It is no secret that the recipe to a perfect website starts with the hosting solution you choose. With Google's recent announcements on Core Web Vitals, it is now much more important that you qualify the mandatory metrics such as FID, LCP and CLS. Although a good hosting solution may not individually boost all these metrics but it sure will give you a kickstart. There are different types of hosting solutions available such as shared hosting, cloud hosting, managed hosting, so you have to decide the best solution which meets your requirement.
In this article I will try to give you an honest review for Rocket.net as it is around 4 months now since I migrated GoLinuxCloud to Rocket.net and I think I can share my experience which can may be help you decide choose your hosting provider.
Overview on Rocket.net
Rocket.net is an all-in-one managed WordPress hosting platform which is specially designed for WordPress CMS. It is comparatively new solution which was officially Launched on June 30, 2020 founded by Ben Gabler, Josip Radan and Aaron Philips.
The services/features which are included in all the plans of Rocket.net are:
- Free Cloudflare Enterprise CDN
- Full page HTML caching at edge server with 200+ PoP
- Brotli Compression
- Google Font Optimization
- Website Firewall (WAF)
- Malware Scanning
- Malware Patching
- Brute-force Protection
- Weak Password Prevention
- Automated Bot Protection
- Simple Control Panel
- Automatic Updates
- Enterprise Servers
- NGINX + PHP 7.4
- Daily Backups
- Global Edge Network
- 99.99% Uptime
Let us cover the different aspects of this hosting solution:
Speed and Performance
Rocket.net has partnered with Cloudflare using their Enterprise plan. At the time of writing this article they claimed to be the only hosting solution which is using the Cloudflare Enterprise Plan. As per the official page from Cloudflare, the price for Business plan itself is $200/month so we can only imagine the cost of Enterprise plan as it covers everything included in Business plan and so much more.
So instead of re-inventing the wheel and creating their own CDN solution they have done the smart thing to utilize this solution from an expert (Cloudflare) in the field which is one of the biggest networks operating on the Internet and integrate it with their hosting solution.
Cloudflare provides reverse proxy solution to perform Full HTML page caching using which your page will be loaded from the Edge server nearest to the visitor's location. You can achieve this using page rules or APO solution but it has it's own cons
- With the release of APO the HTML pages are cached and now the wordpress cookies are automatically excluded and posts/pages cache are automatically purged after publishing a new post but this solution is still not very stable (at the time of writing this article). I have had many issues and cloudflare support was really not very helpful.
- The traffic from Indian users on my website never (or very rarely) was served from the India PoP and it was mostly served from Singapore PoP. This is one of the most common problems which you can find people complaining with cloudflare community.
The team at rocket.net understood these concerns and which is why they are offering a Full page HTML caching with all their plans. So you just have to point your DNS to Rocket.net and your entire traffic is served from Cloudflare and you don't have to worry about adding any page rules or filters. This will drastically improve the TTFB
Here I have tested my TTFB using https://tools.keycdn.com/performance. As you can see, the TTFB values across the globe:
This is another important aspect which many users tend to ignore. Rocket.net utilises the cloudflare security so you can go ahead and delete every other security plugin from the dashboard.
Earlier even with cloudflare Pro plan I had to use Anti Spam plugins for comments, contact forms etc. They tend to add extra scripts and impact the load and speed of the website. I always used to get a high Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) value due to these anti spam plugins (I have no idea why) so I settled for Akismet plugin which was the only one not causing any CLS but even with this plugin I used to get 100+ spam comments.
With rocket.net now I barely get 2-3 spam comments on a daily basis without using any other security plugins.
Additionally they also provide security features like Website Firewall (WAF), Malware Scanning and Patching, Brute-force Protection, Prevention from DDoS attacks etc which are again covered from Cloudflare so these attacks will be protected at the DNS level with no additional load to your WordPress site. They are also utilising OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Top 10 which is regularly-updated report outlining security concerns for web application security, focusing on the 10 most critical risks specially targeted for WordPress CMS.
This was one of the factors why I choose to leave my previous hosting provider i.e. the constant downtime. This really creates a negative impressions with the viewers and also impacts our revenue. My website has been down only once since I moved to rocket.net and after that it has been a smooth ride. Here is a screenshot of uptime for my website:
Different available plans
You can check their official page to get the latest plans available. Currently they offer Starter, Pro, Business and Agency plan. An interesting thing to notice is that they offer all the features in all of their plans and you don't have to worry about system resources such as CPU and memory. Their plans can be chosen based on number of sites, user visits, bandwidth and storage usage.
