Kinsta Review: The Best Managed WordPress Host in 2020?

Considering using Kinsta to host your WordPress site?

Kinsta have rapidly grown from just an upstart in the managed WordPress hosting space to one of the most popular providers. They started as an ultra-premium offering, with plans from $100-plus, but in 2017 they became a lot more accessible to ‘regular’ users with a new $30 entry-level plan, which still remains the starting price to this day. 

Kinsta have a lot of positive things going for them — excellent performance powered by Google Cloud, a user-friendly custom hosting dashboard, and lots of convenient tools, such as automatic backups and easy staging sites.

But are they the right host for your needs and budget? In this hands-on Kinsta review, I’ll tackle this subject, breaking it down into a few different sections:

  • A quick overview of the features (in case you’re not familiar with their offerings).
  • Data from a week of performance tests, along with how they compare with some similar hosts.
  • A hands-on look at the Kinsta hosting dashboard.
  • Details on Kinsta’s support offerings.
  • Details on Kinsta’s pricing & other fees, and how they stack up against other similar hosts.
  • Some pros and cons of Kinsta to wrap things up.

Let’s get started…

A Quick Overview of Kinsta’s Features

To kick things off, let’s quickly run through the features Kinsta give you. I won’t go too in-depth here because you can find all of this in the marketing copy and I’d rather focus on the hands-on sections of our review. However, I think it’s useful to quickly run through everything so you know all the key features.

Performance Features

Security Features

  • Firewalls.
  • DDoS protection.
  • Malware scans.
  • Free/easy SSL certificates.
  • Free malware cleaning if your site gets infected.
  • Uptime monitoring (every two minutes).
  • Two-factor authentication for your hosting account.
  • Activity log for your hosting account.

Convenience Features

  • Custom hosting dashboard.
  • Simple WordPress installer tool with presets for WooCommerce and multisite.
  • Automatic daily backups/manual backups and easy restores with 14-day storage.
  • Staging sites.
  • 24/7 live chat support.
  • In-dashboard toolbox for basic actions such as setting up redirects, enabling debug mode, banning IPs and more.
  • User permission system to control access to your hosting account.

Kinsta Performance Tests

With any WordPress host, the most important consideration is whether or not the host can quickly load your website. For that reason, I like to always start off the hands-on section of any hosting review by running some performance tests.

To test Kinsta’s performance, I set up two different performance tests:

  1. WebPageTest — using MachMetrics, I configured it to run a WebPageTest test every six hours for a week (~28 total tests).
  2. Pingdom — I configured it to test every 30 minutes and let it run for a week (~336 total tests).

I also looked to third-party benchmarks for load testing (more on why that is below).

As for my test site on Kinsta, it’s using the Genesis Framework, the Authority Pro child theme and the full Authority Pro demo site. I didn’t make any changes beyond importing the demo content and installing any recommended plugins. The Kinsta plan I’m using is the Business 1 plan (more on Kinsta’s pricing later on).

WebPageTest (MachMetrics)

WebPageTest is my preferred performance testing tool because it gives the fullest picture of web performance — with metrics for everything from time to first byte to Google’s Core Web Vitals.

To eliminate single-test variability, I use a service called MachMetrics that lets me automatically run a test every six hours for an entire week.

My WebPageTest configuration is as follows:

  • US-East test server
  • Desktop device
  • Native connection

Here, Kinsta performed excellently. The average load time across the entire week was just 1.24 seconds, which MachMetrics tells me is in the 97th percentile (that is, it’s faster than 97% of all other websites being tested).

There are a couple of other useful conclusions here:

  1. The time to first byte (TTFB) times were excellent at between 0.1-0.2 seconds. This is a general measure of server responsiveness. For comparison, when running the exact same test with Flywheel, Flywheel’s TTFB were more around 0.45 seconds.
  2. The load times were very consistent — you can see that there aren’t any spikes over the week.
Kinsta test results from one week of testing with WebPageTest/MachMetrics
Kinsta test results from one week of testing every six hours with WebPageTest/MachMetrics.

