Hosting is probably the fastest growing segment of the WordPress industry.
There’s several large and well-funded options out there, offering hosting that’s tuned specifically for WordPress.
A few weeks ago we moved our sites to WPEngine.com, one of the most prominent WordPress hosts.
Here’s our warts-and-all review of hosting with WPEngine.
In addition to OSTraining, I own a small company that builds tourism sites.
Although it’s not the most popular of the tourism sites, the one that most people would recognize is AppalachianTrail.com. We also host few sites I run for family and friends.
For the last few years, our company ran those sites using WordPress on a VPS with at traditional hosting company.
However, those sites were increasingly slow and prone to botnet attacks that would take them offline for several hours. Even in the quiet times, the sites were running significantly more slowly than they should have.
So, we looked around for some WordPress-specific hosting. We settled on WPEngine because of the pricing scheme. Whereas other WP hosting platforms charge about $30 per site, WPEngine offered one package to cover all 10 sites.
The toughest part of our WPEngine experience so far was definitely the migration.
The WPEngine team admitted to us that, because of their unique server setup, their migration process needs to be done differently than with most hosts.
They do have some documentation on migrating here. They’ve greatly improved that documentation since we made our migrations.
In addition to the unusual migration, we encountered bugs in the main WPEngine dashboard. The dashboard allowed you to enter some incorrect settings (they assume you read the documentation correctly) and there were also some bugs that could only be fixed by the WPEngine team. We spent quite a lot of time looking at the squirrel on their error page:
We also spent quite a lot of time getting help from the WPEngine support team …
WPEngine seem to be making enormous strides in improving their support.
When we first considered becoming a customer we emailed them via the contact form on their site several times and never got a response. My guess is that these were growing pains as their staff numbers climbed very quickly during a period of “hyper growth“.
Now support tickets are turned around quickly. They also have live chat which helped us through a lot of our migration problems.
The migrations were bumpy, but WPEngine support was great and continues to be so.
Pricing and Visits
One of the quirks of WPEngine is that they provide unlimited bandwidth but charge overages based on visits to your site.
This pricing model may lead to some confusion, particularly because their hit counts don’t line up with standard analytics software.
We track our sites with Google Analytics and Clicky.com. Here are the hit counts recorded for one of our sites over the last month:
- WP Engine: 58,141 visits
- Clicky.com: 22,607 visits
- Google Analytics: 23,250 visits
Here’s a second site:
- WP Engine: 16,052 visits
- Clicky.com: 3,683 visits
- Google Analytics: 3,915 visits
And here’s a third site:
- WP Engine: 31,822 visits
- Clicky.com: 8,045 visits
- Google Analytics: 8,965 visits
WPEngine has an explanation of how they count visits, but as you can see, WPEngine counts betwen 2.5 and 4 times more visitors than standard analytics software.
After a month with WPEngine and seeing our first overages, my guess is this confusing definition of “hits” will lead to WPEngine being twice as expensive as we had planned for.
If you do a Google search for “WPEngine hits”, you’ll find that a good number of other people have suffered the same surprise. By moving to WPEngine, make sure you that understand how their definition of hits will impact your costs.
Speed, Security and Stability
As mentioned earlier, we moved to WPEngine hoping for an improvement in our speed, security and stability.
I complained about the way they measure visits in the last section. Well, on the good side, here’s what happened to the loading speed of those sites, as measured by Pingdom.com.
The first site went from loading in 1500 ms to 600 ms:
The second site went from 1500 ms to 500 ms:
The third site went from 700 ms to 300 ms:
So our sites loaded between 2 and 3 times more quickly at WPEngine than with a traditional host.
This speed increase came even though WPEngine asks users to remove all caching plugins.
Uptime for those sites over the last 30 days has been 99.97%, 99.95% and 99.11%.
Security has been great. Even with .htaccess and plugin protections, our sites used to get hammered by spammers. That has largely gone away during the first few weeks with WPEngine. Our sites have been significantly easier to manage since the move to WPEngne.
Overall, we got what we came for with WPEngine. The sites are appreciably faster and more stable than they were with our VPS.
Yes, the migration was bumpy but the support was great and we’ve seen visible signs of improvement in just the last few weeks. They’ve launched a new, better dashboard and the documentation is improving.
FInally, despite the overrages, the cost of hosting with WPEngine will be about the same cheaper than our old VPS.