Having fully migrated this site, as well as others to WP Engine since November 2012 now, I feel it is about time we release our review of WP Engine. WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting service that promises to provide excellent solutions to users in terms of speed, scalability, and security – three issues that are almost always a problem for many WordPress installations.
While they are certainly not novices, they have not been around all that long either. If you’re a part of the WordPress community you may have probably heard of the guys at WP Engine and the solutions they offer. Although more expensive than your average host, WP Engine justifies its rates with the features they guarantee to deliver, and from our experience they certainly do deliver.
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There are 3 important features offered by WP Engine as stated on their website, and these are speed, security, and scalability. As every WordPress user knows, this is the coup de grace of website hosting right? Your entire web presence and installation can be designed in as elaborate a manner as possible, but without these components you will be selling yourself short. For further discussion beyond this WP Engine review, check out our post on website performance.
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
Speed is almost always an issue with WordPress sites as you know, and there are times when you “just wait” before everything is loaded. If you use a lot of plugins, or resource heavy scripts, you probably have it even worse than others.
WP Engine aims to provide solutions to these problems by integrating top-of-the-line hardware with their own WordPress cache system in order to deliver and load pages in as little as 15 milliseconds. Apart from this, the company also has a fully-managed content delivery network that collates data from various edge servers across the globe to reduce page latency and slow loading of installations whenever customers access your sites.
Why is the speed of a WordPress site important? Well for starters, you lose about 20% of traffic for every 100 milliseconds it takes for your pages to load. This can be a very significant number, especially if your website receives low to medium traffic, as this can really affect your income. Internet users simply don’t have the patience to wait for everything to load on a site when they can just as easily get the same information from somewhere else. Bottom line is, the slower the pages load, the higher the chances of potential customers hitting the back button and finding a more efficient site than your own.
Aside from this, speed also affects page rankings in SERPs. If you aren’t aware of it by now Google has included page speed in their algorithms when they track and rank sites. This means that you have a lesser chance of being included among top results if your sites are among those which are sloooooow.
You can have the coolest site design and the greatest content in existence, if your pages take forever to load you will not reach the full potential of your site.
Fort Knox Has Nothing on WP Engine
Security is another feature that WP Engine promises to deliver to clients. The company assures that every client’s data is segregated and separated from others and protected against any unauthorized access. There is also an option to request for physical separation of your data if you wish, but of course there are additional fees to be paid since you will have a hardware cluster dedicated to your own installation.
In terms of vulnerabilities and corresponding solutions, WP Engine offers both internal and external scanning for any vectors that may be exploited or attacked. This is done on a regular basis, with SecTheory and Sucuri being contracted to assist with resolving vulnerability issues as soon as possible. Once these are addressed, the company provides updates to clients as to any changes that may affect their installations.
Daily Data backups are saved and maintained, and you have the option of creating a restore point at ANY time instantly. Clients are provided with a backup and restore option at no extra charge, and any security updates are immediately installed as soon as they are released.
Grow Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
When it comes to scalability, you never really want to be caught with your pants down when a sudden surge in traffic occurs. With other hosts that we have used in the past, we actually had one host turn off our site because we received a traffic surge and they were afraid we would effect other users – true story. If something goes viral, you want to know you have the horse power to handle it and WP Engine has that horse power. Scalability like this is just one of the reasons why we listed WP Engine in our marketers tool chest as our preferred choice over other hosts.
WP Engine Staging Area
The staging environment is actually one of our favorite features about WP Engine. We are constantly making changes and tweaking our sites in order to improve the user experience. The problem with this is that when something goes amiss, like say you install an incompatible plugin or make a mistake in your code somewhere, everything is live and on your production system.
Now, with the staging environment available, you can take a snapshot of your site right from your WP dashboard, and WP Engine creates an exact duplicate of yoru site on their staging environment. You can now go load plugins, or upgrade plugins, make css changes, do whatever you want, and see how it looks and works on the staging site prior to rolling it out into production. That is SWEETNESS!!!! to say the least!
I don’t want to just spend the whole time talking shop and regurgitating sales copy from their website, so I will list a few items we have noticed through our process of migrating and becoming WP Engine clients and fans.
- The WP Engine interface – if you are coming from a CPANEL/WHM interface such as wit Hostgator shared, or VPS – the interface for WP Engine will be completely different than what you are used too. At first, it was a little weird to use and figure out, but within the first couple days it became second nature.
- The migration process – If you are migrating an existing site, they have very detailed instructions on how to migrate your site. Some of us were used to using plugins such as backup buddy and WP-dbmanager to move sites – they would not allow those plugins. But the process wasn’t too bad. The one issue I had, was that I was not used to their interface, and of course I chose to migrate our first site during a weekend when traffic is low. However, WP Engine support is also not as readily available on weekends. If you feel like you need support, you are better migrating during regular business hours.
- The WP Engine support – The WP Engine support has been stellar. They staff know their stuff, and they are extremely helpful and courteous as well as knowledgeable. The only problem I had with them was that their support is really a normal business hours support desk. While they do have after hours and weekend support available, it is a skeleton crew and only for emergency situations as I understand it, so you wont receive the same level of support after hours. Additionally for those of us used to Hostgator and Rackspace support, I can open a chat ticket 24/7 and receive support 24/7, it may not be the greatest or WP specific support, but someone is always there and I liked knowing that. That being said, I have opened support tickets on weekends, and after hours and someone does pick up the tickets and respond, it is just not as fast as normal hours support.
- Plugins – since they are managed WP host, they do have a list of certain plugins that they do not allow. So please be sure to check out their list of plugins before you migrate. I had a few that we had to get rid of, but they were easy to get rid of or replace.
- Caching and CDN – They have caching built in to everything, which speeds things up, but sometimes can be a pain in the but when doing development work. However it can be disabled from within WP Dashboard. CDN is available free of cost for the $99 and up programs not the $29 – be aware of that.
- Daily Backups – This is stellar, we can create restore points at ANY moment in time.
- The pricing – its really not expensive if you are using a higher level VPS for your WP installs its actually cheaper. As an example we had a Hostgator VPS that we paid over $200 a month on and Rackspace account that we paid $170 a month on, we collapsed those sites to a $99 a month WP Engine account – so in our case it was cheaper to migrate to WP Engine. And if you factor in the fact that we don’t have to pay for CDN now, or configure Caching plugins, or pay for Sucuri monitoring for these sites, or use backup-buddy for backups, it is actually much much cheaper to use WP Engine.
- Drawbacks – there are rules, they are a managed host, so you have to abode by there rules. Use their approved plugins, and be upgraded when they want. But they provide peace of mind by handling all the other items for you.
Their personal plan starts at $29 for one site. However to get the most band for your buck the $99 a month plan for up to 10 sites also comes with CDN for 10 sites. There is a also a business account for $249 and of course larger custom solutions. The choice is yours as to which you will need.
Final Thoughts on WP Engine
I really commend the folks at WP Engine for actually delivering on their promises and guarantees as stated on their website. We have migrated about 10 sites to WP Engine, and will be migrating a few more. On the average, the WP Engine-hosted sites we own load much faster than they previously did on other hosts. Aside from this, we’ve had no issues with downtime since signing up with WP Engine, and the support has been stellar. We are WP Engine fans, and do recommend them for anyone looking for fast, highly scalable, and reliable WordPress hosting.