To the second point, another nice thing about MachMetrics is that it also lets me quickly see the three fastest and slowest test runs over the week. Here, you can see that even at their worst Kinsta were still under 1.5 seconds and ~0.3 s TTFB:

The three fastest and three slowest test results from the entire week
The three fastest and three slowest test results from the entire week.

Pingdom

Pingdom isn’t my favorite speed test tool because I think its synthetic tests give an overly rosy picture of performance. That is, the way it runs its test makes it seem as though your site loads ‘faster’ than it will for real human visitors.

However, it is useful as another data point because it makes it easy to run lots of tests — I had it running tests every 30 minutes from the Eastern US server.

Here, Kinsta were again top-notch, with an average load time of just 447 ms across the entire week:

Kinsta test results from one week of testing every 30 minutes with Pingdom
Kinsta test results from one week of testing every 30 minutes with Pingdom.

Load Testing

WebPageTest and Pingdom are useful gauges, but they’re still only running one test at a time. Load testing changes that dynamic by letting us test how Kinsta holds up under scale.

Normally, I’d run these tests myself. However, because Kinsta have a firewall in place, I wasn’t able to do so. This firewall is great when you’re hosting your site because it protects you from bots and DDoS attacks — it’s just not great for this type of testing because it also detected my load testing tool as a ‘bot’ and blocked it.

Thankfully, there’s still some data here from Review Signal’s in-depth benchmarks. Review Signal used Load Storm to hit Kinsta with 3,000 visitors at the same time, which equates to a very high-traffic site.

With an average response time of just 440 ms, Kinsta, in the words of Review Signal, ‘handled the Load Storm test without issue’.

Basically, this means you should expect the same stellar performance you saw in the individual tests even during periods of high traffic.

Conclusions

The one overall conclusion from all these tests is that Kinsta offer excellent performance. So, if you want your WordPress site to load fast, Kinsta are going to make you very happy.

Not only are Kinsta’s numbers great in isolation, but they also stack up very favorably against some of the other premium managed WordPress hosts we’ve reviewed.

For example, I used this exact same test site and test configuration in our Flywheel review and, while Flywheel also have excellent performance, Kinsta were either equal or better in all areas:

WPT Load TimeWPT TTFBPingdom Load Time
Kinsta1.24~0.15447 ms
Flywheel1.26~0.45740 ms

That’s not a criticism of Flywheel — Flywheel are a great host! But Kinsta are just as good, if not better in some areas (such as TTFB).

I also used the same test and same Pingdom configuration while testing WP Engine for our WP Engine review. Here, Kinsta and WP Engine were pretty much neck-and-neck:

  • Kinsta — 447 ms
  • WP Engine — 431 ms

Kinsta User Experience & Hosting Dashboard

To manage your websites and hosting account, Kinsta give you a custom hosting dashboard called MyKinsta — I think it’s one of the most user-friendly options in the WordPress hosting space because of its clean design and logical layout. 

The main Dashboard tab gives you a quick overview of your sites, along with a summary of the resource usage for your account and some notifications:

The main Kinsta dashboard for your entire account
The main Kinsta dashboard for your entire account.

However, you’ll probably spend most of your time in the Sites tab, which is where you manage individual sites. Let’s go through that next…

Sites Tab

In the individual site dashboard, you’ll see a number of tabs that contain all of the tools and information for your site:

The Kinsta site dashboard
The Kinsta dashboard for an individual site
  • Info — basic information such as your server IP, FTP credentials, database access (via phpMyAdmin) and SSH information.
  • Domains — the primary domain of this site, along with any other associated domains.
  • Backups — all of the automatic backups from the past 14 days, along with options to restore a backup or manually create a backup.
  • Tools — a variety of tools to clear your cache, search and replace your database, enable WordPress debug mode, add password protection and more.
  • Redirects — a tool to easily set up redirects (Kinsta don’t use Apache, so you can’t use the .htaccess file for redirects. However, this tool makes it really easy to set them up).
  • WP Plugins — a list of all of your site’s plugins, as well as whether there’s an update available.
  • IP Deny — lets you block specific IP addresses or ranges of IP addresses.
  • Kinsta CDN — lets you enable the built-in CDN.
  • Logs — lets you view error, cache and access logs.

