In this post, I’m going to tell you about my recent experience with the well known premium WordPress host – WP Engine.
I’ve heard a lot about WP Engine over the years but I’d never actually used them until recently. I was really interested to know if all the hype around the company was justified and if they would perform any better than some of the other hosting providers I use regularly.
Let’s get started!
WP Engine Background
WP Engine have been around for a long time and they are very well known within the WordPress community. They don’t offer cheap WordPress hosting like many other well known providers such as SiteGround do. WP Engine have focussed on a different market altogether.
WP Engine provides services to more serious website owners with established websites, agency owners, and web developers. That’s not to say that WP Engine wouldn’t be a good choice for beginners too, but you’d probably not need many of the advanced features they offer.
WP Engine offers a managed service. This means that they take care of all the day to day maintenance of the servers and have full responsibility for keeping everything running smoothly. This includes doing everything they can to keep their systems running fast and making sure their servers are secure. They even manage WordPress patches and updates.
WP Engine Pricing
As a premium WordPress hosting provider, WP Engine does not have any particularly cheap plans. The cheapest plan they offer is for a single website and starts at $35 a month. This will cover you for up to 25,000 visitors a month.
After this plan, the prices jump up to $115 each month for a plan with up to 5 sites and 100,000 visitors each month. Their next plan allows 15 websites and 400,000 visits each month for $290. They also do custom plan for even larger websites. If you’re reading this you’ll probably be most interested in the $35 each month or $115 each monthly plan. Both provide good value considering the advanced offerings of WP Engine.
The reason I consider WP Engine to be such good value is simple. They can save website owners a lot of time due to their hands-on management of servers, handling WordPress updates and keeping on top of security. If you’ve set up a website before, you’ll know how much time can be eaten up keeping on top of these tasks yourself.
WordPress Hosting for Web Designers and Developers
Web designers and developers are one of the main groups that WP Engine caters for. Whilst their tools and features can save all of their users time, web designers and developers will be especially thankful for their DevKit and easy staging area setup tools.
DevKit is a set of features that make it easy to set up a staging area and push your work from your computer, up to a test site on WP Engine. DevKit aims to help developers work faster and more efficiently. As a developer myself, I was keen to try this feature, but DevKit is not yet available for Windows.
Staging and development areas can be set up very easily. Once you’ve got your production site up, you can simply copy that website to your staging and development areas after a few button clicks. You can also easily password protect various directories to block your staging and dev environments from the search engines by simply choosing a password and checking a box.
Overall, the features for web designers and developers are great, but I don’t think these features would be enough to tempt me away from my existing host (Dreamhost) for good.
WP Engine Extra Features
Although WP Engine provides a very strong set of features with any plan you buy, you can also upgrade your plan to include quite a few other features. Some of these features are useful and are good value for money, but I’d be annoyed about having to pay extra for some.
For example, you can pay an extra $20 for each additional website on your account. Not bad value considering how much time and effort WP Engine put into their server management. You can also pay $10 for an automated plugin manager that allows you to update, test and rollback your plugins. Whilst this is cheap, I’d like to see this included for free considering the pricing of the plans.
Other features such as a content performance option that allows you to connect to Google Analytics for $25 doesn’t seem like good value for money to me. You can see all the data you need in your Analytics account for free, so again, I’d like to see this included for free.
Other features such as their geo-targeting feature for $15 per account seems like good value for money to me. This feature could unlock some very useful personalisation features on your website and make you more money, so a reliable geo-targeting feature available at the click of a button is great.
WP Engine also provides a Global Edge Security feature and WordPress multisite for additional fees.
Global Edge Security adds extra security to your website for $30 and WordPress multisite will cost you $20. For most users, the standard security features included with WP Engine would probably be more than enough, especially when combined with a good security plugin such as All in one security and firewall.
As far as multisite goes, I’d be annoyed if I found out that I had to pay extra for multisite if I had already signed up for WP Engine and other hosts would include multisite support for free, so just be aware that there is an extra charge for running a network of WordPress sites on WP Engine.
StudioPress WordPress themes with WP Engine
A very interesting feature for me as a web developer signing up for WP Engine is the fact that you get the entire theme collection from StudioPress as well as the Genesis Framework when you sign up for WP Engine.
