WordPress.com Enterprise wants to fill a gap. Does it?

wp-enterpriseI saw this evening that WordPress.com has released an in-between service called Enterprise. At $500 per month, it’s a lot cheaper than their VIP service, which starts at $3,750 per month. It’s a big move for the hosted platform, and I’m sure one they’ve planned for a long time. I know there’s been no shortage of sites hopping on their full fledged VIP plan, so I’m sure they’ll get quite a bit of business from this significantly cheaper option. To me, it seems this move targets managed WordPress hosts like WP Engine, Pagely, and Zippy Kid more-so than offering the bridge they’re talking about between their “pro” (very cheap – $100 / year) accounts and full fledged VIP.

The managed WordPress hosts listed above have grown like crazy in recent years, and perhaps minus the degree of traffic scalability, can offer the same functionality as WordPress.com is touting in their Enterprise service, and then some. For cheaper. I mean, managed hosts restrict some plugins, but they certainly aren’t limited to 70ish like VIP, and they allow completely custom theming, versus the strange Javascript and custom CSS add-ons WordPress.com is saying. For $500 per month, that seems bonkers to me.

And the bit about saving businesses the price of a theme developer falls a little flat for me too. Any company willing to pay $500 per month should also be willing to fork over at least $10k for a custom theme that integrates with their brand. And who’s going to write that custom Javascript and CSS? And if they can’t afford a development shop, then I’d presume that company’s not in the market for $500 per month hosting anyway.  I’m sure they’d just stretch a $50 VPS until forced out. Maybe I’ve got the restrictions on custom development all wrong. I’d love to learn more.

I’m sure thousands of businesses will prove me wrong here and flock to this new Enterprise offering. I say so because this space is just growing so rapidly, it seems inevitable. But I’d guess it’ll be more of the “some eBay blog” types, versus the primary website for a legitimate “enterprise”. We shall see.

Here’s a nice fluff piece from The Next Web if you want to read a little more. Techcrunch and WPCandy covered it too.

edit: Christina Warren, of Mashable, posted a very nice post on this as well, and I agree with much of her analysis. Also note her comment below.

15 thoughts on “WordPress.com Enterprise wants to fill a gap. Does it?

  1. Brian, interesting thoughts here. My guess is they released this because they had a lot of inquiries from medium-to-large-sized businesses that need more than a MediaTemplate server and less than WordPress.com VIP hosting.

    I’m guessing it’s probably even the same platform as VIP but they’re really just playing pricing games, trying to open it up to businesses with decent-sized hosting budgets even though they’re running similar/same hardware and maybe switching up some features there.

    I have a $400 mo. Firehost server running just a few small websites but I wouldn’t even consider moving to a different host because of the level of service and security Firehost offers. When the web is your business’ lifeline, $400-500/mo. is completely worth it for great customer service and reliability.

    1. Hey Chris, I’m sure you are right. It’s the restrictions on development at that price level that really surprise me. I agree that price tag is worthwhile, but not for that level of restriction, given what’s available with managed hosts, in my opinion. Thanks for your input : )

  2. Given our VIP connections, we had advance warning that this was coming. In the initial correspondence, it felt like a solution in search of a requirement. ‘We’ve got all this VIP capacity, how can we sell it?’

    So it’s interesting to see it emerge with a real sense of purpose: this is a solution for times when you need something quickly, and are expecting serious traffic. Is there such a niche? Quite possibly.

    To a non-tech-literate enterprise marketing manager, there’s nothing more scary than ‘the site going down’ – whether that’s due to traffic spikes, or exceeding your monthly limit. That just ain’t gonna happen with this service: and to get it, they’ll probably sacrifice the total customisation of a bespoke theme. The price is in the right ballpark for that kind of client.

    1. Simon, really great observation. I think you are right. “need something quickly, and are expecting serious traffict.” Sounds like the exact niche that makes sense here. Product launches for big tech companies come to mind. Nice input. Thanks for that : )

  3. You and I pretty much came to the same conclusion (my non-fluff piece, http://mashable.com/2012/12/13/wordpress-com-enterprise/). I understand why Automattic is getting I to this market but the price point is far too high.

    I kept trying to figure out who the customer for this is and ultimately I think it’s just brands or individuals that feel comfortable with the name and want seriously managed hosting. It’s not a bad idea but I’d offer at least a $250 option. I don’t see the value for $500 a month but as you said, I’m sure this will do well.

    1. Christina, indeed, yours isn’t a fluff piece at all. I will put it in the post. I agree w/ your questions… Who are they squeezing out? Managed hosts? No. And you’re right that Tumblr and Squarespace are way cheaper for a similar concept.