For example, in the Backups tab, you can:

  • view all of the automatic backups
  • create a manual backup
  • restore a backup to your live site or staging
  • download a backup to your local computer.
The Backups area at Kinsta
The Backups area at Kinsta.

Staging Sites

For every site you have, Kinsta gives you an additional staging site. Think of your staging site as a private sandbox where you can test updates, experiment with new plugins, work on design changes, and so on.

To create and manage your staging site, you use the Change environment drop-down in the top-right corner.

Your staging copy is an exact replica of the site dashboard for your live website. The only difference is this version isn’t public until if/when you push it back to production. If you make any mistakes and want to start over with a clean copy of your live site, you can just delete your staging environment and create a new one:

The Kinsta staging tool
The staging environment is a duplicate of your live environment.

If you want to make the staging version of your site live, you can ‘push’ it to your live site. This will completely overwrite the live version of your site with the staging version.

One nice thing is that, when you do this, Kinsta will automatically take a backup of your live site so you can always restore that backup if something goes wrong:

How to push a Kinsta staging site live
How to push a Kinsta staging site live.

However, there’s no option to ‘merge’ your staging and production sites, which some hosts offer. This is a more advanced type of push that lets you avoid overwriting the database of your live site. For example, with Kinsta’s method, if you received a new blog comment on your live site after creating the staging environment, that comment would disappear when you pushed your staging live. Some hosts, such as SiteGround (our review) let you avoid this situation by merging the databases.

This isn’t a criticism, because most hosts do it this way — it’s just something important to pay attention to when working with your staging environments.

Kinsta DNS Tab

As part of their plans, Kinsta include premium DNS from Amazon Route 53 at no extra cost. This is a great value-add because DNS performance is an underlooked part of website optimization. For example, if you look at the benchmarks from DNSPerf, the difference between the fastest DNS service and the slowest is over 100 ms, which means a noticeable difference in page load times.

In a nutshell, DNS performance is the time it takes to match your domain name with the actual IP address of your site’s server.

If you decide to use these nameservers, the Kinsta DNS tab lets you easily manage all of your DNS records. You can also use other nameservers and just point your domain to Kinsta using an A record.

Managing DNS records for Kinsta's premium Route 53 DNS
Managing DNS records for Kinsta’s premium Route 53 DNS.

Analytics Tab

The Analytics tab is a really useful tool for advanced users to dig into WordPress performance. You’ll be able to explore metrics such as average PHP + MySQL response time, PHP throughput, response, codes and more. It also gives some more accessible metrics, such as overall visits, mobile vs tablet, and so on.

Here’s a look at some of the basic analytics:

Some of Kinsta's basic usage analytics
Some of Kinsta’s basic usage analytics.

And here are some of the more advanced performance metrics — you can also see the other options in the tab on the side:

Some of Kinsta's advanced performance analytics
Some of Kinsta’s advanced performance analytics.

Users Tab

The Users tab lets you give other people access to your Kinsta hosting account and control what they can do. This is useful for working with teams, and also keeping your account secure if you need to grant access to a freelancer or client.

When you add users, you get two high-level access methods, as well as individual user roles within each method.

First, you can give Company access, which gives people access to company details and all of the sites in your account. There are three levels here:

  • Administrator — can access everything (basically the same as your account).
  • Developer — can access all of your sites but cannot manage billing.
  • Billing — can only see billing information.
Adding users to your company
Adding users to your company.

Second, you can use Site access, which only gives the person access to a specific site in your account. Here, you get two access levels:

  • Site administrator — they can access everything about this specific site.
  • Site developer — they can only access this site’s staging server. They can’t change anything on the live production site.
Adding users to a specific site
Adding users to a specific site.

Activity Log Tab

The Activity Log tab is a useful tool for monitoring the security of your Kinsta account, especially if you’re going to give other users access to your site.

