It’s no secret that WordPress is the most popular platform for ecommerce sites, and with that popularity comes a wide variety of hosting providers dedicated solely to the WordPress platform.
WP Engine is one of those providers, and it further differentiates itself by seeking to be uniquely helpful to ecommerce sites built on WordPress.
Today, we’ll be breaking down the pros and cons of WP Engine and providing you with the tools needed to decide whether this particular hosting provider is right for you.
WP Engine employee working at their Limerick office
How WP Engine Was Born
WP Engine is a proud product of Texas where its founder, Jason Cohen, has called home most of his life. After finding huge success in the software industry, he sold his company and became a full-time stay at home dad in Austin, TX. Not long after selling his company he felt the itch to get back into business. To keep a pulse on the startup scene he helped build he began blogging about the #1 content management system in the world, WordPress.
As his blog started to gain more traction, he noticed his website began to lag and sometimes even crash under the weight of all his new readers. It was this moment that made Jason realize he had an opportunity on his plate that he knew he had to capitalize on: starting a WordPress hosting company. This was 2010 and how a simple inconvenience birthed the hosting giant WP Engine. To separate himself from the competition, Jason knew he had to use the best hardware and employ the best staff to provide industry leading speed, service, and scalability. WP Engine went on to achieve an incredible $1 million in revenue its first year and in 2015 WP Engine raised $23 million which it used to expand their data centers internationally and accelerate its enterprise hosting product.
6 Reasons Customers Choose WP Engine Web Hosting
WP Engine hosts over 500,000 websites. Here’s why so many people are choosing them as their WordPress hosting provider.
1. Lightning Speed
In a world where everyone wants everything instantly website load times have started to matter a lot. Web pages that load fast offer not only a better user experience but also get greater engagement and higher conversion rates. This is one area where Jason Cohen and his team at WP Engine knew they wanted to shine. From previous experience with other hosting providers, Jason knew he wanted to build a caching system that could handle anything. That’s why they built EverCache which is a highly scalable architecture that gives your site the flexibility of being featured on sites like TechCrunch or the Huffington Post without causing your website to lag or worse — crash.
Beyond advanced caching systems, WP Engine also provides an extensive selection of server locations that you literally get to choose from when you first setup your account.
From rural Iowa to major cities like London and Tokyo, WP Engine has a dozen data center locations to choose from. Not only do they give you a huge selection of data centers to choose from but they also provide tools for you to ping each server from your location and see which data center gives your customers the fastest load times.
2. WP Engine Uptime
Another must have on WP Engine founder Jason’s to-do list was reliability. When starting the company, he knew to be a serious contender in an already crowded hosting industry he had to have impressive uptime statistics. This meant leveraging the right technology stack of servers, programming language, and development tools to keep things operational and less vulnerable to bugs, malicious attacks, and human error.
Uptime results for WP Engine hosted site over 30 day period
A blogger by the name of Jerry Lowe performed a test on uptime after switching to WP Engine in 2015 and found they had 100% uptime in the first 30 days. He ran a similar test in June of 2017 and found the same results.
Report from Pingdom showing 100% uptime on WP Engine hosted site
Another writer who specializes in technology, Aaron Hockley, performed a study on his own WP Engine hosted site and found the exact same 100% uptime on his monthly report from Pingdom. Scouring the web for reviews on WP Engine uptime you will find they are often recommended for their uptime and speed and you’ll find little if any mention of downtime.
Finally, while WP Engine doesn’t offer a 100% guarantee, they do offer a 99.95% uptime guarantee on their Service Level Agreement (SLA). The .05% is forgivable because in reality you cannot plan for everything and not even the web giants like Gmail, Facebook, and Amazon have 100% uptime.
3. WP Engine One-click staging
WP Engine has a lifesaving feature called staging sites. A staging site is essentially a clone of a live site that is used to for testing purposes. When it comes time to add or remove plugins, switch themes, integrate some custom code, or make any other significant changes to the site, it’s best done on a staging site that is a duplicate of the live site. This way your live site’s production isn’t interrupted. This means customers don’t see a website in maintenance mode or worse a broken site, and you can keep serving your customers and making sales while your development is done elsewhere.
To break it down further, here are the steps to utilizing a staging site with WP Engine:
- Before you make any scary changes to your blog, click WP Engine’s Copy site from LIVE to STAGING button to create a staging site that is an exact copy of your site as it is right now.
- Make your changes and updates on the staging site.
- Check for any errors, incompatibility issues, or areas of your site simply not working.
- Once satisfied with your updates, click Copy site from STAGING to LIVE to overwrite the current live site with the updated site you just made.
