First I found ManageWP. Then, hot on it’s heels, came InfiniteWP, and then I discover WP Remote. Tools for managing multiple WordPress installations are becoming commonplace, so here’s a whistle-stop tour of these three.

History

A historical note: this post came out of a Twitter discussion sparked by me comparing ManageWP and InfiniteWP:

This comment caused ManageWP’s founder to email me clarifying that “InifinteWP [sic] is completely based on ManageWP”. It turns out that, ManageWP’s worker plugin is GPL licenced and InfiniteWP used that code to develop their own service without crediting ManageWP. The copyright notices are intact, but…well…whether or not giving credit is in the spirit of the GPL is open to interpretation.

Anyway, there was an exchange that caused me to review each service, and a third, free service, WP Remote, that ManageWP’s founder pointed me at and which is not derived from any ManageWP code.

On with the review then.

Introduction

What do these tools do?

All three services connect to multiple self-hosted WordPress.org installations and allow you to perform management tasks, such as backups and WordPress, plugin and theme upgrades and installs.

ManageWP has a load of additional functionality that I’ll describe later.

How do these tools work?

All tools work by installing a client or worker plugin on your WordPress site and connecting to that using a secure connection.  They then “load” information about your site into the service dashboard, and allow you to take actions on the site through the dashboard.

How secure is it?

All services claim high levels of security, with the plugin only allowing connections from one server, and that trust being established using an API key.  Again ManageWP seems to offer the most additional security options.

Reviews

WP Remote

WP Remote Screen GrabWP Remote is the cheapest, simplest and easiest to set up, but also lacks the features of the others.  Built by the lovely folk at Human Made Ltd, who make it “100% free” in order “give something back to the WordPress community“. Bless them!

It’s dead simple to set up. Hosted by them, so there’s nothing to download and install, and you can get sites added in minutes.  The interface is simple and uncluttered, reflecting the nature of the service.  It’s nicely responsive too, working really well from an iPad!

In return for simplicity though, you only get a small feature set with WordPress and Plugin upgrades, backups, and easy access to the site and its WordPress dashboard.

Backups are to Amazon S3 only, so you’ll need to sign up for, and pay for that storage space.

I don’t see any limits to the number of sites you can add and it allows you to group your sites together to help you manage large numbers of sites.

InfiniteWP

InfiniteWP Screen ShotInfiniteWP is a free-to-use, but self-hosted tool.  So a little investment is needed in hosting yourself and the setup that is needed as a result.

Once set up though, the tool is very good. Adding sites is simple, again. And you can add as many sites as you like, grouping them as you go.

The usual WordPress core and plugin upgrades are available, with the addition of email notifications and plugin installs.

I particularly like that you can have a list of favourite plugins from the WordPress repository that you can deploy. This would make creating new sites with all your favourite extensions simple as you can add just the IWP client plugin, get it added to IWP and then use IWP to deploy the rest.

Backups go to the site itself, and can be downloaded. Additional backup options are in the development but will probably be released as premium add-ons.

The interface is nice, but functionality could do with a little polish.  One thing I’d like is for the tool to tell you what version of a plugin you’re upgrading FROM as well as TO, so that you get some idea if you need to test things afterwards. It’s a little limited in places and makes you feel like it should do more than it actually can.

Having said that, the IWP team plan releasing new, premium features that you can bolt-on to make it do more.

A great, free solution for keeping lots of sites under control.

ManageWP

ManageWP Screen GrapThe daddy of them all – in more ways than one! ManageWP is hugely comprehensive, wonderfully secure and comes with a raft of options and features. But does so at a cost!

Let’s start with that then. There is a free account with all standard features for 5 sites, though you’d hardly know.  The fact is tucked away in the FAQ on their Plans and Pricing page which says:

When you sign up for ManageWP you will be able to test all features (Business package) in a trial period for 30 days. After that period you can select to upgrade to a paid plan or continue to use the Free account with Standard features and five websites.

For more features or more sites you need to pay a subscription (month-by-month – there’s no contract).  And I think it’s worth it. I can see good ROI from it in terms of how much time you would save managing sites, and it’s a good product that the WordPress community should support.

A self-hosted “Enterprise” version is available but I’ve not checked out the costs.

I confess that I find the user interface cluttered and confusing. Probably by virtue of it being so feature rich. But this may be off-putting for novice users.

Features-wise it trumps the other two, doing manual backups (to Amazon S3, Dropbox, FTP or email), installs, post/page managment, comment management, database optimisation, page-view statistics and email notifications. And that’s just the standard package.

Paying extra gets you things like scheduled backups, site cloning/migration, WordPress user management, sub-users for ManageWP, uptime monitoring, SEO analysis and additional security. Phew!

I’ve not used support, but there is excellent documentation and an active user forum.

So while potentially costly, it’s definitely the biggest and best and worthy of your £’s.

Summary

Let’s not mess around. These are three good tools and they suit three different audiences.

A novice with a handful of sites to upgrade every now and then would like the simplicity of WP Remote.

InfiniteWP is very much suited to developers and small agencies who can do the hosting and installation and will want the added features and complexity.

ManageWP is great on two fronts: for a proficient, confident blogger or site admin who manages 5 sites and wants single-sign-on to all his admin functions. And for the medium-to-large organisation or agency who want to pay the subscription for the added security and features which will save them time and effort.

Other options do exist. Things like scheduled backup can be done using off-the-shelf plugins. WordPress multi-site can host multiple blogs/sites from a single install and set of plugins. And “Proper Geeks” can use wp-cli to script their updates and actions across multiple sites.

It’s great that this market is competitive and I expect further innovation in this space.

What tools are you using to manage your WordPress sites?