Essentially, it’s a log of every action that people have taken inside your Kinsta account. For example, if someone adds a domain to a website or changes the primary domain, you can easily see that.

The idea is that you can track what’s changed (in case you need to roll something back) and also make sure everything is on the up-and-up, and no one is taking any malicious actions inside your account:

The activity log for your MyKinsta dashboard
The activity log for your MyKinsta dashboard.

To further secure your Kinsta hosting account, I also recommend taking advantage of Kinsta’s two-factor authentication feature for the MyKinsta dashboard.

Try the MyKinsta Dashboard for Yourself

If you want to see what the MyKinsta dashboard is like for yourself, you can sign up for a free demo at this page. While it won’t let you host your own site, it will give you full access to the MyKinsta dashboard experience.

Kinsta Support

Kinsta offer 24/7 live chat support on all plans. They don’t offer phone support on any plans — only live chat. This is an intentional choice — you can read their reasoning here.

You may agree or disagree with their reasons. Personally, I prefer live chat support anyway (for many of the reasons they mention), but, if you’re the kind of person who likes to get someone on the phone, this may be a negative to you.

The live chat system itself is excellent — it uses Intercom, which I always think is the best way to offer live chat support. Here are some of the main advantages of the Intercom widget:

  1. You can access it anywhere in your dashboard. Additionally, you can move around to different pages in your dashboard without losing your chat (or having to keep track of a separate window).
  2. It automatically stores your chat history, so you can easily pull up previous conversations.
Kinsta live chat support via the Intercom widget
Kinsta live chat support via the Intercom widget.

Response times are very good — I’ve had my Kinsta account for more than three years now and, while I haven’t had to contact support that often, when I have, I’ve always had a quick response.

Other users agree that Kinsta offer excellent support — in CodeinWP’s 2018 hosting survey of more than 830 WordPress hosting users, Kinsta had the highest rating for both overall support quality and WordPress support quality, beating other well-regarded hosts such as WP Engine, SiteGround, Flywheel and, well, everyone else.

Kinsta Pricing

Kinsta offer ten different pricing plans, which gives you a lot of room to find the right plan for your needs:

Kinsta's plans and pricing
Kinsta’s plans and pricing.

Kinsta are obviously more expensive than cheap shared hosting, but their prices are competitive for the space they’re in. Their two most direct competitors are probably WP Engine and Flywheel. After WP Engine’s acquisition of Flywheel, the two hosts’ prices are virtually identical, which makes it easy to compare both of them with Kinsta:

PlanPriceSitesVisitorsStorage
Kinsta 1$30125,00010 GB
WPE/Fly 1$30125,00010 GB
Kinsta 2$60250,00020 GB
Kinsta 3$1005100,00030 GB
WPE/Fly 2$11510100,00020 GB
Kinsta 4$20010 250,00040 GB
WPE/Fly 3$29030400,00050 GB
Kinsta 5$30020400,00050 GB

You can see a few things here:

  • The entry-level plans are identical (Kinsta used to have a lower visit limit, but they’ve recently bumped it up to match WP Engine. Three cheers for competition!).
  • Kinsta offer more plans, which makes it easier to scale. For example, if you outgrow the $30-a-month plan, you can move to the $60 plan, whereas WP Engine would force you to go to the $115 plan (or pay overage fees).
  • WP Engine/Flywheel give you more value in terms of website limits, but not visit limits. If you have a lot of low-traffic sites, this may make them a better deal.

One plan I haven’t included on the list is Flywheel’s unique Tiny plan, which costs just $15 a month (but only supports 5,000 visits). If your site gets fewer than 5,000 visits a month, I think this plan offers better value than Kinsta. You can learn more in our Flywheel review.

When comparing Kinsta with more ’boutique’ managed WordPress hosts, Kinsta are usually a bit cheaper. Here’s a quick summary of Kinsta vs Pressidium and Pantheon, two other high-quality, but pricier, managed WordPress hosts:

PlanPriceSitesVisitorsStorage
Kinsta 1$30125,00010 GB
Pressidium 1$25110,0005 GB
Pantheon 1$41125,00020 GB
Kinsta 2$60250,00020 GB
Pressidium 2$50330,00010 GB
Pantheon 2$1601125,00030 GB

While those hosts do offer some features Kinsta don’t, such as high-availability servers, they’re also a lot more expensive than Kinsta (especially when considering the resource limits).