- That’s it! You have successfully updated your site using WP Engine’s staging site feature and your site’s traffic wasn’t interrupted whatsoever.
4. WP Engine Security
Security is an often overlooked facet of hosting and is typically the first place third-rate hosting providers cut costs. In a market dominated by bargain hosting solutions, WP Engine wanted to really stand out when it came to their security. A feat they have most definitely accomplished. Not only do they provide enterprise-grade security protocols but they have partnered with a leading security company, Sucuri. Sucuri allows WP Engine to offer third party scans of your site where they look for suspicious behavior and system vulnerabilities.
The WP Engine security team also works diligently to keep your WordPress site up to date and makes sure it has the latest security patches which not only helps block typical attacks but also make your site more resilient to WordPress specific attacks. In addition to monitoring and updates, each WordPress install with a WP Engine hosting plan comes with a free SSL certificate which encrypts sensitive information like credit card information from those with malicious intent who might be trying to intercept those transactions.
Finally, WP Engine knows that 100% hack-proof websites don’t exist. Yet they do believe in their security system so much that they offer a Security Guarantee which says if your site ever does get hacked they will foot the bill to fix everything.
5. WP Engine Usability
WP Engine has a wide array of features that make it an attractive hosting option, but one of the often overlooked features of a hosting provider is usability. While an advanced user may be able to dissect the structure of a dashboard and find their way around it is extremely important that a new user can navigate and perform simple tasks also. On the UX (user experience) front, WP Engine has done an impressive job making the user dashboard easy to read and intuitive. In one screen you can see all your installs, bandwidth, total storage, and see useful metrics like how many visits you have had during certain periods.
A view of the WP Engine user dashboard
Navigating across the WP Engine backend, you will also find that more advanced features like Backup points are also designed with ease of use in mind. On every page, you have detailed descriptions of the resources available to you, minimal industry jargon, and a clean design that makes the user experience friendly and straightforward.
A view of the WP Engine Backup Points dashboard
6. WP Engine Support
Still frame of WP Engine’s customer support page
Last, but certainly not least, WP Engine has some of the best customer support in the market. They offer 24/7 phone support, live chat, an extensive DIY knowledge base, and ticket systems. They credit feedback from their customers as being the number one reason they have been able to build their award winning customer support team.
One of their biggest strengths when it comes to customer support is their staff of WordPress experts. In fact, they boast having the most WordPress experts per 1,000 customers of any hosting provider. If you call a traditional hosting provider when a plugin breaks or your WordPress theme isn’t working, they will tell you they aren’t responsible and in all likelihood, they don’t even know how to fix it. With WP Engine being a managed WordPress hosting solution they are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to optimizing and troubleshooting WordPress specific sites.
With Pros Must Come Cons
While WP Engine has done a good job of creating a premium hosting experience, it’s not without its downsides.
1. They only offer WordPress hosting
WP Engine’s biggest strength and weakness are that it is a WordPress only hosting provider. While 50-60% is WordPress’ share of the global CMS market, you will still run into the client who doesn’t want to use WordPress for their site. In this scenario, you are simply out of luck and most go with another hosting provider. For ecommerce store owners you are also limited somewhat because you can’t build your e-commerce store on top of any other platform. This means no Magento or OpenCart for your store. However, you still have options like WooCommerce, Shopify, and others who offer plugins and themes as an option to transform your WordPress site into an online store.
2. They are pricier than most competitors
With competitors offering hosting packages for around $5 a month many question if WP Engine premium pricing is worth the additional cost. While they are priced considerably higher than their counterparts, some would argue it is like comparing apples and oranges. Most hosting providers don’t have WP Engine premium features like being a managed solution, daily backups, superior caching systems, Sucuri security partnership, and their award winning support team.
You could also argue that when you add in the time spent on WordPress updates and money spent on caching, security, and backup plugins that you would be well over the WP Engine price tag. In the end, it will largely depend on your site’s needs and how often you would use the premium features to justify the added cost.
3. No domain names and no email hosting
WP Engine doesn’t come with email hosting nor does it come with domain registration. They have defended this choice by saying they want to be the best at hosting and leave domain registration and email hosting to the experts. This makes setting up your site a bit more tedious because they aren’t a one stop shop. You will have to register your domain somewhere like NameCheap or GoDaddy then do some backend work to point the WP Engine’s hosting service at it.
With email hosting not offered you will likely want to jump over to Google’s G Suite to get Gmail for your custom domain. At $5 per user per month, it isn’t a bad deal, and you get all the other perks like Google Drive and Google Docs. Without these add-ons starting your site from scratch will increase time and costs a bit but you are getting a superior hosting product with WP Engine.
