Management dashboards can help you manage all your sites in bulk to increase your efficiency and productivity, saving you oodles of time. But with so many options out there, which one should you choose?
Dashboards for WordPress sites list all of your sites, plugins and themes in one super convenient location. They also let you update everything in one or two clicks, whereas if you didn’t use a dashboard, you would have to visit each of your sites individually to make updates.
Seems simple enough until you realize each option out there has different features and settings. It can quickly get dizzying, so to alleviate some of that overwhelm, this post covers:
All of these details should help you make an informed decision so without further ado, let’s get to it.
The main purpose of any management dashboard for WordPress is to provide a way for you to maintain all of your sites and the updates that become available for your plugins and themes in one place. This is done through a single page where you can connect all your sites and manage them in bulk.
The centralized location of the dashboard also lets you manage all of your sites without needing to log in to each and every time. It goes without saying that it helps boost your overall productivity and efficiency by giving you a quick way to manage your sites.
By now, you may be wondering “why is she describing the super admin dashboard of WordPress Multisite and calling it by a different name?” Actually, management dashboards are very different from Multisite.
While there are clear similarities, the biggest difference is that management dashboards let you manage all or your sites, whether they’re from the same or separate Multisite networks or single installs of WordPress. You can also link up sites from different servers to a management dashboard.
With Multisite, you can only manage sites within your network. Also, if you want to activate a plugin or theme on only a few of your subsites that aren’t network activated, you would need to go to each site separately and activate the plugin or theme, then go to the other sites and do the same.
With a management dashboard you can:
There are also some other features that some management dashboards have that others don’t:
Some options do include other settings, but these are the most common features that you can usually find in different combinations for different management dashboards.
There are some key features which make management dashboards an excellent tool. Here are the main benefits in detail.
Centralized Interface: Being able to manage all your sites in one place, no matter where they’re hosted or what network they may be a part of is an excellent way to keep things simple and efficient. After all, it’s easier to go to only one place to handle changes rather than many separate ones.
Efficiency and Productivity: Since everything you need to manage is within your reach or well, click, you can manage your sites a lot faster and in less time.
Create Income for Your Business: If you’re a developer or theme designer. You could manage your clients’ sites easily and include maintenance as an additional service to your business to create recurring revenue without having to do so much extra work.
Minimize Amount of Plugins Needed: Since many dashboard managers have multiple features included that are duplicated in the plugins you already have installed, you could eliminate all those extra plugins. In turn, this would speed up your site for a better user experience and SERP ranking.
Lightweight: In the case of external management dashboards, they’re hosted away from your server, which means your site doesn’t have to compete with your dashboard for resources such as storage space, memory and bandwidth. It leaves a lot more wiggle room for your site to run smoothly.
Unfortunately, there are also a few reasons why using a management dashboard may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s what you need to look out for in detail.
Potentially Less Secure: For external dashboards, you’re relying on the security of the company which provides the dashboard so if they’re not keeping their service secure, your sites are placed at risk as well. It’s especially riskier if you sign into your sites from the dashboard.
It’s also important to note that any external dashboard manager should not store your login credentials at any point. Doing so would pose a serious potential security risk.
On the flip side, most options have top-notch security. Still, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind when you’re considering your options.
Drain on Resources: For internal management dashboards, you’re solely responsible for allocating the resources it takes to run it. If the plugin is bloated, it could seriously weigh down your server which means your sites wouldn’t have enough breathing room to run properly and your visitors could quickly take notice.
Internal management dashboards also have the added expense of being self-hosted. If the plugin isn’t free or you need premium upgrades, it may prove to be more hassle than it’s worth.
Counter-Productivity: Some management dashboards are so robust, using them can be tricky and have a steep learning curve. If it takes you forever to figure it out and become comfortable with using it, you end up being a lot less efficient and productive. It would negate the whole reason for having a management dashboard.
You also need to make sure you’re able to carry out the bulk actions you need to for your sites. If you aren’t able to manage your sites the way you want, then this also defeats the purpose of having this kind of service.
The Hub is your mission control for monitoring the vital stats of all your sites, including uptime, performance and security. Add as many sites as you want – including Multisite networks – and receive instant security alerts, run performance scans, and get notifications when any of your plugins or themes need to be updated.
Ultimately, this is why it’s important to shop around and make sure you pick a management dashboard that fits your particular needs. Here are the main details you should consider when choosing a suitable option.
As previously mentioned, the management dashboard you choose needs to be easy for you to use. If it’s costing you time to learn the ins and outs of it, it costs you your productivity.
It also helps if you know that you can pass on the expense to your clients. If you can charge them a monthly maintenance fee, it’s easier to justify the added expense.
Even if you can’t directly pass on the cost of the dashboard, you can still determine if it’s saving you time and money by providing you the opportunity to be more efficient in streamlining your work and process.
Management dashboards are like snowflakes since no two are alike. This means that you may find certain options are more intuitive for you to use than others. This also means not one dashboard is right for every single person out there. You need to try them out and pick the one you think will be fastest for you to use.
The quality of support you receive should also be an important factor, possibly moreso than for other products and services. Since the goal of using a management dashboard is to make your life easier, why should you accept customer service that makes your life more difficult?
You should also be able to make feature suggestions that are taken seriously so you can make even quicker work of otherwise teadious tasks.