Kinsta Overage Fees

If you exceed your plan’s limits, Kinsta won’t shut off your site. However, they will charge you overage fees if you exceed your visits, disk space or CDN bandwidth:

  • Visits overage — $1 per thousand visits over your plan limit.
  • Disk space overage — $2 per GB.
  • CDN overage — $0.10 per GB.

These fees are equal to or lower than most of the competition. For example, WP Engine charge $2 per thousand visits over your limit, which is double Kinsta’s fee. Flywheel charge an identical $1 per thousand visits.

Kinsta Add-Ons

In addition to the core plans, Kinsta offer a number of optional paid add-ons. These add-ons are generally pretty pricey, so they’re not very accessible to those on a budget, but, for mission-critical high-value sites, they have some useful features:

  • Increased backup frequency — all plans come with automatic daily backups, but you can pay extra to increase the frequency to every six hours ($50 a month) or every hour ($100 a month).
  • Elasticsearch — if you have a large site, Elasticsearch offers a much more optimized way to deliver faster/better search results. It costs $100 a month.
  • Redis — add support for Redis caching for $100 a month.
  • Nginx reverse proxy — lets you load WordPress from a subdirectory with Nginx for $50 a month.
  • External backup — automatically back up your site to Amazon S3 or Google Cloud Storage for $2 a month plus $1 per GB bandwidth.
  • More disk space — add 20 GB of storage for $20 a month.

All of the prices above are per site, not per hosting account. The one exception is the disk space add-on, which applies to your entire account.

Kinsta Pros & Cons

To finish things off, let’s recap some of the pros and cons of using Kinsta.

Pros

  • Kinsta have top-tier performance. They’re one of the fastest WordPress hosts I’ve ever tested. Their architecture is also well-optimized, which explains why they perform so well.
  • Their custom-built MyKinsta dashboard is user-friendly and offers a lot of useful tools.
  • Kinsta’s pricing is competitive with similar hosts such as WP Engine and Flywheel. They also have low overage fees (comparatively) and offer lots of pricing tiers, which makes it easy to scale.
  • You get access to useful features/tools to make your life easier. For example, automatic daily backups, staging sites, automatic database optimization, security protection, and so on.
  • Kinsta offer 24/7 support via a user-friendly Intercom widget. Additionally, they ranked first in support in CodeinWP’s big hosting survey of WordPress users.
  • You can choose from 24 data centers, which is way more than most hosts offer.

Cons

  • Kinsta’s cheapest plan is still $30 for a single site. While this is competitive within the space, it’s inarguably a step up from cheap shared hosting.
  • They don’t offer email hosting (which is common for managed WordPress hosts). If you want a custom email address (you@yoursite.com), you’ll need to use another service such as G Suite ($6 a month) or Zoho Mail (free).
  • Kinsta do ban some plugins, but mostly just because they overlap with their functions (such as caching and backups). Still, there are a few miscellaneous plugins — e.g. the WordPress Popular Posts plugin.
  • Kinsta don’t offer phone support, which is a bummer if you like talking on the phone.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think Kinsta’s pros greatly outweigh their cons, which is why they’re one of the top managed WordPress hosts.

If you have an important site and you want to invest in the best performance and reliability, Kinsta are an excellent choice. However, they’re just that — an investment. In some situations, you may be able to get better value from that investment with another host:

However, if you have an important site that you use to make money, sell products, find clients, and so on. then investing in the best performance and reliability is a good use of your money. And, in those respects, Kinsta definitely deliver.

All of their plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and free migrations, so you’re not risking any time or money to give them a shot.

Any experience with Kinsta WordPress hosting? Thoughts?

By WPMarmalade Editorial

From themes, plugins, blocks and widgets, to domains, hosting, and more: WPMarmalade is a mixture of all things WordPress!

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