ManageWP, MainWP, InfiniteWP, Jetpack Manage, iThemes Sync, etc.
I’m sure you’ve heard of site management plugins before. Basically, it’s a plugin that you install on all your sites…which allows them all to be managed from one central dashboard.
Run updates, do site tasks, check site health and security, and many other capabilities when you add extensions.
To keep things realistic and concise, I compare only the 2 big dogs in this category…ManageWP and MainWP! (Why waste time covering the inferior stuff, right?)
What are site management plugins?
Intro to site management plugins
These are plugins that allow you to manage multiple sites all from one centralized dashboard. So instead of logging into each one to do site management tasks, you could simply access them all in one place. It’s convenient time-saving way to manage many sites, whether for yourself or for clients.
Typical tasks/benefits you can manage:
- See a whole list of sites in one place
- 1-click login into admin dashboard (without needing password)
- Core, themes, plugins – quickly install, activate or deactivate, or make 1-click to update them all
- See and edit posts
- Backups and restores
- Uptime monitoring – get notified if a site isn’t running
- Security – checks and reports
- User management – see, manage, add, delete, block
- Site-management and security reports
- WooCommerce – see sales across sites
- Client reports
- With extensions, you can even do so much more!
The moment you get to managing more than 5 sites on a daily (or weekly) basis, it’s a no-brainer to use a site management plugin. They even have free plans…so there’s no reason not to!
How I use site management plugins
- Shortcut admin access – easily jump into dashboard for all my sites. The ones I access regularly are already easy since I have bookmarks right on my browser toolbar. The sites I don’t jump into often are the ones much easier managed now. I could be on any computer anywhere and by logging into one site, I access all the rest without having to remember passwords.
- Site overview – see all sites from one place (no matter what server they’re on). Also see what theme, plugins, and PHP version they’re using. Easily manage updates.
- Manage other people’s sites – super helpful for managing updates for clients, family and friends.
- User management – quickly create users on all sites.
- Uptime monitor – there are many free options out there but setting it up from a site management tool is the most hassle-free.
- Backups and Cloning – again, super easy way to set up routine tasks across all your sites. Faster way of setting of backing across multiple sites, and equally impressive is being able to clone and copy sites back and forth…especially if they’re not on the same server!
Basically, your life is so much easier when you don’t have to keep logging into sites individually to do routine tasks…and also so you can see what each site needs all from one place!
ManageWP vs MainWP – brand reputations
These are the 2 most established companies in the space. While they do the same thing, they do it in very different ways, with different approaches and pricing. And I would dare say, they cater to very different user markets. Both have a useable free plan, and then you pay if you want the extra goodies.
ManageWP is the big commercial brand (with nicer looking website), selling their software as a subscription service. Your centralized dashboard is accessed via their website. It has really nice branding, nice UI, appears more professional and “user-friendly”, but is also much more expensive. It’s very annoying that you can’t price things out ahead of time since the price depends on what premium features you want. Everything little thing costs a $1 extra and added up at the end, can easily be $100-300/year that you pay…depending on how many sites and how many features you use.
MainWP is the smaller (but still well-established) open-source brand, selling their software at 2 options (you can pay a subscription, or buy LIFETIME rights for a onetime fee). The dashboard software is hosted on your servers (installed and access through a designated WordPress site). You own the software and have full control of its customizations and hacking. Being that the LIFETIME fee is only $499 and you have full control of its flexibility…I’d almost say this is always the no-brainer option for a dev. $499 and it’s free to use no matter how many sites or features you use.
All other site management plugins (listed here with notes why I didn’t consider them):
- InfiniteWP – fewer features, more complex/uglier UI, not so attractive pricing. From a more recent review of their site, it seems they updated their UI.
- JetPack Manage – I already hate JetPack and now don’t see the point of a plugin which doesn’t add many features.
- iThemes Sync – not a bad alternative but also doesn’t have any unique qualities over the 2 big dogs. I think it’s only a good deal if you get it as part of the iThemes bundle. Either way, I’m not a big iThemes fan.
- WPRemote – price is so high and from the YouTube reviews I saw, the control panel didn’t look particularly appealing to me.
- WP Umbrella – new company. Their price is way too high. That $2/site adds up super fast. Will admit their screen looks clutter free. But I’ve yet to try them.
The biggest issue I have with all these other site management plugins is their marketing. It’s like they know they’re not the superior site management plugin, that they can’t compete with ManageWP or MainWP…so their marketing is aimed at VALUE and BENEFITS based marketing. Talking about how you’ll be so relaxed and have less headaches, etc.
C’mon now, cut the crap. Go straight to the features. Show up screenshots of your dashboard instead of feel-good cartoons of people smiling. Oh and no surprise…their plans are really expensive!
ManageWP vs MainWP – head to head comparison
Pricing & Approach
This has to be mentioned first because it really affects how you approach and use site management.
- ManageWP – is a SaaS (software as a service). You pay an ongoing subscription based on how many sites and how many features you have.
- MainWP – is a software. You can pay an ongoing subscription based on how many sites and features you have, but you can also buy it fully with the LIFETIME license (which amazing also includes lifetime support).
- …and both have free plans available, which already allow unlimited sites and many useful features already. You really could use the free plan forever.
However if you’re thinking for the long run, it really helps to be setup with the better-fitting plugin in the first place.
