GridPane is not a traditional hosting provider perse. It is a control panel for hosting WordPress websites in the most optimized way. In short, you have to connect your own virtual private server (VPS) to GridPane and you can deploy WordPress to this VPS in minutes. And this VPS will be totally optimized for WordPress. It is a service meant for WordPress professionals or developers. And it is so fast!
Usually, if you buy a VPS, you have to install all the software required to run WordPress manually. And this requires quite some technological management and knowledge. With GridPane, you just plug in your server to GridPane and it does the rest. And that saves a lot of efforts. So what do you need? GridPane and a trustworthy VPS provider, such as Digital Ocean, Linode or Vultr.
In this review, we will be looking at the features, performance, usability and support of GridPane. We’ve been testing GridPane along a 1c/1gb Vultr VPS, which comes for $5 a month along with the GridPane Pro Plan ($30 a month). We’ve also been trying to get it to work with less known names such as Upcloud or VPSServer.com, but unfortunately, that doesn’t work yet.
We haven’t found many other hosting providers who offer similar performance at this price point, especially if you are hosting multiple servers. However, their platform still feels in development and during the period we’ve been using GridPane, we have encountered numerous bugs. Luckily, these were mostly quickly resolved.
But hey, let’s get on to the actual content and talk about the features.
Next Level Features
What we feel is that GridPane is bringing in features that will form the basis for what a performing WordPress hosting company should have. But what makes their features so next level? Well, let’s explain a couple of them
Because GridPane is a control panel which you actually connect to a VPS, some of the features mentioned here are inherited from the VPS.
We tested GridPane on a 1GB/1C VPS from Vultr, which had 25gb of SSD storage and 1TB of bandwidth. That’s enough to serve over 500000 visitors if an average page is 2mb of size. And that’s one of the big advantages. You are not having the restrictions of a managed hosting provider, which usually caps on monthly visitors or CPU usage. Your only limits are the resources of the VPS you’re utilising. Compare that with what you’re getting for 35 bucks at WP Engine, for example.
Now if you have an account at Vultr, Linode or Digital Ocean, it can be automatically integrated with GridPane, so you can add new servers through the GridPane control panel and never have to leave their panel for managing your sites and servers (besides eating or having an offline life, of course).
Back-ups, Firewalls & Safety
GridPane does take a backup every 15 minutes, which we’d almost indicate as real-time back-ups. At the moment of writing, the frequency of back-ups can’t be adjusted. It also has an option for manual back-ups, which can be created at any moment.
So by default, local backups are enabled, which are backups on the same server. But you can also add a remote backup provider. The providers supported for now are Backblaze, Amazon S3 and Wasabi. Obviously, additional costs need to be paid at these providers when you are storing files.
Now we found one major disadvantage in the back-up system and that is the sheer number of interactions that GridPane has with a back-up provider. And these interactions cost,
Additional safety measures incorporated by Gridpane are enhanced server security and a web application firewall on the application level. In other words, each WordPress installation has its own firewall.
We haven’t covered one-click SSL integration yet. But obviously, they support it.
GridPane offers functionalities such as a staging environment and the cloning of websites, even over different servers. It also has a single screen for monitoring your servers, such as the disk space, RAM and CPU resources used. It does however not offer a feature to scale up your server from their own panel.
Now application and server access is possible with GridPane through SSH-keys and System users. On the server level, it is possible to add additional SSH keys to access your server. On the application level, you can add system users and connect these to any WordPress website of your liking. The big advantage is that access to these websites is isolated to this system user. This provides additional security in case a website is hacked and access is compromised. Only the websites linked to the specific system user may get vulnerable.
There are just a couple of things we would like to see from a developers perspective.
What we still miss (at the time of writing) in GridPane is the integration of WP-CLI, the command line interface for WordPress and the ability to connect a website to a Git Repository. One of the founders of GridPane contacted us and ensured WP-CLI was installed. It includes modules for arbitrary code executing (WP Profile), security checks (WP Sec) and WordPress checks (WP Doctor).
Git is also installed, but at the time of writing not yet available through the user interface. We’re looking forward to it!
By default, and this is a good practice, GridPane does not set-up a mail server at any of your servers you connect to GridPane. This means that it will not send any transactional emails originating from your server. These are the emails that are sent from your WordPress website, such as new user registration emails.
To be able to send these emails, you have to connect GridPane to transactional email
In addition, GridPane has a Slack integration so you connect all essential messages to a Slack channel of your preference. Think of messages such as the creation of new websites, failures and automatic resolutions. If you’re not familiar with slack yet, just check it out. It’s awesome.
Obviously, being a control panel, GridPane does not provide email hosting or the ability to add email addresses.
Automatic Controlled Updates & Resolutions
And now we come to the features we’d call next level and what we really love about GridPane.
The first feature we really love is the automatic controlled updates feature. This is a feature in which GridPane makes a copy of an existing site, perform Plugin, Theme and WordPress updates. Then, it compares this copied site with the original site for any visual changes. If these changes surpass a certain threshold, the updates are not performed on the original site. If everything is looking good, updates are performed.
Another feature we love is an intelligent resolution feature which automatically fixes bugs that cause a white screen of death (WSOD). A white screen of death in WordPress is essentially your website displaying a white page, and nothing else. This is often caused because there is a small programming mistake somewhere on your website.
Features on Higher Plans
Higher plans of GridPane include the following features:
- Teams and Client Support
- Premium plugins and themes included
- More priority on support and feature requests
- Snapshot Failovers
- High Availability
- Private managed instances and whitelabelling
Wow, what a performance
Performance is where GridPane really shines. It outperforms most of the other set-ups we’ve been testing.