The age-old question: Do you choose an internal or external management dashboard? It’s important to decide what’s most important to you in the feature set they each bring.
Internal dashboards offer an increased level of security since you’re in complete control and don’t need to log in and share your personal information with anyone. On the other hand, you’re completely responsible for your server, site and dashboard’s security.
If keeping a tight and secure ship isn’t your forte, it may be best to leave it up to someone else to manage it for you.
Make sure you know what features you need and choose a dashboard that has them since there are solutions out there that have little features when compared to others. This is especially important when you need to do a task in bulk, only to find out that you can’t.
Some services also only have a certain number of bulk managing settings while making other bulk actions premium so watch out for that.
Many management dashboards also have other premium extensions for added capabilities. Check out what kind of extensions are available (if any) and make sure you have what you need, but also that you have room to grow.
As previously mentioned, you need to make sure you have the level of privacy you want. If not being required to login externally is important to you, then consider an internal solution.
It’s not likely an issue for most sites, but sometimes it’s an essential requirement. If you’re managing client sites, be sure to go through their privacy and security needs beforehand to be sure you can offer them maintenance services through the proper management dashboard.
At the end of the day, it’s ultimately up to you to decide which features are most important for your sites. One size doesn’t fit all in this case so you need to go with the management dashboard that will fit your specific needs. Don’t just pick a dashboard service based on one factor such as popularity.
Don’t just pick a dashboard service based on one factor such as popularity. Fortunately, you can refer to this post for pointers to make an informed decision.
Please note: These reviews are current based on the pricing options available at the time this was written.
Perfect Dashboard is an external option that is by far one of the simpler management dashboards but doesn’t lack in features and capabilities.
You can manage sites and back them up for free, but you also have invaluable premium features available such as automatic update testing with a visual comparison of the SEO and social tag differences as well as the ability to create a development environment, automatically verify backups and white labelled client reports and documents that you can use for your business.
Also, their support is, by far, the best out of all the other options listed here since they not only have their support team answering questions, but their developers also jump in without being prompted when they can provide confirmation, clarification and more information on an issue.
ManageWP’s Orion release is an external dashboard and is chock-full of features from uptime monitoring, backups, analytics and security scanning to customizable maintenance mode pages, speed tests and white-labelled client reports. You can also execute code from the dashboard as well. Though, if you’re looking for backups for your Multisite, this isn’t the solution for you as it’s only possible for single installs.
A free version is available, but it’s not without its limitations. If you would like to add maintenance services as a part of your business, you should consider upgrading to premium since client reports are watermarked and certain other features such as analytics and uptime monitoring are only available with a premium subscription.
It has a well-organized layout, but some users who prefer a minimalist design may find it to be a bit too much. Still, if you’re looking for the most features possible in your dashboard, ManageWP should be a contender for you.
MainWP is an internal management dashboard option that has the most free and premium extensions. There are also my add-ons that are unique to MainWP such as a broken link checker, search engine discovery protection and database optimization. It’s also one of the few options that include deployment settings and user management.
There are also many free features already included that most other management dashboards include in their premium packages such as basic uptime monitoring, backups, simple security scanning and content management,
If you require a solution for your personal sites, MainWP is one of the best options to consider since you get the most features for free.
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InfiniteWP is an internal dashboard that has all the basic management tools most people need for free such as updating everything, while also being able to delete and install plugins and themes. There are many other features available but as a premium subscription such as enhanced options for backups, uptime monitoring, user management, analytics, security scanning, client reporting tools and creating stating environments.
The interface is similar to the WordPress dashboard so it’s quite straightforward to understand and use. The biggest drawback for most people is that most of InfiniteWP’s features are premium so if you need more than the bare minimum, you need to upgrade. Since most other manageent dashboards offer more free features, it can be a setback for many users.
For those who are comfortable and familiar with creating and managing sites on WordPresscom, Jetpack manage is an obvious choice. It can be activated from the self-hosted Jetpack plugin, but the dashboard manager itself is external and hosted on WordPress.com.
In the Jetpack Manage dashboard, you can manage all your site’s updates and there are also deployment options for installing and deleting plugins and themes as well as uptime monitoring and site statistics available for free. If you need any other features, you need to grab yourself premium and separate subscriptions for those.
The external CMS Commander management dashboard includes key free features that most other services don’t such as deployment options, user management, uptime monitoring and database optimization.
The main dashboard page includes all the information you need quickly including update reporting and deployment, pending new comments and metrics including page speed, uptime and traffic stats. It’s convenient to have as much information as possible available at your fingertips, although, it also makes the reporting page awfully cluttered. It can take a while to get used to analyzing the information quickly.
You can manage updates, users, deploy and create new sites on your hosting server and manage plugins and themes all from a dashboard that looks almost identical to the core WordPress one. If you need more features including backups, SEO tracking, blog monetization tools, and post and comment management, then you need to upgrade to a premium subscription.
Now that we have taken a look at each management dashboard solution individually, here are the top options compared side-by-side in each category.
Well, there can’t truly be a winner since no one management dashboard is going to be perfect for everyone, but there are some recommendations that can be made based on each option’s best features:
At the end of the day, you need to determine your own specific needs and pick a management dashboard based on your personal criteria but these are the top options to get you started in your decision-making process.