This review would be slightly different from a lot of other reviews I have done as it will deal a slightly different kind of hosting service. You can even call it a niche segment if you will. I am talking about WP Engine which offers Managed WordPress Hosting services – which caters to WordPress users only, unlike other hosting providers which offer assorted web hosting solutions. So, this is a WP Engine Review and as I said, it is slightly different!
WP Engine Review: What is Managed WordPress Hosting in the first place?
Before I get down to WP Engine Review – Let me talk a bit about Managed WordPress Hosting.
When you say Managed WordPress Hosting – It is a premium service offered by the web hosting company which is highly optimized for WordPress. This means their servers, database, security and overall technology used is better suited to ensure WordPress runs best on it.
They take care of everything as far as the hosting and server management so that the user can focus purely on their business / blog without worrying about the server administration and technicalities of it. . They typically have a team of experts who are experienced in WordPress and can solve major issues effortlessly. Even the person on Live Chat is well aware of WordPress and will be able to answer most of the common queries you would have.
I just wrote a detailed post on Managed WordPress Hosting, whom is it for and whether or not you should go for it. You can check that out over here.
So, now that you know about Managed WordPress Hosting, let’s get down to our WP Engine Review.
WP Engine Review Criteria for Review:
- Data Center Locations
- Technology they use
- Customer Support
- Pros and Cons
- Value for Money
About WP Engine:
At the time ‘Managed WP Hosting’ was not a common term as not a lot of companies existed in this domain. It can be safe to say that it is among the oldest companies offering the Managed WordPress Hosting services.
You can reach out to WP Engine over the phone on +1-512-827-3500
You can also contact them using other means using any of the options mentioned here
Or take the snail mail and address it to:
WP Engine, 504 Lavaca Street, Suite 1000, Austin, Texas 78701, United States
Who uses WP Engine’s Managed WordPress Services?
WP Engine has a lot of big names in its clientele. I have listed some of them here:
- Sound Cloud
- Constant Contact
- The Motely Fool
List of WP Engine Data Centers:
Importance of the Data Centers locations cannot be iterated enough. The closer the data center the lower the latency and better the load speeds.
Typically Data Centers are many a mile away, but it definitely makes sense to pick one in your own continent (if available) or at least in the closest one available.
As part of this WP Engine Review, here are the WP Engine has Data Centers which are located in 3 locations:
- Newark, U.S.A.
- London, England
- Tokyo, Japan
What’s So Special About WP Engine?
As I was talking earlier, WP Engine ain’t no usual web hosting service provider. It specializes in Managed WordPress Hosting.
Here is what you can expect from WP Engine in terms of Features:
- WordPress Updates:
Given that it is a Managed WordPress Hosting service, they will automatically update be it selecyour installed plugins, the WordPress core installation and the required security updates. You don’t need to worry about any of it, as you would be working upon an up-to-date WordPress setup.
- Round the Clock Security including protection from DDOS attacks:
WP Engine promises round the clock security and threat monitoring for your WordPress installation. They will check for any hack attempts, malicious code running on your site among other things to ensure your website is always in a healthy state.
When spammers or hackers carry out the DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks; it often results in spikes in your server resource usage and could mean trouble for your website. WP Engine’s security works round the clock avoid such a scenario. But in case of attack they will fix it at NO Extra Cost. A regular web hosting plan would generally charge for such a service.
- Sound Infrastructure:
One thing with WP Engine Hosting is that their overall web hosting infrastructure is tailored for WordPress and hence ensure solid performance and stability across all plans and for all kinds of clients, from bloggers to large companies (I did mention above that they do have lot of large companies as clients).
- Still, if you end up getting hacked; They’ll fix if for free:
Since WP Engine claims to offer round the clock security, a possible hack should be unlikely. However at times if there is still a malicious code which is executed, the user may not be able to fix it. Or if you do manage to get hacked into, then they will fix it for free. So you need not spend anything towards expert services in such a scenario.
- Single Click Solutions for SSL, and Staging:
You can enable any SSL for your website with a single click.This is not a service available in plans by other regular web hosting companies and it is chargeable as an extra.
- Daily Backups and One Click Restore and Staging:
They have FREE Daily Backups and and also allow for one click Restore as well as Staging* your websites.
*Staging is something wherein you might require to have a clone or duplicate version of your LIVE website for testing purposes. This is not for the users or your audiences to see or access.
- EverCache for your Caching Needs:
In simple terms, caching allows to serve static content like images and other static pages which do not change frequently to be served without firing requests to database every time, thus reducing the load time and lower utilization of resources.
With WP Engine they have their own proprietory caching system in place called EverCache. So you need not worry about installing or checking any other caching plugin.
- Free Migration:
I have used their Migration service and can say it is awesome. It is FREE and is down-time less. So again it is a big plus, as often times migration is something which could be a hassle for most users, when moving from one host to another or from one platform to another (like say Blogger to WordPress).
However, do note, a lot of companies even in their regular plans do provide this service as a FREE add-on, so its not a surprise that WP Engine too does it. What is worth mentioning here is that they will assist you even in case of any major issue cropping up in the process, which some others might just raise their hands and request you to figure out a way.
