Client Website Maintenance with MainWP

What’s MainWP

MainWP a (5 star rated) WordPress plugin that let’s you turn a WordPress install into a Master Dashboard. From there you manage all your other WordPress sites more efficiently. Simply, updates and changes can be done in bulk with a single button click.

We’ve used MainWP daily since 2015  and It’s been central to our hosting and care plans which has provided us with a scalable and almost passive income.

As mentioned in my Digital Freedoms series, we build websites in order to have more free time and MainWP has played a vital role in that.

Essentially it is a free plugin which could be all you need, but we started with the premium bundle and now consider it to be one of the best purchases we made for our business.  Certainly, I don’t think we could have found a more cost effective and reliable solution. Importantly, it has some key features I need that I don’t see elsewhere, but I will be doing some more in-depth posts later on this.

The Best MainWP Discount

I’ve always been a proud MainWP user as seen on the MainWP blog, but I’m typically slow to publicly promote even my most favorite tools as affiliate.  This is good for my personal integrity – not so great for passing on a bargain.

Fortunately, Dennis from MainWP took pity on my plight and has kindly offer us a unique 25% off discount coupon –  “digitalfreedoms’. 

Understandably with their growth and recent release of version 4 they have stopped giving such high incentive and they may need to pull this but I am grateful for them giving us the best deal.  This applies to the Life Time Deal only making $399 reduce to $299.25

Why we initially chose MainWP?

MainWP has certainly never been without competition. It’s one of the last to arrive on the scene.  The earliest and probably still most popular tool for managing site is ManageWP, but I looked at others like InfiniteWP, WPRemote,  iControlWP and even Jet Pack.

Originally I thought I would go with ManageWP.  It had a long standing and a nice looking user interface. Generally I’m  drawn to the established leader rather than cut price competitors.

Yet, I also had concerns over costs. I didn’t know the right price point for my (mainly low budget) clients. Also because ManageWP is a SaaS  (hosted service) where they could (and did) make changes to the subscription costs.

What swung me to MainWP was seeing some people I trusted moving from ManageWP to MainWP.  Cost was not the only reason – some were doing it because of service failures at that time.

I should mention that ManageWP made significant changes following this and launched Orion.

How reliable is MainWP?

We’ve used it more than daily and would say that it has essentially been 100% reliable for over 4 years.

I have not used all of the extensions, but most and the only real issue I had was with client reports not sending. This turned out to be a server configuration issue that was of my own making. I have had a few issues hiding and showing things with the MainWP Branding extension but it seems OK if set and left alone. Generally we have to sync sites a few times for it to pick up on all the updates. To me this seems nothing different to going to the sites directly and having to force updates to show.

I was greatly impressed with my one proper need  for support I got really great help with my server issue for what was essentially not MainWP’s problem.  I learned from it. (I was not doing any public content then so it was not preferential treatment).

Recently I have seen MainWP  being talked about more in Facebook groups aimed at web design agencies.  I believe this is due to the more recent and acknowledged service issues with ManageWP leading some to ask about alternatives. Particularly with it being acquired by Godaddy.

Most, like me, have only positive things to say about MainWP, but a few (on the behalf of others) have pointed to MainWP being clunky and unreliability.  I have not seen details, but I don’t think this is the ManageWP fans supporting their side.  More about the difference between self hosted and hosted systems.

If you are using MainWP, the hosting for both the master install and the child (client) sites needs to be right for the job. There is documentation on this, but it is an extra consideration if moving from a hosted solution like ManageWP.

Personally as my business model is depending on hosting and maintenance I prefer the ownership and control that MainWP gives with it’s open source license. I can do what I like with it and know where I am financially. The only failures I have observed have been related to hosting which is something I keep an eye on.

Additionally with some client being concerned over their web site data (things like GDPR) I like that this remains totally in my control. Main WP as a company can see nothing. ng.

MainWP also changed our business model

We first tested MainWP by offering maintenance for free to some clients as a trial. It was not a success. Many client’s had chosen cheap shared hosting which was initially great, but had been acquired by Godaddy.  They cut the available resources and their databases servers were down a lot.  Too many updates were failing and connections broken. This is what I imagine those who think MainWP is unreliable are encountering.

This made us decide we needed to control both the hosting and maintenance. We lost people who would not move from their hosting, but that was good to know.  We learned that it was earlier to sell a subscription if the focus was on hosting (that everyone knows they need to have).

Of course, it did mean putting some effort on to setting up cloud hosting and looking at the resources MainWP needs. But honestly I think I have spent more time trying to position a button in a website header. The learning curves was worth it for the enormous saving.

The basics of setting up MainWP

I can’t cover everything in this one post, but getting started is fairly simple as you see in the video.