All these plans include the CDN and Security related features.
This is another very crucial part of any hosting solution because this is the base of the website and if there is any problem with the base then the whole website can come crashing down. In such scenarios no one wants an un-trained professional helping you and asking you to go through a bunch of third party links instead of actually helping and fixing the underlying problem. As per my experience Ben has always been available with any kind of question or issues I had/faced with Rocket.net and I have had no open concerns which was never addressed.
They have a ticketing tool with their dashboard so you can always create a ticket for lower priority ticket and for urgent issues you can contact them using the LIVE chat support.
How easy is migrating to Rocket.net?
Normally I prefer migration of the website on weekend as it involves some downtime due to DNS resolution and my page has lower traffic on the weekends. Now I don't say that a migration of hosting provider always causes a downtime, in some cases if the migration is done properly then there are no downtimes but unfortunately it never happened for me.
We always need an expert in this field with proper expertise to do this for us but normally this is always chargeable with most hosting providers. But with Rocket.net they provide unlimited website migrations "free of cost" so you can just contact their support and everything will be taken care of by their support team.
For me I was already using Cloudflare DNS so it took hardly a couple of minutes to switch to Rocket.net with 0 seconds downtime.
So looks like Rocket.net is 'PERFECT'?
I know I may sound like Rocket.net is perfect with no flaws at all. Well we should know that there is no such thing as "PERFECT", you will always find one or the other thing missing or lacking and has scope of improvement, although what matters is that how willing are you to make your product "NEAR PERFECT".
Since rocket.net is a new platform solution, there are different areas which I feel needs improvement:
- With HTML caching the TTFB is drastically improved but it also brings in one challenge of purging cache of all related content every time a post/page is updated. This is handled by rocket.net using a MU Plugin (CDN Cache) which is installed on the WordPress dashboard as soon as you join their program. This plugin needs some more improvements in terms of UI and features as I time to time face some issues with this plugin.
- Lack of automated backup and restore of individual file type such as themes, database, plugins. By default the restore option will restore everything and the user has no control to restore individual options.
Missing one-click option to access phpMyAdmin[UPDATE Feb 2021: This has been implemented]
- Missing dashboard to track the status of rocket.net services such as downtimes, planned maintenance or any critical events.
- Reporting section available in the dashboard can be enhanced which can allow end user to add filters and get more details of the stats.
- Missing firewall events reports as we had with Cloudflare to learn about different security events which were blocked/allowed.
- Missing web UI based File manager, so every time you have modify your website's content, you have to use FTP/SFTP.
- No 24/7 support. Although the support team tries to be available and respond as early as possible, it is not actually available round the clock as their team is still small so it is possible you may not get a response with their chat option if you contact them at off hours. But in such cases I normally send mail to Ben directly and he is quiet responsive even in non-office hours.
- Small team for support, this is not actually a negative feedback but it does worry me that with more number of customers, the team size must be increased to handle all the queries. Based on my past experience I have seen that with growing customers, the support takes a toss as new hires may not be as good as the ones who founded the solution 🙂
The good thing is that the founders are actively listening to these feedbacks and they have planned to implement most of these missing features in the year 2021 so fingers crossed.
Should you choose Rocket.net?
It all comes down to the question, should you choose or switch to rocket.net?
If you are struggling to improve TTFB (Time to First Byte) of your website then this is one of the best available hosting platform where you don't have to worry about speed with added unmatched benefit of performance, security, automatic updates etc.
Also one of the problems faced by most CLousdflare users i.e. improper traffic routing. Most of the time the file served from Edge cache is not served from the nearest PoP for the target audience as I said earlier, my India traffic was always served from Singapore. With rocket.net now my India traffic is not routed from Singapore anymore (as you can see the traffic for Bangalore, India was served from BLR i.e. Bangalore PoP):
Below are Google Page Speed Insights stats from my page (obviously it is not all only due to the hosting solution but it is definitely one big factor):
Following is a screenshot of Pingdom test result:
Following is the test result from webpagetest.org
Ready to signup with Rocket.net (COUPON CODE with additional 20% off)?
Don't go on my word and test for your self. You can sign up to rocket.net and raise a request for website migration.
You don't need to change the URL or update your DNS records to test their platform with your website. You can contact the Rocket.net support and they will perform the website migration and will share a temporary Rocket URL which you can use to test the speed and performance based on your website's content and then decide for your self.