Note: WP Engine will not allow you to install any caching plugin as it comes equipped with EverCache. More on that later in the post.
WP Engine Review – Technology they use:
At the risk of repeating myself, WP Engine is a Managed WordPress Hosting company. So it is pretty obvious they are well optimized for it.
They use NGINX server which is the second most widely used web server around and it is highly optimized and hence better suited for WordPress based sites. It gives better and faster performance as compared to Apache servers, which are currently used on a wider scale. However, more and more companies are shifting to NGINX.
Apache is a process and thread-driven application, but NGINX is event-driven.
So basically, what the above statement means is that for processing same amount of requests, NGINX will run smaller and lesser number of processes at a time, thus utilizing lower server resources and resulting in less RAM utilization and higher performance. For the same request Apache will run larger processes thus resulting in higher resource and RAM utilization and comparatively lower performance than NGINX.
NGINX is much ‘lighter’ compared to Apache, thus delivering faster performance.
Moreover, WP Engine’s EverCache too is optimized for NGINX and the resultant combination gives good and fast performance for your WordPress Websites.
Just to give you an idea of how popular and awesome NGINX is:
- Approximately 60% of the Top 1000 of websites online, use NIGNIX and this number is growing by the day.
- Among the websites which use NGINX are some bigwigs like:
- WordPress.com (of course)
- Reddit and a lot more
WP Engine Review – Plans they offer:
WP Engine has plans for all types of users – from sites getting moderate to high amounts of traffic.
One thing however you need to careful of is the overage charges. These are charges you need to pay if the resource utilization by your sites is beyond the scope of your plan. So you need to pick your plans carefully or upgrade when necessary.
Now they are very clear on certain policies and how they calculate site visits. It is not the same as your Google Analytics would show (I have discussed that below).
Up until Oct 2015, they were marred in controversies and negative reviews as their Site Visit Algorithm used to count Bot visits too.
Basically Bot visits are not visits by actual humans or users. These are mainly visits that are nothing but requests by automated programs like say Google crawling your site for newer posts, or some program you have run on your website to analyze some data or a service that runs to see if everything is in order on your website and so on.
WP Engine used to take into consideration even these visits in their ‘Billable’ visits. This however resulted in a lot of feedback and they have been excluding these visits since then. So that issue is sorted now. You can read their response to this over here.
WP Engine is pretty clear in terms of what and how the clicks are calculated.
In the words of WP Engine, here is what they consider – How WP Engine Calculates Visits:
We take the number of unique IP addresses seen in a 24-hour period as the number of “visits” to the site during that period. The number of “visits” in a given month is the sum of those daily visits during that month.
Which is further explained as:
This does mean there’s some cases where you could theoretically argue we’re counting visitors too often. For example, a person visits a site from work, then drives home and visits the site again later that day. That will count as two visits because the IP addresses will be different. But, we’d argue; (a) that doesn’t happen much, (b) it’s not terribly unreasonable for that to count as two visits, (c) those events are counter-balanced by times where we count only one visit where really it’s two.
As an example of that last point, what if two people in the same office visit a site from two computers? That should be two visits; even Google Analytics would count it as two. But we count it only as one because their IP addresses (from our perspective) are the same. So the cases where we count too few are counterbalanced — to the first approximation anyway — by those where we count too many, and therefore we think this is still a fair metric.
You can dig deeper into their explanation if you need to, over here.
Here are their various plans and for whom they are suited for:
Being a premium service, the very basic plan starts at $29 a month.
Below is the basic plan which is suited for users having low to moderate traffic and get only one WP site installation.
If your site receives traffic has high traffic then their Professional Plan would be something you can check.
At $299 a month, you can opt for a Business plan which allows you upto 400K visits and 25 WP installs meaning upto 25 WP sites.
If you do not find any plan from above which suits your needs, then you can get in touch with WP Engine guys to discuss a Premium Plan tailored to your needs.
Enterprise Grade Plan:
This plan allow for upto150 installs and 5 million + Site Visits a month. You can get the pricing info on enquiry.
Here is a Quick Comparison of all plans offered by WP Engine:
Here is Quick Comparison of all the Plans and what they include and what they exclude:
I’ll be lying if I said they have had a history of great customer support. I am not saying they are bad. Here’s the thing…. When WP Engine first started off, it had great customer support, the kind you’d expect from a premium service provider.
However around 2013, 2014 reports started to come in that their much talked about support wasn’t delivering the goods as it was expected.
The main concerns with the customer support were the time taken to respond of close the query satisfactorily and the support team being inexperienced at handling most of the issues.
However Jason Cohen (Founder) took note of this and published this blog post, here; addressing this very issue.
In summary he was quick admit the issues and had taken steps to fix those:
- By hiring more support staff
- Starting a Direct-to-Engineer support system, wherein the customers could get access to engineers to get their issues resolved faster.