      Thanks for your comment.

    2. Christina, thanks for the level headed, non-fluff post (those are harder and harder to come by). but one thing: some of the hosts you mention have been in the game a lot longer. Page.ly began back in 2009, and ZippyKid was May 2010.

  4. I was expecting this option to be coming ever since the launch of Jetpack. I always saw Automattic entering the hosting industry because they are leaving money on the table. I think this $500 is just a start, and probably is their way to test out this medium tier in regards with support queries. I still believe that they will have a pricing plan lower than that maybe in the coming years (just my prediction).

    As for $500 being too high, I don’t think so at all. I see Christina said that it is a high price point in the comment above. Anyone who has ever run a high traffic site would say this price is freaking awesome. Why?

    You pay about $300 – $400 for a decent hosting server. Then you have to pay for CDN (which is a holy crap bill depending your bandwidth usage). MaxCDN which is very affordable costs $70 for additional TB unless you buy their monthly specials. My site List25 pushed over 4TB on the highest traffic day. The math alone justifies us using the Enterprise plan. I sent a tweet to Matt asking what the “unlimited bandwidth” really mean because we all know there is no such thing. He hasn’t gotten back to me yet, but I’m hoping that he does.

    Not to mention, this is also a no-hassle plan. You don’t have to worry about being a sysadmin. This is a blessing for content publishers like myself who are not so good with servers. Sure, I can design my themes and even write some plugins, but servers a whole different beast. Scaling presents a lot of challenges, and this fixes that for you.

    The only downside to this that I see is the “limited to approved plugins only”. I think that other managed hosting have a “black list” of plugins that they don’t like. But users can add whatever they want. Aside from that, I think this is definitely filling a huge void.

    I think this is just a start. If they see that they can handle support in a sustainable manner, I would not be surprised if they offer even lower level plans.

    1. Syed, you make very good points. And they all make complete sense. Especially considering what we talked about w/ your bandwidth on List25. I agree, this could be perfect, but the non-traditional theming just seems like a deal breaker to me.

      In the end, I think Simon is right in the above comment. This is for product launches and other quick, and simple blogs that need to scale really, really well.

      Thanks of your thoughtful comment : )

    2. Here’s my issue Syed, if you’re doing the kind of traffic that you need a $500 a month managed hosting plan, chances are you’ll also need to do some serious customizations that I don’t think you can do with Enterprise.

      If you look at their client list, it’s not large publications, it’s brand sites and promo sites. Automattic wants serious traffic sites to use Enterprise.

      The reality is very few sites need to sort of unlimited bandwidth and CDN that is offered. It’s great it’s offered but it’s a niche. My argument is that if you’re at that point, you’re probably going to need more than just JavaScript access.

      There is a market for dead-stupid managed WordPress. I just think the pricing is too high by half.

  5. I agree with the comments above about new sites that are expecting growth… but the idea of clients “expecting” makes me nervous. Obviously, there’s a chance that it doesn’t! So WordPress.com might host the site for 6 months before the client notices that traffic is not growing as they “expected”.

    My next concern is migration. If you’re hosted on your own VPS, see that your traffic is growing and need expert help, what will they charge you to move to their system? Surely you won’t have to pay VIP’s $25,000 migration fee.

    What about the approved plugins list and sites with custom themes? Are they going to push people away if they have a theme that doesn’t work to their standards? What do they do if the client has a plugin that WordPress.com doesn’t like?

    There is a bigger market for existing sites that need this service rather then new sites “expecting” to need this service. This new enterprise level doesn’t seem to account for this.

    I’m speaking from experience here. Mason James and I co-founded http://thewpvalet.com which is similar to this new plan in many ways. We addressed these issues by offering migration services and auditing the theme and plugin code to ensure the best performance possible. This is all included in our core services. So far our clients love it. WordPress.com will need to look at another angle if they’re planning to promote this to existing web properties.

    1. Interesting question on migration, Eric. I suspect that given the niche we’re talking about, more of these sites will be new sites versus migrated ones. I could be completely wrong, but it’s my gut that these will be largely product launches and company blogs/subblogs, for companies with big brands and spike potentials.

      But I’m sure migration is something to think about here. Maybe someone from VIP will chime in on that.

  6. As soon as I read the “No custom theme” part. I lost interest. That’s pretty lame if you’re paying $6k pa for hosting and have as much control as a free WP.com account.

    This is an advantage to doing it yourself with .org or someone like WPEngine, et al.

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