get the most out of your ecommerce site.
If you liked this Nexcess review and decide to purchase their hosting, using one of our links will help fund future in-depth reviews. Thanks for your support.