4. Certain plugins are banned with WP Engine
The disallowed plugins are in place because they either aren’t compatible with WP Engine’s environment, they aren’t necessary, or they aren’t scalable. The more common disallowed plugins are caching plugins and aren’t allowed because WP Engine has a superior custom caching environment, and when you have two caching systems running in parallel it is not only redundant but also can cause friction or issues with your site. The same goes for some of the backup plugins because they can slow down your site and WP Engine offers in-house backups that run automatically each day. The list of disallowed plugins is only a few dozen deep but can be a headache because they do block some handy SEO plugins and broken link checker plugins.
WP Engine Plans And Pricing
Looking through any review of WP Engine you will likely find some mention about their price being too high. While it is definitely higher than many of their competitors, you can’t deny it comes with some pretty impressive features and all around impressive speed, security, and support. Let’s take a deeper dive into each pricing plan and see which one might for your business the best.
The Personal Plan
With one WordPress install, 25 thousand visitors a month, and 10GB of storage you can see the Personal Plan is ideal for a small business or freelancer website. It’s also a great option for a developer or designer looking to get their feet wet with the WP Engine system before committing to something more robust like a Professional Plan.
The Professional Plan
As for the Professional Plan, you get ten installs, 100 thousand visitors a month, and 20GB of storage. This plan is ideal for serial entrepreneurs, developers and designers who create multiple websites a month, and medium size businesses who might have multiple subsidiary companies.
The Business Plan
The Business Plan is a monster of a hosting plan with 25 installs, 400 thousand visits a month, and 30GB of local storage. This is going to be more suitable for big businesses like fortune 1000 companies. Where it might not be suitable is for the super high traffic sites like social media sites, e-commerce sites, and news sites. For those kinds of sites, WP Engine offers Premium and Enterprise Grade pricing plans. To learn more about these plans and get pricing you have to call WP Engine directly. What can be said is these plans can handle up to 150 installs and anywhere from 1-5 million visits each month depending on the plan you choose.
To see the most up to date pricing and product offerings check out wpengine.com/plans.
WP Engine Reviews By Active Customers
Natalie Lussier, Digital Strategist
- Service availability at 99.95% – Her previous host would constantly lock out her and her customers randomly and she would have to spend precious time and resources to call her provider to get it resolved. WP Engine is known for being reliable and having an impressive Service Level Agreement (SLA) that they actually live up to. For her switching to WP Engine came with less stress and happier customers.
- WordPress specific environments – WP Engine doesn’t focus their energy on being good at everything. Instead they focus on being truly great at their core product which is optimized WordPress hosting. This means when you contact support you get true WordPress experts that know the ins and outs of your site and how to optimize or troubleshoot it.
- Speed and SEO – Natalie knows that website load times is directly correlated with a better user experience and a greater ranking in search engines. WP Engine excels in this area with their custom caching system that drastically cuts down load times for your website.
Jaleel Manns, Digital Marketing Specialist
- Scalable system – No shared servers meaning you will pay a bit more but the peace of mind in knowing that spikes in traffic from your or someone else on a shared server won’t take down your site. WP Engine platform is designed to bend with traffic surges, not break.
- Built for security – They combine the latest technology with an all-star security team at Sucuri whose entire mission is to keep your site fully operational. They are so confident in their security that WP Engine guarantees if you get hacked they will pay to fix it themselves.
- Website staging – Invaluable to the work he does with his clients. He can make changes to their websites without interrupting their live site and simply copy over the updated site with one click to make the transition seamless.
James Richman, Web Design Firm Owner
- Speed – Right off the bat when you sign up WP Engine lets you choose where your server will be located. You get to chose from 1 of over 9 countries spread about the world, so your content gets to your user base the fastest. In addition to multiple data centers, you get an advanced caching systems managed and optimized by WP Engine included with every pricing tier.
- Flexibility – Each plan comes optimized for a certain amount of visitors, but WP Engine won’t penalize you for exceeding your plan’s capacity by freezing your account or slowing your site. Instead they automatically upgrade you to the next pricing tier to keep your site operational and fast so you can better serve your customers with peace of mind.
- Support – Rather than steering towards one support solution WP Engine gives you the option to choose from a knowledge base, live chat, or phone support. Their team is accessible to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter the time or timezone you have highly rated support available to you no matter what.
WP Engine Summary
WP Engine is widely regarded as one of the premiere WordPress hosting solutions in the market. It is recommended often and for good reason. If you are only concerned about saving money and want a bare bones hosting solution, than WP Engine is likely not a good fit for you.
If you are in the market for a hosting provider with a little extra security, support, speed, and scalability, then WP Engine is likely a solid choice for your business.