Earlier in 2012, I decided to move WP Mayor to the WP Engine WordPress managed hosting platform. There were a couple of reasons for doing this, the main one being a desired increase in loading speed.
Now after a few months working with WP Engine, it’s a good time to share my experience in this WP Engine hosting review.
Before migrating to WP Engine, WP Mayor was hosted on a shared platform (HostNine). I was very happy with the service provided by HostNine, but a shared platform always has limits and therefore I felt that as the traffic grew and grew, I had to move on to a more robust hosting solution. After some research and recommendations I identified WP Engine as being our ideal hosting platform, and got myself an account.
The first step was migrating the site from HostNine to WP Engine. One of the first challenges I had when migrating was the discovery that some of the plugins I relied on would not be compatible with WP Engine’s hosting environment. WP Engine have a list of disallowed plugins which you cannot make use of. I found 4 of the plugins I was using on this list:
I considered the first three plugins as being fundamental for running WPMayor, and Broken Link Checker had also served me very well for a number of years.
Therefore my reflex reaction was a feeling of disappointment, however it soon started to make sense after I read the articles about WP Engine’s security environment. I was also very glad to read that caching and backups are core elements of the WP Engine hosting service, so actually I wouldn’t be losing anything by disabling W3 Total Cache and BackupBuddy, as their functionality would be replaced by the native WP Engine systems.
The problem with the YARPP plugin, as I learnt, is that it can destroy a site’s performance due to the way it indexes the posts and pages on the site in order to determine relationships between them. Thankfully, there are two great alternatives: nRelate and wordnik. I ended up going with nRelate.
Apart from a better experience for WP Mayor’s visitors, one big plus for me was the fact that the WordPress admin dashboard now behaved more responsively, shaving off a considerable chunk of my daily maintenance and writing time. This is an overlooked aspect when thinking about hosting, but it’s worth having a look at the load times of your admin pages.
The best thing about WP Engine is probably the hosting features they fit into their account. First of all you should know that WP Engine do not provide any email hosting, so you have to take that into account when moving from a shared hosting environment. I’ve always used Gmail for email so it wasn’t a problem for me. WP Engine focus purely on WordPress hosting, and this precise focus gives them the ability to be so good at what they do.
WP Engine hosting includes backups as well as caching facilities, so you don’t need to use any external plugins and worry if backups are being taken. Everything is handled by the WP Engine platform, and you can request backups when needed.
Another incredibly valuable feature, and one I’ve never encountered on any other hosting platform, is the staging area. Whenever I need to update WordPress plugins, I first create a clone of my site, and make the upgrades there. Once I am sure that they work, I apply them to the live website. Therefore the staging area is that place where you can experiment and not worry about breaking things. I also use it when testing new changes to my site’s theme, for example. It is probably my favourite feature about hosting with WP Engine. Oh, the staging area can be created from the dashboard with the click of a button, it’s that simple!
For the more technical readers, you will be pleased to know that WP Engine is the first host to offer WordPress deployment via Git, see git.wpengine.com. It is one of the features that really distinguishes WP Engine from other hosting providers for me.
WP Engine is also the only hosting company who bundles a CDN as part of the base service. So this awesome technology that’s normally reserved for large sites who want to spend a bunch of money, is now accessible to everyone.
Another great thing about WP Engine is their platform’s ability to handle peak moments of traffic to your site. Let’s say you blog about the entertainment business and the Grammies or Oscars are on, you will probably experience a high spike of traffic while they’re on, and WP Engine will handle that spike automatically, whereas if you hosted on shared hosting or even on a VPS, you will probably have your server overload and make your site unavailable.
When you pack so many features into a hosting package, the price is bound to rise, however I think that WP Engine’s pricing plans are very fair. At the moment they are also running a special promotion in which you get two months free when pre paying for a whole year.
Prices start from $29/month for sites that have up to 25,000 visits per month, and an extra $19 if you want to use a CDN. That’s at least around 3 times what you would pay for a shared hosting account, but you’ll be getting a totally different service with WP Engine, so the prices make sense. If your blog is making money and you have a good number of visitors, it is definitely worthwhile price-wise to opt for WP Engine hosting.
WP Engine use Zen Desk for their support system, and it works very nicely. Their response times are amazing and their staff are knowledgeable and helpful.
A negative aspect for me was the fact that the support staff are only available during US working hours (Monday through Friday 9 am through 6 pm CST), thus you don’t have the 24/7 support usually offered by other hosting companies. That means that being in the European timezone, I have to wait quite a number of hours for a problem to be addressed. To be fair, they do have an emergency helpline for phone support (1-877-973-6446) in really urgent cases, but I would still prefer to have 24/7 email support.
Update: Austin Gunter from WP Engine has pointed out in the comments below that they are hiring staff for 24/7 support in 2013, which is a great step forward in my opinion.
I highly recommend WP Engine’s managed WordPress hosting services. With WP Mayor I haven’t had any significant problems since migrating to their hosting platform. Uptime has been excellent, and the guys at support have always gone out of their way to help me whenever I had any questions or trouble with the site.
Hosting with WP Engine, apart from bringing a tremendous speed boost to my site, is also proving to be an excellent learning experience, as I have learnt a great deal about WordPress security and speed tuning from their well-written documentation found in the ‘Support Garage‘.
If you’re thinking of making a switch from a shared host to high quality managed WordPress hosting, WP Engine is what you are looking for.
Let us know what your experience with WP Engine is like below, and feel free to post any questions about how WP Engine works, I’ll do my best to reply based on my experience with them.
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