As a dev like myself who loves powerful features, and the ability to customize things, and also lower pricing…MainWP’s lifetime purchase option is the easy winner here. But let’s keep exploring to see which option is really best…
- ManageWP – you log into your centralized dashboard (on their website), and enter in the admin user & pass of the sites you want to manage. With that admin login alone, ManageWP automatically installs the child site plugin.
- MainWP – first you have to install the dashboard plugin onto your designated dashboard site. Then you install the child plugin into every child site you want to manage, then you have to go back to your dashboard site and verify the connection. Sounds like a hassle but trust me, it’s really not.
ManageWP definitely feels easier to setup, but while MainWP is a couple extra clicks…it wasn’t hard by any means. Both are easy.
Control panel design (UI)
- ManageWP – might theoretically seem prettier since it’s a totally separate site, and not mixing in any way with WordPress. It’s not a dashboard sitting inside another dashboard. Its design is purposefully made with site management in mind…specific fonts, icon scheme, and layout spacing to make site management easy.
- MainWP – would theoretically seem less pretty since it sits inside a WordPress site, but actually it takes over the whole screen and looks like a totally custom panel (with no clashing of WordPress styles). Also has more info. It too looks pretty in its own way but feels more cute, whereas ManageWP looks more corporate and enterprise-ey.
Personally, I prefer more MainWP’s UI design. ManageWP’s design looks less cluttery (feels kinda like an app with icon-reliant navigation)…but MainWP’s design makes more sense and feels more similar to typical WordPress settings logic (also like a webhost control panel as well). So although it’s more cluttery, I feel MainWP UI is easier to use and find things.
- I didn’t bother to compare every single nuance. Both ManageWP and MainWP have many features which are executed well.
Generally, MainWP has more features. ManageWP has fewer features, but might already be enough for you. ManageWP might also do certain features in a better way (like backups in their free plan). So it ultimately comes down to deciding if you’re a FREE or PAID user, and then to compare the features you want.
- ManageWP – is a closed-source commercial SaaS…so only they can make extensions.
- MainWP – is open source software. So tons of extensions available (both official & 3rd party).
ManageWP is like Shopify, and MainWP is like WordPress. So basically…you’ll have way more options and flexibility with MainWP.
User experience (UX)
The more I watch people manage their websites, the more I realize how different I am from everybody else. User experience is truly a subjective metric. We all manage websites differently. And find pain and pleasure in different clicks and cognitive tasks.
- ManageWP – doesn’t feel like WordPress. Different layouts and placing of sub-menus and sub-settings. The layout is clutter free but making little changes or tasks require pop-ups and more sub-menus to click through. Every so often, the free plan runs you into subtle advertisements for paid plans. It’s still easy to use, but your mind has to “remember” where things are…and I find this extremely annoying.
- MainWP – feels a bit more cluttered because nearly all options are right in front of you. Just about every setting can be predictably found on the busy left side menu. And then you have shortcut links on top and right side. I also love that you can customize which settings/info appear on your settings pages.
I honestly feel MainWP will get your site management tasks done in fewer clicks. Fewer levels of navigation and pop-ups to wade through. Maybe ManageWP panel is only better in that the settings screens load faster (since it’s on their proprietary platform and hosting). But all in all, I just love my MainWP experience.
- ManageWP – I haven’t had to use it. Their service is clearly defined so I never got lost, or had a customization request to make.
- MainWP – their chat support is responsive and their FB group is also active. I feel totally encompassed by their team and community.
Both companies are totally fine. Can support newbies or devs equally well, I feel.
- ManageWP – totally awesome FREE plan. Or pay more or less $1/site for premium features.
- MainWP – totally awesome FREE plan. Or pay $15-30/month for premium features. Or pay $499 for LIFETIME unlimited use.
Both are an equally great deal from FREE up to 10 sites. Once you get over 20 sites…MainWP gets cheaper, and starts to feel like a steal.
Fantasy suggestions for MainWP
- Dev logs – create a way to easily see error logs for each site. Also a slow query report.
- Folder management option – to be able to place sites into folders.
I only included suggestions for MainWP because I love it so much more. Also because I feel it has more flexibility to improve (via core updates or 3rd party extension).
Recommended use cases
- FREE plan users – anybody who never intends to pay can use both just fine. Pick the one with the UI you like and let it be. Try both and pick the one you like…there’s really no risk!
- Minimal management (0-10 sites) – pricing is same here whether you’re on free or paid plan. Pick
- Internal company use – if you want the most professional company vibe, and cost is no matter since you’ll expense it out anyway…then I suppose ManageWP could be a better fit. I personally would still choose MainWP regardless, though.
- WP management business – you’ll probably want to compare their WHITE-LABEL features and see if the dashboard and customer reports is customizable to the way you like. And then yes, compare the features. Price-wise…MainWP just flat out wins in the long run.
My pick overall is MainWP.
- I recommend you try MainWP because it wins in almost every way for me. Looks, works, and priced better. LIFETIME deal is an awesome buy! (You can call me biased. I just love the product and the spirit behind it.)
- ManageWP is worth a look but the higher pricing, fewer features/extensions, and cleaner look (but annoying settings navigation) turn me off. I don’t care that it’s more popular.
Best of all…both MainWP & ManageWP have free plans available. So you can check out both for yourself. There’s really no risk!