To create your master dashboard you need to have a WordPress install with the MainWP dashboard plugin activated.  From there you can follow the set up sequence. During this you will be asked if you are running with local host (ie on you computer via something like Wamp or Mamp) or your hosting somewhere else.

We host ours on a sub domain of our main business site. We did initially start using local host because of Siteground shared sever hosting was not suitable, but we wanted cron jobs to work to automatically send client reports and check up-times etc. and quickly moved online.

I believe you can run cron job from a local server, but regardless with us being travelers we wanted to be able to do update jobs from a mobile phone too.

Security seems to be the reason some run MainWP on localhost. Understandable as it gives hacker’s one central point to many sites, but there is the free Clean and Lock extension. This lets restricted access to set IP addresses or add extra password protection.   You can redirect the main site so attacks are restricted to the wp-admin page. We are using our regular security measures and have stopped seeing login attempts.

Why doesn’t everyone use MainWP?

Over the year I’ve had quite a few private messages from people asking about MainWP. These seem to be the things that seem to hold people back from instantly adopting MainWP.

Self hosting responsibilities.  Understandable. Certainly when I was more focused on building sites I would have been more attracted to a SaaS options.  But doing it yourself is really just about having suitable hosting.   Now we would rather save the money and be able to accommodate low budget clients who we have found in the long run to be better for a more passive income, but every business is different.

Sustainability.  Some, not least me,  are wary of free products and lifetime deals. Certainly I have no insider knowledge of the company, but no alarm bells have rung with them. They seem to be the same small team they were from the beginning. Naturally growing from fan recommendations and everything seems transparent with them. Perhaps the lifetime deal may not be sustainable for ever, but it seems right for where the competition is right now.

My guess is the demand to maintain the product is now huge but it has been nice seeing the massive amount of work they have done to produce version 4 recently.  To me its an indication they are doing well and not going away any time soon. My impression with the other options out there is they either have too many other products on the go or have stagnated a bit.

Installing plugins.  Those coming from hosted solution get slightly overwhelmed by the extensions that connect to other WordPress Plugins. The MainWP interface even flags this up.

Personally  I still only install the plugins I would anyway. But certainly if you want to include for example something like the result of a security scans done on client reports you need MainWP to be connected to a supported WordPress plugin to get that information. You would need a supported WordPress backup plugin if you want to do that from the Master install.

None of this bothers me, the information on plugin and theme updates and up-time is more than enough dynamic content for my clients.  I can write a generic section on security because their site will always have been scanned daily and their site will always be virus free on the report date.

Chunkiness.   I have only actually seen one review claim MainWP to be bloated and resource heavy, but I get the sense some feel it might be less efficient. This is important to me and I monitor these things, but I don’t think it is:

  • Dashboard install. This is lightweight  I have a few plugins for security and email sending and when in my main dashboard (which is running 12 extensions) I see 64 queries. 14mb ram use and .03 second load times.
  • Child Plugin. This seems to add 6 extra quires, but nothing on the front end of sites.
  • Syncing and updating. Never seems to max out my shared CPU amount nor does it raise the RAM use much either.

MainWP-server-resources

Attractiveness. Some have not liked the look of the UI. Whether this will still be true with the recently restyled version 4 is to be seen, but if it is there is a free extension that allows you to customize the dashboard.  There is also the MainWP Branding extension you can hide the child plugin (and other plugins) or white label it.  There are still a few issues with the responsive layout on some pages with Version 4. In the great scheme of things these do not bother me. I can fix them myself or zoom the browser.

MainWP-custom-dashboard

Supported plugins.  In the early days MainWP produced a lot of extensions for plugins very quickly, (but I believe partly prompted by the early developer adopters) slowed down to ensure the code quality was good.  Now we see 3rd parties developing their own. Some, I suspect, are put off at not seeing an extension for their plugin.

Personally this has never affected me and I think if MainWP tried to accommodate all they would spread themselves too thin and have lots of retired plugins.  They have a bulk setting plugin that effectively allow you to control the settings in most plugins and WordPress itself.

When I moved away from WordFence and WP Rocket for which their are MainWP extensions client were not affected. Sure I didn’t use WordFence data in client reports to show off, but they were not interested. It was enough for me to add a line saying they were scanned daily and their site is virus free.

The MainWP Extensions I regularly use.

Free:

Advanced Uptime Monitor. UpdraftPlus, Clean and Lock, Custom Dashboard

Premium:

Comments, Branding, Client Reports, Maintenance, File Uploader, Bulk Settings Manager Buddy

Summary

If you are prepared to put a little effort I believe MainWP offers the best value and reliability out there.  It perfect for my business and used also by my closest peers. I fully recommend it particularly at the present cost.


Links

MainWP

MainWP  (WordPress Repository)

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I build websites at WP Corner Shop and travel. I also co-host a weekly WordPress podcast called WP Builds and make YouTube videos.

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