PLAID Stack with Redis for caching
Okay, I have to admit. It is time for some technology talk. GridPane installs a LOMP or PLAID stack on your VPS when connected. It is a stack consisting of OpenResty, a web server based on Nginx,
MariaDB PerconaDB and PHP with Nginx FastCGI and/or Redis for caching. This seems lightyears beyond apache and makes your WordPress websites scream! But how fast exactly? Let’s delve into the performance results.
For the performance testing of Gridpane, we set-up a bulky WordPress theme with WooCommerce and imported demo content. We’re using this exact similar set-up for all hosting parties we are testing. Subsequently, we simulated a large number of visitors, while maintaining a maximum website load under 2 seconds.
Concurrent Visitors Under 2s: 500
Gridpane combined with a 1gb/1c Vultr VPS Server can handle up to 500 concurrent clients without passing the 2 second loading time boundary. On average, the response time is 0,26 seconds.
If we crank up the maximum response loading time to 10 seconds, it can handle up to 1600 clients per second with an average response time of 4,53 seconds.
Closest Loading Time Averages: 0.49s
Our test server was located in Amsterdam and we tested response times with Pingdom, WebPageTest and GTMetrix. The closest Pingdom server (Frankfurt), loaded the website in 0.49 seconds on average. The GT Metrix Server, testing from Canada, averaged 2.7 seconds and the WebPageTest averaged 3.59 seconds.
Time to First Byte: 15ms
With a seven round test of measuring the time to first byte, we averaged a time to first byte of 15ms.
Some Comments on Stability
Now while the performance screams like a rocket, we had some initial problems on the stability of our applications. For example, numerous times we encountered 504 errors while editing or adding posts – something we did not encounter on other hosts that frequently. This might be caused because we’ve been testing multiple WordPress websites on a single server, and because the newness of the technologies that is used. But we expected the server to be able to handle more WordPress installations at a single time.
It’s quite a pleasure to use
GridPanes usability is good. It renders the management of servers and applications respectively in a single overview, which is quite easy to use.
What we love in terms of usability is to have a single overview where we can manage and edit servers and websites. And this is exactly what GridPane offers.
The screens for adding new servers, new sites and also managing staging environments and safe updates are all respectively grouped in one tab. By clicking on a website, a pop up with extra information will appear. In our opinion, this is a user-friendly way of managing websites.
Staging and Cloning Websites
There is a tab called Tools within the gridpane panel which allows you to perform most of the basic website tasks, such as restoring backups and cloning websites.
The major advantage of cloning websites is moving applications to other servers. This is particularly useful when applications grow too big and need to be placed on a bigger server.
This tabs also features some quick fixes such as forcing updates or resetting file permissions. The latter is quite useful as many problems related to uploading new media on WordPress are related to file permission problems.
Other usability perks
While we have been testing the professional plan, higher plans also support the Teams and Client feature. This feature includes the addition of team members and/or clients, which you can restrict access to certain sites to.
Support is great, but…
We’ve had quite some contact with their support over a couple of issues and questions. From the pro plan, they offer chat support and usually react within a couple of hours. Higher plans offer more priority on support.
Timely and friendly responses
Their support is very friendly – we have not encountered such
Numerous Bugs on Crucial Points
During our time of using the platform, we encountered a number of bugs which were crucial for managing a WordPress website well. For example, we switched from an external back-up provider. This broke down the system for backups, creating staging environments and moving sites to other servers. This was recognized as a bug and solved in a matter of days, but in these days of waiting, we were not able to use our staging environments.
Another thing is that we were not able to download our invoices. By the time of writing, this issue was resolved but it took a few weeks before this bug was fixed. Needlessly to say, this had higher priority for us due to tax administration requirements.
Good Documentation for Starting
GridPane has a helpful amount of documentation about using their WordPress Control Panel. It describes the essential elements of adding servers, sites, connecting to them and managing your account. We found that essential things were described in the documentation, although it could be a little more elaborate.
A Note on Pricing
If you are a beginner starting out, GridPane has a free plan which offers most of the basic features and includes great technical performance. If you’re not really in need of the frequent off-site back-ups through their platform, this is quite worth the money. You only have to pay the fees for your VPS, which often start from just $5 monthly. For the performance you get, it is a no-brainer if you don’t mind running your own VPSes.
GridPane is really interesting though if you manage multiple servers because of their fixed monthly fees. This fee is independent of the number of servers or WordPress installations you have. Most other control panels, such as Serverpilot, charge a surplus for each of the servers and applications added.
Other comparable providers such as Cloudways, while providing more hosting features, include a larger fee for technical management. If you’re not scared of managing your own server through GridPane, this is certainly less pricey with multiple servers. If you are though, Cloudways is a great alternative.
GridPane is a very promising control panel for WordPress professionals and developers. The performance is unbelievable great. It features great and friendly support. It is aimed at managing WordPress on your own VPSes.
On a side note, we’ve encountered a couple of bugs and numerous features were being developed. It still feels like being beta, but we love the features on the platform. GridPane is something to keep an eye on. We believe this may grow quite big.
If you are a bit technical minded and do not mind managing WordPress on a VPS you own, GridPane is a great and cost-efficient solution. It is a lot cheaper than most Managed WordPress hosts value wise. And it is particularly useful and worth the value if you are managing multiple sites and servers. However, their free plan also serves smaller users well.