I’ve been a big fan of StudioPress themes for years. Their themes are some of the best you’ll be able to find and they would be a great option for anyone looking for a theme to power their website. Most StudioPress themes are niche orientated themes. You’ll find awesome themes for blogs, magazines, recipe websites, online course websites and plenty more.
StudioPress themes are available on WP Engine because WP Engine acquired StudioPress recently. They also acquired the popular theme provider Array Themes so expect to see Array’s themes available on WP Engine in the future.
WP Engine Support
A big factor when choosing a host is support. We all want support quickly when we are stuck on something or there is a problem with our website. WP Engine provides 24/7 support via live chat, as well as normal support tickets.
When I contacted WP Engine via live chat, they responded almost immediately. The support they offered for effective the person I chatted to was very friendly and my question was answered quickly. Overall I was very impressed. One of my issues with some web hosting support options is the way they do everything they can to stop you from contacting support. Some even go so far as making the links to their live chat and support tickets hard to find. They don’t get this with WP Engine. Simply click on the live chat button and get connected right away.
WP Engine Speed
Speed is another critical factor when choosing a web host. With the amount of effort WP Engine has put into their hosting infrastructure I was keen to see how they would perform against the web host I’ve used day to do for many sites for over a decade – Dreamhost (I use the VPS for Business package). I decided to do a speed test on one of my websites to see how they compare. The results surprised me:
WP Engine Speed Results:
Dreamhost Speed Results
As you can, a straight-up speed test with no optimisation performed on either site showed that Dreamhost came out on top. I was expecting WP Engine to win this test quite comfortably. This isn’t to say that I don’t consider Dreamhost to be a fast host, I just expected the more expensive service with lots of infrastructure investment and such a good reputation to be faster.
Remember though that this is just one test at one point in time on one website. I’d be very comfortable recommending either service and I would be confident in the speed performance of both hosts.
Signing Up for WP Engine
The sign up process for WP Engine is nice and simple. Simply select your plan and fill in your personal information and billing details:
You can see all the various additional options and cost broken down clearly on this signup page. You can also choose which data center to use so be sure to choose the most suitable one for you. If your audience is mostly from the USA then you would probably want to choose the USA data center.
Once you’ve signed up, you account will be created and you’ll get some handy emails telling you what to do next. You can also log in to your new dashboard right away.
WP Engine Dashboard
Once you’ve signed up and logged in to your dashboard, you’ll see a simple, clean interface that gives you access to all the things you need. WP Engine has a custom dashboard. You wont find cPanel or Plesk here. For some users, that may be a disappointment but for most, I don’t think it will be an issue. The learning curve for the main features is very small and WP Engine does a great job of on-boarding the user and telling them how to set up everything.
WP Engine Site Migration Tool
Once you’ve set up your account, you can easily import a website into WP Engine using their site migration tool. I was actually slightly skeptical that this tool would import everything correctly as I’m so used to doing everything manually so that I can set things up exactly how I want, but I thought I’d give the tool a try to see what it could do.
The tool works by installing a plugin on the site you want to migrate. Once it is installed, you enter the settings provided by WP Engine into the plugin settings and hit a button. A couple of minutes later, your entire website and database will be ready to use on WP Engine. Awesome stuff!
WP Engine Hosting Summary and Recomendations
WP Engine is a great host and well deserving of the good reputation it has earned over the years. There’s a reason they have over 120,000 customers around the world. If you are looking for a host to power a website that is already getting quite a bit of traffic and your main requirements are great support and stability then WP Engine would be a good choice for you. If you’re a designer / developer and you’ll make use of the staging environments and development tools then WP Engine would also be a great choice for you.
However, if you are price sensitive and you are happy to sacrifice top quality support for an average level of support, then other hosts will provide a more cost effective option. A Dreamhost VPS, for example, would get you unlimited websites and unlimited traffic from just $10. You can cost effectively scale this up depending on your traffic level and easily change the configuration of your VPS. This is what I’m using to host this website.
Try out WP Engine for yourself and see what you think. They really are a great solution for established websites and more experienced users looking for stability and awesome support.
Themeora visitors can get 3 months free with WP Engine when you sign up after following this WP Engine discount link.
If you are looking for the cheapest hosting possible for your website, you can read my guide on cheap WordPress hosting too.