The above approach did seem to work, as in my overall experience with them, I have found the following:
- Support staff is knowledgeable enough to understand the issue at hand
- They are prompt in resolution of the tickets filed by me
- My website was never negatively impacted
- Even on Live Chat the person on the other end, was always knowledgeable and well aware of WordPress and common issues.
One thing I would like to add here is that while WP Engine support guys are prompt, there are companies with faster response time. However, the time taken to respond or resolve a query isn’t ‘life-threatening’ to the website or to anyone, so for most parts I don’t see a problem with their customer support, most likely no one else would either.
Does WP Engine provide a Scalable Environment?
Yes they do. You can upgrade or downgrade from your current plan without any downtime. Basically they do it for you as part of the whole Managed WP hosting thing. WP Engine does provide a highly scalable infrastructure for your WordPress sites – thanks to their technology setup as I have mentioned above.
WP Engine Review – Performance:
I have done a detailed performance review on WP Engine which I will be publishing shortly.
From my personal experience using their services form my sites as well as the performance review – I can safely vouch for their performance and it will not disappoint users – provided they are on the right plan.
Pros and Cons of WP Engine:
Well, for most parts there are a lot of Pros for WP Engine as a web host. But there are certain limitations to it which can be a con for some.
The Features described in the What is Special Section above are practically all the pros – namely
Complete hassle free WordPress hosting and serve administration managment
- Daily Backups
- WordPress updates taken care of
- Round the clock security preventing hacks, malicious code attacks and DDOS attacks
- In case of hacks or malicious attacks, they fix it for free
- One Click Restore and Staging of your website
- SSL ready
- Good Customer Support
- Superb Performance
1. Not for someone looking to host a Non-WordPress sub-directory to their website:
Ok, BlogMeHow.com is a WordPress site and now lets say I want to add a forum to it based on say PHPBB which will be a sub-directory – something like blogmehow.com/forum. This is not possible on WP Engine.
Logically it is a managed WordPress hosting, so of course the above scenario won’t be allowed. So users looking for something like that will have to host this on a different server. This could be a con for some users.
2. Expensive compared to other regular web hosting plans:
As mentioned at the start Managed WordPress Hosting is a premium service so WP Engine does have relatively expensive plans compared to other regular hosting plans. But then again this allows you to focus on your business rather than worry about the WordPress and server management.
3. Limited access:
WP Engine does not allow for Root access. So if you are a developer or someone who requires root access then WP Engine web hosting is not for you. But for most users, that is the whole idea right? You hire a Managed service so that you need get your hands dirty, and so it technically doesn’t matter if they do not give you root access. If you need to get something done have a special request, you can of course get in touch with their customer support team.
4. Certain Plugins Disallowed:
WP Engine doesn’t allow Caching Plugins, Backup plugins and MySQL Thrashing plugins among others to be installed. They also disallow some popular Related Posts Plugins.
The reason for this is that WP Engine provides for better alternatives which are not too heavy on the servers and thus ensures no unwanted resource consumption takes place. Services like Jetpack, Outbrain, Reverb etc. are allowed.
From the features and pros discussed above, it would be pretty clear that Daily Backups, WordPress Updates, EverCache and Security are all taken care by WP Engine. They run processes and plugins which are optimized to deliver best possible performance for your WordPress hosting. And hence do not allow any other plugin to interfere with their setup.
And, here is one more thing – It is not a Pro nor a Con, just a technical thing you should know…
Your site hosted on WP Engine is actually a Sub-Domain of WP Engine:
Let’s say you have a website with a domain – xyz.com. Technically this site hosted with WP Engine is actually using a sub-domain of WP Engine. So its more like xyz.wpengine.com. You basically point your domain registrar or CNAME to xyz.wpengine.com. While your actual site for the users and for all practical purposes is xyz.com . So now this would make you think these are two instances of the same site – Duplicate content alert?!
Well, not really. According to Jason Cohen (founder or WP Engine) they force a “Deny Robots Everything” for their robots.txt in this case. This means that even though search engine bots will see these two instances of the same site, it would result in either of these two scenarios:
- They will only see it as one site and honor the “do not allow” request, thus no issue of duplicate content.
- Will still see it as two sites with same content – But will still not be seen as duplicate content. This is because according to Google’s Matt Cutts if their bots come across such a request in robots.txt, they will not see it as a duplicate site.
You can check this discussion between Jacob King and Jason Cohen on this issue over here
Is WP Engine Value for Money when it comes to Web Hosting?
Overall for the service they provide and based on my actual experience, I would say WP Engine Managed WordPress Hosting services are value for money.
Yes they are expensive when compared to other web hosts, but then they are different and are not for a regular blogger or web master. If you are someone focused on your business, and do not wish to get into managing the servers and WordPress, then this is something you should definitely opt for. For the money you spend, you do get what you expect.
Overall, I will say that WP Engine is not for everyone, but if you are a WordPress user and can afford their plans, then you will definitely get your money’s worth.
Blogging, WordPress, Building High Traffic Websites, Web Apps and Digital Marketing .... and yes, did I say I'm a big-time food junkie.
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The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
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