Discover Top Alternative to WordPress VIP for Enterprise Hosting

Steve Persch , Director, Developer Relations Reading estimate: 9 minutes

Enterprise-grade hosting poses challenges such as maintaining near-perfect uptime, ensuring ironclad security and navigating the complexities of high-traffic websites. To navigate these obstacles, the demand for hosting solutions that offer high performance and provide high-touch support and expertise is more critical than ever.

For larger businesses, the stakes are even higher as scalability, reliability and high performance become not just nice-to-haves but absolute necessities to stay ahead of competitors.

WordPress VIP (WPVIP) is a popular, enterprise-level hosting solution known for its architecture, security and performance. However, some businesses end up looking for alternatives that align better with their needs and budgets. 

They want a WordPress hosting partner that not only keeps up with them but also anticipates and facilitates the next leap forward, ensuring they can meet the demands of their customers and the market without delay.

That’s why choosing the right enterprise-grade WordPress hosting service is an important decision that requires the careful consideration of a multitude of factors – from technical capabilities to cost implications.

In this article, we’ll uncover the top alternative to WordPress VIP – Pantheon.

Understanding WordPress VIP: Strengths and Weaknesses

Fundamentally, WordPress VIP is the enterprise version of the consumer-oriented WordPress.com. It inherits the strengths and the weaknesses that come naturally from its original path of taking a tightly locked down consumer service and expanding it for enterprise suitability. 

The strengths that came from that approach include:

  • Fully Managed Hosting: WPVIP handles everything from technical maintenance to updates, ensuring that site owners can focus on their content and business.
  • Automatic and High-Scalability: It is built to scale, automatically adjusting resources to handle sudden traffic spikes to ensure that sites remain accessible during peak times.
  • Uptime and Performance Monitoring: Continuous monitoring guarantees that sites are always up and running smoothly, providing an optimal user experience.
  • Proactive Security and Scanning: Advanced security measures, like regular scanning to detect vulnerabilities, are in place to protect sites from potential threats.

Fulfilling the "Enterprise version of WordPress.com" concept means a big differentiation in price and signup process:

  • Pricing: WordPress VIP is known for its premium pricing, starting at $25,000 per year, with the potential to cost much more, making it a significant investment for businesses. That cost is a clear differentiator from the mass market WordPress.com.
  • No Self-Serve Signup: Interested parties cannot sign up directly. Instead, they must submit a form and await contact from the sales team, potentially delaying the onboarding process. That is a normal "Enterprise" practice but very frustrating for developers who just want to take a test drive.

There are also places where WordPress VIP retains characteristics of the mass-market WordPress.com in ways that frustrate Enterprise users.

  • Narrow deployment pipeline: In its early days, only WordPress VIP staff could deploy code for a given site. Even small tweaks to a theme went through coding standards reviews and only certain plugins could be used. While these restrictions have loosened, professional teams may still bristle at the narrow path from code change on their laptops to the live site.
  • Limited Direct Access: The absence of Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), SSH, and direct database access restricts developers' ability to interact with the site's backend directly, posing challenges for those accustomed to hands-on management.

Maintaining those restrictions made sense for the use cases in which WordPress VIP had an early and strong fit, like high-traffic journalism outlets with no internal WordPress development expertise. Teams with professional developers are more likely to feel overly constrained.

Pantheon: A Vigorous and Efficient Alternative to WordPress VIP

On the surface, our offering at Pantheon may look similar to WordPress VIP. We both run world-class WordPress sites, and we provide similar checklists of features. However, there are a few underlying differences that add up in big ways:

  • Pantheon started from the perspective of professional web development teams. Instead of enhancing a mass-market tool like WordPress.com to meet the expectations of the enterprise, Pantheon's founders came from the web agency world, where they repeatedly set up enterprise-grade solutions for large sites and teams. Pantheon's product is a standardization of those practices.
  • WordPress VIP is for WordPress. Pantheon is for a broader scope of website operations. We run WordPress and Drupal. We architected our Front-End Sites offering that runs frameworks like Next.js, easily integrating with our long-beloved CMS sites but not necessarily depending on them. We do not tie ourselves or our customers to only one framework or CMS. That distinction leads to the next difference. 
  • WordPress VIP runs its own hardware. Pantheon builds on public cloud products. At Pantheon, we're always looking to position ourselves “up the stack”. For instance, in 2017, we happily moved our Varnish configuration from servers we controlled in Rackspace to Fastly. Our customers' sites got faster and more secure in the process.

These distinctions do not add up to an absolute "better" or "worse" for all teams. But they do illuminate how and why we do what we do.

At Pantheon, we pride ourselves on being an "opinionated platform” designed to free teams from the intricacies of developing with WordPress, to boost productivity and create an efficient workflow.

Built For Professional Web Teams: Why Pantheon is an Excellent Alternative

The difference between Pantheon's origins and WordPress VIP's origins shows up in ways big and small. By bringing Enterprise practices to a standardized product accessible to teams of all sizes and budgets, Pantheon has built some features differently from an approach that takes a mass-market product and scales it for the enterprise use case.

