TL;DR: If you're at least mildly comfortable with using the command line, and you value customization and low-cost hosting options that you can scale to suit your needs, You're going to want to check out SpinupWP.
Before I start this, I want to be clear - I am not being paid or sponsored in any way to write this. The team at SpinupWP don't even know I'm writing this. I just love the product and don't think it's getting enough attention.
Got it? We good? Okay, let me start gushing.
Where I'm Coming From
At the start of this year, I shut down my tiny agency so I could instead focus on picking up more appropriate work for my skill set. My agency had a few remaining retainer clients who I was managing on their behalf. They were set up using Flywheel, mostly because when I started they were the best option on the market (and still a fantastic choice. I never regretted going with them!). I had picked up one of Flywheel's bulk plans, and I had a couple open slots available to me, which I used for my various personal blogs I run. It was perfect because, well, my business was able to provide the hosting for me without me needing to think twice about it.
But, after I shut down the business, I was left with these different websites, and suddenly the idea of spending ~$60/month on those sites seemed pretty steep, considering that I am more than capable of managing my own WordPress installs. So, I did a little shopping to see what my options were. It had been a few years, so I figured maybe something changed, and I could find something that would meet me at my skill level, be open enough for me to work with it, but simplify the process enough so that I don't have to deal with Docker (because I really...really hate Docker). It didn't take me long to find SpinupWP.
What's So Different About It?
Unlike fully-managed WordPress hosting services, SpinupWP doesn't actually offer a hosting plan. Instead, they sell the software that is similar to what you'd use with managed WordPress hosting services, and that's about where the similarities end, honestly. On the surface, it feels like a managed hosting service, but under the hood, you're in full control.
The reason why you get unfettered control with SpinupWP is because you are responsible for choosing where your WordPress install, is hosted. By giving you that choice, SpinupWP effectively ensures that they don't have to make any choices regarding how your WordPress install works. If you want it, you can have it, provided whichever host you choose allows you to do that. They have a handful of tight integrations with existing hosting platforms, such as DigitalOcean.
A Great Option for Agencies
I wish SpinupWP existed when I chose Flywheel years ago, because I would have picked it in a heartbeat. Most of the sites I managed and hosted were very small sites, and I could probably run them on a single DigitalOcean droplet for way less than I was paying for my bulk plan at Flywheel. I did have a couple clients that probably would need their own droplet, but for the most part, I would have been able to spend a lot less money, have more control over the installs, and sacrifice very little in-terms of ease of use. If I was still maintaining hosting for clients, I would 100% be using SpinupWP for most (perhaps all) of my clients.
SpinupWP kind-of feels like a good medium between "I'm doing it all with a fresh install of Ubuntu and the command line" and "I pushed a button and had a website". It is designed to hold your hand through the setup process, and has a lovely interface to make it easier to manage most common aspects of your sites, but it still gives you access to everything under the hood (although it tries to guide you when it can!)
I migrated three different sites over, database and all. Each one took me about 15 minutes to install WordPress on my first site, and another 20 minutes or so to migrate the database (ironically enough, using a product that many of the people on SpinupWP built for another company called DeliciousBrains.) All-in-all, migrating wasn't too painful. It took a bit of work with with bash, the CLI, and using SSH to access my DigitalOcean droplet, but I'm personally very comfortable with that toolkit so it was fine.
It Makes The Hard Stuff Easy
I think what I love about this tool is that it takes all of the very important, but also very difficult to maintain stuff about running a properly managed WordPress site, and it makes it all easy to do.
For example, I was able to set up a Git-based deployment workflow through SpinupWP. Once I created my connection with the site, I set up the repository, and started pushing updates to GitHub. As soon as anything gets pushed to Master, SpinupWP tells the server to download the updates, and after that it will run any set of commands you tell it to afterward every time. This is great because I want it to run composer and NPM to install dependencies I'm using on my WordPress sites, (Lookin' at you BerlinDB, and Underpin). Could I have done this on my own without it? Sure. I could have created a CI action that handles the push action and everything else, but would I? Probably not, because it's just annoying enough to set up that I probably wouldn't bother.
Another example - automated backups. This is not an easy thing to set up, and is one of those things that you really need to work reliably. When you need to restore a backup, you need to do it right freaking now. It's one of the things I valued most about managed hosting - if I ever needed to restore from backup, it was a couple clicks away. SpinupWP handles that for you, and makes it quick and easy to manage.
Not to mention caching, HTTPS, redirects, SSH, and PHP version updates. it's all here. And way easier to set up than if you're doing this with a straight DigitalOcean install.
One of my absolute favorite things about the app is that they did such a great job of holding your hand absolutely everywhere. Every, and I mean every single setting in their dashboard has a little "helpful hints" section on the sidebar, that provides additional context for what all of the different settings do, and what are the implications of changing those settings. I think the "Nginx" settings page showcases this particularly well.
There's three toggles on this page, and it's pretty easy to look at them and have no freaking clue what they would do, but the hints on the sidebar give context, as well as a link to some related documentation to help you make an informed decision.
I mean, obviously I'm a fan of SpinupWP, but I don't necessarily think it's right for everyone. If you're not comfortable with working with the command line, and feel overwhelmed by the amount of control you're given, you're going to be much better off with something like GoDaddy's WordPress hosting, or perhaps WPEngine or Flywheel. You won't have as many options, but honestly if you aren't comfortable with changing those options anyway, you'll probably what to just use what they offer you anyway 😁.