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A screenshot of a professional workspace on Pantheon.
Pantheon's WebOps platform

Being the fastest hosting platform on the planetPantheon is designed to meet the needs of dynamic teams looking to push the boundaries of what's possible on the web, providing a robust array of features that cater to the demands of high-traffic websites:

  • Upstreams: This feature enables standardization across multiple sites, making it less risky for teams to manage and update numerous projects simultaneously compared to traditional WordPress Multisite (though we support Multisite, too, when customers need its advantages).
  • Multidev Environment: Pantheon was built from the beginning on top of Git. So naturally, we needed an environments-per-git branch. Our platform supports a collaborative development process that allows multiple developers to work on separate features or projects in parallel without stepping on each other's toes.
  • Flexible Version Control and Deployment: It's our flexibility in version control and deployment that sets us ahead of the more rigid framework of VIP, which mandates that all code deployment proceed strictly through GitHub. Pantheon's sites come with their own Git repos. Some customers prefer to use those repos directly. Others prefer to set up a custom build process between GitHub, BitBucket or GitLab and Pantheon. 
  • Deployment Pipeline: Every site on Pantheon is equipped with distinct Dev, Test, Live environments, facilitating a smooth and reliable deployment process.
  • Professional Web Developer Tools: Whether you're managing a single high-traffic site or overseeing a suite of digital properties, Pantheon provides the tools, support and scalability you need for web development.
  • Quicksilver: You can automate your workflow with Quicksilver to boost efficiency and reduce the potential for human error in your WebOps processes.
  • Caching: We share the understanding with WPVIP that high-traffic sites operate better with an object cache and CDN. They use Memcached and we provide Redis with an included license for Object Cache ProWPVIP runs their own CDN whereas we build on top of Fastly. By leveraging the best-of-breed CDN, we provide our customers with more points of presence around the globe and focus Pantheon’s own efforts on building more unique features.
  • Multizone Failover: This feature keeps a fully synced database at the ready should the primary database fail.
  • World-Class Support: Our commitment to excellence extends to our support services with 24/7 emergency assistance to ensure your WordPress platform runs smoothly at all times. You won’t get robot replies – you’ll get the help you need from real developers and engineers.
  • Get Started for Free: You can get started for free so you and your team can test out Pantheon’s capabilities without any upfront investment!

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    Developers Love Pantheon Platform

Unmatched Scalability, Uptime and Reliability

Architecting around horizontally scalable containers means that web teams do not need to rethink everything from performance characteristics to deployment pipelines when they switch from working on one of their low-traffic sites to a high-traffic site. 

WPVIP is built (and priced) for large sites, which isn’t the most optimal because even the world's largest companies have some small and narrow sites too. Pantheon, on the other hand, is built for portfolios of sites with huge ranges in size.

If a small project running on a Basic plan turns into your most trafficked site, you can upgrade plans with a click and more containers provision instantly.

Pantheon’s Advantages in Flexibility and Security

Like VIP, we lean on the Content Delivery Network (CDN) layer to provide any site with the first and strongest layer of security and scalability in the face of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and similar attacks. However, we chose to build on top of a market leader in the space. Pantheon's Global CDN for WordPress and Drupal runs on top of Fastly. Our customers get the best of both worlds. Like VIP, we tune CDN configurations appropriately for WordPress.

We chose Fastly as a CDN provider because it extended Pantheon's pre-existing Varnish implementation to dozens of points of presence around the globe -- while also adding enough capacity to mitigate the largest attacks the internet has seen. 

Pantheon has also always been container-centric as well. Google Cloud, even in its earliest years, was the clear winner in container capabilities, and we're just as excited about their container and data products today as we were when we first switched to GCP in 2017."

– David Strauss, Pantheon’s Co-Founder and CTO

Our Advanced Global CDN is just the first layer in a comprehensive suite of security measures designed to protect our customers' sites from numerous threats. From DDoS protection to stringent data protection protocols, Pantheon ensures that every aspect of site security is covered.

Our reluctance to build everything from scratch even took the form of an acquisition, turning StagingPilot into Autopilot in order to keep your site up-to-date effortlessly. This feature automates updates so that your site remains secure and operates on the latest versions of core, themes, and plugins.

Built For Agency Teams

Pantheon's roots in the ecosystem of web development agencies bloom in a few areas of how we operate. The end result is an increasing number of web development teams joining the Pantheon Partner Programcertifying their developers, and delivering better results for their customers.

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A screenshot of some of Pantheon's strategic partner agencies.

Agencies choose to invest efforts with Pantheon for a variety of reasons including:

  • Time is money: All of the Pantheon tools mentioned earlier like Upstreams, built-in caching, and more become more obvious wins when put in the context of billable hours. Every hour spent reinventing a wheel is not spent on something the client cares about more.
  • Framework flexibility: While there is efficiency to be had for a team in picking one web framework, it is unlikely that every client will want WordPress. Pantheon runs WordPress, Drupal and Front-End Frameworks like Next.js to fit with the evolving needs of the web.
  • Preferred Pricing: Agencies can access our preferred pricing tiers and pass savings along to their customers.
  • Options for ownership: Agencies can configure roles and permissions so that they have total control over the sites of a given client. Some large clients, particularly universities or multinational corporations, prefer to contract with Pantheon directly and add "supporting" agencies who handle code changes but not billing.

Evaluating and Choosing Your WordPress VIP Alternative

Choosing the right enterprise-grade hosting solution is an essential decision for any business looking to enhance its online presence. Although WordPress VIP is well-known and reputable, its high hosting costs and limitations in customization can slow a company's ability to innovate and adapt in a fast-paced digital landscape.

Pantheon is a powerful alternative to WordPress VIP, offering a cost-effective solution that doesn't sacrifice performance for affordability. Our WebOps platform is designed to provide businesses with a more customizable and flexible environment, empowering them to tailor their web operations to meet their unique needs.

With features like Upstreams, Multidev environments, and the ability to integrate with a variety of version control systems, Pantheon empowers teams to work more efficiently and adapt quickly to changes.

Watch the Pantheon demo or try out the platform for free. This no-commitment opportunity allows you to experience firsthand how Pantheon can transform your web operations and support your business objectives.

Partner with a hosting platform committed to your success: reach out to Pantheon today!

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